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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

White House Says It Won't Participate in Impeachment Hearing. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired December 6, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: 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.

[16:30:06]

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, and pushes back in a very tough way and sounds, you know, very angry about everything that happened to Donald Trump. That's a sort of a show TV lawyer and maybe that's the reason why Donald Trump doesn't let him go.

But every rational, reasonable person, to the sense they still exist, around the president, if you believe the reporting, and if you have common, says that Rudy Giuliani should be cut.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Yes. Michael Cohen used to do that for the president as well as I recall.

BHARARA: Yes, he did.

TAPPER: He doesn't do much anymore.

We know Giuliani met with some shady characters in Ukraine, fringe, political figures known in Ukrainian for promoting debunked conspiracy theories about Ukraine, debunked conspiracy theories about the Bidens, about Seth Rich. What is he doing there?

BHARARA: I don't know. It seems that he's doubling down on a theory that people have debunked. Number one, the thing that it's claimed that Trump wants an investigation into whether or not Ukraine was responsible for the hacking and the interference of the 2016 election, which we all understand now based on what the intelligence committees have said and other folks have said, is a storyline that Russia wants to promote, trying to frame Ukraine.

And so, to the extent maybe Rudy Giuliani is disappointed that that storyline is not holding, he's trying some last-ditch effort to put some meat on those bones. And we have extraordinary statements, from chairmen of committees and even ranking members of committees saying there has been no evidence over, you know, hearing after hearing, briefing after briefing that Ukraine was responsible. It's a story that's helpful to Russia, it's I guess helpful to the president's case, but I don't think Rudy Giuliani is making a good way. So, maybe that's what he's doing.

TAPPER: The Senate Intelligence Committee led by a Republican Senator Richard Burr interviewed Alexandra Chalupa, the DNC operative who's Ukrainian American, interviewed Sean Henry, the head of CrowdStrike. I mean, they looked into this and they didn't find anything.

Preet Bharara, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.

BHARARA: Thanks for having me. Thank you.

TAPPER: A deadly mass shooting at a Florida military base putting a controversial U.S. ally in the spotlight. We're going live to the scene with new details next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:36:44]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: We have breaking news in our politics lead. White House counsel Pat Cipollone broke out his sharpie and moments ago responded to the House Democrats and the hearing deadline they imposed, saying that the White House will not send officials to participate in any impeachment proceedings before the full House vote.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live for us at the White House and is bringing us the story.

Kaitlan, what reason is the White House giving?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, it's a brief letter. It's only about two paragraphs and it was sent about 24 minutes before the deadline.

I'm going to read you in full. It's from Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, to Jerry Nadler, of course, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

And in it, Pat Cipollone begins, quote, as you know, your impeachment inquiry is completely baseless and has violated basic principles of due process and fundamental fairness. Nevertheless, the speaker of the house ordered House Democrats to proceed with articles of impeachment before your committee has heard a single shred of evidence.

He continues: House Democrats wasted enough of America's time with this charade. You would end this inquiry now and not waste any more additional time with hearings. Adopting articles of impeachment would be a reckless abuse of power by House Democrats. It would constitute the most unjust, highly partisan and unconstitutional attempt at impeachment in our nation's history.

He says: Whatever course you choose, as the president has recently stated -- this is what the president tweeted yesterday, Jake -- if you're going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we could have a fair trial in the Senate and so our country could get back to business.

That is the White House counsel telling House Democrats they are not going to be participating in this hearing that they're hosting on Monday or any other hearings that they are going to have if they schedule any more, and essentially saying that they continue to believe this is an unfair process. And, Jake, what we've heard from behind the scenes as we were expecting the response, no surprise from the White House today about whether or not they were going to participate.

But one interesting thing that we heard White House officials continue to point to today was the announcement from Speaker Pelosi yesterday saying she recommended they move forward with the articles of impeachment because essentially their argument was that was before we even answered whether or not we are going to participate. So if we had said yes, they are still going to move forward regardless of whether or not we're participating in this phase of the impeachment proceedings.

So, essentially, their question was, what difference does it make if they do send someone?

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.

Let's talk about this. That is kind of disingenuous. They haven't cooperated with anything. I mean, I get that this gives them a good talking point, writing the articles before we even responded, before the hearing on Monday. But they weren't going to participate.

BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: No. And they don't want engage. We talked about this. They don't want to argue on the facts. They created an alternate reality and they've gotten away with it.

For me, that's -- I mean, it is appalling and Republicans still barely -- the idea that the Republican Party has gone along with this and no Republican will stand up and say, look, make your case, White House, make your -- explain why Fiona Hill is wrong to say you're just playing into Russian's hands, explain why Ambassador Sondland misunderstood something, or just say it doesn't amount to something that's quite impeachable, ultimately, it didn't result in great damage to the country, those at least would be arguments based on a common set of uncontested facts.

What single fact in anyone's testimony does the White House now contest? What did Fiona Hill said? What did Lieutenant Colonel Vindman said? What did Ambassador Sondland said, or maybe he's said one or two things, but basically, and what did Bill Taylor said was wrong? [16:40:05] That's not the argument. It's just -- it's just they've created an alternate reality. That's like Rudy Giuliani is away and the White House strategy carried to the nth extreme, which is, you know what, why not go over there and pretend there's like we're doing investigative work in Ukraine to see what really happened in 2016.

TAPPER: Sabrina?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And this letter is exactly what Jackie was alluding to earlier. The White House has spent two months decrying this process, seeking to cast it as illegitimate despite that not being the case. And so, there was never any reason to believe that they were going to come and sit before the House Judiciary Committee to play ball, especially when from the outset, to Bill's point, they haven't been willing to engage on substance because the substance doesn't look good for the president.

And so, they've made this entirely a process driven argument so that they could just try and present this inquiry as politically motivated. That's what their message is going to be to their base, perhaps to independents if they think that impeachment is not necessarily swaying independents in favor of Democrats.

But also there is another point here. The White House has not cooperated as you pointed out, they've withheld key documents. They sought to block key witnesses from testifying before these House committees.

And so, if they were to appear themselves and the obvious follow-up question is why won't you hand over the documents? Why won't you let those other witnesses testify who have access to information that really fills in some of the blanks from what we've heard in the hearings thus far?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We have seen what the president himself sort of wanted Republicans to do at the on set which is make arguments on the merits, make arguments on the facts, and that has gone out of the window because if you can't argue on the facts as you rightly pointed out, you attack the process. You see that in the letter.

You see a lot some of the language mirrored what Nancy Pelosi said yesterday, the abuse of power, I know you are, but what am I, sort of, you're the rubber, I'm the glue, that isn't here as well, and I think we will continue to hear that until the Senate does whatever the Senate ends up doing.

TAPPER: And you -- just to remind our viewers -- you worked at Clinton White House during impeachment and --

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

TAPPER: You -- I mean, he didn't cooperate with everything. He didn't tell the truth about everything. But you guys -- you don't have to say it. I just did.

But the White House generally felt compelled to turn over documents and to over witnesses.

FINNEY: Absolutely, and to take the process seriously.

I mean, as Bill was saying, this is part -- I mean, whether you like it or not, whether you agree with it or not, this letter is just another abomination in not taking it seriously, in just rejecting the premise that Congress has any authority to hold the executive branch accountable and that has been the president's, you know, stance frankly from day one that I'm the president so anything I do can't possibly be illegal. We've heard him say that a few times.

And, you know, in addition to undermining not just the process, the people. I mean, they also don't want to have to account for some of the things they've said about Vindman and Sondland who maybe deserves it, but some -- Fiona Hill, so I'm just baffled. I continue to be just baffled by it.

TAPPER: Sabrina, one thing I thought was interesting, we're talking about what facts the White House has to deal with and you talked about that, Jackie, and they don't have a lot of facts to discuss. Sometimes what they do, for instance the last time the White House publicly did something is when acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney came out and basically admitted -- not basically, he admitted a quid pro quo. He said that the military aid was being held up in part because they wanted to force Ukraine to do this investigation about Ukraine itself.

Now what they tried to do is try to change the facts. They do this -- you know, hide the card thing where what President Trump wanted in terms of the investigation and Ukraine was this debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine hacked into the DNC server and CrowdStrike took the server to Ukraine. It is insane. It is nuts. President Trump's own advisers called it debunked.

But what Mick Mulvaney claimed was it was the investigation into the origins of the Russia probe that that U.S. attorney, former U.S. attorney John Durham is doing which is legitimate probe that is going on right now, we're going to find out more about that I think next week or the week after, but he tried to pretend that is what the president was asking about and very clearly it wasn't. I mean, they have to change the facts.

SIDDIQUI: And that runs counter to what the president himself has said. Everyone read the summary of the now infamous July phone call in which the president himself said that he wanted assistance not just in terms of debunking the Russia investigation, but also in terms of digging up dirt on the Bidens.

TAPPER: Right.

SIDDIQUI: And he offered the assistance of his own Justice Department to do so. And it's not just about on July phone call. Obviously, you've had now former and current administration officials, career diplomats testify about what is a months-long ongoing pressure campaign against the Ukrainians, which involved withholding military aid, as well as a coveted White House meeting, and they can't do anything to change those facts.

And so, that's why they don't want to go and have to try and dispute those facts because what you see them do is try to move the goalpost once again and say that, well, you know, what Mick Mulvaney essentially said, that there was a quid pro quo but everybody does it.

[16:45:00]

KUCINICH: But the president doesn't even...

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: Rudy Giuliani -- Rudy is mentioned by -- in the phone call.

The president of Ukraine...

TAPPER: Yes.

KRISTOL: ... brings him up first, since it's so famous that he's over there on behalf...

TAPPER: Yes.

KRISTOL: And, as Rudy has said this week: I'm the president's lawyer.

He's over there on behalf of the president, trying to create, trying to dig up dirt, or invent dirt, really, with a bunch of mobsters and disreputable Putin agents.

TAPPER: Right.

Everyone, stick around.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: We have got more to talk about. We're going to change subjects.

Forget the softer side of Joe Biden -- the Biden campaign adopting a more aggressive approach this week, with fewer than two months until the first votes are cast.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:11]

TAPPER: The 2020 lead now.

Former Vice President Joe Biden capping off a big week in the 2020 Democratic race.

After calling one disapproving voter a -- quote -- "damn liar," he stayed out of the fray as two of his opponents went after each other. Biden is now touting a new endorsement from his old pal from the U.S. Senate former Senator and Secretary of State John Kerry, who campaigned with Biden today in Iowa, a state that Kerry won in 2004.

And that's where we find CNN's Jessica Dean.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUESTION: How does it feel to have your friend with you?

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It feels great to have my friend with me. I can't think of anybody I would rather have.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two old friends together again, as former Secretary of State John Kerry joins former Vice President Joe Biden on the campaign trail.

JOHN KERRY, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I am endorsing Joe Biden, not because I have known him so long, but because I have known him so well.

DEAN: In addition to Kerry bolstering Biden's experience argument, the Biden campaign hopes to capture some of the former Democratic nominee's come-from-behind magic that led to his 2004 victory in the Iowa caucuses.

BIDEN: Winner of the Iowa caucus, which kind of helps.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: You all know him, like I do. That sounds pretty good to me.

DEAN: Kerry's presence is just one piece of the Biden campaign's more aggressive approach to Iowa this week. In the last seven days, Biden has held 16 events, mostly in rural areas.

BIDEN: I need your help. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

DEAN: A confident Biden also taking emboldened swipes at his rivals, questioning voter enthusiasm for Senator Elizabeth Warren and telling reporters Mayor Pete Buttigieg stole his health care plan.

Biden also engaging in a heated back and forth with an Iowa voter, who said the former vice president was too old and accused him of sending his son to go work for a Ukrainian gas company.

BIDEN: You're a damn liar, man. That's not true.

DEAN: Meantime, his campaign launched a scathing video targeting President Trump, saying the world is laughing at him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Several world leaders mocking President Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're laughing at him.

DEAN: And even as Biden makes the case the Democratic Party isn't as far left as progressive New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, telling Axios:

BIDEN: She's a bright, wonderful person. But where's the party? Come on, man.

DEAN: As super PACs supporting Biden cut an ad for Iowa airwaves painting him as a longtime progressive, highlighting his early support of issues like same-sex marriage.

BIDEN: The right to marry whom you choose, the right to live free from the threat of violence and fear, these are basic, fundamental, universal human rights.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DEAN: There's a group of voters here in Iowa who say beating Donald Trump is their top priority, but they don't support Joe Biden. And those are voters the Biden campaign sees as persuadable, Jake.

This tour and its message has been directed right at them.

TAPPER: Jessica Dean traveling with the No Malarkey Bus Tour in Iowa, thanks so much.

We have got more breaking news, new details about the shooter behind today's deadly mass shooting at a Florida military base.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:57:49]

TAPPER: We have some breaking news now in our national lead.

We are learning new details about that Saudi national who investigators say killed three people and wounded eight others this morning at a U.S. Navy base in Florida, where he was doing aviation training.

CNN's Natasha Chen is live for us in Pensacola, right near the Naval air station.

Natasha, what are we learning about the shooter?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

Well, Jake, a couple law enforcement sources are now telling CNN that the shooter has been identified as Saudi national Mohammed Alshamrani. He is a member of the Saudi military who was training here in Pensacola as part of a partnership with the United States.

Captain Tim Kinsella here in Pensacola explains during an afternoon press conference that he was part of an aviation pipeline, but would not elaborate into how far along in the training process this person had gone. He is one of a couple of hundred foreign nationals training here in Pensacola in a program that Captain Kinsella says goes back decades, back to World War II.

He stated it was important for the U.S. and foreign allies and partners to cross-pollinate and train together.

Now, President Trump has spoken with the king of Saudi Arabia, who offered his condolences and ordered his security services to cooperate with American investigators in this case.

So, right now, it's still very early in the investigation, the local sheriff saying that, because of the nature of what's going on here involving a Saudi national, that we may actually get more limited information than we would typically expect -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Natasha, the investigation is now being handled by the FBI, not local law enforcement any longer. What might that mean?

CHEN: That's right.

Yes, so, the FBI is now handling what is a global investigation. And those agents stationed full time in Riyadh are now liaising with the Saudi government to look into the background of this shooter. They're trying to determine the motivation here, whether it might be terror- related.

But, again, it's still very early on to determine what that might be -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Natasha Chen in Pensacola, thank you so much.

Be sure to tune in to "STATE OF THE UNION" this Sunday. The chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Jerry Nadler, will join us, as well as Republican Congressman Mark Meadows, one of the president's biggest defenders.

That's at 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern on Sunday.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @JakeTapper. Tweet the show @THELEADCNN.

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