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Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Gives Press Conference; Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin Discusses Tornadoes Hitting the City; Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) Discusses Pushing for Impeachment of Trump for Two Years. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 23, 2019 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You suggested it today that the president wants on some level --

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Of course. I told you that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you explain that a bit? Can you also explain about -- (INAUDIBLE)

(CROSSTALK)

PELOSI: OK, the what intervention?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You made a comment that --

(CROSSTALK)

PELOSI: Oh, I thought you said statutory intervention. That would be good. Article 25.

(LAUGHTER)

Troublemaker.

That's a good idea. I'm glad you suggested it.

(LAUGHTER)

I'll take it up with my colleagues.

(LAUGHTER)

Not that they haven't been thinking about it, but your support will be important to them.

(LAUGHTER)

Oh, yes. No question. The White House is just crying out for impeachment.

That's why he flipped yesterday, because he was hoping, because he -- somehow or other, you all have a story that isn't real. You want to believe there's all this unease in our caucus. That simply isn't the truth. We have respect for the diversity of opinion in our caucus. And I say to the caucus, our diversity is our strength. Our unity is our power. We have unity in our caucus.

And so when he saw that -- see, he's saying you called that meeting at 9:00. No, we have meetings.

Mr. President, it's not about you. But it is about whatever is current at that time, and so somehow or another, you keep perpetuating this story. I don't know why because it isn't factual.

But nonetheless, that was what disappointed him, because he didn't see this rush to impeachment coming out of our caucus in our 9:00 meeting, which he thought was called specifically for him. And then, that's up to his family and his cabinet and his staff in the White House. This is not behavior that rises to the dignity of the office of president of the United States.

But having said that, as I said, I actually ardently pray for the president because we need -- sometimes when we're talking to him, he's -- he agrees.

And I said one time, who's in charge here, because you agree and all of a sudden something changes. What goes on there? Who is in charge? And he says he's in charge, and I suspect that he may be. And I suspect he may be even more since yesterday because I don't think that any responsible assistants to the president of the United States would have advised him to do what he did yesterday.

(CROSSTALK)

PELOSI: That's it. Thank you all.

(CROSSTALK)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi fielding a lot of questions, all about this back and forth with the president of the United States. A lot of interesting stuff there. Let's call this the next chapter in this escalating feud.

Let me bring back in CNN political director, David Chalian, on this one.

David, I found it really fascinating, she is very clear that, Nancy Pelosi is, in no way are Democrats going to be backing down from -- let me know if she's still talking on camera. I saw she stopped once again, which actually she rarely does.

Anyway, we'll continue. Democrats are definitely not backing down on their investigations, not that there was a question in that, of course, but she also declared that the Democratic caucus is not on a path to impeachment, and that is where he wants us to be, David.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That was crystal clear. She has now emerged from meeting with her caucus and she's saying the caucus is not on a path to impeachment.

Manu asked the right question, of course.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

CHALIAN: How do you square that with saying that he very well may have committed impeachment offenses? The nub of that is, are you just taking a pure political position that you don't think impeachment works for you and your party politically, but you do actually think that the facts lead up to it? And what she went through was a slowdown process again. She's trying to keep the caucus unified, catch her breath, marshal the facts, present it to the American people.

And she always says if that leads us inevitably to impeachment, it may or it may not, but she made crystal clear that's not where they are now. It's not where she wants to be right now. And she thinks it plays into the president's hand if they are there right now.

BOLDUAN: I hear you, but this is now -- I think this is the second time in the last 24 hours that Manu has asked a variation of this question to her, and I would argue that there isn't really a straight answer that's been offered.

She describes a slowdown process, that we need to wait and see, but there's no answer of if you are at a place of impeachable offense, if he has engaged in a cover-up, if the actions he's done are villainous, as Manu heard coming out of the caucus meeting today, then why not? And there's not a straight answer that I am hearing coming from the speaker on that. Maybe a third attempt.

(CROSSTALK)

[11:35:04] CHALIAN: Kate, it's a political calculation. And she doesn't want to just come out and say that. She's often said we can't impeach because of politics and we can't not impeach because of politics.

But it's hard to think of any other thing other than politics and a political calculation as to why she's not there now.

BOLDUAN: Right.

CHALIAN: But what she is doing, she said villainous, and all the other rhetoric today about the family and the staff having an intervention. How he is irresponsible.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

CHALIAN: She is amping up the amping up the rhetoric. This is the speaker of the House who is speaking in no uncertain terms about the president of the United States of America, as a totally irresponsible actor who needs help and is running a chaotic environment. And she's trying to amp up that rhetoric, I think, to appease some of the forces in her caucus calling for impeachment without getting to that position.

BOLDUAN: I think that's a great point that you're making.

But it is really noteworthy that she's questioning concern for the well wellbeing of the president. There have been machinations of this in the past, but the fact it's returning right now, what Nancy Pelosi is saying about it, asking for an intervention of the president. We heard that before, but now it's back front and center. The House speaker doesn't speak out of turn. That's what you're hearing.

Let's get back in the room. Manu Raju back with us.

Manu, I don't know if you heard it, but David was saying, and, of course, you were asking the exact right question of if impeachable offenses occurred, why not move toward impeachment?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and she tried to straddle that line. She got a little testy, as well, trying to lay out exactly why they're not trying to go that route, trying to say that the current route they're going is the fact finding mission where they're going to court, they're having success in that strategy, and then she said, we'll decide down the line what is the right approach.

So this is -- the question that I was trying to pin her down on is exactly why she's opposed to the impeachment inquiry, not necessarily voting on articles of impeachment, the first step before the House Senate would have to convict and remove the president, but why wouldn't they move forward with an investigation over impeachment, she would not directly answer that.

And that's because there are a number of members in her caucus who are calling for that. And she knows that is one aspect where there's some division internally about how exactly to pursue this line of questioning and investigation in the days ahead.

It was clear from her answer there that she's trying to straddle that because she's saying she believes there could be impeachment offenses but they're not going down the path to impeachment. That raises questions about why she's saying that.

And, as David said, earlier, a lot to do with politics. She knows that it's very unlikely they would succeed, the Republican-controlled Senate has no interest in convicting this president. And the president could use this to his political advantage so why not continue the investigative route where they're having some success, and could learn some new information that could put the president on the defensive heading into 2020.

That's where she wants to be. That's the argument she's making. That's why she's saying very clearly she believes the White House's strategy is to get them to impeach. The question is, can she convince her caucus that's the right way to go.

BOLDUAN: I have to say, and to your point right there, there's a good argument to be made if you're getting success in courts, letting the branches of government, letting the judicial branch step in. There's strong argument to let that play out. I find it interesting, though, she's not necessarily exactly saying that to you when you try to pin her down.

Let me get over to Phil Mattingly real quick, Manu, if you could stand by for me.

Phil, you could hear throughout what the speaker was saying. I mean, she called yesterday a stunt, and what the president wanted to do was to distract from the wins in court, the Mazars ruling and other things. She's really stepping up her criticism of the president today. There was a notable difference coming out of this meeting.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it serves a purpose, right? I think it all goes back to kind of how she's navigating her caucus right now, how she navigated a week where about 24, 48 hours people were talking about it. It seemed like there was a shift of the broader caucus which seemed to diverge from the speaker's as it related to impeachment.

What she's doing now -- and you made a good point bringing up the court cases. Before this press conference, she was meeting with some of her top deputies. And her key point was the two victories they had in court.

What's the rationale you hear from Democrats as to why they should launch an impeachment inquiry? Because they felt they would have a better case in court, a stronger case in court related to their legislative purpose for asking for a lot of these things.

Now the speaker is saying we're winning in court so we don't need do that. We stay away from, A, a politically divisive process, and, B, a process the speaker believes doesn't have a future in the Republican- led Senate.

As she makes that argument, the members, unsettled by where they are now or perhaps want to go further, certainly appreciate when she offers up the rhetorical red meat she's been offering over the course of the last couple of day, whether it's cover-up, whether the president needs an intervention, whether the staff needs to step in.

[11:40:14] And I don't know this, I'm theorizing here, she's been pretty good at getting under the president's skin over the course of the last two-plus years, three-plus years, certainly since she's been speaker again starting in January. I don't think that's a small part of this.

I think the idea of knowing when she says these things he's going to respond, either respond in 280 characters or respond whenever he has a camera in front of him, that riles up her people and brings them more in line with her, and that's an effective strategy in her mind.

BOLDUAN: Just examples from the last 24 hours. Obviously, the cover- up comment. Then after the fact, when she said maybe it's due to a lack of confidence all of this is stemming from. And today, questioning his wellbeing and pleading for aides and family to stage an intervention. You can see what's going on with Nancy Pelosi.

It's great to see you. Thank you so much, Phil. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much. Much more to come on that. We'll stay close.

Coming up, though, basically a war zone. That's how one survivor is describing the scene in Jefferson City, Missouri. You're taking a live look at the city after a massive tornado tore through the town. This happened late last night. People are really just getting a view of the damage in the light of day today. We'll take you live to the scene.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:46:21] BOLDUAN: Nature on a vicious and deadly tear. Take a look at some of the aftermath of what folks in the nation's midsection have been up against. And that was overnight, but this has been the last several days. This tornado is more than 200 reported in the region since Friday.

The latest death toll stands at seven people. The pounding winds and rain have left a trail of destruction in Oklahoma and most recently Missouri.

Jefferson City, Missouri, the capital city, was hit late last night. And joining me right now is Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin.

Mayor, thank you for joining me.

CARRIE TERGIN, MAYOR OF JEFFERSON CITY, MISSOURI: Thank you for having me.

BOLDUAN: I really appreciate it.

So this hit just before midnight. I can see behind you just some of what the storm has left behind. What are you seeing as the light of day has come and the light of day, what are you seeing now in your city?

TERGIN: There's a lot of destruction. We were even seeing it even with no lights and power lines down. You could still see the destruction last night, even. And a lot of trees down, power lines, roofs blown off buildings. Windows out. Cars on their side, cars moved around. Things upside down. Walls out. So things like that. Just a lot of destruction basically and a lot of trees everywhere. Tree limbs. They're using backhoes to get trees out of streets. It's fairly extensive.

BOLDUAN: Yes. The way some folks have been describing it, feeling like an earthquake was hitting. We have seen 18-wheelers flopped over on their sides, just to show the sheer power of the storm is something that a lot of folks say is really hard to believe. What did it feel like, look like, to you?

TERGIN: Yes, the power is incredible because you don't really understand how buildings can be just torn apart and vehicles and things can be moved and torn apart like that. So yes, the power was overwhelming.

You know, we're very thankful, despite the extreme power of this storm and how strong it was that there were no recorded fatalities. We're very thankful for that, we're very blessed. And also, the injuries were not very severe from what we understand. We're hearing reports of around 19 or 20 people that were injured so we're thankful. When you see the extent of the damage, it's hard to believe that was all that happened.

BOLDUAN: No kidding.

Do you attribute it to just good luck that there weren't any deaths in your city?

TERGIN: Well, I would say timing was a big part of it because it happened at around 11:30 in the evening, and a lot of the places that had major destruction were businesses.

And I was at a car dealership with extensive damage, and he said had this been during the day, it would have been catastrophic. We're very, very thankful it happened at night when most people were likely at home and they heard the outdoor warning sirens, and they took heed of the warnings.

We have known there were storms in the forecast. We have been more concerned about the rising flood levels of our river, so we were already prepared somewhat, but we were definitely not prepared for this.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And, Mayor, we're continuing to look at just some pictures from helicopter view overhead of what the destruction looks like in Jefferson City. There's a long road ahead, not just today, but for quite a while.

We really appreciate you coming on. We'll keep watching how it goes. Thank you.

TERGIN: Well, our neighbors take care of each other, so I have no doubt we'll get through this.

[11:49:58] BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Mayor. We appreciate your time.

TERGIN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Happening just moments ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasting President Trump, saying that, yesterday, what happened yesterday was a stunt and an attempt, in her words, to distract from the losses he's been facing this week in court over handing over his finances.

[11:55:01] The speaker adding that she's concerned for the president's wellbeing and hopes that his family will be staging an intervention for the good of the country.

She also made very clear that the Democratic-led House is not marching towards impeachment yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: I do think that impeachment is a very divisive place to go in our country. And we can get the facts to the American people through our investigation, it may take us to a place that's unavoidable in terms of impeachment or not, but we're not at that place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Not at that place.

Do the Democrats who have been pushing for impeachment feel the same way?

One lawmaker has been pushing for impeachment of the president for almost two years now. He is California Democrat Brad Sherman. He's joining us right now.

Congressman, thanks for being here.

Here's one line that stuck out very much from the House speaker just now. She said that, 'The House Democratic caucus is not on a path to impeachment and that's where the president wants you guys to be."

Do you agree with the speaker?

REP. BRAD SHERMAN (D-CA): I think we're on the path to investigate, to inquire and to demonstrate to the American people that this man has committed high crimes and misdemeanors.

Once we have the public were us, once we have a credible reason to think that we'll get 20 Republican Senators to vote for removal and all the Democratic Senators, then we can move forward.

BOLDUAN: But, Congressman, right now Nancy --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Nancy Pelosi --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Nancy Pelosi made clear that you're not -- you're not -- Nancy Pelosi made clear that, at this moment, you're not opening an impeachment inquiry, not launching impeachment proceedings.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Investigating through the courts, of course. You're going through the courts.

SHERMAN: Well, it's not just through the courts. We have a series of investigations.

Remember Watergate. There were a series of investigations on the issue of how Nixon operated during his re-election campaign. We are conducting a series of investigations to show, did the

president obstruct justice, has he engaged in a violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, and is he obstructing Congress.

And whether we call it an impeachment hearing or an obstruction of justice inquiry is something the press can care about a lot. I don't care about it very much.

BOLDUAN: But you do though. I'm finding this very interesting right now, Congressman, because you do care very much about the word impeachment. You have been pushing for impeachment for something like two years now. You're comfortable with the position of where the speaker is right now?

SHERMAN: I'm comfortable that impeachment has got to be followed by removal.

What I did, in July of 2017, long before anyone else, is go out there and demonstrate to the American people what now we have 800 -- 800 federal prosecutors signing a federal letter in support of and that is that this president has obstructed justice in a manner he would be indicted if he wasn't president of the United States. That's a high crime and that's a reason to say the legal standard has been met.

Now we have to get the public on our side. And we had the Republicans hiding this in Congress for two years. Now we begin the long process that we saw in 1973 of getting the public on our side by showing them the facts. And there are so many more facts for us to demonstrate.

So I think we're -- again, if you could call it an impeachment hearing, you could call it a high crimes and misdemeanors inquiry. The press would care. I don't. I just want to get the facts out to the American people.

And at the same time it's important for the people towns that's not all we're doing here.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: I get it, but the -- but the words here do matter. An impeachment proceeding is -- the words do matter. I think what you're telling me right now is that there's unity amongst the, at least from amongst the caucus that you're not marching on a path to impeachment.

SHERMAN: We're marching on a path to impeach as soon as we'll get a fair hearing in the Senate. That will happen when we change public opinion and when get more facts to the American people.

(CROSSTALK)

SHERMAN: This is a multi-step process that should have begun almost two years ago.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you this. Steve Cohen, your Democratic colleague, he seemed to question Nancy Pelosi's patriotism. He was speaking to my colleagues, Jim Sciutto and Poppy Harlow, and he said the only reason not to move to impeachment would be politics. Do you agree with him?

SHERMAN: We need Republican Senators to consider the evidence. If that -- if getting to that point is politics, you can say it's politics, but every prosecutor in this country will say they don't indict unless they think they can get a jury to convict.

And our job is not only to demonstrate, as we already have, that he's violated the high crimes and misdemeanors statute, standard, but that we will get the conviction and removal in the Senate. And that requires us to educate the American people.

[12:00:00]