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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: Donald Trump "Leaves Us No Choice But To Act"; House Democrats to Begin Crafting Articles of Impeachment; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: Democrats Moving Forward With Articles of Impeachment; White House Previews Aggressive Defense Strategy in Senate Trial; Representative Liz Cheney Criticizes Testimony by "Self-Righteous" Professors. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired December 5, 2019 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing this consequential day with us. Speaker Nancy Pelosi giving the impeachment green light, saying the President has abused his powers and least House Democrats no choice.
Plus the next step is now crucial deciding how many articles of impeachment to draft and whether they should be limited to Ukraine or also include Mueller report, obstruction details and the high stake politics. Democratic House goes first then a trial in the Republican Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and a heart full of love for America, today I am asking our Chairman to proceed with articles of impeachment.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The Speaker gave a speech on national television to push forward her rushed and partisan impeachment nothing on USMCA or the NDAA or funding for our armed forces. It's all impeachment all the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And we begin there on Capitol Hill with history and high stakes Speaker Nancy Pelosi officially blessing the impeachment of President Trump. The nation's highest elected Democrat made the announcement this morning, casting the abuse of power and obstruction case against the Republican President as overwhelming.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: The facts are uncontested. The President abused his power for his own personal political benefit. Our democracy is what is at stake. The President leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt once again the election for his own benefit. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Speaker Pelosi deliberately leaving things open-ended on how many articles will be drafted and the specifics of what will be included in them? President Trump responding with defiance, tweeting this if you're going to impeach me, do it now fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate and so that our country can get back to business with these high stakes comes raw politics and raw emotions.
The Speaker turning angry and then turning back to the microphone when asked this morning about Republicans who say Democrats are impeaching the President because they hate him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you hate the President, Madam Speaker?
PELOSI: I don't hate anybody. I don't have the ability to hate anybody in the world. Don't accuse me of that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did not accuse you. I asked you a question. Representative Collins yesterday suggested that the Democrats were doing this specifically because they didn't like the guy. I think it's an important point.
PELOSI: I think this President is a coward when it comes to helping our kids who are afraid of gun violence. I think he is cruel when he doesn't deal with helping our DREAMERS, of which we're very proud. I think he's in denial about the climate crisis. However, that's about the election. This is about the constitution of the United States and the facts that lead to the President's violation of his oath of office.
And 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 a heart full of love and always pray for the President. And I still pray for the President. I pray for the President all the time. So don't mess with me when it comes to words like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: CNN's Manu Raju was in the room for that. Manu, a reminder there is the specifics of the impeachment case, but there is also some of the politics here that are quite personal.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it. She's trying to make the case that they came to this deliberatively, they resisted doing this and that's why they ultimately went forward because the facts were overwhelming, that the President in their view abused his office and they had to take this course of action.
She certainly didn't like any sort of suggestion that this is a personal move by her to go after someone she does not like. Now, the Republicans, on the other hand, try to make this as if this was already an outcome that the Democrats pre-determined the moment that they took power in January in the House, that they wanted to impeach the President, they wanted to remove him from office.
Kevin McCarthy just moments ago tried to make that case. The House Republican Leader also sized up questions of sorts about whether or not he believes the Speaker didn't like the President. He also interestingly done sized up to question I asked about whether or not he thinks it's appropriate for the President to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival which is essentially at the heart of this Ukraine scandal.
He sides up that completely. He wouldn't answer that question and said focused on the President asking to investigate the 2016 elections, which he condemned was appropriate. Nevertheless, the Democrats are planning their next steps here John, including how to draft those articles of impeachment. That's going to be a big decision internally in the days ahead.
RAJU: It's going to be made up by Nancy Pelosi in consultation with the Judicial Committee Chairman, Jerry Nadler, and the Intelligence Committee Chairman, Adam Schiff. While we can expect likely two or three articles of impeachment, likely an abuse of power that can include bribery, charges of bribery as well as obstruction of Congress for defying subpoenas, and potentially also obstruction of Justice that can include the allegations that the President sought to undercut the Mueller probe as part of - that was detailed in the Mueller report.
All of that is going to happen rather quickly. Expect articles of impeachment could be introduced next week. There will be a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Monday where the staff Counsels of the House Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee discuss findings as part of their own investigations.
So we'll see this happening rather quickly in the House where a vote could happen on impeachment, John, before Christmas.
KING: It's a fast pace in a raw time. Manu Raju, appreciate the live reporting. Manu Raju, busy day on the Hill. With me to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Pace with "The Associated Press" Jonathan Martin with "The New York Times" Toluse Olorunnipa with "The Washington Post" and "POLITICO's" Heather Caygle.
I want to get to the substance of this in a minute but we saw today I covered the White House in the Clinton impeachment days and it was Bill Clinton, Newt Kingrich were the two protagonists if you will in that drama.
The Speaker here essentially responding angrily, testily to that question from James Rosen saying, I don't hate anybody, how dare you don't mess with me, and the President, quickly seeing a opportunity to stroke the politics here responding quickly, Nancy Pelosi just had a nervous fit. She hates that we'll soon have 182 great new judges and so much more, stock market and appointed records.
She says she praise the President. I don't believe her, not even close. Help your homeless in the district and then USMCA, the President's trade legislative priority? It is impossible to separate the politics in the public debate from the specifics of impeachment because it is a political process. And you see here the highest Ranking Democrat in the land and the Highest Ranking Republican in the land who have a history.
JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": It's a long way from the days where we are actually thought that these two might work together. And there was a time when we did think that they might be - Chuck and Nancy at the White House.
You really got a sense from Pelosi today of just how personal this actually is. Not because she hates the President, as she said, but she's leading the House through something that we just don't do that often in our nation's history. I think sometimes this had the sense of inevitability and you can lose sight of this.
She is doing something quite historic that few Speakers of the House have done before and she knows it's risky. She doesn't know how the politics is going to play out next year. She has a sense of this and the President has a sense of this, but truly neither of them knows where this leads to next year.
JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": She is the ultimate institutionalists who her father was a Mayor in Congress, her brother was a Mayor. She came up through California politics working her way up in the ranks. She was a state party Chairman. Comes to Congress, works her way up in the committees and then becomes the Speaker of the House after serving as Minority Leader.
She is someone who has worked this system, who is so of this system. To her marrow she is sort of a Democratic figure of the old school. Trump is none of that, right? He's never really been in either party. He picked the Republicans out of convenience, more or less. He could give two you-know-what about institutions and obviously shows that every day. You have so many sorts of differences between who these people are in their bones.
KING: And we saw that in the - we saw the different sides of Speaker Pelosi. Very sober, somber in the announcement this morning which, to your point, we lose sight of this sometimes because it has been viewed as inevitable for several weeks that the House will impeach the President, but the speaker gave the green light today, saying draft the articles.
That is a huge deal four times in history as the House of Representatives thought about impeaching - got into the actual process of impeaching a President very sober. And then the response there, you walk the halls of the Hill every day, that's why she's Speaker, actually. She gets it, she's emotional, she has the loyalty of her caucus, and don't mess with me was a warning not just to the reporters in the room, to anybody as with this debate goes into the next critical chapter.
HEATHER CAYGEL, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": Yes, I think that's going to be a historic Pelosi quote for decades. I have been in that press conference every week for several years. I have never seen her do something like that and let a reporter get under her skin like that. I think it just speaks to what an extraordinary moment we're in and the high stakes and emotion on each side.
I will say after her announcement this morning, she went into a private caucus meeting and she reiterated this is a very somber moment, this is very serious, she said. But she explained her position, and she said if we aren't going to impeach this time, we should remove impeachment from the constitution. And that to me says, I'm all in, then she read a Bible verse. So - you know.
KIN G: And the President getting right back at her, number one, not surprising, but number two, a reminder again the President is trying to keep his base. The Speaker believers she has the overwhelming majority of House Democrats. She might have a handful she has to worry about as we go forward, but she believes she's playing to her base and the President getting back in her face, he's trying to personalize this to keep his.
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, we have seen some surprises during this impeachment process some new information that's come out, but in terms of the ultimate outcome, I think both sides do not expect more surprises. They expect the House to pass impeachment, they expect the Senate to dismiss it and the President thinks if that is going to happen, that he should try to work on the politics of it.
Try to sort of spin this in the most positive way that he can for his campaign, try to make sure that when he gets to the Senate that he has the most favorable trowel that he possibly can have. If it's going to be impeachment, let it be a Trump style big televised spectacle of impeachment. That's what he said. He said he wants it to happen fast, he wants to move over to the Senate.
And I think the fact that both sides really see where this are going, gives us the sense of this is all going to be about messaging, about strategy, about the politics of this and everybody sort of knows what the outcome is going to be from the outside.
KING: One important thing the Speaker did not do, and it was deliberate, was tell us how broad she thinks the case should be? I just want to read this from "The National Journal" and from "POLITICO" some moderate Democrats essentially saying be careful here, the moderates want to keep it narrow and focused significantly on Ukraine.
Jim Himes of Connecticut says there is always a temptation when you looking at article of impeachment to throw in everything but the kitchen sink, but we have to be cautious. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan in "POLITICO" I know there are some people who are interested in kind of a kitchen sink approach. Let's throw all kinds of things in there because we can and talk about all the things we're concerned about regarding this President. How serious is that debate and did the Speaker give you any clues today about whether she thinks it should include a lot of Mueller? Or whether she wants it to be almost entirely Ukraine?
CAYGLE: I think she did offer clues in her press conference, she said all roads lead to Putin which is a phrase we've heard her say several times before. But the debate behind the scenes right now, moderates are very nervous about an article that's focused entirely on Mueller. Senior Democrats, including Pelosi, are looking at doing something that starts with Mueller and, you know, lays out the obstruction of Justice detailed in that report but then shows how that establishes a pattern of behavior that carried over into the Ukraine scandal. They think that will be enough to offer some kind of political cover, and I think that's where we're headed right now.
KING: All right, okay. We're going to continue the conversation. And this program note on this very important day. The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will take questions in a live CNN Town Hall tonight moderated my colleague Jake Tapper. That's tonight, 9:00 eastern right here on CNN. You don't want to miss that anyway but especially given the developments.
Today up next for us, what will a Senate impeachment trial look like, some Senators already making their predictions?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAMES LANKFORD, (R-OK): It will be a little jarring, I think, for the American public to be able to turn on their TV and see the sergeant-at-arms saying hear ye, hear ye, on pain of imprisonment, everyone must remain silent.
ALAN FRUMIN, FORMER PARLIAMENTARIAN: And everybody is guessing who is going to be in prison first.
LANKFORD: Well, I'm absolutely guessing that's going to be Lindsey Graham. There's no way that he can keep silent for that long.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Patience is not often a word found in the same sentence with President Trump. But the President and his team say anyone who wants a specific and detailed rebuttal to the Democrat's impeachment case needs to wait for a Senate trial in January.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY SAYEGH, WHITE HOUSE IMPEACHMENT ADVISER: We're ready. If the Democrats are foolish enough to actually pass these frivolous articles of impeachment of which they have no evidence and factual basis, we want a trial in the Senate. We're ready for a trial in the Senate.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: If we get to a Senate trial, that will be more familiar with most Americans who understand a judge and jury system, are familiar with it by seeing it on TV and by experiencing their lives. If we get to that, that will be very different and I think that's when the defense goes on offense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: CNN's Phil Mattingly live on Capitol Hill. Phil, the President's team says they're ready for a Senate trial. The President also expecting unified, strong, Republican defense. Will he get it?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, what's interesting is that who are actually have a defense from his own lawyers. I'm amazed on what the White House is saying right now. I think that's a shift you saw Pat Cipollone, the White House Counsel up here meeting with Republicans yesterday kind of walking through where the White House is on this issue.
It's not something we've seen in the House, and it's a shift for the White House. Initially they've been talking about no trial at all or trying to quickly dismiss the trial. The reality there was they don't have the votes to do that. Republicans on Capitol Hill and the Senate have told the White House, you don't have 51 votes to dismiss this trial we're going to have to move forward.
I think the interesting element here is the idea of the role of Senate Republicans. John, they can't talk during this trial, so in terms of how they will defend the President? It will largely be based on resolutions, what they put up? Who they try and have to come testify? The White House has made very clear both behind the closed doors and publicly they want people like Hunter Biden to come testify, they want people like the whistleblower to come testify.
Not every Republican is on board with that. In fact, I talked to a number of Republicans who would like to avoid that of all costs, not just because of what it would kind of turn the process into, but because of the institution of the Senate. They're worried about turning this into a circus.
One Democrat Senator I talked to yesterday said if that started to happen witnesses like that started to come forward would be "A hand grenade tossed into the middle of the chamber". Here's the reality.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer are going to meet and try and work out a bipartisan roadmap for this trial. If they don't get there though this will be a simple majority process 51 votes of any shape size or color will decide how this trial goes.
And I think that's where becomes most interesting to pay attention to. Are there members in both parties who care about the institution or are worried about the legitimacy of this trial and want to move this process forward that will come together across party lines, not to remove the President necessarily, but just to make sure the trial works out.
MATTINGLY: So you got where the White House is on this, you got where Senate Republicans are on this and where the Democrats are, but there is also people in the middle here that I - not yet talking but will soon about how to keep this on the rails, because it very clearly could go off entirely.
KING: An excellent point. I want to applaud your discipline. While you were speaking there with perfect focus, Chairman Nadler just went behind Phil Mattingly. With a Percy of reporters chasing him, but Phil can keep his focus. It's an important point though as we go toward the Senate - Phil is going to go chase Chairman Nadler down.
It's an important point as you get to the Senate and Mitch McConnell like Speaker Pelosi holding her cards tight because of the delicate politics the Majority Leader on the Republican side holding his cards tight, too, because he doesn't know exactly how this is going to go. First he has to see how convincing the House case is, whether public opinion does move.
But listen here, this is a key Joe Biden allies Senator Chris Coons of Delaware talking about the Democrats need help from Republicans if there is emotion to call in Hunter Biden, to call in some other witness and the Democrats don't like it, they got to need help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS COONS, (D-DE): Bluntly because the Republicans have the majority in the Senate and they ultimately could set the rules for this impeachment trial by a bare majority. There is very little Democrats in the Senate could do to stop them. We will be relying on a small number of Republicans who are pushing back against this idea and who recognize that impeachment is a serious, significant constitutional moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: This to me is fascinating in the sense that like Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell can do the math. Leader McConnell works behind closed doors, Leader McConnell talks to all of his members. He will know if they want to push Hunter Biden. You saw the President tweeting just this morning, I want to see Biden testify, I want to see Schiff testify, I want to see Pelosi testify. So the President is pushing his party to do things that you know Leader McConnell would prefer since day one.
Please stop tweeting these things, Mr. President. But he's going to have to check in with Susan Collins and Cory Gardner and Mitt Romney and the five or six Republicans who are at risk of saying, to Phil's point, no, we're not going to turn this into a circus, or in the case of a Gardner or Collins, this could hurt me. I'm on the ballot next year.
OLORUNNIPA: The President has had much luck in the House. He's had a lot of support; he has had almost unanimous support among House members in this impeachment process. It's not clear that the Senate which is supposedly this deliberative body is going to follow the President when it comes to sort of pushing some of these conspiracy theories, when it comes to trying to get Hunter Biden to testify. You have to remember that Former Vice President Joe Biden was in the Senate for six terms and he does have some relationships there, even though that started to fray a little bit with the loyalties of Trump that we see from people like Lindsey Graham. But the President is not going to have as much support when it comes to pushing the Senate to become this sort of reality TV style body where he can sort of do his 2020 campaigning.
There is going to be ought of pushback from not only some of the Senators that are facing reelection, but also some of the institutionalists who want to see this trial take place in a much more stayed and sort of high minded form, and it's not clear the President isn't going to get what he wants from those Senators.
KING: And so the interesting question for me is what does the President try to put forward? You saw his two defenders there making rounds and that's what they're supposed to do saying the House is not fair to us, when we get to the Senate we're going to have a trial. But the President said during his NATO trip with Mick Mulvaney and Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State and the Acting Chief of Staff, right there I wouldn't let them testify in the House but maybe in the Senate.
Is there any chance that the White House will actually send up the people who can answer some of the unanswered questions about who knew under oath?
PACE: I think if the President is following the advice of his Legal Counsel, the answer to that would be no. The President may not follow that advice. But I do think this question of what kind of defense the White House puts forward is also going to be really interesting in terms of what some of these Senate Republicans want?
In the House you saw the Republicans largely line up behind what the President wants, which is a defense of his actions, not a defense that maybe this was bad but not impeachable. He wants a defense. These were perfect calls, I did nothing wrong, I am allowed to do this. There are members of the Republicans in the Senate who want the ability to say, actually, I don't agree with his behavior. I don't believe it's impeachable but I actually want to voice my dissent over what he did.
KING: What he did was wrong but it's not - you'll get much more of that in the Senate where - well, the House members have smaller districts, it is safer. The House has become very Trump--
PACE: Politics is very different.
CAYGLE: I will say, though, there was some chatter this morning before Pelosi's announcement when no one knew what it was. The Republicans were worried that she was going to come out and say offer a censure vote. They were worried that they were going to lose some House members, because they won't say it publicly but privately they too, a lot of them would like to say, I don't agree with what he did. I don't think it's impeachable, but I don't agree with it.
MARTIN: Well, that's the big question in the Senate, too, at some point will McConnell offer a censure vote to give some of his members a place to go who don't want to simply clear President Trump of the conduct they clearly find to be wrong.
KING: All right. But the one thing you know about McConnell, is he will not publicly, even allow that option to be put in the table. He will keep his cards, he will talk, he will only do that if he feels that's what he needs to do to protect the Senate Majority. One of the interesting things from yesterday, and Bill Clinton did this and you see it in President Trump's tweets now.
I'm trying to do your business, we have a strong economy. This is a - Clinton used different language, he didn't have Twitter, but this is over the top. It was personal conduct then, its professional conduct at play now. But Liz Cheney after the hearing yesterday one of many Republicans trying to say essentially, these are elites.
The constitutional lawyers are self-righteous liberal law professors, two of whom are Clinton/Obama donors, a great remainder of why the American people elected Donald Trump in 2016. This will be part of the political debate that the establishment and the elites are trying to undo the results of the last election. Any impeachment is trying to undo the election.
MARTIN: It's easier to make that case when the White House won't let the people who are Trump's closest advisers testify, because they would be forced to actually reveal the truth. So what you're left with is, yes, law professors but also career employees working in the White House in the National Security Apparatus who are telling the truth.
It's pretty damning for the President but it does give the opportunity for them to say, well, they're deep state or they're elites. Yes, because Trump won't let his actual political appointees go up there with the exception of Gordon Sondland who went up there and obviously made headlines.
KING: They didn't want him to go up there either. He did it under the subpoena that, that's you make a key point. The Republicans can't - the factual case is overwhelming. You can have a debate about whether it's impeachable, but the factual case about the conduct, the quid pro quo, the pressure is overwhelming. And really to the Speaker's point this morning, largely uncontested.
We'll continue the conversation when we come back and the big question for the Democrats. Go narrow or go broad?