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House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) Interviewed on Possible House Democratic Votes against Impeachment and Passing USMCA Trade Legislation; Pelosi: House Dems Drafting Articles of Impeachment; Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) is Interviewed About the Impeachment Inquiry. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired December 6, 2019 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) HOUSE SPEAKER: Introduce articles of impeachment. This is a very sad day for our country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Friday, a deadline for the White House to respond if they want to participate in the upcoming proceedings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody should be participating. And that means the White House should be participating.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: If you're going to do something as serious as impeaching a president of the United States, you can't rush it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we wait for an election to settle this, then we will have waited too long.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Friday, December 6th. It's 8:00 in the east. Alisyn is off. Erica Hill joins me. Made it more than halfway there.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I was just thinking, those two hours flew.
BERMAN: History has a way of doing that. And we are at an historic moment right now. The stage is set. Two weeks of focus on impeachment. The final stages with Donald Trump poised to become just the third American president ever to be impeached. Now, the White House has a 5:00 p.m. deadline today to decide if it will participate in the House impeachment investigation on Monday. I wouldn't expect that to work out. The Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Monday, and then we expect next week they will vote on articles of impeachment. A full vote in the full House of Representatives on impeachment, expect that before Christmas. HILL: So just what those impeachment articles will include, that
still unknown this morning. The big question for Democrats, will the articles include information from the Mueller report, specifically findings on obstruction of justice. At last night's CNN town hall, Speaker Nancy Pelosi wasn't saying. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) HOUSE SPEAKER: I'm not going to answer one charge. We're not writing the articles of impeachment here tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: The president, meantime, accepting the near inevitability of being impeached, taunting House Democrats, urging them to do it fast so he can plead his case during a trial in the Republican-led Senate.
BERMAN: Joining us now, the House Majority Whip, Democratic Congressman James Clyburn. Congressman Clyburn, thank you so much for being with us this morning.
REP. JAMES CLYBURN, (D-SC) HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP: Thank you very much for having me.
BERMAN: So you say that you are not whipping it on the impeachment vote. You are not pushing your members on this. What do you mean exactly, and why?
CLYBURN: Well, I mean simply that this is a vote of conscience. I do believe that when it comes to something as divisive as impeachment, we have to leave members up to their own consciences, their own constituents, and what they think is in the best interest of their love for country. And so I think it would be a bit unseemly for us to go out, whipping up a vote on something like this. This is too serious. This is too much about preserving this great republic, and I think we ought to leave it up to each member to decide how he or she would like to vote.
BERMAN: So you're not whipping, but I do imagine to an extent you are counting. I know of at least two Democratic members who are at least a no or unlikely to vote yes on impeachment. How many Democrats do you expect to lose on the impeachment vote?
CLYBURN: Well, we do expect to lose some, and that's why I say it's a conscience vote. And it's with our constituents. We have a very diverse caucus. I share six counties with a Democrat in South Carolina. I see it a part of those counties that is much different from the part that Cunningham has --
BERMAN: Joe Cunningham.
CLYBURN: -- and we may be voting differently. I have no idea. He is probably talking to his constituents. He knows where they would like to see him stand on this question, and I suspect that's the way he would vote. I'm not going to urge him to vote the way I'm going to vote. I think I've heard enough. I've seen enough. And I believe that this president -- if we cannot vote to impeach with what we had in testimonies last week, and what we've seen in news reports this week, then we ought to just modify the Constitution and get rid of impeachment altogether.
BERMAN: You heard house speaker Nancy Pelosi say last night that she wasn't going to write the articles of impeachment during the CNN town hall, but there is a question about how much of the Mueller investigation will be included in the articles. What is your personal position on that, congressman? How much do you want the articles to lean on the Mueller investigation, which is to say not just Ukraine?
CLYBURN: Well, I think there are three areas that we have to be concerned about. Number one, what did this president do to put the security of this country at risk? Look at those things he did that pursued that end and come up with an article to deal with that.
What did the president do to abuse his power? And come up with an article to pursue that. Then the third thing to me is, what did the president do to subvert the electoral process, to invite an invasion of our electoral system? And come up with an article to pursue that. So in my opinion, there may be two or three others, but there ought to be three areas that we ought to look at. And whatever the articles may be, I'll leave it up to the respective committees to do that work.
BERMAN: Just one more counting question. In the Clinton impeachment vote, there were separate votes on different articles, but five Republicans actually split from the party consistently. Anywhere, frankly, from five to 81 Republicans split from the party voting against impeachment. Do you think that you will have as many as five Democrats voting against impeachment?
CLYBURN: Well, I am not counting.
CLYBURN: I do know that we'll have some voting against impeachment. Once again, those five Republicans voted their consciences. And I suspect the same thing will happen with our Democrats. And so I really have not counted. I've talked to people, and that's how I know that that there are sine people who are a bit reticent about this vote, but I have not whipped, and I have not counted.
BERMAN: What do you say to those who suggest this is being rushed?
CLYBURN: I would say they ought to go back and look at the history of this issue. This has been around for more than two years. When these investigations started by the deputy attorney general appointed by this administration, it was over two years ago. And we've been going through this for two years now, and I seem to have heard for the few months, even from my own constituents, what are you guys waiting for? Why are you so slow with moving this process forward? Now all of a sudden, because things have begun to move, now we are moving too fast. This, if anything, has been reticence on the part of the speaker who made it very clear she did not want to go down this route. But when you got a president who is just in your face with his violations of the constitution, with this abuse of power, with putting the country at risk, you cannot sit idly by and just ignore the constitutional provisions that are there to deal with a situation like this one.
BERMAN: Also last night in the CNN town hall, the House speaker said the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, USMCA, the new NAFTA, is not yet ready to be passed. She said it's not yet ready to be passed. Again, as the majority whip, do you think that USMCA has the votes to pass?
CLYBURN: We will have the votes to pass if they deal with two issues that we would like to see dealt with, and that is to protect the workers. We do not want to see any agreement that put workers at risk. To protect the environment, we do not want to see anything that would put our environment at risk. If we get those issues reconciled and have a way for us to evaluate, to see whether or not everybody is keeping their promise, doing the reports that are necessary, things that did not happen with NAFTA -- though I never voted for NAFTA, I was not surprised that NAFTA did not do as well as expected. But we need to have ways to evaluate whether or not everybody is keeping their promise.
PELOSI: I have to let you go, but yes or no, do you think it will be passed before Christmas?
CLYBURN: I'm hopeful. I have no idea, but I'm hopeful. I think we should do that. We need to do that before Christmas.
BERMAN: Congressman Clyburn, thank you for being with us.
CLYBURN: Thank you.
BERMAN: And if we don't see you again before Christmas, we hope you have a wonderful holiday.
CLYBURN: Thank you very much. Same to you as well.
HILL: A tense exchange on the campaign trail. Why Joe Biden called a voter in Iowa a damn liar.
HILL: 5:00 today, that is the deadline for the White House, the deadline for the White House to tell the House Judiciary Committee whether they will present a defense or recommend new witnesses for testimony for Monday's impeachment hearing. Joining us now, CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod, host of "The Axe Files," CNN political analyst David Gregory, and CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip. I should point out that Maggie Haberman, who was with us earlier this morning, said it is her understanding that she's very doubtful that will happen. She expects that there will be perhaps a letter written with a list of -- BERMAN: Unachievable demands.
HILL: -- unachievable demands, and that's where we will see ourselves. But David Gregory, as we look at where we sit this morning, yes, there's this deadline looming, but there has been a lot of movement in the last 24 hours. What is changing? What is different this Friday morning as we move into the weekend and we understand lawmakers will be working over the weekend?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think we're now in a phase where you have got the White House preparing for the phase of this that it wants to go on the offensive, where it actually wants to cooperate with the Senate trial. So, obviously, Democrats have a lot of work to do to figure out what's in the articles of impeachment. That's an important decision. You've been talking about it this morning. But ultimately it becomes what we're looking at in terms of what a Senate trial ultimately looks like.
That will set the stage for I think how the White House positions itself vis-a-vis impeachment. I think it goes into this feeling that the party is united. And that it can try to exploit impeachment for the president's benefit for re-election.
You know, I think we can't overemphasize the fact that a potential Senate trial happens just as voters are going to the polls in the Democratic primary in an election year.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I do think, though, what we may have seen from Nancy Pelosi yesterday, David, was her sense that her party is united. She's been taking the pulse of members in the House of Representatives and feels confident about moving forward. And I know that you think there's a sense of inevitability here. The script, the outline is largely written going forward.
It doesn't make it not historic. It is certainly historic and it doesn't mean there aren't risks from both parties over the next two or three weeks. Explain.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's no question about that. Look, I do think the script has been at least outlined. We know what the plot is. We know how it's going to end. I think some of the details have yet to be sketched in.
I think -- but one thing I'll tell you having worked with Nancy Pelosi, a decade ago when I was in the White House, she can count. Nobody can count better than Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill. She knows where her votes are. She may -- it was interesting to hear Jim Clyburn talk about some members, including Joe Cunningham maybe taking a walk on this. And it may be that she has allowed for that in order to help them maximize their chances in their districts, if they feel threatened by this.
But she clearly has the votes. She also knows how to count across the rotunda and knows that the Republicans probably have the votes, too. And one of the reasons I think that she wants to dispose of this quickly is because she knows that having -- being mired in impeachment throughout 2020 is not advantageous to Democrats. And she wants to move on to other things. So her emphasis has been: get this done, move it over to the Senate and let's go from there.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: She also emphasized, and Abby you pointed this out, but Speaker Pelosi also emphasized this wasn't just something that happened recently. This has been two years in the making. That she was taking this long view of things and this is how we got to this point.
It's important to point out that Nancy Pelosi for a long time said I'm not ready to go down the road of impeachment, right, until just a couple of months ago, Abby.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. What she was doing yesterday in her press conference in particular was trying to create a rhetorical road map for Democrats about how to talk about what this impeachment inquiry is about. And it is about, Ukraine, and it's about the president's conduct when it comes to that. But it's also, as she says, about the broader picture of Russian interference in U.S. elections.
From Pelosi's perspective, she sees that as the umbrella that ties together elements of the Mueller investigation and the crux of this Ukraine scandal. I think she's also opening the door for the possibility that articles of impeachment could include the Mueller investigation, but at the same time, you know, one of the reasons I think she's doing this in addition to all of that is that she wants to make it clear that this is not just some kind of political objective. That this is about securing American elections that the president's conduct in the Mueller investigation had to do with 2016 and the Ukraine investigation has to do with 2020.
So, she's an -- in all the things she's doing, she's trying to present the -- what she sees as the least partisan case for all of this, talking a lot about the constitution. She says this is not about dislike of the president or hatred of the president and she took a lot of umbrage to that yesterday. It's really about the country. And this is how she creates a road map for her members to talk about this as they go forward.
BERMAN: All right. Lightning round --
AXELROD: Can I -- let me just --
BERMAN: OK, not so lightning. Go ahead.
AXELROD: I want to say she had a second mission which was to talk about all the things the House was doing and all the legislation they passed so as not to be characterized as monomaniacal about impeachment. This is really important to her members, particularly in these swing districts.
BERMAN: Yes, it's also important to the presidential candidates, though, Joe Biden on the trail yesterday had quite a moment centered around the impeachment stuff. Let's listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IOWA VOTER: You still have access to the president just like he was. So you --
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You're a damn liar, man. That's not true. And no one has ever said that.
IOWA VOTER: I didn't say you were doing anything wrong. I said --
BIDEN: You said I set up my son to work at an oil company. Isn't that what you said? Get your words straight, Jack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: I don't believe his name was Jack for the record, David. But, look --
AXELROD: No more malarkey, Jack. Quoting the millennial vote again.
HILL: It's the no malarkey bus tour, right? So --
BERMAN: You know, so you have that moment yesterday which is being read by different people in different ways. You have John Kerry out on the trail today with Joe Biden, David. Joe Biden is having a bit of a moment now.
GREGORY: Yes, look, I think a couple of things. First of all, it would be great if he had that kind of force and that presence when he's on the debate stage. He doesn't seem to show up on the debate stage with the Democrats.
I also think, you know, Joe Biden can't lose his cool here. He's going to have to face questions about the fact that while he was dealing with Ukraine and while he was taking on corruption, it was so transparent that his son was hired to be on the board of Burisma because he was the vice president's son. That was bad judgment all the way around. He's not done with that issue.
Just because Republicans are conflating that with conspiracy theories that are debunked doesn't mean Joe Biden doesn't have to answer for this. But I think he showed some fight out there and -- because he's not just doing it on this issue. He's also taking on progressives in the party and arguing for robust moderate center of the party which is a good look for him.
PHILLIP: Can I just add, Joe Biden does have to answer for what his son did, but I think he also in this clip was just pointing out that some of the things he was being accused of just didn't happen. I do think he kind of deserves a little bit of anger about the parts of it just aren't true, that he put this son on this board for example and he was selling access to the president. I mean, some of these accusations have no basis in fact, and that's different from raising legitimate questions about the ethics of having his son on this board while he was serving as vice president, no matter, really, frankly, no matter what he was doing as it relates to Ukraine.
Should the vice president's son be serving on foreign boards like this? I think it's just a question of ethics and a question of transparency that he does have to answer as well.
BERMAN: David, we want your overall 2020 take in 20 seconds or less.
AXELROD: My overall 2020 take is that Biden is actually a little on the upswing here. But he has to keep it together. I thought he went a little off the rails in this.
People like the fire but he has to know where in draw the line, and he's going to get these provocations, as David said, moving forward because he hasn't resolved this issue completely about, if he'd just done what Hunter Biden said and said this was a bad decision and in retrospect shouldn't have happened and I'm going to put provisions in place, which he already said, to make sure it doesn't happen in my White House, I think he'd be in a stronger position right now.
BERMAN: David Axelrod, David Gregory, Abby Phillip, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.
So, Rudy Giuliani, where is he? Oh, Ukraine.
BERMAN: Digging for dirt while President Trump is facing impeachment for asking for dirt from Ukraine. We have a lot of new reporting to get to. Stick around.
BERMAN: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is confirming that Democrats are drafting articles of impeachment against President Trump. The Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee have been told to stay in Washington this weekend to prepare for that, and also to prepare for a hearing on Monday.
Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell. He's on both the Judiciary Committee and the Intelligence Committee.
Both your committees that have a role on Monday. Counsel for both committees will appear and make what I think is meant to be a closing argument, really, laying out the evidence of impeachment.
What do you think the key points that will be hit in Monday are?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Good morning, John. It's important that the American people get a summation of what we heard from the live witnesses. The key point is this. The president of the United States used the highest office in the land and nearly $400 million in your taxpayer dollars to ask a foreign government to help him cheat an election.
Now, the challenge will be for us to relate that to everyday Americans so they understand why that affects them. And that's what you'll start to see on Monday.
BERMAN: How much of a role is the phone call? The transcript of the phone call? One thing Republicans say is there's no direct evidence here that everyone agrees on.
SWALWELL: Right, right.
BERMAN: There aren't agreed upon facts.
And Clinton, everyone knew what happened and everyone agreed what happened. Here, that's not the case.
SWALWELL: Well, the evidence here with the limited witnesses we've heard from is pretty powerful, John. And when you use your common sense and stitch it all together, the fact that witnesses said the president told them Rudy Giuliani is my person on Ukraine, that Rudy Giuliani was telling Ukrainians, I'm Donald Trump's person on Ukraine, and people like Ambassador Sondland was saying that the only way to get a White House meeting was if the Ukrainians investigated the Bidens. And around the same time, the president pulls the aid that had already been approved to the Ukrainians.
It doesn't take any legal scholar, I think, to understand what's going on here.
BERMAN: One of the discussions that Democrats need to make over the next few days is how much to include in the articles of impeachment. What will the articles be? And one of the outstanding issues is whether to include elements of the Mueller investigation into that.
My understanding is so far you've been on the narrow scope team which is to say, don't go much past Ukraine. Why?
SWALWELL: Well, I want us to stay focused. That doesn't mean there aren't articles of impeachment that could be considered for obstruction of justice. That's a decision for our speaker and our chairs.
But I do believe, John, that absolutely, what the president did with Russia asking them to hack his opponent's emails and then they did, and then obstruct the investigation with Mueller is very similar to the conduct here. Asking a foreign government to involve itself in our elections.