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Now: House Preparing to Vote on Impeachment Resolution; House Approves Impeachment Resolution. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 31, 2019 - 11:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Once again, we want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, in Washington.

We're following breaking news. This is the first of two votes on the floor of the House of Representatives. This is a procedural vote that will allow the second more substantive vote to go forward that will publicly call for an impeachment inquiry, an investigation of the president of the United States.

Phil Mattingly is our congressional correspondent.

Phil, walk us through the process right now, the legislative process how it's unfolding.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we're seeing right now is that procedural vote we're going to set up. It will be largely party lines. Democrats will vote yes. Republicans will vote no.

Republican leadership urging their members to vote no because, if they, by chance, pass it, which is impossible since they're in the minority, they would be able to amend the impeachment resolution that will be voted on next.

The second vote is the vote that everybody cares about and been talking about all day and over the course of the entire week. As we've been reporting, as Dana has been reporting, it is going to be largely along party line. You are not going to see many defections from either side.

If you're looking at Democrats and you want to see who votes in that no column. I'm told it's a small universe of nos, maybe three of four max. But we'll see where that ends up.

Also, keep an eye on the floor. If there are members holding off their votes waiting to see how this is going to go, I'd be surprised, given the fact that everybody has known this is coming, but sometimes you see members who aren't sure how they're going to vote, hand back for a little bit. We'll see if any of that is happening.

The other is Republicans. See if everybody is going to vote yes. Right now, as we've been reporting, very few if any Republicans are expected to be torn about this. Most of them completely in line with the party. So keep an eye on if anybody decides to defect.

I've been told by several Republicans, if they can keep all Republicans in line here, they will view it as an enormous victory. And they know if will make the president, who has been very keen on this vote, extremely happy.

I think one more thing to broaden it out, Wolf, this debate over what this resolution is has been packed with semantics over the course of the last couple of days. Is it an impeachment resolution? What does it mean? A lot of talk about process.

What I've been struck by over the course of the floor speeches and some of the comments we've seen in the last three to four hours is there's a recognition that there is a momentum occasion, that this is a very big moment, that the stakes are extremely high.

And while I don't think anybody thought there was any turning back over the last couple of days as the closed-door depositions have picked up, and given what they've yielded, this makes very clear the President Donald Trump is very likely at this point in time to become the 39th president to be impeached.

This lays that process out. This makes very clear that they're moving forward. That the Intelligence Committee will be public and then they'll move it into the Judiciary Committee. Articles of impeachment are being considered right now behind closed doors, seeing where they could end up as this investigation moves forward.

This vote is kind of a turning point in this process, which is very clearly moving forward in the House and could soon end up in the Senate, where you're hearing a lot of people hold their fire as they all pay attention to what's happening on the House floor right now -- Wolf?

BLITZER: And originally, they wanted to get this done at least on the House side by Thanksgiving. Now they're saying Christmas. What are you hearing?

MATTINGLY: What's interesting is, when you talk to members who are involved in the depositions, kind of the behind-the-scenes folks on the committees, they're saying, every time we have a deposition, we get more names. Every time we have a deposition, we get new leads. And they don't want to rush it given the fact they actually feel like this process is bearing fruit.

Keep in mind, these Democrats sat for months extremely frustrated as the administration basically gave no ground on sending over documents, on getting witness testimony. They're getting witness testimony not just from government officials, but they're talking about people who are senior people or were senior people inside the White House. They've already sent requests for other top administration officials

or former administration officials to come to closed-door depositions next week. So basically everything has been moving back week by week.

I think the reality is there will be another set of closed-door depositions next week. The hope from some Democrats is perhaps to hold public hearings the week after that.

But the process is going to be more closed-door depositions, then public hearings, then it will move over to the Judiciary Committee where they will consider articles of impeachment.

How that all lines up -- a lot of Democrats have said, particularly frontline Democrats, we want this done by the end of the year so we can spend all of 2020 focusing on legislative issues and focusing on our re-election campaigns, to be frank, not talking about impeachment.

But we talk to senior Democrats who say this will go where it goes. And while we would like to move it quickly, if there are more things that pop up or more things that we think we need to tie up before we draft those articles, then it may take longer. So still very fluid in that regard -- Wolf?

BLITZER: It certainly is.

Phil, stand by.

Kaitlan Collins is over at the White House.

Kaitlan, I see the president just tweeted a few minutes ago, "The impeachment hoax is hurting our stock market. The do-nothing Democrats don't care."

He's clearly angry that it's gotten already this far.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. And for a while, the president was in disbelief. He didn't think Democrats were being serious about this.


And essentially, right now, on the day that these votes are getting under way, the White House is left without a game plan. That is something people inside the administration told me they view as a grave mistake here.

Because you'll remember, back in September, when Speaker Pelosi announced this impeachment inquiry, people in the White House immediately jumped and said it wasn't real because they hadn't voted. And they weren't going to treat it as such until they did.

Now, we're here on the first day of these votes. And right now, the White House has still not figured out what their strategy is going to be. They haven't hired any communications officials to spearhead the strategy here. And they also haven't added any attorneys to the president's legal team in order to help on that front.

That is something people inside the White House have said they feel like they are essentially going to be weeks behind Democrats here. They're moving much faster than they ever expected them to.

So far, really, the only thing the president has done is tried to shore up Republican support. He's ramped up he's call to House Republicans and some Senate Republicans.

Wolf, there was one key meeting the president had last week with the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell where he had some blunt advice for the president. He told him to stop attacking Senate Republicans, whether on Twitter or in person, because he told the president essentially, the fate of your presidency lies in the hands of some of these people that you're going after, including people like Mitt Romney, who the president has been tweeting about furiously.

So that is something they're watching right now to see how the president is going to respond.

But he's also today watching this vote, Wolf. We should note, he has nothing on his public schedule right now. And this morning, we've been told by sources he's been up in the White House residence.

BLITZER: That's an important point, indeed. I'm sure the president is watching this unfold right now.

Kaitlan, stand by.

Dana, let's not forget that, even if the House of Representatives, the full House of Representatives votes in favor of articles of impeachment against the president of the United States, it then goes to a full-scale trial in the United States Senate.

And you don't simply need a simple majority in the Senate. You need a two-thirds majority, 67 Senators, meaning 27 Republicans, assuming all the Democrats would vote in favor of convicting and removing the president from office. You would need 20 Republicans. And that is a huge hurdle.


I think we should take a moment and underscore that great reporting that Kaitlan just had about Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, going to the president saying, back off, leave my guys alone and, ladies, because it's only going to hurt you.

That is interesting on a number of levels, first of all, that he felt the need to have that conversation.

But also because what I was hearing was a possibility down the road that the conversation would happen in reverse. It is the president who controls tens of millions of dollars through the Republican National Committee.

That money is so critical for so many of these Republican Senators who are in tough re-election cases -- contests. And so what I was told it was the president who said these front-liners better not be disloyal to me or leave the party or vote against me on impeachment because I will withhold funding for them for their re-election.

So those are real preliminary tensions that are going on that are very much underlining and underscoring the substance of whether or not the president of the United States should be impeached or not.

BLITZER: And, Nia, what the president really has going for him as well is that the Republican basis is with him, according to all the polls.


BLITZER: Eight-five, 90, maybe even more, percent of that Republican base are with the president.

HENDERSON: The Republican base and folks on the Hill. Over the last few years of Donald Trump's presidency, Republicans have been his cheerleaders, his enablers, his protectors, his defenders. Almost no matter what he does, right, they have come to his defense. So they have set a precedent for what we'll see today with all these House members standing behind this president.

The Republican Party is completely controlled by Donald Trump. You mentioned the money. That's one aspect of it. But certainly the base, right? Completely behind him and that has been reflected, I think, over these last many years in terms of how this Republican Party has treated this president.

In many ways, they have sent the signal that he can do any number of things and they will sort of go along with it. Maybe they'll express some sort of concern about what he has done, but any sort of real repercussions from Republicans have been absent.

And we have also seen the Republicans who have spoken out against him, people like Corker, people like Jeff Flake, no longer in the Senate. He has gone after them. We saw him go after Mitt Romney, for instance, who expressed some concern about the president's behavior.

But this is a real moment for the Republican Party, too, right? They have largely given this president a blank check in terms of his behavior.

BLITZER: And, Susan Glasser, that's very significant because so many of the Republicans who did come out critically against the president decided they were quitting. They were leaving, giving up their seats in the House or in the Senate, moving on. Very few who are still there have really been outspoken in their criticism.


SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, that's right. Look, we are all discussing the political context in which this vote is occurring, which is a remarkable takeover, a hostile takeover, by the way, of the Republican Party by Donald Trump relative to 2016 when they were united against him.

But, you know, right now, we're talking about the politics, we are talking about the process, and that is a classic Washington move.

And Republicans, in a way, have been successful at shifting the conversation from the president's behavior to the process and the Democrats' behavior in investigating him.

But that subject will turn as we move toward public hearings and a Senate trial.

And I think it is important to remember why are we even having this conversation? Because there's sort of a breathtaking audacity to what Donald Trump has done and even publicly admitted to, which is essentially creating a shadow foreign policy, which was in opposition to his own administration's policy, when it came to the country of Ukraine.

He essentially said, I am going to personally withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid and a meeting the Ukrainians. I'm going to fire my own ambassador because I want something of value. I want Ukraine to investigate my potential 2020 opponent, Joe Biden, and I want them to investigate the 2016 election. These are breathtaking facts.

I have to say, as someone who has covered not only Washington, but foreign policy for decades, so much of the information has come out -- we saw a serving lieutenant colonel, in full dress uniform, come here and say, in real time, he listened to the president of the United States talk to the leader of another country and say, this is inappropriate, I need to report this to a lawyer, this is so out of control.

This doesn't happen. And that's why we're here today.

BASH: Right. But I just want -- on the whole question of politics, talking about process and politics, the process I agree with. But the reality is it is the politics that is going to drive this vote we're going to see today.

It's not that, if you gave truth serum to many of these Republicans they wouldn't agree with anything you just said on the substance.

GLASSER: Absolutely.

BASH: But it's because of Trump's hostile takeover -- very well said -- of the Republican Party and they fact that he is the Republican Party -- and it's changed dramatically in the past three years -- that all of these Republicans don't feel if they want to stay in Congress and they want to get re-elected, they cannot stand up to this president.


BASH: That is going to drive this vote and it's going drive this impeachment process. BLITZER: The time, by the way, has ended on this procedural vote on

the House floor, but they always give extra time for people to show up.

As you can see right now, 212 yeas. That would be 213 now, 212 Democrats, one Independent. And 117 nays. One Democrat voting with the Republicans right now. I don't know who that one Democrat is. But it's 215 to 177.

Assuming all 435 members of the House are there -- and I don't think they are -- you need 218 in order to pass. They'll reach that. They've still got 37 members who have not yet voted.

But even if they don't reach 218, which I think they will -- here we go, 218.

So the procedural vote, Dana, has now passed. Now they'll move on to the more substantive vote, formally going forward. And it's a historic moment.

BASH: It is.

BLITZER: Not many presidents have had to face being impeached by the House of the Representatives. But that will pass as well.

BASH: This is a huge moment in American history.

I've been communicating with a Democratic member on the floor, telling me that, understandably, that is the vibe, that is the buzz on the floor among the Democrats. They realize how big of a deal it is.

Some members I'm told, who were there in 1998, pulling up clips on what the media reported on what they did back then. They're putting it into that context.

BLITZER: Nia, we've been seen around the world.


BLITZER: Foreign leaders, international leaders, they're watching what's going on in the United States. And they're seeing an American president facing a prospect of being impeached, potentially, by the House of Representatives.

And I'm sure they're wondering -- they remember Nixon. He was going to be impeached, but he quit instead. He resigned instead of going through with the formal process when he knew he would have been impeached and convicted in the Senate. Bill Clinton was impeached, but he was acquitted in the Senate.

So leaders around the world are watching this president, watching what's happening in the United States right now.

HENDERSON: They are watching. Leaders from around the world have for the last many years been dealing with a very unorthodox American president who has blown through sort of all of the standards of behavior, that kind of conventional wisdom about the way an American president should behave and the way an American president should conduct foreign policy.


Listen, this is why he's here, right, because of this unorthodox, and some people say unethical and unimpeachable approach with the Ukrainian president here.

So, yes, this is a president that I think has been a curiosity for many foreign leaders and a puzzle and a paradox and somebody who has upended the way American presidents have behavior historically. And I'm sure there's a lot of consternation as to what comes out of this hearing.

BLITZER: This vote, you know, Ross Garber -- you're one of our legal analysts. It looks like it's virtually over in no time. Remaining 228 in favor of the resolution and allowing this resolution to go forward, for now, a substantive you vote on opening an informal impeachment inquiry, 189 nays. One Democrat voting with the Republicans, one Independent voting with the Democrats right there.

We're going to get the specific information on who did what, but what is your analysis when you see this procedural vote pass and now going forward with the more substantive vote?

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. We expected this vote on the procedure. The next vote is going to be the key vote. And I think the key thing is how many Republicans, if any, defect -


BLITZER: No Republicans defected on this.

GARBER: That's right. The next one is the big one. And then how many Democrats, if any, vote against the next one. That's the big one.

In Nixon -- this is an extraordinary moment in American history. This doesn't happen all the time.

So we do, we talked about Johnson right after the Civil War, we talk about Nixon, we talk about Clinton, because that's it, that's all we have to go on.

And in Nixon, at this point, the vote to authorize the inquiry, it was passed overwhelmingly in a bipartisan way. I think there were four no votes, total. In Clinton, it was a very, very partisan vote. And 31 Democrats defected and voted with Republicans to go forward with an inquiry. That's why we're looking to see if there are defections from either party.

And then the question is, if it's a strictly party line vote, why? Is it a problem with the process or is it a problem with sort of where we are in American politics and American society right now? Are we that polarized? That's a discussion we'll be having for days and weeks. BLITZER: And we are only are, Susan, a year or so away from the next

presidential election. That clock is ticking very, very rapidly.

GLASSER: Wolf, I'm so glad you brought that up. To me, that is the defining context of this moment.

We had Nixon and Clinton in living memory in impeachment proceedings but both been re-elected to second terms. This is happening not only with a president who is seeking election but essentially, the timetable we're looking at, this is going to run right into the 2020 election.

So we don't know exactly, but it appears that perhaps the House will race in hopes of finishing the articles of impeachment before Christmas, that would probably have a Senate trial, essentially right when the voting begins in Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire.

I think is something where we can already say that this Trump impeachment is writing a new chapter in American history.

And, again, it's very likely to take an already very partisan and divisive moment and accentuate it. We already knew this was going to be a tremendously metaphorically -- pick your analogy -- just over the top rhetoric.

We already see that every day. Republicans have already spoken about coups and cults and all sorts of rhetoric that generally doesn't belong in American politics. And we're going to see a lot more of that because of the timing of this.

BLITZER: For your historical perspective, Michael Gerhardt -- you're a professor at the University of North Carolina. You've studied this impeachment history here in the United States for a long time.


So, yes, the politics will absorb us. The politics will distract us. Politics are hugely important.

But at some point, it has to be about the facts. And at some point, it has to be about the Constitution. And those points will come.

I think these facts are hard for the president to get around, which is one reason they're attacking the process.

If we imagine, in the abstract, what this president has done, it's actually somewhat sooner than what Nixon has done in terms of trying to shut down an inquiry, order somebody -- in this case, have somebody who is a foreign leader -- intervene in an election or go after his political enemies.

And finally the president has not complied with subpoenas. That was the third article of impeachment against President Nixon. So history suggests to us the behavior in this instance quite

seriously problematic. And we're going to have to wait for the day when everybody is focused on that.


BLITZER: I want to go to our congressional correspondent.

Manu, the vote right now, looking at the roll call, 230 in favor of moving forward on this procedural vote, 196 opposed.

Two Democrats right now have voted with the Republicans, and if anybody knows who they are, it would be you.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Collin Peterson, of Minnesota, as well as Jeff Van Drew, of New Jersey. Two moderate Democrats. Van Drew is a freshman from a swing district. Peterson, a long time conservative, a Democrat.

Both have resisted moving forward on an impeachment inquiry, have opposed moving forward, do not think it's the right time to do it. Perhaps the reason is what they're hearing back home in their swing districts.

But for the most part, this is coming down around party lines.

One Republican, now turned Independent, Justin Amash, told me going into the vote that he planned to vote for the resolution. Not quite a defection since he's supporting the impeachment proceedings and that's why he left the Republican Party. But we're not expecting major defections.

One Republican who has been critical of the president at times, Will Hurd, of Texas, someone now retiring. I asked him on the way if he was going to vote for it. He would not say specifically, but he called the resolution premature. So a signal he probably was not willing to embrace it. So that is what you see, Wolf.

The vote, the Democrats will easily have the votes, mostly along party lines to advance this resolution, setting up the procedures for the next wave of hearings, public hearings in their impeachment inquiry, a significant vote, but one that is seen moving along party lines -- Wolf?

BLITZER: And Nancy Pelosi is now in the chair.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Those in favor, please say aye.


PELOSI: Those opposed, a no.


PELOSI: The opinion of the chair, the ayes have it.


PELOSI: The resolution is adopted. The gentleman --


UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: -- In that, I would request the yeas and nays.

PELOSI: Yeas and nays are requested. Those voting yeas and nays will rise.

A significant number have risen. The yeas and nays are ordered.

Members will record their votes by electronic device. This is a five- minute vote, colleagues. A five-minute vote.

BLITZER: So there you have it, five minutes for the 432. There's usually 435 members of the House of Representatives. There are three vacate seats right now. And 432 will -- members of the House of Representatives are about to vote. You need a majority in order to get this resolution authorizing a full-scale impeachment inquiry of the president of the United States.

Phil Mattingly has been watching all of this unfold, as well.

Only five minutes. All the members are just there. They just voted in favor of the procedural resolution. Now they have the substantive resolution.

MATTINGLY: The beauty of the second vote is the members have gotten to the floor from their offices. You don't have to wait a lot longer. They don't need to keep it open for any reason. This one should most of pretty quick.

You're seeing the numbers pop up on the screen quickly.

Manu hit on a key point. We were trying to figure out which Democrats may vote against it, if any Republicans vote against it. You see the two -- or any Republicans voting for. You see the two Democrats, Republicans who voted for. You see the two Democrats who voted against. And you have a window into that landscape during the procedural vote.

Again, the majority always wins the procedural votes for the most part.

But the two that voted against that procedural vote, Jeff Van Drew, from New Jersey, and Collin Peterson, from Minnesota, have been wary of impeachment throughout this process, come from very, very swing districts.

Collin Peterson has been a top target for Republicans for a period of time. He has been nowhere near where the rest of his party has been on impeachment.

The expectation was that leaders -- particularly in Peterson's case -- we leave them alone and say we get where you are on this one and they'll likely lose those individuals. So those are the two Democrats that won't go along with where the rest of the party is on this one.

I think the big question right now is if any Republicans come over. We've been talking about it throughout the past of the last couple of hours, there's a very real possibility not a single Republican joins.

Again, he made a key point. That doesn't say that all the members of the Republican conference are comfortable with what we've been seeing coming out of the depositions, what they've been seeing coming out of news reports and depositions.

But this has very much turned into a red team/blue team type of issue. And leadership has put a ton of pressure on the rank-and-file. Stay behind on this.

This isn't the final impeachment vote. This is a process vote. This is a procedure vote. The president is keenly watching this vote and seeing where people are on this and that the party needs to stick together. And the argument has worked. This pitch has worked. And Republicans have almost entirely stayed together.

I was talking to a couple last week, was going through the moderate members of the Republican conference. There aren't a lot there after of 2018. A lot of them got wiped out. And expecting some would raise serious concerns about where this was headed for the White House. And to a person, they were upset about the process. They were upset about the fact that they felt like they had been kept out of things.


And I know Democrats counter that and Democrats make clear this resolution will address those concerns or should address those concerns, but there wasn't this kind of, I'm on the fence, I'm wary right now. People are very much on their teams.

I don't know how long that's going to maintain but, at least for this vote, that's where people are. When you look right now at those columns and see Democrats are mostly all aligned on one side and Republicans are mostly all aligned on the other side, that's why.

BLITZER: The Republicans are completely all aligned. And 214 Democrats right now, 215 Democrats in favor of -- and one Independent -- impeaching, at least of beginning the process of an informal impeachment inquiry of the president of the United States.

There's 218. It has just passed. Tis resolution will now become the law. It has passed, 219 now, including one Independent, 218 Democrats. Still 1:30 left to go. They usually give a little extra time. But the numbers are there for the Democrats.

Manu Raju, two Democrats who voted with the Republicans on the procedural resolution, looks like, what, those same two Democrats are voting with the Republican owes this substantive resolution?

RAJU: Yes, that's what we're hearing. Collin Peterson, of Minnesota, as well as Jeff Van Drew, from New Jersey, both voting against this Democratic measure to set the procedures for the impeachment inquiry.

This is not a surprise. These two men have been opposed to the efforts to move forward on an impeachment inquiry. They have made clear they believe it's a distraction. They believe it's a bad idea. They believe the agenda should be focused on the domestic issues and the districts are swing districts.

Peterson, typically, someone the Republicans think they can take out year after year. Van Drew is a freshman member, comes from a swing district. Their politics back home, their constituents back home perhaps the reason why.

But what's interesting, Wolf, is the lack of Democratic defections. Because we have seen, before the Ukraine scandal really came out into the open, most Democrats in those Trump districts that the president carried in 2016, that later won in the 2018 midterms, a lot of them were very wary about moving forward in the impeachment proceedings. They did not think it was a good idea. Some resisted the notion of any vote.

But the politics have changed dramatically in the House Democratic caucus. Almost every single member does now support moving forward, at least in the inquiry side. They believe, a lot of them do believe the president has engaged in impeachable conduct. So you're seeing a shift among the moderate members.

Perhaps because they're also hearing different things back home. Perhaps also because they believe the politics could be good for them as they head into difficult re-election races come 2020.

But for these two members, we have seen defections on the Democratic side and at the moment, we're not seeing any defections from the Republican side, other than the one Republican-turned-Independent, Justin Amash, who said he was going to vote for this resolution, someone who supported impeachment proceedings.

Nancy Pelosi keeping her troops in line in this critical vote to move forward on impeachment proceedings, doing it this way.

And really, it foreshadows, Wolf, the big vote, which could happen later this year on articles of impeachment. Just the third time in American history where a president could be impeached. The likelihood that the Democrats could fall in line on that, as well. This foreshadows that would be a successful vote, as well when that happens, likely in the coming months.

BLITZER: Yes, a very important point.

Dana, it's pretty impressive that the Democrats, almost with the exception of these two Democrats, completely aligned. The Republicans have no defections at all.

No time left. Nancy Pelosi is in the chair. That's significant in and of itself. But 232 in favor of this resolution to formally open up an impeachment inquiry of the president, and 196 opposed.

Here is Nancy Pelosi.

PELOSI: Have all the members voted? Does any member wish to change a vote?

On this vote, the yeas are 232, the nays are 196. The resolution is adopted without objection. The motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.

BLITZER: There you have it. A very historic moment, indeed.

Dana, let's step back for a moment and take a look at this picture.

BASH: Yes, 232 years ago is when the Constitution was ratified and set in process. You know, into law, this process to potentially happen. And the fact that the House is only considered this four times in those 232 years is a reminder of how incredibly historic this is.


And the fact that Nancy Pelosi was in the chair -- she doesn't usually preside.