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Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL) on Impeachment Resolution; White House Follows Impeachment Vote; Pelosi Speaks Ahead of Vote. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired October 31, 2019 - 09:30   ET

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


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JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back.

These are live pictures there from the floor of the House where debate has begun on an upcoming vote in the next few moments, in the next hour, on the rules of the impeachment inquiry.

Let's listen in.

REP. TOM COLE (R-OK): So every member could participate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gentleman from Massachusetts has yielded all time for debate. Only the gentleman from Massachusetts would have to yield for this request.

COLE: Thank you very much, madam speaker. In that case, I want to begin by echoing my friend's words.

It's a sad day for all of us. For me personally, I'm sure for all of my colleagues on the rules committee, and for the institution as a whole.

Today's resolution sets forth a process for impeaching the president of the United States. It's not a fair process. It's not an open process. It's not a transparent process. But, instead, it's limited and a closed process with a preordained outcome.

Impeachment of the president is one of the most consequential acts that the House of Representatives can do. And it should only be done after the fullest consideration. And yet over the last month, without a vote, and with only the speaker's say so, committees have been engaged in a closed impeachment inquiry on what amounts to nothing more than a partisan fishing expedition.

SCIUTTO: You're listening there to Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, Republican, accusing Democrats with this vote and with the rules they are proposing here of running a closed process for the impeachment inquiry.

What's happening now in this debate, of course, Democrats and Republicans taking turns, each having equal time to make their case, to debate before they proceed to a full vote. A vote for the full House on these rules.

Joining me now is one of those people who will vote, Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. She serves on the House Judiciary Committee, which, of course, has a central role in this investigation.

Congresswoman, we appreciate you taking the time this morning.

REP. DEBBIE MUCARSEL-POWELL (D-FL): Good morning, Jim.

SCIUTTO: First question, do the Democrats have the votes to pass this resolution?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: Yes. I mean, I don't think we would be making this decision to bring it to a vote this morning if the speaker wasn't certain that it had -- she had the votes that we needed.

Now, let me just start with this. I do agree with my colleague, Representative Cole. This is a very difficult time for all of us. This is definitely a sad moment. It's a very important moment in the history of our country. And all of us have taken the time to really try and understand what are the next steps that we need to take, which is why we're taking this vote this morning. We just need to put to rest any doubt that my Republican colleagues and the White House and this president will not have due process through the investigation.

SCIUTTO: They, of course, still allege, as you heard Tom Cole there, that they don't have full due process rights. I wonder, to your knowledge, have any Republicans agreed to sign on and vote yes for this resolution or will it be a strictly party line vote?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: We will see, Jim. It wouldn't surprise me if I saw a couple of my colleagues voting with us. This basically -- this is not an impeachment vote. You have been reporting all morning, this is really procedural. It just takes us to the next phase of the investigation. And it will allow the president to have his White House counsel question the witnesses.

I think that we need to find the truth. I think the American people need to see for themselves everything that House Intelligence Committee, the Oversight Committee, they have been listening from witnesses. So I think it's an important vote this morning, but a very difficult one for all of us.

We didn't come here to impeach the president, Jim. I didn't come here to do this and to focus on impeachment. We focused on reducing health care costs. I've been working on gun violence issues, on the environment. I represent the Florida Keys. We're zero -- we're like 0.0 for the effects of climate change down in the keys and in south Florida. And so this is a difficult time and --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

MUCARSEL-POWELL: But it's necessary to protect our democracy. SCIUTTO: Listen, you make a point there that leaves you vulnerable,

leaves the party vulnerable. In 2018, the case Democrats made to retake the House was a whole host of issues, whether it be reducing drug prices, action on health care, gun control, et cetera.

[09:35:06]

Are you concerned that the legacy of this Congress, this democratically run Congress, will be dominated by an impeachment inquiry and that voters will take a look and say, that's not why we put you in?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: I think that -- and I hope to see that the legacy of this class that came into 2018 is a class that was determined to always do what's right for the country, for its people. A freshman class that is committed to transparency, to justice and that we have been working relentlessly to put forward bills that will deal with infrastructure issues. Like I mentioned, we are trying to raise wages for American families. Those are the issues that I've been working on.

SCIUTTO: I know that but what -- what folks are seeing at home is an ongoing impeachment inquiry. Frankly, that's going to dominate your time, the House's time and a lot of the American public's time for the next two months.

You're someone who flipped a district, beating a Republican there. I just wonder if you're worried personally that a yes vote today could risk your seat in 2020?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: Jim, of course, right? I mean anything can actually affect any of us in these very difficult districts. But I think that it is my job. As someone that has taken the oath twice, I became a citizen of this country when I was 20 years old. I also took an oath when I took office that I would defend and protect this Constitution. I come from Latin America. I have seen what happens when a president abuses his power, when there is corruption, when he's using his -- the White House, the power of that office for his own political gain. It is dangerous. That is why I am doing this.

And I intend to educate my constituents. I have had multiple conversations. And I can tell you that there is more and more support to conduct the investigation. And as everything starts coming out and the facts start leading us to the truth, I hope that my constituents understand that this is not easy, it's difficult, but I'm doing it to protect the future of our democracy.

SCIUTTO: Final question before I let you go because as these proceedings, debate and vote are taking place on the House floor, of course you still have sworn testimony underway today. Other officials who serve this administration who were witnesses to this phone call and the meetings leading up to the phone call here.

In your view, do Democrats have the evidence they need for an article of impeachment alleging abuse of power by this president?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: Yes, we have enough evidence. SCIUTTO: You have it today and you'd be willing to vote for that

article based on what you've seen?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: We will see what happens in the future, but I do think that we have enough evidence. That's -- that's what I have seen. I'm in the Judiciary Committee, but I don't think the American public has seen it all, which is why we have to have these public hearings.

SCIUTTO: Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, we appreciate you joining the show this morning.

MUCARSEL-POWELL: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: That debate still underway on the House floor there ahead of a vote on an impeachment resolution, to be clear, establishing the rules for the impeachment inquiry going forward, including giving privileges, the right to call witnesses, the right for the president's lawyers to participate at times.

To the Republicans and the president's side. We're going to have the latest from the White House on this momentous day coming up.

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SCIUTTO: Debate is underway on the House floor as we prepare for a vote. The first House wide vote on the rules of an impeachment inquiry going forward. This, Jamie Raskin here, Democrat from Maryland.

Let's listen in.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): That includes the ability to attend hearings, question witnesses and submit evidence. As recently as Friday, the federal courts have reaffirmed that the House is the sole judge of impeachment and we set the rules here. These rules are fair and strong and will make sure that we can and we will defend the Constitution of the United States.

I yield back.

SCIUTTO: Early on we heard Representative Raskin say that the president placed his political interests over the country's interests with regard to pressure applied to Ukraine. Prior to that, Republican Devin Nunes accused Democrats of being in a cult, his words there.

Let's get reaction now from the White House on today's developments.

CNN's senior Washington -- oh, let's listen to Jim Jordan, who's just taken the chair.

Hold on, John. Let's have a listen to Republican Jim Jordan.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): With no first-hand knowledge, who has a bias against the president, who worked with senator -- or, excuse me, Vice President Biden the day after the now famous phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky. The so-called whistleblower gets a readout from somebody on that call, writes a memo. In the memo he uses terms like, this call was scary, frightening.

But what does he do? He waits 18 days before he files a complaint. And who's the first person he goes and sees, the first people he goes to see in that 18-day time frame? Chairman Schiff's staff. Chairman Schiff's staff. Four hundred and thirty-five members of Congress, only one individual, one member of this body knows who this person is who started this whole darn crazy process, Chairman Schiff. And what's this resolution do? Gives him even more power to run this secret proceeding in a bunker in the basement of the Capitol.

This resolution continues the unfair and partisan process. Just two days ago, two days ago we were prevented from having the witness answer our questions in one of these depositions.

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And this resolution is going to give more power to the person who made that decision in the bunker in the basement of the Capitol.

We are less than 13 months before the next election.

SCIUTTO: Representative Jim Jordan there, Republican from Ohio. You can see the Republicans continuing to attack the whistleblower. He calls the whistleblower -- so-called whistleblower, accusing him or her of a bias against the president. Of course, ignoring there that many witnesses have now given sworn testimony that corroborate much of the core of the whistleblower's complaint.

We're going to continue to follow this vote. Democrats and Republicans alternating there on the floor as we get ready for the vote.

Correspondent Joe Johns standing by at the White House, along with Abby Phillip.

Joe, tell us how the White House is following these proceedings. Do we expect the president to be watching this vote live as it happens? And what's their level of concern?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is a level of concern, as you know, and they've been watching everything that goes on, on Capitol Hill very closely, especially the president.

Kellyanne Conway, the presidential counselor, was out here just a little while ago and I did ask her, just going forward, whether the administration thinks the due process provisions in this resolution they're debating right now up on Capitol Hill are sufficient for the White House. And she essentially said, in her view, you can't go backwards. You can't put the genie back in the bottle. And made it pretty clear that the White House is at least considering staying on this issue of due process. You heard from Jim Jordan there just a minute ago, staying on the issue of transparency and openness in the proceedings thus far, even though this is a move now to go to open proceedings.

So we're going to hear more of the same from the people here at the White House, at least apparently, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes, but, arguably, a more difficult argument to make when the proceedings will soon go public, right? And that -- they will no longer be behind closed doors. As -- as, we should note, Abby Phillip, as I know you well know, in prior impeachment proceedings that often the investigation began behind closed doors before proceeding to public testimony.

Is that the line of argument that you envision the White House sticking with, even as the rules and the format change?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. The other thing that Kellyanne told reporters this morning was that there was nothing in her view that Democrats could do at this point that would make this impeachment proceeding legitimate in their eyes. That's really key because it really reveals that that -- at this point they don't think that there is -- there is any sort of provision that they could get at this -- at this point moving forward that will change what has already happened. They're looking back at the testimony that's happened, these depositions that have happened behind closed doors with the three House committees and they're saying, that's already tainted the investigation. These individuals were not permitted, what they want in terms of due process. So we -- that's what we can expect going forward.

At this point it seems the White House, and the president in particular, are focused on keeping Republicans in line, urging them to stay united, to not -- to not show any cracks in the wall of support that he's had for over two years from the Republican Party. So we will see how that goes. But that seems to be the priority in terms of keeping the narrative that this -- that Republicans are not wavering on the president here. And they are going to continue to prosecute the due process case.

The question will be, though, Jim, does President Trump want to continue to prosecute the due process case? He sounds like he really wants to get into some of the nitty-gritty details, which a lot of Republicans are not comfortable with.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and oftentimes the president contradicts the stated strategy with his own moves and comments.

Joe Johns, Abby Phillip, thanks very much.

You're still seeing live pictures here. This is debate preceding the first House wide vote in the impeachment inquiry. This vote to establish the rules going forward for a formal impeachment inquiry, including granting rights and privileges to Republicans such as the rights to call their own witnesses, such as having the president's lawyers have the right to question witnesses. We're going to stay on top of that debate and bring you the vote shortly as it comes.

Please stay with us.

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[09:53:49]

SCIUTTO: Live pictures there from the House floor. Debate underway, proceeding an historic, the first House wide vote in this impeachment inquiry to establish rules going forward for impeaching the president. Only the third time this country has gone through such proceedings. We're going to continue to follow that debate. And just moments from now we're going to have a vote there, as well.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, she's going to hold her weekly press conference in just minutes before that House vote on the rules of this inquiry.

CNN's national correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, she is at that press conference.

What do we expect the speaker to say?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, there are going to be a lot of questions, of course, before the vote. And Speaker Pelosi, first and foremost, is going to ask to respond to the Republican criticism that it is still a partisan process, that it's not fair, that it doesn't give enough access or power or authority to the Republicans in this process and whether or not that's negotiable.

The obvious question, of course, is whether or not she has the votes on the Democratic side. She would not hold this vote if she didn't have those votes. She is confident that she does have those votes.

But, more importantly, the question would be, is this really considered a test case for impeachment itself? Does she think that this vote will reflect the support that the Democrats will put forward for articles of impeachment?

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And then, finally, looking at all of the evidence that has mounted behind the scenes and now spilling out in public testimony, will she open up this impeachment inquiry beyond the issue of Ukraine and look at our possible issues when it comes to articles of impeachment? These are just a few of the questions, Jim, that she's going to be getting in about 25 minutes.

SCIUTTO: Suzanne Malveaux, we know you're going to be on top of it.

And, of course, we're going to bring those comments to you live.

Please stay with us. This as the debate continues on the House floors on the rules to be established for an impeachment inquiry of the sitting U.S. president. We're going to bring you all this live. It's happening as we speak. Please, stay with us.

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