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tv   The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  February 7, 2020 3:00pm-4:00pm PST

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this is cnn breaking news. >> i'm wolf blitzer. we're following breaking news. a white house official provided key testimony in the impeachment inquiry into president trump has just been fired. lieutenant colonel is a top ukraine expert was told his services were no longer needed and he was escorted out of the white house according to his attorney. the same lawyer also says that vindman's twin brother, a national security council attorney and army officer has also been fired. we'll talk about the breaking news and more with a senator and our analysts. let's get straight to the white house. jim acosta is joining us. many democrats warned that there could be retribution against
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impeachment witnesses. tell us what's going on. >> that's right, just hours after asked about the fate of lieutenant colonel alexander vindman, the lieutenant colonel and his brother were both fired and escorted off the white house grounds. all week long republicans were saying that perhaps the president had learned a lesson after his impeachment battle but mr. trump is making it clear tonight, it's payback time. >> reporter: president trump is charging full speed ahead on the vindictive victory lap, sounding like he's on a war path. first is the national security ov ov official alexander vindman and his brother. >> i'm not happy with him. you think i'm supposed to be happy with him? i'm not. >> lieutenant colonel vindman got under the president's skin testifying during the
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impeachment inquiry. >> this is the country i served and defended that all my brothers have served and here right matters. >> vindman's lawyer released a statement saying it's obvious why his client was fired. there is no question in the mind of any american why this man's job is over. why this country now has one less soldier serving at the white house. talking to reporters, the president was tearing into another target, nancy pelosi claiming she could somehow be prosecuted for ripping up his speech. >> i think it was a terrible thing. first of all, it it's an official document. you're not allowed. it's illegal what she did. she broke the law. >> he is fixated on the impeachment fight tweeting dozens of times in the last 24 hours. the house manager who presented the case against the president and the senate are insisting mr. trump will never change his ways. >> he hasn't learned a lesson. as we repeated throughout the
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trial, donald trump is a serial solicitor. >> the democrats just lost another legal battle to the president after unanimous court decision to dismiss claims that mr. trump was violating the constitution's clauss by accepting foreign payments at his washington, d.c. hotel. >> i just got. this it was just handed to me. this is the d.c. circuit. we just won the indication. it was a unanimous ooums decision. this was brought by nancy pelosi and her group. >> the president has spraining in his step after the latest unemployment numbers found 225,000 jobs were created last month. >> we had fantastic job numbers. it was 230,000 or smig like that. it was much p higher than projection. so jobs continue to be great. our country continues to do great. >> as for the potential for other changes over here at the white house, the president was pushing back earlier today that his acting chief staff could be
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heading out the door. senior administration official told me earlier today that rumors of mulvaney's demise is greatly exaggerated but as for the potential of other people coming in, that could be happening soon. north carolina republican congressman mark meadows has been talked about as a potential addition over here to the white house staff and advisory role to the president. two officials told my earlier today that could happen in the coming weeks. wolf, getting back to the fate of lieutenant colonel vindman, all you have do is look at the statement from his lawyer. he is making it very clear that vindman was pushed out for telling the truth. wolf? >> jim acosta, thank you. let's get more on the breaking news right now. >> he is not the only one in the administration after testifying during the ukraine investigation. >> yeah. that's right. there are a number of officials in a variety of circumstances.
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tim morrison was in charge of europe and russia. dent leave under a cloud. several others did after testifying that what they saw, what they heard by the president and his aides in ukraine was wrong. like ambassador bill taylor, he had been the most senior u.s. diplomat in ukraine. he testified that, yes, that aid had been withheld from ukraine. and then he was called back from his post right before the secretary of state mike pompeo was due to visit kiev. of course, that made for a very awkward encounter. his time, taylor's time with the state department, that was not extended as it could have been and he left the state department. the president yanked her out of ukraine in april. she testified about giuliani's concerted campaign against her in ukraine and then just a week
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ago, she retired from the state department after just -- after more than 30 years of service. and then, wolf, there is jennifer williams, she was the vice president's adviser on russia. she heard that july 25th call when president trump asked for an investigation into the bidens in ukraine. she found it unusual and inappropriate. jennifer williams was supposed to end her detail with mike p s pence's office at the end of march but she left two months early and went back to the state department. we end up what with happened today, vindman and his brother being fired. a clear act of retribution as you've been saying by the president. >> these are all experts. what are the national security implications potentially? >> what you're seeing is the most respected officials in their field being pushed out of the white house. the administration is losing their expertise at a critical time for u.s. foreign policy.
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mar marie yovanovitch was there for 16 years. alex vindman is from ukraine, he speaks the language, he serveded in kiev and moscow. very much an expert on both those countries. now the white house no longer has that. so these are the people who manage the relationships with these countries. they know them inside out. they deal with them on policy day to day. they're getting side lined. in the meantime this impeachment chapter of the story in the ukraine saga may have just closed. >> reporter: the trial may have ended. >> donald trump is not guilty as charged in the second article of impeachment. >> reporter: but the ukraine jag is not over. >> so we will continue to do our oversight to protect and defend
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the constitution. each a check and balance on each other. >> reporter: republicans and democrats with sights set on their own targets. for democrats, john bolt job, t bolton who said he is willing to testify in the senate trial but republicans blocked witnesses. so democrats asked him to submit a swarn doement which bolton declined. >> frankly, it's more inexplicable that when he wanted to come forward, the senators didn't want to hear what he had to say. >> reporter: now it's likely they'll subpoena bolton who has a book coming out that further allege that's the president did link military aid for ukraine with personal political investigations. and that he pressured bolton to help him. >> veal to explain why he's willing to put this in a book but not in an affidavit. >> the tell all book and
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willingness to testify angereded republicans who argued that the biden's role in ukraine deserves more scrutiny though there is no evidence joe biden did anything wrong. >> we're going to get to the bottom of this. i can prove beyond any doubt that joe biden's effort in the ukraine to root out corruption was undercut because he let his son it is on the board of the most corrupt company in ukraine. we won't give him a pass on that. >> the trump administration has already handed over documents and information to senate republicans. >> i'm not their boss. i don't think they've done anything as far as i know. i think it's sad what happened with the bidens and how he's doing in the polls. >> the president commented on the 2020 campaign which lev
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parnas, the indicted associate of rudy giuliani told cnn was at the center of the mission in ukraine on behalf of president trump. >> that is the most important thing for him to stay four years and keep the fight going. there is no other reason for doing it. >> trump has said wasn't close to parnas who has released many photos of them together. parnas' lawyer tells cnn there is much more to come. saying, the universe of subject matter is yet to be publicly revealed but is of interest in matters well beyond the impeachment inquiry. >> he's a ferocious guy. of. >> the new exclusive photos and videos from parnas is of giuliani in spain and he is courting a wealthy venezuelan client. as for that trip to spain, giuliani told cnn that he can't discuss it because it's a matter of national security. wolf? >> thank you very much, alex.
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let's get more on this from tina smith of minnesota. senator, thank you for coming in. you think lieutenant colonel vindman's dismissal was an act of retribution by the president? >> it's no surprise that the president is acting out of let bus rather than out of regret. the poiniancy of the moment when we heard the testimony on the senate floor about vindman saying this is america and in america you're okay if you tell the truth. >> let me play that clip. listen to this. >> i'm sitting here today in the u.s. capitol talking to our elected professionals, talking to our elected professionals is proof you made the right decision to leave the soviet union and come to the united states of america in search of a better life for our family. do not worry. i will be fine for telling the truth. >> so the family had, refugees,
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they settled in brooklyn. the two twin brothers, they go into the military. u.s. army officers. they have an older brother that is a commissioned army officer. vindman serves -- served in iraq. wounded, received a metal. is this the appropriate way for him to be treated? >> it's not only inappropriate, it goes against the whole idea of our country and our government which is that you tell the truth even to people who hold power and you're going to be okay. and, you know, it reminds me of another moment in the testimony that i could never forget which is the u.s. diplomats were talking to the ukrainian diplomats about urging them not to follow the corrupt path of investigating the political owe opponents and they said like you want us to do with the bidens and clintons? >> that was a powerful moment. what if anything can the u.s. senate, for example, you're a senator, do? >> it's not clear to me that there is much that the united states senate can do.
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to hear colleagues say this shouldn't be happening, we have the power to hold this president accountable and some of my colleagues didn't take that opportunity. to me, that is just a gross misaction. >> clearly things have gone well in the last week or so for the president. he was acquitted in the senate impeachment trial. take a look at the jobs numbers that just came out today. 225,000 jobs. unemployment 3.6%. the new poll among the highest it's been in three years that he's been president. 49%. 94% of republicans approve of the job he's doing. he feels confident. >> you can see how confident he feels. and that's why probably yesterday he had this unbelievable display of
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disrespect and i think dishonor in the white house in the way that he kind of, again, expressed his retribution towards those that agredisagree with him. it's a good point you make. in the coming months, we're going to -- the democrats with going to need to make the case for what we can do to build a strong economy. and hold him to account for this idea that he's somehow presiding over this great economic recovery when really what he's doing is providing -- presiding over the end of -- or at this point of an obama recovery and recovery because of great american businesses and workers. >> your home state of minnesota is clearly in play. >> absolutely. >> tell us about that. >> minnesota is very much in play. it is a new swing state. in what i think about when i hear the president talk about his strong economic points is that, you know, in minnesota, you might be thinking that things are doing okay economically. down the street from you is a farmer whose farm has gone into foreclosure because we're seeing
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20% uptick in farm bankruptcies. the you are thinking about your child that has $35,000 in school debt or mom that can't afford health insurance. these are the futhe fund mental. >> thank you so much for am coming in. >> thank you. >> the breaking news continues next with more on the firing of national security council ukraine expert lieutenant colonel alexander vind mman in e wake of his impeachment trial. plus, we have more information about the iowa caucuses and new admission from the states's democratic party chairman. have you ever wondered what the motorcade driver drives when they're not in a motorcade? [ upbeat music starts ] [ engine revving ] ♪ this one drives a volkswagen passat. ♪
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along with his brother in the wake of vindman's testimony in the impeachment inquiry. jeffrey toobin, i want to play a clip for you. this was colonel vindman tef testifying in november on the phone conversation. he was listening to it that the president had with the new president zelensky of ukraine. >> i was concerned by the call. what i heard was inappropriate. i reported my concerns. it is improper for the president of the united states to demand a foreign government investigate a u.s. citizen and political opponent. i couldn't believe what i was hearing. it was probably an element of shock that maybe in certain regards to my worst fear of how our ukraine policy could play out was playing out. how this was likely to have significant implications for u.s. national security. >> and now he and his twin
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brother also a u.s. army officer, jag, a lawyer who worked at the national security council, both of them were escorted out of the white house. >> this is how authoritarian countries work. that people are offended for -- people are fired for offending the dear leader, not breaking any laws, not violating any rules. they get fired. it's a particularly north korean touch. these are the choices available to the american people. what i always remember in these events is that donald trump got elected behaving this way and he may well get re-elected behaving this way. so the idea that there are going to be any changes, that's something that people should just put out of their minds.
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not going happen. >> sa man that, you worked at the national security council during the obama administration. what is your reaction when you heard what was going on? >> well, i think many of us are asking ourselves what kind of man let alone what kind of president gets off on trying to publicly humiliate a decorated war hero. leaving that aside, we have to look at this from a punishment and deterrent perspective. the president is going after both. he is trying to punish lieutenant colonel vindman and his brother who was, in fact, involved in the episode because lieutenant colonel vindman went to his brother to report his concerns. but this is also about deterence, wolf. the whole cost benefit calculation associated with reporting abuse through protected channels is thrown on its head. the benefit has been degraded. congress is clearly a dead end when it comes to presidential accountability. republicans have given the president a life-long get out of jail free card and the costs increased. we know that lieutenant colonel
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vindman received threats, physical threats and have been smeared and now professional retaliation to a list of costs associated with reporting on the president. so overall this will have a chilling effect on presidential accountability going forward. >> ron, i want to read to you the statement that chuck schumer put out. as usual, the white house runs away from the truth. lieutenant colonel vindman lived up to his oath to protect our constitution. this action is not a sign of strength. it only shows president trump's weakness. what is the impact of all of this? >> well, you know, when i saw this happen today, the only thing i could think of immediately was the statement by suzanne collins a couple days ago. senator suzanne collins that trump learned a pretty big lesson from impeachment. and by which she meant he would not behave in this kind of manner. in fact, he did learn a lesson at they were suggesting. which is that there is no --
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there is no line he can cross. that republicans in congress can hold him to account on. he feels very embolden to continue to shape a government that is essentially an extension of his will and kind of breaks any idea of independence. chuck grassley, the senator from iowa, a historic champion of witness wi whistle blowers, where was he today? what did he have to say about this? if anything, he has said he is now going go and investigate the bidens and ukraine extending by another means the behavior that colonel vindman was so alarmed at on the call. so to me, just another day that says one party alone cannot uphold the norms and the rules of democracy. if republicans in congress are essentially saying to the president, we will, you know, we will look the other way almost no matter what you do this is what you're going to get.
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you're just going to get more of it. >> let's bring in our next guest. >> i think a lot of things. first of all, the clear thing is that when you speak about deterence, as you dshgs it's not only deterence in terms of trying to make sure that whistle-blowers don't come forward, but it is political deterrence. we've seen this president from the get go send a message to anyone who tries to challenge him that if you do not show loyalty, if you do not tow the line, you'll have reprecushions and they're very serious. and we saw that today with, you know, colonel vindman. >> a sad moment. all right, everybody stand by. there is more news. cnn's exclusive interview with the house impeachment managers and what adam schiff revealed about former national security adviser john bolton. we'll discuss. break out the butter lobsterfest is on at red lobster if you've been dreaming about tender wild-caught lobster, dig in to butter-poached, fire-roasted and shrimp & lobster linguini. see? dreams do come true. or if you like a taste of new england without leaving home,
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it's smart. it grabs people's attention. it works. it's why comcast spotlight is changing its name to effectv. because being effective means getting results. president trump's impeachment trial is over. house democrats still want to hear from former national security adviser john bolton. in an exclusive ind view, lead house impeachment manager adam schiff revealed new details about bolton's refusal to give a sworn affidavit. >> they voted down his testimony to see whether he is willing to submit an affidavit under oath that would still be valuable
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during trial. >> even if he is coming to testify, even if he wasn't going to testify, a sworn affidavit and he refused. he would have to explain at some point where y. he is willing to put this in a book but not in an affidavit under oath. >> he is making speeches which he drops sort of comments as well. >> yes. you know, it is fairly inkplikable. but, you know, frankly, it's more inkplikable that when he was willing to come forward before the senate that the senators did not want to hear what he had to say. and for those senators and there have been a few, we didn't need to hear from john bolton because he proved him guilty without him. and we should let the voters decide. they could in the explain why they don't want the voters to know the full facts. >> not that i'm aware of, no. nor why he would distinguish between testimony in the house versus the senate.
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>> the full interview with all of the seven house impeachment managers that airs on a special "ac 360" tonight. what do you make of what we just heard from congressman adam schiff? >> well, you know, john bolt john is going to have to explain at some point why he behaved the way he has. one thing i think is important to say somewhat in bolton's defense, his book is in a classified information review which as of fairly recently, it had not completed. so he was not in a position to release the book in advance. now if he really wanted to write an affidavit, i don't see any reason why he couldn't. but the idea that there is this classification review of his story going on is a complicating factor in his decision about how much he could go public before that review was finished. >> house democrats are suggesting they still want to hear from bolton and they're
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likely to subpoena him h but what do they stand to gain at this point? >> that's the question. what do they stand to gain snt long they are drags on, a lot of people are asking, hey, this is already decided. why do we have to hear more information? you can't impeach the president twice. is this all the democrats do? can they only ask and ask and ask and go over the same ground? i think it's a political calculation that they're going to have to decide how much benefit there is in hearing bolton. >> you see any points about there? >> look, i think it is very convenient for ambassador bolton to testify when he knew he wasn't going to be called as a witness the right? he made that knowing knowing that republicans were not going to call him. to jeffrey's point, there is nothing classified about saying publicly from his twitter feed or during one the speeches or whatever that president asked him to do something improper. that is not -- >> it's not a press conference. >> it's not top secret information. i am aware of the restrictions put on john bolton.
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every official has to go through it. but the statement that's the house was waiting for and that the senate trial potentially could have benefitted from have nothing to do with classification issues. >> i -- that's probably true. >> the classification process can be very political. and that manuscript had not been approved. and there was a letter from the national security council saying hit lots of classified information in it. so, you know, the fact is there was this letter outstanding saying you can't disclose something. >> right. >> but a manuscript is much bigger than a simple statement indicating that the president wanted him to pressure ukraine or -- >> ron go, ahead. >> i was going to say, you know, it really gets to the point that adam schiff made that i thought was so important. the internal inconsistency. the explosively inconsistent logic of a lamar alexander and other republican senators saying the voters should decide and
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then immediately voting to deny the voters critical information in the form of the testimony from john bolton not to mention the document that's are available that, would help them decide about the president's behavior. the reality is that the, you know, whatever they were saying, the republican senators were making a decision not only to exonerate the president but to prevent the public or to make it tougher for the public to get the full information. of course, more will be out between now and november. i think if and when john bolton's book is published if it is as to the reports, there is very tough questions for tom tillis and martha mcsally and susan collins above all about why they did not think it was relevant to hear what he had to say if it is anywhere near as explosive as had been reported. >> before i let you go, jeffrey, i want to show you and our viewers some exclusive images that cnn has obtained of rudy giuliani, the president's
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personal attorney traveling around spain with the criminally charged associate of his, lev parnas. it raises all sorts of additional questions about the nature of their relationship and the connection to the president. >> it does indeed. and, you know, the role of rudy giuliani, you know, yet another person who did not testify before the impeachment proceeding, what he was doing in ukraine with whom on who's nickel, that just is a question that remains. whether congress looks into that or whether just journalist dozen, i don't know. but the issue is not going to go away. or the fbi potentially. >> yeah. >> he is facing criminal charges. >> he is. he is under investigation. we understand he is under counter intelligence investigation and otherwise. wolf, rudy giuliani -- >> we're talking about lev parnas. >> i was speaking about rudy giuliani. >> he's under investigation. lev parnas has been indicted.
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>> he has been indicted. he has been indicted. and what the new images really show is that lev parnas and rudy giuliani were working with a lot of other shady characters other than those involved in ukraine scandal. there are new questions raised about their work with -- in venezuela and elsewhere around the world. and the key question for me post impeachment is why does rudy giuliani still have a job? he associated with parnas. we have new information coming out. he had no indication that president trump stopped working with him. >> were you surprised a little yesterday when the president was thanking everyone for all the hem he got during the impeachment trial and rudy giuliani never came up? >> i wasn't surprised. i think in that crowd perhaps the name rudy giuliani would not be very welcomed. clearly, what he was doing was really making sure on the one hand, making sure who he was dispoliced with and making sure the people he felt had his back were going to be thanked. rudy giuliani is toxic at the moment. >> what do you think, ron? >> well, i thought the common theme in the story today, you
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know, kind of goes with what we see. rudy giuliani being hired by people around the world who kind of want to get their case in front of and heard favorably by the administration. again, you know, just more -- you just have the sense that we are only at the aerl early part of the story and there will be more of this between now and november. someone said before, i mean, the xwe how much do democrats want to keep focusing on this as opposed to the bread and butter issues that help them win in 2018, particularly hk. there's no question, i think, that revelations will continue. and i suspect the house will continue to investigate. >> we'll see what happens. all right. stick around. there is more news we're following including a stunning admission from iowa democratic party chairman as the clock is chaos extends into next week. plus, coronavirus scare on a cruise ship in new jersey. hundreds of americans remain quarantined.
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results until saturday at 1:00 p.m. eastern standard time. but so far none of the campaigns have indicated that they plan to request that recanvassing. bernie sanders told ryan nobles to day his campaign does not intend to call for a recanvas, however, sanders did say they have some concerns about individual precints and whether they were tabulated accurately. they will bring the concerns to the iowa democratic party. this all guarantees the saga is going to continue making it a full week before we might know the final results and even still, the race is still razor thin. there is .1% separating pete buttigieg who is in the delegate league and bernie sanders who is following up right behind him. so a recanvassing may not resolve the problems. but there are clearly questions based on what the sanders campaign is saying and based on cnn's own evaluation of the data that's been released that shows
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that there are potentially problems with this data. now, iowa is not fully resolved. we are barrelling towards new hampshire which is just a few days away and already things are heating up between these candidates. we saw today bernie sanders criticizing pete buttigieg by name suggesting he's raising money from billionaires and bernie sanders' campaign is offering a different way forward. remember, sanders raises all of his money from grassroots donations. all of the candidates are going to be on the debate stage here at the college tonight. i think we're expecting to see more of the candidates going at each other in explicit terms. this is an opportunity for them to get in front of new hampshire voters for the last time before that tuesday primary. and the stakes are extraordinarily high. not just for bernie sand erdz, also for joe biden who acknowledged he placed a disappointingly in fourth place in iowa.
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his campaign is trying to retool. they're elevating the campaign vis v vezer and a campaign aide acknowledge they have to head into the critical states of nevada and south carolina. wolf, it's clear that joe biden's campaign is trying to lower expectations. and refuse to say in a conference call with reporters to day how he needs to finish near new hampshire and how he needs to finnish nevada. they've been focusing on where he is very strong which is south carolina where the electorate gets a lot more diverse. wolf. >> all right. abby, thank you very much. we have some additional breaking news coming into "the situation room" right now. earlier you heard that alexander vindman was fired and his
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brother. they were escortsed out of the white house. and now gordon sundland he is out as well. do have the statement? >> joust in, ambassador sondland, he was pinappointed t that position by president trump has been told by the president that he is no longer needed. he is no longer needed. he provided the testimony publicly. he eventual will i came out and said that there was a quid pro quo. what he was asking of the ukrainians and expecting he would get a favor, a favor that was politically advantageous to him in regard to what he was asking of ukraine. let's read what ambassador sondland's lawyer gave us a statement from ambassador
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himself. saying, "i was advised to day that president intends to recall me effectively, effective immediately as the united states ambassador to the european union. i am grateful to president trump for having given me the opportunity to serve. to secretary pompeo, for his consistent support and to the exceptional and dedicated professionals at the u.s. mission to the european union. i'm proud of our accomplishments, our work here has been the highlight of my career." so this is pretty astonishing news tonight. comes off the heels of as you have been discussing lieutenant colonel vindman also escorted off the white house grounds earlier today. >> yeah. major development. remember, ambassador sondland, before he became ambassador, he gave a million -- $1 million to the trump inaugural committee. and that is part of what is going on. l l let's go to jim acosta?
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have they confirmed all this? now gordon sondland, the u.s. ambassador to the european union is out. >> wolf, i will tell you, officially the white house is not commenting. they're only saying they will not talk about personnel matters. i can tell you though from talking to my sources this evening that, you know, this is a cleaning up house. and this comes from the top. and there is just no other way around it. there is some talk in recent weeks that the nse would be doing some downsizing. and there is talk that perhaps the white house could attach what happened to vindman and his brother into effort. obvious lishgs y obviously, you can't do that to gordon sondland. he said there was a quid pro quo. and so it does seem at this point, i was talking to a lawmaker, one of the relevant committees a short time ago about this, the expectation is
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that the president and his team are going to be going after each and every individual who, you know, got in their cross hairs during the length of this saga. and that includes gordon sondland. i just got off the phone in the last several minutes with a source close to the president. this is a source that speaks to him from time to time. he said if you president exam the president to change the way he handles these things, he's not. this is not somebody who's going to change the way he operates. this is fully in character, this source was saying just a few moments ago, with how the president operates, how he acts, how he behaves. so i think we can continue to see the president carrying out these acts of retribution in the days to come. he clearly has not learned the kind of lesson that republican senator susan collins and others were talking about earlier this week. the only lesson the president
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has taken is he's escaped impeachment and now he can go after his enemies. >> it's a significant development. it's a friday night already -- >> friday night massacre. >> i'm sure that's what people will call it. colonel vindman and his brother, and now gordon sondland is out. let me play a clip from gordon sondland's testimony that clearly deeply irritated the president. we don't have -- we don't have that ready. we will have that sound ready. but clearly, at one point he said i know that members of this committee frequently frame these complicated issues with a question, was there a quid pro quo. as i testified previously with regard to the white house meeting, the answer is yes.
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>> wolf, let's be clear. sondland being secured is a security risk. he should have been under investigation by the state inspector general at a minimum while he was serving as u.s. ambassador to the eu. what's clear is he got on the wrong side of the president. we know from his testimony that as you read out loud he indicated his understanding there was a quid pro quo and also said under oath that he was aware that he thought ukrainian officials were aware of the pressure campaign as well. >> we've got jim sciutto on the phone. you've got more information. what are you learning. >> you can call this saturday night massacre after the facts. the president firing everyone who testified against him or who he perceives to have testified against him. and the fact that this is extending to sondland, of course a political appointee, a donor
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put in this position by the president but a civil servant who served for the national security counsel, vindman was a star witness in the impeachment proceedings, but extending even to his twin brother. it is guilt by association. it's guilt apparently by telling the truth or your vision of the truth, right? remember, these are people who testified under oath under penalty of perjury to what they knew about ukraine, the president withholding the aid. it's interesting, wolf, we were building what would happen after the president's acquittal. remember the july 25th phone call with ukrainian president was the day after robert mueller had testified. perhaps the president feeling vindicated, liberated at that moment, and he has this phone call. so, a couple days after his acquittal, the president feel g vindicated, liberated to clean
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house of anyone he perceives as not sufficiently loyal. >> he said at one point i worked with mr. rudy giuliani on ukraine matters at the express direction of the president of the united states. so, we followed the president's orders. i followed the the directions of the president. that was pretty damning testimony. >> it was absolutely damning testimony. you remember during the impeachment inquiry, republicans on the president's team up on capitol hill and sources inside the white house, the white house legal team, they were pumping out talking points essentially attacking ambassador sondland and accusing him of contradicting himself on multiple occasions. and we were hearing for weeks that white house officials were saying well gordon sondland is doing just fine, there's not going to be a problem here. and they seem to be providing some cover for the action they're taking tonight. obviously they were trying to minimize what gordon sondland
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was saying when clearly it was getting under the president's skin and under the skin of other people at the white house. i will tell you just in the last few seconds as we've been talking here i received a text from a trump adviser who talks to the white house and the campaign who put it this way, quote, flushing out the pipes. that is what this white house sees as what's happening right now. these are individuals, gordon sondland, alexander vindman, marie yovanovitch, they crossed the president. and the message that is being sent not only inside the administration but up on capitol hill is if you cross this president, you pay the price. that is what's happening tonight. that's what's unfolding before our eyes tonight, wolf. >> it's interesting, kylie that there are going to be ramifications from this not only among career diplomats but others who are serving on national security-related issues in the trump administration. >> yeah, that's right. and the fear now is what about
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the other folks who provided testimony? we have already seen today three officials either escorted out of the white house or fired by the white house for providing testimony. and so what about the other career folks at the state department? i spoke with about half of them earlier this week and they expressed fear about what would happen if president trump was reelected. they weren't as fearful. they didn't expect that something would happen so immediately here, just days after he was acquitted by the senate. but the question mark is what happens to their careers going forth? are they able to get to the next level, or is the trump administration going to prevent career officials from getting where they want to go in their careers? i think that's something to watch. >> if someone was political, i think the broader message is just one we talked about earlier this hour which is deterring anybody from crossing the president whether a political appointee or career official. if you speak out against the president, you are going to be
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removed from your position. >> i want to bring back jim sciutto. he's getting more information for us. this is -- as i've been saying, jim, this is going to have serious consequences. >> i've spoken to a number of people who work for this president. and one quality they describe almost unanimously is his thin skin. when he feels crossed, wronged, insufficient loyalty, he will make those people who he perceives to have crossed him pay. and we're seeing that now. in remarkable form. these are people who served for years, someone who donated to his campaign, right, and got a prized ambassador posting, in sondland someone who is still serving the military, ukraine specialist. his brother, guilt by association. it's a remarkable demonstration of how this president operates. >> first, lieutenant colonel vindman, he was fired. his brother eugene was fired.
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now gordon sondland was fired. we just got a statement from adam schiff. lieutenant colonel vindman received a purple heart, then displayed bravery and moral courage, upheld his oath when others would not. right matters to him and to us. i guess all of this is going to send a lot of message to current officials in the administration. >> that's right. the other name we have not focused on quite as much is jennifer williams, the adviser to vice president pence. she left her role last week ahead of schedule. so, we have multiple officials now who have testified in this impeachment inquiry, testified in a negative way for the president who are being shoved out. and each step of the way, we're receiving from the white house and the administration, you know, different explanations as to what's happening, why they're moving around and so on. on this occasion today with the case of the alexander vindman we're not getting any kind of statement at all from the white house but it does seem, wolf, that we're seeing a slow motion
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friday night massacre that started last week and will probably continue into the days ahead. as for gordon sondland, we were just hearing from our producer kevin lip tack that the relations between the president and gordon sondland had frayed. that's a sharp contrast than the phone conversation that was testified to during the impeachment inquiry. >> button this up, where do you see this heading? >> one of the big questions is mark esper, and mike pompeo, where do they stand with this? they promised no retaliation and we're seeing retaliation. i think there's going to be a lot of questions for not only the president but also the people in the administration. >> and i'm sure the congress, the house foreign affairs committee, senate foreign relations, they're all going to be looking into this. >> they b will looking into this. but these agencies have proven they will not cooperate with congress. so, we have the issue again that they won't turn over documents. we don't know what happened into the investigation with marie yovanovitch's safety. so, what's likely is the
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president will keep firing people who don't blindly follow his orders and lie under oath under the u.s. congress and this is going to continue nonstop. >> we're going to continue to follow these breaking developments. more on "erin burnett out front" which starts right now. >> out front next, breaking news, fired. trump firing his hand picked european ambassador gordon sondland, this after he fired another key impeachment witness and his brother from the white house, all today. plus sanders sharpening his attacks against buttigieg as the race tightening in new hampshire. and the biden campaign down playing its chances in new hampshire, so what's it's strategy tonight? good evening, i'm erin burnett. welcome to a special edition of "out front." we're live in manchester, new hampshire where the democratic candidates are abo


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