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INSIDE POLITICS

Pelosi on Impeachment; Nadler Speaks About Impeachment. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 26, 2019 - 12:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:00:28] NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Nia-Malika Henderson. John King is off.

Moments from now the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler will brief reporters. Nadler today is going to court to enforce subpoena against the Trump White House. That action, part of the big, big debate over how, when or if Democrats should move on impeachment.

Just last hour, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, denied that she's trying to stall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): No, I'm not trying to run out the clock. Let's get sophisticated about this, OK. OK. Will that be --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But how long do you think these court fights will take?

PELOSI: We will proceed when we have what we need to proceed, not one day sooner. Their advocacy for impeachment only gives me leverage. I have no complaint with what they are doing. I'm willing to take whatever heat there is there to say when we -- when we -- the decision will be made in a timely fashion. This isn't endless.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: But the clock is ticking. The number of Democrats who support opening an impeachment inquiry is now at 96. Judiciary Committee Democrats, including the chairman, have debated opening an inquiry without Speaker Pelosi onboard. Pelosi met this morning with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, another show of outreach, and an attempt to paper over big and very public rifts with the New York freshman.

In this post-meeting picture, you see it there, all smiles, and a promise from Pelosi to work together. But a clear message from Pelosi afterwards to Congressman Ocasio-Cortez and others who want to beat the impeachment drum. Don't do it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Democrats intend to own August, to make so many of the bills that we passed too hot to handle for the Republicans in the Senate, not to raise the minimum wage or end gun violence by common sense gun violence prevention measures. The list -- equal pay for equal work. The list goes on and on. A drum beat across America. Lower health care costs, bigger paychecks, cleaner government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Let's get straight to Capitol Hill and CNN's Manu Raju.

Manu, the sophisticated reporter who's been on this beat all along.

Manu, what do you make of what Pelosi has been trying to do with this press conference closing out the end of this week after the big Mueller hearing and going off to now what will be a six-week recess?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, she's trying to frame their message in August. And one thing that she does not want to be talking about is the issue of impeachment, which a number of her members, of course, are now agitating about. Now, when you talk to a number of Democrats, they made clear that their concerns are that the window could be closing to moving forward on an impeachment probe because of the calendar. They are moving to the six-week recess. Then there's not many legislative days left in 2019. Then we head into 2020 where the election season will get into full swing and it gets much harder to do complicated things in an election season, such as impeachment.

So the question that I tried to pose to her is whether or not her current strategy of moving to the courts, which she has now been advocating, is an attempt to essentially run out the clock, as some Democrats believe given her resistance to moving forward. She tried to make clear that she is not simply trying to run out the clock. And interestingly there saying that she has political leverage in the people who are calling for an impeachment as she resists it, suggesting that perhaps if she were to change her position, it would be a much stronger call given that she has said so far that she would not be open to moving forward.

And trying to pin her down on exactly what that means in terms of her time frame is unclear as well. I tried to ask her whether or not these court fights -- you know, how long it could take. She said it will not be endless. And then when another reporter asked if it would be -- is it a drop dead date, she would not say there.

But in a matter of moments, we're going to hear from the House Judiciary Committee chairman, Jerry Nadler. We will have -- we will hear what he has to say about his next steps as well, Nia.

HENDERSON: And Nancy Pelosi is sort of setting the table for what we'll hear from Chairman Nadler, as you say, moments from now. Thank you, Manu. We'll toss back to you when Nadler appears.

Here with me to share their reporting and their insights, Seung Min Kim with "The Washington Post," Julie Hirschfeld Davis with "The New York Times," Laura Barron-Lopez with "Politico," and Catherine Lucey with "The Wall Street Journal."

We saw there Nancy Pelosi ending this week. We probably won't hear from her much -- many of these other members. They're splitting town for six weeks.

Nancy Pelosi there, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, really trying to bury the hatchet with Pelosi. This has been a big, big fight that they've had. I'm sort of surprised that they hadn't really met much before.

[12:05:06] What do you make of this? Is this going to work?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, I think you're totally right that she's trying to sort of have this sense of unity going into the recess. And, actually, there is, I think, when you talk to members, there's a lot more unity today than there was last week and even two weeks ago when she was, you know, very openly feuding with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and these other freshmen women who often vote with her. And so some of that has dissipated.

There still are, you know, substantive differences on impeachment, on policy, but they do go out of Washington, I think, this week on somewhat of a high, having passed this budget agreement with a lot of unity. They lost 16 Democrats on that deal that passed yesterday. That was, you know, a lot -- I think a lot fewer than at some points they thought they might have had. And they can point to an agenda where she has managed to keep them pretty unified, but that doesn't mean that there isn't going to be behind-the-scenes fighting and I think that we're going to continue to see that going forward. I think they were just able to end on a friendlier note today.

HENDERSON: Yes. And here's what she had to say in terms of whether or not there was an attempt to bury the hatchet between her and AOC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I don't think there ever was any hatchet.

I would never even say that it was a hatchet. But I do think that we -- we sat down today. We had a good meeting. And the congresswoman is a very gracious member of Congress.

I've always felt -- I -- again, it's like you're in a family. In a family, you have your differences, but you're still a family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Laura, no hatchet to see here, Nancy Pelosi saying here about her relationship with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

This had been a bitter feud, right. You had Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other members of the so-called squad feeling that they'd been disrespected by Nancy Pelosi.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": Right. And they were very vocal about that and they were tweeting repeatedly about this. And there were feuds going on between staffers. And we saw Pelosi do the interview with Maureen Dowd, which also set off another round of this by her saying that she didn't think they had that much support, that this squad wasn't actually that powerful in the caucus. And so it definitely was, I would say, a hatchet. Or it was a bigger feud than Pelosi wants to let on.

HENDERSON: Yes.

BARRON-LOPEZ: And we are seeing, though, as Julie mentioned, that it seems that everything has quieted down a lot heading into this August recess and it was not like that just a matter -- a few weeks ago.

HENDERSON: Yes. And part of the feud, obviously, all about impeachment. You heard Pelosi there essentially saying he doesn't really feel that much pressure. And whatever pressure she does feel actually gives her leverage.

But here was Jackie Speier essentially saying, listen, the clock is ticking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): If we don't take action come September 1st, then we should just shut it down because we're not going to be able to do anything at all. I feel strongly that we should, but I think we're running out of time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Ninety-six at this point House Democrats for opening an impeachment inquiry. Jackie Speier, in that same interview, also said she feels like there are 30 or so other members of the House Democratic Caucus who are also for impeachment but are kind of not being as vocal about it.

Is that your sense as well?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think a lot of times, especially for those 30 or so members that you mentioned, you do need a little bit of cover from the leadership to say, OK, this is OK to say, go out there and say you support opening an inquiry. And you're starting to get a little bit of that. I thought Representative Katherine Clark, who is a member of leadership, come out yesterday saying she does support opening impeachment proceedings was a pretty notable, a significant move.

Also, remember, 96 is less than half of the Democratic caucus --

HENDERSON: Right.

KIM: But more than half of the Judiciary Committee actually supports opening an impeachment inquiry. So that's why you see that friction, the private friction between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Chairman Jerry Nadler, who I think, if he had his own druthers, he would have already gone forward with it by now. We'll look at his tone in his press conference coming up. But that's a tension. And whether in that open question of whether the committee is even contemplating moving forward on its own is a really important one to watch.

HENDERSON: And here is what Nadler had to say this morning about impeachment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": What if the administration defies these court orders that you believe are imminent?

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Well, if the -- if -- without question, if an -- no administration has ever defied a court order. If they did that, that is so far beyond the pale that it's totally, totally eliminating the rule of law, there would have to be an impeachment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: And we'll, of course, hear from Nadler later today, Catherine.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Yes. I think -- I think one of the things to look to as this fight continues its members in some of the more moderate districts. Those are the people that Pelosi is really trying to give a certain amounting of cover to. People who --

HENDERSON: People like Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, right?

LUCEY: Yes, people who flipped -- people who flipped districts from Republican to Democrat who aren't interested in walking so far out on this. I was just in Michigan this week talking to voters in the suburbs of Detroit and you're not hearing a lot of talk about impeachment, about Mueller, about some of these things.

[12:10:02] HENDERSON: Often on the campaign trail too, right --

LUCEY: Yes.

HENDERSON: When you're covering these presidential candidates.

Laura, you want to jump in here?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes, because two more, as we're sitting here, just came out for impeachment. Two more House Democrats. Mike Levin of California. He's actually in a swing district. One that Democrats just flipped last cycle. And also Ann Kuster, who's in New Hampshire. So we're getting more and more probably near -- getting pretty close to 100 in the next few days.

HENDERSON: In some ways it wasn't the flood, I think, that people wanted and hoped for after the Mueller hearing.

DAVIS: Right.

KIM: Right.

HENDERSON: But certainly some flipped. DAVIS: Right. I mean I think definitely members that I've talked to in

the last several -- the last couple of days since the testimony have said that they did think it was somewhat of a turning point one way or the other.

But I do think it's important to look at what Nancy Pelosi said in that news conference, which I think is really true. This is not necessarily a problem for her. Every member who comes out and says they're in favor for this, it essentially builds the case for, well, if you don't cooperate in court, I've got people who are ready to impeach you tomorrow, you know? So as much as this drumbeat increases, I think there's a possibility that it could actually be helpful to her and helpful to the litigation prerogatives of the House.

HENDERSON: And we're going to -- Julie, we're going to have to end it there.

Nadler is coming to the mics here and we're going to bring you his -- here he is, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): We all here?

Good afternoon.

I am joined today by many of my colleagues from the House Judiciary Committee.

We want to say a few words about Director Mueller, what we learned from his testimony, and next steps in our work to hold President Trump accountable for his conduct.

Robert Mueller is a man of honor and integrity. He has led a life defined by service to his country.

Some have argued that because Director Mueller was reluctant to testify, and seemed older than some remembered him, his work is somehow diminished. It is not.

Before he ever stepped into our hearing room, the director had rendered our country a great and necessary public service. He showed through his report and his indictments that the United States was attacked and remains under siege by a foreign adversary. He showed that the Trump campaign both welcomed and benefited from this attack on our country. And he showed that the president repeatedly lied to cover it up.

And if that were not enough, Director Mueller's testimony removed all doubt.

He told us that Donald Trump obstructed justice and abused his office by tampering with witnesses, attempting to block the investigation and attempting to fire the special counsel.

He told us that Donald Trump lied to the public about the Trump Tower meeting in New York, lied to the public about his plans for Trump Tower in Moscow, and lied in his written responses to the special counsel.

He told us, in a remarkable exchange with Mr. Lieu, that but for the Department of Justice policy prohibiting from doing so, he would have indicted President Trump.

Indeed, it is clear that any other citizen of this country who behaved as the president has, would have been charged with multiple crimes. Notably, my Republican colleagues were unable to refute a single one of these facts.

So where do we go from here? We will continue to seek testimony from key fact witnesses. As many of you know, the committee has authorized several additional subpoenas. Our work will continue into the August recess and we will use those subpoenas if we must.

We will also continue to seek important documents from the Department of Justice and the White House. We have made some progress on this front. There appears to be compelling evidence of the president's misconduct outside of the four corners of the redacted version of the Mueller report, and we will work to uncover that evidence as well.

Finally, today we are filing an application for the grand jury material underlying the Mueller report. That information is critically important for our ability to examine witnesses, including former White House Counsel Don McGahn, and to investigate the president's misconduct.

[12:15:00]

I will not comment on reports of our ongoing negotiations with Mr. McGahn. But unless he complies with our accommodation efforts in very short order, we expect to file an additional suit to enforce our subpoena for his testimony. And that will be next week, or earlier next week.

I should note that the committee could not have brought these lawsuits without the help and support of Speaker Pelosi, who is as dedicated to holding this president accountable for his crimes as any of us gathered here today.

Before I share -- before I take your questions, let me share just a few sentences from the petition we are filing with the court today.

Quote, "Because Department of Justice policies will not allow prosecution of a sitting president, the United States House of Representatives is the only institution of the federal government that can now hold President Trump accountable for these actions. To do so, the House must have access to all the relevant facts and consider whether to exercise its full Article I powers, including a constitutional duty -- power of the utmost gravity, recommendation of articles of impeachment. That duty falls in the first instance to the House Committee on the Judiciary," closed quote.

As I said, that was from the court filing today. We take that responsibility seriously. No one can be above the law, not even President Trump.

We'll now take some questions.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: So half of -- half of the members up here have (inaudible)...

NADLER: And I -- let me just say, as you take questions, I'm going to ask members of the committee to field the questions, as well. Go ahead.

QUESTION: OK.

Half of the members up here have come out in support of impeachment. How are you dealing with disagreement with the speaker on that issue? And especially heading into this six-week long recess, do you expect that those divisions -- to go away soon?

NADLER: I don't know that there are real divisions with the speaker. I would refer you to her earlier comments, in which she said that we must make the strongest case.

If -- if our committee is going to recommend articles of impeachment to the House, we must make the strongest possible case both to our colleagues and to the American public. On that, we're in total agreement.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: So there's got to be a point, though, Mr. Chairman, where you break from the speaker and you announce publicly your support for impeachment?

NADLER: We are -- as I said, and as is clear in the court filings, we are exercising our full Article I authority, and we are looking -- we're going to be -- we are continuing investigation of the president's malfeasances, and we will do what we feel we -- and we will consider what we have to consider, including whether we should recommend articles of impeachment to the House. That's the job of our committee.

We may decide to recommend articles of impeachment at some point; we may not. That -- that remains to be seen. And there's no point speculating on whether the speaker or anybody else will -- will agree with our decision at that point.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: But what -- what's holding you back from publicly voicing your support for impeachment (inaudible)?

SCANLON: Well, if I can jump in, I mean, impeachment's...

(CROSSTALK)

SCANLON: Impeachment isn't a binary thing that you either are or you aren't.

What -- what we've been saying and what we've been doing is starting a process where we're engaging in an investigation to see if we should recommend articles of impeachment. It's a process. We started it some months ago in some ways while waiting for the report and holding the hearings that we've already had.

So, you know, it's an ongoing process. The court filings today are -- are the next step. And we'll continue down that road, you know, to see whether we have the strong case that is needed to put to the American people.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: What about the idea here, though, that -- that at the hearing yesterday -- on Wednesday here, Speaker Pelosi said that they crossed a threshold, called this historic. What did Robert Mueller fail to do? Obviously, you said that he -- you know, he should not be diminished by his presentation, but what -- what would you have liked to have gotten out of him in that presentation on Wednesday?

SWALWELL: He didn't fail to do anything at yesterday -- two days ago (inaudible).

QUESTION: He didn't fail to animate this? We heard that repeatedly from members on your side of the aisle that he failed to breathe life into that report.

SWALWELL: Well, if you showed up expecting a Broadway show, sure, you may have been disappointed.

But if you listened to what he said, he said that the Russians attacked us. They had a preference for Donald Trump. The Trump campaign welcomed it and planned around it. And when the police investigated it, they took great lengths to cover it up, including the president.

And the president is the only person in America who would be shielded from being held accountable because of what they did. That is pretty cut-and-dry. And what you have seen is not members who have called for impeachment saying, "Take me off of that call in light of what Mr. Mueller has said." Six members since have come forward and have said, "Add me to that call for impeachment."

[12:20:00]

SCANLON: I'm sorry.

The one thing Robert Mueller failed to do in that hearing is he failed to exonerate the president. In fact, he said he could not exonerate the president. So that, I think, is the answer to your question.

NADLER: When -- when members answer, will you identify yourself? That's Mary Gay Scanlon.

SCANLON: Mary Gay Scanlon.

JACKSON LEE: May I just add an extra point?

NADLER: Sheila Jackson.

JACKSON LEE: On -- thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Throughout the entire time of Mr. Mueller's presence before the House Judiciary Committee, he evidenced elements of a crime. He was not in any way shortchanging his answers that crimes had been committed.

He said yes to the three elements of obstruction. He said yes that one element of instruction -- of obstruction could result in jail time. He also said that -- when I say said, answered a question, that said you did not have to have an underlying crime to be able to be convicted of obstruction.

I don't think the American people have ever heard that in that manner before. I know there are some who may have read both volumes but they never heard it as it was laid out with the members of this committee that when you finish the Judiciary Committee's questioning and when you started with Chairman Nadler, who did an enormous job on framing our questioning by getting right to the meat of the issue of obstruction and then exoneration, which Director Mueller openly, and I think quite vividly, said that he was not, the president, exonerated, and then we continued methodically to reinforce that to the extent that the elements of obstruction, which I wanted to just mention here (ph) for a moment, an obstructive act, a nexus between the act and an official proceeding, and corrupt intent was associated with the actions of this president.

The American people have never heard that.

And I will close by simply saying on this question that you asked, for those of us who've seen Director Mueller before this committee on a number of years as FBI director, he has always been stoic and a former Marine, just right to the point.

He certainly has a enormous talent of investigation. So when he came today -- or yesterday -- on Wednesday, he made true of what he said to the committee. He was going to stick with the report. He did that, but in doing so, every single question that would warrant someone being convicted of a crime was answered.

NADLER: Steve -- Steve Cohen?

COHEN: Thank you.

I'd just like to add one thing that I think's been overlooked.

Mr. Mueller made a point of saying, in a response to a question from Mr. Buck, which I think he probably would like to take it back, that the president could be indicted after he left office. Now, Mr. Mueller earlier said -- it may be in the report -- that one of the reasons to get all that information was to get it from witnesses while it was fresh in their mind and to most -- to preserve it for later use.

If you didn't believe you had a criminal act, why would you want to preserve the evidence? So by the very fact that he preserved the evidence and said it was necessary to get these people while it was fresh in their mind and the best recollection, meant that he's basically saying he obstructed justice and the time may have to come after his first term -- or his last term, which would be his first term.

(LAUGHTER)

NADLER: The -- let me just summarize one thing here.

I believe that the hearing with Director Mueller was an inflection point. It was an inflection point because it accomplished two things.

One, you heard Director Mueller say that the -- that we were attacked by the Russians, that the Trump campaign welcomed the attack, welcomed the assistance of the -- of -- of the Russians, that the substantial evidence of crimes that are obstruction of government -- obstruction -- I'm sorry, obstruction of justice by the president, and that he was not exonerated.

And that the mantra that the president and the attorney general have been telling the country for -- for months now, that they found no collusion, no obstruction and that the president's totally exonerated, is totally untrue.

It changed that. Even you heard the president now saying that the -- the investigation was treasonous. He wouldn't be saying that if he still thought he could get away with saying the investigation established no obstruction, no collusion and totally exonerated him.

[12:25:00]

So he broke the lie that has been propagated by the attorney general and by the president and we can -- and -- and -- and presented to the American people as stark conclusions, which we can now fill out by getting other evidence and getting the witnesses and so forth.

QUESTION: Mr. Chairman?

DEAN: Madeleine Dean from Pennsylvania.

I think -- I just wanted to say two things. One, about the performance of Mr. Mueller. I have nothing but the highest regard for Mr. Mueller and his life of service to this country.

And what I believe we really should be focused on is not the performance of Mr. Mueller, but the performance -- or behaviors -- of this president, obstructing justice. That's the performance you need to be examining: the performance of the Trump administration welcoming, wallowing in interference by Russia.

The performance of Russia, interfering with our elections in massive and sweeping ways that will continue. And a Senate yesterday that did nothing, in fact blocked, attempts to take care of or protect our elections.

Those are the performances we need to be looking at. Those are the behaviors: Trump, his campaign, Russia and obstruction. That's what we need to be looking at.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Mr. Chairman, you've been -- you've been fighting for these grand jury materials for some time. But you've also been engaging in an accommodation process with the Department of Justice. They've allowed you to view some documents. Even in a May letter, you said you've made clear, you're not seeking from the department any information or documents that are properly subject to rule 6(e), to grand jury material.

So why is this material so important to you? What do you think you will find? And will that hurt the accommodation process you already have with the department for these other documents you want?

NADLER: Well, we have been -- all right.

We have been engaged in accommodation processes with the Justice Department and various other witnesses to -- to get testimony and to get documents and so forth. It has been largely fruitless, but it is necessary to do that if you're going to go into court to enforce your subpoenas, which we're doing.

With respect to 6(e), that is to say grand jury testimony, we have not requested it -- I mean, we -- previously. You have to go to court and request it.

In previous cases, the special prosecutor -- I'm sorry, the committee went into court and requested this, 20 years ago, 40 years ago. And the attorney general went into court and supported the application.

This time, we're going into court today. I don't expect the attorney general to support the application. Indeed, he may oppose it. But we want to -- we have to see the underlying grand jury material. We have (ph) a lot of things about the Mueller report which will be very informative to us.

QUESTION: But doesn't this set a dangerous precedent, if this were to get leaked out? Why -- why is this information so important?

NADLER: The information is important -- and I can't characterize the specific importance because it's specifically because I don't know the specific contents, obviously -- because it's at the foundation. Much of the investigation by the special prosecutor -- or the special counsel was in the form of grand jury presentations, and that's what we -- and you have to see that. And in the case of -- of Leon Jaworski and Ken Starr, the committee in both cases was given that -- was given access to that information. And we should -- we need that information, too, to make a lot of different judgments.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Mr. Chairman? Mr. Chairman, there's a vigorous debate in your caucus about whether or not to formally open an impeachment inquiry. You know, given what you've said about this file (ph) in comments that you've made in hearings in recent weeks, I mean, are you all beginning to shade into an impeachment inquiry, even if you haven't held the formal vote of the House? Is that what's going on here?

NADLER: What's going on?

(LAUGHTER)

You're on your own, there.

(UNKNOWN): We don't need it.

NADLER: What's going on is that -- I think too much has been made of the phrase, "an impeachment inquiry."

We are doing what our court filing says we are doing, what I said we are doing. And that is to say, we are using our full Article I powers to investigate the conduct of the president and to consider whether to -- what remedies there are.

Among other things we will consider are -- obviously, are whether to recommend articles of impeachment. We may not do that; we may do that. But that's a conclusion at the end of the process.

Now, you may want to call that an inquiry or not. I think people, when they think of an inquiry, think of a formal House vote to -- to direct the committee to hold an inquiry. That's happened in the past. But there are -- there have also been instances where it didn't happen.

[12:29:52] The committee is exercising its authority to investigate all these scandals and to recommend -- to decide what to do about them, which could include articles of impeachment. And we've filed that with the court and we told that to the court and we're going to do that.