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tv   Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  September 24, 2019 2:00pm-3:00pm PDT

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situation room." we're following breaking news, standing by for house speaker nancy pelosi to momentarily announce the opening of a formal impeachment inquiry into president trump. we're going to bring that you live just moments from now. just a little while ago president trump said he'll release a transcript of the call with ukraine's president which has pushed democrats to open their inquiry and the head says the whistleblower who flagged that call now wants to talk directly to lawmakers. let's go to manu raju. we expect to hear nancy pelosi make a rather historic announcement. >> reporter: yes. she is going to say she supports -- >> here she is. here she is. >> good afternoon. last tuesday we observed the anniversary of the adoption of the constitution on september 17th. sadly, on that day, the
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intelligence community inspector general formally notified the congress that the administration was forbidding him from turning over a whistleblower complaint. on constitution day. this is a violation of law. shortly thereafter press reports began to break of a phone call by the president of the united states calling upon a foreign power to intervene in his election. this is a breach of his constitutional responsibilities. the facts are these. the intelligence community inspector general, who was appointed by president trump, determined that the complaint is both of urgent concern and credible, and its disclosure, he went on to say, relates to one of the most significant and important of the director of national intelligence's responsibility to the american people. on thursday the inspector general testified before the house intelligence committee
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stating that the acting director of national intelligence fought him from disclosing the whistleblower complaint. this is a violation of law. the law is unequivocal. the dni staff -- the dni director of national intelligence shall provide congress the full whistleblower complaint. for more than 25 years i've served on the intelligence committee as a member, as the ranking member, as part of the gang of four, even before i was in the leadership. i was there when we created the office of the director of national intelligence. that did not exist before 2004. i was there even earlier than the '90s when we wrote the whistleblower laws and continue to write them to ensure the security of our intelligence and the safety of our whistleblowers. i know what their purpose was. and we proceeded with balance
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and caution as we wrote the laws. i can say with authority the trump administration's actions undermine both. our national security and our intelligence and our protections of the whistleblowers. more than both. this thursday the acting dni will appear before the house intelligence committee. at that time he must turn over the whistleblower's full complaint to the committee. he will have to choose whether to break the law or honor his responsibility to the constitution. on the final day of the constitutional convention in 1787 when our constitution was adopted, americans gathered on the steps of independence hall to await the news of a government our founders had crafted. they asked benjamin franklin what do we have? a republic or a monarchy? franklin replied, a republic, if you can keep it. our responsibility is to keep
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it. because of the wisdom of our constitution enshrined in throw co-equal branches of government serving as checks and balances on each other. the actions taken to date by the president have seriously violated the constitution especially when the president says article 2 says i can do whatever i want. for the past several months we have been investigating in our committees and litigating in the courts, so the house can gather all the relevant facts and consider whether to exercise its full article 1 powers including a constitutional power of the utmost gravity of articles of impeachment. and this week the president has admitted to asking the president of ukraine to take actions which would benefit him politically. the actions of the trump presidency revealed dishonorable fact of the president's betrayal
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of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections. therefore, today i'm announcing the house of representatives moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry. i'm directing our six committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry. the president must be held accountable. no one is above the law. getting back to our founders in the darkest days of the american revolution thomas payne wrote the times have found us. the times found them to fight for and establish our democracy. the times have found us today. not to place ourselves in the same category of greatness as our founders but to place us in the urgency of protecting and defending our constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic. in the words of ben franklin, to keep our republic.
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i thank our chairmen, chairman nadler, chairman schiff of intelligence, chairman engel, chairman cummings of oversight and chairman cummings, i've been in touch with constantly. he's a master of so much but including inspectors general and whistleblowers. congresswoman richie neal of the ways and means committee. congresswoman maxine waters. i commend all of our members, our colleagues for their thoughtful, thoughtful approach to all of this, for their careful statements. god bless them and god bless america. thank you all. >> madam speaker, was this accomplished -- >> very important historic announcer from nancy pelosi announcing today the opening of what she calls an official impeachment inquiry into the
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president of the united states, as she repeatedly suggested there were violations of law, there was violations of the constitution, and as a result it justifies the beginning of a new phase in this potential process. manu raju is up on capitol hill. we anticipated this. obviously a very dramatic moment. >> reporter: after more than a year of nancy pelosi resisting calls for moving forward, throwing cold water on moving forward, saying the existing investigations were good enough, she has made a dramatic shift that could lead president trump to be the third president in the united states history to get impeached. now that she is behind this effort, democrats here on capitol hill believe it's almost inevitable the house judiciary committee will move forward on articles of impeachment against this president. it's clear the revelations about the president's handling of the whistleblower complaint, the president acknowledging he spoke
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to ukrainian president about the bidens, questions about whether or not he sought to withhold aid to ukraine in exchange for pressuring this investigation was a bridge too far for the house speaker and for other democrats. he believes this is a message much easier to deliver to the american public because they say it's very clear in their view the president may have broken the law and that's a formal impeachment inquiry. what she said here, wolf, was interesting. she's been saying this behind closed doors this afternoon, how this is going to work. there are six committees investigating right now, already engaged in an investigation of this president led in part by the house judiciary committee, house intelligence committee. those investigations will continue. ultimately they will decide how to move forward articles of impeachment. they will draft down the line, if they decide to go down that route, articles of impeachment that will move to the house judiciary committee at that will vote to impeach. at that point it would go to the
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full house, the house would vote to impeach this president. again, that would be the third time in history this would happen. as we know republicans have no appetite for moving forward. if the house does move to impeach him almost certainly the republican led senate will not convict this president and remove him from office. in a lot of ways this will be a symbolic move and a very significant, a historic move if the house does move forward with a formal impeachment proceeding. wolf, nancy pelosi coming out here saying she supports launching an official impeachment inquiry, a very historic move from a speaker who has been reluctant to move forward but more and more democrats, an overwhelming majority, believe it's the right thing to do. we'll see where this ends up. >> a very significant shift on her part. as i said, a very historic moment. manu, stand by. she also said no one is above the law, referring to the president of the united states and what he was doing was a
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betrayal of the constitution. >> the fact she gave a preample about her experience on the intelligence committees, that she comes at this not just from understanding the law, how things are supposed to work, then, of course, talking about it in very big, very sweeping terms about the constitution of the united states, it's really hard to overstate how historic this is. as manu said, it's barely one hand that you can count on how many times this has happened and it is a last resort. the house democrats feel that they have reached that last resort and there has been so much pressure on her. she has resisted for so long since they took the majority from many people who have been saying come on already. we gave you the majority. why aren't you using it? now she says she has seen an issue she believes the american public understands and should be outraged by because her number
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one concern has been i can't do this until i have the public behind me. she sees some public sentiment but is trying to marry that by pushing out her rank and file to support what she has reluctantly gotten behind which is an impeachment inquiry. >> a significant moment. david, you've been looking into the history of what we're seeing unfold right now. >> yeah, i mean, if you include nixon who wasn't formally impeached, this is the fourth time in history a president has faced serious threat of impeachment, wolf. i want to go to speaker pelosi's words here because i think she captured so brilliantly the moment we're in which is a moment of, quote, utmost gravity. that's what she described as the congressional responsibility if, indeed, it comes to passing articles of impeachment. utmost gravity. and that's the moment the country finds itself in.
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i know how hard it is for people to sit at home and see this and say this is the latest back and forth with republicans, the democrats decided to impeach today and president trump will fight back. the spin machines on both sides will go into overdrive. this will become something that consumes the political oxygen. the presidential campaign will probably move to the sidelines just a bit. this is going to be a circus like atmosphere because that is what we've seen in our history. that should not undermine what this moment of gravity is for the country. this is those foundational principles of the forming of our country, that whole notion of checks and balances, of co-equal branches. that's what's being tested here and what speaker pelosi says, yes, violation of law, but it's not just a violation of law. it is a breach of the president's constitutional
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responsibilities. that combination is what brings the house democratic caucus to this moment of utmost gravity and what puts the country in a time that doesn't have much historical precedent, and we know how fraught these times are politically. putting this divisive, very sobering impeachment process front and center now in these extraordinary divisive times of where we are already. that in and of itself will be uncharted territory. >> it certainly is. gloria, she did not mince any words. she was very blunt in leveling charges against the president and announcing the opening of this official impeachment inquiry. >> right. i think she was very sober about the way she went about this and talked about, as david was saying, about the gravity of the situation. and you can see the institutionalist in nancy pelosi who has been a member of congress for decades.
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and who talked about the violation of law and the checks and balances we have in this country. the law is unequivocal. it says the director of national intelligence shall provide congress with the whistleblower complaint. the director of national intelligence has not done that. she talked about a presidential phone call in which he asked a foreign power to interfere in an american election, and that is a violation of law. so she laid it out very clearly and ended up with the constitutional notion and said, look, just because this president says that article 2 says i can do whatever i want, that doesn't mean that he can because that is not true because there are limits on the president and what she was saying effectively was no one is above the law. she didn't make this about joe biden. she didn't make this about politics, although, of course, that will go back and forth, but you can see in her statement her
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struggle and what she finally came to after two years of the russia investigation and finally this, i think, was the last straw where you could see a clear, according to pelosi, a clear violation of law and of institutions and of the things that have kept this country strong. you could see her need to defend her institution and what she believes is a violation of the constitution. >> let me get jim acosta into this conversation. jim, you're over at the united nations right now. the president addressed the u.n. general assembly earlier in the day. i take it there's no official white house reaction yet to what we heard from nancy pelosi? >> reporter: well, it depends on your use of the term official, wolf. the president is tweeting right now and it is a bit of a tweet storm. he is over at trump tower enjoying what white house officials are calling executive time. that's according to the white house pool. the president just tweet this had a few minutes ago in response to what speaker pelosi just said in front of the cameras. he is saying such an important day at the united nations. so much work and so much
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success. the democrats purposely had to ruin and demean it with more breaking news, witch-hunt garbage. so bad for our country. the president went on to tweet and just seems to be tweeting out a stream of consciousness here. the president saying pelosi, nadler, schiff and, of course, maxine waters, who the president likes to talk about at his rallies, can you believe this? and then just the latest tweet in the last couple of minutes, keep in mind, wolf, all of these tweets within the span of eight minutes, the latest tweet saying they never even saw the transcript of the call. a total witch-hunt. so the president is bemoaning the fact that the speaker, nancy pelosi, is announcing she is going to launch this formal impeachment inquiry before he's even agreed to release this call transcript, the call involving the president and president zelensky of ukraine. he's going after democrats saying, you know, why are you doing this? hitting them for doing this when
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they haven't even seen the call transcript as the president has been saying. all day long, over the last couple of days, it was a perfect call, a beautiful call as he was saying, wolf. it was an extraordinary moment. as the president was walking into the u.n. general assembly to deliver the speech on just about everything under the sun, he acknowledged that, yes, he did order his top aides to hold up that military aid to ukraine, hundreds of millions of dollars, just before -- about a week before he had a phone call with president zelensky of ukraine. during that call, of course, as we all know now the president was pressuring the ukrainian president to investigate joe biden. all of this drama meetly cu cul. working out his aggressions on social media. >> stand by, jim. i want to begin to get reaction. we're getting a ton of reaction already to this historic, dramatic statement from the speaker. republican congressman chris stewart of utah is joining us.
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he's a key member of the house intelligence committee. congressman, thanks so much for joining us. you just heard the house speaker nancy pelosi announce the opening of an official impeachment inquiry into the president of the united states. your reaction? >> well, i'm not at all surprised. i mean, they've been trying to impeach this president since literally before he was inaugurated. i think they're they're going to regret it. jim acosta said was one example. they announced this rather than wait less than 24 hours to read the transcript and see if there is a reason for this. and miss pelosi came on and unequivocally said this president has broken his oath of office. he has betrayed national security. how in the world does she know that? this inquiry hasn't even begun. for her to make a statement as definitive as that, that's why the american people are going to view this and roll their eyes because it's going to sound to them like much of the same thing they've been hearing for the last three years. >> well, if the president did what's been alleged,
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congressman, if he pressured ukraine's new president to investigate for damaging information on a political rival, namely former vice president biden, and withheld aid to ukraine at the same time, do you believe that would be impeachable conduct? >> i don't know but i'll tell you, wolf, i do want to find out the answer to that question. and i said last week to members of the media. i said, look, we should subpoena this information if we need to. i'm willing and i think it's important for us to find out everything that we can about this. all i'm asking people to do is to take a breath and not draw a conclusion before they know anything about this because we know they don't know not only the details. they don't know the broad outline of what this is about. some of the reporting i know from our previous hearings is inaccurate. some of the reporting has changed. how can they so definitively say he has betrayed his oath of office, he has betrayed national
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security? if they want to have a serious impeachment proceeding, then they can't start out with already the guilty plea or the guilty finding which, again, they've been looking for for three years. >> if he did what's alleged, wouldn't that be wrong? >> well, i certainly think it would be wrong. and i wouldn't do it. but i don't think it's necessarily illegal. i don't know that it is. and, by the way, when joe biden did it, was it wrong? was it illegal? that's a fair question as well f. we have two individuals doing this we should determine that and we should answer that question. but you don't start out with a guilty finding and then say, oh, by the way, i guess we'll have a proceeding. >> i just want to point out there's no evidence joe biden when he was a sitting vice president did anything about a political rival. let's talk about the president right now. >> wolf, there is exactly the same amount of evidence about joe biden right now as there is about this president. zero. >> hold on for a moment because we're talking about a sitting president of the united states. and i want to bring in right now what your fellow member of congress from utah, republican
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senator mitt romney, said. listen to this. if the president -- this is mitt romney. senator mitt romney. if the president asked or pressured ukraine's president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme. do you agree with senator rom y romney? >> yes, i agree with that and i've said that. i said we should find out. this is something i wouldn't have done. the question is, is it illegal and is it impeachable? i think that's what mr. rommie was romney was expressing. i'm not going to necessarily agree with mr. romney. i'm not saying, hey, this is nothing here. let's not even look at it. i'm not saying that at all. i'm simply asking people to not draw conclusion before you have any evidence, and they have zero evidence. >> let me ask you this, congressman. you say everyone needs to take a breath and find out all the facts which is certainly a fair statement. are you committed to working with democrats on your house
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intelligence committee to uncover all the facts to get the complete whistleblower complaint so that you can study it, the democrats can study it and come up with some conclusions? >> you bet, and i think most republicans on the committee, we all felt the same way. there's actually something, if you have time, i would like to explain why that's difficult. but i would support that and i would ask them to then be fair about this. and for my chairman, mr. schiff, to not come out and make some of the proclamations he's made over the last week. if they're going to hold a serious hearing, they can't start out with the conclusion before you have any proceedings at all. and if they do that, then they'll have no credibility with the american people. this is like brett kavanaugh of a week ago, they had reports and it blew up in their face and everyone was embarrassed by it, or should have been. just be fair. just say let's get the information and draw a conclusion. none of them appear to be willing to do that. >> she said they were opening an official inquiry today, that's an investigation. they want to get the facts.
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as you know the president, and this is significant, says he's now authorized the release tomorrow of the complete unredacted transcript of that controversial phone conversation he had with president zelensky of ukraine. first of all, do you think he will follow through on this promise? you want to see that, but will he also release the full whistleblower complaint to your committee? >> the answer to the first, i believe they will follow through. i can't imagine them saying they're going to do it and then not release it. i would like to see the full whistleblower complaint. again, wolf, this is technical but people have said the law is definitive on this. it is not. it does say that if this falls outside of the authority of the dni, which this may and it may fall under executive privilege, he's caught in a rock and a hard spot. he's not trying to protect the president. the inspector general, i think, is sincerely trying to do the right thing. it's just the law is not clear and he's trying to work his way through -- >> i just want to point out to you, congressman, what michael
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atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community wrote to your community as the ranking member adam schiff, not only the disclosure, the whistleblower's complaint, not only falls within the dni's jurisdiction but relates to one of the most significant and important of the dni's responsibilities to the american people. atkins atkinson, as you know, was named by president trump, the trump administration. does he have credibility in your eyes? >> absolutely. he's very credible, very sincere. he's trying to do the right thing as i think the acting dni is. the two of them are at loggerheads. the department of justice is giving them counsel that in their legal opinion who has jurisdiction on this that they can't release this the way they interpret the law which is why i think one of the things we need to address is to clarify that law so this information should come to congress. i want to be clear on that, wolf. i want this information to come to congress. i want for congressional oversight to be something that
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is achievable and that is sincere and real and we can't do that if they're not passing information on. but, again, they feel they're in a rock and a hard spot with discrepancies in the law. >> what about the whistleblower himself? we know it's a male. the whistleblower -- do you want the whistleblower on a classified, confidential basis to come before the house intelligence committee and answer your questions and tell us -- tell you guys what he knows? >> yes, absolutely. that would be ideal. what we have to do is to protect him so he's not exposing himself to revealing information he's not authorized to disclose. and that's what we're trying to do working with, again, the attorneys of the dni and inspector general and department of justice. we want to hear from him. >> to back up what the president alleged earlier in the week that this guy is simply a political hack out to destroy the president of the united states? we know he's an intelligence official. >> i have no idea who he is. i couldn't make any
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determination at all about his motives. >> how is the president making that determination? he's smearing this individual who went through the proper channels, who went through the whistleblower laws that are on the books, and he did it the right way, clearly. >> yeah, well, you'd have to ask the white house, wolf. you know i can't answer that. >> but it's awkward, to put it mildly, that the president would level a charge like this against a u.s. intelligence official who felt it was necessary to bring this information to the attention of the director of national intelligence. >> which brings me back to my point. look, we've been doing that against individuals for years now. how many people have been accused of treason for the last three years that we now know is not true? and i have objected to that every single time and many times on your show. i've said these people might be innocent. it's unfair to have a cloud over them. this is another example. we should withhold judgment until we have information. >> do you have already some information about what exactly happened on that phone call between the president and the
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ukrainian president? >> we don't. members of the committee have not been briefed on that. none of us have. "a," why i'm glad they're releasing it tomorrow, "b," people should withhold judgment before they make any determination or until they get the facts. >> well, you'll get a lot of the facts on thursday when the acting director of national intelligence testifies in open session before your committee and then they'll be techg behind closed doors before the senate intelligence committee. congressman chris stewart, as usual, thanks for joining us. >> thank you, sir. dana, let's talk about what we just heard. he's a very intelligent republican on the intelligence committee. you heard the points he was making. >> it's a little bit of rope-a-dope here. he keeps saying he wants to get the information. call your fellow republican in the white house, tell his dni to allow the director of national intelligence to allow the inspector general to give him the information. it's not that hard.
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so, you know, period. and soap the idea that they're saying we don't know, we don't know, we don't know, i mean, it's a little too cute by hat. >> the other thing that makes it a ridiculous position, the president of the united states has admitted at least part of the substance of the allegations including the really troubling ones that he brought up joe biden and his son in the course of this phone call, that he did, in fact, order this delay and freeze on military aid congressionally appropriated military aid the week before they had that phone call. so i do think it's significant that we see republicans sort of trying to play this game when the president is clearly coming out very early to basically give the signal, hey, i did this. that's why it's significant to see republicans like stewart basically refusing to endorse the behavior, to say, well, it would be really bad. just an hour ago in the senate they passed by unanimous consent, all democrats and all republicans, voted for resolution saying the senate believes this whistleblower complaint should come to congress.
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so it's not the same as republicans turning on trump, but it is a very significant moment. the republicans at least to some extent actually are standing shoulder to shoulder with democrats to represent the interests of their institutional body against this sort of unprecedented assault. >> and it's not nancy pelosi, when she talked about the allegations that prompted her to get to this point, she talked specifically about what president trump admitted to. she didn't go as far as she potentially could have based on the reporting that was out there, and that's clearly not by accident. she is mindful that a lot of republicans will say what congressman stewart did, but republicans are clearly, like stewart,a really tough position. they don't like the fact pattern that exists based on the president's own admission and they don't really know what to do about it. even the idea the whistleblower report should come out is one that not even the white house is really quite there yet. the transcript that we will get tomorrow is going to be participate of this story. it's not the whole story. i think republicans are not quite sure about what to do
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about the totality of what we don't know. they're struggling. they're really struggling. >> you heard congressman stewart say why didn't the democrats at least wait until they got the official unredacted complete transcript of the phone conversation with president zelensky of ukraine and then go ahead with this announcement? >> because, as susan was saying, the president himself said, i did this. and so what if i did? i did this. >> but the president has said various things. on the one hand he said he did this because he wants the europeans to give ukraine more money, not the united states. he also raised other -- >> he's shifted. >> various explanations. >> let's just say this is not unlike stormy daniels and we've seen other instances where there are shifting explanations, as you point out, the first explanation was, you know, i care about corruption. there's a lot of corruption in ukraine and i told him you have to get rid of the corruption. the second one was, well, why isn't anybody else chipping in?
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we're giving them too much money. so the president has changed his explanation. why didn't nancy pelosi wait? why didn't democrats wait? why have these national security freshmen come out so strongly? because the president himself said that he had a phone call with a foreign leader in which he asked the foreign leader to intervene in an american election by looking at joe biden and his son. i mean, why wouldn't that be enough? >> right. i think pelosi has been quite explicit on her reasoning. she doesn't believe there needs to be some explicit or implicit quid pro quo. that would make the situation worse. she is saying that the mere fact the president of the united states, as gloria said, brought this up, has now acknowledged that he brought this up in a phone call with a foreign leader, essentially inviting and encouraging foreign interference in a u.s. owe lex, violating a citizen, hunter biden, his constitutional oath by using the
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powers of his office not for the public good but for his personal political gain. that itself issi impeachable. she is being shrewd drawing the line here and not playing the game the white house wants to go down, well, is there an explicit quid pro quo? is there a precise legal element here that we've seen, the mueller report 2.0 playing out again. no, what the president has admitted to enough. >> if there's an official transcript of this, is there an audio tape that would back that up? >> all white houses have different procedures. yes, at a minimum taped phone calls, either as a matter of course or if they don't for very sensitive phone calls potentially like this one are prepared to make one now. one big question, will a transcript coming out of this white house be fully trusted? >> that's why the audio tape -- you used to work at the nsa, the national security agency which records a lot of international
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conversations, i assume they would have something. >> no. it's unlikely -- certainly the national security agency is not going to release of its own accord -- >> not release it but have a tape. >> don't answer that. >> i don't think i can answer that. >> never mind. >> thank you. >> they're only releasing one conversation. >> the reporting is there were multiple incidents -- >> that's why we need the whistleblower complaint. that whistleblower talks about other conversations as well. everybody stand by. i want to play some reaction we're getting from alexandria ocasio-cort ocasio-cortez. >> we are, in fact, proceeding with impeachment. we have been advised there's an extremely urgent matter.
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>> you had pushed house democrats to go a little further. is this the type of action you were asking for when we spoke on friday afternoon? >> i think we all, many of us, especially from districts experiencing the brunt of the president's decisions, have been feeling a sense of urgency around this. i think the development around the whistleblower, i think these developments are exactly where we need to be. >> has the caucus been too slow, though, to move on this, to move on impeachment? >> honestly, at this point it doesn't matter. we're moving forward with it now. what we're seeing with these developments from ukraine are extremely serious and we can't ask ourselves about whether we're moving too slow. we have to ask what we're doing right now. >> what happens if they open up this inquiry but then it doesn't result in impeaching the president of the united states? you've been on the record saying many of the constituents in your district support that, but what if it doesn't ultimately get there? >> ultimately what is going on
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is that the president has committed several impeachable offenses. what he has admitted to is already impeachable regardless of future developments. what he has already admitted to is an impeachable offense among others. i anticipate and i believe there will be discussion as to whether what we draft or the judiciary examines the question on filing potential articles of impeachment, what those articles will include, articulate several different offenses. it is possible articles could be enxa encompassing. >> so why do you think it would be a bigger scandal, as you said, that congress -- versus what the president has done? a bigger scandal for what congress doesn't do versus what the president does. why did you say that? >> i think we have to hold this president accountable and we have to protect our democracy and i believe that we'll be doing so. >> congresswoman --
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>> you got the reaction from congresswoman alexandria ocasio-cortez. she has an influential voice with the democratic caucus. >> very much so. she was one of the early backers of impeachment and she got very aggressive with her own democratic leadership late last week saying that it is the fault of the democratic leaders that the republic is in trouble because they're not using their power as the majority. i'm not sure that was what pushed nancy pelosi over the edge. it was other factors. that certainly was very loud and very clear. one other point i want to make is the political peril of moving forward has not changed dramatically. it is still there. the idea that nancy pelosi was expressing quietly to her members for the past year and a half, particularly during mueller, that we want to make sure we don't do anything that
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will help elect the president is still a viable political concern. and you already are seeing jim acosta was reading some of them since we've been talking the president has continued to tweet about presidential harassment and how bad this is. that is very strategic. he is already beginning the effort to make his base angry and get them out to the polls not just as nancy pelosi said earlier today. not so much about the house majority. this is about whether or not he's going to be re-elected and the concern this impeachment inquiry will galvanize republicans who say this is not fair and help him get re-elected is still very real. >> it also could provide him with an excuse for not getting anything done. i was talking to a source who speaks for the president who said he was worried about what do i do on gun control? for example, now as you see him tweeting he can blame the democrats and say they don't want to do anything for the country. all they want to do is harass me and that is -- that's a
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political line that he's used before, and he has use it had to great success and will clearly use it again as we see today. >> that's one reason pelosi needs to be really disciplined. now that she's taken this significant step of endorsing formal impeachment she can't let things spiral out of control. there's going to be a temptation now for members to want to include articles of impeachment absolutely every grievance they have with the president rather than just policy differences and whether there is significant evidence to back it up. we have a wide range of possibilities. one thing pelosi and these six committee chairmen are going to have to do is exert a lot of discipline over the other members saying, okay, we are taking this step, the train is definitely moving. we don't want things to spin out of control because if they do we're going to have that -- >> i want to bring in john kirby, also watching and listening very carefully to all of this unfold. could there have been another reason beyond politics, beyond trying to get dirt about a
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potential presidential political rival for withholding the aid that had already been authorized and appropriated by the house and senate for ukraine? >> yeah, actually there is, wolf. i don't know if it's true or not. ukraine was going to go through a presidential transition, transitioning to the zelensky administration. there are legitimate and has been long-standing legitimate concerns about corruption in ukraine even before this new president took office. well, it's under review and it is not all that implausible, a reason to hold up the money to see what is shaking out with the new administration and to lay a marker down for what your expectations are about how that money will be spent. >> let me bring david in as well. david, as you know, the speaker until today had been reluctant to call for a formal impeachment inquiry fearing political
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fallout could be damaging to a whole bunch of democrats who were on the bubble. they're worried about getting re-elected. she certainly wants to stay in the majority in the house of representatives, not revert to the minority. so the concern seems to have gone away at least right now. >> yes, but as dana was saying, it's not clear at all the politics have changed dramatically on this. i will note one thing here. the mid-term elections were an indication how the country was responding to all of the trump allegations out there and the way in which he was behaving and in addition to the democrats fighting on health care and other issues that matter at kitchen tables, what we saw was in response to trump's behavior independents, which he won in 2016, fled his party dramatically and went to the democrats and really helped bring the democrats into the majority of the house. while, yes, there is a chance this is going to drum up the president's base, we saw rudy
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giuliani start laying the groundwork like for mueller, all the arguments will get made and will make it into a partisan brawl, what doesn't seem clear to me yet and why i think nancy pelosi may feel not as worried this is a total lose he for democrats is at its very core is donald trump's unpresidential behavior. that is the thing that has sent independent suburbanites fleeing the republican party, fleeing this president. that is what will be front and center. donald trump has got to win back some of those folks in the middle and i think these allegations make it difficult for him to do so. >> abby, if you take a look at the tweets from the president not surprising he says presidential harassment, they never even saw the transcript of the call, a total witch-hunt. he's going on and on. he's ranting even while he's at
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the united nations. >> right. he got back to trump tower just in time to watch nancy pelosi deliver her speech and is live tweeting the way he feels about it. included in the tweets is a video produced by somebody in the white house detailing all the democrats, many of them presidential candidates, talking about president trump and a desire to get him out of office. even within the white house, even while the president is tweeting his feelings, people are prepared to push back. as david points out, this is part of a political argument that a lot of democratic candidates on the campaign trail are making right now. they're talking about corruption, president trump corrupting the office of the presidency. that is central to what's happening out on the campaign trail. they are trying to push back on that narrative and it explains why some are nervous.
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a corruption narrative is terrible for down ballot candidates. it is a sort of corrosive narrative that can start impacting people not just donald trump. there's a desire to get ahead and not let it sink in, a president with a pattern of this behavior. >> given behavior in the past it's not as if there are lots of members in the past who would say, he would never do that. i don't believe donald trump would ever do that. that rubicon has been crossed but the democrats have a real issue. they have to continue to explain this narrative to the american public. and explain why it is important. and why it is shredding the constitution to use the phrase joe biden said today and explain to the public why it puts checks and balances out of sync. that is what they have not done
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with all the mueller investigations and they really have to do a much better job -- >> speaker pelosi has reason to believe this is easier than some of the other ones. >> i think so. it's clear. there's a phone call in which he's asking someone to investigate his political rival. that's a much easier message to encapsulate. >> if the president has nothing to hide, if the phone conversation was excellent, very productive, congratulatory, all of that. they spoke a little bit about corruption. he's releasing the transcript of the phone conversation. but why not release the whistleblower complaint at least on a classified, confidential basis to members of the house and senate intelligence committee if he has nothing to hide? why not make that avoilabailabl they can see what he had to say. >> that's the law, by the way. >> if you had nothing to hide you would lean forward and provide this. this is not a question of unprecedented executive privilege.
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this is what the law requires. that's all the public is asking. do you think it's significant nancy pelosi began her remarks talking about the constitutional convention, about ben franklin saying a republic, if you can keep it. i do think this is about clarifying this message. making the case that these are the stakes for people who are coming out to the polls for the 2020 election. the stakes are the future of the separation of powers, the nature of the united states presidency and whether we work a person to work on our behalf or their own behalf, their own financial interests or political interests. >> you can argue that her reluctance, since she became speaker, gives her more credibility to do this. as she said earlier today, there have been a number of cases that she could have made for impeaching this president, moving forward with the
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impeachment inquiry that she did today and she didn't. she waited for this. there are a lot of factors that went into it. not just the substance of what the president said he did in the phone call about joe biden, but she's hoping it gives her credibility. gloria is exactly right. the stakes are so high. the way they articulate it has got to be on the level of what nancy pelosi said day in and day out to be successful not necessarily with a house vote. it's hard to see this not going all the way through the house given where their numbers are right now. but keeping that level. you are up against a very big megaphone with a guy who has been political teflon so far. >> admiral kirby, you spent more than 30 years in the u.s. navy, worked your way up to admiral. when you hear -- and we heard republican congressman chris stewart of utah say it's not clear where the law is on this. did the whistleblower complaint
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have anything to do with the intelligence community or complaints about other stuff? what do you think? >> i'm not sure i understand where he's coming from on that. all whistleblower complaints should be taken seriously. the law is pretty clear they need to be forwarded to the intelligence committees. it is within this administration's power to do that. i'm not really sure why he's so confused about process here. it seems to be pretty cut and dry. they have an opportunity on thursday with mr. mcgoir comiwi talk and the whistleblower, him or herself, can come and testify. you can certainly get to the bottom more directly. there's more context here. tomorrow the administration will spike the football. the transcript will come out. it will not reveal a quid pro
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quo. the whistleblower complaint, though, additional activity that needs to be considered. this is going to be a lot more complex than just tomorrow him declaring victory. >> do you think the republican members of the house intelligence committee and the senate intelligence committee will demand the release on a confidential classified basis of the whistleblower complaint to the committee? >> do i think they will? no. i don't think they're going to demand that. do i think they should? yes. to a person they should. that's what the law requires here. and the process serves both sides in terms of having clarity with the country in the end result here. so i certainly would love to see members of both parties of those committees demand the full complaint in their hands to be able to have all the facts that we're dealing with.
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adam schiff says he wants the whistleblower to appear before his committee. >> and looks like the whistleblower is prepared to do that. he has to get authorization from the dni. >> they're talking to the attorneys so we don't know. there is a bigger story here. it is going to get more complicated. what we see tomorrow will be one little piece of the puzzle here. if the white house is releasing it you can be sure they believe donald trump is fine in this phone conversation. >> and one thing the congressman i believe was eluding to, the question of whether or not a presidential phone call falls in statutory definition of an intelligence activity, so the legal technicalities, who makes final judgment, does executive trump the law in this case. that's why the step that pelosi took of formally endorsing a formal impeachment inquiry is significant. it is a message from house of representatives that they're not playing this game any longer, they're not doing this thing where they take weeks and weeks,
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months and months litigating interpretations of the law and being offered in bad faith in a stonewall strategy by the white house on every single angle, right? the president's tax returns, the testimony of various individuals. people like cory lewandowski who aren't even in the government. broad assumptions. this is nancy pelosi saying we're not doing this, this is serious enough, impeachable conduct, we're moving forward on this. it shifts the burden to the white house. instead of congress having to beg for documents, to translate, some way to pry it out of the executive branch, congress can say we're moving forward. if you don't provide us with documents, we will reach the negative inference, assume you have something to hide and impeach you in part for failure to produce them. it changes the calculus for the white house. >> the story has exploded, abby, because the department of justice working in coordination with the white house told the acting director of national intelligence don't release the whistleblower complaint, even on
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a classified, confidential basis to the house intelligence committee. that's why it exploded. if they had done what the law requires, release the complaint on a classified basis, where would the story be now? >> it would be behind closed doors in the house of representatives and we probably honestly wouldn't be talking about it. >> we wouldn't even know presumably unless there was a major leak. but the theory is there must be something so negative about the president in that whistleblower complaint that they decided for the first time to ignore the law and not hand over the documents. >> it suggests they're concerned about even passing the information on in a confidential setting. i mean, there's an interesting phenomenon in this white house where people around the president often see him doing things they know are wrong or that they know are inappropriate, but they dismiss it because they think his heart is in the right place. sometimes when that same fact pattern is given to other people
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who are not giving the president the benefit of the doubt, that's when the president will get into trouble. i think we might be in one of those situations. people around the president looking at this and saying you know what, he didn't mean it that way. but if you pass this on in the context of a whistleblower account, it might look completely different, even for the president, he might think it didn't look that way. there was a debate in the white house this week whether to release that transcript and the president was kind of in the camp of saying put it out there, others mi others like mike pompeo were saying this is a bad precedent, don't want to go down this road. we'll see what it says. it is one of those things, it is in the eye of the beholder often times. >> and what about members of congress and their own job? what is their job if not to oversee the executive branch? what is the whistleblower act all about if not to make sure that they can do their job, and how do you go home and say to
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your constituents well, the president wasn't serious, just trump being trump. >> we'll see what they say tomorrow. you're going to get a lot of well, he didn't mean it like this. this is the pattern. >> and tomorrow, the president is meeting with president zelensky in new york at the united nations. i don't know if they're going to release the document before or after that meeting but i assume we're going to hear some very nice things about the president and that phone conversation from president zelensky who is very dependent on u.s. economic and military assistance. >> i am sure we will. it will be an awkward encounter, it demonstrates the extent that the ukrainians depend on the white house. whatever the president of the united states directs them to do, violate civil liberties of a united states citizen, these are the coercive effects there. i think it gets to what might be in the whistleblower complaint. this is not about finding additional wrongdoing. the wrongdoing we've seen is already enough. what the whistleblower complaint reportedly contains is more than
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just this transcript. it describes different conduct that congress might take as sort of bread crumbs to find the larger context of what's going on. that might be what the white house is arguing. >> stand by. we have more special coverage. we're following the breaking news. we'll take a quick break now, resume special coverage right after this. hes farther than ever before. with more engineers. more towers. more coverage! it's a network that gives you ♪freedom from big cities, to small towns, we're with you. because life can take you almost anywhere, t-mobile is with you. no signal goes farther or is more reliable in keeping you connected.
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happening now. breaking news. formal impeachment probe. speaker nancy pelosi just made it official, announcing a dramatic new phase in investigation of the president. democrats accusing mr. trump of violating the constitution by asking ukraine to get dirt on joe biden. hail mary. president trump says he will release the full transcript of the phone call with ukraine's leader, will the transcript be complete and will it change anything? blowing the whistle. the person who sounded the alarm about the phone call wants to talk to congress about his complaints. will the white house try to block the whistleblower's testimony. and no choice. as the president tries to sling mud at joe biden, the former vice president now says mr. trump's attacks and stonewalling are forcing his party to pursue impeachment. what will all this mean for the
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democrats' battle to take back the white house? we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i am wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." we are following major breaking news. house democrats drop the hammer, launching a formal impeachment inquiry as the outrage over the president's ukraine phone call reaches critical mass. nancy pelosi making the announcement awhile ago, accusing president trump of betraying the nation by asking ukraine to help them hurt his potential 2020 opponent, joe biden. tonight, the president is firing back in familiar fashion, calling the impeachment probe a witch hunt. he failed trying to calm the controversy by releasing transcripts of a phone call tomorrow. all ts


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