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House Approves Impeachment Resolution; White House Reacts to Impeachment Resolution. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired October 31, 2019 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00]

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: 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, even though she is the speaker of the House.

And not just that, but I was told she actually voted yes. And it is the tradition of the speakers of the House to actually not vote. They usually don't vote on legislation or on resolutions unless they want to make a point.

She wanted to make a point both symbolically by sitting in the chair and with her vote that she is all in on this and that is a big shift. And we should remember that.

She was the leader in reluctance. She was the leader in pushing back against the growing tide of the Democratic base saying, we elected the majority in the House in order to take on this president, he's running roughshod over us, he's not allowing he's not responding to subpoenas, he's not responding to witness requests, nothing.

And then this Ukraine phone call came up and the whistleblower emerged and everything changed and everything shifted because of that one moment.

And even more so now that they've actually been able to do these depositions and talk to civil servants, not just political appointees, but people who were very concerned about it. And that is where the situation is now.

But it's important to remember that it took a while to get here, even though the House speaker was getting so much pressure to start this. Because that is why so many Democratic rank-and-file members and voters think that they gave her the gavel in the first place in 2018.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The president, I'm sure, was watching, Nia.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes.

BLITZER: And I'm sure, on the one hand, he's upset that he's even facing the prospect of impeachment in the House of Representatives. On the other hand, the silver lining for him is the Republican Party in the House of Representatives was completely united in voting against this resolution.

HENDERSON: Yes. And this is something he obviously wanted. This is something that he fought for in talking to folks on the Hill, both on the Senate side and the House side.

Listen, in some ways, it isn't surprising that Republicans are wholesale behind this president. There isn't really a Republican Party anymore. There's just Donald Trump.

On the other hand, it is surprising that someone like Will Hurd, right, who isn't up for re-election, has decided to retire from Congress, who has been critical of this president. He didn't even feel like he wanted to back Democrats in this. I think that tells us that Republicans will find a way to vote for this president.

He apparently said he felt like this was premature. At some point, he was complaining about the process, complaining that Republicans weren't allowed to, you know, be in these hearings, even though he was allowed to be in those hearings.

So I think it tells us something extraordinary about where the Republican Party is right now.

Listen, when Donald Trump was running for president, sort of rank-and- file leaders of the Republican Party did not like him. So in some ways, it is a surprise to come to this moment where they are in lock step with this president. Whatever he says, whatever he does, they're pretty much --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Can I add one quick thing to that?

BLITZER: Go ahead.

BASH: First of all, Will Hurd is a young man, who is retiring now, but wants a future, obviously. And there's no end in sight to the Trump takeover of the Republican Party.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: He's a moderate Republican.

BASH: He's a moderate Republican.

BLITZER: Who was a former clandestine officer in the CIA.

BASH: CIA, exactly. That's why he, of all Republicans, you would think at least would want to open an inquiry.

But one of the things that Phil mentioned, when he was reporting there, was Fred Upton. He is a Republican from Michigan. He and many other House Republicans were at a Trump fundraiser earlier this week. And we are both told that the president pulled Fred Upton over. He has been critical of the president. He's not a rah-rah supporter. That is an illustration of how hard the president worked this.

It's not just that these Republicans are nervous about the base, but the president actually worked hard to make clear in this vote that Republicans are all the behind him.

BLITZER: Step back, Susan, and give us a bigger historic picture of the enormity of what we have just seen.

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, you know, Wolf, I'm glad you put it in that context, because, to me, that is what is so striking today is that you see not a single Republican willing to even make the calculation that history perhaps will not look well upon those who choose personal loyalty over Donald Trump.

I'm very -- you know, we all want to see how this movie ends, but I would say the odds are high that, 20 years from now, this moment will look different than what it looks to us today.

Again, to have only the first impeachment proceeding of the 21st century, the idea that this has only happened essentially four times in American history, and yet our country has become a more tribal and a more partisan society.

[11:35:08]

I think it echoes, in some ways, back to that first impeachment of Andrew Johnson after the Civil War and this very sectarian moment in American society. So I think that doesn't bode well.

I also think the calculation of the Republican members who stuck with Trump today, again, it tells you that they're making a bet on the future of America that Trumpism will outlive Donald Trump in some important way.

It's a risky bet, but it's fascinating to me that they're all making it in lock step so far.

BLITZER: Yes.

It's interesting, Michael Gerhardt, that the House Judiciary Committee will be in charge of debating articles of impeachment against the president of the United States.

And we're standing by now. We're just told that the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, will have a news conference. And he will be joined by Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, by James McGovern, the Rules Committee, Eliot Engel, the Foreign Affairs Committee, Carolyn Maloney, of the Oversight and Reform Committee. She's now the acting chair of that.

The Republicans are holding a separate news conference right now in the aftermath of this historic vote. Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, the Republican leader, will be at the news conference, Steve Scalise, Liz Cheney and others.

So the process is already beginning, the intense debate. But the history has already occurred.

MICHAEL GERHARDT, PROFESSOR OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA SCHOOL OF LAW: Yes. I mean, the history has already occurred. And, of course, it's happening now. We're in the middle of it. And we don't all quite know exactly how this will unfold.

But everybody who took that vote today understands they're not going on be politically accountable, but they're going to be historically accountable. The judgment of historic will be critical.

And the fact that we've got two different press conferences, Democrat and Republican, reflects something that is, I regret to say, very fundamental at this point. The parties involved in this situation seem to have alternate realities.

And Democrats are relying on the facts and -- that they're discovering and investigating at this point. But the president called that phone call perfect, appropriate. These are sham proceedings.

So these alternate realities are, at some point, going to conflict with each other and come into combat, as well. And that may help determine if anybody leaves the party home, so to speak, and it goes a different way.

BLITZER: Once again, by a vote of 232-196, the full House of Representatives has just passed a resolution formally authorizing an impeachment inquiry against the president of the United States, Donald Trump.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins.

I understand, Kaitlan, you're get something reaction.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. So far, the White House has been arguing this process was unfair to them and Democrats needed to vote. Now that this first formal vote has happened, the White House putting out a statement from the press secretary saying, essentially, they still feel the resolution, the rules laid out in that resolution, the groundwork for what you're going to see over the next few weeks, is unfair.

It's a long statement from Stephanie Grisham about it. I won't read it in its entirety. She does say, quote, "The president has done nothing wrong and Democrats know it." They go on to say that today's vote has, quote, "done nothing more than enshrine unacceptable violations of due process into House rules."

They name Speaker Pelosi, Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence chairman, and essentially say they've, quote, "conducted secret, behind-closed-door meetings, blocked the administration from participating, and have now voted to authorize a second round of hears that they still feel leaves them out of the room, Wolf.

They are making this argument that, for the last few weeks, we've seen closed-door proceedings, which had irritated them because they haven't had a chance to see the transcripts. They don't know exactly what's being said in that room beyond any general briefing they're getting from the Republican members.

But now with this vote today, what we're going to start seeing is these hearings move into the open public.

While they have rules about White House counsel being present, but only if they don't try to block officials from coming into the room, that is something that, behind closed doors here at the White House, Wolf, they're still navigating, figuring out what their next step is going to be.

Right now, they're saying this process, they still agree, is unfair to them, even though they've been calling for a vote for several weeks.

BLITZER: Yes. The president clearly watching what's going on, Kaitlan, clearly very unhappy.

I just checked his Twitter feed. He just, once again, seven minutes ago, posted, "The greatest witch hunt in American history!" With an exclamation point at the end. He's obviously angry.

Any expectations we're going to hear directly from the president today?

COLLINS: So far, Wolf, the president doesn't have any public events on his schedule. Neither does vice president, Mike Pence.

So far, sources said, this morning, the president spent most of his time in the residence. He was watching this closely. And they said he's got a few meetings later on in the day.

But right now, we are not expecting to see the president, though we may continue to hear from him on Twitter.

BLITZER: I'm sure we will.

Kaitlan, stand by.

Everybody standby.

[11:40:00]

This is a moment that we've been waiting for. A lot of anticipation in advance of this resolution. It has passed by a vote of 232-196. It now will formally open up the process, open hearings. They will be televised. Leading to potentially articles of impeachment against the sitting president of the United States.

We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:45:13]

BLITZER: So the historic vote has now occurred. There will be a formal impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives involving the president of the United States. Phil Mattingly is up on Capitol Hill for us.

Phil, we're standing by for not one, but two different, separate news conferences.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right. You're going to hear from the Democratic leaders of the committees that are completing the investigation at this point.

Obviously, Adam Schiff, the Intelligence Committee chairman, has been the point person. There's an ongoing deposition right now with the administration official who spoke to the president directly about things. So you'll hear from Adam Schiff.

And you'll hear from Republican leaders, who have made very clear, look, if you're talking to Republicans right now -- and I just texted a couple of them -- they are thrilled by the vote that they just had. They are thrilled they did not lose a single member. They are thrilled they kept everyone in line.

That was the outcome of a week-long process on the House floor, in private meetings, with help from the president, trying to make sure that everybody stayed together, stayed united as they went forward, and that's what ended up happening in this case.

I will tell you, Wolf, Speaker Pelosi walked by behind me a short while ago. I walked with her to her office. She made a couple of points that are also worth keeping in mind.

Everybody is very laser focused on impeachment inside of Washington for the right reasons. It's as big as it gets. But Pelosi was talking about the fact that their focus is on other things on their agenda. You saw her talk about this at little bit at her press conferences that she has meetings on. That isn't the only thing Democrats are doing.

The reason that point is being made is we've talked a lot about the front-line of Democrats -- Manu made a great point -- the fact that so many of them fell in line on this because they recognized or decided to start to get comfortable with the direction this is headed. They're doing that.

But they also need something in return on the legislative front. So you're going to see a lot of Democrats talking about that in the days and weeks ahead. You're going to have a lot of legislative issues with trade and drug prices and stuff like that, that Democrats are talking about.

But to keep an eye on these press conferences right now, what you want to hear or what we will most likely be asking the Democrats that you're going on hear from is to lay out more specificity of the process. Now the rules of the road are set. Now we know how this process is going to work.

What we don't know is the timeline. What we don't know is who is going to be testifying in public hearings. What we don't know is what the scale and scope of articles of impeachment will look like when the Judiciary Committee gets to that point.

I don't know if these members have the answers to that at this point and time, not would they be willing to reveal them, if they do. Those are unanswered questions you're looking for.

For House Republicans, this was one vote. There is a very, very almost certain chance there will be another floor vote, and one with much bigger implications here in the near future.

It will be interesting to see if they're hearing any concerns from their members about where this ends up in the end. They've kept them all together today. But this process is not over. Public hearings, how the public views those hearings, and this process going forward.

The fight for public opinion is going to be one of, if not the most important elements of what happens in the House over the course of the next couple of weeks as this spills into the public as the public hearings start.

I think how leadership handles that, how the rank-and-file members handle that, and what members are hearing when they're home for recess next week -- they're back home for recess after that vote -- what they say when they come back, I think, will be very interesting in terms of how this debate moves forward and how this process moves forward -- Wolf?

BLITZER: It's interesting, Ross Garber, because once these hearings begin and they're televised, and the American public will be watching, this will be a -- not just historic, but almost a spectacular moment in American history.

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. And Phil Mattingly was right. Now the process, the whole thing shifts to the presentation and what the facts show.

And in that process, everyone is --

BLITZER: Hold on for a moment. We're trying to make sure your microphone is working.

Fortunately, Nia is here to pick up that thought.

Go ahead.

HENDERSON: I think that's right. You shift sort of from the process to this spectacle, right? Hearings on the Hill, which will be covered and watched by millions of Americans.

And we've already seen something of a shift in public opinion from where they were, what the Mueller report to where they are now in terms of Ukraine.

And if you're a Democrat, you ideally hope that that continues, right? That the American public, the voting public, looks at the facts as they come out.

BLITZER: All right. Hold on for a moment.

I want to go back to Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill.

Phil, any sense when these formal televised hearings will begin?

HENDERSON: Earpiece.

BLITZER: Hold on a second.

Now you can hear me, Phil, right?

MATTINGLY: Yes. The constant tension of trying to do reporting and also this, as well, at the same time. Sorry. Go ahead. What was the question?

BLITZER: When will the formal televised hearings

MATTINGLY: It's still not set in stone yet. We expect another couple of weeks. Look, next week, even though the House of Representatives is out of session, there are already closed depositions that are scheduled.

There are also, already, big outstanding invitations. People like Ambassador John Bolton, who said he will not come in without a subpoena. He likely won't come in until a lawsuit that one of his lawyers, an individual his lawyer is representing that has also been asked to come in, is adjudicated up to this point.

[11:50:10]

But also people from the White House counsel's office, the deputy counsel for national security committee -- National Security Council, who has been a key player, who has popped up repeatedly in the closed- door testimony in terms of an individual who has brought information and concerns from people inside the White House that have testified up to this point.

Those will be closed-door depositions. They might not all show up. But some of them will show up. And they're scheduled throughout the course of next week, even though the House of Representatives is out of session.

There's a possibility that, the week after, the space starts to open up for those public hearings. Again, nothing has been locked in.

I made this point earlier, and I think it's important to note What Democrats have been struck by, who are behind closed doors, involved in this process, involved in these depositions, is they come out of these depositions and say, almost without fail, we have three or four more people we'd like to talk to.

We've got two or three more threads they think they need to explore. So how much space they're given to explore those.

Again, there's a tension here between making sure you get as much as you possibly can and not prolonging this to the point where people start to kind of lose interest or have concern about how the process is actually going.

That's a tension that's very real and exists. They haven't hit that point yet where they feel like public hearings need to happen immediately, but they're quickly getting there. They're quickly getting there.

I think the big question is not only when the public hearings happen, but who testifies.

We reported, Kylie Atwood and Manu Raju reported yesterday, Bill Taylor, the ambassador who came, had the explosive testimony last week, is willing to publicly testify. Talk to Democrat members, very interested in that testimony as well.

But who they actually bring in for those public hearings, how many they have, and then when do they shift it over to the Judiciary Committee, when do they start drafting articles of impeachment? That's the process going forward. Still very fluid. We should start to see a full picture in the next few weeks -- Wolf?

BLITZER: That's an important point, indeed.

And, Susan Glasser, even as this formal vote has been passed, 232-196, formally opening up an impeachment inquiry against the president of the United States, other witnesses, other individuals that have been deposed, are testifying behind closed doors, under oath in connection, with what they know about -- for example, that sensitive phone conversation that the president had July 25th with the Ukrainian president, a conversation that there was a rough transcript released.

But there are a lot of questions about that rough transcript. Tim Morrison, the top Russia expert on the National Security Council, is now testifying.

GLASSER: That's right. Even as this sort of pageantry is unfolding on the House floor, you have the work of this investigation continuing in the committee, with both Democrats and Republicans, I should note, participating in the questioning.

Tim Morrison is actually the second lead official on the National Security Council handling Russia to be testifying. His predecessor, Fiona Hill, already testified at the beginning of this. They both told a consistent story, as far as I understand.

Tim Morrison, first of all, he's told colleagues in recent days he'll also be leaving the White House. And he appears to be a key person who informed Ambassador Taylor in Ukraine in real time that there was problems with the aid -- that's the word he used. There were concerns being raised. They appeared to flow directly from the president himself.

And again, much of the testimony we're hearing so far has been from people appointed by the Trump administration itself.

And what I've been struck by is they raise concerns contemporaneously in real time. And it appears to include Tim Morrison, who is testifying today.

Obviously, there's more information that will be gathered. John Bolton's testimony, the president's own national security adviser.

Remember, these people worked for him. Tim Morrison worked for him. They've all now testified.

Bolton himself was extremely alarmed by this turn of events. Will Bolton confirm that? Will he do so publicly? That would be an extraordinary moment, I think, in American history.

But again, there's also a risky decision that Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats have made, which is to say, to proceed with an impeachment that is narrowly focused on these Ukraine allegations, as striking and alarming as they are, that's something we don't know how history will look back on that.

There are many allegations in the Mueller report of obstruction of justice. There are allegations involving the president's violations, apparently, of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

Democrats seem to be proceeding on a real focus on a future of Ukraine, that we don't know how history will look at.

BLITZER: And, Dana, this is an important moment in American history.

BASH: It's about as important as it gets. It's a solemn moment. It's not a happy moment for anybody. Because this is the ultimate punishment, potential punishment that was put in place for a president, to make sure a president doesn't turn into the very monarchy that our founding fathers were trying to get away from.

[11:55:01]

And it is the beginning of a very solemn, if not, as you said, spectacular situation and event.

BLITZER: And there's a lot going on here in Washington on this day, not only this formal vote and the witnesses who are testifying under oath behind closed doors. Other dramatic developments unfolding as well. Of course, CNN will stay on top of all the breaking news.

Our special coverage will continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:00:00]