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House Debates Ahead Of Impeachment Resolution Vote. Aired 10- 10:30a ET
Aired October 31, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Thursday morning to you. It's a busy one. It's an important one. I'm Jim Sciutto. Poppy Harlow is off today. Welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world.
This is the floor of the United States House of Representatives as it is now open for debate. And we were just minutes away from a pivotal vote on that House floor, the first time the full House is weighing in on the rules of the unfolding impeachment inquiry of the sitting U.S. president.
We're waiting now to hear from the speaker of the House any minute. She will be answering hard questions about next steps.
Meanwhile, even as that vote lays the groundwork for moving the investigation towards public hearings that the world can see, there is more private testimony going on underway right now, under oath, this time from the President's top Russia adviser, Tim Morrison, only the second person to testify who was on the president's call with Ukraine's president, the call that started this entire scandal.
We have a team covering every aspect of the historic story today. Let's begin with the latest on that vote.
CNN Congressional Correspondent Phil Mattingly, he is live on Capitol Hill. Phil, of course, Democrats would not go to the floor if they did not have -- if they had not whipped the majority necessary to pass this resolution. Do we expect any Republicans to join them or will this likely be along party lines?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think what's interesting here is what's been going on behind the scenes, frankly, with both parties, from part leadership trying to get any members that may be on the fence to come into line.
And Republican aides I'm talking to right now think that they are going to be able to keep their entire conference together, maybe lose one, maybe two at most. But with president Trump, with Republican leadership all working these members, members that may have been on the fence over the course of the last couple of days and working them hard to stay in line, it looks like that's going to be the case.
Similar for Democrats who obviously have a lot of moderate members who came from Trump-won districts in 2016 as they flipped the House in 2018, the vast majority of them have been lining up behind Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic effort to lay down the rules of the road for the impeachment inquiry as it moves forward.
And, Jim, as you watch the floor, you really kind of --you grasp how wide chasm is right now between the two parties. Just take a listen to what Hakeem Jeffries, a member of the leadership of Democrat, have a say just a short while ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): The House impeachment inquiry is about abuse of power. It's about betrayal. It's about corruption. It's about national security. It's about the undermining of our elections. It's about defending our democracy for the people.
The House is a separate and coequal branch of government. We don't work for this president or any president. We work for the American people. We have a constitutional responsibility to serve as the check and balance on an out of control executive branch. Our job is to ask difficult questions on behalf of the American people.
What we are doing right here is consistent with the words of James Madison who in federalist --
MATTINGLY: So, Jim, you see, obviously, the impassioned speech from Hakeem Jeffries. You're seeing an equal amount of passion coming from Republicans, saying that the process has been all wrong from the beginning, saying that they're basically trying to remove a president that was elected by the United States in 2016 just because they don't like him politically.
But I think the broader picture here is, one, this is moving head- snappingly fast. This is only five weeks in and there are now rules on the road that will lead likely to the impeachment of the president, depending on the House Judiciary Committee works.
And two, it's just the politics at this point. A member told me earlier today, a Republican member, said, look, this is red team versus blue team now. This isn't about substance. This is isn't about anything else. This is about parties. This is about protecting the president or moving forward where Democrats want to go, and that's kind of the bottom line with this House vote, Jim.
SCIUTTO: And presents challenges for Democrats. It opens criticism that this is a party-driven as opposed to one that is attracted to support a cross party line. Phil Mattingly on the Hill, stay with us.
As we await the start of that vote, another key deposition is taking place on Capitol Hill. The investigation is continuing. Right now, Tim Morrison, the top Russia and European adviser on the National Security Council serving the president, is testifying under oath behind closed doors. Manu, looking at this testimony, what's significant here is that Morrison, not basing his testimony on hearsay, he was on that call between Trump and Zelensky. Do we know what we can expect from him?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We were told from multiple sources that he is expected to back up the testimony that came from Bill Taylor, who is the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, because Taylor's testimony behind closed doors referenced Morrison about 15 times. They had multiple conversations.
And Taylor himself said that he was concerned about the president demanding investigations into his political rivals in exchange for releasing aid to the Ukrainian government, in exchange for setting up a meeting between the new Ukrainian administration and the White House, something that the Ukrainians desperately sought.
Those conversations, including one in which Taylor referenced Morrison telling him about how the president wanted President Zelensky of Ukraine to go public, go to the microphones and announce an investigation.
Now, that is Taylor's account and we're told that we expect Morrison to back up where Taylor said is essentially true.
Now, we are also told though that he may not level the same amount of concerns that Bill Taylor had. He did not necessarily see anything wrong with what the administration did. But this is just starting now behind closed doors. They're only getting into the third hour. We expect this to go all day long. He's someone else who had direct interactions with the president. So we'll see what more they learned about what he talked about the president with.
SCIUTTO: Manu Raju on the Hill, thanks very much.
As we look to the House -- this is Adam Schiff, the chairman, of course, of the Intelligence Committee, who will lead this investigation. Let's have a listen.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): -- maybe the most important service as members of Congress we will ever pay to the country and Constitution that we all love and have pledged to defend.
For the past several weeks, the Intelligence Committee, the Oversight Committee and Foreign Affairs Committee have engaged in an intensive investigation. That work, which has been conducted with equal opportunities for both parties to question witnesses, has added a great deal to our understanding of the president's conduct as evident in the July 25 call record and the events that both preceded and followed that call.
That work has necessarily occurred behind closed doors because we have had the task of finding the facts ourselves without the benefit of the investigation that the Justice Department declined to undertake. Despite attempts to obstruct, we have interviewed numerous witnesses, we have provided important testimony about the efforts to secure political favors from Ukraine who have provided important testimony about the efforts to secure political favors from Ukraine. We have reviewed text messages among key players which show how securing political investigations was placed at the forefront of our foreign policy towards Ukraine.
This resolution sets the stage for the next phase of our investigation, one in which the American people have the opportunity to hear from the witnesses firsthand. We will continue to conduct this inquiry with the seriousness of purpose that our task deserves because it is our duty and because no one is above the law.
Madam Speaker, I urge passage of the resolution and I yield back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentleman yields back.
Gentleman from Oklahoma.
REP. TOM COLE (R-CA): Thank you, Madam Speaker.
SCIUTTO: The chairman of the Intelligence Committee.
Now, we're going to hear from a Republican. They've been sharing time here. Let's listen in again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. What began with a rallying cry of we're going to impeach, the expletive deleted, to a crowd of liberal activists and young children by my colleague from Michigan on the very first day of this new Congress is now the majority's flagship initiative. What a shame and what a waste of time in the people's House.
My view, our president was doing his job, ensuring that if taxpayer dollars from our constituents and yours was going to the other side of the world, that it would be paired with a commitment to crack down on corruption at all levels no matter who someone's daddy is or what their political ambitions are.
I think we all know that this was inevitable. From the moment Donald J. Trump was elected, the end of harassment and impeachment have just been waiting for the means and they think that they've found them. They're wrong.
There is, however, one small measure we can take as one House to bring a shred of dignity to these disgraceful proceeds.
SCIUTTO: You heard there in these last two minutes the different points of view on this impeachment investigation. Adam Schiff, Democrat, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, who will lead the investigation accusing the president of an abuse power. You heard Republicans launch a whole host of criticisms here, including on the process, calling it a secretive process, but defending the president's actions here, as you heard just there, saying that he was simply fighting corruption. Our team of experts is here with me now.
Listen, as we watch this, so many questions to delve into. I want to begin with you if I can, Jackie, just on the politics of this. You heard Phil Mattingly -- oh, stand by. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, is speaking. Let's listen in.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): -- by some of the most beautiful words in our country's history. We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and to our prosperity to ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States.
It goes on immediately to establish Article I, the legislative branch, Article II, the executive branch, Article II, the judiciary.
The genius of the Constitution, a separation of powers, three coequal branches of government to be a check and balance on each other, and it's to that that we take the oath of office. We gather here on that opening day with our families gathered around to proudly raise our hand to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and that is exactly what we are doing today.
Sadly, this is not any cause for any glee or comfort. This is something that is very solemn, that is something prayerful, and that we had to gather so much information to take us to this next step.
Again, this is a solemn occasion. Nobody, I doubt anybody in this place or anybody that you know comes to Congress to take the oath of office comes to Congress to impeach the president of the United States, unless his actions are jeopardizing honoring our oath of office.
So I'm grateful to our committee chairs for all of the careful and thoughtful investigation they have been doing as this inquiry has proceeded.
And today, the House takes the next step forward as we establish the procedures for open hearings conducted by the House Intelligence Committee so that the public can see the facts for themselves. This resolution ensures transparency, advancing public disclosure of deposition, transcripts and outlining the procedures for the transfer of evidence to the Judiciary Committee to use in its proceedings.
It enables effective public hearings setting up procedures for the questioning of witnesses and continuing the precedent of giving the minority the same rights in questioning witnesses as the majority, which has been true at every step of this inquiry despite what you might hear culminating (ph) there.
It provides the president and his council opportunities to participate, including presenting his case, submitting requests for testimony, attending hearings, raising objections to testimony given, cross-examining witnesses and more.
And contrary to what you may have heard today, we give more opportunity to his case than was given to other presidents before. And thank you, Mr. Chairman, for making that point so clearly.
And these action, this process, these open hearings, seeking the truth and making it available to the American people will inform Congress on the very difficult decisions we will have to make in the future as to whether to impeach the president. That decision has not been made. That is what the inquiry will investigate and then we can make the decision based on the truth.
I don't know why the Republicans are afraid of the truth. Every member should support allowing the American people to hear the facts for themselves. That is really what this vote is about. It's about the truth.
And what is at stake? What is at stake in all of this is nothing less than our democracy.
I proudly stand next to the flag and I thank the gentleman from New York for providing it for us. This flag, so many have fought and died for this flag which stands for our Democracy.
When Benjamin Franklin came out of Independence Hall, we've heard this over and over, on September 17th, 1787, the day our Constitution was adopted, he came out of Independence Hall and people said to him, Dr. Franklin, what do we have, a monarchy or a republic? And he said, as you know, he said a republic, if we can keep it, if we can keep it. And this Constitution is the blueprint for our republic and not a monarchy.
But when we have a president who says Article II says I can do whatever I want, that is in defiance of the separation of powers.
That's not what our Constitution says.
So what is at stake? It's our democracy. What are we fighting for? Defending our democracy for the people.
Do you know that in the early days of our revolution, Thomas Paine said the times have found us, the times found our founders to declare independence from a monarchy, to fight a war of independence, to write our founding documents, and thank God, they made them amendable so that we could always be expanding freedom. And the genius, again, the genius of that Constitution was the separation of powers. Any usurping of that power is a violation of our oath of office.
So, proudly, we all raised our hand to protect and defend, support the Constitution of the United States. That's what this vote is about today.
And we think the times found our founders, the times have found others in the course of our history to protect our democracy, to keep our country united. The times have found that each and every one of us in this room and in our country to pay attention to how we protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, honoring the vision of our founders who declared independence from a monarch and established a country contrary to that principal, honoring the men and women in uniform who fight for our flag and for our freedom and for our democracy and honoring the aspirations of our children so that no president, whoever he or she may be in the future, could decide that article II says they can do whatever they want.
Again, let us honor our oath of office, let us defend our democracy, let us have a good vote today and have clarity, clarity as to how we proceed, why we proceed and, again, doing so in a way that honors the Constitution. We must honor the Constitution and how we do this. We must respect the institution we serve. And we must heed the further words of our founders, e.pluribis unum, from anyone.
They didn't know how many it would be or how different we would be, but they knew that we needed to always be unifying. So, hopefully, as we go forward with this for the clarity of purpose, a clarity of procedure, a clarity of fact, a clarity of truth, it's about the truth, it's about the Constitution. We will do so in a way that brings people together that is healing rather than dividing, and that is how we will honor our oath of office.
I urge an aye vote and yield back the balance of my time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentle lady yields back.
The gentleman from Oklahoma.
COLE: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I yield two minutes to my good friend, distinguished gentleman from Texas and the ranking Republican member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. McCaul.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentleman is recognized for two minutes.
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): Thank you, Madam Speaker.
I'd also argue Article I does not say you can do whatever you want to do and the Constitution says that and our founding fathers says that, as well. And for 38 days --
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world for CNN's special coverage, and it is a very historic day here in the United States.
We've just heard the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, set the scene for what is going to be a very, very critically important vote in this process to impeach the president of the United States.
We've got a lot of analysis set to go through. There should be a full vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Dana Bash, let me start with you. Nancy Pelosi is making it clear, not only by her words, by her actions, that the Democrats are determined to move forward on an official public transparent way with an impeachment process.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, as much as the Democrats, when they surprised even most of the rank and file earlier this week by saying that they would have this vote, as much as they say it's not a response to the Republicans, it's a response to the Republican attack on the process, laying out clearly how this is going to go forward with open hearings and more importantly the rights that not just Republicans in Congress, but the president and his team will have once they get into the presentation of evidence and the way the House Judiciary Committee laid it out by way of historical comparison. His team is going to have more rights even than President Clinton did when you were covering that impeachment.
So she always likes to put a historical context on this and she should.
The fact is we're going to see her in the chair, the speaker.
BLITZER: And that's very extraordinary.
BASH: Right. And you might think, okay, so the speaker of the House is presiding. That's the way it should be. That almost never happens. I'm told she is going to be sitting in a chair today and that sends another signal, a symbolic signal about how significant, how somber and how important what's going to happen.
BLITZER: The Democrats clearly have the votes, the majority, to pass this resolution. The question that we're going to be asking is will there be any defectors from the Democratic side and any defectors from the Republican side.
BASH: So I've been doing some reporting on that this morning, and just starting with the Democrats. The leadership, told, is expecting to maybe lose a few but an insignificant number of Democrats.
Most of the so-called front liners, those Democrats who made their majority who are in swing districts, many of them went for Donald Trump seven to ten points, they have already come out and said that they support this impeachment inquiry.
There are a little more than a handful who have not said a word. Some of them might vote no, but, again, probably insignificant.
The bigger question is the Republican side, whether anybody is going to be defect from the president. I am told by high level Republicans in the House that on this particular vote, they are whipping it like a typical party line procedural vote and even those who have been critical of the president are unlikely to defect on this vote. That doesn't mean that they won't do so ultimately when the House actually votes on impeachment.
And, Nia-Malika Henderson, once this vote occurs and it will pass in the House of Representatives, there will be a lengthy process going forward to draft what are called articles of impeachment. NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. And they'll be based on all of the testimony. The public will finally get to see. We know, for instance, that Bill Taylor, who provided pretty compelling behind the doors --
BLITZER: The top diplomat in Ukraine.
HENDERSON: The top diplomat, who essentially said this was a quid pro quo, opened up with a 15-page statement that a lot of Democrats came out and said was damning.
So the public will finally get to hear from these folks publicly. And even as these hearings go on and some of the procedural sort of emotions are settled on, we know there will be testimony next week behind closed doors, more depositions.
Listen, there were a lot of questions about whether Democrats could do this, right? Democrats are not known for being organized, right, the organized party and always the sort of efficient party. But in this case with Nancy Pelosi's leadership, Pelosi reluctantly kind of came to this decision. They've been pretty methodical, right?
And witness after witness, corroborating the whistleblower report, you've got text messages, you've got Volker coming forward and other folks who worked in this administration coming forward to bolster the Democrats' case that this president did engage in a quid pro quo.
We obviously know where Republicans have been all along on this, talking about the procedure. And they will have to, I think, answer the question, do they think it's okay for an American president to engage in this kind of behavior. Do they think it's impeachable? And if not, what should the punishment be?
BLITZER: Susan, also the Democrats in their preliminary investigation that has been going on behind closed doors, they already have worn statements from several players who were involved in all of this suggesting, yes, the president was engaged in what's called a quid pro quo, trying to put pressure on the Ukrainian government to provide so- called political dirt on Joe Biden and the Democrats.
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, that's right, Wolf. What I've been struck by over the only one month essentially that this investigation has been going on is, first of all, how consistent the testimony has been, how specific it's been, how much it has come from essentially non-partisan figures, appointees of the Trump administration itself, right?
These aren't from outside players or from Democrats. This is directly from non-partisan officials and people who were appointed to political jobs by President Trump. And what they've all said is very consistent. It's not just a phone call. I think that's an important point to note.
President Trump took very specific actions and there are a number of them. They begin with the firing of the U.S. ambassador in Ukraine last spring at the behest of his private attorney, Rudy Giuliani. That was personally ordered by the president, according to testimony. The president, according to testimony, personally insisted upon withholding a meeting with President Zelensky of Ukraine to get these investigations. He personally insisted on withholding nearly $400 million in congressionally approved security assistance. And then, of course, there is this famous phone call.
BLITZER: Hold on one moment. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, is about to do a news conference. Let's listen in.
PELOSI: -- domestically (ph) and uncustomary (ph) is full, but I just said I'd be here, so I'm here. Usually, if I (INAUDIBLE) going to be in some place I am.
So here we are. Democrats have been hard at work legislating, investigating, litigating, and we're happy this week that we did something we were trying to do for a very long time.
Hold the -- just the Ottoman Empire responsible for an Armenian genocide, a very bipartisan vote, and 403 to 16, something like that, we voted sanctions on Turkey, again, reaffirming our opposition to the president's action that he took vis-a-vis Syria and Turkey. And, again, that was 354-60. So we've had strong bipartisan votes on these issues that relate to what happened in Turkey vis-a-vis Syria.
And our for the people agenda, we said we were going to do first lower healthcare costs by lowering the cost of prescription drugs. And that is what we are doing with HR-3 now named the Elijah E. Cummings lower drug costs now legislation. We invite our Republican colleagues who keep saying they want to do something to join us to do that.
And when we pass it, we urge Senator McConnell to stop saying all we're doing is --
BLITZER: All right. We're going to continue to monitor the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. We'll get back to her if she discusses what is about to happen, this historic vote on an impeachment resolution.
And, Michael Gerhardt, you've worked in these impeachment areas. You've studied it. You've reviewed it. The key provisions in this resolution that's about to be passed, and a historic resolution indeed, it reaffirms what already has been going on. The ongoing impeachment inquiry will continue, but it moves in a different direction. Instead of being behind closed doors, it opens it up and these hearings will be televised.
MICHAEL GERHARDT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. And this was going to happen inevitably. The whole process has been designed up until now to gather evidence as responsibly and as carefully as possible, but it's all going to become public. And it has been pointed out the testimony is really putting together a rather disturbing picture about what has been happening behind closed doors in the White House.
And with the White House's efforts to sort of stop people from testifying, we've got to keep in mind that that too may be a disturbing development.
BLITZER: And let me go back to Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, right now.
PELOSI: -- our children for America's future, we take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. And that we cannot ignore and we will not ignore when the president's behavior indicates that that investigation, that inquiry is necessary. (INAUDIBLE) the inquiry proceeds, we will decide whether we'll go forward with impeachment. That decision has not been made.
But here we are, again, our founders, September 17th, 1874 -- excuse me, 1787, they came forth with a Constitution, this genius of which was a separation of power, three coequal branches of government, balance of power. And when Benjamin Franklin came out, they said, Mr. Franklin, Mr. Franklin, what do we have, a monarchy or a republic? He said, a republic if we can keep it.
I'm here this -- right in the here and now, we are keeping the republic from a president who says Article II, says I can do whatever I want, and not so. And if so, if you think that is so and you act upon that belief, that is in violation of the Constitution of the United States.
And so we will proceed with the facts, the truth. It's about the truth and it's about the Constitution and we're working hard to defend our democracy. Because if we don't have a system of checks and balances, we might as well all just elect a president and go home, because it will be that unitary form of government that our founders did not want us to have.
In fact, the times have found us. We feel all of us, all of you as messengers, as guardians of our democracy, the guardians of the gate of our democracy, as messengers about revealing the facts and the truth to the American people.
In fact, the times have found us. As they found us, Thomas Paine said, our founders, to declare independence, to fight a war, to win it, to right our founding documents in a way that made us a republic. Times have found us now to have a republic and to keep it, as Benjamin Franklin admonished.
Nobody -- this isn't about anything personal with the president, it isn't about politics, it isn't about patriotism, it isn't about partisanship. It's about patriotism. It's about patriotism. And I would hope that rather than protecting the president personally, all of our colleagues would choose to honor their oath of office to protect and defend, not the president, but the Constitution of the United States.
Just a few questions because we're on the floor.