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House to Vote on Impeachment Inquiry This Morning; Bloomberg: China has Doubts of Long-Term Deal with Trump. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired October 31, 2019 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:08]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Thursday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto. Poppy Harlow is off today.

It is a pivotal day in the House. A pivotal day in the country. Lawmakers preparing for the first House-wide vote on the rules of the impeachment inquiry of a sitting president. One that sets the stage for something that has only happened once in the last 100 years. That is, public impeachment hearings.

As that vote moves the action closer to public view, right now happening behind closed doors, House investigators are hearing some of the most crucial testimony, sworn testimony yet. This time from the president's own top Russia adviser, Tim Morrison. Only the second person to testify who actually heard the president's call with Ukraine's leader. Not hearsay. This was a witness.

Also happening today, back-to-back court hearings that could settle the fight over whether more key impeachment witnesses will testify. It will be playing out in two different courtrooms with both judges hearing a similar argument. Can the White House keep former counsel Don McGahn and former National Security Council official Charles Kupperman from testifying? They're trying to. We'll see if that succeeds.

Let's begin, though, with the latest on the vote. CNN national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is live on Capitol Hill.

This is a momentous day. Things are going to proceed very quickly. Walk us through how the next several minutes and hours go.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure, Jim. It is called officially House Resolution 660 and it's going before the full House of Representatives. And what will happen first, Democrats will take five minutes, one minute a piece. Republicans will take five minutes, and then it will be open for full debate for about an hour or so. 30 minutes for the Democrats, 30 minutes for the Republicans.

Then we expect that after that there will be a vote, potentially as early as about 10:15, 10:30 when all House members will have to go on the record in terms of moving the impeachment inquiry forward. And the process here and how that's going to go, establishing rules for the public hearings. Also allowing the Intelligence chair Adam Schiff as well as Republican counterpart Devin Nunes to question witnesses up to 90 minutes a piece.

That is part of the resolution. They can also defer or yield to their attorneys, their staff attorneys. Also allows Republicans to request witnesses, issue subpoenas. But they have to get permission first from either the Intel Chair Schiff or from the majority of the Democrats on the Intel Committee.

Already, Jim, we've been hearing from those familiar lawmakers, the GOP lawmakers, Jim Jordan, as well as Mark Meadows, complaining, saying that this is more empowering Schiff and the Democrats and not the Republicans. Republicans are vowing that they will not support this resolution, that they're united in that. We expect Democrats will pass this resolution with potentially maybe two or four holding out -- Jim?

SCIUTTO: Suzanne Malveaux, thanks very much.

We're seeing live pictures there from the floor of the House as often happens with these proceedings. Opened with a prayer.

Let's speak about this testimony on Capitol Hill. CNN's senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju joins me now.

But, Manu, what can you tell us about the testimony today? Because we should remind viewers, you in effect have two stages. You have the House vote but you have the ongoing inquiry and sworn testimony going on behind closed doors.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and we're hearing from sources familiar with the matter that Tim Morrison, in fact, will corroborate key elements of the testimony from the top U.S. diplomat from Ukraine, Bill Taylor. That testimony from Taylor raised concerns about the president seeking investigations into his political rivals at the same time as a push for aid was being mounted. Aid to be released to Ukraine.

The president halted that push and, according to Bill Taylor's testimony, he's talked to Tim Morrison many times throughout this process, including Morrison reciting a conversation in which he wanted the -- he made it clear that the president wanted the president of Ukraine Zelensky to go forward and announce these investigations that were happening before the aid was to be released.

We are told that he essentially is going to corroborate what Bill Taylor said but he's going to have a lot some more nuance in his testimony. Also he's not -- perhaps won't go as far as others in raising as many alarm bells because we're told that he didn't necessarily see the end result of what the administration did as anything wrong.

Now this is expected to go on through the course of the day. He's also a key witness here, Jim, because he is someone who has spoken to the president, we're told, on a number of occasions. Unlike some other witnesses who have, including Alexander Vindman from earlier this week who indicated he had not -- had interactions with the president. So there will be questions about what he can reveal about those questions.

If anything, or if privilege issues will come up will prevent him from disclosing that information. But nevertheless a key witness at a key time. The second person who listened in on the July phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky and someone who said, according to Taylor's testimony, it didn't go particularly well -- Jim.

[09:05:09]

SCIUTTO: What's interesting is that some of these witnesses are abiding by the subpoenas whereas only a handful, a couple now it seems fighting in the courts.

We should note, Manu, as I'm speaking to you, we're seeing live pictures from the House floor there. As we understand it, there are five requests for one-minute speeches each from both parties. We're going to follow that as it happens. But I want to talk to you and stay on who is going to be the next witness, witnesses in this inquiry. John Bolton. He's now been requested to testify. Do we know if he'll appear?

RAJU: We don't know that yet. Yes, and he did yesterday through his attorney say that he wanted a subpoena if he were to appear but doesn't mean that he definitely will appear if he gets a subpoena. And a lot of questions are about what will happen with the separate court case involving his former top aide Kupperman who was someone who has been asked to testify here on Capitol Hill.

But they have the same attorney and their attorney -- that attorney is asking for a court ruling to determine whether or not he should comply with the House's request or comply with the White House which is asking him to defy that subpoena. So perhaps how that -- how the court ultimately decides that issue could determine what John Bolton does. But we still don't have great clarity here on Capitol Hill, whether he will appear, but Democrats aren't saying yet if they will subpoena him but they've been issuing subpoenas for pretty much everybody, including today's witness Tim Morrison. So expect that subpoena to come no matter what John Bolton decides to do.

SCIUTTO: And listen, based on Vindman's testimony, Bolton also was not comfortable with the president connecting aid to investigations of the Bidens there and corroborating the core of the whistleblower's complaint.

Manu Raju, great to have you there. We know you're going to stay on top of it.

Joining me now to discuss this, CNN legal analyst Shan Wu, he's defense attorney, former criminal prosecutor, and legal analyst Michael Gerhardt, he's law professor at the University of North Carolina.

Michael, if I could begin with you, your legal expertise, also historical expertise here, the House with this vote is establishing rules but also granting privileges rights to the other side, to Republicans. They can call their own witnesses. The president's lawyers will be able to participate, although there are limits on that because they could subpoena witnesses, but that has to be approved by the Democratic chair.

Tell us historically, are the rights now being granted to the other side -- are they in line with what we've seen in past impeachment inquiries?

MICHAEL GERHARDT, LAW PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA: They're not just only in line with what's happened in the past. They're actually more safeguards here for the president and the Republican minority in the House. Keep in mind that even in the closed-door hearings, Republicans were present, were able to ask questions. But what's being formalized today is an affirmation of everything that's come before plus giving more safeguards to the president, and he's got a lot of defenders of course there to ask questions and perhaps seek subpoenas. That's a lot of protection at his end.

SCIUTTO: Shan Wu, do you agree as you look at this? Because of course you've heard Republican complaints. In fact, we should note, they called for a House-wide vote like this. It is happening. They called for additional rights, privileges, et cetera, protections. They're getting some, if not all of what they've asked for. Do you agree that this is, by historical standards, a fair process going forward?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I do very much agree with that, Jim. And I think from a sort of legal structural standpoint, if you look at the closed-door portions as the investigatory grand jury aspect of it, they're now preparing more for the actual trial with charges equating to the impeachment articles. And so it makes sense that they're now talking about how is the trial going to occur. What kind of procedures will be in place. And of course, strategically it rather undercuts Republicans' big argument. They've been forced to argue process. And this is the first step eroding that argument of this is bad process.

SCIUTTO: Yes, process and some character assassination we've seen as well some of these witnesses.

Michael Gerhardt, of course the other drama playing out beyond the House floor -- and again these are live pictures from the House floor as these proceedings get under way -- is in the courts because a couple of key witnesses have challenged the House subpoenas to come testify, including now Charles Kupperman but now John Bolton saying he needs a subpoena if he's going to come testify. How do you see the courts deciding on that? Because, you know, this will be a key question going forward.

GERHARDT: It should be a relatively straightforward question for the courts. Defying a subpoena and just not showing up and not even citing any privilege to protect confidentiality is quite unusual. And I would imagine a court would treat the legislative subpoena as a lawful order. And unless there's a good reason, that is to say an applicable privilege not to get into certain topics or mention some of the information, I would think the courts would order them at least to show up.

SCIUTTO: Understood. And Shan, just for people at home, you have to remember back 20 years, the last time the country saw an impeachment proceeding.

[09:10:03]

Remember -- some of us remember, I covered the trial, the inquiry in the House, the trial in the Senate here. Going forward, what does this look like, the next steps? How much testimony, how much public testimony in particular should people expect to see?

WU: Well, I think we're moving into the public testimony aspect of it. The investigation has been done behind closed doors. Make sense they are prepared now, the Democrats, to put forth the public aspect of it to really begin informing the American people what the case really is. It's been trickling out here and there with released statements, some of them by leaks. But now people will begin to get the full picture. And the House if there's an impeachment access to prosecutors, they're referred to as House managers, and they'll be presenting the testimony much the way that a government prosecutor would put it forward. So from the public standpoint, this is the moment where we will begin to really hear the actual raw testimony.

SCIUTTO: Michael, before we go, the essential question here is a political one. Does the president's alleged behavior here rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors? It's sort of a similar question that was based with Clinton in the impeachment because many of the details of the behavior were not contested. The question was, did it rise to that level? And you're getting to a point here with all these corroborating witnesses that you're in the same kind of bind. From your view historically and again, this is a personal judgment, does it rise to that level?

GERHARDT: I think everything we're hearing so far suggests that this is, as the speaker has said, deadly serious. I think there's a good case to be made, a credible case to be made that what we're hearing right now does rise to the level of impeachable offense on the order of the charges made against President Nixon. For example, all the -- the president is ordering people not to show up, not to testify. Defying subpoenas. That could be called obstruction.

As we listen to Mr. Morrison today and others, we have to think about, why did the president not want this person to testify?

SCIUTTO: And that is a point we should note that it is likely to see Articles of Impeachment both on abuse of power related to the actual Ukraine pressure but also on obstruction of justice. The response to the investigation.

Shan Wu, Michael Gerhardt, we know we're going to be drawing on your expertise in the coming weeks as this proceeds. Thanks very much for coming on this morning.

We are on top this morning of all the breaking news on the Hill. A major vote in just minutes. We're going to bring it to you live. Critical testimony under way today as well. Stay with us for all the details as they come in.

Plus, another story we're following. New fires, more of them breaking out in Southern California overnight. At least 10 now burning across the state. We will bring you there live.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 3-2. There it is!

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SCIUTTO: Plus, you might have noticed this other major news in Washington today. The Washington Nationals, national champions winning their first World Series and the first World Series for the city of Washington in 95 years. It was a great game. We'll bring you more.

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[09:15:00]

SCIUTTO: Welcome back. These are live pictures from the floor of the house where debate has now began proceeding this house-wide vote on the rules of the impeachment inquiry. There are some procedural things they go through here. There will be some debate and we expect in the next hour that house-wide vote, a remarkable state in this country.

Only the third time the U.S., in this country, that a sitting president will have been impeached. Joining me now to discuss this, we have Abby Phillip, CNN political correspondent and David Swerdlick; assistant editor at "The Washington Post" and a CNN political contributor.

Abby, as we watch this begin, this move is politically risky for Democrats, not just because it gives a difficult vote for Democrats in swing districts, but there's the risk here of a party line vote which would add, would it not, to the Republican argument here that this is a politically-motivated process, rather than one that has support across party lines?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think you're right about both of those things, that on both sides, there are expectations that are probably not going to shift, frankly, whether this vote happens or not. I think Republicans are probably going to argue that this is a sham, no matter what the Democrats do.

I mean, they've been arguing this from the very beginning. And now, this resolution, while it might not have everything, does give them some additional power to have a sort of defensive posture on behalf of the president if that's what they want to do calling witnesses, having counsel present, that sort of thing.

But already, you're seeing Republicans saying that it's not enough. And then, on the Democratic side, there are certainly a lot of moderate Democrats who are in districts that are really on the line coming up in this 2020 election, who maybe don't want to be taking vote after vote after vote on the issue of impeachment.

But I think the argument that you're hearing from a lot of Democrats is that the deed is already done. A lot of these Democrats have already come forward, saying they favor an impeachment inquiry, and they're going to get hammered about it anyway. They're already being hammered about it. And this vote, while it may be uncomfortable is not going to change this political situation for them on the ground.

SCIUTTO: David Swerdlick, there are some Democrats as Abby noted who may not vote for this impeachment inquiry or the rules of the impeachment inquiry. Are there any indications that Republicans, particularly perhaps some of the retiring Republicans, will vote for it?

[09:20:00]

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, good morning, Jim, and go Nats. I think you might see a couple of folks on either side leak. On the Republican side, of course, you have Congressman Amash who is no longer a Republican may vote with Democrats. Maybe someone like a Congressman Hurd from Texas who is going to retire from his house seat at the end of this term. On the Democratic side, you're going to have some moderates who don't want to sort of walk the plank yet on this vote.

But I don't think that's really central to Speaker Pelosi's plans right now as long as she gets the votes across. And, of course, you don't get to be speaker if you don't know how to whip a vote like this, and I'm sure she will get those votes. It's going to be seen as you and Abby were just discussing, as a partisan vote, but Democrats are going to emphasize the fact that this isn't a vote to impeach the president.

This is a vote to set the next phase of an impeachment inquiry --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

SWERDLICK: And set the rules.

SCIUTTO: Although get folks on the record-setting that next phase, in effect a vote in support --

SWERDLICK: Absolutely, to ratify the process, right.

SCIUTTO: Exactly. Abby, I think we should note how quickly this whole thing has moved. Just a month and a half ago or so was when we first heard inklings of this whistle-blower complaint. Now, you've had a whole host of witnesses that seem to corroborate it. The Democrats have a very ambitious time plan here to have the investigation, the trial as it were -- well, not the Senate trial, but the investigation prior to thanksgiving and a final vote before Christmas. Is that a time frame they are still committed to, and is it realistic?

PHILLIP: Whether it's realistic, I'm not sure. I think it's going to depend largely on what happens with some of these key witnesses like Ambassador John Bolton and the former national security adviser who really does need at some point to tell his side of the story and several others, John Eisenberg; the White House counsel lawyer who was at the crux of a lot of this.

So, if they can get some of this testimony, perhaps, but the problem for Democrats is that, it is not a better situation for them to have this drag into 2020. We're in the middle of a real presidential election. They have, you know, over a dozen candidates vying to take on Trump in 2020. Many of them are sitting United States senators --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

PHILLIP: Who are preparing for the Iowa caucuses in January. So, if they don't get it done before Christmas, it only makes that situation for the 2020 election a lot worse. It's a little bit of a damned if you do, damned, if you don't, situation here --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

PHILLIP: For Democrats, but the sooner the better I think.

SCIUTTO: And of course, Democrats concerned about the house and the Senate as well, where they have a number of, you know, toss-up races that they would like to go their way. David Swerdlick, Republicans, of course, part of their strategy here, and to some degree which has failed or a large degree, of course, the White House tried to block all these witnesses, many of them on their own ended up obeying the house subpoenas here.

But I imagine we could expect Republicans by battling some of this out in the courts will want to do anything to disrupt that timeline.

SWERDLICK: That's right, Jim. They have argued process, they've wanted to battle this out in the courts. If you think about President Trump's career before he was president, a lot of the ways he defended himself in various legal disputes --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

SWERDLICK: Was to tie up opponents in courts with superior legal firepower. That has worked, and that did work for Republicans during the Mueller investigation to an extent. Here, though, now that you've had people like Ambassador Sondland, Ambassador Taylor, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman go out there and sort of make a clean breast or in theory, clean breast of what they know, it becomes harder and harder I think for people like Ambassador Bolton(ph) to say that they don't want to talk if they're subpoenaed, they might still, but I think it makes their case harder optically. And then also --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

SWERDLICK: You have a situation where the main facts of this case, unlike in the Mueller situation are already out. So stalling it, if you are the Republicans, just stalls sort of the inevitable. I do agree though with Abby that for Democrats, they want to get this done by the end of the year from a public relations point of view. SCIUTTO: And there are dangers as well for a president running for

re-election to have impeachment hearings going on in the midst of -- in the midst of --

SWERDLICK: Yes --

SCIUTTO: That election race to be fair. Final question, just very quickly, Abby, the polling on this has become pretty solid now and hasn't moved that much, a small majority of Americans support the process. Democrats are making a bet here, are they not, that the public hearing, seeing some of these witnesses testify in public will change that dynamic?

PHILLIP: They are. And I think the more important barometer of where the public is, is actually looking at the partisan break-down of some of these polls. And I think what you're seeing with impeachment is very similar to what we saw during the Mueller investigation which is Republicans are really lining up behind the president.

The challenge for the Democrats is going to be to hold on to as many independents as possible, and to keep the president's numbers with Republicans a little bit lower than it might be normally. I mean, I think they had some success as this really opened up --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

PHILLIP: In kind of keeping Republicans in the 'I don't know' category. So, it's going to be very important because that's what's going to determine whether or not you're going to get defections in the Senate with Republican senators, people --

[09:25:00]

SCIUTTO: Yes --

PHILLIP: Expressing concerns and being willing to even be open to this investigation, even being --

SCIUTTO: Right --

PHILLIP: Open to an impeachment process is something that we just haven't gotten there yet in the Senate --

SCIUTTO: No --

PHILLIP: In particular.

SCIUTTO: A long way to go. Abby Philip, David Swerdlick, thanks very much.

SWERDLICK: Thanks --

SCIUTTO: Folks, these are live pictures again of debate under way prior to this house-wide vote on the rules of the next steps in an impeachment inquiry. You're watching history play out here on your television screens. Only three times now in the country's history have impeachment proceedings begun. We're going to stay on top of the news.

We're also moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Looking at the markets now, they show a slide, a small one. Top of mind for investors right now, the Federal Reserve's third rate cut this year and the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China.

"Bloomberg" is reporting this morning that China's officials now have doubts about making a long-term deal with President Trump. The reason, they say, Trump's impulsive nature, worries that he could back out of a deal. We'll stay on top of it.

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[09:30:00]