Return to Transcripts main page
Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) Is Interviewed On House Impeachment Process Of President Trump; Congressmen Mark Meadows And Jim Jordan Informally Helping White House Lawyers In Impeachment Inquiry; Democratic Presidential Candidates Campaign In Iowa; Beto O'Rourke Ends Presidential Campaign; Washington Nationals Celebrate World Series Victory With Parade In Washington D.C.; Washington Nationals Pitcher Declines Invitation To White House; Two Democratic Representatives Vote Against House Resolution Approving Formal Impeachment Proceedings. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired November 2, 2019 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
Right now, a big league celebration underway in the nation's capital. The World Series champion Washington Nationals are making their way through D.C. in a ticker-tape parade. Thousands of fans lining the National Mall to get a glimpse of the team and their hard-fought trophy. This was the first World Series win for the series in 95 years. The team is hosting a big rally coming up in the next hour. You see the folks really excited about it in their Nationals gear.
It's also a major day on the campaign trail. Several of the top Democratic contenders for president stumping at a fish fry in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, about to take place right there. The event is part of a critical weekend for candidates jockeying for position in the polls, polls that have grown increasingly tighter in recent weeks.
We begin with another event that's consuming Washington. I'm talking of course about the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. House Democrats have a full slate of officials, some currently in the White House, others who left recently. And they want to speak with all of these potential witnesses next week.
Whether they get the chance, the Democrats, though, is another story. One of the officials, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who has met with Ukraine's president at least three times while in office, refusing to testify behind closed doors without an attorney. But a spokesperson says Perry would consider a public hearing.
And then there's the ongoing fallout from the White House Ukraine expert Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who was so concerned at the time about what he heard on President Trump's call with his Ukrainian counterpart, that he told the top lawyer on the National Security Council that it was very disturbing. And in testimony to Congress, Vindman says that lawyer, John Eisenberg, told him in response to keep those concerns to himself. Eisenberg, who helped move a transcript of that call to a secure server, has now been subpoenaed to appear on Monday.
Democratic Congressman John Garamendi of California joining me right now. Congressman, good to see you.
REP. JOHN GARAMENDI, (D-CA): Thank you.
WHITFIELD: So a Perry spokesperson says he would consider giving a deposition in public. Is that request reasonable? And can he make that request as Energy Secretary?
GARAMENDI: I think he is going to have to first appear in private with the deposition, that is to gather information, just like other folks have come forward to the three committees that have been doing the depositions. And then I'm sure he'll have an opportunity to testify in public. But step by step --
WHITFIELD: But can he set the conditions?
GARAMENDI: No. He should not be able to set the conditions. He will undoubtedly, at the moment, have a voluntary request. But if he stays where he is, he's going to get a subpoena.
WHITFIELD: So you're saying if he refuses to appear voluntarily for this deposition, he will get a subpoena. If he defies the subpoena, then what? Because there are others who have ignored the subpoenas without consequence?
GARAMENDI: I suspect -- well, that's true. However, there will be an opportunity later. What we've been able to do is to really get around those people that have defied the subpoena. Other people have come forward. They're patriots, they're people that understand the process, the legitimate right and obligation of the House of Representatives to gather information now with a formal impeachment inquiry, full vote of the House of Representatives having taken place. So there's no more ducking and weaving here. You're going to have to come forward.
And if you don't there will be consequences down the road. Perry is probably concerned that he's going to get caught up in a lie, and that would be very, very difficult, and quite possibly end up in prosecution.
WHITFIELD: And so, as I say, he made a visit to Ukraine three times, at least that's what publicly been revealed. So seven freshman Democrats from California flipped their districts from red to blue in the midterms, and they now back impeachment. But clearly that decision could make their seats vulnerable next year. And then there's this new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll showing that independents narrowly oppose impeachment, 49 percent compared to 47 percent who support it. So do you have to be mindful of that as you proceed in the impeachment process?
[14:05:01] GARAMENDI: Those seven Democrats are doing their obligation. They're carrying out their oath of office. They're doing what they should do courageously in the face of possible retribution at the polls in November. However, the poll that you just cited about independents as well as Democrats and Republicans, is really preliminary and way ahead of the public hearings that will soon take place.
As the public hears these individuals from the White House and other, Taylor, former ambassador, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, all those people testifying publicly, I think you're going to find the public saying, oh, my God, there really was an obstruction of justice, in the case of Mueller, there really was an effort by the president to extort Ukraine to illegally involve itself in a presidential election.
WHITFIELD: So you feel like it will be a lot more revealing. The flipside to that is, by now having this other phase, public hearings, it certainly elongates the process. And that also means that public opinion, people could be fatigued by the process, turn away, and here that public forum is undermined just simply by the fact that people feel like it's too much. Do you worry about losing public support that way?
GARAMENDI: No, I don't. I think the testimony that will be heard in those public meetings, which will be coming forward in a few weeks, will be compelling, that the public will say, yes, yes indeed, the president did engage in an illegal, and an effort to help himself in the upcoming election, and that it was corrupt, and that he did not pay attention to his oath of office. All of those things will be out there in the public for everybody to see.
Keep in mind that at the beginning of the Nixon impeachment process, the public was even -- was very, very strongly, Democrats and Republicans alike, opposed to impeachment. But then when the Senate did its public hearings and the evidence came forward, it all shifted.
And I think that's what will happen here. Even though presently a very slim majority of the American public does want to proceed with the impeachment hearings, at the end of the day we'll see what takes place. But right now, there's a very, very strong case that the president has abused his authority, his power, for his own personal benefit, and that clearly corruption did take place, and that he did ignore his oath of office.
WHITFIELD: So you saw that "Washington Post" article today which talks about how some Republican senators, part of the strategy is go ahead and acknowledge that there may have been a this-for-that, as it pertains to Ukraine and the president's motives here. But then, last night with our Chris Cuomo, a lawmaker, Randy Weber, took a different approach, which might be signposting how Republicans are going to be handling this. It just seems to be a strategy of defend and deflect. Listen to that soundbite if we have it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Ivanka Trump, representing the U.S. government, went to China and got a bunch of patents right when she was meeting with President Xi, and that's OK. So isn't it OK?
REP. RANDY WEBER, (R-TX): Chris, just another example of anti- Trumpism you just quoted.
CUOMO: How is that OK?
WEBER: The president's family has been involved in business around the world for a long time.
CUOMO: So you can keep doing it while you work in the U.S. government?
WEBER: So they can make business. They can do business, they can make money while they're working for the U.S. government.
WEBER: They're not selling -- absolutely they can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So the point there is that a real parallel was being made, criticism that Hunter Biden shouldn't dare, conflict of interest, be making money while his dad was vice president, take the turn there now that it's OK for the president, his family, to continue to make money. So if that is revealing what the Republican strategy will be, how does that make your job either more complicated or easier?
GARAMENDI: Well, frankly, much, much easier. Mr. Weber, a very good fellow but is absolutely wrong. He ought to read the Constitution. Article One of the Constitution is quite clear about any public official, the president, myself, Ivanka Trump, who is actually a public official working in the White House, cannot use their position to receive anything of value from a foreign government. And surely those rights, those patents, those are --
WHITFIELD: She's received patents, involving China while she's had that job.
GARAMENDI: Absolutely. Those are valuable things from the government, from the Chinese government to her. And surely the president, the Trump hotel is an outstanding example of the way in which he has used his office as president to enrich himself from foreign governments. That may very well be one of the impeachment charges that will go forward.
But in the case of Ukraine, you have another situation which the president is abusing his power as president, withholding critical military aid that Ukraine needs to fight off Russia. What for? To advance his political circumstances in the upcoming election by having the Ukraine government investigate the Bidens. There are two or three different specific issues -- abuse of power to enrich himself politically, as well as extortion, and inviting a foreign government to illegally engage in his election campaign. That just goes on and on and on. So Mr. Weber, thanks for pointing out, there is a serious problem here.
WHITFIELD: Congressman John Garamendi, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.
And then, just take a look outside in the nation's capital, and you will see the fans have lined up Constitution Avenue there. They are awaiting the arrival of the World Series champion Washington Nationals. A parade underway right now. We'll take you back to the nation's capital right after this.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. House Democrats, they're building their cases for impeaching President Donald Trump through a succession of closed-door depositions. And a pair of Trump's closest allies on Capitol Hill are quietly offering guidance to the White House lawyers responsible for crafting the president's defense strategy. Here now is CNN's Pamela Brown.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, my colleague Jeremy Diamond and I have learned that a pair of President Trump's closest GOP allies are quietly offering guidance to the White House lawyers responsible for crafting the president's defense strategy. Congressmen Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan have been informally helping White House lawyers in the Counsel's office here sort through publicly reported aspects of the policy to the extent they can under House rules according to four administration officials.
Now, Meadows and Jordan are two of the only GOP members that have been in every closed door testimony until the end, and their conversations with the White House, we're told, is primarily aimed at helping the lawyers here get a better grasp at the allegations being leveled at Trump that are leaking out from the closed-door testimony, and identifying any potential weak points as the White House crafts its legal strategy to defend Trump during his impeachment trial.
Mark Meadows told CNN that he has only shared brought characterizations and is not sharing specifics of the testimony with the White House, pointing to those House rules preventing him from disclosing details of the testimony. He says he has guided the White House in what he views as mischaracterizations coming from Democrats after the various closed-door testimonies.
Jim Jordan, for his part, telling CNN he has never divulged information to the White House that should not be divulged, and will not answer questions that in any can get to the substance of the depositions. And when some witnesses such as Tim Morrison just recently backs up aspects of the president's defense or hurts the Democrats' strategy in their view, these lawmakers have pointed that out publicly, but, as we've seen, have been careful not to divulge too much. They're certainly walking a fine line here.
Pamela Brown, CNN, the White House.
WHITFIELD: With me right now, Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas School of Law and a CNN contributor. Good to see you, Steve. So what do you make of the strategy by the White House, getting informal guidance from a few Republican members of Congress?
STEVE VLADECK, PROFESSOR OF LAW, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SCHOOL OF LAW: In one sense I think it's not at all surprising given where we are. In another sense, I think it's a pretty telling and sober reflection of where we are. We're supposed to have the separation of powers, not separation of parties. Yet here we have members of the House who are supposed to be playing the role of grand jurors basically helping the putative defense.
It's not, as Pamela said in her story, it's not against the rules as long as they're not divulging the contents of this testimony. But it still doesn't exactly help the appearance that there are just two sides here and no one is actually trying to necessarily convince people on the other side that they're right.
WHITFIELD: It almost sends a message of a conflict of interest. Your role is oversight, as a member of Congress, and then to, I guess, split up the team on whether you're going to live up to your sworn duty of protecting democracy, or not.
VLADECK: Well, I think, again, it goes back to what's your role? And I think the founders when they wrote the Constitution they contemplated it would be the House's job to decide up or down on whether to impeach someone, a federal official like the president. I'm not sure the founders would have contemplated members of the House actively working with the official under investigation to get their strategy on the same page.
But it's the times we live in where I think we're seeing over and over again signs that what's much more important in Washington these days is which party you're in as opposed to which branch you're in. The institutional interests really have been overrun by the partisan political ones.
WHITFIELD: Wow. And then there's this "Washington Post" reporting that an increasing number of Republican senators consider acknowledging that there was quid pro quo on that July 25th call, but that Trump's actions were not illegal, and that it may have been lacking of a certain intent. So what do you make of that defense?
VLADECK: Yes, it's remarkable to watch the goalposts move. I think the first line was, well, everything the president did was fine entirely because there was no quid pro quo. I think there are plenty of folks who thought well, no, that's still not a real problem if the president is soliciting foreign interference in our own domestic politics. But now the argument is, oh, and there was a quid pro quo, and it's fine. Man, it's easy to be --
WHITFIELD: But the intent wasn't there, that too --
VLADECK: But Fred, I think it's still pretty easy to be cynical about this strategy.
And once again, why is it these members of Congress, in this case the Senate, who are supposed to be the jurors. We have someone like Senator Susan Collins from Maine who won't comment publicly on any of the allegations against President Trump because, she says, my job as a juror might be compromised if I were commenting publicly, contrasted with the story where you have Republican senators actively involved in trying to figure out what's the best strategy for trying to create a case to vote not to remove the president.
My concern, Fredricka, is what precedent are we setting going forward for Congress' ability to function as an independent branch of government as opposed to just for whoever has the most votes being able to do whatever the heck they want.
WHITFIELD: And House Democrats want to talk to a lot of people. Among them, former National Security Adviser John Bolton, outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry, both have really set conditions. Bolton saying, OK, if you subpoena, then maybe. Perry saying, not private in the form of the depositions that we've been seeing but only in a public platform. Can you do that?
VLADECK: So can you did do that, versus can you do that legally? Those are two different questions. Bolton and Perry have a fair amount of leverage if the question is can they be brought in to testify soon. They might actually lose eventually in court if they try to resist a subpoena, and the grounds that they invoke for resisting turn out to be bogus. But that's going to take a while to sort out.
And so I think the question is can the relevant House Committees reach compromises with these prospective witnesses where they'll agree to testify, whether under subpoena or not, or are we going to see more stonewalling that is going to just push more and more of these cases into the courts.
WHITFIELD: Steve Vladeck, thank you so much.
VLADECK: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Iowa voters will cast their first ballots in the 2020 election in just over 90 days from now. And right now, more than a dozen Democrats are trying to win over these undecided voters. What do the voters want to know?
[14:26:15] WHITFIELD: All right, it's a big day in the nation's capital, in Washington. They are celebrating the Washington Nationals, their first huge Major League Baseball World Series championship, and it was a nail-biter the whole way through. And you see how many dozens, hundreds perhaps, thousands of people have descended on the nation's capital there to celebrate. Some are in a bus, and then some are actually walking. Nonetheless, people are excited. It's happening. And it is a day in which all sides are coming together to celebrate Major League Baseball teams. We'll go back.
Natasha Chen is out there in the midst of it all, and she's talking to people as well. We'll check back in Washington in a moment.
Meantime, right now Iowa is the center of the 2020 campaign trail, and the Democrats remaining in the race for the White House are crisscrossing the state to pitch their messages to potential voters. Right now, several of the top contenders are attending a fish fry in Cedar Rapids, holding town halls and events in Des Moines there. CNN's Arlette Saenz is on the campaign trail in Des Moines, and CNN's Leyla Santiago is in Cedar Rapids. So Leyla, you first. Tell me about the event that you are attending, or you're reporting on, I should say.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Listen, they're just getting started. Obviously, as you might imagine, they have fish fry as well as cupcakes, everything ready to go. What we're expecting here today are some of the big candidates coming to this stage to talk about infrastructure and the economy.
And take note of the time. This is a day after the L and J Celebration where 13,000 Democrats came together here in Iowa to listen to these candidates as she showed strength in their campaigns and really tried to make a pitch and distinguish themselves with one big issue. Coming up, Medicare for all, Elizabeth Warren putting out her plan, saying she doesn't want to raise taxes on the middle class. Biden saying not possible.
One person that was supposed to be here today but is not here, actually still on the agenda, Congressman Beto O'Rourke, because a few hours before that big celebration last night he announced via Twitter that he was dropping out of the race. Our sources telling us that this was an issue of money, that the fundraising really wasn't what they expected it to be, and as a result the congressman didn't see this as a viable option.
Today here, we'll see what the candidates have to say about that. I spoke to one voter just a second ago, who said she wants to hear how these Democratic candidates plan to get things done should they beat Donald Trump, President Donald Trump in 2020.
WHITFIELD: Arlette, Mayor Pete Buttigieg making some pretty impressive headway, right, there in Iowa, a new poll putting him in the top tier of the candidates there. But he's also saying that he sees this as a two-person race. ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, that's right. Pete
Buttigieg is certainly seeing a surge in support here in Iowa right now, as that new poll shows that he's in the top tier of candidates along with Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden. But he did recently tell Showtime's "The Circus" that he believes this is becoming a two-way race between himself and Elizabeth Warren. Take a listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG, (D-IN) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think this is getting to be a two-way. It's early to say it. I'm not saying it is a two-way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you see that? You see it's coming into focus, you and Warren?
BUTTIGIEG: Yes. And certainly a world where we're getting somewhere is that world, where it's coming down to the two of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAENZ: Now, Buttigieg also said that he does not think that Joe Biden is an unstoppable frontrunner, but Biden, he's been leading in a lot of the national polls. Here it's a bit of a tighter race with Warren, Buttigieg, and Sanders.
And one thing I heard Biden over and over, over the past four days while I was with him here in Iowa talk about is his experience. He kept stressing that you need a president who does not need on-the-job training, stressing that he believes that he can do that on day one. These are just among the many pitches that these Democrats are making to Iowa voters here in the state.
WHITFIELD: And then, Arlette, this is also a time where some are refocusing, reprioritizing, Senator Kamala Harris is among them where there are offices that are closing in New Hampshire. She's got staff changes in Baltimore, and then focusing in Iowa, to what extent?
SAENZ: Yes. Kamala Harris is really betting big on Iowa right now. She is diverting a lot of her resources into the state. As you mentioned, there have been some layoffs in New Hampshire. She's moving some campaign staff from headquarters over to Iowa. Right now she's at about three percent in the most recent poll here in the state, and she's really hoping that they can turn their support around here in the state to try to create some momentum heading forward.
And this is something that you could potentially see other candidates do as we get closer to the caucuses. We're now 93 days out, and a new poll recently showed that two-thirds of voters here in Iowa, they could still change their mind about who they're supporting, so these candidates are going to be going all out in trying to win those votes.
WHITFIELD: Arlette Saenz, Leyla Santiago, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.
And the festivities role on. For the first time, the Washington Nationals celebrating with their fans as world champions, you see them there, the players making their way through nation's capital right now. And in minutes they'll stop for a huge rally. We're live along the parade route, next.
WHITFIELD: A celebration of huge proportions. This is 95 years in the making. A live look at the World Series champion Washington Nationals parade through the streets of the nation's capital. Wednesday night the team secured Washington D.C.'s first World Series title since 1924.
But when the team visits President Trump at the White House by invitation on Monday, one member, pitcher Sean Doolittle, reportedly will not be in attendance. Doolittle told "The Washington Post" that the president's rhetoric is the reason for skipping the visit on Monday. CNN national correspondent Natasha Chen is at today's championship celebration. So Natasha, what more can you tell us about Doolittle's thinking, and what the fans have to say about it, too?
NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Doolittle told "The Washington Post" that he just can't hang out with someone who talks about people of minority races and people with certain disabilities the way that he has observed President Trump do. And so he said that was his personal decision, which some of these fans told me, they said that's fine, they respect that that's his choice.
And one woman told me this is liberal D.C. She herself would not mind if the entire team just avoided the visit altogether. "The Washington Post" also reported that several other players were wrestling with that decision.
So while this community is certainly very familiar with politics reining over everything that happens here, they are tell me they're tuning that out, at least just for today, these few hours where they're just so excited to see all of their players and their family and friends coming down Constitution Avenue, as I'm sure our other camera is showing you, just the excitement from the crowd, some of them who have been here since 2:00 in the morning just to get a good spot.
Behind us, we are toward the end of the parade here where all of the buses and convertibles of the players are ending up here. The stage is where there's going to be some speakers and performers later on. And of course, this is a really big moment, as you said, 95 years in the making, one person said they waited their whole lifetime for this. And of course some people were spotting in the audience wearing shark costumes and holding shark balloons as baby shark has become the theme, especially for Parra, one of the players who likes to go up to the plate with that theme song. So everyone here very energized despite how early some of them came
here. I'm surprised that they're still awake. So we are seeing lots of excitement, people throwing baseballs out into the audience. I will say there is also a bus with the Budweiser guy. This is a guy who got his 15 minutes of fame because he was holding two Budweisers as one of the balls hit him in the stands. He got his own bus today.
So everyone here is just having a bit of fun and enjoying this moment far away from politics, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Oh, this is a lot of fun. So Natasha, Washington is on a roll. Think about it. Its sports franchise teams are all champs. You've got the Washington Caps, the NHL team there. You've got the WNBA Mystics, and now you've got the Washington Nationals.
CHEN: MLB, yes.
WHITFIELD: Yes, Major League Baseball. So what are people in general saying? You don't necessarily have to be a baseball fan to feel the feeling there, this electricity there in Washington.
CHEN: It is absolutely palpable. I can't actually see any blank space of sidewalk right now, it is so deep full of fans in red and white. People have climbed the trees just to get a good look. The first guy who made it up the branches got a standing ovation. I will say this is the first weekend parade that D.C. put on. The Capitals got a parade on a weekday last time, so fewer people were able to make it from work. And we're being told the District of Columbia will be planning a parade for the Mystics, the WNBA champions, sometime in the spring, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Excellent, well-deserved to all of the athletes, especially the Nationals right now being celebrated. Natasha Chen, thank you so much.
Let's talk politics, coming up again, can't help but do that. Republicans in the House sticking together in Congress' first vote on impeachment. But do they need to change their strategies to stay united in defense of President Trump?
WHITFIELD: GOP senators are once again moving the goalposts when it comes to defending the president's actions. "The Washington Post" reports that a growing number of Republicans are now ready to acknowledge that there was a quid pro quo between the president and Ukraine. However, they claim it's not impeachable. This comes as the White House struggles to find a coherent strategy on impeachment while the president continues to tout his support within his party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the Republicans have been amazing. We had 195 or 196 to nothing. We have tremendous support from the Senate. We have tremendous support from the House. We even had Democrats go over to the Republican's side yesterday in the House to vote, because they said this is not impeachable. This isn't impeachable. It's supposed to be high crimes and misdemeanors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Joining me right now, Lanhee Chen, CNN political commentator and former Mitt Romney public policy director. Lanhee, good to see you. So what do you think is behind this shift in this GOP strategy to go ahead and acknowledge that there was this this-for- that, but there's nothing wrong with it?
LANHEE CHEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think there are two elements here. First of all, the Republicans previously, particularly on the Senate side, have been using an argument that's premised on process. Essentially the process was tainted, Democrats were doing this behind closed doors. Now the public phase of impeachment is beginning, particularly on the House side, it's difficult to sustain that argument.
The second thing I would say is, by basically saying, look, there was a quid pro quo, did that quid pro quo did not reach corrupt intent or something that would be criminal in nature, it allows them basically to get ahead of whatever else might come out regarding that potential exchange of military aid to Ukraine for some kind of political investigation, of this for that, in other words. It allows them to get ahead of that particular argument.
So I think Republicans are pivoting their strategy in part because they have to, but also because it's the prudent thing to do given that they don't know what else is out there.
WHITFIELD: So the message Republicans seem to be sending is that it is OK to seek foreign aid for political purposes. But that's not supported by the Constitution. So what is the argument that can be -- the convincing argument that can be made that there are conditions in which that's OK, even when you're talking about personal gain?
CHEN: Right. That's the key question, Fredricka, is whether there was personal gain. I think if you look at corrupt intent which, a quid pro quo, the notion of us putting conditions on the aid, that truly is nothing new. The United States has always conditioned aid for certain kinds of things. The question is, is the condition for that aid, did it personally benefit the president?
The argument that Democrats want to make is, look, by asking the Ukrainians to investigate Hunter Biden and the Biden family, the personal benefit goes to the president in the form of a political gain. And Republicans are saying no, because there wasn't maybe any financial gain involved for example, this would not rise to that level. So that's the argument Republicans are going to make.
WHITFIELD: OK, so sources telling CNN that during a face-to-face meeting last week, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Trump to stop attacking Senate Republicans. Do you think that was good advice? Will it sink in with the president?
CHEN: Well, I think the president is going to do whatever he thinks is in his best interest, and part of the challenge Republicans face is the president is his own messaging machine. He's going to go out there and say whatever he wants to say.
I do think it's well advised to not attack Senate Republicans in part because they're going to be the jurors in all of this. And giving them some space I think is important, particularly because there are some Senate Republicans who are in vulnerable races and they need to be able to go their own way if they're going to win next year.
WHITFIELD: OK. And then there is some split between -- among Senate Republicans about pushing for a quick impeachment trial, and whether this process now really elongates it, makes it very lengthy and potentially difficult for those in vulnerable seats.
CHEN: Yes, there's all sorts of arguments about whether a quick trial or a lengthy trial is better, who it's better for. The timing is challenging, but two things are for sure. One is the longer it goes out, I do think some Democrats run into problems, particularly those who are running for president, because they've got to be strapped to their chairs in Washington as opposed to out in Iowa or New Hampshire, campaigning for the presidency.
For Republicans, particularly the vulnerable ones, the longer they have to talk about impeachment, the more they can not have to talk about the issues that I think voters care about, I think the worse off they're going to be. So my sense is everybody, Democrats and Republicans alike, generally probably want this to be done sooner rather than later.
WHITFIELD: Lanhee Chen, good to see you, thank you so much.
CHEN: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Still ahead, Thursday's impeachment inquiry vote was almost straight down party lines. It pretty much was. But curiously, two Democrats broke ranks. Next, how voters in their home districts are now responding.
WHITFIELD: All right, this week's impeachment inquiry fell almost exactly along party lines, almost. Two Democrats broke ranks to vote no on formalizing the inquiry into President Trump's conduct toward Ukraine, Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson and Congressman Jeff Van Drew of New Hampshire sided with Republicans against the resolution. Both men represent districts Trump won in 2016. So what do their constituents think of their votes? CNN's Alison Kosik joining me right now. So Alison, you're hearing from people in Van Drew's New Jersey district. And what are they saying.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know what, Fred., we got mixed reviews from constituents in one of the two Democratic congressmen's districts, and this is the one in New Jersey. These of course are the congressmen who voted no in the first full House vote on impeachment. So yes, we went ahead and ventured into Jeff Van Drew's district, and specifically Egg Harbor, which is the town inside the second Congressional district in New Jersey which he represents. And what we found that they're sort of split in the middle.
Some people say yes, we support his vote no on this vote. And others said look, even if Trump isn't impeached fully, meaning only impeached by the House, they believe that there should be an investigation. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JILL MILES, NEW JERSEY VOTER: I think it was wrong. I think he should have voted to continue with the inquiry. After hearing parts of what the conversation consisted of, I think it should be investigated for sure.
JOHN WALSH, NEW JERSEY VOTER: I am behind him 100 percent plus. He thought his mind and not the party. That's exactly it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOSIK: We did reach out to both congressmen's offices. They didn't reach back out to us, but they did release the following statements. Van drew saying "Without bipartisan support, I believe this inquiry will divide the country, tearing it apart at the seams, and will ultimately fail in the Senate. However, now that the vote has taken place and we are moving forward, I will be making a judgment call based on all the evidence presented by these investigations."
Peterson saying "This impeachment process continues to be hopelessly partisan. I have been hearing from my constituents on both sides of this matter for months, and the escalation of calls this past week just shows me how divided our country is right now. Without support from Senate Republicans, going down this path is a mistake." So we will see of course how this transpires and proceeds in Congress. Fredricka?
WHITFIELD: Alison Kosik, thank you so much for bringing that to us. Appreciate it.
And thank you so much for being with us today. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. NEWSROOM continues right after a break with Ana Cabrera.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You're live in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thanks for being with us. The political world this weekend, for Democrats, anyway, is no bigger than the state of Iowa. That's where Americans will cast their first votes of the 2020 election season in just over 90 days now, and it's where all of the top tier Democrat candidates this weekend are working crowds, they're trying to impress voters, and are hoping to do the one thing that none of them has managed to do yet, that is, stand out.
There is slightly more elbow room now in the once very crowded field of Democratic candidates.