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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Prosecutors "Likely" to File Additional Charges Against Giuliani Associates; House Judiciary Announces Witness for Wednesday's Hearing; Trump Heads to NATO Meetings As Impeachment Inquiry Ramps Up; White House Refuses to Participate in Impeachment Hearing. Aired 4- 4:30p ET

Aired December 2, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:01]

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're saying that the president was within his rights to push for Ukraine to do just that because of -- it's his concern about the history of corruption in the country.

They say the president did nothing wrong. And they are arguing this in 123-page report that we have obtained that shows that they believe that essentially the president -- that the Democrats' allegations fall flat.

Now, this is what they say. They say that Democrats have been on -- have been -- their goal since day one has been to impeach this president, they say in the beginning of this report.

Then they go into some of the allegations detail by detail, saying that there is no evidence to back up the Democrats' claim. They say at one point: "The evidence presented does not prove any of these Democrat allegations and none of the witnesses testified to having evidence of bribery, extortion or any crime or misdemeanor."

Now, they go on to talk about why the aid was withheld to Ukraine, why the meeting was withheld as well. They say that the evidence in their view shows something different. They say that the president's action was -- quote -- "entirely prudent" because of Ukraine's long history of corruption.

Then they go on to talk about more about what the witnesses have alleged and they say it does not back up the Democrats' claim.

So this is not surprising, Jake, because the Republicans have been making these arguments for some time. We heard them make this in the two weeks of public hearings. But what is going to happen in just -- by tomorrow is that this report will be the minority views that will be essentially adopted to the larger report that the Democrats are putting forward.

Now, that larger report is going to detail the Democrats' side of the argument, in which they are going to argue that the president certainly did abuse his power in office. And we will wait to see what they recommend, but that will lay the course of the articles of impeachment that will almost certainly be voted on in the House before the end of the year.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: So, just to underline this, Manu, the idea that we're hearing from House Republicans on the Intelligence Committee is not just this doesn't rise to the level of impeachable. They're saying that President Trump did nothing wrong.

RAJU: Correct. They're saying everything that he said is -- quote -- "entirely prudent."

That is what they're saying because of their argument that the president was simply concerned about -- with Ukraine's history of corruption, so he had the right to review that security assistance. He had a right to deny that meeting between President Zelensky of Ukraine because of his concerns, they say, with corruption in that country.

Now, that is their argument. Clearly, Democrats see it much differently. They're saying they're going to point to the witness testimony that they believe undercuts what the Republicans are saying -- Jake.

TAPPER: That's the Republican rebuttal from Manu Raju.

Tomorrow, the Intelligence Committee is expected to vote on whether to send its impeachment report drafted by a majority on the committee, Democrats, to the House Judiciary Committee, which will then hold the spotlight, starting with a public hearing on Wednesday.

The White House has already declined an invitation to take part in that hearing.

But, as CNN's Alex Marquardt reports, the White House still has until Friday to decide whether to participate in any future hearings.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The passing of the impeachment torch. In the next few hours, the House Intelligence Committee is wrapping up its role, finalizing a report for its members to review behind closed doors, detailing findings of their eight-week investigation into the Ukraine affair, which included historic open hearings.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The impeachment inquiry into Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States.

MARQUARDT: That report marking this next phase and setting the stage for a big week, when the House Judiciary Committee takes over, tasked with drawing up articles of impeachment before the full House votes on impeaching the president.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): I think the evidence that is being presented to us by the Intelligence Committee really focuses on the Ukraine matter, so -- as well as the obstruction. If we do articles -- and that's not a foregone conclusion -- that would be the central thrust, I would assume.

MARQUARDT: Now driving the process is Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York, whom the president has known for years.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Lo and behold, I come down to Washington as president, and who do I have again? Jerry Nadler. I know him well. I have had great success against Jerry.

MARQUARDT: The first Judiciary hearing is on Wednesday with a lot lineup of experts to talk about the constitutional grounds for impeachment.

But the president and his Republican allies are already slamming the process.

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): It's an internal kind of time frame to try and finish this out by the end of the year, because they want to get at this president right now, before the -- before everybody completely sees through the process sham of the elections for next year. So we're rushing this.

MARQUARDT: The White House has declined an invitation to take part in Wednesday's hearings, but could still choose to participate in proceedings after that, meaning they potentially could call their own witnesses and cross-examine others.

The president today making that seem unlikely.

TRUMP: The whole thing is a hoax. Everybody knows it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUARDT: So, the White House still has until Friday at 5:00 p.m. to tell the Judiciary Committee whether they will participate in the hearings after the first one on Wednesday.

Chairman Nadler responded to the rejection of that one just a short time ago, saying that, if the president has nothing to hide -- quote -- "He would turn over the thousands of pages of documents requested by Congress, allow witnesses to testify, instead of blocking testimony with baseless privilege claims, and provide any exculpatory information."

[16:05:03]

TAPPER: All right, Alex Marquardt, thanks so much.

Let's chew over all this news with our panel.

Mary Katharine, let me start with you.

One of the excerpts from the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, their rebuttal says -- in which they say President Trump, not only that this doesn't rise to the level of impeachment, but that he did nothing wrong.

One of the quotes: "The Democrats' impeachment inquiry is not the organic outgrowth of serious misconduct. It is an orchestrated campaign to upend our political system. The Democrats are trying to impeach a duly elected president based on the accusations and assumptions of unelected bureaucrats who disagree with President Trump's policy initiatives and processes."

Is that how you see it?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: OK, there is a lot of evidence that many Democrats have wanted to impeach him from day one.

TAPPER: Absolutely.

HAM: Right. So there's that.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Especially the ones that introduced articles of impeachment back in 2016.

HAM: Right.

There's also a fair amount of evidence that he did a bad thing and that the phone call was not perfect, right? Both of these things are true.

And I think polling does not bear out that many people think it was perfect, right? The argument is basically, is this impeachable and removable? There are a lot of people who think it was inadvisable or wrong, but maybe they're not willing to go there. That's where the argument lies.

But the interesting thing about this strategy, which I don't agree with the assessment, but it's not really hurting the president or Republicans, because they landed probably the hardest and cleanest punch they were going to have last week, Democrats did, in polling that moved greatly in favor of impeachment, which sort of confuses me that that happened, but that's the facts on the ground.

TAPPER: So that's the true -- it hasn't heard them politically, but does it hurt?

Let me just make it a little broader. Does this hurt the United States, the idea that it's OK for a president to do this? It will be OK for President Buttigieg to tell China, you need to look into Jared Kushner's sister and those visas that they have been offering, or for President Elizabeth Warren to say to the president of Kazakstan, there's a Trump Tower there that we need to learn more about?

MEHDI HASAN, THE INTERCEPT: Yes. Exactly.

And that's the way forward if you accept that this is rightful behavior. You mentioned China, of course. Donald Trump has asked China to look into the Bidens, and not just Ukraine. I think the problem, of course, with this House Republican report is,

they have taken the president's advice. Remember, he was getting angry at them that they were only defending him on process, not on substance.

Now they're like, substance, you did nothing wrong. And they say that he had genuine and valid concerns about corruption in Ukraine.

(LAUGHTER)

HASAN: If you believe that Donald Trump cares about corruption anywhere, I have a certificate from Trump University to sell you.

This is the most corrupt president in modern American history. He just settled a case of his own last month for misusing funds from his own charity in his 2016 election campaign, paid a $2 million fine. So, maybe he should investigate himself.

So I just don't buy this argument. It's not going to hold. Even Republicans -- everyone knows that Trump doesn't care about corruption, whatever of your view of Trump is.

And on the politics of it, I don't know; 50 percent in the CNN poll say they support -- 50 percent of Americans say they support impeaching and removing Trump. That is before a single article of impeachment has been drawn up. It's definitely ahead of where polls were at this -- quote, unquote -- "phase" of the Nixon process.

TAPPER: David, you're adviser to the Trump campaign. I think you have said that you don't think that the call was perfect.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think the call is perfect. Again, I don't think it was anything illegal. The Department of Justice already opined to that.

And let's listen to President Zelensky's own words again today, gave an interview today to the German magazine "Der Spiegel" where he said, President Trump and I didn't talk about quid pro quo. We didn't talk in those terms.

He doesn't understand -- the president of Ukraine doesn't understand what the issue -- big issue is here. Why doesn't his -- why does he no weight to this at all? His testimony has nothing to do with this.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: Jen is laughing, so...

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: Jen is laughing because she says, oh, what's he going to say? Then the president will punish him.

The president is not going to punish him. He has the entire Congress. The entire United States would rise up if he did something in backlash.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, David, first of all, I think you're ignoring what you know better, which is how it works and foreign policy and the power of the United States with countries like Ukraine, where the most important relationship for President Zelensky is with the United States.

That continues to today. He doesn't know what's going to happen with President Trump.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Let me just read the quote.

URBAN: So, two presidents aren't telling the truth, is what you're saying.

TAPPER: I don't know if this was in "TIME" or "Der Spiegel."

But this is the quote from Zelensky: "Look, I never talked to the president from the position of a quid pro quo," Zelensky said. "That's not my thing. I don't want us to look like beggars. But you have to understand we're at war. If you're our strategic partner, then you can't go blocking anything for us. I think that's just about fairness."

So let me -- let's remove Zelensky from this for one second, because, obviously, you have two different interpretations of those remarks.

Do you think that this is a wise strategy for the House Republicans to just say, the president didn't do anything wrong here?

URBAN: Listen, that's the cards they have been playing so far. And I agree with Mary Katharine. They might not be the best cards, but they're moving forward pretty handily.

I think the polling has begun -- has shifted. It's shifted away from impeachment somewhat. And I think that...

TAPPER: In the battleground states.

URBAN: In the battleground states.

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: Especially among independents, which is important.

URBAN: And, again, Mary Katharine is talking about among independents.

I think that when -- again, I will say 31 Democrats sit in Trump-won districts, 13 in Romney-McCain-Trump districts, OK?

[16:10:00]

So those Democrats, when it comes time to vote, are they going to walk the plank, knowing that Donald Trump's going to be acquitted by the Senate a few weeks later?

TAPPER: And what do you think about the broader political message from Democrats today?

PSAKI: Sure.

Well, first of all, I actually think it's not walking the plank. They're all out there. And they have been owning this. And the reason we're at the point we are at is because we have a phone call transcript -- or notes from a transcript -- that prompted some of those moderate Democrats who are in those at-risk districts from coming out fully for proceeding with impeachment proceedings.

URBAN: Proceedings, not impeachment, articles of impeachment. Big jump.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

HASAN: I would just say -- I have said this before on the show.

I find the whole quid pro quo obsession weird. Even if he didn't ask for anything in return, even if he didn't say the meetings depended on it, aid is dependent on it, which we now know from the witnesses he did, even if he didn't say it, just asking a foreign government, a president of a country that's basically beholden to you, to investigate your 2020 political opponent, surely, that's impeachable, in and of its own, without any quid pro quo.

TAPPER: I mean, you agree with that? Or not impeachable part of it, but you don't approve of the...

HAM: No, it's clearly bad behavior.

And I think -- I don't mind. Don't laugh about it about it when I say it.

(CROSSTALK)

HASAN: No, that the bad behavior is not impeachable.

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: It doesn't seem like that laughable.

But the question is, yes, is it removable, I think? Because I think there should be a mark against him for this. I don't think this kind of behavior should go unpunished at all, whether it's censure or some -- the impeachment proceedings themselves, because I think there does need to be a marker laid down.

Removal, I am sort of uncomfortable with. I'm in that position of a lot of skeptical swing voters, where it's like, OK, we got an election a year from now. That seems like the way that we deal with these kinds of things. And removal is a really, really big step. And you have to contend with that.

(CROSSTALK)

PSAKI: The argument against just censure, one, censure, doesn't do a lot. It's a little bit of weak soup.

But, two, this is a guy who showed himself willing to accept the help from a foreign government, from a foreign power in the 2016 election. And we're saying, let's just let the election play out in 2020.

But he's already willing to let it be, you know, moved on his behalf. So it doesn't feel good to just leave it to that.

TAPPER: Do you think it's wise for the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, to say to Nadler, who's running the House Judiciary Committee -- they're having a hearing on Wednesday -- we're not participating?

And do you think that should be the position of the Trump White House going forward?

URBAN: Yes, well, I think at least in the House, right? As I said before, I think this cake is baked over there.

It doesn't matter. Now, one thing that they're going to say, that Pat Cipollone or the president or anyone's going to show up to the House, and we're going to tell them that's going to make them change their mind.

As Mary Katharine pointed out, Democrats had voted -- they wanted articles of impeachment introduced the day the president was sworn in. So that cake is done.

TAPPER: There were a couple of them.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: There's always a couple at the beginning of every presidency.

(CROSSTALK)

HASAN: In defense, he's been doing impeachable things since day one of his presidency.

URBAN: I don't think it's advisable to show up.

I think that you save your cards. You save everything for the Senate, where, if there is going to be a battle, where it matters is the Senate.

TAPPER: So you think that they should participate in the Senate?

URBAN: They will participate in the Senate, yes, I believe so.

TAPPER: They will? You think so?

URBAN: I think so.

TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around.

We got a lot more to talk about, because we have got some breaking news on the Rudy Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.

Then, he first said there was no pressure, but now the president of Ukraine is talking about the impeachment inquiry in a new interview.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:17:45]

TAPPER: And we have some breaking news for you in our politics lead. Federal prosecutors in New York are likely to file superseding charges, it means additional charges, against Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, former Rudy Giuliani associates accused of funneling foreign money into U.S. elections. Prosecutors also revealing this afternoon they have gathered information from dozens of electronic devices, including a satellite phone.

CNN's Kara Scannell joins me live.

Kara, what does this mean?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: So, Jake, this tells us that this investigation is ongoing. Prosecutors said that it is likely that they will file additional crimes alleging new charges against these men, at least Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.

And they've also let in some more detail about the pace of the investigation, that they've obtained 29 electronic devices from the defendants, most of them being in possession of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. Fruman apparently had a satellite phone that they found in his residence when they searched that.

Now, prosecutors are saying that the FBI are still trying to crack the passwords for these devices. So they haven't turned over any of that material yet to the defense. The defense team said they received about 70,000 documents. Something they're saying that this process should move along a lot more quickly.

We heard from one of the defense lawyers that prosecutors have given them the search warrant applications, that kind of gives them the sense that the evidence they might have for the case that they've charged so far, but he said that there were 26 pages that were redacted. We've been familiar with these redactions through a lot of the Mueller report from Michael Cohen. And so, they're saying that there is a chunk of the search warrant affidavit that is now secret, still under seal that goes right to the part of the investigation that this still ongoing, the uncharged conduct as a prosecutor put it in this case. So we could see that this investigation is very much continuing and

there is at least a significant portion of it that has not been charged to date. Those were just the specific campaign finance charges and as we reported last week, that prosecutors have identified a range of possible crimes and subpoenas they've sent out to possible witnesses. That includes money laundering, wire fraud. It remains to be seen how quickly this case will be unfold and what additional charges there might be.

But we can see from this hearing today, we did learn that this investigation is continuing and that new charges against these men are likely -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kara Scannell, thank you so much. Appreciate the update.

More breaking news now. We've just learned who will be testifying in Wednesday's public impeachment hearings.

[16:20:01]

Four legal experts are slated to appear before the House Judiciary Committee.

As CNN's Pamela Brown now reports, President Trump has been attacking Democrats for this particular hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democrats, radical left Democrats, the do-nothing Democrats decided when I'm going to NATO, for them to be doing this and saying this and putting an impeachment on the table which is a hoax.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump today sounding off on the Democrats impeachment inquiry before taking off for a NATO meeting in London. A day after the White House attorney issued a letter to the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee indicating Trump nor his attorneys will participate in the impeachment hearing set for Wednesday.

TRUMP: All you have to do is look at the words of the Ukrainian president that he just issued.

BROWN: Trump pointing to a new interview Ukrainian President Zelensky gave to "Time" magazine and European newspapers, twisting Zelensky's words as evidence of his own apparent innocence.

TRUMP: The Ukrainian president came out and said very strongly that the president did absolutely nothing wrong. That should be case over.

BROWN: But that is not what Zelensky said. Instead, the Ukrainian president told "Time": Look, I never talked to the president from a position of quid pro quo. But you have to understand we're at war. If you're our strategic partner, then you can't go blocking anything for us. That is just about fairness. It is not about a quid pro quo. It just

goes without saying.

This comes as "The Washington Post" reports there are no official records of a phone call between President Trump and ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, that allegedly took place on September 9th, which Sondland testified about last month.

GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: I just said, what do you want from Ukraine? I may have even used a four-letter word. And he said: I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. I just want Zelensky to do the right thing, to do what he ran on, or words to that effect.

BROWN: Much like with Zelensky's words, the president has used that testimony about the alleged phone call to defend himself soon afterwards.

TRUMP: So here is my answer: I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing.

Then he says, this is the final word from the president of the United States. I want nothing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And, Jake, we just learned who Wednesday's House Judiciary witnesses are. They include Noah Feldman from Harvard Law, Pamela Karlan from Stanford Law School, Michael Gerhardt from the University of North Carolina School of Law, and Jonathan Turley from the George Washington University Law School.

The focus of this first hearing on Wednesday will be the constitutional grounds for presidential impeachment -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Pamela Brown, thank you so much.

President Trump is about to land in London but might not meet with one host and closest friends on the world stage. We'll explain, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:27:43]

TAPPER: And we're back with the world lead.

As President Trump blasts Democrats in the impeachment inquiry, he's confronting another tense relationship head on. Right before taking off for a NATO meeting in London, the president once again called on participating countries to pay more in their defense budget as part of their commitment of the 70-year alliance.

Let's discuss.

Mehdi, let me start with you. So, ever since taking office, president has demanded that other countries pay their fair share, their fair share. They've all committed to up -- at least 2 percent of GDP to be spent on defense.

Now, NATO secretary just announced defense spending is up 4.6 percent. He said it's the fifth consecutive of growth so started in the last two years of Obama, but three years under Trump. He also said nine allies are now spending the committed 2 percent of their GDP on defense. That's up from just three a few years ago.

So, gains started before Trump took office but a lot of gains since. I mean, it is something that he deserves some credit for, yes?

HASAN: I mean, every U.S. president has demanded NATO allies do something more. That is not a new demand. The funny thing to what Trump talked about NATO is he doesn't understand how the NATO budget works. He said they should pay us or they should pay the NATO budget.

There is not a budget. There is a budget for the building. People pay for their own military. The 2 percent target or goal is something that was self imposed I think in 2002 where countries said we will spend 2 percent of our GDP on our military.

He seems to think that there's some central fund that the Americans is in debt, America needs to take out of it what they put in. He says at his rallies, which is amusing. I mean, this is president who said earlier this year he wanted Brazil to join NATO, which would be possible if they were in North America or Europe.

So, when he talks about NATO, like with other subjects, I can't take him seriously even if he gets accidental results.

TAPPER: All right. So, I'm going to try again with Jen Psaki. Should the president get some credit for the countries upping their defense budgets?

PSAKI: Well, look, first of all, this started the -- under -- in 2014, actually.

TAPPER: Right, sure.

PSAKI: President Obama had all of the NATO countries agreed to over the next ten years up to 2 percent, he pushed on it.

TAPPER: It's been growing for five years. Absolutely.

URBAN: Can you say yes, Jen? Just say yes. It's not going to kill you.

PSAKI: The truth is I'm not sure --

URBAN: Trump did something good. It's OK, Jen.

PSAKI: I think if anyone was in the White House and this is continuing. He acts like he was the person who invented this and this is one of his biggest accomplishments and really --

HASAN: He's also threatening to pull out of NATO.

URBAN: He's not going to pull out of NATO.

PSAKI: I think what's more interesting, Jake, though, is what's happening at meeting which isn't a meeting. I mean, this is an informal gathering.

TAPPER: Right.

PSAKI: They even don't have a dinner. They have three hour -- they have hours of a working session, because basically they're all wanting -- they all want to ride --

[16:30:00]