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Sen. Kamala Harris Suspends Presidential Campaign; House Intelligence Committee Releases Its Impeachment Report. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired December 3, 2019 - 13:30   ET

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


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[13:30:10]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): And I guess that's why I'm running. I do believe that, to beat Donald Trump, but also to heal our country, we need a leader who has the ability to unify our country and see that the vast majority of us have so much more in common than what separates us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I want to bring in Kyung Lah on this breaking news that we're following. Kamala Harris, Senator from California, dropping out of the 2020 presidential race.

Kyung, she had been struggling in the polls. She admitted that in her letter to supporters and volunteers as she decided to suspend her campaign.

But this was someone who was a key figure and represented key demographics of the Democratic Party and the coalition that a candidate will have to pull together in order to beat President Trump.

Tell us what you're hearing from where you are on the trail in Milwaukee.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we can tell you in this very diverse city is that Kamala Harris looks like the future of the Democratic Party.

When all of this started out, when all of these candidates were beginning to launch their campaigns, what the Democrats were looking for is someone who looked like them.

So here is somebody who represents the coalition, the candidate who could potentially string together black voters, college-educated women, potentially the working class left and right. That was the premise that Kamala Harris and the promise that she held when she launched her campaign. As she pulls out today, I think we need to reflect back that when she

launched in January, 20,000 people filled downtown Oakland. There was so much hope and promise in this campaign and now she is dropping out.

I'm told by sources that she announced this to staff in a phone call, that it really came down to the money as she laid down in that letter.

A source in the Kamala Harris Iowa campaign tells me that she just couldn't afford to pay her staffers, that she wasn't going to run in the red, that she doesn't have billions of dollars to finance her own campaign, that she relied on the donations of supporters and that money simply wasn't coming in quickly enough in order to run the operation.

Another thing that I want you to pay attention to, Brianna, is that, at the end of December, December 28th, 26th, 28th -- I'm going to have to double-check the calendar here -- that's the last day that candidates could pull out of the California primary and not show up on the ballot.

So had Harris continued through December, she would have shown up on the California primary. That name would have been there, and she is the sitting United States Senator for California. And then to pull out certainly could have potentially had an impact on her presence or how well she does in the California primary.

So all of this, you know, factors that were floating above this campaign, but when you boil it down, what people are telling me and what this letter is saying is that she simply did not have the money to keep going.

KEILAR: That could have damaged her presence, as you said, especially as at this point, right? She doesn't just have the presidential election to deal with, she could be, assuming she doesn't succeed, she wouldn't succeed in this race, she would be facing reelection in California. That could wound her in that.

I wonder, as you have spoken to voters, Kyung, do you get a sense of who -- maybe who this would benefit or who else they're looking at? Did any of them -- you've spoken to so many. Were they very much married to Kamala Harris, or were they keeping their options open and also looking at someone else that you can maybe assess there just from the ground of who they might choose over her?

LAH: Well, you talk to Kamala Harris supporters, the so-called K- hive, on Twitter or people I run across who are her diehard supporters, there was no other option.

But if you talk to Democrats on the street -- and this also factors in on those low poll numbers and the financing and who is donating to her campaign -- her name just doesn't come up. That is what I was noticing more and more.

Early on in the year, so many people were talking to me about Kamala Harris, about her presence on those Senate committee hearings, about how she could take on Trump, but that increasingly, those words felt emptier to Democrats, that's what I heard from Democrats who had not made their decision in Iowa or New Hampshire or South Carolina, that she weren't sure she was solid enough to take on Donald Trump. They were unsure about here.

[13:35:02]

Increasingly, she just wasn't in on the conversation with Democrats. That's why you saw her dropping in those polls and the news coverage beginning to fade away because she wasn't commanding attention. And that is ultimately, you know, what leads to people being interested in you, what leads to that money coming in.

And, again, if you look back to the beginning to where we are now, that speaks to the fluidity of this race. Even though there's so many undecided Democrats out there at this point, so close to the Iowa caucuses, you've got to have at least some standing. You've got some sea legs and some growth.

Without having the money to grow in Iowa, to keep on going, to pay those staffers, that was becoming more and more difficult -- Brianna?

KEILAR: All right, Kyung, stand by for us, if you will, in Milwaukee.

I want to bring in CNN's Van Jones as we take a look at this breaking news. Kamala Harris dropping out of the 2020 presidential race.

Van, what are your thoughts on this?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & CNN HOST, "THE VAN JONES SHOW": It's tough. You have a Democratic Party that has a core and a backbone, and that backbone is black women. African-American women voted 96 percent for Hillary Clinton. I think white women voted 46 percent.

Yet the only African-American woman pounding on that door, pounding on that glass ceiling is now out. It's a bittersweet moment. I think it's a high integrity move on her part, I think it's a high character move on her part. She does not want to drag her staff forward when there's not money to help pay their bills.

But it hurts. Because we have not had a black woman be able to get all the way there -- you go back to Shirley Chisholm, who Kamala Harris talks about all the time back in the early '70s, '72, trying to run, saying, listen, we have a lot to offer as women, as black people, as black women, to this country. Give us that shot. Nobody has been able to get across that finish line. So now she is out.

We have a party, a Democratic Party, the most diverse field, and yet the top people in the field are not people of color. And so even people who have begun to move away from Kamala, even people who thought maybe she's not ready yet, the people I'm talking to feel the sting of her loss -- of her exit.

And people also are asking the question, and it's a fair question to ask. You know, she had some of the strongest debate moments. She had 20,000 people when she first started out. She made some serious mistakes.

There will be a postmortem, but there are people who feel, was she held to a higher standard? Did she get the full break that, say, Pete Buttigieg has gotten? Pete Buttigieg, like a lot of white guys, evaluated on his potential. She's evaluated on her resume and her day-to-day performance.

I think it's a big deal. If people can go all the way across the finish line, look in the mirror. Do you want to put yourself through this? Do you want to have a good Christmas?

But when the only African-American woman who had a real shot has to walk away for lack of money, it's a tough, tough day, I think, for people who love this party, who love what's going on in terms of diversity in this party, to see this happen today.

KEILAR: Van, you make a very interesting point.

I want to get your thoughts in a moment on what about the possibility that she could be a vice presidential candidate, maybe a running mate.

But first, I need to head to the Hill, real quick, and Manu Raju. We have some breaking news there.

Manu, catch us up to speed. This is about the releasing of that impeachment report that we're expecting from the House Intel Committee.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Now we're expecting this to come at any moment, according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry. The committee is going to release a report shortly. We've been expecting it to happen sometime today.

The House Intelligence Committee is going to vote this evening to adopt that report, and then it's moved to the House Judiciary Committee, which will open up formal impeachment proceedings in that panel.

But the committee is going to detail the findings of this investigation that has spanned more than two months looking at the president's handling of Ukraine and detail the Democrats' case for impeachment.

I'm told from a source familiar with the report that this report already discusses the historical nature of impeachment and suggests the president may have met that threshold for high crimes and misdemeanors, suggests that the president acted in a way that abused his office and dealings with Ukraine.

Also suggesting that the president obstructed Congress by not giving up his documents, stonewalling their demands, comparing it to past cases, comparing it to past impeachment cases where there's cooperation from different administrations. Democrats planned to include that in this report.

[13:39:56] It's lengthy. Phone logs, exhibits make this in detail. A narrative of sorts going back before the ouster of the foreign ambassador, planting a scheme by the president to help himself politically and leverage that relationship with Ukraine, in the meantime, to try to get that country to investigate his political rivals.

All of that will be detailed in this report that we're now told will be out in just a matter of moments. And this will be the backbone, Brianna, of the articles of impeachment that the House Judiciary Committee will eventually take up in the coming days.

And then it will go to the full House that will almost certainly vote to make President Trump the third president in history to be impeached -- Brianna?

KEILAR: We're following two big breaking stories.

Thank you, Manu, from the Hill for us.

We're watching a more-speedy release of this report from the House Intel Committee ahead of this key vote on impeachment.

And we're also looking at the 2020 Democratic presidential field. Kamala Harris dropping out of the race.

We'll be right back with more on both of these stories.

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[13:45:54]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: We have some more breaking news. The House Intelligence Committee is about to release its impeachment report, and we're told it's expected to lay out precedent for impeaching the president based on his actions with Ukraine, the Ukrainian president, that phone call. And also the administration's obstruction of justice.

Carrie Cordero, I want to start with you as you are expecting this. We're expecting this is going to be a lengthy report. What do you think is going to be key, and how important is it that this report, I guess, spell out a narrative that gives Democrats some guideposts?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think that's the most important thing it's going to do.

It's going to take this high volume of evidence, really, that has been developed throughout the impeachment investigation regarding the president's conduct with respect to the Ukrainian president, and it's got to make clear how that evidence, the testimony, the hearings, the text messages and other documents that the committee received supports the narrative that the president - important, it has to be about the president, not about his advisers -- that the president held out defense assistance and a White House meeting in exchange for President Zelensky of Ukraine conducting and making a public announcement about a political investigation that would assist the president. That's the key.

And what's important is that the testimony highlight the president's conduct, because impeachment is about the president. It has to show it's not just his advisers, it wasn't people in his circle doing things on their own or going rogue. It was at his direction.

And there was testimony like that. For example, Ambassador Sondland testified that, quote, "Everybody knew what we were doing, everybody was in the loop." These were the types of things that Ambassador Sondland kept saying.

So the committee report needs to lay that out and then that will be the basis on which Judiciary can write the articles of impeachment.

KEILAR: And, Sophia, another witness testified to overhearing a phone conversation between E.U. Ambassador Sondland and President Trump where this idea of the investigations was discussed.

Do you think, though, that there's an ironclad enough case to make this point?

SOPHIA NELSON, FORMER HOUSE GOP INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL: Well, I agree with everything that Carrie said. And I think that they have to be narrowly focused for the Intelligence Committee's purposes.

I want to make a distinction between what the Intel Committee does and what Judiciary is going to do, because they're going to be different.

And I think she's absolutely right that Ukraine is what they focused on. The testimony came down to whether or not the president of the United States engaged in a quid pro quo and withheld critical defense aid that had already been passed and authorized and kept it in order to get dirt on Joe Biden. That's the central question.

When it goes over to the Judiciary, however, I think there are broader issues. What is the standard of conduct of a president of the United States? Has he obstructed justice? Has he tampered with witnesses? Has he violated the Emoluments Clause? What's the standard?

Remember what Lindsey Graham said, you have to cleanse the office. You don't have to commit a crime to be impeached. That's Lindsey Graham talking.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Don't the Democrats have to figure out how broad

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: -- they want to make these articles of impeachment? You talk about emoluments, well, that's broadening the articles of impeachment. Or do they stick to Ukraine, which is what these intelligence hearings were all about? Do they go back to the Mueller report?

NELSON: I think they should do all of the above.

(CROSSTALK) NELSON: I know that's the risky --

(CROSSTALK)

NELSON: -- because there's a standard of conduct for the president, whoever he or she is going forward.

BORGER: That's the debate. That's the issue.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Whatever we're going to learn in this debate about hearing a lot of the same stuff we've heard about, so I think the challenge to Democrats is how are they going to write this in a way that will break through to the public. So much of this is about what the public thinks, public opinion.

I can tell you that talking to White House officials, their hope is that it's not going to break through. It will be more of the same, it won't be something that people outside the Beltway really care about. They'll be watching this closely, though.

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But what you'll hear from the White House will be the same as what we heard in the rebuttal report yesterday, the same talking points, accusations, hearsays, assumptions from bureaucrats who had policy differences with the president. That's what they'll be focusing on.

KEILAR: All eyes on the House Intelligence Committee as it is poised to release its impeachment report at any moment.

We are back in two minutes.

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KEILAR: All right. The House Intelligence Committee has released its impeachment report.

Our reporter on the Hill, Manu Raju just got it, poring over it to bring you exactly what is in it.

But I want to talk to my panel here as we await details of this.

This is -- one of the things you mentioned, Sophia, it's really important that Democrats can bring this home to voters about why they should care about this.

You have concerns that maybe they won't be able to do that, or that they really need to work on that. What are you expecting from this report, if anything, to that end?

NELSON: I think the Democrats have a tough job, whichever way they go. The problem for the public, do they connect with Ukraine and see it as a far-away place and the president had a perfectly good transcript and call, whatever.

I think people in general, if you look at polls and what you see on social media, people are worn out by this president, his contact, tirades, anger, his actions.

I think that if you can crack the case, like Lindsey Graham said, about cleansing the office and who we're going to be and how we'll allow our president to conduct him or herself, is something people might be able to say, I don't think a president should have Rudy Giuliani running around Europe conducting nefarious activities.

BORGER: Would they impeach over that?

(CROSSTALK)

NELSON: I don't know. That's the question.

We agree, Gloria, I don't know.

CORDERO: People understand corruption. At a root level, they understand when politicians, when business people, when people in their community do corrupt things, abuse an official office for their own personal gain. That's what this Ukraine narrative is about.

It's about whether the president abused his office, his executive authority, abused the foreign affairs powers a president has for his own personal, political gain.

Then I do think that it potentially will matter to the public that this becomes not just an investigation, not just hearings or a report, but actual articles of impeachment, because that is a historic development.

KEILAR: Pamela, I wonder, I think people are familiar with corruption but there's also this case that those around Trump make that he's a dealmaker. Right? He's doing things differently, unconventional compared to other presidents.

How far will that go? It's going to totally work on his base, but beyond that, how much are they banking on the fact they can make other voters buy that?

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BROWN: I think, talking to our officials and officials at the White House, they feel confident their messaging strategy is working. What they're saying to, about, you know, look, he's the president. He's unconventional. This is how he works.

The larger talking point, which doesn't really hold water, especially with more information coming out, that, look, the president was really concerned about Ukraine, corruption in general, even though he didn't bring it up on the call with Zelensky.

They still hammer that home. Look, Ukraine didn't know about the aid withheld until the fact. And now hearing from a Ukrainian official saying we actually did know in July.

They'll continue with the same talking point because they feel, so far, what's come out in the impeachment proceedings isn't moving the needle for voter on the polls and it's a winning message they feel for them.

KEILAR: Surprisingly, this, as we understand it, is 17 pages long? Is that right what we're hearing?

Check with folks in the control room.

We think.

That said, the Republican prebuttal, 132 pages.

BORGER: Right, right.

KEILAR: Actually, let's get exactly the number of pages from Manu Raju, who has his hands on the report.

Manu, what are you seeing there?

RAJU: Yes. We're now just going through this report that had been released. And I'll read to you sections of the report that caught our eye going through it.

They say in here the, "All of the evidence of the president's misconduct is overwhelming and so, too, is the evidence of obstruction of Congress. Indeed, it would be hard to imagine a stronger, a more complete case of obstruction demonstrated by the president since the inquiry began."

This report goes into vivid detail about the president's actions with regards to Ukraine and tries to make the case in the Democrats' view this was a scheme that the president engaged in to help himself politically by pushing Ukraine to move forward on these investigations of his political rivals.

And a section of the report says that, "As the report details, the impeachment inquiry has found that President Trump personally, acting through agents within and outside the U.S. government, solicited the interference of the foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his re- election."

"In furtherance of this scheme, President Trump conditioned official acts of a public announcement by the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, on political motivations of one of his domestic political opponents."

"In pressuring Zelensky to carry out this demand, President Trump withheld a White House meeting desperately sought by the Ukrainian president and critical military assistance to fight Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine."

Throughout this section, it goes on to talk about the president's conduct to benefit his re-election upon the prospects of his political rival.

And then talks about the phone call, in which, of course, this is all centered on, but much more around that July 25th phone call between President Trump and Zelensky. "President Zelensky of Ukraine saying that the president exerted

significant pressure on him to move forward on these investigations that the president -- that President Trump sought into Joe Biden, Joe Biden's son and the 2016 elections."

And then goes on to say that, "The investigation revealed the nature and extent of the president's misconduct notwithstanding unprecedented campaign of obstruction by the president and his administration to prevent the committees from obtaining documentary evidence and testimony."

What we're hearing essentially, is they're making the case abuse of power by this president and obstruction of conduct by this Congress. We'll see how the articles of impeachment are ultimately written.

And in the accompanying statement that came out alongside this report, Democrats say it will be up to Congress to decide about whether or not to actually impeach this president.

It sounds like they've stopped short of saying the president should be impeached and removed but are making the case clearly they do believe he should be impeached and removed and he engaged in actions that are in violation of his oath of office, of the Constitution, and clear obstruction of Congress in the eyes of Democrats -- Brianna?

KEILAR: All right, Manu Raju, on the Hill, thank you so much.

We've just gotten a House Intel impeachment report. It's key to note the 17 pages, largely what you can describe as a summary, a preface and summary. The report itself is actually 300-some pages. Quite a lengthy report.

A lot of people are not going to read those full 300 pages, but the 17 pages certainly spell out what's in them.

OK. Manu went through some of what this report makes the case for. At the center of the investigation is the phone call, the transcript of the phone call, July 25th.

The investigation determined in this report summary that says, "The telephone call was neither the start, nor end of the president's efforts. The investigation revealed the nature and extent of the president's misconduct."

[14:00:00]

It goes on to talk about a sweeping effort "to stonewall the House of Representatives' sole power of impeachment under the Constitution."