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House Dems Move Closer to Articles of Impeachment; Former FBI Lawyer Under Investigation for Allegedly Altering Document in 2016 Russia Probe. Aired 5-5:30a ET
Aired November 22, 2019 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is a special edition of NEW DAY. It is Friday, November 22nd. It is 5:00 in the East.
So, here we are. Two historic weeks, 12 public witnesses, a mountain of evidence, hours of testimony, all telling the same story -- the president was using foreign policy for his own personal purposes. A domestic political errand. That is what happened, according to witnesses, their testimony, and the evidence.
So, what now? What now for the Democrats is moving forward without fighting in court for documents and testimony from a number of high- ranking administration officials who have refused to testify. Sources tell CNN, the Democrats are preparing a report of their findings that will serve as a basis for articles of impeachment. They will likely focus on abuse of power, obstruction of justice, obstruction of Congress and bribery. A vote to impeach the president in the full house will likely happen by Christmas.
CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, Republican senators are working with the White House on a strategy for a potential impeachment trial. Will it be a lengthy trial or a speedy one?
According to "The Washington Post," President Trump is pushing the Senate to dismiss the case immediately.
So, after these incredible two weeks, which, if any Republicans, accept the facts as laid out by witnesses under oath?
Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux. She is live on Capitol Hill.
What a week. We're still processing it.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're still processing, Alisyn. You know, it's eerily quiet here on Capitol Hill, as most members of Congress are on the Thanksgiving recess. But House Democrats on the Intelligence Committee, they are working through the holiday, writing a report, making their case that they have enough evidence to impeach the president.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): House Democrats moving one step closer to impeaching President Trump, building their case that he orchestrated a plan to withhold military aid and dangled a White House meeting in exchange for Ukraine announcing investigations into his political rivals.
Multiple Democratic sources telling CNN, they're hoping to wrap up by Christmas, including holding proceedings before the House Judiciary Committee, drawing up articles of impeachment against Trump and holding a vote on them.
REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): We'll regroup next week. And talk about the steps moving forward.
MALVEAUX: But their investigation has hit some roadblocks. The White House and State Department both stonewalling Democrats from accessing important documents and having access to top administration officials, allegedly involved in the scheme.
REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA): What I would like to see happen next, is that Ambassador Bolton and Secretary of State Pompeo, do exactly what the brave and courageous people who work for them did, which is to step forward and put patriotism for their country ahead of their own personal interests.
MALVEAUX: Still, Speaker Nancy Pelosi says they have enough evidence to press forward.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: No, we're not going to wait until the courts aside. We can't wait for that, because again, it's a technique. It's obstruction of justice, obstruction of Congress.
MALVEAUX: House Republicans disagree.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I think we've had enough. I think it's time to shut it down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you god.
MALVEAUX: In the last hearing of the week, former White House national security official, Fiona Hill, described Ambassador Gordon Sondland's role in Trump's actions towards Ukraine.
DR. FIONA HILL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE TOP RUSSIA EXPERT: 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.
MALVEAUX: The White House's former top Russia adviser also dismantling that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 elections. HILL: I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate
narrative. These are things are harmful even they're deployed for purely domestic political purposes.
MALVEAUX: David Holmes, an aide at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, detailing a phone conversation he overheard between Sondland and President Trump, just one day after the famous call with Ukraine's leader.
DAVID HOLMES, DIPLOMAT AT U.S. EMBASSY IN UKRAINE: The president's voice was loud and recognizable. I heard President Trump ask, so, he's goings to do the investigation. Ambassador Sondland replied that he's going to do it.
MALVEAUX: Holmes quoting Sondland as saying the president did not care about Ukraine. Instead he only cared about big stuff that benefits the president, like the Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani was pushing.
MALVEAUX: The White House is now preparing for the inevitable. It was just yesterday that Senate Republicans met with a top White House lawyer to come up with a defense strategy for a Senate trial likely to happen next month -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK. Suzanne, thank you very much for all of that.
So, as Suzanne just said, what happens now, as the impeachment process moves forward? And what are the political risks for both parties?
We discuss, next.
BERMAN: All right. New details this morning about the strategies both parties are taking as the impeachment process moves forward. House Democrats are actively working on a report with their findings, and eyeing a potential vote on impeachment by Christmas.
And so far, Republican support for the president remains solid. When I say solid, I mean not a single Republican in the House or Senate has indicated that he or she would vote for either impeachment or removal.
And that's significant.
All right. Joining us now to discuss, CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip in Washington this morning. We miss you, Abby.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I miss you too.
BERMAN: And CNN legal analyst, Jennifer Rodgers. She is a former federal prosecutor.
John King said this on TV yesterday. It's crystal clear now that the Democrats are headed towards an impeachment vote. The House of Representatives will vote to impeach the president of the United States. That is a safe bet, Jen.
So, between now and then, what else can they do to present the case to the American people? Because we've had 12 days of witnesses, testimony and evidence, they all points to one thing, right? There's very little debate on what happened, which is the president asked a foreign country for domestic political help. That's there.
So, what else can the Democrats do in the next six weeks to sell?
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, what they need to do is they need to start packaging this for the American public. They will have that opportunity in the House Judiciary Committee. So, what they really need to put together is like a closing argument, you would make to a grand jury before you ask them to vote on your indictment.
So, they'll put together the pieces of the testimony. They'll say, Dr. Fiona Hill said this, and Marie Yovanovitch said that, and they will put it together in a way to make sense. Because the way witness testimony comes in normally is not the way you would present it to a jury, right? So, they're really going to take this chance to say, of course, to House Republicans, but really more importantly to the American people, this is the case in a logical progression, and in a persuasive way this, is what the president did, because that's where they're going to try to change people's minds if they haven't been changed already.
CAMEROTA: And, Abby, what are Republicans planning to do next, if we know?
PHILLIP: Well, it seems that Republicans are starting to feel actually a little bit more comfortable with where they are on this. Coming out of these hearings yesterday, which frankly were devastating to the president's argument and to this -- in the words of Fiona Hill, fictional case, that somehow there was an alternative Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, the Republicans are actually more unified.
You know, Representative Will Hurd who was seen as somebody that could be gettable by the Democrats, ended his time in the hearing saying, I don't like this. But I don't think it's impeachable.
And for Republicans that means that what they're -- you know, they have a couple of options. They can do it as quickly as possible, get it off their plates, move it to the Senate and try to quickly acquit the president in the Senate. Or they can drag it out and make it difficult for some of these Democrats who are running for president, who are supposed to be campaigning in Iowa in January and have a lengthy, maybe dragged out process.
It seems that they are, perhaps, leaning towards a shorter process because they are more confident they are not going to have to fight to hold on to their members. And, you know, I don't know if that's a reflection of what we heard in the testimony. I think it's more of a reflection of the fact that Republicans have been through a lot of these scandals with the president before, and they're not confident that this is going to be the one that is going to change the president's level of support among either his base or among enough independents that it will make a difference for him.
BERMAN: Let's play what Will Hurd said that Abby just referred to there because I think it raises what is the key question about all of this now. Play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): Inappropriate, misguided foreign policy, and it's certainly not how the executive, current or in the future, should handle such a call. An impeachable offense should be compelling, overwhelmingly clear and unambiguous. And it's not something to be rushed or taken lightly. I've not heard evidence proving the president committed bribery or extortion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So, he's a no vote on impeachment this morning. He just told us he was a no vote.
CAMEROTA: It could change.
BERMAN: Look, I said, if the vote was held today, he is a no vote. He said I haven't seen compelling evidence. Maybe that will change.
So, the question is, what does it say that Democrats could not bring a single Republican along with them? And it really does cut both ways? Does that point to a failure of the Democrats to present enough in the case?
Or, the other side of this, does that tell you that Republicans are just not willing to listen? Or they are just playing a game of denial?
RODGERS: Well, it's more the latter. They're just not willing to listen because the Dems over the course of the last few weeks have systematically destroyed every defense that the president and his team and his friends in the House have thrown up there. So, it's not that they've gone through and that they're not accepting the evidence. It's just that they've already cemented their views that it's not going to change for them.
But, you know, this is where Dems need to take the opportunity to convince the American people that it is compelling and it is very serious and these actions do show bribery and extortion.
CAMEROTA: Do they? Because what Will Hurd said I have not seen evidence that the president has committed bribery or extortion.
Have you as a lawyer seen evidence that the president committed bribery and extortion?
RODGERS: Absolutely, absolutely, because both bribery and extortion require a linkage between an official act, which is withholding of military aid and whatever the president is getting of value to himself personally. So, they have shown that in spades, over and over. Absolutely.
BERMAN: So, guys, stand by, because one of the key questions I still have is what are the political risks now for each party in this? And I think Fiona Hill who lit the world on fire with her testimony, I think she illustrates what the risks are.
We'll talk about that when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: He was being involved in a domestic political errand. And I did say to him, Ambassador Sondland, Gordon, I think it is all going to blow up, and here we are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Here we are.
CAMEROTA: Here we are, indeed. That was former White House national security official, Fiona Hill, condemning the administration's rogue foreign policy operation in Ukraine and warning that the conspiracy theories the Republicans are pushing are hurting national security.
Back with us now, Abby Phillip and Jennifer Rodgers.
Well, Abby, she was quite a different witness than Gordon Sondland. I mean, she -- it was a fascinating exchange between lawmakers and Fiona Hill, because she had a story to tell and she wasn't just answering in yes and no answers.
CAMEROTA: She feels, obviously, very strongly, that the conspiracy theories being peddled by Rudy Giuliani are really detrimental to national security.
PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, for starters, she remembered a lot of things. She took a lot of notes. She came prepared. She remembered a lot of really minute details about these events that Gordon Sondland seem to fumble around about.
And part of this is because this is someone who was a professional. She was crystal clear at the time about what was going on and what she thought was appropriate and appropriate use of the efforts of the United States government. And she was given direction from her boss at the time, John Bolton, to not get involved, not get tied up, in this domestic political errand that she saw unfolding before her.
But I thought, what was so powerful about what Fiona Hill did, was she really dismantled what had become the only remaining argument on the Republican side, which is that Democrats are ignoring that Ukraine meddled in 2016 and that it was perfectly normal and understandable that President Trump would be upset about and would want that investigated. And why wouldn't we want Ukraine meddling investigated in 2016.
And what Fiona Hill basically said was, that's not true. It's not even remotely true. And here are all of the reasons why.
She really broke it down in a way that was crystal clear. She took all of their supposedly supporting evidence and she called it for what it is, which is to say, she said, there was absolutely nothing about what Ukraine officials said in 2016 or even did in 2016, that came close to systematic efforts of Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.
So, it was incredibly for that reason. And she was a powerful witness because she was, in a lot of ways, unimpeachable. She did not have memory lapses. She had the evidence that she needed to support her claims.
And that was in stark contrast to someone like Gordon Sondland, who while he was important, he just couldn't remember a lot of things and it became a real problem for both sides, I think.
BERMAN: Look the very first words out of her mouth was, I'm an American by choice. And to me, she seemed to be saying, America, you are blowing this. I chose to be part of this country and you are blowing this now and here are the reasons why and why you have to be careful.
I do want to move on and talk about other news, Jen, that's really important, which is that we now know the inspector general report, Michael Horowitz, who has been doing the investigations about part of the origins of the Russia investigation. That will come out December 9th. He will testify before Congress in the 11th.
CNN has exclusive reporting on what will be inside that report. And there will be a criminal referral for a former FBI lawyer, line lawyer, fairly low-level lawyer, for falsifying a document, I understand, changing a document, changing the meaning of what a document is.
This is something that Republicans will point to as, oh, my gosh, the Russia investigation was flawed. But our reporting and "The Washington Post" reporting on this, just to be clear, is that there's no indication this would change the overall thrust of the investigation, the idea that Russia meddled in the election, and any of the purposes for which the whole thing began.
What's the significance here?
RODGERS: Well, it depends. We really need to know a lot more and we will wait with bated breath for Michael Horowitz's report. But it could be significant in the sense that, listen, it's always significant when an FBI official of any sort lies in a document or changes its meaning. That's not a good thing. It's important for those people to be referred for criminal action.
And it's Horowitz's responsibility as inspector general to make that referral. That is a big deal and no one should lose sight of that.
But the bigger question of whether that undermined the application for the Carter Page FISA, was it material enough of a change to actually impact the court's decision, and therefore that's how they got the FISA? You know, that really is the question that needs to be answered in connection with whether this gives Republicans some talking points on this that actually --
BERMAN: "The Washington Post" says no. "The Washington Post" says the conduct did not alter Horowitz's finding, that the surveillance application of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page had a proper, legal and factual basis.
RODGERS: If that's true, and we'll know more later, that shouldn't give the Republicans any basis to make their deep state arguments and try to undermine the Russia investigation.
CAMEROTA: I'm sure they'll adhere to that, Jen. I'm sure they will adhere to the factual basis for what argument they can make.
PHILLIP: I don't think the president will care, in particular, about whether or not it undermined the underlying findings because think about the timing of this. I think we're expecting this report to come out, the beginning part of December, which is around the same time we'll be talking about articles of impeachment in the House.
And I think the timing is going to be really advantageous for the president. He's going to use this as an example of all the ways in which this, in his words, witch hunt, was tainted from the beginning. So, it's just going to be one more thing that they're going to throw at this, at the wall, to try to muddy the waters around the impeachment inquiry. That's going to be happening at almost exactly the same time.
BERMAN: Right, but people need to pay attention closely because they may very well be, as some of the sources are telling us, that none of this will undermine the premise for the FBI's investigations. So, people need to listen carefully.
Abby, Jennifer, thank you very much.
CAMEROTA: All right. Now to this, Queen Elizabeth's son, Prince Andrew, is now a royal without a role. What his decision to step down from public duties means for him and for the monarchy and for this story.
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