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House Moves Closer To Articles Of Impeachment; Trump Says, I Support Senate Trial If House Moves To Impeach; Interview With Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired November 22, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: -- starts Right Now.
Have a great afternoon.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN RIGHT NOW: I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington headquarters.
Underway right now, after days of damning testimony, House Democrats plot their way forward in their impeachment inquiry. What articles of impeachment will they go with and could we see a vote by Christmas?
Bring it on. President Trump says he supports a Senate trial as it becomes clear the House will impeach him. And Republicans on Capitol Hill are now preparing for that very scenario.
Fiona Hill dismantling a key GOP talking point about the 2016 election, and the former top Russia adviser to President Trump, also admonishing Republican lawmakers for spreading a conspiracy theory about Ukraine that was cooked up by Russia.
And President Trump reminds military brass that actually he's the one in charge, tweeting that he won't let them boot a Navy SEAL from the elite group for posing in a photo with a dead ISIS fighter.
And after hearing publicly from 12 witnesses in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump, sources tell CNN that investigators are gearing up for a busy December with more public hearings and an impeachment vote before Christmas.
We have Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill for this story. Phil, tell us what you're hearing.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So as of now, there has been no public statement as to what the next step is for House Democrats. But here's what we can tell you is going on behind the scenes.
At this moment and throughout the course of next week, Thanksgiving week, House Intelligence staff are drafting a report of their findings based on the depositions, based on the public hearings we've seen to this point. They will then transmit that report to the House Judiciary Committee, where they will start drafting articles of impeachment. They will have public hearings of their own.
One thing is certain at this point in time, Brianna. Impeachment is happening. Pretty much everybody you talk to on the Democratic side who's involved in this process acknowledges that that's happening. The timeline they lay out is probably a committee markup of articles of impeachment in the second week of December, and probably a vote on the House floor to impeach President Trump on at least several articles of impeachment before Christmas.
That's the timeline they're working on right now. That's the way things are moving, and it's very clear they are moving quickly.
And one of the wild cards here that everybody has been talking about is there are several key, if not, the most central witnesses that have not testified, people like Mick Mulvaney, people like John Bolton. And there could be some movement on court cases related to someone like John Bolton sometime in the first or second week of December.
But Democrats have made it clear they are not waiting on the courts, they are not playing rope-a-dope, as Adam Schiff called it, with administration officials who are utilizing the courts at this point in time. They are moving forward and that means likely before the end of the year, likely before Christmas, House Democrats will vote to impeach President Trump, Brianna.
KEILAR: Yes, and maybe without hearing from some people who know a whole lot of stuff. We'll see how this moves along. Phil Mattingly, thank you so much for that.
And President Trump is going after key witnesses in the impeachment inquiry once again, and he's also attacking the whistleblower whose complaint prompted this entire investigation.
I want to bring in Kaitlan Collins. She is live for us at the White House.
And the president said on Fox and Friends, Kaitlan, that he doesn't think he'll be impeached. But if he is, he welcomes a full trial from the Senate.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And, Brianna, he really doesn't have any other option. It's like dragging down one- way street. There is only one direction you can go. And if these House Democrats do impeach the president, as Phil just said there, they are very close to doing so, there is essentially no way that this White House and this president can avoid a trial in the Senate, which is something that the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has made pretty crystal clear in his comments recently when he's been asked about this.
What's different is the White House does seem to be coming to terms with the fact that this is likely going to happen. And what they are working on right now behind the scenes is they are seeing all this public testimony wrap-up is mounting an aggressive defense. That's something that the president wants. It's something relishes, seeing these Republicans go after those witnesses. And he wants Senate Republicans to be able to have a chance to essentially stand by him and defend him in this. And so I think that's more what it is when the president says he's welcoming a trial happening.
But the president is being described as jubilant behind the scenes by officials. Certainly, that is not the mood that he gave off talking in an hour-long interview he gave to Fox News this morning, where he was talking about this, continuing to push a debunked theory that, just yesterday, Fiona Hill was laying out in her testimony why it is not true that Ukraine interfered in the election over Russia, something the president and the his allies have repeatedly pushed.
But also, Brianna, he's still looking to undermine some of these witnesses, including David Holmes, who was testifying about that call, something that the other person on that phone call, Gordon Sondland, did not deny when he was also under oath, asked about it. But, again, this morning, the president in his mind is repeating that it's a call that didn't happen even though you've got two people under oath saying, yes, it did.
KEILAR: Very interesting. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you so much for that.
I want to discuss all of this now with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.
She is a Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.
Congresswoman, thanks for joining us.
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Great to be with you.
KEILAR: So the president says he doesn't think he'll be impeached. But if he is going to be impeached, he welcomes a Senate trial. What would you say to him for saying he doesn't think he's going to be impeached?
JAYAPAL: Well, I would just say that this is a very unusual situation where the president himself was the first key witness telling the American public that he had literally asked a foreign ally to interfere in our elections and withheld aid. He released a transcript that he calls perfect. But that transcript says, do us a favor though, very key words that led to the shakedown, basically.
And what we heard over the last two weeks from witnesses is corroboration after corroboration about exactly how the president used all the levers of government, all the powers that he had to send his personal attorney, his chief of staff, his secretary of state out to essentially conduct a shadow extortion scheme just for his personal political gain.
I think it was devastating for the president, this testimony, from really smart, dedicated, career foreign service officials who said again and again, and some of them, by the way, appointed by the Trump administration, that this was destructive to our national security and to our reputation. So I think this was a somber moment for the country, a bad moment for the president and a good moment for the truth.
KEILAR: But he said this morning, just back to this point, if he's impeached, is it to you a when he's impeached?
JAYAPAL: No, I don't think we can say that yet, because I am on the Judiciary Committee. We are waiting for the reports to be transmitted from the Intel Committee and any other committee that wants to send us reports.
We will then look at that, of course, in conjunction with the speaker and the chairs of the committees. We'll look at all the evidence. And then the next step, if we decide to go forward, will be to have the presentation of evidence, both from the Intel Committee, I assume, from the counsel and Adam Schiff, and then also the president will have due process, will be able to present his side of the story, if he wishes to.
But we are now to the law. This last part of the public hearings was about the facts. The Judiciary Committee will be about the law, and then, of course, if we decide to move forward, drafting articles of impeachment and deciding what those would be. But that is still -- we are still in the process of waiting for the information to be transmitted.
KEILAR: So there's a number of subpoena witnesses that have not testified behind closed doors or in public, John Bolton, Secretary Pompeo, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney among them. They want the courts to weigh in and determine if they appear before Congress. Let's listen to what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, essentially saying she's not waiting on the courts to proceed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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 in terms of how far we go and when we go. But we can't wait for that because, again, it's a technique. It's obstruction of justice, obstruction of Congress. So we cannot let their further obstruction of Congress be an impediment to our honoring our oath of office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: So if Democrats aren't waiting for the courts and there is clear stonewalling from the White House, which Democrats believe, clearly, is obstruction of justice, how is that not enough to proceed forward?
JAYAPAL: Well, I think that what you are seeing is exactly what you're saying. The evidence is clear. It has been clear. And now it has been corroborated in multiple, devastating ways for the president.
So we are not going to allow the president to use obstruction of justice and obstruction of Congress to stop us by saying, well, we need to call more witnesses. We have had so many witnesses, including the president of the United States, the key early witness to exactly what happened.
So I think what Speaker Pelosi is saying is we're not going to fall into their tactics of delay and trying to use the court system. That is, in and of itself, obstruction of justice and that is what the president does not seem to understand.
KEILAR: What's the calculus on weighing some of the importance of some of this testimony? I mean, clearly, you would like to hear from Bolton or Pompeo or Mulvaney, if you could, but what is the calculus of weighing, hearing what they would testify to with, on the other hand, the importance for Democrats of getting this done soon?
JAYAPAL: Well, I think that the key thing here is that we understand that this is a rocky road no matter which way we go, but we were sworn to uphold and protect the Constitution.
We want to be able to get through this period as quickly as possible, but we're not going to do that if it's at the cost of the facts.
The situation here though is that the facts have been laid out. We have had the president directly testifying, Sondland directly testifying, Marie Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill, Jennifer Williams. I mean, these are compelling testimonies, including some people that were -- came out of retirement to work for this president because they cared so much about this very fragile country and region of the world where the United States leadership is so greatly important.
So I think the calculus is we've got the facts in front of us. We are not rushing anything, but we are looking at the facts and looking at where they lead, and that is the most important thing, to uphold our oath to the Constitution.
KEILAR: You are on the Judiciary Committee, which will, if it decides, proceed with this. You're using restraint when you're talking about this. You're not saying when he's impeached, you're sticking to this idea of you will look at the information before you and then decide. But behind the scenes, sources are telling CNN that they're expecting a vote by Christmas. Is that what you expect?
JAYAPAL: Well, I really think this is very important. The Judiciary Committee is about the law. It's about due process. And for us to prejudge that we have everything in front of us --
KEILAR: But is that the timeline? Because we have some key reporting that says this is moving toward that.
JAYAPAL: I know that's what the reporting says. I'm sure that's what many of us would like to see happen, because, you know, I think that nobody wants to drag this out. But we've got to follow the process. And I know it's frustrating to not be able to have that.
I do think that some of that will become clear relatively quickly, and we will see what the timing is. We're just not going to sacrifice the facts and getting at the truth and upholding our Constitution for a timeline that is arbitrarily imposed. So I think we just have to stick with that.
And we are doing a lot of preparation, I'll tell you personally, that I am going back, I'm reading all of the Nixon impeachment proceedings, the staff reports for the Clinton proceedings as well. I'm going through all the depositions in case, just to prepare myself, because this is a somber moment.
None of us came to Congress wanting to impeach a president. We understand the gravity of the moment, and we also understand that at the end of the day, there is one oath we swear. It is not to public opinion, it's not to, you know, other things that might be out there, it is to uphold the Constitution.
And I take that incredibly seriously. I go to bed, wake up every morning thinking about that, and I think that that's what Americans want us to do.
KEILAR: Congresswoman, thank you for joining us, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. We appreciate it.
JAYAPAL: Thank you so much, Brianna.
KEILAR: Millions of Americans watched as Democrats laid out their case against the president, but was it enough to convince the American people and a few Republicans to go along with impeachment.
Also, Fiona Hill holds court of her own, accusing Republican lawmakers of peddling Russian conspiracy theories to their face. She said it.
And first on CNN, a former FBI lawyer under investigation, accused of altering a document in the 2016 Russia investigation.
KEILAR: With the conclusion of public hearings, the Intelligence Committee and two other committees are now working on a report that's expected to be the basis for articles of impeachment. Many of the witnesses who appeared over the last week describe just how unusual the president's phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was and how alarming it was
that President Zelensky was pressured to do Trump's political bidding at the expense of U.S. foreign policy goals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN, DIRECTOR FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS, NATIONAL SECURITY COMMITTEE: I listened on the call in the situation room with White House colleagues. I was concerned by the call. What I heard was inappropriate. And I reported my concerns to Mr. Eisenberg.
JENNIFER WILLIAMS, AIDE TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: I found the July 25th phone call unusual, because in contrast to other presidential calls I had observed, it involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter.
GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE E.U.: So we followed the president's orders.
Was there a quid pro quo? The answer is yes. Everyone was in the loop.
DAVID HOLMES, STATE DEPARTMENT AIDE TO BILL TAYLOR: Ambassador Sondland replied, yes, he was in Ukraine, and went on to state that President Zelensky, quote, loves your ass.
I then heard President Trump asked, so he's going to do the investigation? Ambassador Sondland replied that he's going to do it.
FIONA HILL, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR EUROPE AND RUSSIA, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: He was involved in a domestic political errand. And we were being involved in national security foreign policy. And those two things have just diverged. So he was correct.
And I had not put my finger on it at the moment but I was irritated with him and angry with him that he wasn't fully coordinating. I did say to him, Ambassador Sondland Gordon, I think this is going to blow up, and here we are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Let's talk more about this. I'm joined by Politico's Melanie Zanona. She covers Congress. She's also the author of the Huddle Newsletter for Politico.
And Greg Brower is with us, former Assistant Director for the Office of Congressional Affairs at the FBI and also a former U.S. attorney.
Okay. So we have looked now, just witness after witness, 12 of them now who have testified publicly in these series of hearings. How damaging, Greg, was this to the president?
GREG BROWER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I think it was very damaging in terms of the facts, right? A clear picture has now emerged at exactly what happened. There doesn't seem to be any reasonable dispute about what happened. This quid pro quo attempt was made. Many witnesses, including Ambassador Sondland, have testified to it. It's not hearsay, it's real.
But if you ask the question in terms of whether it was damaging to the president as far as a likelihood of actual removal from office after a Senate trial, it doesn't look like the needle has moved at all.
So, yes, the facts are damaging, but the political reality, not so much, so far.
KEILAR: It's such an interesting point. And there's so much information. If you want to really geek out on it and get into it, it's incredibly compelling. But if you are not paying sort of microscopic attention to it, there are so many names, so many facts. How do you necessarily make sense of it all for yourself? How do the American people do that?
Do Democrats have a plan for threading together that narrative, and do they think it's going to matter?
MELANIE ZANONA, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes. I think a lot of it will come down to the Judiciary Committee. They kind of have to put a bow on everything we learned from these public hearings. But I can tell you, Democrats feel like they may have won the hearing portion, they won battle but they have yet to win the war.
Everything really went right for the Democrats. They got compelling, at times, damning testimony. They got new evidence, including the existence of an email from the Ukrainian embassy. They were asking about the frozen aid on the day of the phone call with Ukraine between the president of the United States. And they even got a mid-hearing tweet attack from the president.
But they still have yet to move the needle with the American public and there are no signs that Republicans are willing to cross over yet.
KEILAR: You were going to say something.
BROWER: That's the problem. Republicans in the House seemed this week and during the hearing process to be more intent on complaining about the process and how unfair the chairman was being, and frankly just obstructing the process than they were on actually getting the facts. As a Republican and a former Republican elected official, that just surprised me.
I would think that Republican members of Congress and their constituents would expect this, would want to get the facts, reserving the right after learning the facts to decide that it doesn't justify an impeachment or removal.
But we have seen something very different. We've seen a refusal to even understand and want the facts, and that's surprising.
KEILAR: Is it surprising, and what does it tell us if there is a refusal to understand the facts or even want to know about them? Is that signaling that they don't want to have to deal with understanding the facts would mean?
ZANONA: Yes. I mean, this is President Trump's party. It's been that way. But I think impeachment has really brought that into focus.
And I think another underappreciated storyline is that a lot of the moderate Republicans were wiped out last year and that is why you have seen such reluctance. People are lining up behind the president. The one Republican who did come out in support of impeachment, Justin Mash, ended up leaving the party. So you cross the president, you get excommunicated. KEILAR: So Fiona Hill was testifying and she essentially admonished Republicans for propagating a conspiracy theory that Ukraine was behind election meddling in 2016, not Russia. Because she said this is -- I mean, it's a Russian talking point.
And that said, Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House, actually said -- basically, he propagated that again this morning.
Do you -- This is my question to you. Do you think he really believes that or is he just saying that?
ZANONA: I think part of the Republican strategy is just muddy the waters as much as possible, cast doubt and throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. With this specific conspiracy that they're pushing, they're trying to justify the reason why the president was skeptical of Ukraine in withholding the aid that Ukraine was out to get him.
But, look, I could tell you a lot Republicans, privately, they don't believe some of these things. Maybe Devin Nunes does. But I think a lot of them just understand they don't have a lot of cards to play.
KEILAR: What do you think about that knowing that there are a lot of people who are saying things that they believe are false?
BROWER: Well, on the specific point of this debunked theory that Dr. Hill tried to put to rest very directly, it was gratifying for me, and I'm sure many, many people currently in the Intelligence Community, because that specific debunked conspiracy theory has been the subject of many briefings on the Hill, whereby Republican members, in good faith, would ask about it and members of the Intelligence Committee, the professionals, the experts would say, this is debunked, this is not true. So it's good to see it out there in the open now.
But what's demoralizing is to see that despite that reality, from no less an expert than Dr. Hill, explained to Congress in an open hearing, national T.V., there is still all of this denial likely for purely political reasons, which is just -- it exposes the craven hypocrisy that really is the norm right now on Capitol Hill.
ZANONA: I would also point out Republicans are following the queue of the president, who has also repeated this debunked conspiracy theory this morning.
KEILAR: Yes, that's a very good point. Melanie, Greg, thank you so much to both of you.
And be sure to check out the CNN special report, All The President's Lies. This will air Sunday at 9:00 P.M. Eastern right here on CNN.
The House minority leader hitting back after Fiona Hill shut down Republicans' conspiracy theories on Ukraine. We'll talk about what he's saying.
Plus, John Bolton back on Twitter with a very cryptic message.