tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN September 24, 2019 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT
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 this as the person behind the whistleblower complaint that
set the scandal in motion wants to speak directly with congress. the house intelligence committee chairman says that could happen as soon as this week. our correspondents, analysts, guests are standing biy as we cover this breaking story. let's go to manu raju. after months and months of impeachment pressure, the democrats just reached their tipping point. >> no question about it, wolf. house speaker nancy pelosi has resisted calls for months to move forward on impeachment proceedings, saying the public is not there, it is a divisive tactic that shouldn't be replicated, only in the gravest circumstances. in the aftermath of the president's handling of the whistleblower complaint and admission of talking to the ukrainian president about investigating joe biden, and joe biden's son, that was a bridge too far for the speaker and a number of democrats, moderate democrats from districts that president trump carried in 2016 that called for impeachment inquiry.
speaker pelosi told her colleagues now that they're in impeachment inquiry, and she played it clear publicly, that's how the house plans to proceed. >> 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 reveal the dishonorable fact of his betrayal of oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections. therefore, today i am announcing the house of representatives moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry. i am directing 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. >> wolf, i am told behind closed doors she told colleagues they want to move forward expeditiously on this. not giving a specific time
frame, some democrats want it wrapped up by end of the year, and wolf, how this plans to move forward is this. she will allow six committees to investigate and continue investigations, the house judiciary committee, intelligence committee, and ultimately recommend articles of impeachment, the judiciary committee would vote on that before the full house considers articles of impeachment. see if they take that step. most democrats believe now that she blessed impeachment inquiry, now the house will almost certainly move forward and make him the third president in history impeached by the house. >> i understand, manu, about to hear from republican leadership in the house of representatives, the minority leader kevin mccarthy and whip, steve scalise. showing viewers the microphone. i assume they're coming out, give reaction to what the speaker said? >> and they're going to push back aggressively, calling this a partisan effort, criticizing democrats, calling it a witch hunt, the same lines you're hearing from the president, these are his closest defenders on capitol hill. they're going to make the case
clearly that they believe the democrats are out of line, in light of the concerns raised by the inspector general of the intelligence community that this whistleblower complaint was urgent, credible. most in the republican leadership down played and said the president was right to raise concerns about the bidens in conversations with the ukrainian president, even amid reports he was pressuring the ukrainians to investigate the bidens. republicans are not raising concerns about that, instead they're going to call this democratic overreach and warn that democrats will face backlash from voters at the polls, particularly moderates in key swing districts, wolf. >> we'll stand by, wait to hear from republican leadership in the house of representatives and get their reaction, but right now i want to go, i see them walking out now. there they come. kevin mccarthy, the minority leader, steve scalise, minority whip. let's listen in.
>> thank you. i just listened to the speaker of the house. speaker pelosi happens to be the speaker of this house but she does not speak for america when it comes to this issue. she cannot decide unilaterally what happens here. they have been investigating this president before he even got elected. they have voted three times on impeachment on this floor. twice they voted before one word of the mueller report came back. our job here is a serious job. our job is to focus on the american public. our job is to make tomorrow better than today. our job is to legislate, not to continue to investigate something in the back when you cannot find any reason to impeach this president. this election is over. i realize 2016 did not turn out the way speaker pelosi wanted it to happen, but she cannot change the laws of this congress.
she cannot unilaterally decide an impeachment inquiry. what she said today made no difference of what's been going on. it is no different than what nadler has been trying to do. it's time to put the public before politics. thank you. >> short statement from kevin mccarthy, the minority leader in the house of representatives blasting the speaker of the house, nancy pelosi, for formally announcing opening of an impeachment inquiry into the president of the united states. i want to go to the president's reaction now. he is right now on the attack as the threat of impeachment becomes more real. chief white house correspondent jim acosta is covering the president, up at the united nations where the president has been meeting with world leaders. the speech was vastly overshadowed, his speech at the u.n., jim, by what's going on in
here in washington. >> reporter: that's right, wolf. the president lashed out at the house speaker awhile ago in her announcement of impeachment inquiry saying that this call for impeachment inquiry is what he described as breaking news, total witch hunt garbage. earlier he said he would release the transcript of the phone call with the ukrainian president to try to put this to rest. mr. trump has been trying to argue throughout the day he has done nothing wrong, he says there was no quid pro quo in that conversation with the ukrainian president. that's not enough for former vice president joe biden who accused mr. trump earlier today of shredding the constitution. admitting he held up military aid for ukraine just before he pressed that country's leader to investigate former vice president joe biden, president trump offered up a new excuse for his actions. he sat on the money, the president said, to force europe to pay their fair share. >> as far as withholding funds, those funds were paid.
they were fully paid, but my complaint has always been and i withhold again, and continue to withhold until such time as europe and other nations contribute to ukraine because they're not doing it. >> reporter: the president sounded at times like he's still trying to get his story straight, insisting he didn't pressure the ukrainians before telling reporters he did. >> there was no pressure put on them whatsoever, but there was pressure put on with respect to joe biden. what joe biden did for his son, that's something they should be looking at. they have no idea how they stopped me, the only way they can try is through impeachment. >> reporter: mr. trump shifting rationale for holding up ukraine money, first claiming he didn't want funds to fuel corruption. >> we can give a lot of money away to ukraine and other places, you want to see a country that's going to be not corrupt. >> reporter: hoping to tamp down the controversy, the president tweeted he is authorizing release of the complete unclassified conversation with president zelensky.
he ordered administration officials to hold up hundreds of millions in military aid to ukraine back in july, just one week before he asked the ukraine president to investigate biden's son hunter's business dealings, despite zero evidence of wrongdoing. little more than a month later, an administration official blew the whistle on his conversation. two days after that, ukraine money was released. sitting with the british prime minister, the president claimed he wasn't using military funds as leverage to get what he wanted. >> there was never any quid pro quo. the letter was beautiful. it was a perfect letter. it was unlike biden who by the way, what he said was a horror. and ask how his son made millions of dollars from ukraine. >> reporter: the looming ukraine investigation hung over the president who sounded downright low energy in a speech to the united nations. >> wise leaders always put the good of their own people and their own country first. the future does not belong to
globalists, the future belongs to patriots. >> reporter: in response to the uproar, biden fired back. >> i can take the political attacks. they'll come and they'll go and in time they'll soon be forgotten. but if we allow a president to get away with shredding the united states constitution, that will last forever. >> reporter: the president had one other distraction at the u.n. in the form of 16-year-old greta, pleading for climate change. mr. trump appeared to mock the activist she seems like a happy girl looking forward to a bright future. nice to see. she troeld back, adding that to her twitter bio. restrained response that might be described as being best.
>> reporter: the president's response by saying he is going to release transcript of his call with president zelensky of ukraine is not good enough for democrats that want to see that whistleblower complaint at the center of this investigation. and so far, the white house is not promising to provide that. as for the president, he is expected to sit down with the ukrainian president tomorrow before holding a news conference. mr. trump appears to be all but daring the democrats to impeach him. his campaign put out a statement saying this has energized his base, and the campaign is fund-raising off the impeachment inquiry tonight, wolf. >> jim acosta, thanks very much. at the united nations in new york. thank you. let's bring in our analysts, a lot to discuss, gloria. i don't want to lose sight of the fact this is history unfolding, a very historic moment in american history when the speaker of the house announces the start of a formal impeachment procedure against a sitting president of the united states. >> those of us that have covered the russian investigation, many
of us sitting at this table understand that for two years the president has been investigated for that. and now at mock speed i would have to say after disclosure of the phone call, and notice of a whistleblower complaint, the democrats in congress and nancy pelosi reluctantly in a somber way talked about the president's violation of law, said he was using his power to interfere to speak with a foreign leader, to interfere in an american election, and that he seriously violated the constitution. so it seemed to me that she was saying that only after deliberation did she come to this moment. and i would have to also add that at the same time she was doing this, the senate in a bipartisan vote called for the
whistleblower report to be released to their intelligence committees so they can look at it as is required by law. >> what do you think, david axelrod? >> well, it was curious to hear kevin mccarthy's remarks. it was as if he had them in a case marked break glass in case of impeachment, but it really needed updating because it missed the last week. this has been an avalanche since the revelation of the whistleblower, and the president's own admissions about his conversations with the president of ukraine and of course the withholding of money which put a whole different coloration on this. i think it change d the entire dynamic, the piece in "the washington post" by seven moderate members of congress was a critical juncture, the first year members all of whom from national security community, because they were the ones nancy
pelosi was worried about. it was in their districts there was the greatest resistance to impeachment, but i think there was this sense that the cynical political thing at this juncture would be not to act. that doesn't mean there aren't risks. i think there are great risks here, and no one knows how this will play out. you could end up, in fact, invigorating the president's chances. you could end up losing many democrats in the house if people react poorly to this. and you can end up with a president reelected and unbridled in his power. and that's i'm sure what nancy pelosi has been mulling over for months and months. i think she was left with no choice today. >> wolf, for people out there that are used to hearing what many describe as noise coming from washington, the churn and the chaos of washington in the trump era, it is understandable that people are still saying i don't want to tune in. well, tune in because this is not noise. this is something that doesn't
happen very often, it has only happened three times in history that the house of representatives has launched a formal impeachment inquiry, and even though there are very partisan times we are living in, for the speaker of the house who was reluctant to do this, and did make, given where we have been, a pretty fast change in her outcome and approach to do this is incredibly big. and the fact is given where the house democrats are, it is hard to see these six committees, particularly the house judiciary committee, not ending with arlt calls of impeachment and full house vote. >> jeffrey, weigh in. remember, her words are precise, nancy pelosi, in announcing the opening in her words, opening of an official impeachment inquiry, meaning an investigation.
that doesn't necessarily mean that they're all in favor already of i am impeaching the president. >> absolutely. i would like to put a word in for facts. we don't know a lot of facts about what actually went on here. certainly it will be an important development tomorrow when there's a transcript released of this one phone call. that's not the end of the investigation. that's going to be the beginning. is the transcript accurate? does it correctly characterize what went on in the phone call? what is the story with the money that was supposed to go to ukraine? was it actually an extortion attempt to hold back the money pending the ukrainians' agreement to investigate joe biden? that's very unclear at this point. what was the role of rudy giuliani in all this? was he doing his own
investigation? was he doing it at the instigation of the president? i mean, these stories tend to get more complicated, not less complicated as you start looking at them, and i just think judgments about whether someone will be or should be impeached should maybe wait until we actually see what the heck happened here. >> and tomorrow, pamela, we're going to see, unless the president changes his mind, we're going to see the official, unredacted complete transcript of that conversation the president had with the new president of ukraine, zelensky. and i assume the president won't change his mind. but a lot of people will wonder is that transcript precise, is it distorted, and they'll say isn't there an audio tape of that conversation that we could back up the words. >> and that would be up to the president. he could release the audio tape. i am told when he has a call with a foreign leader, it is recorded and then someone at the
nsc would file up a transcript that's filed away. that's the question. what are we going to see tomorrow, in what form. there isn't clarity on that. remember, the transcript, the call to zelensky is one piece of the whistleblower's complaint. the president is hoping this will de-escalate pressure on him, that it will take some heat off him. but we can't forget, there's more we don't know about the story. there was a sequence of events our reporting is, this is just one part of that. i can tell you in terms of what the thinking in the white house is on developments today. as dana rightly points out, this is a new chapter, this is a time to tune in. the noise has sort of stopped, it is a time to get serious. there is a feeling in the white house that this is serious, the white house counsel's office is buckling down, this is something they knew was a possibility. what the president will do moving forward is play the victim card as he is already doing today. i don't think the witch hunt phrase is going away. >> you saw the president try to play up that he is going to or
has authorized release of the transcript. to pam's point, one transcript alone will not answer all questions that we have about the nature of the president's discussion with his ukrainian counter part and rationale for withholding that critical military aid. what it does, it is an attempt by the white house to distract from the fact that the administration is blocking the release of the whistleblower complaint to congress, which went well beyond one phone call and which the inspector general deemed was of urgent concern. it is highly unusual for the dni, acting dni to overrule the inspector general in terms of providing information to congress. >> and also missing, the july call with zelensky, and let's not forget results of an april call between him and the ukrainian president and said they spoke about corruption. >> the ukrainians said they -- >> the april call between the
president and zelensky, we don't know. that was around the time i know and rudy giuliani was pushing out this messaging on joe biden. >> everybody hold on. want to bring in samantha vinograd. you used to work during the obama administration on the national security council, there were many phone calls that president obama had with world leaders. what was at least then the general procedure about getting a transcript or recording those conversations? >> wolf, it was a well oiled machine and it started with the situation room connecting the call, staff being on the call for the sole responsibility of taking accurate notes of what was said on the call. typically there were at least two people transcribing so they could compare notes. once that draft transcript was put together, it was shared with the suite, where i used to work, national security adviser office, to go over the draft, see if there were errors.
the national security adviser was often on the call, he or she could tell if anything was inaccurate, and whoever else was on the call, perhaps another nsc individual would double check the accuracy. the final transcript would be sent to the situation room for distribution with a specific list of who was authorized to see it. typically, secretary of state, dni, director of the cia and small group at the national security council. it was also sent, the final official copy to the executive secretary to be filed in line with the presidential records act. while we wait to see the transcript of the call tomorrow, there are people that were on the line with president trump and with president zelensky that can vouch for the accuracy of the call, if for example they're called before congress, if subpoenaed, or if they go in willingly to describe its contents. >> during the obama administration, did you routinely record the phone conversations? >> no. we did not record those
conversations, wolf. not to my knowledge. and i have consulted with former colleagues in the obama administration as well who share my recollection that calls were not recorded. that said, there are human witnesses to the call, professionals that work in the situation room as well as perhaps the senior director for europe, white house, national security adviser and secretary of state who again are human witnesses to what was said at the call. i will flag, wolf, president trump is meeting with president zelensky tomorrow. we better hope there's a note taker and accurate record of what happens in the meeting tomorrow that can be presented before congress as they proceed with this impeachment inquiry because he may go into that meeting tomorrow and try again to potentially misuse his position and to abuse his power. >> stand by. i want to bring in democratic congressman who serves on the house oversight committee. congressman, thanks for joining us. lots of important historic news
today. let me get your immediate reaction to the announcement from the house speaker today. why is now the time to launch an official impeachment inquiry? >> wolf s, the most dramatic moment in caucus was when freshmen democrats and military national intelligence spoke. they said now you have a president that admitted he tried to get dirt on a political opponent. some say it may cost them seats, but they no longer can stay quiet. they're coming out. i think that set the mood for the caucus. this behavior is a bridge too far. >> you spent two years following the mueller investigation, the fallout for his report, why was the ukraine phone call a tipping point for the speaker of the house and your party? >> for two reasons. one, freshman democrats, front line democrats are deeply
offended because of compromise of national security. and second, this isn't relitigating the past, relitigating the election with hillary clinton, this is about the president abusing his office in seeking political dirt about an election that's upcoming. and i think the national security concerns are really what weighed on members, many of them represent districts with large military family populations. they felt this was something they cannot put up with. >> the house of representatives can confirm that president trump asked the president of ukraine to investigate the bidens, and used funding to ukraine as leverage, will you, congressman, vote to impeach the president? >> yes, i will. and the first part, the president already admitted that. the president has said that he pressured the ukrainian government to get dirt on his political opponent. that's bad enough. the quid pro quo will make it even worse, but i don't understands when it has been
acceptable for a president of the united states to ask a foreign leader to investigate political opponents. our founders wrote against this in the federalist papers. >> the president's argument is he was trying to end corruption, widespread corruption in ukraine. you don't buy that? >> why does he have to mention biden? >> his accusation is that biden's son, hunter biden, and there's no evidence to prove this by any means, was corrupt. >> give me a break. of all corruption in ukraine, you single out the case of your main political rival's son? it doesn't pass the smell test. imagine if president obama had asked a foreign leader to investigate mitt romney's family. it is so easy for americans to understand, they're offended by it, and the president is out there admitting it. it is almost as if he is saying i can violate the constitution
and norms, come get me. he's almost daring congress to act. >> thanks so much for joining us. >> thank you, wolf. >> let me bring in david chalian, political director for a quick thought on the political fallout, what is happening on this historic day today, that all of a sudden the speaker of the house changes her mind and says yes, there must be a formal impeachment inquiry into the president of the united states. >> yeah, it is a really sobering day in american history. it is no small thing. what i think you're seeing now, wolf, this is going to play out on an elevated track and very mundane, tactical track. you're seeing all of the stories will start, facts will come out bit by bit, this document will be revealed, that document will be revealed. but what nancy pelosi went before cameras before the american people to say was the
president has put the country into constitutional crisis, where the very foundational principle of co-equal branches, checks and balances, is being tested, that there is no choice but to now hold the president accountable through the constitutional means of impeachment inquiry going here. that larger point is going to remain with us throughout all the micro points. you saw kevin mccarthy, you see in mitch mcconnell's statement, they're going to try to frame it as democrats want to relitigate an election they lost in 2016. the democrats will have the challenge to make sure to make the case to the american people, see if they can bring them along to a larger question on donald trump's behavior and abuse of power. >> let me bring in david axelrod as well. first of all, do you agree with david chalian's analysis? >> yes, i do. i think most likely when republicans say that democrats just want to relitigate the last
election, they'll respond as the representative did and say they're trying to protect the next one because the president is actively trying to subvert that election, and that was what that interchange with the president of ukraine was all about. i want to offer two reality checks. i was inspired by jeffrey's quaint pan to facts, very 20th century, but the fact of the matter is we have seen months and months and months of hearings, and we know what the white house strategy has been. it has been to deflect, to deny, and ultimately to delay by sending everything into the courts. so the democrats, we heard earlier manu said they hoped to finish this by the end of the year. i think the hopes of the administration are to push everything into the future and
fight every bit of it. this notion that people are now suddenly because of the gravity of the moment going to come and bare their souls and tell the committees what they haven't been willing to tell them before simply isn't true, and i don't know, i'm not, perhaps jeffrey does, and this is really a legal point, i guess there's more power behind an impeachment proceeding. but i still expect to see the same strategy on the part of the white house and the president's defenders. >> let jeffrey respond. >> i plead guilty to acquaint belief in facts. but i also think you are absolutely right that the white house is going to fight at every opportunity, but just in the past week we learned that they don't control every part of the fact based world. this whistleblower came out of nowhere. we don't even know who he or she is. there may be more people out there who know about what went
on here and think they have incriminating information. this whistleblower wants to testify. this whistleblower may have evidence other than his or her memory. the transcript will certainly illuminate something. i mean, if the name biden even appears in the transcript, i think that will be viewed as highly incriminating. why the heck is the president, if this is the case, talking to the president of ukraine about joe biden whose son hasn't worked there for years. >> hold on, the president is continuing to tweet. john kirby used to work at the state department, department of defense, phone conversations between a president of the united states and a foreign leader, very sensitive. i don't remember when they released transcripts of these kinds of conversations, but the president just tweeted this. i will read it and i want to get your thoughts. this is the president. secretary of state pompeo received permission from ukraine government to release the
transcript of the telephone call i had with their president. they don't know either what the big deal is. a total witch hunt scam by the democrats. that's what the president tweeted. but it is interesting, alex marquardt is reporting from the u.n. is saying aid for investigation of the bidens. zelensky responded his conversations with the president are private and confidential and when secretary of defense if do you remember a time the white house releases transcripts of these conversations with world leaders? >> at the state department we deputy do that as well, you want to protect confidentiality of discussions.
often times they're over sensitive issues. diplomacy best done behind the scenes. i think in this case i applaud the decision to release it. these are exceptional circumstances, now looking at impeachment inquiry. i think it is the right decision to release it. i would say two things, one, don't. they'll spike the football when this is released, they wouldn't release it if they didn't believe it didn't provide evidence of a quid pro quo. but it is only just the beginning of the inquiry, and there's more context regarding the relationship with ukraine. number two, trump is going to be meeting with zelensky tomorrow. i think that president zelensky is understandably going to feel boxed in in the meeting with trump. there will be both in the public face and when they shut the media out, there's going to be real limits how much zelensky can have in terms of meaningful discussion with donald trump about honest to goodness problems they're having in ukraine. there's still fighting going on today in eastern ukraine. he is going to be limited and constrained what he can get in
terms of cooperation and assistance from the united states because of this now domestic -- >> talk about being in a bad situation. i mean, how would you behave if you were president zelensky. >> and you're depending on u.s. support. >> and having a meeting with donald trump tomorrow, what do you do, what do you say coming out to the media after your conversation about that phone call? i mean, this is putting a foreign leader in a very difficult situation. i want to say one thing about the politics of all this. it is clear to me what the republicans are going to do, they're starting to do it on twitter, discredit the whistleblower, even though they don't know who the whistleblower is, the president said the whistleblower is partisan. there are some people saying this whistleblower is represented. the council to the whistleblower is somebody that represented democrats in the past, so clearly this is partisan. i would like to remind everybody of this. the inspector general that called the whistleblower's complaint urgent and credible is
a trump appointed whistleblower, i mean trump appointed inspector general. while you may try to discredit the whistleblower, go right ahead. your own inspector general has said that this complaint is very worthwhile, and i don't know how you push back on your own inspector general. >> it is an important point, david swerdlick, the inspector general as gloria says named by the trump administration in the intelligence community says the complaint from the whistleblower not only falls within the dni jurisdiction, but relates to one of the most significant an important of the dni responsibilities to the american people. and that's a significant statement. >> it's a significant statement, wolf, and i think it goes to the context that we're hopefully going to learn in the coming days and weeks. you have the inspector general having found that this was urgent and credible, and the questions that i think members
of congress are going to have for acting director of national intelligence mcguire thursday among others will be why didn't this already come to congress if there was this finding, and what was the holdup. i think you're also going to have members of congress wanting to stitch together what the ig found, what the whistleblower knew beyond what's in the four corners of whatever transcript comes out tomorrow. i think you're also going to have members of congress asking if the administration at first didn't want this to come out, why didn't they want this to come out. we actually have to see what was said. it is unlikely, i think i'll go out on a limb, say there won't be a serious dialogue where president trump says we'll give you military aid if you give us dirt on vice president biden, but it will be for members of congress to decide what took place in the conversation and actions that took place outside that conversation equal an impeachable offense. >> i want to bring in pamela.
you're getting additional reporting. >> there was discussion about how is the white house, what is it going to do moving forward. what's interesting is it may be undermining its effort in the impeachment fight by releasing this transcript of the president's conversation with zelensky because remember, the white house has argued that it won't release a transcript between the president and putin under long-standing precedent. now it is undermining that by releasing this transcript tomorrow. behind the scenes, that was a big point of concern. what are we doing when the democrats say you released this transcript, give us the other foreign leader calls. that's something to keep an eye on. also concern behind the scenes of releasing it. there's a big divide with white house officials, secretary pompeo, the concern being it will have a chilling effect on foreign leaders speaking with the president going forward. >> probably true, definitely true, your reporting. i spoke to a republican ally on capitol hill today that was very firm about the fact that despite
the potential precedent this sets, this situation is so important and so different as the admiral was saying that the transcript needs to come out. even for the president's allies, even though they're not saying it publicly, the notion of the president on the phone with a foreign leader talking about his political opponent, talking about his potential corruption, asking for investigations, potentially, and it being understood. the aid the u.s. gives the ukraine hangs in the balance is a very, very grave possibility, even for the president's allies, even though they're not saying so. >> i want to bring david axelrod into this as well. david, there's some concern among democrats, you remember with president obama, he would say you get ahead of your skis, that the democrats may be ahead of their skis, especially if the
transcript released tomorrow doesn't show the worst of the allegations that were leveled in the past few days against the president. >> yeah, that's why i think nancy pelosi and others have stayed closely to the president's own words and what he already offered about these conversations. he had many iterations of this over the days as this has gotten more complex. essentially he said yeah, i talked about it, i think they should be investigating biden, and there's already been acknowledgment that he froze the aid to ukraine and that was hanging over the conversation, even if it wasn't mentioned, so i do think democrats may have made a mistake or those that emphasized the transcript because i really think the whistleblower report is far more important. it has more depth and undoubtedly more information than they're going to get from this. the thing they don't want is to get the transcript and have the
president's supporters say that was disclosure sufficient enough. let me make another point. dana was right, this is a moment of extraordinary historical import, only three presidents in history who were impeached. but it's also true that no president in history has ever been convicted and removed from office and it is very, very unlikely that's going to happen here. that 67 members of the united states senate, including large numbers of republicans, are going to agree to -- i guess 20 republicans would be necessary to remove the president, so in many ways this is an important exercise. we should be sober about it. but we also kind of know how the story is going to end. donald trump is not going to be removed from office but this is overhang that he will have to
deal with over the next many months as he is seeking re-election. >> the only way he will be removed in office is if he is defeated in the november, 2020 election, then he would be removed from office. david chalian, david axelrod makes an important point. all of us that covered impeachment of bill clinton remember he was impeached in the house of representatives where a simple majority can impeach a president of the united states, but there was not two-thirds majority in the senate to convict and remove him from office, and a lot of people as david axelrod was pointing out suspect a similar scenario could develop this time. >> that's right. that's why the politics are potentially treacherous. exactly this reason. the democrats are in a position of launching a process now as david was just indicating that we already know the end result of. the notion that donald trump is going to be removed from office does not seem within the realm of possibility in the republican
controlled senate, so this is part of why nancy pelosi has long said she thinks this process should be bipartisan. well, there's no indication that that is happening yet. she has already taken one of her guide posts this last year talking impeachment and put that to the side. the other one she pointed to was you can't launch impeachment if you don't have the country on your side. also something not entirely clear. but what is clear is that democrats believe the president's behavior is so egregious at this point that by defending their constitutional responsibility here, they have an argument to take to the american people and bring them along in the process. that's what the speaker is banking on now, that she will get the country along with her substantial enough chunk of it, but let's not kid ourselves, there's going to be nothing about the process that will be bipartisan.
>> you need republicans to convict in the senate. right now, are there any republicans that are even supporting the start of an impeachment? >> i have been looking at my phone to see email after email, statement after statement from republicans, never mind, mitch mcconnell, who issued, lashed out at the house speaker for going forward with this before seeing the transcript, for example, and getting other bits of information. but also, people like the partisan republican, somebody that holds her fire and others. that's the long way of saying no. this is right now a partisan exercise in the sense that it is just the democrats. and i can't underscore enough what david was just saying. >> which david? >> all of the davids. in this case david chalian about the fact that as i said earlier, this is still incredibly
politically perfeilous. politics be damned might be the bo best argument. saying i understand how bad this is, how hard this is for us. >> jeffrey, go ahead. >> about the politics. one fact that's worth pointing out, in the clinton investigation, impeachment inquiry, and in the nixon impeachment inquiry, the full house of representatives took a vote to open the impeachment inquiry. speaker pelosi did not conduct such a vote. she did not force her members to take a vote, she simply announced it herself. i think she has the right to do that, but i think that's indicative of her desire to protect her members from taking votes about impeachment. >> very important point. and you know, gloria, there was a lot of speculation earlier in the day she might name a special committee, a select committee on
impeachment along the lines of the select committee on watergate, for example, but she made it clear at the end of the statement, there are six committees looking into various aspects of this, all of them are going forward in their own way. >> that may have had to do with committee chairman not giving up turf, but also the optics of having a select committee would remind you of watergate. and i don't think she wants to sort of go down that route at this particular point. i think jeffrey's point is right. she did not call for a vote on an impeachment inquiry, she just kinds of declared it. and i guess she can do that. but she knows the kind of push back she's going to get. ronna mcdaniel, republican chair woman -- >> republican national committee. >> said it has the fingerprints of the vendetta that smeared against donald trump since elected, pointed out the whistleblower -- >> playing the victim card.
>> of course. but i also think that pelosi again is an institutionalist, cares about the congress and its prerogatives as do the republicans in the senate who voted today to say we want the whistleblower complaint because that is the law and we ought to get it. i will be interested to see what the department of justice does now. pamela, you covered department of justice, what do they do now that the senate says we demand it. >> it is putting more pressure on. i don't think release of the transcript will do anything to take pressure off. there's wishful thinking in the administration that that's going to happen, but you're right, the law is the law, pressure is growing, given developments today with the republicans. >> i think that the effort to release the transcript is clearly designed to demonstrate that the administration is being transparent when in fact they're still blocking the
whistleblower's complaint being released to congress. it was very important that house speaker pelosi focus very much on what the president himself has already said, that he has acknowledged that he did discuss joe biden and his son, hunter biden, in this call. so at a minimum, if that does not appear in the transcript, it is certainly going to raise a lot of questions over whether or not the administration can be trusted or the white house can be trusted to put out its own accounting of the conversation. also want to point out to dana's point, mitch mcconnell issued a fresh statement after pelosi addressed the public where he really went after democrats for playing the impeachment card. he said they have been trying to find any rationale they possibly can to impeach the president and undo the result of the 2016 election, similar to what you heard from kevin mccarthy earlier this hour. that reinforces it. as much as the republicans are
joining in trying to have the complaint handed over to relevant committees in congress, they're willing to play defense for the president and echo this idea that this is all yet another witch hunt that's politically moutivated by democrats. >> i think now 160 or 170, maybe more of the democrats have supported at least the opening of a formal impeachment investigation or inquiry into the president of the united states. i suspect the main reason why nancy pelosi didn't want a roll call of the full house of representatives was because she feared she may not get to 218. she didn't want to put pressure on democrats in swing districts that may feel uncomfortable with that kind of vote. >> that's right, wolf. you don't get to be the first woman speaker of the house if you can't whip and count votes. i suspect, jeffrey makes a good point about the fact there was no full house vote today, i
suspect that the speaker wasn't quite ready to go to the floor saying she had the 218 votes to get a full house vote on impeachment inquiry going today. but at the same time, the move she made today suggests that she's saying to republicans who aren't there on impeachment, probably won't be on impeachment, look, just because i foamlded a lot of hands doesn mean i don't have a stack of chips to play with. i think the speaker wants to move it forward slowly and she has a measure of credibility because she has slow played this to say now we're going to take it to the next step and put pressure on republicans and department of justice to get not just the transcript but also the whistleblower complaint that went through the ig office. >> stand by. we're getting a lot of reaction. joining us, democratic congresswoman ilhan omar, member of the foreign affairs committee.
congresswoman, thanks for joining us. this is an historic day in washington, d.c. as you well know. you have you said this is an act of constitutional responsibility. why do you think the house speaker, nancy pelosi, decided that now is the time to open this formal, official impeachment inquiry? >> it has been really important for the speaker to make sure that this impeachment investigation wasn't going to be about political expedience. she wanted to make sure that there was an opportunity for there to be an understanding about what laws were being broken and i think it is very clear at the moment that a law has been broken and she's ready to move on impeachment as we have been, many of us have been talking about how this president thinks he is above the law, and how we needed to hold him accountable, and i'm very excited that she's finally on
board and we can start the process with leadership in tow. >> why do you think, congresswoman, that the ukraine phone call and whistleblower's complaint triggered this formal inquiry, but not necessarily the mueller report? >> yeah, i think that as the speaker used to say, this president is in the this is the straw that broke the camel's back. this particular incident shows that the president clearly thinks he's above the law. he is withholding aid so he can pressure a foreign country to dig dirt on a potential presidential opponent. that is very unconstitutional and we must hold mihim responsible. >> do you believe democrats have squandered some really valuable time over these past several months by waiting until now to launch this official impeachment
proceeding? >> the speaker has said today that sometimes the time finds us, and we are at a moment when the time has found us. it is time for us to act, and i'm excited for that to take place. >> i guess the bottom line is many democrat, as you know, they've been calling the ongoing judiciary committee, investigation, jerry nadler's committee an impeachment investigation and a formal impeachment investigation so will this new phase announced today by the speaker really be any different? >> she said she wanted impeachment investigation to take place and she wanted it to be swiftly done, and i think, you know, the way that the committee chairs understood it was that they have her full support in moving this process as swiftly as possible so that we can protect our democracy and
make sure that the law of the land is held to the highest level and that we are doing the work of protecting our democracy and upholding our constitution. >> do you have any concerns, congresswoman about choosing the phone call between the president of the united states, the new president of the ukraine as a jumping point for an impeachment inquiry when you and none of us have yet seen the official transcript, the unredacted transcript and certainly none of us have seen the whistleblower's complaint. >> chairman swift has just announced that the whistleblower is going to come and testify in front of his committee. we already know that the president himself has said that the president himself and his supporters have been on the record talking about joe biden and his son as being the reason
that they were talking to ukraine. so we have enough information to know that a law has been broken and we look forward to learning more as the whistleblower comes and speaks in front of committee. >> congresswoman ilhan omar of minnesota. thanks so much for joining us on this very important and historic day. >> thank you so much for having me, wolf. >> thank you. let's bring back john kirby as we watch what's going on. i wonder, put yourself in russian president putin's shoes right now for a moment when he sees what's going on here in washington. you see the dissent, the debate that is unfolding right now. what do you think he's concluding? >> putin must be dancing a jig right now, wolf. he wanted to sow discord in our system and deepen the divisions inside this country, and clearly he succeeded beyond his wildest expectations and not to mention he's succeed nothing furthing i
violate the ukraine and now he has president zelensky that will be seen as a puppet of donald trump no matter which way he goes as a result of this controversy inside ukraine. so he's also continuing to weaken the political structure and foundation inside ukraine. this is a good day for vladimir putin. >> if his goal was to dissent here in the u.s. from dissenting, from his perspective, mission accomplished and we've been saying that for a while. our political reporter arlette saenz has been joining us from delaware. former vice president joe biden wrapped up his response to the president of ukraine's phone call earlier today. tell us about that. >> reporter: yeah, he sure did, wolf, and this was the furthest that joe biden has gone in regards to these calls for impeachment. he said that if the president does not comply with congress' request that congress will have no other choice, but to impeach the president.
his fellow 2020 democratic rivals have gone further than biden in calling for an impeachment, but take a listen to what he said. >> it's time for this administration to stop stonewalling and provide congress with all of the facts it needs including a copy of the formal complaint made by the whistleblower, and it's time for the congress to fully investigate the conduct of this president. >> reporter: now biden also was using this as an opportunity to paint a -- draw a contrast between himself and the president saying that president trump is engaged in abuse of power and that he believes he is above the law. wolf? >> arlette, thank you very much for that report. david axelrod, i want your thoughts on this very important day that we're watching all of this history unfold before our eyes. we're getting a front-row seat right now, but when you see this, what do you think? >> well, what i think that while the politics are very intense
the issues are really grave. a presidents' powers and does a president have unlimited powers and can he flout norms and rules and laws and institutions with impunity? and i think that's what nancy pelosi was wrestling with and that's why they took the step they took today because the politics aside, this is a fundamental question about our democracy and just to echo what dana said earlier, we all ought to pay a great deal of attention. >> and it's going to be in some ways easy to do so because all eyes will be on the house and in some ways hard to do so because you are going to have six committees looking into this and although it has been incredibly hard for the democratic majority to get answers to documents, to get witnesses from the white house, the way you can also look at it, and i know the way the house democrats are looking at it is now that the impeachment
inquiry is launched, everything that's stonewalled, every delay, every blocking is another line in the column for impeachment. >> yeah, and i think also the white house and the president wants this transcript released tomorrow because they believe it will be good for them in the short term and they believe it will not be as damaging as people think, but in the long term it could hurt their efforts in terms of giving ammunition to democrats with other transcripts to leaders and the white house and doj can no longer claim that the whistleblower complaint is protected by privilege because it's releasing the transcript of the president's phone call with this foreign leader. and so it will be interesting to see how the white house and doj tries to block it moving forward if it tries to block it moving forward as gordon pointed out, senate republicans now want to say this whistleblower complaint and it's required by the law. >> the president so far going on the offense tweeting presidential harassment. the trump campaign is
fund-raising off of this. the republicans have cut clips of the democrats who are supporting impeachment, but the fact of the matter is we don't know how this will play out politically and polls show there was not a support for the impeachment and want in the russia investigation and this is the president potentially using the power of the precedence toe try and investigate a political opponent and i do think that as the election gears up and more of this information unfold, the politics could change very rapidly and it is also important because even as senate r republican are unlikely to remove it from office and if there is a vote on the senate floor, they're at least going to be on record either supporting this president or being forced to take a very politically sensitive vote. >> think we're all going to have to look at this as kind of a national civics lesson and the question will be what is -- what are the powers of the president? what are the powers of congress and what are the checks and
balances between the kong and the presidency and the president will say, as he has said look at article 2 of the constitution, i can do anything i want and the congress, the democrats in congress are saying no, you can't, and what you did on that phone call or in these actions plural was an abuse of your presidential power and a violation of the law and we'll have to see how the president defends himself and how the president's defenders defend him on this. it's a crucial question in our democracy. >> it is. >> gloria, can i just add and i can almost guarantee, wolf, that the circus atmosphere that is about to evertake thovertake th what it means for our democrat see and those two things will not match up here. >> it will be a dramatic moment, indeed. inthe house will go on a recess for a couple of week, but then when they come back, not a whole lot of time between now and the
end of the year and of course, next year is an election year and we'll see how this formal impeachment investigation unfolds because the stakes clearly are enormous. i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room." cnn's breaking news coverage continues right now with erin burnett "out front." this is cnn breaking news. good evening. i'm erin burnett. "out front" tonight, the breaking news and it is historic news, the speaker of the house, nancy pelosi just going before cameras to tell the nation the democrats are moving to impeach the president of the united states. >> last tuesday we observed the anniversary of the adoption of the constitution on september 17th, sadly, on that day the intelligence community inspector general formally notified the congress that the administration was forbidding him from