Return to Transcripts main page


Donald Trump Dismisses Impeachment Inquiry As He Heads To Europe; Today: House Intelligence Committee Reviews Impeachment Report; GOP Rep: "The President Has Done Nothing Wrong"; Impeachment Inquiry Moves To House Judiciary Committee This Week; CNN Source: NATO Leaders Are Not Calling Gathering A "Summit" To Avoid A Confrontation Over Communique. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 2, 2019 - 12:00   ET



MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But in the meantime and in the short term, Kate, people keep dying and the criticism is that there are no security policies to things, what's going on right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Excellent. All right, Matt, thank you so much for that. Much more to come after the meeting, you just mentioned later, that's happening today. Thank you all so much for joining today. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Thank you, Kate, and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

A new committee and a new chapter in the Trump impeachment inquiry -- the President declines an invitation for his lawyers to take part in Wednesday hearing then he complains the process is unfair to him.

Plus Lisa Page breaks her silence, the Former FBI lawyers says her personal views never impacted her work on the Russia investigation. And she describes the impact of being on the receiving end of the President's Twitter and rally attacks.

And new trade turmoil -- China mad at the President, signed legislation supporting the Pro-Democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong. And the President this morning says he is imposing new steel tariffs on Brazil and Argentina.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Our steel companies will be very happy and our farmers will be very happy.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I don't know why the President did what he did this morning or what the justification was? Do any of you know? You're breaking news.


KING: We begin the hour with the President claiming, "Case Over" as the impeachment inquiry now enters a dramatic new phase. A big week ahead includes a report due tomorrow from the House Intelligence Committee, and then Wednesday's first impeachment hearing in the House Judiciary Committee. The President says it is all a waste of time and this morning he claimed new evidence of his exoneration.


TRUMP: The Ukrainian President came out and said very strongly that President Trump did absolutely nothing wrong. That should be case over. He just came out a little while ago and he said President Trump did absolutely nothing wrong, and that should end everything.


KING: Now, in that interview with "Time" and several other publications, the Ukrainian President, Vladimir Zelensky, does say "Look, I never talked to the President from the position of a quid pro quo. That's not my thing. But Zelensky never says the words "Nothing Wrong". And he does assert his American counterpart put Ukraine at risk by stalling military aid. "I don't want us to look like beggars"

Zelensky told the magazines in that interview, 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. It's not about a quid pro quo, it just goes without saying.

Here with me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Dana Bash, Michael Shear with "The New York Times," Tarini Parti with "The Wall Street Journal" and Jackie Kucinich with "The Daily Beast."

Now the timing is interesting that the President is about to after NATO, we'll talk more about that in a bit. He sees this interview with President Zelensky as we go into a very big week in the impeachment inquiry and he picks a piece of it that works for him and he ignores the rest, which does not.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's classic. It's classic Trump because he wants to get ahead of it, he wants to set the narrative, he wants to take whatever it is that he can to channel it on his Twitter feed, channel it on another cable outlet, channel that takes what he says and uses it as gospel for the people who want to believe everything he says.

And the way you laid it out is exactly right. First of all, let's just take a step back and remember who this guy is? The Leader of Ukraine has been dancing on the head of a pin since he took office. He's got to be careful not to make the United States angry and that the Commander in Chief happens to be Donald Trump. He is so in the spotlight right now, he's got to be careful, but he was trying to protect himself and protect the integrity of his actions.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU OF CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: And it doesn't hurt to remind people that even when Zelensky did say there was no quid pro quo, I didn't feel pressured and some other instances, it's impossible to not feel pressure when you are a country at a disadvantage that needs the United States to help you fend off Russia. So it's not fair standing no matter what he says. KING: It's baked in. You are the weaker party in the conversation. You are the needing party in the conversation. So this is happening, the President again trying to cherry pick but smartly politically to make his case to his base. As we head into the week, today, this evening, House Intelligence Committee members can see the drafted report based on the public hearings and based on the work of the committee.

Then on Tuesday they will vote on that report. That will be done in private. They send it over to the Judiciary Committee which then holds its first public impeachment hearing on Wednesday, and then by Friday the White House has a deadline. The President has declined to send his lawyers to the first hearing. He has another deadline on Friday to decide about sending them to the next round of hearing. Listen to the President this morning explaining why I will not play.


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



KING: The President uses the word hoax. His team has raised the questions of fairness which I think is a different conversation. We sit here at noon on Monday in the east. The hearing is scheduled on Wednesday. This is about impeaching a President of the United States. Drop the names, drop the party label, it is about impeaching the President of the United States, and the Democrats haven't said who the witnesses will be.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: And the interesting thing looks if the clip that you first played of the President is getting to the substance of the argument, the question of whether he actually did anything wrong? In a sense the debate has moved past that.

The Republicans tried that for several weeks during the Intel Committee hearing. What the bulk of the Republican Party and frankly bulk of the White House has shifted to is this idea of fairness, is this idea of are the Democrats perverting what is a constitutional process by sort of forcing it down the throat of the American people without giving due process to the sitting American President, without giving him the right to adequately defend himself.

The President obviously wants to make that argument, too, but he still can't quite let go of the idea of wanting to defend himself on the substance as well.

TARINI PARTI, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think it's easier for them to make that process argument though when they're on the outside. It's easier to shout from the outside that this is a hoax, and they're not involving us in this process when they're actually not involved at all. So I think the President is staring to understand that although he can't really focus his messaging strictly on the process, he is starting to talk about that more along with kind of refuting the substance.

BASH: Although he called the Mueller investigation hoax and they - he didn't sit for an interview but he did a take-home test, so there's certainly some precedent for that, and maybe they'll use that when it comes to the Senate trial.

KING: Right, there are some Republicans - one here Tom McClintock, who says Mr. President you being offered this opportunity why not put a lawyer at the table?


REP. TOM MCCLINTOCK, (R-CA): I think it would be to the President's advantage to have his attorneys there. That is his right. But I can also understand how he is upset at the illegitimate process that we saw unfold in the Intelligence Committee?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you think they should bring in lawyers?

MCCLINTOCK: I think it's a disadvantage, yes.


KING: It's an interesting debate. Again, the first hearing is supposed to be constitutional experts as Democrats try to make the case that they believe they've met the bar for impeaching a President. So on one hand the President's lawyers maybe not be critical there in the sense that you're not arguing the facts, you're arguing the standard, more or less.

But at some point, does the President just decide we don't play at all so we can just say it's all illegitimate partisan process or when you get to the facts and they need to come in and contest them?

BASH: It's going to be hard in the Senate trial if you look at recent history, the President's lawyers, President Clinton's lawyers, spent a lot of - were very active in the Senate trial and did right by him in the arguments that they were making for him, and it's hard to imagine not having that in a Trump impeachment trial.

KUCINICH: But in the House Judiciary, he does have at least a trifecta of some of his most vocal supporters that are on that panels. You have Jordon, you have Gates, you have Ratcliffe, I believe, so these are folks and Ratcliffe is a lawyer - these are people that are going to argue for him, argue on the process and probably about fairness as well. So he is going to be reliant on that.

KING: We could call them the three amigos but that's taken.

KUCINICH: Many times over.

KING: Game set match. Next we continue the conversation. Do Democrats face a hard sell on impeachment?



KING: More now on the impeachment inquiry's big move to the Judiciary Committee this week. The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi understands the high stakes but while at a climate summit overseas in Spain today, she declined to discuss them.


PELOSI: We aren't here to talk about impeachment or the President of the United States. We're here to talk about - I have a rule of Codels when we travel abroad. We don't talk about the President in a negative way, and we save that for home.


KING: Codel is Congressional Delegation, for those of you out in America who might not speak like Washington. The Speaker will arrive back home to many questions including some from more moderate House Democrats who have jitters frankly, they're finding impeachment a difficult or at least a controversial cell in their districts. The Republicans make no secret their strategy is to stir things up and to test the discipline of the Committee Chairman, Jerry Nadler.


ANDY BIGGS, (R-AZ): They're a bunch of brawlers sometimes on the Judiciary Committee, so it should get pretty hot and under the collar as we go along. I don't think things have been done the way they've been done in the past, Mike, and so it causes some rancor, and it should be pretty - much more feisty, I would say, than the Intel Committee was.


KING: It is factual things are as fair or more fair to the Republicans and President Trump as they were either to President Nixon or President Clinton. That is just a fact, you can read or you can study history, you don't have to believe me. But to the point the Congressman is making about you mentioned the members of this Committee, the President has more loyal defenders. The President has more ardent and more aggressive and more theatrical, frankly, and part of this is politics.

PARTI: It is, and even the Ranking Member on the Committee Doug Collins is someone that the President recently wanted to give a promotion to. He wanted the Governor of Georgia to promote to fill the vacant Senate seat there. So he's got many supporters, even the ones who aren't as feisty are the Ranking Member on the Committee.

KING: To your point about Collins, discipline is required of both parties as we go forward here.


KING: The President's loyalists have been successful, even repeating debunked conspiracy theories I call it the pig pen strategy just drop a little bit of everything so it's hard to see straight. Some of you forget some of the damning facts here. Democrats have to keep their own discipline, which is why I want you to listen to this question put to Doug Collins here asked by a Retired Democratic Senator. This is a fair question to a Republican, but it's about the Democrats.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Evan said yesterday as a Democrat he thinks an off ramp they should look for an off ramp and an off ramp would be censure. Do you recommend that, too?

REP. DOUG COLLINS, (R-GA): No, I do not. What did he do to get censured? That would be like saying let's just take it because we want to get the Democrats to like us anymore. You don't give end to people who are viciously going after you for no reason. This President has done nothing wrong.


KING: That right there is a fascinating glimpse at both parties in the political dilemma. Democrats might need to talk privately at some point about do we need an off ramp? Should we do censure? Should do something - you don't talk about it publicly heading into a critical week for your party.

To the flip side of that is Congressman Collins the Ranking Republican on the Committee, the President did nothing wrong. So it is the Republican Party's position it is okay to hold up military aid to a country under a hot water tax from Russia to let your personal attorney who has no standing in the government, do private business in Ukraine while trying to make money.

BASH: But it is the point that you've made several times which is important to kind of bring back around in this context which is Doug Collins is a rabbit House Republican. There are people of his ilk in the Senate, but there are also different kinds of Republicans in the Senate, some of whom have said very publicly, yes, but. Yes, what he did was troubling but it's not impeachable. So there could be more fertile ground for censure in the Senate, which is probably why the Former Senator, Evan Bye--

KING: Cautious Indiana moderate.

BASH - cautious Indiana moderate, which there aren't a lot of them left, threw that out there just to sort of trail - I can't imagine that he did it at the behest of the Democratic Leader, but it is a different place, and we can't get there before we see what happens in the House, but it's an important thing to remember about the tone and ten tenor of the Republicans.

KUCINICH: That's a lot of faith for Democrats to put on Republicans who in the past have hinted maybe going back to Supreme Court battles. It was a completely different animal. There are thoughts that, okay, this person might vote against Kavanaugh, this person might and only if you did. So that's a lot of trust to put in the other side when the political head wins are really-- BASH: Just throwing it out there as an option.

KUCINICH: Of course.

KING: One piece of evidence that it's not going to happen unless the Democrats really present a new and damning case and somehow get public opinion to change. This is an economist "YOUGOV" poll this is the Republican sample in this poll, which Republican President was better, Trump or Lincoln? You're speechless.

SHEAR: I mean, look, what that speaks to, I think, is the intensity with which the Republican base, the Trump base, is, you know, behind the President, behind President Trump. So whether it's, you know, Doug Collins and the Republicans in the House or the Republicans in the Senate, they go into this knowing full well the intensity with which that base still, despite everything that's been revealed in Mueller and in Ukraine, they're not straying from this President, and so that gives them a whole lot more confidence than you had in the previous, you know, impeachment efforts which were much more splintered.

KING: I'm not going to take issue with anyone who supports the President, but I would suggest reading a little history.

PARTI: It does govern how these members are acting.

KING: Especially heading into an election year where he is the head of your party. And you see what he does to people who criticize him? If you're a Republican right now based on every piece of data that you see, the safest place, no matter what you think, whether you think Rudy Giuliani should have done this? Whether the President is wrong in doing this? The safest place politically is to stay right there.

PARTI: And we're seeing that in the kinds of responses that people like Thom Tillis who is up in North Carolina, Corey Gardner who is up in Colorado the way they're talking about this stuff. They're trying to stay focused on issues, they're trying to walk this very tight rope in terms of being somewhat critical but not too critical of the President, and we'll continue to see that, I'm sure, in the coming weeks.

KUCINICH: We're also seeing it from Republicans who are hiring, someone like a Will Hurd, probably because he wants a political future. Even if he is stepping away it doesn't mean he's done with politics forever.

KING: All right, Trump has changed the party. We don't know what it is going to change in two years, four years, six years, eight years but he has changed the party and at least some of those voters are going to be in your Republican Party if you want to be - whether you're Will Hurd or anyone else.

Up next the President preparing to meet now with world leaders at NATO but impeachment not far from his mind.



KING: President Trump aboard Air Force I on his way to London right now for a meeting of NATO members. He left the White House this morning. The President criticized Democrats for holding impeachment hearings while he was on the world stage, and he also poked at some of those with whom he will be doing business once across the Atlantic.


TRUMP: The do-nothing Democrats decided when I'm going to NATO - this was set up a year ago - that when I'm going to NATO that was the exact time.


TRUMP: This is one of the most important journeys that we make as President. Now we're going to London and it will be NATO and we're meeting with a lot of countries, and they're going to have to do a little--


KING: The President's schedule includes bilateral meetings with a number of foreign leaders, including the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the French President Emmanuel Macron as well as the Queen. CNN's Nic Robertson joins us now live from London. Nic, this is labeled a leaders meeting not a NATO Summit as is tradition. Is there a reason for that?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: John, my understanding is that there is a reason, and that is NATO has sort of taken a view, if you will, on President Trump's past performance at the G-7 meeting, the world leaders meeting, back in 2018 where he famously didn't sign the communique at the end of that summit, and the thinking is if this is a summit, as these annual big meetings of NATO generally are, then therefore there would be a communique.

But if it is troublesome to get that communique because the language doesn't fit what President Trump wants, then that is going to be a bigger issue in and of itself. So avoid the confrontation over language and content of a communique and call this a leaders meeting. That's my understanding, John.

KING: And, Nic, just from the London perspective, it's a bigger meeting. The President often rises burden sharing if you were the contributions of NATO. He calls it dues. He doesn't often speak the correct language. But just help me with the Boris Johnson dynamic here. The President was a big supporter. Boris Johnson is about to be on the ballot again, and the take from the UK is, please stay away, sir?

ROBERTSON: Yes. We know when President Trump has arrived here in the past he's taken licks, if you will, at some of the opposition MPs particularly the Mayor of London. He's been very favorable toward Boris Johnson, but we are in that election period. The General Election is next week. The polls are narrowing. It looks like Johnson is doing well, but the opposition Labor Party is pulling back some ground.

The key campaign issue is that Boris Johnson wants to sell out Britain's prized National Health Service to President Trump, so any proximity of President Trump is going to be used against Boris Johnson by the opposition.

KING: Fascinating couple of days ahead for you Nic Robertson at London. I appreciate the reporting. Let's bring it back in the room. Let's just start there I want to get to the bigger issues of NATO. But the President you put up a keep off the grass sign, and this President runs pretty quickly to the grass.

Listen to Boris Johnson talking about this. Remember, Boris Johnson and Trump aligned on some issues, not all issues, but politically the disrupters the new guys let's change things, Boris Johnson says please no.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We have very close relationships and friendships with the United States at every level of government, but what we don't do traditionally is nabbing our allies and friends. What we don't do traditionally is get involved in each other's election campaign.


KING: Do we expect discipline or should we put up one of those countdown clocks until Trump says something?

SHEAR: I think that might be wise. Look, the truth is that he not only has the prospect of directly saying something that would cause Boris Johnson grief, actually talking about the election or something that could, as Nic said, help the opposition.

But simply the dynamics between the other world leaders that are going to be gathered there, President Trump always clashes with them over a lot of things, but NATO in particular because he is so obsessed with the funding of NATO issues. And all of that can't help Johnson's attempts to sort of portray himself as the right person at this moment to help kind of carry Britain through the Brexit drama, which is, after all, a drama that involves all these other world leaders. So President Trump kind of royaling all that up isn't going to help him.

BASH: Not to get too far down the Trump rabbit hole, if the people who want to hurt Boris Johnson understand Trump as well as by now should, they'll bait him into responding and therefore hurting Boris Johnson because it's very hard for President Trump, as we know, when he is attacked or criticized by a leader, particularly while he's there, to hold his tongue.

KING: But it's a fascinating moment. I remember being abroad with President Clinton during the impeachment, and the President's whole goal is to be President. Look like you're doing business for America and say, why are these people back home impeaching me? Why are they trying to scare me when I'm trying to do my country's work on the world stage?

You heard the President in the clip we played at the top complaining a bit about the, quote/unquote, burden sharing as he puts it. This is actually a Trump success story. If you will, in the sense that the way he has done it is it has infuriated everybody, he's bludgeoned people. He's bullied people.