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INSIDE POLITICS

Republicans Focus On Process In Defense Of Donald Trump; Reaction On Capitol Hill To Impeachment Vote; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "Nobody Comes To Congress To Impeach A President"; House Approves Resolution To Formalize Impeachment Process; Republicans And Democrats Speak After House Passes Impeachment Inquiry Resolution. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 31, 2019 - 12:00   ET

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


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JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing this very important day with us. The House of Representatives about 30 minutes ago are passing its first formal impeachment vote, marking an important symbolic step in this ongoing inquiry.

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REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): On this vote the ayes are 232, the nays are 196. The resolution is adopted. Without objection the moment to reconsider is laid upon the table.

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KING: That vote falling almost exclusively along party lines. Again not a vote to impeach the President but a vote to set the ground rules around the now continuing impeachment proceedings.

President Trump reacting in real time on Twitter, of course calling it "The greatest witch hunt in American history". The Speaker, you saw her with the gavel there. Moments before the voting began, she was on the floor telling Republicans they're just frightened.

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PELOSI: 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. 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.

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KING: Republicans complaining to the very end, right up to the vote, about the process.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. STEVE SCALISE, (R-LA): There have been some people that made it public that they wanted to impeach him. Not because they're high crimes and misdemeanors which is the constitutional standard but just because they don't agree with the results of the 2016 election. 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.

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KING: CNN's Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill amid this big drama. Manu, they've just turned the page, if you will. We go to a new level now. What is the mood in the House?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that is very significant because we're expecting this impeachment inquiry to move rather rapidly in the next couple of months here to try to begin this public phase of this investigation, bring in some of these witnesses who have already testified behind closed doors, allow them to tell their story in a public setting.

We're already hearing word that some witnesses have suggested they be they would be open to doing so if they were invited to come to testify, including Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, who said the President of the United States had urged withheld aid to Ukraine and withheld efforts to bolster relation with that country until that country announce investigations that could help him politically which goes to the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

Now what was significant about this vote this morning was how Nancy Pelosi was able to keep troops mostly in line. She lost two Democratic defectors. Two Democrats who had been critical of this process so far Jeff Andrew of New Jersey and Colin Peterson of Minnesota, one of freshman and one of veteran both are conservative Democrats who come from these swing districts, but there are other number of other Democrats swing districts, from districts that the President carried in 2016.

The Democrats won in 2018 who had resisted moving forward on impeachment proceedings for some time but have come forward to support it in the aftermath of the Ukraine matter showing that there is wide support within the House Democratic Caucus to continue with impeachment and also significant support in order to - that could lead to the ultimate impeachment of this President.

So if the President - if the House does move forward, John, with articles of impeachment, you can expect this party will mostly be along party lines. John?

KING: Manu Raju, live for us on a big day in Capitol Hill. We expect reaction from key Democrats and key Republicans throughout the hour. We'll go back up to the Hill as that happens. With me here in studio to share their reporting and their insights, Olivia Knox with SiriusXM CNN's Dana Bash Laura Barron-Lopez with POLITICO CNN's Legal Analyst Ross Garber and Margaret Talev with AXIOS. The fascinating thing about today is that it is a historic day and yet the shelf life of just about everything that was said is days may be weeks because now we move to a next phase where this goes Republicans complaining about the process. They're about to get what they asked for. The question is will they regret it?

When you've had witnesses testifying behind closed doors saying, I was hired by President Trump, I was hired by the Secretary of State, I was hired by the President's National Security Adviser, and I think what happened was wrong.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, that - will they say that they regret it? Of course not. Will they live to regret it? Possibly. But because, unfortunately, even though this is so historic what is happening today, it is still happening in the era in which we live which is so incredibly partisan.

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BASH: It is happening in an era where you had a Republican leadership in the House able to, when they worked it really hard, we're told, really hard, to get whole other rank and file, even those who have spoken out and said this is a terrible thing the President did to vote no on moving forward with an impeachment inquiry. That is where we are right now.

To your point about the next phase and the open hearings, I was communicating with a moderate Democrat saying exactly that, that the Democrats who put themselves on the line, who are in Trump districts, are looking forward and saying, yes, we're maybe getting hit because of the process now during the depositions, it is behind closed doors, but just wait until we hear from some of these civil servants. Not just political appointees, but also civil servants who have forgive me unimpeachable reputations and experience talking in a public way that is going to be hard to be back against.

KING: Right. It's a whole new game for both parties in the sense that the Democrats have said behind closed doors they see a crystal clear abuse of power corruption case against the President of the United States now they have to prove it. They have to prove in public hearings.

The Republicans have complained mostly about the process. Are they going to attack these witnesses when they come forward? You didn't hear much of it today. Are you going to say the President did nothing wrong, or are they going to shift to, this isn't really nice, but we don't think it's impeachable?

OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, SIRIUSXM: I think situating this in the House Intelligence Committee benefits both parties. Some of the best questioners on the Republican side frankly are on that committee. John Radcliffe, for example, I think is probably a better question on balance and some of folks on judiciary.

I think they're going to try to attack the process still. Remember we've heard this sort of the poison tree argument from Republicans over the past week that this can't be fixed. They're going to stay on that, but now they'll get an opportunity to actually cross examine these witnesses. It's one thing to have an opening statement that you can read it to another to have. Well, you say this but you couldn't possibly have known that for the following reasons. I think it's going to be harder to following some ways but I think both sides are getting a fair amount of what they want.

KING: Ross to the tribal point, I was covering the White House. 31 Democrats broke from Bill Clinton, if you will, and voted to at least endorse the inquiry. Republicans the key to Richard Nixon's impeachment was when Republicans started to crack.

This is remarkable at least for now Nancy Pelosi able to hold her members except for two. To your point about the Republicans there are 17 Republicans retiring in the House. If there were going to be breaks, she would have thought it might be there didn't happen. So we begin this next chapter in partisan polarized corners.

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, and at some point it's going to have to move beyond that, I think, for the Speaker to sort of be judged favorably on these issues. If all that happens in impeachment is the people who already didn't like the President vote to impeach him and those who like him vote against it, then it hasn't really served its purpose.

I think you're going to see that point from Republicans and the President today that in Nixon by this point by the point by the House is authorizing an impeachment inquiry it was overwhelmingly approved by the House on a bipartisan basis in Clinton, as you noted 31 Democrats voted in favor of the impeachment process.

But this next phase is a big one. Now we're going to start talking not just about process, we're going to hear plenty of that, but about substance and what the defense is on the substance.

KING: And what do Republicans on the Hill say to that point when some of these - the American people might not know the names of some of these people that testified behind closed doors, but most of them are serious, credible people. Again, some of them career Foreign Service people, others hired by Mike Pompeo, by the White House, Trump appointees.

This is not going to be part to bar the President's terms during Mueller. You can't say 17 angry Democrats when you have a bunch of Republican appointees who work on team Trump sitting in the witness chair. How are Republicans going to handle it now that they're getting what they asked for?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, that's the big question, what are they going to do once everything is out in public. But so far they continue to just say repeatedly that they don't think that any of the evidence that's come forward to date are quid pro quos. They just flat out deny it. They continue to attack on substance.

They say they don't think it necessarily wrong may be wrong what Trump did by asking for Ukraine to investigate, and that's what they are pretty much placing their bets on. We see it continuing. I accept that they will even though, yes, he said that they didn't necessarily attack the witnesses today. We've seen them repeatedly attack the character of these witnesses.

MARGARET TALEV, POLITICS AND WHITE HOUSE EDITOR, AXIOS: But this process argument is aimed squarely at voters in swing states. President Trump and his campaign team believe that the way California and New York voters react to this mutual agreement is fundamentally different than the voters in the states that were probably decide the election, I mean not the California and New York voters aren't important that turn out as an important everywhere.

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TALEV: But then Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida, the states that there is a fundamental split and that in those places voters are more skeptical about the legitimacy of this impeachment inquiry and the fairness of how it's being conducted, and that is what that process argument is about.

If John Bolton is compelled through subpoena or the court to testify, do you think Republicans are going to go after John Bolton? No, Republicans are going to go after the process, and the Democrats but it doesn't mean Bolton's testimony and other testimonies won't be crucial to understanding what happened. The question is will key voters already have tuned it out by then?

KING: Right. If they see the evidence and if what happens behind closed doors happens in a public stage does it sway? We've seen the Democrats number they're off the charts. The independent numbers have moved in favor more so in favor of impeachment, Republicans have held pretty steadily.

The question is can you move that number, which then would move Republican House members and more importantly Republican Senators because that's how the trial will play out. To your point about that remember Nancy Pelosi gaveling the debate closed today, she had resisted this for a very long time. She says Democrats had no choice and she promises they'll be careful.

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PELOSI: It's a sad day because nobody comes to Congress to impeach a President of the United States, no one. We've come here to do the work, make the future better for our children, for America's future. We take an oath to protect and defend the constitution, and that's what we cannot ignore and we will not ignore when the President's behavior indicates that that investigation, that inquiry is necessary.

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KING: She says no decision has been made on actually drafting articles of impeachment and bringing it to a vote. That's her own process argument, is it not? Are we not, after the passing of this vote today, is it not inevitable that the Democrats will at least bring to the floor of the House of Representatives articles of impeachment?

BASH: Yes. Unless something remarkable happens that we can't see right now, yes, it is inevitable. And you're exactly right. She is trying to beat back at the notion that this is a preconceived ending and that this is what Democrats wanted to do since the President got into office, which, by the way, is not totally untrue.

A lot of the Democrats in the base did. But what Nancy Pelosi has, and we witnessed this when we were covering her when George W. Bush was President, is she does have some credibility on this in that she beat back impeachment calls really, really loud impeachment calls over George W. Bush over the Iraq war. She said, no, we're not going to do that. I'm not saying that Republicans are going to give her credit for that now, but think she does have that in her history which is important to know.

KING: Right. It's a remarkable day. We'll continue the conversation as we go through the hour. We are waiting for the reaction. Key members up on Capitol Hill, both Democrats and Republicans, have a bench schedule. You see them right there. And the President of United States, his tweets and his Press Secretary issue a strong condemnation of the historic vote today on the House floor.

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KING: More now on the big breaking news here in Washington an important day for the country. The House voting 232 to 196 to formally authorize the Democratic impeachment inquiry into the President of the United States, Republicans complaining to the very end about the process. CNN's Phil Mattingly live on Capitol Hill for us now. Those complaints did not sway enough Democrats to vote with them Phil, so what's next for the President's party as they try to block this?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think to start with look, this was a big win for the House Republican leadership. It was a big win for the white house that they kept the entire Republican confidence together. It wasn't assured going into this week, I know there were people that in leadership were worried about going into this week, and every single member of the Republican conference voted with the President, voted with House Republican Leaders.

That was an accomplishment and I think I've talked to a couple aides who are very happy with the way things went. However, I think this is important to note, they know this is moving into a different place. That vote wasn't on the vote on impeachment. That vote didn't come before any of the public hearings, came before the articles, came before the public really zoned in on this.

One thing I've heard from a lot of rank Republicans is, look, back in my district people are very support of the President, and they're not really talking about this all that much other than they think that he's wrong to some degree. That is going to start to shift when these moves into the public and people are seeing hearing and things like that. And I think what's going to be most interesting is how they play this going forward.

Look, there is no question about it we've been talking about it the last couple weeks. There is frustration about lack of information they've been given from the White House. The lack direction they've been getting from the White House. In fact the leadership has had a lot of one-on-one conversations with President Trump. A lot of people who had a fund raiser for President Trump earlier in the week at Trump hotel, but they haven't gotten really kind official talking points how to actually address the substance of the issue. They believe that's need to change.

One other thing that is going to need to change, the process argument, once the hearings become public, once things start to move out into the open from the deposition phase, Republicans I talked to acknowledge that the process argument is going to start to lose some of its luster as that moves forward. How are they going to handle that?

One thing I want to key on that I think is important. Kevin McCarthy, in his floor speech before this vote today, made a point you're going to start hearing a lot, I'm told and that is we're one year out from an election. Let the American people decide this, let the voters decide this. That is going to be a shift that was an important shift today. You're going to start hearing a lot more of that in the weeks ahead, John.

KING: We're going to hear it in seconds ahead. You see the House Republicans now coming together into the room here to give their take on this. So we'll just keep an eye on it until the leader comes in. Here he comes now, more of the leadership coming in. We'll see if they're ready to begin. No, let's keep an eye on until they begin.

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KING: It's an important point Phil makes, because we'll get later to some of the testimony. Some of what has been said behind closed doors that will now come into the public eye but impeachment is a political process. You can't look in the constitution and it just says you can impeach a President doesn't say what the standard is essentially high crimes and misdemeanors, what is that?

If you look at this, only one formal Republican voted with the Democrats, Justin Amash. He is now an independent, a libertarian a frequent Trump critic, so team Trump will say well he is always been a critic. Here is what he said about, these are his former colleagues we are about to hear from. "The President will be in power for only a short time, but excusing his misbehavior will forever tarnish your name. To my Republican colleagues, step outside your media and social bubble. History will not look kindly on disingenuous, frivolous and false defenses of this man".

That is from Justin Amash, Former Republican Member of Congress. We're about to hear from the current Republicans who you see them there, it is remarkable they stood united today to stand by the President. The question now is as the public testimony phase starts, will any of them crack? BASH: And my understanding is that this sort of shirts and skins as that was described to me by one Republican argument that the Republican leadership was making about this first vote to start the inquiry is different than what we'll likely see in terms of the pressure for the ultimate impeachment vote.

KING: They stopped again they're waiting to get everybody in the room here. This is -- here we go, welcome to live cable television. But it is an interesting moment in the sense that part of this is these people from safe districts believe -- let's listen to Leader Kevin McCarthy.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We just had a vote on the floor. In March of this year, Speaker Pelosi said this about impeachment. Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there is something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don't think we should go down that path because it divides the country.

Today the country just witnessed the only bipartisan vote on that floor was against. The questions to the Speaker are the same questions I provided in the letter about the unfair process that we had. What has changed since March? In all the hearings, there's nothing compelling, nothing overwhelming, so the Speaker should follow her own words on what bipartisan vote on that floor and in the sham that has been putting this country through this nightmare. That's exactly what this vote shows today. I want to call up our whip, Steve Scalise.

SCALISE: Thank you, Kevin. When we talk about the vote, I think it's important to note, when you see that not only did every single Republican reject the Soviet style impeachment process, but were even joined by Democrats who couldn't stand it anymore. If you look at where we are right now, we're at an important point in history.

Clearly there are people that we serve with that don't like the results of the 2016 election. That's their prerogative. But the country next year will be deciding who our President is going to be. It should not be Nancy Pelosi in a small group of people that she selects that get to determine who is going to be our President.

If you look at the resolution today, they talk about fairness. Now, if they really think that they can tell people it's fair that only the Chairman gets to decide who the witnesses are and they give us an opportunity to call witnesses, but if the Chair says they don't like the witnesses, the witnesses don't come forward.

They allow the President to have Legal Counsel in the room unless the Chair decides that they don't want the President's Legal Counsel in the room. That's never happened before. With the Clinton impeachment, with the Nixon impeachment, Republican and Democrat alike, both sides were treated equally. Both sides could call witnesses. The President's Legal Counsel was in the room not at the discretion of the Chair, but because it's fair.

So when you look at the Soviet style process, it shows you that they don't really want to get to the truth, they want to remove a sitting President. In fact, the author of the articles of impeachment said if they don't impeach the President, he will get reelected. That's not why we have impeachment.

Alexander Hamilton made it very clear. His concern, when they were trying to promote the constitution, was that he didn't want to see impeachment used for political purposes, yet that's what happened today. He predicted it, and it happened today. It's a sham; it shouldn't have happened it's a tainted process that Adam Schiff is being conducting, that Nadler might one day conduct.

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SCALISE: The House deserves better, the people of this country deserve better. We should tackling real problems. We could have lower prescription prices today but Pelosi won't bring those bills to the floor because she's infatuated with impeachment. Our troops could be properly funded but Pelosi is infatuated with impeachment.

In fact, we could have better trade relations with Canada and Mexico and create 160,000 new jobs today, but Pelosi is infatuated with impeachment. We deserve better. Our conference Chair Liz Cheney.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Thank you very much, Steve. I want to make sure everybody is focused on a couple things, and you'll hear from a number of our members today about this. The first one is that the Democrats cannot fix this process. They've now created a record over the course of the last several weeks with witnesses they selected.

We know there were circumstances where Chairman Schiff told witnesses not to answer questions that our members were asking. We know there have been circumstances where our members have attempted to go read transcripts and they've been told by staff members that they're not allowed to go read those transcripts.

This is a process that has been fundamentally tainted. The President has had no rights inside these hearings, his counsel has not been able to be present, so for them now to claim that there is certainly going to open process up which by the way this resolution does not do. The resolution says that they're going to continue to do what they want to do, it gives authority for open hearings, but they cannot go back and fix what is a fundamentally tainted and unfair record?

The second thing is very important for the American people to understand, and you heard the leader and the whip talk about things that aren't getting done here. There is a long list of things the American people deserve to have done that simply are not being addressed because of the Democrats' obsession with impeachment.

Think about what Speaker Pelosi has done for the last several weeks and what she codified today. What she did today was she said she is going to take the Intelligence Committee of the House of Representatives which is arguably the single most important committee when it comes our oversight, when it comes to the National Security of this nation, and she has told them stop all focus on any issue that has anything to do with National Security of the nation.

You saw Democrats on the floor of the House arguing that somehow it was Republicans who were putting politics above National Security. There is no one who has done that the way that Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff have done that. History will hold them accountable, history will judge them. We're at a moment where the nation faces grave, significant ongoing threats, and she has completely neutered the Intelligence Committee. She has said they must be focused on a partisan impeachment process and not the oversight objections that we have--

KING: You're listening here to the three top Republicans. If you need a reminder of impeachment is a political process, let's go now to another room in the same building the Capitol and listen to the Democrats.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D-CA): The resolution today sets out the procedures going forward with that impeachment process. The founding fathers understood that a leader might take hold of the Oval Office who would sacrifice the national security, who would fail to defend the constitution, which would place his personal or political interests above the interests of the country.

They understood that might happen. And they provided a mechanism to deal with it, and that mechanism is called impeachment. We take no joy in having to move down this road and proceed with the impeachment inquiry. But neither do we shrink from it. The resolution from the perspective of the Intelligence Committee sets out important procedures for how we may conduct our open hearings.

During the depositions that we have conducted thus far, we've used a format that we believe very conducive to the fact-finding process. Those procedures now will be incorporated into the open hearings in which staff counsel will be permitted for lengthy periods of time to do sustained questioning for up to 25 minutes per side followed by member questioning.

We've used this, I think, to great success for both parties during the course of the depositions where, in the depositions we have alternated one hour for the majority, one hour for the minority, 45 minutes for the majority 45 minutes for the minority. In those depositions, over 100 members have been eligible to participate.

I should tell you that notwithstanding those that have complained about lack of access to the depositions, most of the members who have been permitted to attend have failed to attend, have not made use of the availability of attending each and every deposition. But those that have on both sides of the aisle have had an equal opportunity to question the witnesses, and indeed, when we move into open session both parties will have an equal opportunity to question any witnesses that are called.