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House Intelligence Report Accuses Trump Of Misconduct, Obstruction; Rep. Marvin Pendarvis (D-SC) Discusses Kamala Harris, Importance Of African-American Voters. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired December 3, 2019 - 14:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm Brianna Keilar. And this is CNN's special live coverage.

If you are just joining us, the House Intelligence that summarizes all that has been learned in the impeachment inquiry so far has been released. It's pretty large, 300-pages-plus.

At the heart of it, it details how President Trump sought political gain in dealing with Ukraine and the committee's belief the president's stonewalling amounts to obstruction of Congress.

Here's what the House Intelligence Committee said about that, quote, "No other president has flouted the Constitution and power of Congress to conduct oversight to this extent. No president has claimed for himself the right to deny the House's authority to conduct an impeachment proceeding, control the scope of the power exclusively invested in the House, and forbid any and all cooperation from the executive branch."

I want to go to Manu Raju.

You're seeing new headlines. including a focus on Vice President Mike Pence. What are you seeing?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. A focus where Democrats say this goes beyond that July 25th phone call. That phone call, of course, President Trump talked with President Zelensky. President Zelensky urged to open up a political investigation into his opponents. The president said it was a perfect call. Democrats say it wasn't a perfect call.

And it's much broader beyond one phone call. And specifically says, they say, "The telephone call was neither the start nor the end of the president trying to bend for his own gain a month-long effort in which senior officials, including the vice president, secretary of state, the acting chief of staff, the secretary of energy and others, were either knowledgeable of or active participates in an effort to extract from a foreign nation the personal political benefits sought by the president."

This draws from a number of witness testimonies. What this likely refers to is the testimony from Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, who said everybody was in the loop as part of the push to get Ukraine's president to have a meeting with President Trump in exchange for investigations into the president's political rivals. That's something that Gordon Sondland testified was a, quote "quid pro quo," and he provided evidence for that.

Also there had been questions about security assistance tied to those investigations as well.

The vice president, after a meeting between Vice President Pence in Warsaw, Gordon Sondland had a meeting with a top Ukrainian assistance, pulled him aside said the security assistance was likely tied to the announcement of investigations.

Pence's office denied they had any knowledge of a quid pro quo, and that even they discussed a quid pro quo or any security assistance tied to investigations in a conversation with Sondland in that Warsaw meeting.

Nevertheless, Democrats say this effort by the president tied in everybody in the administration.

And Democrats also saying, in this report, Brianna, this goes beyond the effort to oust the Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. In fact this started before her ouster in May.

They're saying this scheme of the president involved, in part, an effort removing this ambassador to further the president's political interests and putting his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, in charge of U.S. policy to Ukraine in order to get that country to announce the investigations.

And laying out a detailed account, in their view, of what they see as clear misconduct by the president, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, as you mentioned.

We can expect articles of impeachment to be drafted along those lines, talking about abuse of power as well as obstructing the will of Congress -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Manu, thank you much.

Continue to update as you go through this 300-plus page report.

And Josh Geltzer, from Georgetown law. He's a former senior director for counterterrorism on the National Security Council.

It is interesting to hear Manu talk about this, Josh. Clearly, one of the key parts of what House Democrats need to do is say, look, this came right from the president.

They're also pretty much painting a picture of this really sort of wide web of all the president's men backing him up on this, knowing about it and helping him execute it.

JOSHUA GELTZER, VISITING PROFESSOR OF LAW, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: I think that's critical and explains why this report is as long as it is.

Because this was not one bad phone call, one bad day, one bad line in a call. This was a looming foreign policy disaster. And lots of people in government who knew what normal was saw it coming, tried to wave it off. And then a cluster of folks who stuck with the president and tried to push ahead anyway.

This tells a story so much broader than just one phone call, one slip of the tongue by the president.


KEILAR: Can you speak to -- this was something we heard in the hearings recently. The idea of there being the regular channel and the irregular channel. And Fiona Hill, the former top Russia adviser to the White House to President Trump, outlined how -- I mean, on one hand, unusual, regular/unregular channel but she talked about the point objectives diverged. Right?

Why is that so critical? Most people are not steeped in foreign policy and don't understand. You hear that and you say, oh, my god. Why is that so essential to this country's security and standing in the world that that doesn't happen?

GELTZER: I think folks need to understand that debate about foreign policy, that happens all the time. That's why there's a National Security Council staff, to help channel that debate and make it productive.

What doesn't happen all the time is to have that debate be sort of the facade and then something else be happening that is contrary to it. So worrisome to the civil servants that they report it to lawyers and ultimately leading to folks saying we think this isn't just a bad idea, we don't know what's happening and think the law might have been broken.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Don't forget. This money, this military aid was approved by Congress. Congress is the one deciding on impeachment. They have to figure out whether what they do matters at all. Because if they can be circumvented by a president, anytime he or she wants, why do you need a Congress?

And that's the point that this report makes very, very strongly. I mean, it says that, "Having just won hard-fought independence from a king with unbridled authority, the framers were attuned to the danger of an executive who lacked loyalty to the law and to the Constitution."


BORGER: That's what this is about.

KEILAR: Sophia, you were counsel for Republicans during the Clinton impeachment.

I wonder, Gloria, we know, from the reporting, we do we know certainly there's a segment of the House Republican conference that believes what they're saying. Right? They believe -- they might even believe some of these conspiracy theories.

There's also a large section of the House Republican conference that actually believes one thing and is talking out of the other side of their mouth defending the president, muddying the waters.

I wonder, for you as someone who went through the Clinton impeachment for Republicans, what you think about that?

SOPHIA NELSON, FORMER HOUSE GOP INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL: So I was on Oversight. Of course, Judiciary did the Clinton impeachment but we would give them documents and all that. As you see here.


KEILAR: This was in conjunction with Oversight?

NELSON: Yes. They're using the investigative committees to help each other.

But the Republicans then, and I opened with this, talking about Lindsey Graham and others cleansing the office, and all of that, that mattered. Somehow those same Republicans don't see it that way now.

For me, there's no advice I could give any of them other than find your soul. And understand exactly what Gloria said, what I've been saying, that this is bigger than you. This is bigger than this moment. This is about who we're going to be.

Does Congress have a role? If Congress doesn't have a co-equal role in oversight investigation, we have a problem. We don't have a republic anymore. We have something else moving closer to an authoritarianism type of rule of a president that, as he said, has absolute power under Article II, which does not exist. That's not true.

KEILAR: If you can stand by for me. We have much more to discuss.

We'll get in a quick break.


Major breaking news here on CNN today. This report out from the House Intelligence Committee in conjunction with the House Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees detailing the case for impeachment against President Trump.



MICK MULVANEY, ACTING CHIEF OF STAFF: We do that all the time with foreign policy.

I have news for everybody. Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy.


KEILAR: All right. So we'll remember after that briefing that the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, gave there in the White House briefing room, there was quite a lot of walking it back, a lot of concern among White House officials.

And here's why. Because this actually finds its place on page 13 of the preface and summary of this 300-plus-page report that just came out from the House committee in conjunction with the House Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees.

This says, "According to Mike Mulvaney, President Trump," quote, "absolutely mentioned corruption related to the DNC server in connection with the security assistance during the call. Mr. Mulvaney also stated the server was part of why we held up the money."

"After a reporter attempted to clarify this explicit acknowledgement of a quid pro quo, Mr. Mulvaney replied," quote, "We do that all the time with foreign policy."

"He added," quote, "I have news for everybody. Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy."

Mick Mulvaney probably not the favorite person there at the White House right now, Gloria. How important is this, really, do you think, to the case Democrats are making now?

BORGER: I think it's a very important piece of it. I think Mulvaney came out and said publicly what others have been denying.

Although, I will point out the president -- and it's in this report, on October 3rd -- the president was asked what he'd hoped Zelensky would do following their July 25th phone call, and the president said, well, I would think if they were honest about it, they'd start a major investigation into the Bidens. It's a very simple answer.


So even though the president is reportedly upset at Mulvaney, he said very much the same thing.

KEILAR: Right.

BORGER: And keeps repeating it and repeating it and repeating it publicly.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Another thing that the summary of the report says, it says, quote, "Most of the facts presented in the pages that follow are uncontested."

That gets to the heart of what we discussed earlier. That most of the facts that are important to the central issue whether or not the president abused his authority were in the summary of the July 25th phone call that was released, were in the Mulvaney press conference, and then were in the public statements in the two weeks of testimony in front of the committee.

And those basic facts are not contested, as the report says here.

It's up to Congress now to decide who to do with those facts and that gets to your points about the historical significance of these acts and is this conduct that really any party for the future wants to consider as appropriate and acceptable for any president to engage in.

And that's why these proceedings are so important to create historical records.

NELSON: I would add, too, what Mulvaney said in one sentence is absolutely true. Of course, there's influence and lobbying in foreign affairs in this town. Happens every day.

However, corrupt influence in foreign affairs -- ask Paul Manafort how that worked out for him.

The point is, there are limitations to what you can do. You have to register. There are as, I think Yovanovitch and --

KEILAR: Register as a foreign agent.

NELSON: Absolutely. Yovanovitch, Hill, others testified to this normal foreign policy. Then this other thing going on with Rudy running around. I can't imagine how horrible that must have been for those working in the State Department, our diplomats, to navigate a mess like that. You know what I mean?

GELTZER: I think we need to dwell on this point today. Tomorrow, the conversation will shift to, what is an impeachable offense, what it's a high crime misdemeanor. It'll be critical in the weeks ahead.

For one day to dwell on how bad it is for American national security and U.S. foreign policy to have a quid pro Trump, really. A quid pro quo, not a trade to benefit our country, our nation our people but to benefit him personally. That is what's so dangerous and what can't be normalized the way Mulvaney's comment suggests.

BORGER: The way Republicans, to use your word normalizing it, saying, A, Ukraine is corrupt. We all know that,. So why was congressional aid approved? If they -- right?


CORDERO: I'm horrified. I'm looking at you in horror.


CORDERO: Not because you're wrong. You're right.

BORGER: But this is -- this is the argument.

And so it's not on the president's phone call. It's not on this -- this cascade of events or whatever you want to call it, but it is about the fact that, well, if Ukraine is corrupt, then whatever the president did was probably the right thing, and that the policy, that Congress approved, and financed, was not the right -- you know, ipso facto, not the right thing?

I mean, that's --


GELTZER: Inventing an excuse to do something no longer contested that it happened.

NELSON: This is how Republicans have to twist themselves in knots and pretzels to try to explain what's not explainable and to accept what's not acceptable. So we the people, like I said, have to make a decision.

The Democrats, I have to give them credit here. They're taking a big risk. This -- you want to say something?

KEILAR: I just want to add what we're looking at, live pictures here. All of this happening as the president is in London for the NATO summit. He and first lady, Melania Trump, arriving there at 10:00 Downing Street, the prime minister's offices and residence.

Please continues on, Sophia.

NELSON: I'm simply saying, we're going to have to make a decision and I want to keep saying that. I think we're all in agreement, we cannot allow this to be OK. If we allow it to be OK -- what Ben Franklin said that day in 1776, it's a republic if you can keep it. We will no longer be keeping it. It will crumble.

This will be the beginnings of the end of America if we don't hold fast to our norms, our documents, and the foundations of who we are. And we're in a fight for the soul of America right now.

KEILAR: Seems like some voters are fine with a degree of sort of that more authoritarian streak if it speaks to what they believe in.

BORGER: If you believe the so-called Deep State is corrupt, and that, therefore, the foreign policy that had been approved by Congress, et cetera, being pursued was not irregular, but corrupt, because it was being promulgated by, you know, by this --



BORGER: -- by this Deep State that you don't trust -- and that now includes not only the State Department but obviously now the FBI, the CIA, whatever you want to throw in there -- that you could believe that Donald Trump was actually saving the country rather than destroying the Constitution, as you point out.

CORDERO: This is actually a really important point. Because sometimes we hear the argument made in the context of everything that's been revealed through Ukraine, we're hearing the arguments about why U.S. assistance to Ukraine is important, and why Ukraine is an ally.

All of that is correct. I mean, I happen to agree with that as a policy matter that usually has been the subject of a bipartisan national security consensus.

But that's not actually the impeachable offense.

BORGER: Exactly.

CORDERO: And that's going to be -- it's really important to distinguish between the fact that if the president did decide to change Ukraine policy, that actually is within foreign policy powers of the president.

But that's not what happened here. What happened here is that he was holding out the assistance for his own personal --

BORGER: Personal.

CORDERO: -- political objectives.


CORDERO: That's a really -- that's "the" critical distinction.

KEILAR: And a huge important fact.

All right. We have just gotten this House Intel report accusing President Trump of misconduct on Ukraine as the president is in London with the first lady arriving at 10 Downing Street. Much more just ahead.






KEILAR: Jake Tapper continuing with special coverage of release of the House Intelligence impeachment report in just a moment.

But first, the other breaking news is that Senator Kamala Harris has dropped out of the Democratic race for president.

In a statement, she wrote, quote, "My campaign for president simply doesn't have the financial resources we need to continue. I'm not a billionaire. I can't fund my own campaign. As the campaign has gone on, it's become harder and harder to raise the money we need to compete. In good faith, I can't tell you, my supporters and volunteers, that I have a campaign if I don't believe I do. So to you supporters, with deep regret and deep gratitude, I am suspending my campaign today." I want to bring in Democratic State House representative in South

Carolina, Marvin Pendarvis.

And your reaction to learning Kamala Harris is out of the race?

STATE REP. MARVIN PENDARVIS (D-SC): First off, good afternoon and thank you for having me on.


PENDARVIS: My first reaction was I was deeply saddened. I had an opportunity to meet Senator Harris on the campaign trail. We met sometime in January and February on a couple of occasions when she came to South Carolina.

One of the things I always appreciated is what she brought to the conversation. To be frank, I'm the son of a black woman, husband of a black woman. I have nieces and sisters who look to Kamala Harris as someone that they can aspire to be. What she meant for the conversation was important.

What she meant for housing, for education and some of the things that she espoused and her campaign trail were necessary in this time. And she certainly elevated the conversation to where we need to be. And her voice will be sorely missed.

KEILAR: Who will get your support now? Who are you looking at?

PENDARVIS: I'm officially supporting the Vice President Biden.

KEILAR: OK. So -- and why?

PENDARVIS: Well, for me, I've been elected three years, and I've looked at what happened and where this country has taken itself over the last several years with the election of Donald Trump as president. The reality is we need to unify. We need to get to a place where every American sees an opportunity for success.

One of the things that led to what happened in 2016 is so many Americans felt like the Democratic Party was not talking to you. Felt they weren't talking about issues important to them. Issues like education, issues like health care, issues like economic opportunity and ensuring that every American has the opportunity to succeed in life.

And what the vice president offers through a lifetime of achievement and lifetime of public service, he demonstrated to me that he is ready and willing top lead on day one. Simple as that.

KEILAR: It's interesting to hear you now saying that you support Joe Biden. That's new.

I wonder what you say to Kamala Harris supporters. We've seen this, South Carolina was so key to her strategy. She was really trying to win over black voters, and there was a big generational divide you're seeing right there in South Carolina. Older African-American voters like Joe Biden. Younger African-Americans in general liked Kamala Harris.

What do you say to her supporters?

PENDARVIS: Well, I would tell them there's room and opportunity for them to feel like their messages are being heard within this camp.

The reality is, what we need is someone who's been battle tested. One of the reasons I looked at supporting the vice president is what he's been able to do, not through this campaign but in a lifetime of public service. He's been through the valley and come out on the other side and someone who's been a champion of issues that are pressing to the people.

So to the young voters out there in South Carolina and young voters, young African-American voters that like Senator Harris, I would tell them issues like housing, health care, economic prosperity, that are the ones that people really need --


KEILAR: Representative?

PENDARVIS: -- the ones that we want to make sure our candidates -- yes?

KEILAR: OK. Thank you so much for joining us.

I know I'm afraid to -- I'm going to lose you here on the window momentarily. So we will continue this conversation.

Representative, thank you so much for joining us.

And "THE LEAD" starts right now.