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Nancy Pelosi Press Conference; Republicans Pushed All Members to Vote No on House Impeachment Inquiry; Kevin McCarthy's House Floor Speech. Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired October 31, 2019 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): -- 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.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Madam Speaker, do you think this vote will do anything to diminish the Republicans and the White House believe that this is an illegitimate unfair (ph) partisan (ph)...
PELOSI: It isn't my -- the question is, do I think it's going to diminish their -- no. The facts are what they are. They can try to misrepresent them, but that fact is, this is very -- this is a process that has expanded opportunity for them to show anything that is exculpatory, proves the innocence of the president.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Madam Speaker, Republicans say that this process is not due process for the president. Are these rules really fair?
PELOSI: Yes, they are. Yes, they are. Now, I answered it once, I answered it twice. I'm going to answer it one time. These rules are fairer than anything that have gone before in terms of an impeachment proceeding.
I'm not here to answer what the Republicans say. if you have any questions, we're doing appropriations, we're doing trade, we're doing drug prices, lowering the cost of drug prices. I'm not here to answer any questions about what the Republicans say, further than to what I have said just now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Madam Speaker, do you believe that you have the votes necessary?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you please tell me if you think that Katie Hill should have resigned? What do you say to the younger lawmakers who think that there is some sort of generational divide (ph) (INAUDIBLE)?
PELOSI: Katie Hill's decision to resign is her decision to resign. It is -- she is an absolutely outstanding young public servant. Very smart, strategic, patriotic, loves our country, respected by her colleagues in the Congress for the work that she does here. She made her decision and her timing, and I respect that.
I do say, to my own children, grandchildren, especially grandchildren, you know, some of these -- I don't know what you would call them -- appearances on social media can come back to haunt you if they are taken out of context and that.
But I do think that we have to be careful. This is something that I think could spring from this that could be a benefit. Regardless of any errors in judgment that anyone may have made --
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We're going to continue to monitor Nancy Pelosi's news conference. She's moving in -- on answering questions on other subjects.
Let's get back to the historic moment that we're about to see. The House of Representatives, the full House of Representatives, all members are about to vote on a resolution, going forward, formally authorizing an impeachment process against the president of the United States, Donald Trump.
And one of the provisions in this resolution that will pass -- the Democrats have a significant majority in the House of Representatives, even if no Republicans support it, the Democrats have enough votes to go forward -- one of the provisions will enable the president and his lawyers and his White House officials to participate in this process. Until now, they've not been participating directly in these closed- door hearings.
And, Ross Garber, you're our legal analyst. Let's talk a little bit about what this resolution will provide the president of the United States. It will allow the president to present their case, the president's case, respond to evidence, submit written requests for additional testimony, other evidence, attend hearings, including those held in executive session, raise an objection to testimony given, and cross-examine witnesses.
There is one provision, though, that's added. If the president, in the words of this resolution, unlawfully refuses to cooperate with congressional requests -- presumably subpoenas for witnesses and documents -- the chair shall have the discretion to impose appropriate remedies, including by denying specific requests by the president or his counsel.
ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. I mean, the president and the Republicans sort of had three main complaints. One was that there wasn't a House vote, this takes care of that. The second was that things were happening in secret, this takes care of that. Third was that the president and Republicans couldn't actively participate in the process. And the provision you just read addresses the president's lawyers' participation at the Judiciary Committee. What we expect to hear from Republicans and the president is, but the
real action is actually happening before the House Intelligence Committee, where the president's lawyers actually don't have the ability to participate, don't have the ability to cross-examine witnesses. And I think that's actually a legitimate point.
What I think the speaker and Democrats will say is, except in previous impeachments, the president had a right to do all those things before the Judiciary Committee, and that's the right we've given here. The president's people will counter that, you know, that -- by that point, the process will have already been done.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And they're already doing that. I mean, you're already seeing --
BASH: -- tweet after tweet. That's why -- what you're seeing from Republicans on the House floor. And when it comes to just the strategy and public opinion, which is all that matters here, because that's driving the votes or lack thereof, Republicans feel like they've kind of laid the groundwork already for what's happened in the past, there hasn't -- or what's happening right now, with the beginning of the process, there hasn't been what they call due process.
The thing that is important for us, you know, kind of the truth- tellers here, to point out, is that in the Clinton impeachment, they didn't have to do this process. They didn't have to do their own depositions because Ken Starr spent, what, two years, three years behind closed doors, just like they are, doing depositions for various --
BLITZER: And grand jury testimony.
BASH: And grand jury testimony. That is not the case here because the Trump Justice Department refused to look into this. So that is a huge difference.
In reality, whether or not that works when Republicans are trying to shore up their base and their messaging and they have, you know conservative media to bolster that, that's a big question.
BLITZER: Everybody stand by. We're going to get to this historic vote on the floor of the House of Representatives. We're getting closer to the actual roll call. We're going to take a quick break. Much more of our special coverage, right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special coverage. We're standing by. The House of Representatives, the full House, is about to vote on a resolution, formally going forward with an impeachment investigation of the president of the United States, Donald Trump.
I want to go to Phil Mattingly. He's up on Capitol Hill. Set the scene for us, Phil. Walk us through what we're about to see unfold on the floor of the House of Representatives.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. So within the next five to 10 minutes, a vote series is going to start. The vote everybody's going to want to keep an eye one, the vote on the impeachment resolution will be the second vote.
And here's where you're going to kind of want to watch. Look, as you guys have made clear already, Democrats have the votes to move this forward. And they have largely moved a lot of their frontline members firmly behind the speaker and the Democratic Party in terms of moving forward on this.
So there's only a few members who you're going to want to keep an eye on. For Democrats, those who might vote no. For Republicans, those who might vote yes.
On the Democratic side, my rough count is about four Democrats that haven't necessarily come out in full support of this at this point, four frontline Democrats who haven't supported an impeachment inquiry up to this point. One you're definitely going to want to keep an eye on, Jeff Van Drew from New Jersey. 2018 member, one who flipped a Trump district in 2018, who has been very wary about this process, going forward.
On the Republican side, look, I'm going to be honest. There are a very good chance that no Republicans will join Democrats on this. There has been a heavy behind-the-scenes effort by House Republican leadership, by Steve Scalise, Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader. The president has been involved, too, along with phone calls.
Had a lot of House Republicans do a fundraiser at the Trump Hotel earlier this week, some of whom were pictured with him, including one, Fred Upton, who was considered on the fence on this one. So what I'm told is, keep an eye on Francis Rooney, a Republican who has raised some concerns about this process throughout the time. They think -- Republican leadership think they can get him in line, but that might be up in the air.
But that's really all you're looking for here, Wolf. It's a very small segment. And all that underscores here, is this has turned into a very partisan, very red-versus-blue type of scene. And that's what we're going to see over the course of the next 20 or 30 minutes -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House, now speaking.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): -- who will work for them?
So I ask you all a simple question, especially to my colleagues. Is that what is happening here today? Are we gathered, in these final moments before we depart for a week, to fund our government? To pay our troops? Are we gathered today to approve a new trade deal? Or are we gathered to debate the critical national security issues regarding China or Iran?
Well, that answer would be unanimously no. We are not working for the American people. Those items would resemble the achievements of a productive Congress, a Congress that truly works for the people. But you know what this Congress counts? This Congress' records is more subpoenas than laws. That's the legacy.
It is not just devoid of solutions for the American people, it is now abusing its power to discredit democracy, by using secret interviews and selective leaks to portray the president's legitimate actions as an impeachable offense. Democrats are continuing their permanent campaign to undermine his legitimacy. For the last three years, they have predetermined the president's guilt, they have never accepted the voters' choice to make him president.
So for 37 days and counting, they have run an unprecedented, undemocratic and unfair investigation. This resolution today only makes it worse. I've heard members on the other side say they promise rights to the president, but only if he does what they want. That's the equivalent of saying, in the First Amendment, you have the right to the freedom of speech, but you can only say the words I agree with. That's what you call due process.
The amendment offered by my colleague Mr. Cole would help correct some of the transparency concerns we have witnessed over the last few weeks. But today is more than the fairness of an impeachment process. It is about the integrity of our electoral process.
Democrats are trying to impeach the president because they are scared they cannot defeat him at the ballot box. That's not my words, that's the words of my colleagues from the other side of the aisle, that has offered impeachment three different times. This impeachment is not only an attempt to undo the last election, it is an attempt to influence the next one as well.
This is not what Democrats promised when they entered the majority, 11 months ago. In this chamber, we heard from our speaker, while we all sat here. We heard what the speaker said, when she talked about words of optimism and cooperation. It was said we would work together to make America stronger, more secure and more prosperous. We were told our mission was to return the power to the people.
In fact, our new colleagues on the other side of the aisle were sent to Washington with a mandate to do just that. So what's happening? Nothing like that today.
Not long ago, Democrats recognized that a partisan impeachment would put politics over people and harm our nation. That exact same speaker that talked about cooperation, that talked about and promised the American people that they would be different they would be different if you trusted you with the majority. You have failed in that promise. That speaker said, impeachment is so divisive to the country that
unless there's something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan -- the word, bipartisan -- I do not think we should go down that path because it divides the country. What has changed since those words have been spoken?
Alexander Hamilton wrote, "There will always be the greatest danger, that the decision to use the impeachment power would be driven by partisan animosity." Instead of real demonstrations of innocent or guilt, this sham impeachment by Democrats has proven Hamilton right, and betrays the speaker's own words.
I know emotions are high. I know members would even run for positions of chair simply on the fact that they would be a better chair for impeachment, right after the election.
But when we all stood that day and listened to the words of the speaker, of cooperation, we all raised our hand to uphold the Constitution. Tomorrow is November 1st. We're one year away from an election, not just for this House but for the highest office of presidency.
Why do you not trust the people? Why do you not allow the people to have a voice? Why, in a process that America lends their voice to all of us, that you deny us to speak for them? Has animosity risen that high? Is Hamilton proven correct again?
There is a moment in time that you should rise to the occasion. This is that moment. This is the moment that history will write. History will ask you, when you cast this vote, when you cast a vote to justify something that has gone on behind closed doors, I want you to ask the historian and answer the question.
What do you know that happened there? Have you read anything that took place, that you just justified? What do you believe the definition of due process is? What do you think the First Amendment is? You have the right to have a voice, or only the words that you agree with?
You may get elected in a primary. But in a general election, you're elected to represent the people of America, not to deny their voice. This House is so much better than what is transforming today.
I believe everyone who runs for this office, runs to solve a problem. But when you go back to the American public with the achievement of more subpoenas than laws, that is not why you ran. That is not why we are here.
And that's why I agree with my colleague, Mr. Cole, that believes in the power of the people, people before politics, that we believe and know we can do better, that we believe the speaker when she said, about cooperation. We believed her when she said, if you trusted them with the majority, they would be different. I guess it's only fitting, you take this vote on Halloween. I yield back.
REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D-CO): Members are directed to address their remarks to the chair. The gentleman from Oklahoma has one minute remaining.
REP. TOM COLE (R-OK): With that, Madam Speaker, I will yield back the balance of my time.
DEGETTE: Gentleman yields back.
The gentleman from Massachusetts?
REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D-MA): I yield myself the balance of the time.
BLITZER: All right. So we're going to continue to watch. We're getting ready for two votes on the floor of the House of Representatives. First, a procedural vote that will be passed, and then the substantive vote, authorizing this new phase, a public examination of the president of the United States when it comes to drafting articles of impeachment.
And, Dana, walk us through, first of all, what this first vote, this procedural vote, what that will be.
BASH: Yes. So they're going to be setting up, as you said, a procedural vote so that they can get to the next one. We're going to go through and we're going to watch that first vote. But it is, as Phil Mattingly was saying, it is that second vote, it -- that's the substance, the meat of the resolution.
That lays out all the things that we've been talking about this morning: the rules of the road for the impeachment inquiry, starting with open hearings and then giving an idea of the rights that the minority, the Republicans, will have, and also the president and his team will have.
And as it goes forward into the articles of impeachment, which will, rightly so, move from the Intelligence Committee, which is now conducting the deposition and will conduct the public hearings, to the Judiciary Committee, which is where, historically, it was -- and, you know, everybody agrees should be, when you actually talk about the articles of impeachment.
BLITZER: And Kevin McCarthy, the Republican minority leader, made a very powerful statement --
BASH: He did, he did.
BLITZER: -- just there.
BASH: You know, that was very different from the Republican talking points that we've heard over the past four weeks or so. Especially over the past week, it's been process, process, process. And he was trying to combat the patriotic speech and the patriotic
message that House Democrats have been giving, saying that it's the opposite. And, you know, he actually, probably in a pretty clever way, took the speaker's own words on opening day about bipartisanship, saying this is not about -- this is not acting in the bipartisan way that you said you would.
You know, if I'm the speaker, watching that, I would say, yes, it's not bipartisan because you guys aren't coming along with me to investigate this president, who even many Republicans say did something so inappropriate that at least there should be an inquiry, which is all this vote is.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: But what you saw there with Kevin McCarthy, not willing to concede that point, right? He essentially called the president's actions legitimate actions, and took up the notion that the president still won't get due process in this procedure, that the House will soon vote on in terms of how this whole process.
Well, he also talked about the American public, right? And we don't yet fully know where the American public will land on this. We see where the national polls are, we see that there has been some movement in terms of people being more open to removing this president through the impeachment process, certainly open to an impeachment inquiry itself. But we also see that in some of the swing states, right? This might not be such a good idea.
I talked to some Democrats about this, essentially saying, listen, are the politics good for you in terms of this? And they said, listen, they don't necessarily care about the politics. This is something they want to put a marker on and say, this kind of behavior, that State Department officials and White House officials and even the president himself is saying that he can -- engaged in, is something that cannot be tolerated from an American president now or in the future.
So that's where Democrats are. They are saying that this is about principle and not necessarily politics.
BLITZER: All right. They're voting now on this first resolution, the procedural resolution. They've got 15 minutes to vote. All members of the House of Representatives, all 435 members, will -- presumably, whoever's there -- will vote. You need 218 for a majority of the Democrats to have more than enough to get this passed.
A quick question, Michael Gerhardt, because you study these impeachment process (ph). What the Democrats, in this new resolution that's about to be approved on the floor of the House of Representatives, are calling for. Is that consistent with the legislative process, the legal process that went before the impeachment process got going with President Nixon, and later with President Bill Clinton? MICHAEL GERHARDT, LAW PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA: There's a lot of similarity. But we also have to remember that context makes all the difference. And so there are different facts here, different situation. The committee's in a different posture now than the Watergate committees were when they did their investigation.
Something to also keep in mind is what the Constitution tells us. The Constitution says the House has the sole power to impeach. And so much of what you hear the president doing is insisting he's got a role here, he can try to shut this down. No, this is a process, authorized in the Constitution, that's meant as a check and balance against whatever the president's arguing.
BLITZER: How do you see it, Susan Glasser? Because going -- in the impeachment process against President Nixon and later against President Bill Clinton, there were Democrats who went away from Bill Clinton. And as far as Nixon was concerned there were Republicans who voted against him, in favor of impeachment.
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, that's right. Look, in the end, there were, I believe, 31 Democrats who voted with Republicans to begin the impeachment inquiry against Bill Clinton. Nobody thinks that we're going to see that number today, of Republicans breaking ranks.
And that reflects, I think, the shift in our politics, not only radically since the Watergate era, but even since the Clinton era. You know, what you heard this morning in the speeches by Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy was a tale of different non- intersecting Americas.
There was never the possibility for a bipartisan impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump, frankly, probably no matter what he does. Because there is no possibility of meaningful bipartisanship in the system as we have it right now. I think that's what we're going to see today. And that's striking, they're proceeding despite that, not because of it.
GARBER: Well -- yes. I suppose except Republicans can point out that the same -- the same rules were virtually used in Nixon and Clinton, not here. They could have (ph) been.
BLITZER: All right, everybody stand by because they're still voting on this procedural vote right now, about 12 minutes left. Democrats, 93 yeas so far, Republicans, 61 nays. We're going to continue to watch this. We're getting ready for the second vote, the historic vote that will formally open an impeachment inquiry against the president of the United States.