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INSIDE POLITICS

Rep. Amash Says He'll Vote Yes On Three Articles Of Impeachment; Sources: Saudi National Suspected In Shooting At Pensacola Naval Air Station. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 6, 2019 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00]

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: -- it hurts farmers. Yes, it hurts ranchers. Yes, it hurts some of my voters but we have to do this, we have to stand up for China and the economy is strong enough to get through it. Today's report would suggest, on that point at least at the moment, he's right.

LISA LERER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think it speaks -- the politics does speak back to Abby's point, right? The question becomes how does this economy feel for people?

And if you're a farmer, say, in Wisconsin, it may not feel that hot for you, and given how close the election was last time and given how close many people expected to be this time, those differences on the margins, you know, about the farmers or if you are -- you have a job, you're working at Walmart and you're trying to afford child care and you can't, it might feel so hot for you either. Those kinds of people facing those kinds of economic challenges while perhaps not and, you know, taken for account in those broader positive numbers could make the difference.

KING: To that point, I just want to show our CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich just went to Pennsylvania and interviewed some farmers. Listen closely here. They're mad. They're angry. They blame the President. But --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL BOYD, PENNSYLVANIA FARMER: I think he's sort of backstabbing the main people who got him into office in the Midwest. All those Midwest states helped to vote him in and also Pennsylvania, and he just let us down.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Will you vote for him again in 2020?

BOYD: Unless they come up with a better alternative, I'm going to vote for him again.

KYLE HENNINGER, PENNSYLVANIA FARMER: Rather than saying I'm not going to vote for Trump, you know, that would be one way to retaliate personally. But I don't see that happening at this point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's a giant challenge for Democrats to find a compelling message because you have people who -- they're hurting, their families are hurting, their bank accounts are hurting, their lives are stressed and they say, yes, I'll probably stick with him.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Yes. And this has been sort of central to the Joe Biden message and maybe to some extent to Pete Buttigieg's message which is that it matters who the nominee is, and you see this in focus groups and all their early research that even swing voters who are very uncomfortable with some of President Trump's stylistic moves or approaches for the presidency say, it really matters who the Democratic nominee is for whether or not they would vote against President Trump or not.

I think for President Trump reading the tea leaves is a little bit on China and trade, it certainly seems like he's leaning towards the idea of pushing the China issue a little bit down the road and saying, I've been very tough on China and as a result we're making progress. That's a message that most Americans understand. Most Americans are not macroeconomist or trade experts or international economy experts.

And if the President can credibly make the case to people who might vote for him, anyways, that his tough approach to China is yielding results. It buys him a little bit of time not to rock the boat. This is one thing he's holding onto that can help him strongly argue against the sort of merits of impeachment and that stuff.

KING: And quickly, Kevin Hassett, the President's former top economic adviser said on CNN this morning, yes, there will be a recession. Of course, there will be. You have this long period of growth that dates back through the Obama administration. His point what he thinks now will come after the 2020 election. Is that the best consensus?

DAMIAN PALETTA, ECONOMICS EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: It seems likely although, you know, as Lisa mentioned, a lot of this is perception and momentum, and the last thing the White House wants is to hit this peak now and then to be sliding in the wrong direction in the summer of 2020. So, you know, might be a recession in 2021. That can change if the China talks go south and there's a big trade war in January and February, then, you know, we're really in a mess next year.

KING: The next year is the big question but we're ending this year in a strong place for the President and for the economy.

[12:33:27]

Up next, the impeachment vote counting has started. And the lone independent in the House of Representatives says he's ready to vote with the Democrats.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Important news from Capitol Hill this hour. Congressman Justin Amash, the Republican turned independent says he is prepared to vote yes on three articles of impeachment, abuse of power, obstruction of Congress and obstruction of justice, quote, I think there's sufficient evidence for all three. Amash told CNN's Manu Raju a short time ago, quote, impeachment is like an indictment. There's certainly probable cause to issue charges.

He's not a Republican but he's a former Republican. In the sense that we went through earlier, Nancy Pelosi is trying to keep Democratic losses, Democrat no votes to a minimum having an independent, former Republican side with the Democrats. How much does that help her case to say it's at least modestly bipartisan but not all Democrats?

MELANIE ZANONA, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Probably not a whole lot. They would rather have an actual Republican and Republicans have abandoned Amash long time ago. But for me it's a reminder of the one Republican who did support impeachment and had to leave the party. There is just absolutely no room for criticism in Donald Trump's party.

KING: It is an interesting point as we go forward. Congressman Amash, he wants to see this -- he wants to see the writing, he wants to read it first but he is prepared to do that, which I guess isn't a shock. We're still waiting to see definitively whether he would be entertained with the libertarian when he ran for president as a libertarian, third party candidate.

For Speaker Pelosi, we talked a bit about to show you, this is really personal. And so her legacy is now guaranteed. One piece of it will be she led the process to impeach a President. Here's her take.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This impeachment process is historical. How do you want to be remembered as part of it?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): As part of it? No, I want to be part -- remembered as part of the Affordable Care Act, about -- I want to be -- I would hope that the legacy would be one of respect, one of fairness, and one of honor my oath of office to protect and defend the constitution of United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic. So help me god.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[12:40:20]

KING: And again, you see the wrestling. She, even now, often talks about way of a lot of important policy stuff we're doing, but there is no escaping this. She is the speaker who green-lighted the impeachment of the President of the United States.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And she would rather be talking about -- well, she says she would rather be talking literally anything else, which is why yesterday when she started her press conference, she had a long list of all of these policy priorities that they wanted to get done. This has been her strategy from day one.

She -- and some of it is about the politics of this, making it clear, countering the President's argument, that Democrats actually do have an agenda, that they do want to deal with health care. They want to deal with to deal with tariffs and all this other stuff and that impeachment is secondary to that and it's an obligation that they have, because if they don't deal with it, this has to do with the next election that the President, in their view is actively trying to meddle.

KING: And so what happens you -- you're part of great reporting this in "Politico" about, what happens when you get to the Senate? The President yesterday tweeting, I want the Bidens, I want Pelosi, I want Schiff. A lot of Republicans saying, Sir, dial it back..

Senator James Lankford in your piece, quote, I don't feel like we necessarily need all of them. It becomes a big circus of people, they call John Bolton, we call Hunter Biden. OK. We can do that. Is it needed to be able to make a decision based on the evidence we're looking at right now? There's the question, is the President going to be disappointed by his own party?

ZANONA: Yes, he's going to be very disappointed. Senate Republicans don't want this turn into a circus. They have vulnerable members they're looking out for. They have institutionalist who want this to be a very serious and thoughtful process.

And even if they wanted to follow this sort of hard line tactics of the House, they probably don't have the votes. They can only lose three Republicans because of the math in the Senate. So it's just not a reality for them.

KING: That'd be interesting. Sometimes there's this thing called Twitter when the President doesn't get his way occasionally lights up a little bit. As we go to break, a moment of reflection and resolve today from the German Chancellor Angela Merkel making her first visit to the Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz.

(BEGINVIDEO CLIP)

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): We cannot draw a line, nor can we allow a trivialization of the holocaust.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:47:06]

KING: Topping our POLITICAL RADAR today, another congressional retirement. Republican Congressman George Holding of North Carolina says he will not run for re-election next year. Holding is representative of the state second congressional district since 2013. He says, North Carolina's decision to redraw his congressional district played a big role in his decision. That district now means Democratic. Congressman Holding says, he's hopeful they will turn to public office sometime in the future.

The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, again filling speculation he is considering a run for the Senate back home in Kansas, this after CNN exclusive reporting that Pompeo held an off-the-books meeting with a conservative group while in London, including several wealthy Republican donors. Several attendees telling CNN the meeting was so hush-hush, they had to leave their cellphones outside the room to make sure nothing Secretary Pompeo said could be recorded.

Now the secretary has repeatedly denied his considering running for the Senate but smart Republicans of town tell you planning for a campaign as well underway. And the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee repeatedly invoking the, your guess is as good as my defense.

House Intelligence impeachment report indicate Devin Nunes spoke over the phone -- with phone of Giuliani's -- Rudy Giuliani's now indicted Ukrainian fixers. Nunes last night on "Fox" says, he can't say what he talked about with Lev Parnas or even he talked to with Lev Parnas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you discuss with Lev Parnas?

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): Well, I don't even know because I don't -- I've never met Parnas and like I filed in federal court. And so, you know, it's a great question because many people want to know, including myself. So, you know, we're working --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you never had any phone conversation with him?

NUNES: We -- we have not been able to confirm that yet. Look, no offense, but I didn't even know who Yavonovitch was until the last couple months. So I wasn't --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I hear what you're saying. Are you going to -- I know you're placing charge --

NUNES: I wasn't involved in some grand conspiracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: An attorney for Parnas quickly tweeting at Nunes saying his client remembers and saying in that, quote, let Lev speak. I don't know what to make of that one. Yes, I know, yes, there's not -- it's -- no?

PHILLIP: I think it's all on defense obviously. There are a lot of things that Devin Nunes probably does remember that he doesn't want to talk about right now. And I think if you called someone and you spoke to them on the phone, you would probably remember them, especially if they're not someone that, like the average person knows who they are. So it's hard to believe right now, but I don't know that there is enough evidence to prove otherwise until there is evidence.

KING: A very busy congressman, he talks a lot of Ukrainian Americans.

We're going to move now, some breaking news out of Pensacola following that investigation obviously where three victims were dead after a shooting at the Naval Air base -- Naval Air Station. CNN's Barbara Starr has the latest information at the Pentagon. Barbara, what are we learning?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well John, we are now being told by several U.S. officials that the suspected shooter in this morning's incident in Pensacola was a member of the Saudi military. He -- this is a person who was at Pensacola most likely for training, because that is what happens there. But several U.S. officials are now saying it was a member of the Saudi military that was the suspected shooter.

[12:50:17]

Law enforcement, the U.S. military obviously continuing the investigation trying to get as much as they can about all of this, they are looking into a motive. One investigator telling our David Shortell, they just don't know if it was terror related at this point. They're looking in obviously into all motives as they would in any investigation like this.

CNN has reached out to the Saudi Embassy here in Washington but has not yet heard back from them. Obviously, this will be -- and it's besides being a terrible tragedy for the families involved in all of this. It would be a very sensitive diplomatic issue between the United States and the Saudis for any number of reasons, the least of which is President Trump has a very close, personal, diplomatic relationship with the Saudi regime.

U.S. forces are in Saudi Arabia protecting Saudi oil fields. No indication at this point that any of that is related to this, but it is the backdrop of the U.S.-Saudi relation -- military relationship right now, and this will make it all the more sensitive. John?

KING: At a minimum. That's interesting questions as the investigation goes forward. Barbara, I appreciate the reporting on this breaking story.

We have Admiral John Kirby rejoins us at the table. So this is not uncommon in U.S. naval -- U.S military training installations to have allies send forces in to train as well. The shooter identified allegedly as a Saudi. What will happen now?

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Well, they'll -- obviously, this will change the character of this criminal investigation to potentially to terrorism related, so they'll have to look at that.

And I look at it, I think they will also be taking a hard look at other foreign nationals that are in -- going this -- in -- through this training. I'm sure he's not the only Saudi national that's going through this. So I suspect they'll be talking to the others as well to see if there is any coordination here, if there is anything more to it afoot than what it appears right now. So it's going to change the character of the investigation, and I wouldn't be surprised if the navy also takes a look now at the program going forward.

KING: Right. And to that point, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon is still with us. Not that the Pentagon wouldn't be involved, Barbara, obviously you have a tragedy on a U.S. military installation. But I assume there's a bigger Washington footprint, bigger Washington interest now as opposed to be having the base investigated with the local law enforcement authorities there and just keeping the Pentagon looped in. I assume because now you have international complications this becomes much more a factor in your building.

STARR: You know, if it hasn't happened already, I think we can assume in matters like this, the FBI will take it over. They have done so in these kinds of incidents in the past, obviously, and that means the navy, the Pentagon, will be providing them with any information they want. In cases like this, certainly investigators will be talking to other students at Pensacola. It would be a standard procedure to see if they knew anything.

Did this person make any comments? Was there any behavior? Were there any indications that, you know, even now looking back? Was there any history with this person? So, all of that will be gone through. But, you know, the U.S. military is very respectful of FBI jurisdiction and the international issues.

I suspect on a government-to-government level, you won't, you know, publicly see much change. But behind the scenes, the very top brass here in the Pentagon has very direct communications all the time with the Saudi military. The U.S. central command has direct communications with the Saudi military.

So, you know, it's very likely there will be conversations about this. Not likely we're going to see the nuts and bolts of those conversations. But I think right now we're going to see a lot of deference to the FBI with everyone from the Navy, to the Pentagon, to the local sheriffs, the local law enforcement on the ground that did such remarkable work trying to bring this all to a close this morning.

KING: Admiral Kirby, you had some unique perspective here in the sense that not only were you stationed there for five years, but you worked at the State Department, you worked at the Pentagon. But what happens when you have international involvement in that when you will have Pentagon officials, State Department officials, FBI officials now wanting information from the Saudis about the suspect's family, about relations, about any communications just as you would scrub a crime scene here, social media communications, anything back home. How's does that work?

KIRBY: Well, certainly, we were working within the interagency, particularly FBI now taking the lead to come up with more information about this individual, what he was doing, how long he had been through this program in the training, where he came from, you'll be needing international support from that.

[12:55:09]

So I think the State Department will now also get involved in terms of reaching out through their channels of communication to try to glean as much information. But it does change the character of this incident. Not to mention, you're still going to have grieving families to deal with the Navy, still has to make sure they're looking after the victims and the victims' family, as well as reexamining training on the base, not just through this program, but training on the base and how it gets back up to speed.

KING: Barbara Starr, Admiral Kirby, I appreciate your perspective in the breaking news, again, of this suspected shooter at the naval station in Pensacola identified as a Saudi citizen there for training purposes. Now, we're watching investigation as it goes forward. More will come.

Thanks for joining us for INSIDE POLITICS. Continue to follow the news with Brianna Keilar. She'll be here after a quick break. Good afternoon.

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