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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Deadly Naval Base Attack; Democrats Drafting Articles of Impeachment; Giuliani Confirms He Went to Ukraine to Dig for Dirt on Bidens. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired December 6, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:06]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A key deadline for President Trump just minutes away.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Will he or won't he? President Trump facing a decision on whether the White House will take part in any further impeachment proceedings in the House before House members vote, as the White House looks to a Senate trial as an escape route.

And breaking news. The suspect in today's deadly attack at a Naval station in Florida now described as a Saudi military trainee -- the latest on his motive and why he was on the base.

Plus, heart-wrenching video showing the agonizing final moments of a boy's life as he dies inside a U.S. Border Patrol cell. Why didn't the Trump administration initially give the public the full story?

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We start today with our politics lead.

The White House has just minutes, literally, to decide if officials there will participate in any remaining impeachment proceedings before the final vote. President Trump facing a 5:00 p.m. East Coast deadline set by House Democrats.

Also this afternoon, the first indication it will not only be Democrats voting to impeach President Trump, with former Republican, now independent Congressman Justin Amash from Michigan telling CNN that he is ready to vote for at least three potential articles of impeachment, obstruction of Congress, obstruction of justice, and abuse of power.

Right now, House Democrats are drafting the articles of impeachment and preparing to debate behind the scenes which ones they will include. Among the debates, will the Mueller report be part of the charges against the president?

As CNN's Phil Mattingly reports, Democrats plan to work through the weekend with committee lawyers, preparing to lay out their cases in a hearing scheduled for Monday.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Democrats move full speed ahead on articles of impeachment, the White House signaling it will play no role in the House impeachment process.

Less than an hour away from a Democratic-imposed deadline on whether President Trump's lawyers will participate in the House impeachment process at all, zero signs the answer will be yes, leaving a divided House to move forward in a process that will kick into high gear next week.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Facts are clear. The Constitution is clear. The president violated the Constitution.

MATTINGLY: With the House Judiciary Committee set to hold its second impeachment hearing on Monday, where majority and minority counsel for the Intelligence and Judiciary committees will present their impeachment reports, the first action in what will be a defining week for the Trump presidency, with Democrats likely to reveal and vote in committee on articles of impeachment by the end of the week, setting up a final floor vote the week of December 16.

The debate over what those articles of impeachment will look like, however, still very much under way. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, sources say, hearing out all corners of the caucus on whether to include elements of special counsel Robert Mueller's report in the final articles.

But asked specifically about adding Mueller's finding as an article of obstruction of justice, the speaker made clear in a CNN town hall Thursday, the process remains very much closely held.

PELOSI: We're operating collectively. With all due respect, I'm not going to answer one charge. We're not writing the articles of impeachment here tonight.

REP. JUSTIN AMASH (I-MI): It's a process.

MATTINGLY: Today, Republican turned independent Justin Amash of Michigan telling CNN he's ready to vote for articles of impeachment, but Democratic leaders acknowledge some of their members may defect.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): Well, we do expect to lose some. And that's why I say it is a conscience vote, and it's with their constituents. We have a very diverse caucus.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: And, Jake, it's the front-line members of that very diverse caucus, the freshman class, many of them coming from districts President Trump won in 2016, that are warning leaders right now that they are not necessarily comfortable with how wide a scope the impeachment articles may include. One member telling us earlier today that he wasn't even sure he would vote for impeachment at all, given the speed and the pace that this has all gone.

One thing they are saying repeatedly is, the leadership needs to understand that there are political repercussions, even if they don't believe this is a political effort, and there needs to be support, and leadership needs to listen. So we will see how that all plays out in the week ahead as they move very quickly towards that final vote, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Phil Mattingly, thanks so much.

Let's chew over all this.

Jackie Kucinich, first of all, happy birthday.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you very much.

TAPPER: Breaking news.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: So, there are these moderate Democrats in these Trump districts that their jobs really could be on the line. They're very worried.

KUCINICH: Absolutely.

And you have heard them both -- and you have seen them both behind the scenes and out in public raising concern about this, particularly when you bring in the Mueller report and all the baggage they're in.

Now, of course, there were very concerning things in the Mueller report for a lot of members of Congress and a lot of the public. That said, because of the sustained campaign against it, because of Robert Mueller's own testimony, it has a lot more complicated messaging than the straightforward Ukraine corruption situation that we have seen most recently being investigated.

[16:05:13]

So, I asked Nancy Pelosi yesterday at the town hall about her previous quotes where she said, if they proceed with impeachment, it needs to be bipartisan. And as of right now, it really doesn't look like it's going to be bipartisan, except for those voting against impeachment.

Here's what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Does this mean that you're failing to meet the standard that you set in January?

PELOSI: No. I'm saying the Republicans had failed to meet the standard of honor their oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: What do you think?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it was always wishful thinking for Democratic leaders to expect impeachment proceedings against the president to be bipartisan.

It is quite clear that Republicans certainly in the House have rallied behind the president and very much adopted his line of defense that this is not impeachable, the conduct, as well as decrying the process and just trying to delegitimize the inquiry itself.

I do think, however, when it comes to the scope of the articles of impeachment, the debate that Democrats are essentially having is, do you just stick with something that is very clear-cut with respect to Ukraine? The president sought help from a foreign government to investigate his political rival. He then tried to obstruct the investigation into that conduct.

Or do you establish a pattern, where, according to the Mueller report, the Trump campaign at least welcomed assistance from the Russians, and the president also sought to obstruct that investigation into Russian interference and contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow?

So you can really raise the stakes for why this behavior is, in fact, impeachable, and not present it as a one-off that you go through this process and then the American public moves on, without really getting at the implications for 2020 if the president is still in office and on the ballot himself.

TAPPER: So that's one argument, the idea that it's urgent and that's why they elect the Mueller report, because he's going to keep doing this, he's going to keep enlisting foreign intervention.

Here's the other side of the argument from one of the new moderate members, Congressman Max Rose from Staten Island, New York, talking about his previous comment how he doesn't think Mueller should be anywhere near the articles of impeachment. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MAX ROSE (D-NY): I was against going through with impeachment previous to this Ukraine matter.

So with the understanding that I'm not going to entertain any hypotheticals, I was very serious when I came out and said that. Unlike most of the people in this institution, I'm not going to just say something and forget about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, Nancy Pelosi knows her caucus very well. And I suspect that part of what they're going to do this weekend as

they're drafting these articles of impeachment is to look at all of the evidence and determine, how do we lay this out in a way that does exactly what you said, makes a very clear-cut case?

And, again, I think there's a way to do that brings in elements of the Mueller investigation that does establish a pattern. And that is relevant, because we -- I mean, now that we have established this pattern that the president lies, that actually matters.

So I do think they're going to -- that's what they're going to look to do this weekend. And I suspect as they look at the evidence and how they want to proceed on Monday, they will have a sense going into next week what the push points will be with certain members who will feel there's too much Mueller, that means I can't vote for it, or there could be more.

So I think that's part of what their process is going to be.

TAPPER: What do you think? Should they include the Mueller report? Should it be wide? Should it talk about the pattern? Or should it just be focused exclusively on the Ukraine scandal?

BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: Mostly focused.

I think you can mention the previous stuff to show there was a pattern. But at the end of the day, they were not going to impeach on the Mueller report. I myself thought they should have proceeded to hearings, but they didn't. So you can't really say, well, the Mueller report helps. It's weaker than Ukraine.

And if you're a prosecutor -- I'm not a lawyer, but I believe this is true. You go with your strongest charge, and it doesn't help your strongest charge to add a weaker charge, right?

So I would say they should stick pretty narrowly on Ukraine, mentioning the pattern that preceded it. Ukraine is impeachable. They have that in spades, in my opinion. They have the obstruction in spades, the obstruction of Congress, the refusal to deliver documents.

On a very concrete set of issues -- this isn't a two-and-a-half-year investigation about stuff that happened in 2016. It's stuff that happened in the Oval Office in the White House, with the president directing people in government to do and not do certain things.

To the degree the administration has not cooperated with that, that seems to be a clear obstruction of Congress' ability, the House's ability to impeach. So I would keep it narrow. I think they will be fine. I don't think they will lose many Democrats at the end of the day. There's always nervousness in this.

And, incidentally, it's foolish for them. They're not going to get any benefit in there. If you're a Democrat in a Trump district, if you vote not to impeach, if you're for -- if the voters are for Trump, they're not going to say, you know what, I really think I'm going to send a Democrat back to the House. At the end of the day, those districts will go depending on the

national verdict on Trump. And they're honestly just better off sucking it up and voting the way they think is right.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Although, Karen, I have to say, Brad Parscale, the Trump campaign manager, is out there.

He's tweeting polling information.

FINNEY: Yes.

TAPPER: You can rely on it or not. It's from Fabrizio. It's a partisan firm -- indicating, this House member, you're in trouble if you vote for it.

FINNEY: Yes.

TAPPER: This House member...

[16:10:00]

FINNEY: It's a scare tactic.

We were actually just talking about this. In the one example that I read about today, it said 45 percent. And I thought, 45 percent is good.

(CROSSTALK)

FINNEY: In Oklahoma, if I'm a Democrat, that's good.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: This is a district, a Trump plus-14 district, and there's only -- he's only plus-seven against impeachment.

So they're more -- some Trump voters think he should be impeached in that district.

FINNEY: And I think the picture is a little bit different sort of at the local level than what the national polls are telling you.

KUCINICH: Right.

FINNEY: I have a candidate that I'm working with who raised $100,000 against her Republican opponent on this. So it's actually playing a little bit differently on the ground.

TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around. We got a lot more to talk about.

Sorry, birthday girl.

(CROSSTALK) (LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: We will get to more.

The new figures could have a bigger impact on President Trump's reelection than impeachment. We will show you.

Then, call it a new phase in the Joe Biden campaign, the former V.P. on the attack, and now hoping a famous old friend's luck rubs off.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:15:23]

TAPPER: In the politics lead, with the White House just minutes away from a deadline to say whether or not anyone from the White House will take part of the remaining impeachment proceedings in any way before the big vote, the Trump administration says, I see your impeachment push and I raise you 266,000 jobs. That's right. A surging jobs report brought the unemployment rate back down to its lowest number since the 1960s and Republican focus on that.

And as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports, it's giving President Trump a boost today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As House Democrats wait to hear whether he'll participate in the impeachment proceedings, President Trump gave no hint in front the cameras today.

TONY SAYEGH, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER FOR STRATEGY: We're extremely bullish. We've been upbeat all along. We know the president has done nothing wrong.

COLLINS: Despite that optimism, the White House is facing fresh scrutiny in wake of a report from House Democrats that revealed there were extensive communications between Rudy Giuliani and still unidentified officials.

Asked why Giuliani travelled to Ukraine given the scrutiny he's facing, the White House offered no explanation.

HOGAN GIDLEY, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That's a question between Rudy and the president.

COLLINS: But confirmed Giuliani still works for Trump.

GIDLEY: To my knowledge, yes.

COLLINS: The president touting the blockbuster jobs report today.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The market is up 325 points today on great job numbers. The numbers have been phenomenal.

COLLINS: And claiming the economy would be even better with less problems on the southern border if not for the Democrats', quote, horror show. The U.S. added more than 250,000 jobs in November, and the unemployment rate fell to half a century low, a big boost for a president who has recently fueled trade tensions.

Trump's top economic adviser claims the impeachment drama isn't affecting his ability to negotiate a trade deal with China.

LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISER: There may be an impeachment vote, there'll be no conviction, that is my view. I think the Chinese know that. I think a lot of people know that.

COLLINS: But it was the president who sent the Dow tumbling after he said a trade deal, one of his major campaign promises could be pushed to more than a year from now.

TRUMP: In some ways, I like the idea of waiting until after the election for the China deal but they want to make a deal now and we'll see whether or not the deal is going to be right. It's got to be right.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Jake, there is another set of tariffs that's expected to go on $156 billion in goods on December 15th. Right now, we've heard from some people who say that there could be another delay in these tariffs as they are trying to work out the negotiations of this deal. But judging by the president's pessimistic comments there and the way the negotiations have gone in the past, it's really anyone's guess right now.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you so much.

Jackie, let me start with you. Should the White House participate in these hearings, I mean, in the House hearings? I mean, what do they got to lose?

KUCINICH: I feel like that's the debate, right? Because they could, by participating in the House hearings in particular, there -- it could be seen that they're validating it. And they've been saying this whole thing is --

TAPPER: But do you believe that? Do you think it has any more legitimacy with them arguing that they're wrong and this is unfair than if they just like, you know, take their ball and go home?

KUCINICH: It's hard to say, right? Because this is White House. They could spin it however they wanted to if they walked in the room and said, well, we need to defend ourselves. Right now, they've been reliant on the members of Congress that are on that panel, some of which are very vocal, Jim Jordan to be one of them, to do that work for them.

Would it benefit them to be able to get their part out there? Sure. You'd think so. But --

KRISTOL: It won't. It wouldn't.

KUCINICH: But depending on who they sent, because messaging isn't there strongest suit. It could be undone by the person behind the desk.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: But look, their strategy which I don't like as an American and I think it is terrible for the country is to take the ball and go home. This is illegitimate. Here's an alternate reality created with Ukraine involvement, Ukraine was meddling in the election.

TAPPER: Right.

KRISTOL: And Trump cares so much about corruption, he was working on it, and we're just sticking to that story. They don't want to debate any facts. They don't want to or actually have a debate about what Trump said on the phone call.

KUCINICH: But they change the story all of the time.

KRISTOL: It doesn't matter. But that's what their -- from their point of view, they don't want to have a normal argument about who did what, when and where and what did Trump say to Sondland and what did -- what did, you know, happen with the ambassador. They want to have their alternate reality.

And look, it's worked. The Republicans, many of them I know and personally talked to, who I thought might defect, almost all of them have come home. Nikki Haley out there in New York is now defending Trump more than she was six or eight weeks ago. So, from their narrow point of view of holding the base and intimidating Republicans to take the ball and go home strategy is working better than actually engaging.

[16:20:01]

FINNEY: Well, it's disgusting.

KRISTOL: I agree with that. No, it's terrible.

FINNEY: When I was in the Clinton administration, there was no question, you were told, you will cooperate, period, end of sentence.

KRISTOL: Right.

FINNEY: Whether that mean you had to get a lawyer, I had to take out a loan to pay my legal bills, a lot of people did, that was it. There was no question, maybe there were conversations certainly for the more senior people about the nature and how and what-have-you, but the idea that you would just as the president of the United States of America say, we're just not going to participate. That in and of itself is obstructive and should be called out for it.

KRISTOL: I agree. Don't you think it's working politically to some degree, though, for them? TAPPER: That's holding the Republicans --

FINNEY: With their base. But I do think for a lot of moderates --

SIDDIQUI: The thinking --

TAPPER: Yes, Sabrina?

SIDDIQUI: Certainly, the thinking inside the White House is that they should just wait it out until the Senate trial where they will be before a friendlier audience.

TAPPER: Let me interrupt for one second and stay with you, because Trump's legislative affairs director told reporters that the White House wants to put on the full defense at Senate trial, including calling witnesses such as the whistle-blower who remains anonymous, Hunter Biden, perhaps even Joe Biden, Chairman Schiff, Speaker Pelosi. Republican Senator John Cornyn warned this could lead to a three-ring circus.

So, I mean, that's what they're talking about doing.

SIDDIQUI: And that's causing discomfort among Senate Republicans based on conversations I've had with aides on Capitol Hill. They don't want it turned into a side show where they are now investigating the Bidens and also trying to out the whistle-blower.

Some of the president's most ardent supporters are behind that strategy. But a lot of Senate Republicans want to be seen as taking this process seriously. The debate over there is more about the length of the trial. They don't want to just come and dismiss it within a couple of days but they also don't want it to drag on and become and remain the national story before the American public. They're debating maybe having a two-week trial and not really letting the White House drive who gets to come forward and who gets to testify.

But it is going to be challenging because there is a lot of pressure from the White House on these Republicans not just to hold the line but also to come out with a full-throated defense of the president. The question, of course, is whether that's going to backfire.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We've got more to talk about because we're going to look at Rudy Giuliani's Ukraine trip that he just ended. Is he breaking the law?

That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:27:14]

TAPPER: In today's world lead, we're bringing you another episode of where in the world is Rudy Giuliani? President Trump's personal attorney confirmed to CNN that today he's no longer in Ukraine as he was earlier in the week. Even House Republicans who support President Trump have expressed concern over Giuliani's presence there as he tweeted about how he's trying to dig up dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine, the exact issue that led to his client President Trump at the brink of impeachment.

I want to bring in Preet Bharara. He was the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York. Of course, he was let go from that position by President Trump. Giuliani, too, once served as U.S. attorney in that office.

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: He did.

TAPPER: Preet, today, Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier who sits on the House Intelligence Committee said that Giuliani's actions overseas could theoretically be illegal. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): I think Rudy Giuliani is potentially breaking the law and has been for a period of months if not years, if for no other reason that he has not filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Do you think that's true?

BHARARA: Yes, I'm not prepared to say that he is or is not breaking the law. What he is doing is I think increasing jeopardy for himself and also making it harder for the president to put forth his arguments.

I mean, the tweets and all of the statement he's making on the way of Ukraine and from Ukraine as you pointed out he's making the point that everything that Donald Trump cared about and the references to corruption that Donald Trump said is the reason why broadly speaking he wanted there to be an investigation with respect to Ukraine. It was all related to Joe Biden and to Hunter Biden, making it clearer than it's ever before out of the mouth of the lawyer's president himself that corruption was synonymous with investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden, and that undercuts one of the most broad sweeping and significant defenses of the president.

So he's making trouble for himself certainly. But he's also making trouble for the president.

TAPPER: The president's spokesman, Hogan Gidley, today said that he thinks Giuliani is still the president's personal attorney. We know Giuliani is under federal criminal investigation, according to sources familiar with the matter, and a federal subpoena. Are you surprised given all of this and impeachment that the president has not yet cut ties with Giuliani?

BHARARA: I mean, if you ask me this a couple of years ago before I saw the revolving door of lawyers that Trump tries to get and failed in getting and then let go, I might have been surprised. But it is sort of par for the course. The president needs two kinds of lawyers in his own mind and to one extent maybe he only needs one kind.

The kind that he does need is quiet behind the scenes lawyers who do their jobs in negotiating things like giving testimony to the Mueller folks or to the Congress and their sharp and agile lawyers in their prime. The other kind of lawyer that Donald Trump seems to like and want and have trouble letting go are boisterous, sort of belligerent talkers on television.

And in that role, Rudy Giuliani, even lots of people around the president, think he's doing a disservice, the president may like.

He comes on your show, I've seen him, I followed him on occasion on your show and other shows and he throws up so much dust and talks about so many different facts that are not really on point.

[16:30:00]