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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) is Interviewed About the Impeachment Investigation. Aired 4:30-4:45p ET

Aired November 21, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Michael Gerhardt, as an expert of impeachment, what have the Democrats and the witnesses presented conclusively in your view and is any of that a crime?

[16:30:11]

MICHAEL GERHARDT, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR: Honestly, a lot of firsts. It's not -- it's not necessarily a crime. There may be questions about laws actually apply to the president or not. But it also doesn't matter whether or not it is an actual criminal offense. What strikes me is that the Democrats have done a relatively good job systematically showing that the president of the United States has a duty to follow the constitution and execute policy.

But the more we learn about the situation, the more we learn the president was not trying to follow the Constitution, or execute policy, when he was asking for investigations for the Bidens, in particular for a public announcement from the president of Ukraine but he's opening an investigation. That's a political errand, as just was described, and that's not consistent with his duty and that is abuse of power.

TAPPER: Let's bring up that sound bite if we can actually. That's sound bite number five. This is what Dana Bash was referring to earlier as perhaps the most important part of the testimony today in terms of Dr. Fiona Hill, who is a -- was a director for President Trump on the National Security Council, talking about her conclusion in the middle of all this when she realized what was going on with this alternate group of individuals that were pushing a different foreign policy when it came to Ukraine.

Let's play that bite.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FIONA HILL, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S FOREMER TOP RUSSIA ADVISER: Had a bit of a blowup with Ambassador Sondland, and I had a couple of testy encounters with him. One of those was in June '18 when I actually said to him, who put him in charge of Ukraine, and, you know, I'll admit I was a bit rude. That's what he told me the president, which shut me up.

But it struck me yesterday, when you put up on the screen, Ambassador Sondland's emails and who was on .emails and he said these are the people that need to know he was absolutely right. Because he was being involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being involved in national security foreign policy and those two things had just diverged. And I did say to him, Ambassador Sondland, Gordon, I think this is all going to blow up and here we are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: What's the importance of that to you, Laura Coates, as a former prosecutor?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: When I hear domestic political errand, I think the context of bribery, which is essentially I'm asking you to give me something of value in exchange for the performance of an official act. We know the official act was handing you over the congressionally appropriated millions and millions of military aid. What do I want in return? I want you to perform essentially a domestic political errand on my behalf by getting dirt on somebody who I perceived to be a political rival, that is the Bidens, aka, Burisma.

SO, I do see the makings of an actual crime. My colleague is correct in the sense that the Constitution is set up, you need not have a crime be necessary or sufficient to actually impeach a president. What I mean by that is every single thing that is a crime, impeachable for the president of the United States, if he's speeding for some reason, 20 miles over the hour, it is illegal technically. Do you impeach the president? No.

But it is necessary to think about the impropriety and inappropriate behavior he's involved in if he actually does perform behavior that meets the level of a crime. And that, to me in the bribery context is certainly what is an abuse of power, and that is being exploited. And what clearly she points out over the course of a very eloquent and articulate testimony is the idea that everyone was aware of what was being asked, contextual clues were there, direct statements were made. You remember, she actually pointed out, much ado has been made about what's not hearsay, she even used it is my own ears I heard.

TAPPER: Yes.

COATES: I've actually observed things, I'm hearing it, it didn't come out of nowhere.

TAPPER: Very quickly, because we need to squeeze in a break. Laura, if Fiona Hill was talking about the quid pro quo being about the White House meeting in exchange for these meetings announced and I think that's what she was at that point in this continuum of insidiousness as Sondland called it once, does that change whether or not it's bribery? Because it's still an official act, but it's not $400 million worth.

COATES: It changed the gravity for people and what they would think, but it's not -- still an official act, still constitutes bribery and still constitute an abuse of power.

TAPPER: All right. We're going to squeeze in a quick break. A momentous day to cap a momentous week of public hearings in the impeachment inquiry. A member of the House Intelligence Committee is going to join me live, next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:38:48]

TAPPER: And we're back with our special coverage. Just moments ago, today's hearing in the impeachment investigation wrapped up on Capitol Hill. The last public hearing on the schedule, at least for now.

Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell joins me now. He's on the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

First of all --

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Of course.

TAPPER: -- is that it? Are there going to be any more witnesses? Is there anything -- are there other hearings that we're expecting?

SWALWELL: As you said, Jake, that's it for now. Our investigation, though, will continue. We will continue to go through what we already heard and look at what else is out there. But I'll let the chairman speak as to any future dates.

TAPPER: What new information did you learn today from Fiona Hill and David Holmes?

SWALWELL: Publicly, the American people learned that on July 10th, Fiona Hill hears this conversation at the White House where Ambassador Sondland brings up what the Ukrainians, the need for them to investigate the president's political opponent, the company that Vice President Biden's son worked for, Burisma, in exchange for investigations.

That's an important date, Jake, because so key to the president's defense and the defense Republicans in Congress have put forward is that the president told Ambassador Sondland, I want nothing from Ukraine, no quid pro quo, no quid pro quo. Now, we know on July 10 that the president's lawyers knew that there was concerns from people like Fiona Hill, that there was in fact this quid pro quo exchange going on with the Ukrainians.

[16:40:09]

TAPPER: You're also on the House Judiciary Committee, I believe. Is that right?

SWALWELL: Yes, I am.

TAPPER: So when is that committee going to meet? What are the plans? Because that's the committee actually going to draw up the actual articles of impeachment, right? SWALWELL: I think Mr. Schiff put it best today. We heard facts that

are really not in dispute, that the president leveraged the power of the office over the Ukrainians for his own personal benefit. Now, we have to decide what does it mean and once we conclude our investigation, if we decide that it means that the president should be held accountable, that goes to the judiciary committee.

TAPPER: But when? When is the Judiciary Committee going to meet?

SWALWELL: Yes, the Judiciary Committee, of course, is monitoring and ready to receive any report that comes its way, but I'll leave it to the different chairman of the committee to, you know, tell you that.

TAPPER: What's the response to the Republican complaint about the hearings? Without question, we have heard from a number of witnesses who work for the Trump administration, some of whom still do, many if not all of them with impeccable records and who are patriotic, saying that it was their impression that President Trump, through Gordon Sondland and through Rudy Giuliani were pushing this campaign.

And we've also, of course, seen the rough transcript where President Trump himself asks the Ukrainian president to investigate the Bidens in 2016. What's your reaction when they say you don't have the people who actually would be on the inside of this having had the conversations with President Trump with the one exception of Gordon Sondland. You don't have John Bolton. You don't have Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, you don't have -- who is the other individual, Giuliani, Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, and that basically makes this, with the exception of Gordon Sondland, who did talk to president Trump and said President Trump is he going to do the investigation, that basically makes this a hearsay case.

SWALWELL: The Republicans' argument would hold -- would mean something, Jake, if the president will allow those witnesses to come forward. But the president is blocking them. I think at this point the fact that those witnesses have not testified, the relevance there is only that the president won't allow them to, which I think goes to his conscience of guilt.

If they could help him, you could be assured that he would allow them to come forward like the others have, and as to what it means for the evidence in the case, three people who worked under John Bolton came forward and talked about what John Bolton saw, heard, and did. And so I think we have sufficient evidence about what the president's intent was.

TAPPER: Now, the Democrats and Speaker Pelosi in particular said that you don't intend to take Bolton, Giuliani, Mulvaney, to court to try to force them to testify because that will take too long. But impeachment is a very serious matter, it's only happened a handful of times in this nation's history.

Is it not worth taking the time so that we hear from everyone? Is the desire for expediency here actually undermining the credibility of the case? SWALWELL: The desire for integrity at the ballot box is overwhelming

and predominates over fights in the courts that could go beyond the upcoming election. The president himself invoked the upcoming election when he asked the Ukrainians to investigate a potential political opponent, so the clock starts to run. If we want the upcoming election to be pure and free from outside interference, we have to understand that the president violated his oath of office by inviting a foreign government t help him cheat an election. That's why we just -- we just can't wait for the president to delay us in the courts.

TAPPER: One of the things that seems obvious to me is that the house intelligence committee was picked by Speaker Pelosi because of her confidence in the chairman, Democrat Adam Schiff of California, who was a former prosecutor. But when I listened to the evidence and I listened and read closely over the last two weeks and before that, it seems like this really belonged in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. I mean, that's really the relevant jurisdiction.

And for that reason, I wonder how can anybody look at this and think -- well, this is going about the way it should, when the committee was picked probably because Adam Schiff would be a better committee chairman than the House Foreign Affairs committee chairman for this purposes.

SWALWELL: Well, Jake, the genesis of this investigation was the president's phone call which triggered a whistle-blower to come forward to the intelligence community and inspector general. And so, because that's the origin, that's where we get our jurisdiction.

TAPPER: All right. That makes sense.

Congressman Eric Swalwell, Democrat of California, thank you so much for your time.

SWALWELL: My pleasure. Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Much more on the impeachment hearings coverage, including the phone call that involved an ambassador, a rapper in Sweden and lunch at a restaurant in Ukraine.

Stay with us.

[16:49:55]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID HOLMES, COUNSELOR FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS, U.S. EMBASSY IN UKRAINE: I heard Ambassador Sondland greet the president and explain he was calling from Kiev.

I heard President Trump then clarify that Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland replied, yes, he was in Ukraine, and went on to state that President Zelensky -- quote -- "loves your ass." [16:50:11]

I then heard President Trump ask, "So he's going to do the investigation?"

Ambassador Sondland replied that, "He's going to do it," adding that "President Zelensky will do anything you ask him to do."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That was David Holmes, the political adviser at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, describing a conversation he overheard between President Trump and the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland.

Sondland, when he testified yesterday, largely did not challenge that, although he remembered not Biden being mentioned in terms of the investigations, but Burisma, the company that Hunter Biden worked for.

Let's discuss.

Mike Shields, what do you think? I mean, obviously, you're inclined to oppose the impeachment proceeding, but do you think -- is there anything that was presented in these hearings, including today, but more generally, in the last couple of weeks, that concerns nothing?

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No.

TAPPER: Nothing?

SHIELDS: No.

I mean, and let's talk polling. Emerson College came out with a poll today, showed that impeachment is now going down. The president's approval rating is going up. Yesterday, a poll came out, it was plus four President Trump in Wisconsin. Morning Consult came out with a poll. Impeachment is minus-five since it started.

Gallup came out with a poll, and the president has rebounded to before the whistle-blower complaint came out.

TAPPER: Mm-hmm.

SHIELDS: So we have just finished the impeachment. The Democrats have had their turn at bat. They have done everything they could to put this in front of American people, which they -- some of them have been champing at the bit to do for three years.

And the end result is, everyone's hardened in concrete. This is where they are. There was no kill shots. There was no sort of amazing thing that came out of all of this. I think Will Hurd really summed it up very well, which is, this is very ambiguous to the American people.

And you can think that the president may not have done this and still don't think it rises to the level of impeachment, and that's where the Senate's going to be. And that's where we are.

TAPPER: Jen Psaki?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, I think what the Democrats did over the last two weeks was lay out a very clear fact case.

Whether not the American public and senators agree that the president should be impeached, I think, is a separate question. The case they were making, which Adam Schiff has repeatedly summarized, is, the president of the United States attempted to bribe a foreign power, in exchange for a political favor.

And what Fiona Hill said today about -- about how Gordon Sondland was -- was running a domestic political errand, I agree with Dana, that was the most important moment today.

I will say more than 50 percent of the public believes the president of the United States should be impeached and removed from power.

TAPPER: That's according to a "Washington Post"/ABC News...

(CROSSTALK)

PSAKI: That has moved. I under -- that has moved significantly in the past few months. I agree with you the Democrats needs to be cognizant of the fact that state polls are the most important in this regard.

SHIELDS: Well, these are national polls too.

PSAKI: OK, but let me -- I think you're being a little overconfident about where things stand.

I also think it's easy to sit here in Washington and suggest that the public won't be moved by the facts -- let's not underestimate where the public is -- or by the fact that Republicans -- Donald Trump just bullied a longtime Foreign Service officer over Twitter, just bullied a long-serving member of the military over Twitter.

I think you're getting a little ahead of yourself.

TAPPER: John, go ahead.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'd like to wait a week or 10 days.

And Mike is right about the current polling, absolutely, in the -- as this has been playing out. I think we should give everything a week or 10 days to settle in and see where the American people are.

But Mike's point about Will Hurd, I stress that for another reason. He's one of the retiring Republicans. He's not a Trump loyalist. So he's one of the people you're watching. Are one or two or six or eight House Republicans going to break? I think there are 16 or 17 who are retiring or not coming -- not running for reelection in the House, may be running for other offices. Those are the ones you're watching.

What Will Hurd did today sends a very clear signal, if you're the president, that I'm good. In the House, I'm good. There's no evidence as of today that he's going to have any major break, if any at all, in the House.

And so then we get to the Senate, where the last point Mike made, the conversation among Republicans will change when we get to the Senate. We talked a little bit about this earlier. You're not going to have people like Jim Jordan saying, the president didn't do anything wrong.

You're going to have a lot of Republicans saying, this is horrible.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You're going to some Republicans.

KING: Some Republicans will say that.

But the majority opinion on the Republican side will be, the Rudy Giuliani thing is wrong. He never should have been there. The president should have known better. It's a bad judgment. It's not impeachable anyway or it's not impeachable because there's an election in November.

PSAKI: But House members are going back to their districts. And the ones who are going back to a vulnerable district may hear from people in their district.

I also will say, people on the fence on either side, Democrats or Republicans, when there's going to be a tough vote, they're not announcing it weeks in advance. They will come down to the very last moment.

So...

SHIELDS: But to that point, when they go home, they have now announced they're tabling the SALT vote, which these vulnerable Democrats wanted. So they're not doing the people's business.

Nancy Pelosi came out today and said, I don't think USMCA is getting done. So the message they are seeing is -- and, by the way, there as a Democratic presidential debate last night, and here's what their party message is. No one's talking about it. No one knows what any of those candidates said.

The party's message is, we're going after the president and we're not doing the people's business that we are elected to do. No jobs bill through USMCA. No tax bill for the SALT states. Go home and defend that...

[16:55:00]

TAPPER: Let's...

SHIELDS: ... while the polls are going down on impeachment.

I think that the Democrats have a difficult -- especially those 31 in Trump districts, they are hating this right now.

TAPPER: But, Laura, very quickly, if you could, what is the precedent being set here?

We know that President Trump asked a foreign country to investigate the Bidens. That's just a fact that was in the rough transcript. We know that people on his team think that there was a quid pro quo, that, in order to get that White House meeting, they needed to announce these investigations, that people on the Trump team thought that.

Is this the new normal? Is this what presidents are going to be doing, Democrat, Republican, from now on?

COATES: Well, the sure way to empower people and embolden them to make poor choices and to perform illegal acts is not to punish it. That's the precedent being set.

TAPPER: All right, much more of our coverage of the impeachment hearings next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)