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Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) is Interviewed about Elijah Cummings; Fires Rage in California; Alabama Cops Mercy Project; Impeachment Process Past and Present. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired October 25, 2019 - 08:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: One of the things that I was surprised by, frankly, is that Congressman Cummings, the first African-American to lie in state. There have been other African-Americans to lie in the Capitol in honor, but because he was a government official, first African-American to lie in state.

Wonder if you can discuss the significance of that.

REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D-MO): It's significant. I mean to its -- the nation has been around for about 243 years. And we've had a lot of people to lie in state over the decades. But Elijah Cummings was so powerful that I think Nancy Pelosi went to Senate Leader McConnell. I think the way it has to happen is the speaker of the House and the -- and the leader, the minority in the House, would have to get the agreement from the Senate side for this to happen. And they were able to get it. And so we were able to have something that all of us appreciated. I'm not sure that this would have happened but for Nancy Pelosi.

BERMAN: And probably but for the stature of Elijah Cummings himself and how much he gave to the country.


BERMAN: I was reading, and this made me smile, that you had a longstanding dispute with Elijah Cummings because you felt he was moving in on your turf. You, of course, are a man of faith, a man of cloth, you know, a preacher. He's a man of the law. But you thought he too often strayed into your territory.

CLEAVER: He did. And we had contemplated, some of my friends and I, introducing legislation that would prohibit federally for a lawyer to practice the ministry. He wasn't supporting the legislation. But, you know, I looked up and he was performing weddings and doing all of these things and I just thought he was out of place. And I reminded his family of that during the ceremony yesterday. And everybody chuckled because they knew I was telling the truth. I called him the bootleg preacher based in Baltimore.

BERMAN: That's wonderful. I want to play you some sound from Chairman Cummings, who, as you

noted, was working right up until the very end. And as far as we're all concerned, I'm sure is working now in his own way. But I want to listen to the message he was sending to the country in July.


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): I'm begging the American people to pay attention to what is going on, because if you want to have a democracy intact, for your children and your children's children, and generations yet unborn, we have got to guard this moment. This is our watch.


BERMAN: This is our watch, said Chairman Cummings.

Why is that an important message to you?

CLEAVER: You know, and that was one of the most important messages. Let me first of all say, I was one of the people who said I was not going to support impeachment inquiry or anything else until we were able to get more information forth. When the president of the United States attacked Elijah Cummings for no reason other than he needed a foil for the day, that's when I made a decision I was going to support him.

But the other side of that is that Elijah Cummings knows more than I know about what's been going on. You know, he goes to the SCIF. He has data that we don't have. And for him to make that statement and others without divulging much has created a chilling feeling in my soul. And the whole country had better pay attention to this moment. Elijah Cummings issued a warning.

BERMAN: Congressman Cleaver, thank you for being with us. We're very sorry for your loss, the loss of your friend, Chairman Cummings. And I know you're back home in Missouri actually dealing with some other loss today. So our heart goes out to you this morning. Thanks for being with us.

CLEAVER: Thank you.

BERMAN: You know, today will be so moving to see it yesterday in the Capitol with both parties together, it was wonderful. It was really genuinely nice. And I expect to see more of that emotion today.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: What a loss. I mean, obviously, not just for the Democratic Party, for democracy. We have been playing the sound bites of when Congressman Cummings would just talk about democracy and how important it was and how he had given his career for it. And those -- his sound is always so stirring. You're reminded of what he was fighting for.

BERMAN: All right, we, of course, will cover this all throughout the day.

We'll be right back.



BERMAN: All right, Breaking news.

More than 18 million Californians under red flag warnings as nine fires ravage the state.

Look at those pictures.

The biggest is burning in Sonoma County. Another raging out of control in Los Angeles County. In all, about 30,000 acres have burned so far.

CNN's Nick Watt is live in Canyon Country.

Nick, we can see that house behind you. I think they just put out those flames moments ago. Tell us what's going on.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so, John, we are in Canyon Country, just north of Los Angeles. This fire broke out yesterday afternoon and, boy, did it explode, up to about 200 acres in just 20 minutes or so. Just through that dry brush with these high winds. Twenty miles an hour sustained. We're going to get gusts about 70.


I'm wearing the goggles because the embers are the issue, as always, in this wind. You can see they've touched this house here. A few minutes ago, (INAUDIBLE), if you can just pan over here, we had embers hit this house as well.

And, you know, John, while all this is going on, there are also a bit of blame game as well. You know Governor Gavin Newsom, who has put a lot more money towards fire safety, hired nearly 400 more seasonal firefighters, he is saying that the utility companies, which have been cutting power to try and prevent sparking fires, he's saying, sure, that's all good and well, but the communication is not good and also they didn't anticipate. He is saying that it is dog eat dog capitalism meets climate change.

As you mentioned, many fires raging throughout the state. We are going to have high winds here down around Los Angeles through tonight. That Kinkade Fire, 16,000 acres still burning up in Sonoma. And, Saturday into Sunday, red flag warnings up in the Sacramento Valley.

John, it is fire season here in southern California.

Alisyn, back to you.

CAMEROTA: Nick, it does not look like that house behind you has actually been put out. So please be careful out there as you cover the wildfires for us. Thank you very much.

Now to this. Police in rural Alabama are taking a different approach with drug offenders that does not involve jail. CNN's Martin Savidge tells us how they're going "Beyond the Call of Duty" to help people struggle with opioid addiction free of charge.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's what Police Officer Christopher Samya didn't do that day in Sumiton, Alabama, that's remarkable.

CHRISTOPHER SAMYA, SUMITON POLICE OFFICER: It was early Sunday morning, around 5:00 a.m. maybe.

SAVIDGE: On the front lines of the opioid crisis, in a county with the highest rate of drug overdoses in the state, he's seen a lot in his 20 years on patrol.

SAMYA: We worked more heroin overdoses than I can count.

SAVIDGE: When he found a 35-year-old woman at a gas station, disoriented and clearly at rock bottom, he sat on the ground next to her and talked.

SAMYA: She had confessed that she had been using drugs and that she had been using drugs for quite some time and she was going through just a tough time in life.

SAVIDGE: He could have arrested her. He didn't.

SAMYA: All my instincts told me that she needed help more than she needed jail.

SAVIDGE: That's how an addict came to know mercy. The Mercy Project helps those struggling with addiction get into state or faith-based treatment programs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to help you with your journey until you get on your feet. We want to invest in you.

SAVIDGE: It's the brain child of Walker County Sheriff Nick Smith. Deputy TJ Armstrong manages the program.

DEPUTY TJ ARMSTRONG, WALKER COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: It's starting to understand a little bit more that it's not about just trying to lock people up, but it's about actually helping that individual, especially in small towns.

SAVIDGE: The service is free for any Alabama resident.

Amanda Cole is one of the 45 people the program's rescued since January.

AMANDA COLE, MERCY PROJECT PARTICIPANT: I've been wanting to get help probably for the past two years.

SAVIDGE: Now her two children have their mother back.

Officer Samya doesn't yet know what the future holds for the woman he helped.

SAVIDGE (on camera): Would you do it again?

SAMYA: I sure would.

SAVIDGE: No question?

SAMYA: Without thinking twice.

SAVIDGE (voice over): But he's glad to have a new policing approach where officers can listen and offer mercy.

Martin Savidge, CNN, Sumiton, Alabama.


BERMAN: Good for them.

CAMEROTA: What a wonderful program. I mean that is so helpful for addicts.

BERMAN: Right now, here is what else to watch today.


ON SCREEN TEXT: 10:00 a.m. ET, Rep. Elijah Cummings funeral.

11:00 a.m. ET, Capitol climate protest.

2:15 p.m. ET, Trump speaks in South Carolina.


CAMEROTA: OK, Democrats are continuing their impeachment investigation as the White House now tries to step up its messaging strategy. So we will get "The Bottom Line" on all of this, next.



CAMEROTA: Republicans are criticizing the impeachment inquiry. They're focusing on process rather than the substance of the quid pro quo allegations. But it's the same process the Republicans stood by 20 years ago when President Clinton was impeached by the House, sort of. I mean they say that they see major differences between now and then.

In a new special, CNN's Fareed Zakaria takes a historical look at impeachment throughout the years, and he joins us now.

Hi, Fareed.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Hey, there. CAMEROTA: So, before we get to your special, just, at the end of

what's been another wild week, I mean some -- moving at break-neck speed. What is your thought on where we are with the impeachment inquiry as of today?

ZAKARIA: Well, I think Bill Taylor's testimony is a kind of turning point in constitutional terms, if you will, in terms of kind of building a quasi-legal case. I don't know that it is the turning point politically for Republicans. Remember, if you look at the Nixon impeachment, until there was the discovery of the taping mechanism, you know, you had, at this point, John Dean's testimony. You even had transcripts. But until you know -- that the Republicans knew that the president was on tape telling the -- you know, saying, let's tell the FBI to back off and claim this is a national security, there were very few Republicans who were in favor.


So I think this process moves much more slowly and only if it seems as though politically it's viable will Republicans switch. And I don't think today changed -- this week changed that.

BERMAN: I want to play a clip from this special. And you speak with Noah Feldman, who is a constitutional scholar, law professor, and he talks about what he sees in this case, which makes impeachable a real thing.



NOAH FELDMAN, CONSTITUTIONAL SCHOLAR AND LAW PROFESSOR: It's extremely clear that it is a quid pro quo. It's laughable to think that the president was not trying to gain personally in investigating Joe Biden.

ZAKARIA (voice over): This constitutional scholar is worried about the very survival of America's defining document.

FELDMAN: It's absolutely essential to the entire constitutional structure. If the president abuses his power, Congress has to check the president's actions. It's the only branch with that authority and responsibility. And that's what the impeachment process is fundamentally for. And the Constitution will fail.


BERMAN: Now, it's interesting, you just told us, Fareed, that Feldman did not think impeachment was practical after or during Mueller, but now does. To the larger issue, though, of abuse of power, which is the words that he used, why is that so important in the historical context?

ZAKARIA: Well, you know, when the founders created the presidency, they were worried they were creating an elected monarch. They were -- because, remember, the revolution takes place to get away from a monarch.

And the way they set it up was each branch was designed to check the other. This is a very -- you know Madison says in Federalist 51, ambition must be made to counteract ambition. So the whole point was, if the president does something wrong, there is only one recourse.

You remember Richard Nixon very famously said, if the president does it, it means it's not illegal. He was technically right. What he means is the president is immune from prosecution by his own Justice Department because the only check on him is congressional, and the only real check, the only serious check, is impeachment.

So if you say, you know, the bar is so high that it can never be reached, what you're saying is the president is essentially unaccountable. And the founders did not mean that.

CAMEROTA: What about the process argument that Republicans seemingly have been trying to make? They're saying, this is not what happened in the Clinton impeachment or Watergate. And they're really hanging their hats on that. What do you make of that argument?

ZAKARIA: So, constitutionally, they are on very thin grounds. They -- they -- the power -- the House can organize impeachment pretty much as it wants. There is no constraint in the Constitution. It's sort of like the president's pardon powers. They are unfettered.

Now, politically, I think the Democrats should do exactly -- should follow the historical precedent. They should allow Republicans to call witnesses. They would argue they are going to do that. They are at a different stage in the process. They are now in the fact-finding stage.

I think optics matter. You know, this -- impeachment is a political process. You want public support. I think they would gain public support if they were to do it this way. I think they know the Republicans will use that as a theater rather than some kind of serious investigation.

Be that as it may, politics is politics. You want to win the public's support.

BERMAN: So far Democrats not pulling any Republicans over to the pro- impeachment side. But historically speaking, what happened in Watergate?

ZAKARIA: So I think -- as I said, before Alexander Butterfield got -- comes and testifies that Nixon is on tape, no Republicans. Even two months before Richard Nixon resigned, there were very few Republicans on his side. And almost nobody from the House.

What happens is a group of senators decide, really for constitutional reasons, for reasons, you know, their legacy, history, the Constitution requiring it, that they should vote to impeach -- you know, to convict President Nixon. And they go to see him. And they tell him they will not be able to support him. And Nixon then decides to resign.

So if you imagine some trajectory, it's going to be right at the end, and it's going to be a small number of senators.

BERMAN: Fareed Zakaria, thank you very much for being with us.

You can watch Fareed's CNN special report "On the Brink: When a President Faces Impeachment," tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

CAMEROTA: Colorado teacher Nate White credits the 2018 top ten CNN Hero, Amanda Boxtel, for helping him overcome the odds. He is now walking independently again following a kayaking accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

CNN's Anderson Cooper shares Nate's story as we count down to the big reveal of the 2019 top ten CNN heroes.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Three years ago Nate White injured his spine in a kayaking accident and was told he'd never walk again. But his hard work and determination, along with Amanda's incredible help, has paid off.

NATE WHITE: I'm a robot.

COOPER: A year ago he did this. And now, just three years after his accident, he's doing this.


WHITE: Amanda always believed that I was going to be walking again.

AMANDA BOXTEL, CNN HERO: He's living the miracle of what we all aspire for. This is the power of technology that everybody should have access to. That's my goal.


BERMAN: They're all my favorites.

CAMEROTA: I have --

BERMAN: They're all my favorites. Every time we see one, they're my favorite.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Thank goodness this is not just up to you. Just up to you.

BERMAN: All right, great ready, 2019's top ten CNN heroes will be revealed on Wednesday. Find out who will get recognized this year.

All right, all morning we've been following new developments, big developments in the impeachment investigation. Democrats will work into the weekend. We will tell you what they're looking into, next.