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Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) is Interviewed About Path Forward After Mueller's Testimony; Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Continues to Lead other Democratic Presidential Candidates in Recent Polling; Biden Campaign Promises More Aggressive Defenses against Attacks from Other Democratic Presidential Candidates. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired July 26, 2019 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00] JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Our election systems, because that goes to the heart of who we are as a democracy.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And they're not mutually exclusive. You can support President Trump and support election security. The idea that Republicans somehow think that it's a betrayal of President Trump to vote to secure the election security is interesting.

AVLON: Through the looking glass.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, John. Thank you very much.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN Newsroom" with Isa Soares is next. For our U.S. viewers, no more Mr. Nice Guy for Joe Biden. NEW DAY continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Biden telling donors I'm not going to be as polite this time.

SEN. CORY BOOKER, (D-NJ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What were you doing five, 10, 15, or 20 years ago to fight for racial justice?

JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If he wants to go back and talk about records, I'm happy to do that.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Bob Mueller was going to pave the yellow brick road towards impeachment. Clearly that didn't happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we don't take action come September 1st then we should just shut it down. I think we're running out of time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nearly 100 in the Democratic Party who support impeachment. There's 135 who don't. So you don't even have the majority of Democrats yet.

(END VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your new day. It is Friday, July 26th, 8:00 here in the east. Expect to see a more aggressive Joe Biden at next week's Democratic primary debates in Detroit. CNN has learned the form vice president is getting ready for what he believes will be attacks on him, and this time he says he won't be see polite. Biden is already responding to rivals who have criticized his record on civil rights and criminal justice reform.

And there are some new polls to show you that put him in a very good position going into this. In South Carolina Biden has a more than three to one lead over his nearly competitor Kamala Harris. In Ohio he is polling higher than Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris combined. And the former V.P. is the only Democrat who beats Trump in a hypothetical head to head matchup in that key swing state of Ohio.

BERMAN: Meanwhile some House Democrats are growing concerned that time is running out to pursue an impeachment inquiry against the president. Allies of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi say her tone is softening about Robert Mueller's testimony. But will Democrats be able to keep the momentum alive over the six-week summer recess? Speaker Pelosi, by the way, meets with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in about half-an-hour. We are watching that very closely. This is their first private meeting since a very public feed.

And we also want to note on the subject impeachment inquiry, we have House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler coming up in just a few minutes.

Joining us now, Kaitlan Collins, CNN White House correspondent, David Axelrod, CNN political commentator and host of "The Axe Files," and Susan Glasser, staff writer at "The New Yorker" and a CNN global affairs analyst.

David Axelrod I want to begin with you and what we are told is the new or different Joe Biden we are going to see on this debate stage. We are told by his campaign staff that Biden watched video of his performance from the first debate and realized he needs to be more aggressive. So two questions. One, is his analysis right? And two, what do you make of the mere telegraphing we're getting from Biden and his campaign that he's going to be more aggressive?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think his analysis is right. Everybody came to that conclusion on the night of the debate and after. He seemed unresponsive to the attacks of Kamala Harris. He didn't seem very energetic in that debate. He seemed a beat behind. And that's particularly important for a candidate who is up in years.

I think Joe Biden is in a strong position to win this race so long as he proves that he's up to it, that he's energetic and engaged. And so it is vitally important that he bring a different kind of countenance to this debate. He was trying to rise above in the last debate, but you also have to show that when people come at you, you're going to respond. And he clearly, clearly is going to do that.

In terms of signaling -- and by the way, let me point out one thing. The attack of Kamala Harris had a purpose. And that purpose was to try and erode Biden's very formidable lead among African-Americans. You look at that South Carolina poll, and he's getting more than half of the African-American vote in a state where the primary electorate is about 60 percent black, and this is through throughout the country. It has to do with his relationship with Barack Obama. And that is an emblem for African-American voters that Biden is someone they should support. And she was trying to erode that. So what you saw was him responding particularly to Booker and Harris on attacks that were aimed at eroding his support among African-Americans. And I think that that is an important base he has to protect.

CAMEROTA: And so if you look at that South Carolina poll, if we poll it up one more time, Susan, he's getting three times what Kamala Harris is.

BERMAN: Four times.

[08:05:01] CAMEROTA: Wait a minute. Four times among black voters, got it. So I was just looking at the total, but among black voters, four times. But what he has been suggesting in these past few days he will, I don't know if the word is go after Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, but he won't take whatever their criticisms are lying down, and they do plan to criticize him as they have been telegraphing about his past on the crime bill, et cetera.

But I don't know. If you look at these numbers, it's not just South Carolina. In Ohio as well he's more than two times ahead of the next closest rival, Kamala Harris. And so maybe he doesn't need to be so aggressive. Maybe the previous lackluster debate, if that's what you want to call it, didn't hurt him that much in these different states.

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Also, look, of course, it's also so incredibly early, so that's one major factor here. He has an overwhelming advantage, of course, in name identification and in a sense among Democratic voters of who he is. And it's been pointed out of course that he has in particular a very strong likability factor.

That uncertainty has to do with his ability to actually win the nomination and his ability to be the right kind of opponent for President Trump. If that's what Democratic voters overwhelmingly are saying is their priority this year, there's huge incentive next week for any democrat to take on Biden in the sense he is the overwhelming leader right now. He hasn't locked it up, but he is the leader.

But, look, Cory Booker is almost an asterisk in the polls. So he has very little to risk in terms of going after Biden. I think some of this is messaging the pregame show and saying -- trying to get them to back away. So it doesn't to me necessarily say Biden is going to go on the attack against these folks, but perhaps he's trying to warn them off of hitting him too hard.

BERMAN: We can put up those Ohio numbers, this is P-116, and this shows in Ohio, which is not necessarily the most important primary state, but it is a big general election state, that Joe Biden is the only Democratic candidate who has a statistically significant lead over President Trump, and that's something that the Biden campaign will point to. And Kaitlan, from your perch at the White House, it really does seem that if there's one candidate that Donald Trump, the president, cares about, it is Biden.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And that's why. You see numbers like that in Ohio, and that is something that is unsettling to the president and his reelection campaign because they know that Joe Biden has got that appeal to those middle of road voters that the president had a hold on in 2016. And they want to make sure they can keep their hold on it in 2020.

What you're going to see different from Joe Biden going after people that he's actually competing against in this primary is something new because so far Joe Biden has been acting like he's already the candidate here, that he's already going to be the one running against President Trump. And I think that there is this realization that he's actually got to get through the primary first because this is wide open race where Joe Biden is not guaranteed today be the nominee. And I think seeing that boost that he gave Kamala when they had that interaction at the last debate is kind of a wakeup call for them.

But of course he's going to largely keep his efforts, it appears on the president and going after him, so that'll be interesting to see just how many people in this next debate are going after their fellow Democrats who are on stage with them, and how many of them are shaping it overall to go in a message after the president himself, because of course we've heard from so many Democratic voters who say more than policy differences here, they care about whoever the candidate is that can beat President Trump.

CAMEROTA: So David, it's really interesting to see the polls about how African-American voters are feeling. There's also a very interesting FOX poll that is out about President Trump's approach to race and how voters, all voters feel about that. So do you think President Trump respects racial minorities? This month only 34 percent of Americans believe yes, 57 percent believe now, he doesn't.

BERMAN: What you see there is there's a real drop among people who think that he respects racial minorities.

AXELROD: And the question is what is the overall impact of that, and does it erode his support not among minority voters but among some segments of white voters who might vote for him? His calculation is the answer is no, and that by strongly, strongly playing the race card, dividing the country, he can inflame his base. And his base is large enough if it comes out in large numbers to win those states that he needs to win in the Electoral College. He's making a calculation on that. And I don't know how disturbing the White House will find those numbers. I think at least the president in his gut knows that that is the game that he is playing.

I just, if I can, return to a point about the president vis-a-vis Biden. He was on FOX last night with his favorite show host, and said that -- and he started again calling Biden sleepy Joe, using Mueller against Biden.

[08:10:08] This is the reason that Biden has to be active and engaged. As I said earlier, he's in a strong position, but he has to show that he is up to this fight. And this debate is important in that regard. And as to whether they're going to focus on him or Trump, there are two thirds of the people on that stage who probably in both debates combined probably won't be there in September because of debate rules. There is a premium to create moments in that debate. And the way you create a moment is generally to go after the people who are ahead of you. And Biden is at the head of the pack. I think he can look forward to a lively night.

BERMAN: Susan Glasser, I want to give you a chance to talk about the hearings this week, because it's part of your column, your terrific column that came out. And I do have Chairman Nadler in our next segment to ask him about where he is headed. But you look at this and you think Democrats are in a worse position today than they were at the beginning of the week?

GLASSER: Well, look, the Democrats setup this hearing with Bob Mueller and they said that their goal was, in effect, to bring the Mueller report to life, a sense that even many members of Congress had not taken the time to read the Mueller report, which I've heard members of Congress say this to me personally, it still astonishes me that so many of them did not do that.

So Democrats set out a standard for what they were hoping to get in that hearing. And I think it's clear we haven't seen any major new ground swell of support for impeachment among Democrats. You saw a small handful coming out after the hearing and saying they now support it. You didn't have any major new revelations, not that we were expecting that. But by this own standard of bringing it to life, Bob Mueller proved not to be a very cooperative witness when it came to that.

And again, to me what's striking is that Democrats are essentially in the same position they have been in from the beginning of receiving this report, which is that they're the only people who can offer accountability under our constitutional system, and yet they just have a political impasse over moving forward. Given the clock ticking towards the end of 2019, very unlikely Democrats would pursue impeachment proceedings in a presidential election year. I'm interested to hear what Chairman Nadler has to say in your next segment. He apparently behind the scenes has been starting to advocate the opening of an impeachment inquiry, perhaps even without a vote of the full House to authorize that, which is an interesting procedural move.

But, again, just to me we're in this conundrum from the beginning of the Trump presidency. These allegations, very substantiated now, about presidential obstruction of justice, about very disturbing interactions with the Russians, that fact set has not changed. It's very damning. Congress is unable, really, to figure out what if anything to do, and how to proceed. And I didn't see that changing this week.

CAMEROTA: Susan, David, Kaitlan, thank you very much.

The line-ups are set for the CNN Democratic presidential debates. Two big nights, 10 candidates each night, tuesday and Wednesday night live from Detroit 8:00 p.m. eastern only on CNN.

BERMAN: CNN has learned that House Democrats are worried that the window for impeachment is closing. And we are getting now reporting on what this man might be thinking, the House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler. How will he now approach the notion of impeachment? He joins us next.

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[08:17:45] BERMAN: CNN has learned that House Democrats are worried that the window for launching a formal impeachment probe against President Trump is closing fast.

Joining us now is a man really at the center of this entire discussion, Congressman Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and the person who would be in charge of leading an impeachment inquiry in the House if it did ever happen.

Mr. Chairman, we appreciate you joining us this morning. We know you're busy. We also know you're the center of a great deal of reporting today from several outlets.

Let me read you what "The New York Times" is reporting this morning. Chairman Nadler has gradually become convinced his panel should proceed with impeachment hearings and do so as expeditiously as possible though he has not stated publicly.

Is that true?

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Well, I think what has changed this week is a great change, and that is the testimony of Director Mueller. Director Mueller told us very specifically that the Russians attacked our elections in 2016 with the aim of helping Donald Trump, that the Trump campaign welcomed that help, and that the president has been covering it up and engaged in multiple acts of obstruction of justice and breaking the law in order to try to cover that up. And that -- introduced substantial evidence of that and we saw that in the hearing the other day. And frankly if anyone else other than the president of the United States had done this, they would have been indicted by now.

That broke the lie the administration had been handing out that the president and Attorney General Barr have been saying the Mueller report found it totally exonerated the president, found no collusion, no obstruction. All of that is not true. There's considerable collusion as was brought out with the -- between the campaign and the Russians, 178-odd contacts. There was considerable obstruction of justice by the president personally, criminal acts of obstruction of justice, and an ongoing cover-up, and the lies by the attorney general.

[08:20:03] So, this was brought out. And I think that will gradually be absorbed by the American people. Our task now is to get the evidence behind that out to the American

people and we will do that starting today. The administration --

BERMAN: How?

NADLER: Well, I'll come to that.

The administration has tried to oppose the release of any information by opposing all congressional subpoenas, by opposing all witnesses, not only on this but things like family separation and rigging the census and everything. And we're going to go to court today and ask for the grand jury information underlying the Mueller report, and on Monday and Tuesday to enforce our subpoena.

Former White House Counsel Don McGahn who's the main witness in front of the Mueller committee. And when we win, and we will win those court fights because of the legal excuses the White House has been using is extraordinarily weak from a legal point of view. When we win that, it'll open up the flood gates to enforce all the subpoenas and get all the testimony because they're all the same nonsense legal arguments.

So, we'll be going into court today and again on Monday and Tuesday to start bringing that up so we can lay the evidence in detail before the American people.

BERMAN: So you're going to court tomorrow and then next week. Of course, it will take some time --

NADLER: Today.

BERMAN: Sorry, today and then next week, but it could take some time for the courts to rule then.

Jackie Speier of California says it's September or never for an impeachment inquiry. Do you agree with that time line?

NADLER: No, I don't agree with that necessarily. I think we'll have to do what we have to do. And we will be asking the courts to expedite these decisions because of their importance and the obvious importance of timing.

BERMAN: What if the administration defies these court orders that you believe are imminent?

NADLER: Well, if -- without question if an administration -- no administration has ever defied a court order. If they did that, that is so far beyond the pail that it totally eliminating the rule of law, there'd have to be an impeachment.

BERMAN: Let me ask you among the reporting CNN has done and other outlets as well, there is a suggestion you've considered launching the impeachment inquiry in your committee, the House Judiciary Committee without a full house vote. How would that work?

NADLER: Well, technically, that could work simply by the committee voting it, without the entire house voting it. But I haven't said or contemplated what would happen. But remember, all of this is dependent on getting the evidence out before the American people because impeachment is not something you do because you don't like somebody, because you think he's horrible. It's a very serious matter that needs to be -- I think I said repeatedly before, before you can do an impeachment, you need three things.

One, substantial evidence of impeachment offenses, two they've got to be serious offenses obviously. And three, because you don't want to tear the American people apart, you don't want to tear the country apart. The evidence has got to be so solid and out there that, that impeaching the president wouldn't tear the country apart.

And our task now is to get the evidence out there and -- period. That's what ware going to be doing.

BERMAN: OK, you've had Robert Mueller before your committee, you've had the full Mueller report and you've had six months now --

NADLER: The Mueller report, first of all -- in effect the Mueller report only came out this week because most people didn't read the 448-page report. You had the attorney general lying about what was in it, saying it found no obstruction, no collusion, it exonerated the president and repeating that and starting to do that before he released the report. He released --

BERMAN: Mr. Chairman --

NADLER: -- a lying summary, and you had this flood of misinformation from the administration what was in the report. But now we have Mueller testifying.

BERMAN: I'm going to run out of time here, I'm going to run out of time and there's some important point I want to get to here.

Are you concerned there's a precedent? Because you have told me you have seen multiple examples now and the special counsel testified to it you say of the president obstructing justice. You have said the president has lied about it. You have said the president has covered it up.

If you make all those arguments, what historical precedent does it set if you don't use the only remedy that the constitution provides to sanction a president for this, which is impeachment? Do you not create new boundaries for future presidents? That is what some critics suggest.

NADLER: Well, certainly, if the president does all these things and gets off scot-free, that would set very bad precedence.

[08:25:01] And we have to -- before we can do anything else, we have to educate the American people not only as to the allegations and to the conclusions of the Mueller report but as to the evidence underneath it. That's the precondition for doing anything, because as I said you can't tear the country apart. That's our immediate task, and that's what we're going to do and that's why we're going to court today.

BERMAN: Corey Lewandowski, does he have any kind of privilege or can he exert any kind of privilege to keep from testifying before your committee?

NADLER: I don't think so at all. He wasn't a White House employee. No, I don't think he has any privilege at all.

And the White House's claim of privilege, even for the White House employees, people who work there are vastly overstated.

BERMAN: But Cory Lewandowski, but, Corey Lewandowski, you could have before your committee without a court fight, correct?

NADLER: Well, they would -- not necessarily. They could simply defy the subpoena and then we'd have to enforce it. So far, they've defied every single subpoena, and we have to fight that and get the courts to agree with us.

And we have to do that as expeditiously as possible. The fact --

BERMAN: Mr. Chairman, Jerry Nadler -- go ahead.

NADLER: The fact they have a weak case doesn't mean they won't waste time in court.

BERMAN: All right. Chairman Jerry Nadler, thanks for being with us this morning. Appreciate it.

Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: All right, John.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are about to have a face-to-face meeting. We see Nancy Pelosi arriving for it just there. What will they say to each other after their public feud? We have a live report from Capitol Hill next.

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