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House Intel Meeting To Vote On Impeachment Report Accusing Trump Of Misconduct And Obstruction; Interview With Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL); Officials: New Intel Points To Iranian Threat Against U.S. Forces And Interest In Middle East; House Intel Committee Approves Impeachment Report. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 3, 2019 - 18:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM with breaking news coverage on the House impeachment report accusing President Trump of brazen misconduct and unprecedented obstruction.

This hour, the Intelligence Committee is expected to approve the 300- page document, setting the stage for the third presidential impeachment in U.S. history.

The panel's Democratic majority citing what they call overwhelming evidence that the president compromised national security in his dealings with Ukraine in order to advance his personal political interests.

Tonight, the White House is rejecting that evidence, denying any wrongdoing by the president, who's now attending a NATO meeting in London.

First, let's go to our Senior National Correspondent, Alex Marquardt.

Alex, we expect this House impeachment report to be approved any moment now.


And this 300 report really reads as a guide for those articles of impeachment that the Judiciary Committee is going to be drafting. It adds new damning information to what we have heard in the hearings and that closed-door testimony.

The Intelligence Committee saying it's now on all of Congress to decide whether these are impeachable offenses and whether the president must be held to account.


MARQUARDT (voice-over): Overwhelming, the amount of evidence House Democrats said today, of the president's misconduct with Ukraine and his obstruction of Congress.

The new report from the Intelligence Committee stating: "The president placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the U.S. presidential election process, and endangered U.S. national security."

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): This report chronicles the scheme by the president of the United States to coerce an ally, Ukraine, that is at war with an adversary, Russia, into doing the president's political dirty work.

MARQUARDT: The 300-page report details the committee's findings after an eight-week historic investigation.

Their blistering conclusion? That it would be hard to imagine a stronger or more complete case of obstruction than that demonstrated by the president since the inquiry began.

SCHIFF: This is the result of a president who believes that he is beyond indictment, beyond impeachment, beyond any form of accountability and, indeed, above the law. And that is a very dangerous thing for this country.

MARQUARDT: Chairman Adam Schiff launched the investigation in September, prompted by the whistle-blower's complaint. That complaint centered around the July 25 call in which President Trump asked Ukrainian President Zelensky for a favor and investigations into a 2016 elections conspiracy theory and the Bidens.

"Our investigation determined that this telephone call was neither the start nor the end of President Trump's efforts to bend U.S. foreign policy for his personal gain," the report reads. "Rather, it was a dramatic crescendo," an effort, Democrats argue, that included Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, saying they were either knowledgeable of or active participants in an effort to extract from a foreign nation the personal political benefits sought by the president.

SCHIFF: We must care about this. And if we don't care about this, we can be darn well be sure the president will be back at it doing this all over again, because, indeed, he already has.

MARQUARDT: The central role of Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine policy runs throughout the entire report. It details his calls with the White House, the Office of Management and Budget, and, notably, the Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes, evidence, the Democrats say, of a coordinated effort to advance conspiracy theories about Ukraine.

SCHIFF: It is, I think, deeply concerning that, at a time when the president of the United States was using the power of his office to dig up dirt on a political rival, that there may be evidence that there were members of Congress complicit in that activity. MARQUARDT: The committee also detailed the lengths the administration

went to, to not cooperate, saying not a single document was produced by the White House. Officials were also blocked from testifying or handing over records.

In the end, the committee does not recommend impeachment, saying that will be left up to the full House.


MARQUARDT: So, this report is the baton that is now being handed off to the Judiciary Committee.

And there are going to be lots of new questions for Congressman Devin Nunes, this report detailing the calls between him, Rudy Giuliani and Giuliani's associate Lev Parnas, who has been indicted.


Our colleague Manu Raju caught up with Devin Nunes on Capitol Hill, Wolf, but he declined to answer any questions.

BLITZER: All right, Alex, thanks very much.

This report, I know you have been going through it in detail, 300-plus pages. It's got a lot of information in there.

Thank you very, very much.

Let's go to Capitol Hill right now, where they're also reading the report. The impeachment report is up for a vote by the House Intelligence Committee any moment now.

Our Congressional Reporter, Lauren Fox, is outside the hearing room.

Lauren, so what happens after this vote?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, essentially, Wolf, members of the Intelligence Committee are in the room right now.

And they have started the meeting where they will ultimately vote to transmit this report to the House Judiciary Committee. Of course, this is an important step, Wolf, because, over the last two months, this committee has been doing all of the investigation.

Now it shifts to the House Judiciary Committee. Tomorrow, Chairman Nadler will open that hearing with four constitutional law experts, a slightly different tone than what we've seen in the hearings in the previous weeks.


BLITZER: Lauren, hold on for one moment.

FOX: Yes.

BLITZER: House Republican leadership, they're speaking right now. I want to hear what they're saying...


REP. LIZ CHENEY (D-WY): -- now for several weeks since the impeachment process began, the extent to which the process was fundamentally unfair.

And so I would just ask people to remember that they have failed, despite the fact that they had a process that basically put everything tilted in their direction. The Democrats were able to act as judge and prosecutor.

The Democrats were able to select every single witness. The Democrats were able to prevent and did prevent witnesses from answering Republican questions. The Democrats decided what the American people would see and when.

The Democrats decided the timing on the release of important pieces of transcripts. They still have not released the transcript of the I.C. inspector general. And so the Democrats essentially stacked the deck in their favor.

And despite the fact that they did this, and even with every unfair advantage and unprecedented advantage they gave themselves, including preventing the president from having any access to the proceedings, preventing his counsel from having any participation in the proceedings, they now have come out of this and fundamentally failed to prove their case.

So we're going to be moving into tomorrow, where we're going to have the panel of constitutional scholars, liberal law professors predominantly, and one Republican witness.

And the Democrats are now going to be asking them questions about whether or not the behavior that they are inaccurately and lacking in fact, the behavior that they're describing would be impeachable.

We would remind the speaker of the House once again that the power of impeachment rests with the House of Representatives. The Constitution does not say that impeachment shall be the responsibility of a panel of liberal activists, but that's where we're going to be tomorrow.

So, in the meantime, we are very focused on the important and critical work that's not getting done. And on that point, I would also just note that the Intelligence Committee has been hijacked for the last 70 days, unable to and unwilling because the Democrats are in charge to focus on the real threats that face this nation.

And the Democrats will be fundamentally accountable for the damage that they're doing because the Intel Committee has not been able to focus on critical threats, like the threats that we face from China, the threats that we face from Russia, the threats from North Korea, Iran, terrorism.

None of those things have been in the purview of the Intel Committee, because they have been focused on this sham impeachment effort. BLITZER: All right, we're going to continue to monitor this -- these statements coming in from the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives.

Congresswoman Liz Cheney making that statement.

I want to go back to Lauren Fox, our congressional reporter.

Lauren, the committee -- the Intelligence Committee in the House, they went into great detail about everything it didn't get from the administration. Will that be potentially the basis for an article of impeachment on obstruction?

FOX: Well, Wolf, what we have been saying all along is that this report was really a road map.

And, essentially, what they did here was they detailed every piece of information, every witness that they were not able to get ahold of as they went through their two month investigation. I think that's very significant, because the committee basically laid out that they weren't getting documents from the White House.

They weren't getting documents from the Department of Defense, from the State Department or from the vice president's office. And I think that those details really give us a sense that they are very serious about the fact that the administration was obstructing Congress when it came to their investigation.

And they really were arguing that was unprecedented. Even in the Clinton impeachment, even during the investigation into President Nixon, they were willing to hand over some information. What they said here was there were no instances where the administration was turning over information, the witnesses that they were getting were essentially people who were career officials who were willing to come testify on their own -- Wolf.


BLITZER: All right, Lauren, thanks very, very much.

The White House is likening the Democrats' impeachment report to the ramblings of a basement blogger.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He's with President Trump in London right now.

Jim, the president is ignoring questions about the impeachment report tonight, but he had plenty to say earlier in the day.


White House officials are still going over the details, but the president and his top aides are taking some very personal shots at the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, after the release of this report that alleges Mr. Trump abused the power of his office to pressure Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden.

The White House released a statement on all of this.

And we can put that up on screen if we have it. It says: "A one-sided process from Adam Schiff and the Democrats utterly failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President Trump. This report reflects nothing more than their frustrations. Chairman Schiff's report reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger, straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing."

And we should also point out, before the report came out, the president was ripping into Adam Schiff, calling him -- quote -- "deranged."

He also reiterated in front of reporters he won't allow his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo to participate in the House proceedings, but he hinted he may allow them to cooperate in a Senate trial, where the Republicans would have more control.

But so far, Wolf, the White House is really picking apart the details laid out in the Schiff report. They're not offering any explanation for why the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was in contact with officials at the Office of Management and Budget in the middle of this alleged pressure campaign, a pressure operation involving Ukraine.

I did talk to a campaign source just a short while ago, a Trump campaign source, who said Rudy Giuliani should be worried about this report. But, remember, in recent days, Giuliani has hinted that he has an insurance policy in case the president turns against him. Giuliani has said that he was just kidding about that, Wolf.

As for the president, he says he won't be watching this hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow, saying he will be too busy wrapping up his meetings with NATO leaders here in London -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta in London for us, thank you.

Joining us now, a Democrat who will take part in the next phase of the impeachment process, House Judiciary Committee member Debbie Mucarsel- Powell.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.

And I know you have had a chance to start going through this 300-page report.

The House Intelligence Committee is concluding -- and let me read from the report. It concludes that evidence of the president's misconduct is overwhelming.

What stands out to you from this report?

REP. DEBBIE MUCARSEL-POWELL (D-FL): The two key issues that are very clear to me -- and I have -- we received it about two hours ago, so I have been reviewing it.

We, the Judiciary Committee, met all day today. So I haven't really had a chance to review it fully.

But I think that the two most important issues here is that it is clear we have the evidence that this president has abused his power. And, also, there are certain instances of obstruction, obstruction of Congress.

And this is a pattern of behavior that we have been seeing from this president since his campaign, Wolf. I mean, we have him saying publicly, inviting Russia to interfere in the elections in 2016. He's doing it again now by putting pressure on the Ukrainian government for his own private and political gain.

And so I need to read the entire document. It's going to take me a little bit of time, but I think that the two most important parts of the document that stick out to me is the abuse of power by the president and also the obstruction to Congress.

BLITZER: The report also revealed never-before-seen phone records showing Congressman Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, was in talks with Rudy Giuliani and Lev Parnas, Giuliani's associate who has been criminally indicted now, while their efforts in Ukraine were under way.

So, Congresswoman, what red flags does that potentially raise?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: I mean, the first thing that I can say is, that's a clear conflict of interests.

If he's participating in the investigation, as the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, he should have recused himself, especially if he was having conversations with Mr. Giuliani when they were putting pressure on President Zelensky.

It's really interesting to me that Mr. Nunes continues to be a part of this overall scheme, trying to help the president, covering up all this information while we're conducting investigations.

So I do know that the Committee on Ethics will be investigating these phone calls.

BLITZER: But now that you have seen the report, Congresswoman, what should the articles of impeachment, which your Judiciary Committee will prepare, what should they include?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: Well, the first thing that we want to do is have this hearing tomorrow with constitutional experts, impeachment experts.

We will be exploring the standards of impeachment. Now, I have several questions that I want to ask some of the witnesses. For me, it's very important to look at the overall pattern of behavior by this president and to assess the risk.


What happens if we don't impeach President Trump? What happens if we allow a president to abuse the power of his office? What will happen to our democracy?

So I think it's important first to have the hearing tomorrow, before we make the decisions. But I do believe strongly that we will be looking at the abuse of power. And I feel strongly that we should be looking also at obstruction of justice by the president.

BLITZER: There's some debate among your colleagues, Democrats, over whether the articles should remain narrowly tailored to Ukraine or if they should include misconduct uncovered during the Mueller investigation.

Where do you stand?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: That's a very good question.

I think that, when you read the Mueller report -- and I don't want to confuse anyone right now, but when you do look at the Mueller report, Mr. Mueller outlines 10 different instances where the president obstructed justice.

And so I think what's going to happen is, we will be meeting over the weekend. We're going to be analyzing the entire evidence, especially the report that was provided to us by the House Intelligence Committee. And then we will be making the decisions on what evidence we have, and what are the standards to actually write these articles.

As you know, Wolf, this is a very difficult moment for our country. This is only the fourth time in the history of our country, in 250 years, that we are looking to impeach a sitting president. We are doing it to prevent any other president from conducting the abuse of power that he has conducted, also for preventing betrayal of the American people, and also to protect our national interests.

I heard the report that you just mentioned from Representative Cheney. She talks about threats, threats to our nation. And I agree with her. We do have many threats from China, from Russia, which is why it's so important for us to conduct this investigation to make sure that the president is not acting in Russia's interests.

He should be working for the American people. He should be acting in our own national interests.

BLITZER: You're going to be very, very busy in the coming days and weeks.

Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, thank you so much for joining us.

MUCARSEL-POWELL: Thank you. Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, we're awaiting the actual vote in the House Intelligence Committee on this report, potentially leading up to articles of impeachment against the president of the United States.

We will be right back.



BLITZER: We're following all the breaking news on the House impeachment report that's expected to be approved momentarily by the House Intelligence Committee, Democrats making a case that there's overwhelming evidence of misconduct and obstruction by President Trump.

We're joined now by the former top lawyer at the FBI, Jim Baker. He's a CNN legal analyst.

Jim, the report, as you have been hearing, reveals new phone records showing that the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, had conversations with the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas, a Giuliani associate, who's been criminally indicted, while their efforts in Ukraine were under way.

Does this conduct by the ranking member concern you?


It's -- he's interjecting -- injecting himself into this whole matter that's been under investigation. He asked all kinds of questions about that at the various hearings and didn't reveal his role in that. So that's concerning in terms of why he didn't disclose that up front, if he would have expected that this would -- would come out.

You have to be -- I have looked at a lot of phone records during the course of my career at my various jobs at DOJ. And you have to be careful what you conclude from them. But they are important leads. And I would expect that a variety of authorities are going to follow up on these, because it looks alarming in terms of the number of communications, the timing, and so on

BLITZER: Because we just heard from the congresswoman that perhaps the House Ethics Committee would take a look at this.

But do you think he should recuse himself going forward? Let's say, for example, the House Intelligence Committee wants to do additional interviews, do more research, more investigation. What do you think?

BAKER: Well, I am amazed that he hasn't recused himself.

But, in the past, we were dealing with then Chairman Nunes with respect to the Russia investigation. He showed up at a briefing for members of the leadership of Congress. Then, when Andy McCabe and then Deputy Director -- or Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein briefed Congress on Mueller being appointed and the expansion of the FBI's investigation, he showed up at the meeting, even though he had recused himself on Russia. So I don't really understand how he thinks about these things. It

doesn't make a lot of sense to me. But given the fact also that Mr. Parnas is under investigation, under indictment, I would expect that the Southern District of New York is going to look at these phone calls to try to sort out what they are.

They're important leads, especially -- there was something like an eight-minute phone call with him. What's that all about? What are they talking about for that length of time?

BLITZER: And we will see if Lev Parnas, through his attorney, decides to cooperate with this investigation.

BAKER: Exactly.

BLITZER: That could be very significant as well.

The chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, he says he's deeply concerned by all of this. Listen to this.


SCHIFF: In terms of the ranking member, it won't surprise you I'm going to reserve comment.


It is, I think, deeply concerning that, at a time when the president of the United States was using the power of his office to dig up dirt on a political rival, that there may be evidence that there were members of Congress complicit in that activity.

Now, there's a lot more to learn about that. And I don't want to state that that is an unequivocal fact. But the allegations are deeply concerning. Our focus is on the president's conduct first and foremost.

It may be the role of others to evaluate the conduct of members of Congress.


BLITZER: You're shaking your head. What do you think he means by that?

BAKER: That's what I'm thinking about in terms of the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office in the Southern District of New York that's investigating the Parnas matter, that I would expect that they would follow up.

They would want to talk to the -- to Ranking Member Nunes about, what is this phone call? What were you talking about? What was going on? I think it's a logical thing to do.

And, frankly, I think he should lawyer up, if he's wise, and get...

BLITZER: Really? You...

BAKER: Well, yes.

I mean, he's going to be interviewed in connection with a criminal investigation. That's not something that you should take lightly. And so he should at least consider it and think about what his exposure is.

BLITZER: That would be a very significant development, indeed.

Jim Baker, thank you very much.

All right, once again, we're awaiting the vote of the House Intelligence Committee on this 300-page report, 300-page report.

Much more on the breaking news right after this.



BLITZER: The breaking news this hour, the House Intelligence Committee is taking major step toward impeaching President Trump. The panel is voting on a 300-page report that accuses Mr. Trump of misconduct and obstruction in great detail.

Tonight, the White House is, again, denying any wrongdoing by the president. But Democrats say the evidence that he abused his power is overwhelming.

Let's bring in our experts. And, Nia, let me read to you from this report. This sentence, the damage to our system of checks and balances and to the balance of power within our three branches of government will be long-lasting and potentially irrevocable if the president's abilities to stonewall Congress goes unchecked.

So have House Democrats in this report --


BLITZER: It's a big one, 300 pages. Have they produced enough evidence to go forward with articles of impeachment?

HENDERSON: It seems like they have, and particularly on this instance of obstructing Congress and stonewalling Congress. They lay it on this letter that Pat Cipollone as the White House Counsel all sent to the investigative committees and essentially said that President Trump isn't going to allow people to participate in this investigation. He sees it as partisan, obviously.

And from that flowed a lot of stonewalling, right? A lot of witnesses who were subpoenaed failed to show up. A lot of documents as well have not been produced. You had Adam Schiff today talk about this idea of whether or not they should proceed without having testimony from some witnesses and some of these documents as well. And he essentially said that there's no way they're going to get all of facts, but at this point there's enough compelling evidence as well as a sense of urgency about the idea that a president could do these kinds of acts and ask for a foreign government to interfere in an American election, as it's going on.

BLITZER: And, David Axelrod, take a look at this list of officials who the Intelligence Committee says refused to testify despite subpoenas and all of that. What does that underscore to you as far as the Democrats arguments against the president are concerned?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, clearly, it undergirds their argument for obstruction. It also makes two other things clear. One is, if the president thought that these witnesses would be exculpatory, they would have appeared. He didn't want them to appear because they didn't have the evidence to clear him.

The second thing it does is underscore the courage of the people who did show up over the objection of the White House, some at risk to their careers because they were deeply disturbed by what they saw and what they heard. And they thought it was their obligation to testify. And those people added greatly to the picture that is depicted in that 300-page report.

BLITZER: The report, Ryan Lizza, does include, as we've been reporting, these new phone records that have been released showing Rudy Giuliani making phone calls to the White House, the Office of Management and Budget, Lev Parnas, his associate who has been criminally charged, even Congressman Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. So what story potentially do these phone records tell?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, one of the things that is marked Devin Nunes' role in this whole thing is spinning up conspiracy theories. So I want to be very careful not to do the same. But Parnas has been the link between figures in the U.S. and people in Ukraine and figures in the United States who wanted to find dirt on Biden, right? He was the conduit between associates Trump and Rudy Giuliani. And somehow it seems that Nunes was in the mix on that.

Sort of shocking that he did not disclose that through all of those committee hearings when he sat there day in and day out and accused Adam Schiff of being involved in some kind of conspiracy, falsely accused Schiff of meeting with the whistleblower, which didn't happen.


And yet, he was or at least someone who is using his phone, was in communication with this person at the center of the scandal. So I think Nunes is going to have to do a little more explaining.

BLITZER: Through his attorney, David Swerdlick, Lev Parnas has been throwing out these hints that he might be willing to cooperate with not only Justice Department but U.S. attorney and all of that but also with the Democrats in Congress who are investigating. DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. It's unclear exactly what he would offer that paints a more robust picture here, but I'm sure Democrats would be open to any evidence that further corroborates the story that they're already telling in this report, essentially, that there was the diplomatic backchannel going on at the same time that the president was having these conversations with the president of Ukraine, essentially saying, look, we will release these funds if certain things are done that we want to do for personal --

BLITZER: Jim Baker, if Lev Parnas does cooperate fully, tells everything that he knows in order, presumably, to get some sort of reduced sentence, I assume the government might be interested in that, how worried should individuals like Rudy Giuliani, for example, or Devin Nunes for that matter or the president of the United States potentially be?

BAKER: It depends what they did. If they have a clear conscience and they didn't do anything wrong, then they have nothing to worry about. If they did, then they have lots to worry about, especially if he comes forward and is highly motivated to be fully forthcoming and tell the truth, the complete truth, to everybody who asks him.

BLITZER: Do you think the U.S. attorney would be interested in some sort of a plea deal, like that?

BAKER: I think the government is always interested in a plea deal if there is meaningful cooperation.

BLITZER: But how credible would he be potentially if he starts talking?

BAKER: Well, it all depends on what he says and if his that provides information is backed up by the facts, backed up by the facts, backed up by the phone records if he can explain what these phone calls meant.

Every witness that has pleaded guilty always has baggage along with them. That is just what happens in criminal prosecutions. It's just these people don't have a clean record. But nevertheless, if the facts support him, then it can be highly credible.

BLITZER: David Axelrod, the reports actually stop short of officially recommending impeachment of the president. Instead, it says, it should be left up to the full House of Representatives. Do you think that was a smart decision?

AXELROD: I think that they've had from the beginning a protocol here. They were going to allow the Intelligence Committee to be investigating and gather evidence. And they have and they presented this report to the Judiciary Committee, which will now measure the evidence against the requirements for impeachment, vote out articles of impeachment.

And I think, Wolf, it's been almost certain since the first transcript of the president's call, which was so shocking, in which he essentially linked as a favor to him and a discussion about military aid the notion of investigating the Bidens by name, and investigating this conspiracy theory in Ukraine that's been debunked again and again. It's been very clear where this headed but it's been buttressed by weeks and weeks and weeks of testimony.

And at this point, I think the outcome is inexorable. There is going to be -- there will be articles of impeachment voted out by the Judiciary Committee. There will be a vote on the floor of the House. And it's almost certain that this is going to wind up in trial before the United States Senate.

BLITZER: Everybody stand by. There's a lot more we need to discuss. We're, once again, awaiting the outcome of the vote in the House Impeachment Committee on this 300-page report. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: We're back with our experts. We're following the breaking news on the House impeachment report, 300 pages long, being voted on by the House Intelligence Committee as we speak. We'll get the results presumably fairly soon.

Nia, tomorrow, let's look ahead to this important House Judiciary Committee hearing that starts at 10:00 A.M. Eastern. Four witnesses, all constitutional law experts, three recommended by the Democrats, Noah Feldman of Harvard Law School, Pamela Karlan of Stanford Law School and Michael Gerhardt, University of North Carolina Law School, one recommended by Republicans, Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law School. What do you anticipate would happen?

HENDERSON: Well, listen, I don't think it's going to be any sort of fireworks. I mean, these are constitutional law experts. I think the fireworks, we've seen from the past testimony.

I think they'll try to put this in the context of the Constitution. What does the Constitution say about impeachment? What are impeachable offenses? What are the roles of Congress in terms of an oversight role? How the president may have stepped over what he was supposed to do in terms of basically stonewalling Congress? So I think that's what they'll do.

Also probably some historical perspective in terms of impeachment. We've seen Johnson impeached. We didn't see it but it happened. Nixon and, obviously, Clinton, so I think those kinds of things.

Again, I don't think it's necessarily going to be the most riveting television but I think it's necessary for the Judiciary Committee to essentially lay this out for the public.


BLITZER: David Swerdlick, what do you think?

SWERDLICK: So, the two that I'm also learning (ph), with Michael Gerhardt from UNC, I expect him to sort of make the case that in this historical context, this is the kind of situation that the framers anticipated when they put impeachment provisions in the Constitution.

Jonathan Turley, who's sort of the Republicans' witness, I expect him to be little more skeptical that this is maybe a rush to judgment and a rush to take what is his view and he's expressed overtime. Both have testified in impeachment before that in Turley's view this is sort of like an emergency break glass type of provision and we're not quite there yet.

BLITZER: Do you think it's, David Axelrod, going to move the needle, the political needle at all as far as some Republicans deciding, yes, this is impeachable and some Democrats deciding it's not impeachable?

AXELROD: In a word, Wolf, no. I think we've seen that. We've seen very clearly how the lines are going to be drawn here.

When we saw in the midst of those intelligence hearings, people like Will Hurd of Texas, an independent-minded Republican who is leaving the House and is a former intelligence officer be critical of the president but say he didn't think this rose to the level of impeachment, then you knew that the lines were probably going to hold.

And one thing the Republicans have been successful this doing is partisanizing this debate in a way that makes it very difficult for Republicans to stray or at least makes them fell as if it's difficult for them to stray. I don't think anything is going to change that here, and I don't think it will change public opinion which has been pretty much frozen for the last few weeks where half the public thinks the president should be impeached and removed and slightly less than that don't.

I don't think we're going anywhere on those numbers.

BLITZER: We're going to watch it all very, very closely.

Everybody, stick around. There's more breaking news ahead on impeachment. And in the Democratic presidential race as well -- Senator Kamala Harris calling it quits.


BLITZER: Some more important breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now involving U.S. troops and a threat from Iran.

Let's go to our Pentagon Correspondent, Barbara Starr.

Barbara, what are you learning?


Several U.S. officials are now telling CNN that the military and intelligence agencies have fresh intelligence, in their words, about a potential Iranian threat in the Middle East against U.S. troops and U.S. interests. They say this is fresh intelligence. This has emerged over the last month and some of it involves information that Iran is moving troops and weapons around into potential positions that are of concern to the U.S. Now, you'll recall earlier this year, we saw several Iranian military

provocations attacks against commercial shipping in the Gulf, drone attacks against Saudi oil infrastructure, resulting in the U.S. sending troops and fighter jets to Saudi Arabia to protect that country. Officials say they don't see an imminent attack, they don't see anything like that, but this is of obvious concern.

And, look, Wolf, this comes as we are seeing domestic unrest inside of Iran, disturbances in the streets. Even the president says that a large number of Iranian civilians may have been killed by Iranian security forces, Iran turning off its Internet to try to keep this situation out of the public eye. So, it's raising real questions. Is the Iranian regime and nobody knows, somehow reacting to this domestic unrest in the last several days and weeks?

Real question, bottom line, is President Trump's maximum pressure campaign to get Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program really working at this point? And so far, the Iranians show no signs of giving up and there may be fresh provocations to come on their part -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We know, Barbara, the U.S. has thousands of troops in the region over there still, certainly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some still in Syria, but also a lot of troops in the Gulf, whether in the United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia or Qatar.

Do we have any idea or at least do you have any idea where these potential positions of possible attack by Iran could be?

STARR: U.S. officials won't answer that question for security reason, but obviously, it's a point at which is a concern that Iran is within striking distance of U.S. troops.

Let me quickly add that over the Thanksgiving holiday, the Aircraft Carrier Abraham Lincoln did go into port in Bahrain and make the call for the sailors onboard there. We are told that the U.S. commanders in the region were very aware of this Iranian threat information and that they took precautions when the Lincoln was in port.

So there's some confidence that they're able to manage it right now, but a good deal of concern about future Iranian moves -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr with that reporting, very important information, indeed. All right. Barbara, thank you very much. We're going to have much more on the breaking news right after this.



BLITZER: We got breaking news. The House Intelligence Committee has now just voted on its 300-page report on the Trump impeachment inquiry.

Lauren Fox, what was -- what was the outcome? FOX: Well, they voted along party line, Wolf, to approve this report.

And, of course, the next stage of this investigation will begin tomorrow in the House Judiciary Committee when they will have their very first public hearing.

But, of course, all of the Republican amendments were defeated, also along party lines, very significant step here as the Democrats basically move ahead with their impeachment inquiry after a more than two-month investigation into the president's actions related to that July 25th phone call with the president of Ukraine -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. There were no surprises. This was fully expected. I take it -- I'm looking at it right now, Lauren, the vote was 13-9.

FOX: Exactly, Wolf. This is not a surprise. Republicans and Democrats have been drawing their lines in the sand for some time when it comes to this investigation. Republicans arguing this was not fair, that the president didn't have his own witnesses, that Republicans didn't get all of the witnesses that they talked to including the whistle-blower and others.

All of that has been a top talking point for Republicans. Democrats meanwhile, arguing earlier today, Adam Schiff, the chairman of this committee, said, we have to move ahead. We are very concerned about what transpired. We're concerned that it could affect national security and we could not wait any longer and just wait for more witnesses to come forward and we have to advance this to the Judiciary Committee which is the next step, of course.

It could be before Christmas when this gets to the House floor when the full House of Representatives could vote to impeach President Trump -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Baker, all 13 Democrats in favor and nine Republicans opposed.

BAKER: No surprises, but it is a somber moment for the country that the congressional committee has voted out a report on impeaching the president of the United States. I think we expected this, this is no surprise, but it is significant. It's a historically significant moment.

BLITZER: It is a moment, though, David.

SWERDLICK: Yes, it is a moment, a somber moment. No surprises, a party line here.

I think that when you get to a full-house impeachment vote, the Democrats can expect to lose a couple of votes. But as long as the whip count shows that speaker has 218, this moves forward.

BLITZER: There are some who fear that the House Judiciary Committee is going to start their hearing. Constitutional legal experts will be testifying, that given the large number of Republicans and Democrats on that Judiciary, twice as many on the House Intelligence Committee, this could turn out to be a bit of a circus.

LIZZA: Yes. You've got a lot more -- what's the proper word? Characters who will be on the Judiciary Committee. You'll see a lot more animated speeches and conservative fire brands and people on the left who are fire brands, too.

The other part of this vote tonight, and the Republicans of the Intelligence Committee have their days to submit their version of events, their response to the majority's report and we'll see that in one or two days.

BLITZER: We look forward to that. A lot of breaking news we're following.

A note to our viewers, I'll be back tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. Eastern for CNN's special coverage of the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment hearing.

Until then, thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.