Return to Transcripts main page


Giuliani Back in Ukraine; House Proceeds With Articles of Impeachment. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired December 5, 2019 - 16:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

Let's go to Washington. "THE LEAD" starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Both sides in agreement on one thing, that today is a sad day in the United States.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Breaking today, Speaker Pelosi saying the Democrats have no choice but to go ahead with articles of impeachment against President Trump, as the speaker warns a reporter not to -- quote -- "mess with" her over whether hatred for the president is driving impeachment.

And where in the world is Rudy Giuliani during all this? Apparently in Ukraine, meeting with a conspiracy theory pusher with a KGB pedigree.

Plus, smoking Joe. Biden explodes on a voter in Iowa, calling him a damn liar, challenging him to a pushup and I.Q. contest. What caused so much tension at an Iowa town hall?

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin today with our politics lead and history, with President Trump now almost certain to become the third U.S. president to be impeached by the House of Representatives.

Speaker Pelosi announcing earlier today House Democrats are moving forward with articles of impeachment against the president. Pelosi saying that Mr. Trump left her with no choice but to act.

Members of Congress are now faced with these two key questions. One, what do we know about the president's actions, and, two, do they rise to an impeachable offense?

We know, according to the president's own words, he asked the president of Ukraine to pursue an investigation of his political rival, Joe Biden, as well as an investigation into a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the last election. We know, according to key witnesses, President Trump conditioned a

White House meeting and badly needed aid for Ukraine at least in part on Ukraine announcing these investigations. We know that the White House meeting with Ukraine has never happened, and that the aid was only released after a whistle-blower came forward and members of Congress protested.

And we know the administration has prevented Congress from learning more, asserting executive privilege and ignoring at least 71 requests for additional information, including subpoenas, documents and testimony.

Now, does that all amount to high crimes and misdemeanors and an abuse of power? Does the lack of testimony from key senior aides to the president undermine the case, or does it just add to a case of obstruction of justice?

CNN's Phil Mattingly reports that members of the House may have to decide what they think pretty quick, maybe even within the next two weeks.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Today, I am asking our chairman to proceed with articles of impeachment.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twelve words for history, Speaker Nancy Pelosi making clear President Trump is almost certainly on a path to be impeached by the House.

PELOSI: It is heartbreaking, but the president gave us no choice.

MATTINGLY: Sources tell CNN Democrats are considering articles including abuse of power, bribery, obstruction of Congress and obstruction of justice, even as some Democrats, sources say, have told leaders they remain wary of expanding the scope beyond the Ukraine investigation and into elements of special counsel Mueller's report.

Pelosi today refusing to get into internal deliberations.

PELOSI: My chairman will be making recommendations as to what the articles of impeachment...

MATTINGLY: But the timeline for a final vote coming more into view, as the House Judiciary Committee announced its next impeachment hearing for Monday, teeing up a possible committee consideration of articles by the end of next week and final floor votes on the articles the week of December 16.

House Republicans continuing with complete unity to oppose each step of the process.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Today, with the speaker's announcement, she has weakened this nation.

MATTINGLY: As their Senate counterparts met this week with top White House lawyer to plan the president's defense, the actual structure of the Senate trial, though, still unknown.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): It is impossible to answer your question right now.

MATTINGLY: Senate leaders plan to meet and try to hammer out a bipartisan road map forward. There remains no guarantee one will come to fruition, leaving open the possibility that a White House push for live testimony from people like Hunter Biden and the whistle-blower may be subject to a simple majority vote in a chamber where Republicans control 53 seats, something one Democratic senator told CNN would be like -- quote -- "rolling a hand grenade into the chamber."

PELOSI: The House will be in order.

MATTINGLY: The kind of institutional schism that is already firmly under way in the House, as seen on live TV when in a rare show of anger Pelosi fired back at a reporter.

QUESTION: Do you hate the president, Madam Speaker?

PELOSI: I don't hate anybody.

QUESTION: Representative Collins -- reason I asked...

PELOSI: I don't -- I was raised in a Catholic house. We don't hate anybody, not anybody in the world.


So, don't accuse me...


QUESTION: I did not accuse you.

PELOSI: You did. You did.

QUESTION: I asked a question.

MATTINGLY: Walking back to the microphone to make her point for all to hear.

PELOSI: As a Catholic, I resent, your using the word hate in a sentence that addresses me.

I don't hate anyone. I was raised in a way that is full -- a heart full of love, and always pray for the president. So, don't mess with me when it comes to words like that.


MATTINGLY: Jake, it was an extraordinary moment when you saw the speaker say that.

Now, when it comes to the decisions that need to be made over the next couple of weeks, the biggest is the articles of impeachment. And Democrats right now, while they're closely holding what the internal negotiations are, are signaling that they will, in fact, include some elements of the Mueller report related to obstruction of justice into an article of impeachment.

Some Democrats are wary of that. It appears right now they will move forward. But, again, we will have to wait and see. Should get some answers next week -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

Let's chew over all this.

Jamal, let me start with you.

I have heard House Democratic aides say that the pushback should be on the issue about whether or not Democrats are rushing this, which is a concern that I have heard from Democrats, too, not just Republicans, that the pushback should be, this is a danger to the republic. The president has shown a pattern of constantly trying to get other countries to interfere in the election.

And that was the subject of the Mueller report. That's the subject of the Ukraine scandal, and if Congress doesn't step in and do this now, then who knows what they will do.

Is that effective, do you think?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It is effective, in the sense, if Democrats will stay on message and be sure that everybody is in the same zone, which is that the president of the United States used his official position to benefit himself, not to benefit the country, and it is a danger to the republic of what he's up to, it could work, because people would finally listen.

Here's the thing. The people who are nervous about this, fighting Donald Trump, it's like fighting a virtual reality octopus like with augmented weapons. You have got to use every single tool that you have if you want to take this president on, because he will use every single tool that he has.

And Democrats can't get caught in this vice of hoping there's going to be some referee or umpire somewhere who's going to call fouls and say, oh, no, no, no, Donald Trump, you're on the line here.

They have to be the ones to do it. And I think that will benefit them politically. And history will look back -- even if they lose, even if the Senate doesn't do it, doesn't convict him, history will look back and say the Democrats got elected to stand up against Donald Trump, and they did.

TAPPER: So, Amanda, Congressman Francis Rooney, who is a Republican from Florida, he's retiring.

He's shown -- one of the few Republicans in the House to show like an open mind about this, even though he voted against the impeachment inquiry. He has not made up his mind about impeachment, he says.

In an interview with CNN just minutes ago, he said the Democrats have been rushing to judgment. He said it might be enough to vote against impeachment because of this rush.

Do you buy that if Republicans slowed it -- I mean, if Democrats slowed it down, that that might be better in terms of trying to get more Republicans on board, or is that just a canard?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the only chance they have of getting Republicans is if they do slow it down, because I think they're very vulnerable on the bribery charge that they are about to make.

To get that charge to land, to stick, as Jonathan Turley mentioned yesterday, I think they have to get documents somehow showing a connection between the White House and OMB.

And also note earlier today Russ Vought, who's acting director at OMB, is on another network talking, took one flimsy little question about defying a subpoena. And so I feel like you have to get there.

And so this is really -- the Democrats have to make a big decision. Do they want to go big, rush this quickly, make this about democracy being at stake, the integrity of elections, and just stamp the letter I on his chest in January, or do they want to drag this out in the hopes of maybe getting two or three Republicans in the Senate?

That's their choice.

SIMMONS: Isn't OMB at the White House? I think OMB is part of the executive office of the president.

CARPENTER: Well, Mick Mulvaney is. But I was referring to Russ Vought, who's running the place now and is currently defying a subpoena, yet doing interviews with another network.

TAPPER: So, Vivian, I think I can guess which one.

Vivian, the House minority leader, Republican Kevin McCarthy of California, he made this argument using Speaker Pelosi's own words from earlier this year. Took a listen.


MCCARTHY: She laid out a criteria, the speaker of the House, telling the American public of March of this year that impeachment was so divisive, that it would divide the nation, that the only way we could move down, it had to be compelling. It had to be overwhelming. And it had to be bipartisan.

Well, the standard that she gave to the nation, that she gave to her own conference, she will not hold her own self to.


TAPPER: Well, I think Pelosi would argue that it is definitely compelling and it's definitely overwhelming.

What is the response to the idea that this is not bipartisan, at least in terms of votes? Is that a failure of the Democrats, or is that because Republicans are refusing to look at the facts?

VIVIAN SALAMA, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": I think it's actually a product of the times we're in right now, where no one was under the impression that this wouldn't be a massively partisan endeavor going into it.


And Nancy Pelosi, more than anyone else, was aware of that. And that's why, for months, she was cautioning what this would do to the country, and the impact it would have overall on just the state of the party itself, going into an election year, and what that could do for some of the Democrats who are going in and fighting for their seats in districts that are very impeachment-wary.

And so this is something that we looking at this year and saying, well, OK, we have built up this case, allegedly, that the president has abused his power, and that's what Democrats are insisting.

But at the end of the day, a lot of Democrats still wanting to keep that narrow because of the fact that, if they bring in the Mueller investigation and possible obstruction of justice, then it just gets -- they lose their focus.

And so that is something that the party itself cannot agree on. And that's where we are kind of going into this election year, going into this -- the end of this phase of it and a possible Senate trial. Democrats themselves are not exactly on the same page. And so that's something that is concerning Nancy Pelosi, beyond anyone else.

TAPPER: Some Democrats want to bring in child separation at the border, or the Muslim ban. They want to bring in all sorts of things.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, the sort of kitchen sink strategy.

But, listen, if you're one of these 43 front-line Democrats -- and some of those folks were the ones very wary of impeachment post- Mueller report, post...


TAPPER: Explain what you mean by front-line Democrats.

HENDERSON: So these are the Democrats who won in districts where Trump won in 2018, so essentially 43 people, like Mikie Sherrill, people Allison (sic) Spanberger, people like Joe Cunningham in South Carolina 1.

So those are the folks who do want to keep it narrow. Those are the folks who didn't want to impeach. And, listen, Nancy Pelosi was one of those people. Adam Schiff was one of those people. I mean, they were basically holding back the floodgates of people who

were in the Democratic Caucus who thought that the Mueller report was enough. So, today, you had Nancy Pelosi saying she's confident in this moment, but also sad and full of humility.

And it is a moment. I mean, in hearing her talk about it, I have to say, I mean, my stomach kind of drops every time I hear her say it, because it's just such a big moment for this country.

TAPPER: And she has resisted it for quite some time.

We have a lot of questions for Nancy Pelosi. Tune in tonight for a special CNN town hall. House Speaker Pelosi is going to join me live right here in D.C. to talk about what's next for the impeachment inquiry, taking questions from voters. That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern tonight only on CNN.

But, first, another example of timing. President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, he's apparently in, guess where, Ukraine. And wait until you hear who he is meeting with.

Plus, Joe Biden calling a voter a damn liar. What set off this campaign trail outburst?

Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back with the politics lead with House Democrats ready to move on articles of impeachment.

The White House is mounting a defense with a likely trial in the U.S. Senate, with President Trump himself revealing much of the playbook. The president is already saying he wants to call as witnesses Joe and Hunter Biden, and perhaps even Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

CNN's Pamela Brown is live for us at the White House.

And, Pamela, you have some new reporting about how the White House is preparing for the trial.


The White House is focused on both the communications and legal strategies as they set their sights on the Senate trial. The president's lawyers here at the White House have spent the last several weeks doing research on what past presidents have done as they build the president's defense.


BROWN (voice-over): Fresh from his checkered NATO trip in London, President Trump today asking how Democrats to speed up their impeachment inquiry, tweeting, if you're going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate.

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW PROFESSOR: Fast and narrow is not a good recipe for impeachment.

BROWN: But a hurried impeachment process was condemned by the House Republican's sole witness in Wednesday's Judiciary Committee hearing, law professor Jonathan Turley.

TURLEY: You are trying to remove a duly elected president of the United States and that takes time and takes work.

BROWN: And echoed by senior counselor to the president, Kellyanne Conway.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: If you're going to do something as serious and as unusual, indeed somewhat unprecedented as impeaching a president of the United States, you can't rush it.

BROWN: According to sources familiar with the matter, White House attorneys have spent weeks preparing for a Senate trial, crafting the president's legal defense, which White House counsel Pat Cipollone will lead.

CONWAY: But I think if you go to a trial, that will be more familiar and we'll be -- and we are very ready for that.

BROWN: The president laying out part of their strategy on Twitter, saying he wants House Intel Chair Adam Schiff, Speaker Pelosi and Joe and Hunter Biden to testify in the Senate trial.

CONWAY: If they have nothing to hide, then they should be happy to come and testify.

BROWN: Amidst the impeachment fight, Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani finds himself in Ukraine, according to a Ukrainian lawmaker who posted on Facebook that he met with Giuliani in Kyiv. The lawmaker is known for publicly pushing the debunked conspiracy that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election, was part of a pro-Russia political party and attended a KGB academy when he was younger according to his website.


BROWN: And Giuliani refused to confirm to CNN that he's in Ukraine.


His spokeswoman would only say his work is, quote, still confidential -- Jake.

TAPPER: OK. Pamela Brown, thanks so much.

Let's chew over this.

Amanda, let me start with you. So, Trump's legal team planning this defense in a theoretical Senate trial. For those not familiar, if the House does vote to impeach, that's not the end of it. It then goes to Senate and they serve as jurors whether or not to remove the president from office.

The Trump team and Republicans want to bring in Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, talk about Burisma, talk about all that. Is the strategy here just to muddy the water so the focus is completely not on what the president did?

CARPENTER: Yes, that's what the White House is like because they're interested in causing chaos. I don't think it is in the Senate's interest at all, but given the fact Rudy Giuliani is meddling in this stuff as we speak, I think all Senate Republicans should be put on the spot, do you condone Rudy Giuliani continuing to do this? The White House can get away with not answering the question. Would you actually accept anything he's produced into the Senate in a trial? Because that question should be answered now, don't wait for it to happen.

TAPPER: It is interesting because we can't get House Republicans, including Manu Raju tried to get Kevin McCarthy to answer the question, it's a very basic question, is it appropriate for President Trump to ask a foreign country to investigate a political rival, which is an undisputed fact. He says that in front of the cameras and in front of the -- in the rough transcript. You can't get them to answer that.

SIMMONS: Yes, remember, I think it was June 17th , Donald Trump sat down with George Stephanopoulos in the White House and he said that he would -- he would be happy to take information from a foreign government if they offered. Little did we know he was weeks away from having a phone call with a foreign leader where he asked him to do that very thing. I think the Republicans are having a real gut check moment.

Listen, they've made -- it seems like they've made their bet. They made a decision about how they're going to do this. History is not going to be kind to them and I would bet voters may not be kind to them either.

TAPPER: We'll see.

Vivian, meanwhile President Trump, his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, is in Ukraine. Pictures show him with Ukraine lawyer with Russian FSB training, a guy known for pushing debunked claims about Hunter Biden and Ukraine meddling in the election. Now he wants Giuliani to set up a, quote, unquote, anti-corruption group in Ukraine.

I have heard Republicans say that they really wish Giuliani would just stop, that this is all bad for the president, but he's not stopping and nobody is calling for him to.

SALAMA: On the contrary. He's made it very clear on Twitter around elsewhere that he's going to vindicate himself through investigations of his own. And so, he has, you know, made it clear he is going to continue doing what he is doing because he believes that the Bidens are hiding something, and so he's trying to expose that by making these connections.

But do you know who is most unhappy with Rudy Giuliani's presence in Ukraine? The Ukrainian government. A number of officials coming out in public in the last couple of hours saying, why is he here? One of them dropped a profanity on -- a very senior official dropped profanity on Facebook saying this is not a coincidence and we don't want him here.

So, it -- they more than anyone else want to distance themselves from this controversy, and seeing Rudy Giuliani popping up again in Kyiv or wherever he is in Ukraine, that is disconcerting not only to a lot of Republicans but also to the Ukrainians as well.

TAPPER: And, Nia-Malika, call logs that the House Democrats released seem to show Giuliani in contact with phone numbers associated with the Office of Management and Budget. Giuliani told CNN's Dana Bash in a text message, quote, I don't remember calling OMB, not about military aid. Never knew anything about it.

Today, Kellyanne Conway told reporters, you don't know what they were talking about. Then, of course, we heard Kellyanne Conway say there incredibly that, you know, if Hunter Biden and Joe Biden have nothing to hide, why don't they testify?

HENDERSON: Yes, yes, Rudy Giuliani, same thing. If you have nothing to hide, you should come forward too and testify, release some documents. Say under oath what you were talking about.

Listen, Rudy Giuliani obviously key to this investigation. You hear on this call or you see from this transcript or from the call the president saying Rudy is my guy, talk to Rudy, he is the point person, the point guy running this whole operation.

So telling I think that he is calling OMB, I don't know if he is calling to talk about the Yankees or something, but likely, right? If we know all of the facts about this, that there is this money being held up, the $400 million in aid to Ukraine as they are talking about these deliverables, it is likely that he was discussing some of -- some of the business.

Listen, Mick Mulvaney himself said that, you know, part of the money holdup was to do with some of these investigations.

TAPPER: Yes, the 2016 investigation.

HENDERSON: The 2016, that part of it. He didn't admit to the Bidens. So, you know, these folks can tweet and run around and have Kellyanne Conway come to their defense on Fox News, but, listen, they should come before Congress and -- if they've got something to exonerate the president, by all means come, say.


TAPPER: And we should note, people were wondering, I hear a lot of conservatives and Republicans wondering about the phone records. How come there isn't outrage that the House Democrats apparently on Intelligence Committee apparently subpoenaed the phone records of Johnson Solomon, a former columnist for "The Hill", and Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican.

And today, the House Intelligence Committee spokesman Patrick Bowen told me that they did not subpoena the phone records of Nunes or John Solomon. And then separately, somebody suggested that Giuliani and Lev Parnas, that maybe their phone records were of sought and if you were talking to them, that might have been why it came up.

Coming up, are Democrats making a mistake by moving forward with impeachment so quickly? We'll have a member of the committee in charge of drafting those articles of impeachment. When will we see them? What will they include? That's next.