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President Trump Will Not Send Attorney to First House Judiciary Committee Hearing on Impeachment; Ukrainian President Zelensky Gives Interview about U.S. Withholding Military Aid; Storms Delay Flights on West and East Coast. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired December 2, 2019 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The White House will not be sending an attorney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it would be to the president's advantage to have his attorneys there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaker Pelosi has said we are going to proceed expeditiously. That's because this relates to a matter of urgent concern.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Monday, December 2nd, 8:00 now in the east. John Berman is off still digesting his turkey. And Jim Sciutto joins me now.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: You're stuck with me, for another hour at least.

CAMEROTA: We wanted to have you here, thanks so much, because we have a very big week ahead for the impeachment inquiry. President Trump's lawyers announcing they will not participate in the House Judiciary Committee's first hearing on Wednesday. According to "The Washington Post," four constitutional scholars, three chosen by the Democrats, one by Republicans, are expected to testify about the standards for impeachment. Today, members of the House Intelligence Committee will review their impeachment report ahead of a key vote tomorrow. President Trump leaving it all behind as he heads to London this morning to attend the NATO summit.

SCIUTTO: Also this morning, the northeast still getting pummeled by a powerful winter storm. It is bringing heavy snow, freezing rain, dangerous winds, all not fun for travelers. Thousands of flights have been cancelled or delayed. Driving conditions continue to be treacherous. Please be safe on the roads. The west coast is also coping with snow, flooding, and power outages as well -- 50 million Americans from Maine to California are under winter storm alerts this morning. CAMEROTA: All right, joining us now, we have CNN political analyst

David Gregory, CNN senior global affairs analyst Bianna Golodyrga, and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Great to have all of you. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving long weekend. Let's talk about what's happening today.

So last night, after the deadline had passed, President Trump's White House lawyers announced, Jeffrey, that they would not be participating in this Wednesday's Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing. No surprise.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Not a surprise.

CAMEROTA: Not a surprise. But it doesn't mean that they won't in the future. And so what does it mean for this week?

TOOBIN: Well, it means that these will be more attacks on the impeachment process from the White House, but not an engagement with the facts of the president's behavior. This has been the approach from the White House and its Republican allies from as soon as the Ukraine story broke. And we're going to see more of that.

And I just think we need to focus on the fact that what this means is, again, the president and his allies will not address whether the president behaved improperly. They will simply say this is an unfair process.

CAMEROTA: But do they need to engage at some point? Can they just sit out the entire process? Can they just sit it out?

TOOBIN: Absolutely. They've got the votes. They've got the votes in the Senate, that I think they feel like the politics haven't really changed much. And I think that's pretty accurate. A 50 percent approximately favor impeachment. But that doesn't get you to 67 votes in the Senate. And I think that's sort of where things have stood from the beginning, and that's where they remain.

SCIUTTO: You could argue that the change in the politics is that Republicans have become more, not less united against this, wouldn't you say Bianna? So I wonder this Wednesday, and as this continues, what can, if anything, Democrats do to change that dynamic? If public hearings did not change public support for impeachment, if the polls that we've seen so far don't change, what can they do this week?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, there is more pressure on Democrats to prove that they can walk and chew gum at the same time, right, because you've got the president on the one hand saying while this sham impeachment process is going on, I'm continuing to focus on America first, and he's going to be traveling to meet with NATO overseas in London. He's tweeting about black Friday sales and the economy. So the focus for Democrats is to show that they've got a process to move forward on. They've got a commitment to focus on this investigation and look at the facts. And the facts, in their opinion, show that the president did violate law and should be impeached for the most part, in terms of what we heard from fact witnesses over the past couple of weeks. And they're also focusing on the rest of the year in policy, because

you're hearing from so many constituents at home saying I don't know where I stand right now in terms of impeachment, but I also care about the economy. I also care about other issues. So the focus for Democrats is that they're going to be on this impeachment agenda, but they're also going to be focusing on issues, bread and butter issues for their constituents.

CAMEROTA: Yes, go ahead.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The next shot for Adam Schiff here is to distill all of this, to synthesize it into a final report. Remember during those hearings that in the beginning of the day and the end of the day, he would have his peroration where he would bring it all home for people and explain what it means. The ultimate ability to do that is in this report that will generate a lot of coverage, will be dismissed, no doubt, by Republicans, or they'll attempt to poke holes in it. But that becomes an important moment to try to crystallize for elected officials and for the rest of the public what's at stake here.

[08:05:05]

What was said earlier, I think the only thing that changes the politics is perhaps the politics on the Democratic side. Would, at some point, they decide not to impeach and perhaps pursue censuring the president? That may not come ultimately until later until the prospect of a trial. That's the only time that I could see the White House engaging in trying to challenge what actually happened, because, again, we're in this unique Trumpian world where he admits what he did in the beginning. It's not a who done it. It's an I did it. And so what? And that's what makes this so strange.

SCIUTTO: Do you believe that there is a significant chance that Democrats back off a formal impeachment vote and take that alternate path to a censure vote?

GREGORY: I don't see -- I don't see it right now. But I think as they look, as leadership looks, the presidential campaign and contenders look at that, I think the only prospect they have of moving Republicans is around the idea of censuring and not going for impeachment.

TOOBIN: Boy, I can't conceive of any Republicans voting for censure at this point.

SCIUTTO: Right.

TOOBIN: It just -- I keep coming back to this quote from John Boehner which I always think of in terms of our current politics, which is there is no more Republican Party. There is only the Trump party. And that party is devoted to the protection of the president. And any criticism gets a storm of twitter outrage from Donald Trump. And he just would not put up with a censure.

GOLODRYGA: And that's why you've seen Democrats over the weekend when asked about the politics of it all, looking at polls and where Americans stand for the most part on impeachment and that they haven't really budged even after two weeks of testimony, they argue that they don't care about the politics and they're focusing on precedent, right, and what their jobs are as the checks and balance for this administration and for this president and what precedent this sets going forward, if something the president did by withholding aid in exchange for dirt on a political opponent, if that's not impeachable, then what is?

Now, that's what they say publicly. Who knows what's happening behind closed doors, whether there is more pressure on them now that they're not getting that support from constituents that they were hoping for? But for them, it's all about focusing on the precedent and making sure that this president is held accountable.

CAMEROTA: I'm also confused, David, about the timing. Do Republicans want this to happen quickly, or do they not want it to happen quickly, because it keeps changing?

GREGORY: I come down on it -- I still think most of the pressure is on Democrats here, because I agree that I don't see a lot of movement among a required number of Republicans. You could see a Mitt Romney and maybe a couple of others who would express their concern or their opposition to what the president's done. What I do see Republicans saying is once you get into January, once we're in the presidential year, is saying why are we doing this? Why not let the voters decide if something was inappropriate here? Why are we taking that power out of their hands?

So I still argue that Republicans will argue every bit of the process, every bit of the way, but they will especially say as it gets into January, why do this now when we have an election? And I think Democrats feel that pressure. I think they don't want to lose the attention of the American people at all, and I think they want to try to clear this as much as they can before people start voting.

CAMEROTA: That's what I thought, too. But then suddenly over the weekend, they were like Democrats are rushing this. Democrats have this artificial deadline. Let's take our time. Let's get all the --

GREGORY: That's just because they'll attack each part of the process. They'll argue on different sides of it just to stay on the attack.

SCIUTTO: Your head will spin if you look for consistency on that. A key player in this, of course, is Ukraine, central. And Republicans have often claimed that Ukraine never claimed a quid pro quo, never felt under pressure. New interview with President Zelensky with "Time" Magazine today, and listen to what he had to say. He does say, "Look, I never talked to the president from the position of a quid pro quo. That's not my thing. I don't want us to look like beggars. But," and this is notable, "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."

Bianna, you look at that quote, he's confirming the essential details of the issue here, blocking aid to an ally at war here. In a normal world, I often say that this would be significant. But does that not move Republicans to say there is something here?

GOLODRYGA: And he is confirming desperation, right? This came at a crucial time where they had -- remember, looking back, 13,000 Ukrainians had been killed. What message does this send Vladimir Putin if he finds out that not only is the U.S. withholding a meeting with Zelensky but they're holding military aid? That gives Russia so much leverage.

SCIUTTO: And they were in the midst of peace talks.

GOLODRYGA: Exactly. Exactly. And that's why the president said you guys work it out. Work it out. You and Russia, I'm sure you'll come up with a solution. Well, it doesn't help. It doesn't give Ukraine any bounce, right, to go into these talks without having that aid to show for, without having a meeting with Donald Trump to show for as well.

[08:10:10]

And earlier in the interview, he talked about corruption and how terrible it is to be constantly labeled as a corrupt country. Clearly, there's a lot of corruption in Ukraine's history, but he talks about the ramifications of the president labeling Ukraine as a corrupt country at a time when he's trying to clean up corruption, and he shows the impact that that has globally. If the U.S. is withholding aid, then will other countries withhold aid as well under the label of calling us a corrupt country?

CAMEROTA: That, of course, is the irony, Jeffrey, that the president did wave the aid through in 2017, 2018, only in 2019 when Zelensky, not a politician, from outside the corrupt Ukraine system joined. And what else happened in 2019? Joe Biden started running for president. That's when the president got concerned about the money going towards corruption.

TOOBIN: Well, that's right. And it's just -- it's so easy to get lost in the fog of details here, that that's why I think this interview with Zelensky is so revealing. People were dying in Ukraine. People were dying, being killed by Russia. And the only way they could get the aid was to give Donald Trump dirt on Biden. Think about how wildly inappropriate that is. And that's what this is really about is that --trading Ukrainian lives for dirt on Joe Biden. It's a scary thing.

GOLODRYGA: And it's an unenviable position for a political neophyte, for any world leader, right, for a weak country to be in. But think of all the fact witnesses. Think about Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and everybody who advised them stay out of U.S. politics. They knew the pressure was building on the Ukrainians, on Zelensky, this new president, as soon as he was elected, as soon as he was inaugurated, as we know now that there were meetings where he expressed concern about the direction this aid was headed down, right, and what the president was looking for. And all of these officials within the U.S. government told them stay out of U.S. politics. And you see how his hands were tied.

SCIUTTO: They're caught between two superpowers, right? The U.S., supposedly its ally, and Russia, of course, is fighting this war. It's unenviable.

CAMEROTA: Friends, thank you very much. Great to see you.

OK, now to that nasty winter storm causing havoc across the northeast. This morning, thousands of flights are delayed or cancelled. CNN's Miguel Marquez has been live for us in Albany, New York, in a lot of snow I'm guessing. Hi, Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Oh, yes, a lot of snow. In fact, we have an official snow measurer here called the top of the trash can. It's about a foot, as you can see. And they have been working all night to clean the streets here and the freeways around here as well. The governor of New York ordering up some half a million tons of salt to try to keep those roadways around the state clear.

This is the sort of stuff that they are moving, literally, a mountain of snow here on the corner of the capital in Albany. And for as treacherous as driving conditions are and as difficult as it is for some people, it is absolutely gorgeous, as well. The state capital here this morning just shrouded in snow.

But there have been problems. A Delta flight skidded off a taxiway up in Buffalo over the weekend. There were nine people killed in South Dakota when their small plane tried to take off. There were two kids killed and one still missing in Arizona as floodwaters rushed through there. So both coasts, the west coast and the east coast going through different storm systems right now, just being hammered. All this as people are getting back to work from the long holiday weekend. It's going to be a long day in New York State. The governor has asked the National Guard to be at the ready in case they need to be called in because it is not over yet. Jim?

SCIUTTO: We know you'll be there, Miguel. Thanks very much.

Republicans preparing to defend President Trump in the impeachment inquiry by trying to delegitimize the whole process. Some are peddling, as well, baseless conspiracy theories. We're going to discuss the GOP offensive and its consequences coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:18:10]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Republican lawmakers continue to peddle a baseless conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election. Here is Republican senator, John Kennedy doing just that after apologizing for doing the same thing last week here on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I think both Russia and Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election. Russia was very aggressive, and they're much more sophisticated. But the fact that Russia was so aggressive does not exclude the fact that President Poroshenko actively worked for Secretary Clinton.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Joining us now, our CNN political commentators, Charlie Dent. He is a former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania and Republican strategist Alice Stewart. Great to have both of you.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning.

CAMEROTA: Alice, what is Senator Kennedy doing there?

STEWART: He doesn't seem to be able to make up his mind which side of the fence he wants to get on, on this story. And he was right last week, when he realized that he had misspoken when he talks about continuing to peddle this conspiracy theory about Ukraine.

It's quite clear our Intelligence Community has overwhelmingly said that it was Russia that was involved in meddling in our election, and that's the way it should be.

I think it does no service to Republicans, but specifically Americans at large to continue to peddle this conspiracy theory, and I would like to think that Republicans would stop talking about that, and instead talk about what we can do to put this Impeachment Inquiry behind us to the benefit of President Trump and move forward to competing and winning again in 2020.

CAMEROTA: Charlie, what do you hear from Senator Kennedy there?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I can't understand why he would debase himself in that manner. I mean, the evidence is so clear that the Russians aggressively interfere with our election.

[08:20:03]

DENT: And by the way, I was in Ukraine in August of 2016. About a day or two after it was discovered that Manafort had been working for the Yanukovych government, the pro-Russian Ukrainians. Ukrainians were alarmed by that.

Now, I'm not suggesting Ukrainians interfered in our election, but they were very concerned that a Republican presidential candidate would have such a close tie to somebody so tied to the Russians. They were concerned about it. They didn't interfere in the election, but they were no doubt upset by what was happening with the Trump campaign.

CAMEROTA: And as well, they should be. I mean, again, what Senator Kennedy is doing here, guys, which I think is so peculiar is that he is basing his theory on obviously what President Trump says as well as this 2016 -- August 2016 "Financial Times" article that says that yes, the Ukrainians were quite concerned about this candidate, Donald Trump, who seemed to be very solicitous of Vladimir Putin, their existential threat. I mean, that's understandable, isn't it?

I mean, what -- Alice, the idea that somehow John Kennedy has decided that that equates what Russia did in terms of the vast election interference, it just makes no sense.

STEWART: It is absurd, Alisyn, and I don't know why he has gone back to this side of the fence again. The reality is we do know that Russia interfered in our election. We do not know to the degree they influence the outcome of the election. But what we need to be focusing on is what we can do now and in the future to make sure that it doesn't happen again.

Talking about what didn't happen in the past with regard to Ukraine is not helpful. We need to put stop gaps in place and focus all of our attention on preventing this in the future.

CAMEROTA: So Alice, let me just stick with you for a second because I know that you say that you do not think that the evidence that you've seen thus far that was laid out during these public hearings, rises to the level of impeachment, is that correct?

STEWART: That's correct. I do think that the actions were inappropriate, but it has not risen, in my view to the level of impeachment. I haven't seen evidence of treason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors, and as Congressman Will Hurd -- any one of the Republicans who would break ranks -- I would expect it to have been him because he has expressed concerns and criticism of President Trump.

But what he said during the Impeachment Hearings is it needs to -- we haven't gotten to that point that needs to be more compelling information, and we need to be mindful and patient with regard to how we put this out here. He doesn't appear to be sold on this.

And look, I don't see Democrats being all in favor of moving forward with the public support the way it is. Look, it is one thing for Democrats to vote in favor of an Impeachment Inquiry. It is a completely different scenario when they're looking at voters and they're voting for actual impeachment. And I think they will be in a very difficult spot specifically the 30 or so who won in Trump districts actually voting for impeachment.

CAMEROTA: Congressman, how about you? From all the public testimony that you heard laid out as well as the transcript -- partial transcript of the phone call. Do you think that it has risen to an impeachment level?

DENT: Yes, I do -- I do think it has risen to an impeachment level. And I try to look at this from the perspective of, if this were a Democratic President, who would engage in the same kind of conduct, you know, aiding and abetting the Russian policy interests, do I think Republicans would be calling for impeachment? Absolutely.

I mean, I think this just speaks to the tribal nature of politics, people just cannot -- they just can't accept the fact that their guy may have done something wrong. And he really did do something wrong here.

That's why, you know, that's why Republicans, you know, refuse to argue on facts and on the evidence, because they're just so compelling in this case. So this certainly does rise to the level of impeachment, whether or not the Democrats want to pull the trigger, you know is another matter, but it certainly rises that level.

CAMEROTA: Alice, what do you think about that when you hear that?

STEWART: I think he is right in terms of the tribal nature of politics. It was 21 years ago, Nancy Pelosi said that Republicans were paralyzed by their hatred of Bill Clinton during his impeachment. Now we see Democrats who are paralyzed by their hatred of Donald Trump, and they're doing so at their own peril.

CAMEROTA: But I think, Alice, but I'm just curious about the substance -- just about the substance of the phone call. Are you comfortable with the back channeling that the President did with Ukraine in order to announce an investigation of his political rivals?

STEWART: Alisyn, I think the call was inappropriate, and it was ill- advised.

CAMEROTA: But what's the punishment for that? I'm just -- sorry to interrupt -- But if it's inappropriate, and ill-advised, if not impeachment, what's the punishment for that?

STEWART: Well, certainly, I would say, a teachable moment for the President in order to make sure that this doesn't happen again. But look, there's a stark contrast between what we have now and what we've had in the impeachment of Bill Clinton and in Nixon.

Right now, this is completely along partisan lines. Nancy Pelosi said she would only go forward if it was overwhelming and non-partisan. This is completely partisan.

CAMEROTA: Sure. Congressman, I know you want to get in there.

DENT: I would just argue -- I would just argue that this is -- I would just argue that this -- look, this behavior was wrong. The President of the United States used his office. He used his office to solicit a foreign government to essentially interfere in our election and dig up dirt.

[08:25:09]

DENT: And then then there was the quid pro quo, then withholding Federal tax dollars in military assistance to Ukraine. This is wrong. I mean, this is beyond inappropriate in my view. It is the very least inappropriate. It is simply wrong.

Had a member of Congress engage in that kind of conduct, the Department of Justice would be all over them. They'd be investigated and I suspect, they wouldn't be a Member of Congress long.

CAMEROTA: And so Alice, when you say a teachable moment, what is the punishment for the President? Somebody goes in and says, naughty, naughty.

STEWART: Who knows? That's certainly for someone of a much, much higher pay grade than I have. But --

CAMEROTA: No, Alice, you know about this. I mean, truly, if you think that it's a teachable moment, what should the punishment be, if not impeachment?

STEWART: Certainly not to engage in this kind of behavior. Let me just respectfully push back on what the Congressman said. There has not been evidence of quid pro quo. And the money was forwarded on.

DENT: Of course --

CAMEROTA: The President found out about the Congressional investigation. Let's be honest.

STEWART: There was a meeting and look that's really -- it is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is the money was sent on to Ukraine. They did have a meeting. And Ukraine did not at the time come out with a big announcement concerning Joe Biden.

And all of these facts are why the Republicans are lock stepped together on this, and it's also why Democrats have not been able to move public opinion on this. That's going to be a factor in how the Democrats move forward on this.

CAMEROTA: Charlie do you -- go ahead, Charlie.

DENT: The quid pro quo, we read about it in the original transcripts, the whistleblower complaint. We heard, you know, a parade of witnesses all verify that there was a quid pro quo.

The only reason why the aid was released was because this whole deal was revealed. That's what happened. They got caught.

And then they released the -- then they released the aid. I mean, I just think that of course there was this for that, a quid pro quo. I mean, we have to believe what we're reading and what we're hearing from these very credible witnesses.

I don't -- I don't see how many can say credibly that there was no quid pro quo. Of course there was.

CAMEROTA: All right. We have to leave it there. Charlie Dent, Alice Stewart, thank you very much for both perspectives. Nice to talk to you.

STEWART: Thanks, Alisyn. Thank you.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Her anti Trump text messages became a critical talking point for the President's attacks on the overall Russia investigation. Now, former F.B.I. lawyer Lisa Page is breaking her silence in a new interview. We will discuss why she says she came forward in the end, coming up.

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