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House Democrats Reportedly Moving Closer to Drafting Articles of Impeachment; Former National Security Advisor John Bolton Tweets about Possible Backstory of Social Media Silence; Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL) is Interviewed About the House Impeachment Investigation. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired November 22, 2019 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Democrats moving closer to an impeachment vote. NEW DAY continues right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Friday, November 22nd, 8:00 now in the east. It has been quite a historic two weeks. And we know much more today than we did at the start of those two weeks, 12 witnesses providing tons of evidence that President Trump tried to use military -- U.S. military aid to Ukraine for his own political gain. One of the final witnesses, Fiona Hill, called it, quote, a domestic political errand.
So what now for the Democrats? Well, all sides indicate they are moving forward with articles of impeachment. They will focus on abuse of power, obstruction of justice, obstruction of Congress, and bribery. A vote on whether to impeach the president will likely happen by Christmas.
BERMAN: Looking ahead to what looks to be a nearly certain impeachment trial, President Trump met with Republican senators at the White House to talk strategy. What would the trial by Senate look like? According to the "Washington Post," President Trump is pushing Republican allies to dismiss the case immediately, that's a non- starter with Mitch McConnell. After two historic weeks, will any Republicans accept the facts that they've heard over the last two weeks from the witnesses and the evidence?
Joining us now, CNN's senior political commentator, David Axelrod, host of "The Axe Files," and CNN political commentator Joe Lockhart. He is the former press secretary under President Bill Clinton.
Axe, I want to start with you. I just want to know where we are this morning, because, look, the evidence and the witnesses and the testimony all say one thing, right? It's one thing. They say the president pressed for an investigation for his own personal political purposes. The president told us what he was doing. So what does it all mean? DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This ain't "Law and Order," John. This is not like the case is proved, the jury votes. The jury are politicians. And what's very, very clear is the president sitting there with a 90 percent approval rating among Republicans. And the tip to me of what was going to happen moving forward is when Will Hurd suggested just yesterday how he would vote, and he described what the president did as a bad foreign policy choice. Well, if that's how you're going to describe it, then clearly you're not voting for impeachment. And he was one of the most likely people to cross over on this vote.
I think you're going to see a partisan vote in the House to impeach. I think it's going to go to the Senate, and I think the Senate is going to acquit him. And I think that's been clear almost from the beginning.
CAMEROTA: And I guess, if you don't think it was a fait accompli from the very start, all that's happened over the past two weeks is how much more we've learned. So we've learned about how the scheme operated, we've learned who was in the know, we've learned who directed it. So for people who are plugged in, they have a lot more information this morning than they did two weeks ago.
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. Listen, I think Fiona Hill, in some ways, was the most important witness because she did something that tied it up in a way that no one else did, which is by saying, this wasn't a foreign policy process. This was a domestic political errand. And then she took it one step further and said, our foreign policy protects our national security. This effort led by the president and Rudy Giuliani undermined our national security, hurt our ally, Ukraine, and helped -- wait for it -- the Russians.
This is a consistent theme through the Trump presidency, and I think it makes it harder for Republicans. I agree with David, they'll swallow and acquit him, but it makes it much harder for the Republicans in the Senate to acquit the president when it's about helping the Russians.
AXELROD: Yes. I think this thing has always been headed to the same place, and John Avlon just mentioned it. It's always been headed to the Senate saying, yes, what he did was wrong, he shouldn't have done it, it was inappropriate, but we have an election in 10 months, and let the American people be the jurors on this. We should not remove a president, which has never happened in the history of this republic, right now.
BERMAN: Who carries more political risk here? If that's where we are this morning, if this is preordained, if Democrats were not able to convince one Republican in the House to vote with them, is that on the Democrats for not doing it better, or is it on Republicans for saying, I am not listening, I am not listening, I am not listening.
AXELROD: I think in terms of risk, you know, the Republicans assert that there's risk for these suburban Democrats who got elected in 2018 and promised not to vote for impeachment. I think they've got a pretty good case that if you had told us the president was going to shake down the president of Ukraine in 2019, we might not have made that commitment.
But my feeling, honestly, is that this is going to move forward in December. You'll see impeachment in January, you'll see a trial. And by November, this will be woven into tapestry of the election.
And I'm not sure that it's going -- except for a few of the Democratic -- I'm sorry, a few of the Republican senators who are sitting on the bubble in states like Colorado, Arizona, Maine, they have to be concerned about this. And they're in a very tough spot, caught between their base and swing voters in very difficult races.
CAMEROTA: Is that how you think it's going to play out?
LOCKHART: I think it's going to have a direct impact on Trump and his re-election. There is no doubt from both the bi-elections and from the midterm elections that turnout is going to be massive in the next election. So I believe that the impeachment will help Trump's base turn out, and it will certainly help the Democratic base turn out.
It's the people in the middle who are sitting -- who actually looked at these hearings and said, I want to learn something, as opposed to, I already know the answer. And this, I think, is going to have a corrosive effect on Trump, because it does very neatly tie up the idea that he's someone who abuses power, who cares more about himself, and is corrupt.
AXELROD: Where I think it's -- where it could hurt the president is less on the specifics of these charges and more on what I think is his fundamental liability, which is there's all of this chaos and noise surrounding him, and this just contributes to that notion that he is a walking sort of confrontation. And I think that when people go to the polls next fall, the thing that will defeat him if he loses is this notion of, we can't do this for another four years.
BERMAN: And this is what your voter panels have really revealed over the last year.
CAMEROTA: They get tired of the chaos.
BERMAN: They're tired of the chaos. And it's the behavior that they're sick of here. And this does two things. This is Republicans condoning that behavior, giving more than a tacit approval of that behavioral going forward.
CAMEROTA: They're tired of it too, but let's be honest, they like the byproduct of it.
BERMAN: I understand, I understand. But the votes they will make are saying, you know what, we're OK with that. We're not going to do anything to stop it. And there's an immediate short-term political impact with that, but there's also just this long-term question of what it means for the executive, what it means for the presidency, if the president of the United States can all of a sudden do this, can all of a sudden ask -- AXELROD: This is why I think it's so -- when the Republicans say
these House members are going to pay a price, at some point the cynical political move is to do nothing, is to look at the obvious facts and do nothing. If you don't do something here, then just rip that clause out of the Constitution. Save schoolchildren a few minutes of study and say, this is no longer operative, it's not part of our Constitution. They have to act on this.
And I think it's important, even if the Senate acquits, that the House put a marker down saying, no, presidents don't have unlimited power, they can't abuse their power, they can't shake down foreign leaders for a domestic political errand.
CAMEROTA: Isn't that what impeachment in the House would spell out?
LOCKHART: Well, and that's what turned Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff and a lot of Democrats, because you remember, they were resisting, based on Russia and emoluments and all of those things going forward with an impeachment. But this is a clear case of the president abusing his power. And I think that they made the judgment, I think, that David was alluding to, which is if they let this go, anything goes in the future.
CAMEROTA: So we're just hearing in our ears --
BERMAN: Yes, we don't know what it is. This is a mystery to all of us here.
CAMEROTA: It's fun to read things cold on the air, I find. So former national security adviser, John Bolton, who has not tweeted since September, just posted this. Here we go. "Glad to be back on Twitter after more than two months, for the backstory, stay tuned."
BERMAN: Oh, for the love of God. Listen, no, seriously here.
AXELROD: He just signed a $2 million book contract. I don't know whether that was --
BERMAN: Can I just say, John Bolton, stop screwing around. At this point, if you want to sell your books, go sell your books. If you want to Congress --
CAMEROTA: He is selling his books.
BERMAN: -- talk to Congress. But this isn't a game. It' not a game. It really isn't a game. Stay tuned to what? If you want to Congress, raise your hand and say I'll do it. If you're never going to do it, say I'm never going to do it.
LOCKHART: If he's going to write an honest book, no Republican is going to buy it. If he's not going to testify, no Democrat is going to buy it. He's got to make a decision.
AXELROD: More than that, if there are things in the book that are material to what is being discussed right now, he has an obligation to step forward and share it. And I think that's -- he's waiting for the courts to order him to do it so he doesn't look like he's volunteering this information. Whether that happens in time for even a Senate impeachment trial is unclear, but Bolton clearly is key. He is the man who walked into the Oval Office and said, why are we holding up this aid? And the answer to that question really could be devastating to the president, or exculpatory, but I would doubt that.
LOCKHART: If he wants to testify and he's looking for a court ruling, and there are some people who argue, he just wants to be back in the spotlight, because that might help the book, there is a court ruling on Monday in the Don McGahn case where a judge is expected to say Don McGahn has to testify. That is the fig leaf he needs if he wants it.
AXELROD: And Sondland, by the way, put everybody -- and the subsequent testimony put them all in -- I think that makes the case even stronger, because all of them have now been implicated in this scheme. So they're clearly material witnesses.
CAMEROTA: Well, John Bolton, let's remember, is the person who Fiona Hill said didn't like this scheme. He was the person who was agitated --
LOCKHART: Talk to the lawyers.
CAMEROTA: -- a drug deal, he said.
AXELROD: I really feel like Bolton's fingerprints have been all over this story from the beginning, I think. He has every reporter in Washington on his phone, and I think he's been a good source on this, that's my guess, in guiding the coverage of this. His aides have been testifying about his role in this. Bolton has been all over this story, he's just not been participating in it in an overt way.
BERMAN: You know what, Fiona Hill didn't say, stay tuned. David Holmes, who still works for the State Department, whose job and career is on the line, did not say stay tuned. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who has been attacked for coming forward, did not say stay tuned. So John Bolton, you didn't have to either. If you want to talk, talk. If you don't, don't. Tell us.
AXELROD: But thanks for watching NEW DAY.
BERMAN: Thanks for watching NEW DAY.
CAMEROTA: Thank you guys very much.
BERMAN: So, House Democrats moving closer to drafting articles of impeachment. A member of the House Judiciary Committee where that process will occur joins us next.
[08:15:43] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: For only the third time in U.S. history, the House is moving to vote on impeaching the president of the United States. House Democrats are compiling a written report with their finding to present to the House Judiciary Committee as soon as next month, then that committee will hold hearings to draw up articles of impeachment. A vote on impeachment on the House floor could happen by Christmas.
Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. She serves on the House Judiciary Committee.
So, Congresswoman, the ball will soon be in your court. What do you anticipate your committee doing? What will this look like once it gets to you?
REP. DEBBIE MUCARSEL-POWELL (D-FL): Good morning, John.
At this point, I've learned in the 10 months, 11 months that I've been in Congress, not to anticipate anything clearly, waiting to receive all the evidence -- the committee is waiting to receive all the evidence presented by Chairman Schiff. And at that moment, we will have to study the evidence in a very detailed manner.
I think that what we're doing in the Judiciary Committee more than anything is keeping an open mind. We are the juror in this investigation. And we are going to possibly have a couple of hearings to present to the American people what an impeachable offense is.
I think it's important, after the testimonies that we've heard in the past two weeks to really continue to educate the American public, what is an impeachable offense, and what is not.
But what we have seen is, the president of the United States violate the Constitution, really extort the Ukrainian government for his own private and political gain and we can't allow that to happen.
BERMAN: OK. So that's news to me. You are going to hold hearings on what an impeachable offense is. So what types of witnesses would testify there? Would we hear again from the people we just heard from, or will you bring in lawyers, scholars, and the like?
MUCARSEL-POWELL: Well, we don't have all of those details and so, I can't really comment on the details of what we'll be doing, but I am suspecting and we've had some conversations that I think it's important to do that. But we don't know -- we don't have the details of which witnesses will come in.
BERMAN: All right. What about the people we haven't heard from yet? The acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, perhaps the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and former national security adviser, John Bolton, who thinks this is a giant game, who's teasing America with his tweets, saying, glad to be back on Twitter after more than two months, for the backstory, stay tuned.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she's not going to wait for the court fight to move forward here. Would you like to hear from these folks? Will the Judiciary Committee
try to get them?
MUCARSEL-POWELL: Look, ideally, of course, we would like to hear their testimony, but I think that they've made it very clear that they will continue to obstruct Congress and those requests are right now on the courts. I know that right now, we are also litigating the request for subpoena for Don McGahn to come and testify. We've been dealing with that issue now for a few months.
So, no, we cannot wait for the courts. And we will move forward. I don't think we need the testimony of Mulvaney. I think he made it very clear, when he had that press conference, that he confirmed that this president was not providing the aid, the military aid that we had already approved in Congress for him to be able to receive information on his political opponent.
He said it very clearly. We have heard firsthand from fact witnesses in the past two weeks confirming that evidence. So, we don't need the testimony of Mulvaney at this moment, or Secretary Pompeo. And what was interesting to me, this week, is that they all knew what was happening, even though Secretary Pompeo has been asked multiple times, and now Ambassador Sondland confirmed also through documentary evidence that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was very much in the loop of what was happening, that this president abused the power of his office to extort a foreign government for his political gain.
BERMAN: What about the documents then? I mean, if there are these documents that are still being withheld by state and the White House, will you fight for those?
MUCARSEL-POWELL: We will continue to fight, of course. We will continue to litigate for those documents, but at this point, I think we need to move forward with completing the investigation.
BERMAN: OK, and that means articles of impeachment. We can assume abuse of power. Listening to Adam Schiff, we can assume bribery is something that Democrats in the House want.
What about witness tampering?
MUCARSEL-POWELL: Well, we're not going to -- I'm not going to jump to what we're going to be writing at this moment yet. I think we still have a few days to convene and get all the evidence from the chairman.
BERMAN: Obstruction of justice?
MUCARSEL-POWELL: Well, that's definitely been outlined by the witnesses. But again, I don't want to confirm which articles we will be writing in the Judiciary Committee.
BERMAN: So, Congressman, you represent a district that very recently was in Republican hands. So we would call this, reasonably, a swing district. What are you hearing from your voters?
MUCARSEL-POWELL: John, it's actually been very interesting to me. In the past few weeks, I have been hearing from a lot of Republicans who live in my district who have been very concerned by the testimony, by the investigation, by the clarity of the accusation that the president has truly been now abusing the power of his office. And they feel abandoned by the Republican Party.
Now, there's still a mix in my district. But I can tell you, more and more, I heard from a veteran during Veterans Day that came to me and asked me to please proceed with the investigation. I am hearing more of that than not.
And I think it's so important for us to continue to present clear evidence to the American people. My Republican colleagues have now shown us that they are working for the president. They are not working for their country. And I continue to ask them to put their country, the American people, the future of our democracy before their party.
BERMAN: What would you stay to people who say that Democrats are running a political risk here by going through with something where some people see a foregone conclusion that the president will be acquitted?
MUCARSEL-POWELL: Well, I think what has driven me is protection of our democracy and our Constitution. This cannot be political. And I think it's so important to conduct the investigation so that we don't allow any other future president to use that office and undermine our national security by inviting a foreign power to interfere in our democracy, in our elections, and really undermining our security.
BERMAN: Congressman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, thanks for being with us this morning, and good luck in the weeks ahead. You're going to get very busy very soon.
MUCARSEL-POWELL: Thank you. Thank you.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, John. It was the Kremlin that interfered in the 2016 U.S. election and experts warn they are doing it again in 2020. How can the U.S. fight back?
CAMEROTA: On the final day of the impeachment hearings, former White House national security official, Fiona Hill, sounded the alarm, warning Americans of Russia, not Ukraine's, ongoing efforts to interfere in the upcoming 2020 elections.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. FIONA HILL, FORMER TOP NSC RUSSIA AND EUROPE ADVISER: Right now, Russia's security services and their proxies have geared up to repeat their interference in the 2020 election. We are running out of time to stop them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Joining us now is Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS."
Fareed, great to have you here.
Fiona Hill did a great job of talking about how dangerous and just pernicious all of the conspiracy theories are, and not just because they're weird and unsettling, which they are, but because President Trump is highly susceptible. He believes conspiracy theories and that they end up affecting national security and she pointed out that Vladimir Putin is laughing.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Yes. In fact, you know, you've heard it just moments ago, when the president on another channel started talking about how Ukraine hates him and has always hated him.
You know, this is the kind of underlying puzzle that is now becoming clearer, that is getting solved, which is why Trump really hates Ukraine. So, Sondland and Volker both say they went to see the president and the White House said, there's this great new Ukrainian president, he wants to deal with corruption, and Trump says, no, no, no, the Ukrainians are terrible people. They hate me. They -- well, it turns out, it has nothing to do with foreign policy.
I think it comes from the fact that the Ukrainian government did point out in the middle of the campaign that Paul Manafort had been taking bribes from the previous pro-Russian Ukrainian government, and that, if you remember, is the first part of which the downward spiral of the Trump campaign's association with corruption begins.
So I think perhaps he blames Ukraine for that, but of course, the Ukrainian government was entirely legitimately and independently pointing out there was this huge problem with their previous dictator. It was not -- Manafort was roadkill.
But for Trump, it's very easy to then believe, as you said, the bizarre conspiracy theory that the Ukrainians, not the Russians, were involved in the 2016 hack, and they blamed it on the Russians.
I have a feeling that at some point, Putin has told this to Trump, because it's so bizarre. And, of course, Putin is congratulating himself. He said a couple of days ago, I'm glad people have finally realized it was the Ukrainians. So, his conspiracy theory is now being repeated by the president of the United States.
BERMAN: And, look, to be clear, there was a phone call with Vladimir Putin in the intervening months when all of this was developing, before the aid was withheld and before the phone call with Zelensky. Who knows what Vladimir Putin whispered in Donald Trump's ear over the phone there?
I have a feeling -- America met Fiona Hill yesterday for the first time.