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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

House Democrats Move Closer to Articles of Impeachment. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired November 22, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:00]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Or any of our top 10 finalists to be CNN Hero of the Year. Just go to CNNHeroes.com.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me.

Let's go to Washington.

"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: It is beginning to look a lot like the president might be impeached by Christmas.

THE LEAD starts right now.

After more than 30 hours of testimony, House Democrats now moving to quickly draft articles of impeachment against President Trump. And you have to wonder if Republicans were watching the same hearings as the Democrats.

President Trump this morning attacking the witnesses, the whistle- blower, Democrats, firing off so many lies before breakfast that it was hard to keep count. But we did.

Plus, a black leader from his hometown just passed on endorsing him. With less than three months until voting begins, can Mayor Pete Buttigieg win over African-American voters? I will ask him this hour.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin today with the politics lead.

President Trump practically daring House Democrats to impeach him and declaring he welcomes a Senate trial, a process that could theoretically get under way by Christmas.

Now, we have now heard and seen 12 witnesses testifying publicly at seven hearings over five days. And while everyone is sorting through the testimony, we should note that the most damning evidence came straight from the horse's mouths.

Fact: President Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate the Bidens. We know this, not only because of the rough transcript of the July 25 call that the White House released, but because President Trump admitted it publicly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Mr. President, what exactly did you hope Zelensky would do about the Bidens after your phone call, exactly?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I would think that, if they were honest about it, they would start a major investigation into the Bidens. It's a very simple answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: A very simple answer, indeed.

And what was the Trump administration willing to do to secure this investigation into the Bidens? Were they willing to hold off a White House meeting which President Zelensky desperately wanted to show U.S. support to his public and to Putin?

Well, here's U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: I know that members of this committee frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question. Was there a quid pro quo?

As I testified previously with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Yes. Sondland says, no question, it was a quid pro quo.

Hey, Ukraine, you want the White House meeting? You need to announce these investigations.

OK, now what about that $400 million in U.S. aid that Ukraine also desperately wanted? Well, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney explained why that aid was held up. He said so on camera. Now, he said he did so, the president, because the president wanted an investigation into Ukraine's role in the 2016 election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation. And that is absolutely appropriate.

QUESTION: And withholding the funding?

MULVANEY: Yes.

QUESTION: But to be clear, what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is, funding will not flow unless the investigation into the -- into the Democratic server happened as well.

MULVANEY: We do -- we do that all the time with foreign policy.

And I have news for everybody. Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, yes, there was a quid pro quo on the military aid and the other aid, $400 million worth, according to Mulvaney.

Now, two points on what Mulvaney said there. One, he later tried to unsay what he said. And, two, Mulvaney is portraying this as trying to get Ukraine to participate in a Justice Department investigation into 2016.

But that is consistently not what President Trump says he wants. President Trump wants a look into a debunked conspiracy theory about Ukraine and the DNC server that U.S. intelligence officials say was hacked by Russia, not by Ukraine.

Now, this is just a fraction of the public evidence, though these are facts seldom even acknowledged by the president's defenders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): The facts are on our side. The facts are -- no, no. The facts are on the president's side. The truth is on the president's side.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: The truth is, the president of the United States, by his own admission, asked a foreign power to launch a major investigation into his political rival Joe Biden and his son and into a debunked conspiracy theory.

These are investigations that would help President Trump politically. And, according to the president's own aides, the president used a White House meeting and 400 million taxpayer dollars to get Ukraine to do it.

[16:05:01]

Now, you can debate whether or not it's criminal. You can debate whether or not it's impeachable. But you cannot debate whether or not those are the facts.

As CNN's Sara Murray reports, Democrats are preparing to move forward with articles of impeachment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump says, bring it on; he's ready for an impeachment trial in the Senate. TRUMP: Frankly, I want a trial. The Republican Party has never been

more unified.

MURRAY: Republican lawmakers have been working with the White House to prepare for a possible Senate trial, coalescing around the notion that a long, exhaustive process may be the best course to protect the president.

But, first, the House will have its say. The House Intelligence Committee and two other panels are crafting a report to serve as the basis for articles of impeachment that the House Judiciary Committee will consider after Thanksgiving.

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

MURRAY: Democratic sources say a busy December is ahead, filled with public hearings and a likely vote in the House Judiciary Committee before a full vote to impeach on the House floor, which could come before Christmas Day, potentially making Trump the third president in history to be impeached.

House Democrats don't plan to wait for firsthand witnesses who have resisted testifying, like acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): They keep taking it to court. And, no, we're not going to wait until the courts decide. That might be information that's available to the Senate, but we can't wait for that, because, again, it's a technique. It's obstruction of justice.

MURRAY: Then, in January, the impeachment battle is expected to shift to the Senate, where Trump's fate will collide with six Democratic senators looking to unseat him in the next presidential election.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will be there for the trial.

MURRAY: But after weeks of hearings and impassioned arguments from Democrats...

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): This president believes he is above the law, beyond accountability. And, in my view, there is nothing more dangerous than an unethical president who believes they are above the law.

MURRAY: ... even Republicans who have been critical of Trump don't appear convinced impeachment is the remedy.

REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): An impeachable offense should be compelling, overwhelmingly clear, and unambiguous. I have not heard evidence proving the president committed bribery or extortion.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MURRAY: Now, the White House legal team believes it is 100 percent in the president's interest to have this public trial in the Senate.

Jake, it seems like we will soon find out if they are right.

TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray.

Let's discuss with our team here today.

Let me start with, Kirsten, because we heard from one Democratic congressman, Brad Sherman, today, who said that, in his view, it wouldn't hurt to get more information. So I guess the question is, do you think Democrats have made sufficient case?

Should they -- I mean, this idea that it's -- they're not going to wait for the courts, they're not going -- it would take too long, et cetera, those are not arguments about the substance of the evidence. Those are arguments about timing and politics. Should they keep going?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Right.

Well, I mean, first of all, timing and politics do matter. So I think that that is something they have to take into consideration. I think that they made a case.

For anybody who wants to actually look at the case honestly, and take the information honestly, I think they made an absolutely airtight case that the president has done something that's impeachable.

The Republicans don't want to absorb that information. And I actually don't think it would make any difference whether it was John Bolton who was up there or Rudy Giuliani. If they're somehow able to even get these people to testify, there is nothing, I just really can't think of anything that would make the Republicans change their mind, because what has been demonstrated over the last week is so horrifying and so clear.

And that they can still sit there and say, well, it's inappropriate, it's like so far beyond inappropriate. Every argument that they have made has been completely destroyed. So they came out and made all these defenses that one by one were knocked down.

They're left with no defenses, except to just say, well, it's bad, but it's not impeachable.

TAPPER: So the argument that she's making here is basically the House Republicans and Senate Republicans are just not good-faith operators. There's no evidence that's going to convince them, even if President Trump literally were to shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and everybody saw it.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, that may be true, but I do think there's a gap that gives Republicans, particularly in the Senate, a big opening. If House Democrats want to make the charge of bribery or extortion, however you put it, you need to prove that monetary component that happened with the holding of $400 million in aid.

I think the hearings so far have done an excellent job proving that the White House withheld the meeting for those investigations, but if I were sitting in the Senate right now, I think you could make an argument that President Zelensky wasn't necessarily entitled to a White House meeting.

He was entitled to those funds. Those are congressionally authorized, but they haven't proven that case directly, primarily because Mick Mulvaney hasn't been made to testify or submit documents.

[16:10:03]

And so I think that's a huge gray area. I don't think, even if you prove that, that would necessarily sway Republicans. But in the case that they're making, that is a gap.

TAPPER: What do you make of it all, Jackie, because Mulvaney did say that the funds were held, in part, not entirely, but in part, to push the Ukrainians to announce this investigation into the 2016 election.

And he tries to make it seem like it's something reasonable, it's the Justice Department investigation, when we know -- President Trump said it this morning.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

TAPPER: It's about this crazy conspiracy theory that his own former homeland security adviser called debunked.

KUCINICH: Right.

I mean, so I think that they're going to have to go forward, should this investigation happen, without seven witnesses that are firsthand accounts, which is some of the things that Republicans were criticizing some of the witnesses we saw over the past week.

Mike Pompeo, Vice President Pence, Mick Mulvaney, Sondland them all, people who were involved in this whole dual track of foreign policy. It is unlikely we're going to hear from any of them. So you can't really -- if you're Nancy Pelosi, you can see why she's pushing this ahead, because it is -- getting them to testify is out of the realms of possibility.

TAPPER: So, Laura, I spoke with a source close to the White House legal team, and they say they're not convinced that the House is actually even going to vote to impeach.

What do you think? What are your sources telling them?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I think that what we're hearing so far is that if they are fully done with hearing testimony -- and they most likely are, because Pelosi doesn't want to have to wait, and it could take a long time through the courts -- then they are going to now push this over to Judiciary, which is going to write up the articles.

Beyond that, we aren't sure what those articles will include just yet. We haven't been told if they also will include emoluments or things related to the Mueller investigation in those.

But it looks as though the very next step that will come definitely before Christmas is, this hits Judiciary, and then they move forward.

TAPPER: Are they going to have hearings in Judiciary, or is it just going to be behind the scenes?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, I think that they -- from what we're hearing, I think they will be having hearings. Again, a lot of it beyond just the flat-out drawing up of the articles, we don't know yet.

POWERS: The one wild card, though, is John Bolton.

The John Bolton tweet -- go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Speaking of John Bolton, he returned to Twitter today. This is perfectly what you're talking about.

First time since he was fired or he left, whichever version you want to believe, he tweeted: "Glad to be back on Twitter after more than two months. For the backstory, stay tuned."

We know he's working on a book. He also wrote -- quote -- "We have now liberated the Twitter account previously suppressed unfairly in the aftermath of my resignation as national security adviser. More to come."

So do you think there's any chance that he will testify either before the House or in the Senate trial, should there be one?

POWERS: I have a hard time believing John Bolton is going to end up a member of the resistance here.

However, it -- his lawyer teased that John Bolton has information that isn't out there yet. So there seems to be a little bit of playing with what might happen.

Whether he's going to testify, whether he will do it behind closed doors, we will have to see.

(CROSSTALK)

POWERS: Or is he selling books? We just don't know.

CARPENTER: Yes, but doesn't he have to testify if he wants the book to come out?

He got the book deal in, what, November, so you can think it's probably going to come out this spring if they rush it. So are they really going to go through these trials in the Senate, and then he has a book that comes out after it wraps up that dishes? That just makes no sense.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Well, a lot of stuff doesn't make any sense that we've been living through.

CARPENTER: Now, that would be a grenade.

TAPPER: Stick around. We have got a lot more to talk about, how President Trump was basically allowed to lie for a solid hour on TV today. Guess what channel?

But we will fact-check his post-impeachment hearing rant.

Plus, Mayor Pete Buttigieg surging in Iowa, but suffering a new setback with a critical group of voters, and it's coming from his own city.

I'm going to ask him if he can turn around his relations with black voters.

Stay with us.

COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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TAPPER: In our politics lead now, President Trump unleashed a combative and rambling defense on Fox today, attacking career diplomats and members of his own administration. Part of the defense included a debunked conspiracy theory about Ukraine actually being the country responsible for that DNC hacking that impacted the 2016 election.

And as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports now from the White House, this is a conspiracy theory that his former top Russia adviser warned officials against pushing just yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They must think we're nuts in this country.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the public testimonies of his own aides behind him, President Trump says he welcomes an impeachment trial, though he may not have a choice.

TRUMP: Because frankly, I want a trial.

BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS: You want a trial?

TRUMP: Oh, I would. COLLINS: In an hour-long interview with Fox News, the president pushed a debunked conspiracy theory about Ukraine interfering in the election instead of Russia.

TRUMP: They gave the server to CrowdStrike or whatever it is called which is a -- which is a company-owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian, and I still want to see that server.

COLLINS: Making that claim despite yesterday his former top Russia adviser laying out in painstaking detail how wrong he was.

DR. FIONA HILL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE TOP RUSSIA EXPERT: This is a fictional narrative that is being perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.

COLLINS: Fiona Hill isn't the only one to say the president and his allies are wrong. His former homeland security adviser also dismissed the theory.

[16:20:02]

TOM BOSSERT, FORMER WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: It is not only a conspiracy theory, it is completely debunked.

COLLINS: For days, top officials detailed and criticized Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani's unusual role in U.S. foreign policy.

GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE E.U.: We did not want to involve Mr. Giuliani. I believe then as I do now that the men and women of the State Department, not the president's personal lawyer, should take responsibility for Ukraine matters.

COLLINS: Today, Trump defended Giuliani.

TRUMP: He's got credentials because of his reputation. When Rudy Giuliani goes there and it is a corrupt country, I mean, it means a lot.

COLLINS: Trump ignoring how two of Giuliani associates were recently indicted on campaign finance charges, instead continuing his attacks on Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine is described by her peers as one of the best. But according to Trump --

TRUMP: This was not an angel, this woman, OK? And there are a lot of things that she did that I didn't like.

COLLINS: The president says when he asked why Republicans were being kind to Yovanovitch --

REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): We are lucky to have you in foreign service and I again want to thank you for your tremendous public service.

COLLINS: -- they told him this.

TRUMP: She's a woman. We have to by nice. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Jake, CNN is also learning that intelligence officials recently briefed U.S. senators on this years-long effort by Russia to convince people that it was Ukraine who interfered in the election, not them. That included in part them going after the certain Ukraine officials critical of Trump when he was still running for office and, Jake, you've seen how successful they are because those are unfound talking points that Republicans used just this week in these public impeachment hearings.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much.

Let's chat about this.

President Trump has always been a big advocate of conspiracy theories, whether it is Obama wasn't born in the United States, Muslims celebrating 9/11 in New Jersey, all these things, the lies. No fact, no proof, no evidence.

Does he believe this Ukraine actually hacked the DNC server, or CrowdStrike nonsense or does it even matter?

POWERS: I don't know what he believes. I think it is a preferable story line for him, right. I think that he doesn't like to -- it doesn't fit with the storyline that Russia interfered which he's been pushing back against. So I guess --

KUCINICH: He likes being the victim, though.

POWERS: It's a convenient -- it's a convenient story.

KUCINICH: Right.

POWERS: But, you know, his complaints about Ambassador Yovanovitch not hanging up his picture --

TAPPER: It's crazy.

POWERS: You know, I mean, I -- the thing is he's allowed to remove an ambassador obviously. But how they've gone after her and smeared her and really tried to destroy her life is just so above and beyond anything that, I mean, I've ever seen before.

TAPPER: He keeps doing it.

POWERS: Yes. So what is your problem? If she -- yes, she was standing in the way of your little scheme and you removed her, why do you need to destroy her.

TAPPER: So, there's another thing, Amanda, there is a difference between this crazy Ukrainian conspiracy theory that Ukraine hacked the DNC server, CrowdStrike blah, blah or whatever, and this thing that a lot of Republicans hang their hats on which is Ukrainian officials, some Ukrainian officials said nice things about Hillary Clinton and said bad things about Donald Trump during the 2016 election. Not that it was a top-down campaign. It was all out in the open. But

that is true.

In fact, here is Dr. Fiona hill pointing that out in her testimony.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Many officials from many countries including Ukraine bet on the wrong horse. They believed that Secretary Clinton, former Senator Clinton, former First Lady Clinton was going to win and many said some pretty disparaging and hurtful things about President Trump and I can't blame him for feeling aggrieved about them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: But as she pointed out, that's not the same thing as what Russians did and that's not what President Trump is talking about.

CARPENTER: What I find really interesting when it came to the impeachment hearings yesterday is that as much as house Republicans work to defend Trump, mainly by arguing the process, going after the media, attacking Shifty Schiff and the rest, they didn't defend Trump on these conspiracy theories.

In fact when Fiona Hill made a point in her opening statements of pointing out how Republicans and others were spreading these false narratives and the damage it was doing, they backtracked and said, oh, no, we put out a report, we blamed Russia, don't worry. No, that's not true. You guys have been going along with this all of the time.

But let's think about how this may change when it gets to the Senate because the Senate Republicans can't argue process when Mitch McConnell is controlling the process. So they're going to have to find a way to defend Trump on the substance and this is going to be tough.

TAPPER: So, again, conspiracy theories. Part of his attack on Ambassador Yovanovitch is based on conspiracy theories. Nasty stuff that Rudy Giuliani heard from the former prosecutor in Ukraine.

Here is a little bit of what the president said unchallenged, of course, on "Fox and Friends" this morning.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: She said bad things about me. She wouldn't defend me, and I have the right to change an ambassador.

[16:25:04]

This was not an angel, this woman, OK? There are a lot of things that she did that I didn't like.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: But there is no evidence that she did anything like that. KUCINICH: And I believe the former prosecutor had backtracked on some

of the things that he said about her. But, OK, fine, then just fire her. Don't have this goat rodeo of a process that is tearing down her reputation. The president has the right to pick his ambassador but the way this -- the process that went down before she was let go and after is highly irregular and didn't need to happen.

CARPENTER: The same argument also applies to the smear campaign against Hunter Biden. If you want to make an argument that he unfairly profited after his dad's service, you have that information.

TAPPER: Sure.

CARPENTER: Everybody knew the money he was getting. You didn't need an investigation to do that. You could have ran that campaign in the public except for --

TAPPER: What is up for the Yovanovitch thing? Why does he keep, is this just because --

BARRON-LOPEZ: This is classic Trump and also the very -- it is a pattern that all of the Republicans are using, when they take their cues from the White House. They haven't just done this to Yovanovitch. They also did it to Vindman, attacking his character, even accusing him in some cases of dual loyalty, you know, which smacks at anti-Semitism.

So, it's -- it is a repeated pattern from the White House that they've done with a lot of these witnesses.

POWERS: Yes, and also, I think, it's because he can't say the real reason that they got rid of Yovanovitch which is that she was on to their little scheme, right? So, he has to come up with all these other reasons to make it seem like she was so terrible.

TAPPER: Stick around. We got more to talk about.

Just how many lies did President Trump manage to fit in to just a 53- minute live interview? Well, we counted. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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