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Soon: House Intel Impeachment Report to be Public; President Trump Comments on Possibility of Congressional Censure; Sen. Angus King(I-ME) Interviewed about Suggestion of Ukrainian Interference in 2016 U.S. Election. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired December 3, 2019 - 08:00   ET

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


KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: -- as one source told me, cordial, but not close situation between the first daughter and the first lady.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Kate Bennett, the book again is "Free, Melania," and it is a fascinating read. Thanks so much for discussing it with us. Discussing it with us.

BENNETT: Thank you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And thank you to our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN Newsroom is next. For our U.S. viewers, the House Intelligence Panel's impeachment report goes public shortly. NEW DAY continues right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, December 3rd, 8:00 now in the east.

We do have breaking news. President Trump is thinking about impeachment, even while on the world stage. The president is in London right now for a meeting of NATO leaders. This morning he answered questions for almost an hour with the alliance's leader, Secretary General of NATO. President Trump once again attacked the impeachment inquiry, proclaiming his innocence and insisting he will not accept any form of punishment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I heard about it. Now they want to go to censure because they have no case for impeachment. So they want to go to censure. I don't want them to go to censure. I did nothing wrong. I don't mind being censured if you did something wrong. I did nothing wrong. I had a great conversation, very respectful conversation with the president -- a good person, by the way -- with the president of Ukraine. It was flawless.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: President Trump, interestingly, also attacked France's president ahead of their one-on-one meeting. That happens in the next hour, and that's quite a departure, John, from the body language we used to see among those two men.

BERMAN: The PDA.

We're just hours away from the American people getting to see the House Intelligence Committee report which lays out that committee's case, really, to impeach President Trump. The document is expected to conclude the president abused his power by pushing Ukraine to investigate his rival for political gain. The committee will vote tonight to approve the report. They will send it to the Judiciary Committee. That panel will hold its first public hearing tomorrow. House Republicans are already fighting back. They have a prebuttal to that report, ignoring incriminating evidence against the president.

Joining me now is independent Senator Angus Heinz. He's a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which matters. Angus King, I should say. Senator, I have a friend named Angus Heinz. I've done that to you before.

SEN. ANGUS KING, (I-ME): It's OK. It's OK.

BERMAN: It's OK. Senator King, I'm thrilled you're here with us.

KING: Or is it Frank? I'm not sure.

BERMAN: Frank Heinz, thanks for being with us.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: Listen, the House Republicans put out this report, not just sort of denying the evidence, but also suggesting that it was Ukraine, Ukraine attacked the United States in the 2016 election. You were more than a bystander here. The Senate Intelligence Committee which you sit on investigated this. What did you in fact, find on that matter?

KING: I want to clear one thing up, John, right away. There was no specific hearing or briefing on Ukraine per se. There's been some reporting on that. I want to clarify that. On the other hand, we must -- I bet I've sat through 25 hearings, briefings, meetings, probably more on the question of what happened in 2016. In none of those meetings was there ever a hint, a breath, a suggestion, a word that somehow Ukraine was involved in the 2016 election in the interference or the influence campaign. It was Russia. And it was Russia in a systematic, widespread way.

And I think what's happening here, people are seizing on -- some people in Ukraine acted negatively when the president during the campaign said that maybe Crimea should remain part of Russia. That would be like us being angry that somebody else took Florida. It was understandable, but that's been blown up into this somehow that Ukraine was involved in the 2016 interference campaign. It wasn't.

BERMAN: Let me just put a fine point on this. Which country attacked the United States election system in 2016? KING: Russia.

BERMAN: Is there any evidence that you saw that there was a top-down effort by Ukraine to attack the 2016 election?

KING: No.

BERMAN: What do you make of Republicans, including the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, suggesting, and this was to NBC last night, I don't think there's any question that elected officials in Ukraine had a favorite in the election. Why would they say that?

KING: Because some elected officials in Ukraine, as I mentioned, reacted publicly, saying they didn't like candidate Trump because he suggested that Crimea should be left with Russia. They were stating their views. That's a lot different than hacking a server, distributing emails through WikiLeaks, and a concerted social media campaign that was run out of Moscow and St. Petersburg. So, yes, there were Ukrainians who said they weren't crazy about this guy because he essentially countenanced the dismemberment of their country by Russia. But that's a lot different than the campaign that the Russians undertook.

[08:05:08]

BERMAN: No top-down effort. No systematic effort by the Ukrainian government to attack the United States election. There's just such a big difference there, Senator. Thank you for helping us understand what that difference is.

You also have an op-ed in "USA Today" which quotes a Sherlock Holmes story that I like about the dog that didn't bark. Explain to me what you mean by that.

KING: I love -- that's one of my favorite Sherlock Holmes stories. Quickly, the story is, Sherlock Holmes, there was a crime committed at a farm house. Sherlock Holmes visited. The dog in the barn barked like crazy. And then they determined that the night of the crime, the dog didn't bark, which Holmes deduced meant the crime was an inside job. The dog knew who the intruder was.

The dog that's not barking in this case are the major figures in the Trump administration that could set this matter to rest in a matter of minutes, and I'm talking about Mick Mulvaney, Secretary Pompeo, John Bolton, Rudolph Giuliani, all of whom if they would go under oath and testify, subject to examination, that nothing happened, nothing of what has been suggested about the president using his office for personal or political gain, they could clear this up. And so the point of my op-ed was sometimes silence tells you a lot, and the fact they're not coming forward, and the president won't let them come forward, I think is a matter that needs to be reckoned with.

BERMAN: In the Sherlock Holmes story, the silence pointed to an inside job, pointed to guilt. Are you suggesting their silence in and of itself is incriminating? KING: Well, it's certainly raises a serious question. I'm not sure

I'd use the word "incriminating," but when you add the silence to the fact that they are being told not to come, that really raises a question. I know of no forum, no legal forum where an accused person is allowed to control the witnesses coming before the fact-finding body. In fact, in most situations, an accused person trying to control witnesses is a crime in itself. And in this case, the president, he just did it again this morning, said I'm innocent, it was perfect, I did nothing wrong. If that's the case, he should be insisting that these people come forward because they could clear him in five minutes.

The fact that, a, they aren't coming forward, and, b, he's told them not to come forward, to not release documents, to control documents at the State Department and within the White House, that's -- I'm from Maine, and we apply common sense, and common sense tells me in this case, there's something that's being hidden here.

BERMAN: You have been reluctant to talk to us the last month or so because you will be a juror in a Senate impeachment trial when it comes to that. But, clearly, you think that something is going on now that is worthy of speaking out.

KING: Well, I've been a conservative on this issue from the very beginning. A year-and-a-half ago, two years ago, I've been saying, no, we shouldn't do impeachment. We shouldn't even be talking about it. Let the election decide in 2020. This Ukrainian business and a direct use of the president's power to achieve something of a personal or political gain, I think it's contrary to my oath to ignore. And so I've supported the fact collecting process, and this is just another part of it. And I don't know what those people will say. But I'm saying, if all is innocent here, there are people who know to a certainty what the president said and did and what he was thinking. Let them come forward and tell us.

BERMAN: And just to round this up where we began, who wants this idea? Which leader benefits from the notion that it wasn't Russia who attacked the U.S. election in 2016, that it was some other country?

KING: There are two people that benefit from that idea. One of them is Donald Trump, and the other is Vladimir Putin. This whole idea that Ukraine was behind the interference in the election, the first I saw of it publicly was Putin at a press conference with the president of Hungary in February of 2017. This was a month -- less than a month after the president was inaugurated. So this is a Russian -- I believe it's a Russian disinformation campaign, which is, that's something they've been doing for 50 years. Back in the Soviet Union days, they're trying to misdirect and blame somebody else. If you don't think the Russians did it, go and read the indictments that prosecutor Mueller filed against the individuals in Russia who did it, who they have their names. So there's just no question here. So the answer to your question is Trump and Putin are the two people who benefit from this theory.

BERMAN: It's the Russian disinformation campaign being parroted by elected U.S. officials now, which is a notable thing. Senator Angus King from Maine, thank you for being with us today.

KING: Yes, sir. Thank you, John.

CAMEROTA: You got that one right. That one was right.

[08:10:01]

BERMAN: I have a great friend. He was a producer that I worked with for years. He would be flattered by the comparison. Both men should be flattered by the comparison.

CAMEROTA: I'm sure they are.

Meanwhile, President Trump rejecting censure as the House Democrats prepare to release their report to the public, making their case to impeach him. We take up the next steps.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I heard about it. Now they want to go to censure because they have no case for impeachment, so they want to go to censure. I don't want them to go to censure. I did nothing wrong. I don't mind being censured if you do something wrong. I did nothing wrong. I had a very good conversation, very respectful conversation with the president -- a good person, by the way -- with the president of Ukraine. It was flawless.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: That's President Trump answering questions about censure this morning on the world stage. This comes as the House Intelligence Committee will make its impeachment report public today. And then the House Judiciary Committee will hold its first public hearing tomorrow.

[08:15:00]

Joining us now to talk about all this, we have chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, CNN political analyst David Gregory, and CNN global affairs analyst, Bianna Golodryga.

It's impossible to get into the head of the president about whether or not he's fixated on this or not fixated on this, if he wants censure, if he doesn't. He says so many different things.

But what he is saying on the world stage as John has rightfully pointed out is very different than what past presidents have ever dealt it. I mean, he was basically saying that the Democrats are unpatriotic. He said -- he used language like that on the world stage and is talking about all of it there this morning.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: That's been from the beginning that, you know, other presidents under investigation have said I'm going to cooperate. You're doing your constitutional duty. I don't believe I did anything wrong. And the way I'm going to show I didn't do anything wrong was by cooperating with the investigation.

He has discredited, dismissed the investigation from day one. And he has said that over and over again that his phone call was perfect. So, that hasn't -- that leaves no room for any sort of compromise or any sort of modulation. And so, you know, we are where we are.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The phone call was perfect, the evidence notwithstanding. The testimony of two weeks where we heard from administration insider after insider expressing concern about the content of it, and we've also heard, Bianna, from senators like Rob Portman who didn't like the phone call. We've heard from congressman like Francis Rooney, who've said they didn't like the phone call. Will Hurd who said it.

So, when you have the president say I did nothing wrong, saying not even censure, and when you have this House report, the Republican report coming out and saying that the president was perfect in all of his action, there was not a single thing he did wrong there, that might put, I think, some of the Republicans who want to say this wasn't perfect in a difficult position.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I don't think you're going to hear many Republicans say this wasn't perfect anymore. That was an argument you heard perhaps late August and September when we heard more about the details of this call and initial reaction. Now, what you're seeing is the president hasn't budged, and it's worked for him.

He, since day one, said this was a perfect call and there was nothing wrong with it. You know, behind closed doors, you know that he was also relaying that to Republicans and saying you need to defend me more and you need to go out there and say the same thing. And that's what they've been saying.

And you look at how this has sort of flipped. You're now hearing rumbling within Democrats saying maybe we should go with censure or not really knowing how to move forward on this given where the president is and given where Republicans are, and given that Republicans, especially, at least Stefanik, some of the more moderate ones and Will Hurd after the two weeks of testimony that they heard from fact witnesses did not move at all. They said they do not believe anything the president did was impeachable and, in fact, they seem to be protecting the president more than they were prior to these two weeks.

CAMEROTA: So where does that leave us, David Gregory?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I think what's remarkable about all of this is that we knew what happened in the beginning when the president said, yes, I made this call and there was nothing wrong with it. So, there's not a lot of mystery.

And all the set pieces have been so immovable. Democrats are enthusiastic about moving forward with impeachment and Republicans are against it. The president both attacks the process and relies on Republicans on

Capitol Hill to make the argument, to say, there's nothing wrong because nothing happened in the end. The aid flowed to Ukraine. There was no document of an investigation. The rest of it is just kind of back room maneuvering, not abuse of power.

The public isn't moving. And I don't know -- you know, what you see on the part of Democrats is a really strong effort, putting out videos, putting out a report, holding those hearings to try to move public 00 that would put pressure on Republicans. Republicans don't seem to be feeling a lot of pressure.

TOOBIN: And if we could just -- again, trying to talk about the facts here. The president keeps saying this phone call was fine. The phone call was fine.

What we saw in this hearing, it was not just one phone call. This was a concerted administration effort from a lot of different people to tell the president of Ukraine, you are not getting this money, this taxpayer authorized money unless you cooperate with this political endeavor of the president.

BERMAN: I also want to point out one other thing, if the public is not moving on this, according to the CNN poll, it's still 50 percent of Americans who want the president impeached and removed. That's a high number. If you're 50 percent of the American people want you impeached and removed. That's not good, whether it's moving or not.

Jeffrey, you noted that tomorrow's hearing in the judiciary will be your people.

TOOBIN: Right.

BERMAN: This is academics.

TOOBIN: Law professors, yes.

BERMAN: Law professors, your people --

CAMEROTA: Who you know.

TOOBIN: I know all four. I know all the celebrities in the world -- law professors.

BERMAN: And what do you expect them to say? What role will they play here?

TOOBIN: Well, the three of them appointed, named by Democrats, and one, Jonathan Turley, by Republicans.

And basically, what I expect the Democrats will say is that this behavior is exactly what the framers intended to be an impeachable offense because it is something only the president can do.

[08:20:03]

You or I can't cut off aid to Ukraine. The only person who has that power, who -- in an unauthorized way is the president.

It's an abuse of power and what Jonathan Turley, the Republican witness, will say is that this is not a crime. It is not bribery. It is not extortion. And, thus, is just sort of the normal give and take of foreign policy and not something we should --

(CROSSTALK)

GOLODRYGA: And the --

TOOBIN: -- the president (INAUDIBLE).

GOLODRYGA: And the difference is what we saw from the two weeks worth of testimony from the fact witnesses. A few of them were asked specifically like Bill Taylor and George Kent, do you think what the president did was impeachable? They said that's not our decision to make.

We are fact witnesses. We are laying out the case for what we saw transpire vis-a-vis Ukraine. What's different now is that you are having experts that can answer that question, whether or not what they witnessed, what was described was impeachable.

GREGORY: And to try to educate the public on just because this is a political process doesn't mean it's not grounded in something that as Jeffrey is describing as very important which is a high crime or misdemeanor which is abuse of power that only resides within the power of the presidency that must be checked.

And I think there's -- you know, there's a debate among Democrats now when they get to articles of impeachment, if it goes beyond Ukraine. They're thinking about the public relations.

But there's a larger point to be made. Nancy Pelosi has made it, to say, no president can stand up and say basically, I can do whatever I want. That is the check.

Whether that finds much resonance with the American people, we'll find out. But it's an important argument to make. The balance there is between that check that lawmakers have, that Congress has, versus what the American people have, which is an election coming up.

So, again, the pressure that Democrats feel to get these hearings done and to get a vote on the books before Christmas.

GOLODRYGA: I was going to say, quickly, I want to go back to the president's megaphone and his time and time again attempt to misinterpret or deliver falsehoods in terms of what transpired and even what President Zelensky said in this interview with "Time" magazine. And this is something Democrats should be grasping on as well. He said, oh, look, Zelensky said nothing happened. There was no quid pro quo.

What Zelensky -- what stands out from that interview is he said you promised me aid and you withheld that. That is not fair. That's not something an ally or friend does. Of course, he's not going to say there was a quid pro quo. Doesn't

look good or make him look like a strong leader if he's saying, yes, I was begging for that aid. It's important to differentiate that.

BERMAN: All right. Bianna, Jeffrey, David, thank you very much.

We do want to note the president meets shortly with the French president.

CAMEROTA: Forty minutes from now.

BERMAN: Forty minutes, and that's a big deal because President Trump just attacked Emmanuel Macron in public about comments made over NATO. So, we will -- we'll have to see what happens there.

And also, you just saw Nancy Pelosi. Why? Well, quick programming note. CNN's Jake Tapper will host a town hall with Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, this Thursday at 9:00 Eastern, only at CNN. This could not come at a more important time.

CAMEROTA: OK. So, House Republicans trying to preempt the intelligence report with their own prebuttal of the Democrats who will put out their report today. So what does the prebuttal say when they don't know exactly what the report is going to say?

BERMAN: They don't know the buttal? What are you saying?

CAMEROTA: We're down to the buttal now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:27:55]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Essentially, it outlines in considerable detail a scheme that began actually well before the recall of Ambassador Yovanovitch, and was designed to further two political objectives of the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: House Democrats on the Intelligence Committee will release their report today, making their case for the impeachment against President Trump. This comes as house Republicans issued a prebuttal before the report of Democrats comes out.

So joining us to discuss all of this, former Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill who resigned in October amid allegations of an improper relationship with a staff member.

Katie, it's great to have you here.

KATIE HILL (D), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: I've been looking forward to this conversation because you're no longer in Congress so you don't have to adhere to any party line.

HILL: It's true.

CAMEROTA: So, how do you think Democrats are handling this impeachment?

HILL: Listen, I think Democrats are playing it by the book. We are doing -- I'm going to continue to say we because that's still how I kind of identify, but we are going, you know, down the process the way it's supposed to be done and attempting to hold the president accountable.

And, frankly, we would be derelict in our duty if we didn't uphold the checks and balances that are defined within the Constitution. So, I think that this is -- this is a perfect example of how the Republicans are truly gaslighting the American people and are willing to shirk all responsibilities to the cult that is Donald Trump.

CAMEROTA: What about the notion that Democrats are rushing this timeline? Why do they have to adhere to doing this before Christmas? First, the Republicans say you can't do it in an election year and Democrats seem to be complying with that. But now, Republicans are saying, Democrats are rushing this.

I mean, why are they racing to before Christmas when they haven't heard from some key witnesses?

HILL: Well, I don't actually think that it's being rushed because I don't think that you're going to hear from some of those witnesses. The administration has made it perfectly clear that they're not going to allow those key witnesses to show up. They've done this throughout the past two years where it's been impossible for us to get some of those key witnesses to come forward.

END