Return to Transcripts main page


Rep. Pramila Jayapal is Interviewed about Impeachment; Final House Impeachment Hearings; Barr Warned Trump about Giuliani; Watchdog Report on Russia Probe. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired December 9, 2019 - 07:00   ET



FREWEINI MEBRAHTU, 2019 CNN HERO OF THE YEAR: We also -- Ethiopia is -- we're facing, like any other developing countries, unemployment is skyrocketing.


MEBRAHTU: And this will be a way to do while providing a solution, we also creating -- we're going to be creating jobs.


MEBRAHTU: So definitely you have no idea what the impact will be -- this will make. So definitely I'm so grateful and humbled by this recognition. And as a country also of the development of a country will be definitely secure with all that.

BERMAN: What you're -- what you're doing is amazing. And just the willingness and bravery to talk about it. One thing you said jumped out to me last night, all we want is for all girls to have dignity, period.


CAMEROTA: Congratulations.

BERMAN: We're thrilled you are here with us.

MEBRAHTU: Thank you. Thank you so much.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you. What a special lady (ph).

MEBRAHTU: Thank you. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Terrific.

MEBRAHTU: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right, it's a big day on Capitol Hill and NEW DAY continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A momentous finale to the House impeachment hearing set to begin in just hours.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): I think the case we have, if presented to a jury, would be a guilty verdict in about three minutes flat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Based on a phone call and then leaking it to a whistleblower who then put together a narrative.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Top Democrats working on articles of impeachment. The first votes on those articles could come this week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is overwhelming evidence that the president sought to coerce Ukraine into interfering in our elections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No impeachment would be legitimate if it was primarily supported by one party. This impeachment is exclusively supported by Democrats in Congress.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

BERMAN: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is CNN's special coverage of the impeachment hearings. This is, of course, NEW DAY.

And this morning, in just a couple hours, history. One last impeachment hearing in the House. It will happen in this room you're looking at right now. These are live pictures. It will have the look and feel of a trial this morning with attorneys for the House Intelligence Committee presenting their case for impeaching President Trump.

The Judiciary chair, Jerry Nadler, calls the case rock solid. The primary allegation here is that the president abused his power by pressuring a foreign government to investigate a political opponent.

CAMEROTA: So the White House is refusing to participate in today's hearing, but it is clearly on the president's mind. In fact, he tweeted or retweeted more than a hundred times yesterday about it. All while Republicans, like Senator Ted Cruz, engage in conspiracy theories and distractions, trying to defend him.

We're also awaiting the release of that Justice Department inspector general report about the origins of the Russia probe. You've heard about this for years now. This report is expected to confirm that the investigation was valid and legitimate and that nobody from the FBI spied on the Trump campaign.

BERMAN: All right, joining me now to talk about these hearings we are about to witness, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. She sits on the House Judiciary Committee, was involved in the preparations all weekend.

Congresswoman, thank you so much for being with us.

This is going to be presented as something of a closing argument. And we do understand this will likely be the last hearing with questions.

What do you want Americans watching to take away from it?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Well, I think what Americans are going to see is uncontested facts that the president abused the highest office of the land, the office of the president, which is a sacred trust between voters, the American people, and the president. And he abused that office in order to coerce a foreign ally to dig up dirt on a political rival and interfere in our elections. And you know the election is the way that the people give their power to the president. And so to do that is the gravest of violations against our Constitution and our democracy.

I think what the American people will also see is that there are really no -- none of these facts are contested by Republicans. This is a fairly clear-cut case where the president himself is the smoking gun. You know, I just want to say that this is an odd situation where we had the first and best witness very early on, on national television, saying exactly what he wanted from that call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, and that was Donald Trump. When he came out and he said he wanted an investigation into the Bidens. He said that on the White House lawn. You'll see that clip being played. The intent was clear. It was a corruption of our elections process.

BERMAN: We just played that sound moments ago where the president clearly said he wanted Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. And in my hand I'm holding the notes, the transcript of the phone call where he asks for the very same thing.

So if the evidence is as rock solid and clear as you say, at this point how can you change minds?

JAYAPAL: Well, I think, you know, in terms of the American people, there are a lot of people who perhaps haven't followed the whole thing, haven't read the 300-page report from the intel committee with all of the witnesses who were just so compelling, so strong, so clear in their patriotism.


And so what we're hoping is today we will be able to quickly lay out the facts, bring out the most compelling parts of the story. And that once people see that, and we make clear the clear and present danger to the country. This is not something we can delay. But if you have somebody in the highest office of the land abusing the election, trying to get multiple foreign countries actually, Russia are you listening, China get involved, now Ukraine unfolding in front of us, this is -- it means that we are no longer a democracy. It means we're a monarchy or a dictatorship where one person puts himself above the law and uses the office to abuse power for his own personal, political gain. So --

BERMAN: You were -- you were working over the weekend --

JAYAPAL: Once people see that -- BERMAN: Once people see that, you're saying once voters see that, although it has been out there now for -- for a month and opinions do seem relatively entrenched.

You worked over the weekend. And while you were working over the weekend with your colleagues, the president tweeted at you, like he does to a lot of people. He called you a radical. In response, you and some of our colleagues tweeted out a selfie of yourself at work over the weekend. We're going to put that up hopefully right now so everyone can see it right there.

What's your message to the president since he calls you a radical?

JAYAPAL: My message to the president is, if it's radical to stand up for the Constitution, I hope we have more radicals. The message to the president is, instead of tweeting at us, he can come and talk to us. He should come and talk to us. He should be transparent with the American people. He should tell us what his defense is, because at this point, with him refusing to come and talk to us, it seems very clear that he has no defense to the facts. This is -- this is the time for him to come and talk to us, not tweet at us, not call us haters, not call us radicals, but actually allow us to do our job of checks and balances with the congressional branch having oversight and ultimate responsibility and impeachment power that was given to us in Article One by the framers.

BERMAN: So you talked about your desire to convince some of the American people who may not have made up their minds yet. Again, the polls have suggested that most Americans have, most members of Congress clearly have, including some in your own party who are in tough districts, like Abigail Spanberger in Virginia. The congresswoman was at home over the weekend at a town meeting and I want you to listen to what she faced.


REP. ABIGAIL SPANBERGER (D-VA): No one has dispelled or attempted to dispel or provide evidence that would exonerate the president. That remains time to do that --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) You have to prove you're innocent?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's been proven guilty!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you are going through this process --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Criminal finding! No crime!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't investigate something without a crime!


BERMAN: Now, I don't know if you could hear that. It was tough to hear. But there were basically people shouting no crime, there's no crime here. Those are some of her constituents.

How do you tell someone like that in a swing district, Congressman Spanberger, who may lose votes over this that it's worth it for her?

JAYAPAL: You know, I talked to Abigail last night, actually. She told me about the town hall, though I hadn't seen it. And I will just tell you something, this -- Abigail Spanberger is a patriot. She worked for the intelligence agencies. She understands the strength of the evidence in front of us. And all of us -- none of us came to Congress to impeach a president, but all of us took an oath to uphold the Constitution. And that is front and center of every person's mind.

We understand that not every voter may be with us, but, at the end of the day, we have to look at ourselves and be clear that we are doing what we can to save our democracy. And I believe that most people, not everyone, but most people will understand what a critical responsibility that is for us and they will celebrate her patriotism, our patriotism and wish that the Republicans and Donald Trump would show some modicum of that same patriotism.

BERMAN: I have to let you go, so I only have time for a yes or no on this, but do you anticipate a single Republican vote in the House for impeachment?

JAYAPAL: I certainly hope so.

BERMAN: All right, we'll see.

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, thank you for being with us this morning. We appreciate it.

JAYAPAL: Thank you.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Joining us now, Abby Phillip, CNN political correspondent, and Elie Honig, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.

So, Elie, what should we watch for today?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this is it for Democrats, right? They've had their chance. They've put together their case in a very methodical, I think methodical and convincing fashion. But now they have to swing for the fences. And I think any question that the members, the Democratic members, lob softballs at their own lawyers, at Dan Goldman and Barry Burke is a waste of time. They need to go at Steve Castor, go at him hard --

CAMEROTA: The Republican lawyer.

HONIG: Yes, the Republican lawyer attack and tear down the misstatements of facts and show just how weak the defenses are.

BERMAN: I'm not sure we have any reporting that that necessarily is what they're going to do.


HONIG: Right.

BERMAN: We've been told, their opening statements, first of all, and then they're going to have to counselors in to present the cases in a methodical way. You know, we'll have to see.

One of the big questions, Abby, has been how much of the articles and how much of today will be focused on Mueller --


BERMAN: And the Mueller report, as opposed to just Ukraine? And I think we have a sense now, based on what we're hearing from Adam Schiff, that really they're not going to go into Mueller too deep. They may refer to it, but it's going to be about Ukraine.

Listen to Schiff.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I can tell you, as a former prosecutor, it's always been, you know, my strategy in a charging decision, and an impeachment of the House is essentially a charging decision, to charge those -- that there is the strongest and most overwhelming evidence and not try to charge everything, even though you could charge other things.


BERMAN: Not try to charge everything even though you could charge other things. Am I wrong to read into that, that basically they're not going to go deeply into Mueller in the articles?

PHILLIP: I don't think you're wrong to read into that at all because this is actually a change in the tone from a lot of the Democrats on The Hill who started this process by talking about how -- how this was a continuation of the president's conduct that was described in the Mueller investigation. And now they're saying, while that might be true, for the purposes of this impeachment inquiry, we need to keep it narrow, we need to keep it tailored.

And some of that is about placating moderate Democrats who are worried that this is going to start to look like a fishing expedition. I mean the president has already made his argument clear that he -- he is going to make the case to the American people that the Democrats have been trying to impeach him since before he became president. And now I think Democratic leaders are becoming sensitive to the fact that -- that the president's going to be using that argument in order to inoculate themselves from that. They need to keep this tailored. They need to keep it narrow.

And, frankly, the Ukraine articles are probably all you need. I mean the evidence is right there. It's either compelling or it's not. And I think a lot of members are saying to their leadership, stick with that and don't go too far afield here.

CAMEROTA: OK, Abby, Elie, stand by, if you would, we have many more questions for you, including what is Rudy Giuliani up to?

BERMAN: He's --

CAMEROTA: I'd like to know the answer to that as soon as we hear (ph).

BERMAN: Matt Gaetz. He's upset Matt Gaetz. What he's doing is so outrageous that even Matt Gaetz calls it weird.

CAMEROTA: And apparently the attorney general, there's a new warning from Bill Barr about Rudy Giuliani. So we'll get to all that, next.



BERMAN: This is CNN's special coverage of the impeachment hearings. They begin in less than two hours.

And this morning there's growing scrutiny, new scrutiny of Rudy Giuliani after his latest trip to Ukraine. "The Washington Post" reports this morning that in several conversations in recent months, Attorney General Barr has counseled Trump in general terms that Giuliani has become a liability and a problem for the administration. In one discussion, the attorney general warned the president that he was not being well served by his lawyer.

Back with us, Abby Phillip and Elie Honig.

And I do want to get to Giuliani in one second.

But, Elie, I just wanted to play a little sound from the president. We talk about the evidence that will be presented. Congresswoman Jayapal brought this up. The president has admitted to almost everything the Democrats are accusing him of. So I just want to play that sound here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, what exactly did you hope Zelensky would do about the Bidens after your phone call? Exactly.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I would think that if they were honest about it, they'd start a major investigation into the Bidens.


BERMAN: It just -- it strikes me as crazy that there are still Republicans who will say, he didn't as the Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens. He just told us he did.

HONIG: One other thing that House Democrats, I think, can and will do today is turn Donald Trump back into the star witness in this case. Expect to be hearing sound bites from Donald Trump. Expect to have a lot of focus on the July 25th call because, as important as the witnesses we saw over the last couple of weeks were, Taylor and Vindman and Fiona Hill and everything, they're context, they're background. The star witness here is Donald Trump. His own words are the most damning evidence in this case and they need to bring the focus back on Donald Trump himself.

CAMEROTA: OK, let's turn our focus back to Rudy Giuliani because --

HONIG: Always.

CAMEROTA: Rudy -- this is fascinating. I mean the idea that -- that President Trump still is siding with Rudy Giuliani, it appears, over Bill Barr, if the reporting is true that Bill Barr has tried to caution him that Rudy Giuliani may not have his best interest at heart. And then Rudy Giuliani goes off on yet another fishing expedition in Ukraine.

PHILLIP: I think it's very telling that you hear the president's allies saying, I don't know what Rudy Giuliani is doing. He's not working for the president. There's no way he's working for the president. He's doing his own thing. And Giuliani is saying repeatedly, I am doing this on behalf of my client, the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.

And so it's a problem that now there are people close to the president who want to distance him from what Giuliani is doing because essentially it is the swamp. It is the swamp. Giuliani is working for people in foreign countries. He is acting on --

CAMEROTA: Some of whom have become charged with criminal --

PHILLIP: Some of whom have been charged with crimes.


PHILLIP: He is -- he is working on their behalf. And influencing the U.S. government on their behalf.

Maybe this is not a foreign registration issue. Maybe it is. But it sure looks fishy. And I think that's one of the reasons why it's such a big problem.

BERMAN: Even Matt Gaetz -- and we don't have time to play the sound -- even Matt Gaetz calls it weird and odd. And if the president -- Matt Gaetz is one of the president's most solid supporters. And if Gaetz is calling it weird, you know it's troubling.

I just want to play some sound because it really illustrates what the president seems to be doing here, which is just trafficking and conspiracy. So listen to how the president, this weekend, is defending what Giuliani is doing, compared to another conspiracy the president peddled for so long.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He says he has a lot of good information. I have not spoken to him about that information. But Rudy, as you know, has been one of the great crime fighters of the last 50 years.

He has not told me what he's found, but I think he wants to go before Congress and say -- and also to the attorney general and the Department of Justice. I hear he's found plenty.

Well, we're looking into it very, very strongly. And at a certain point in time, I will be revealing some interesting things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got anything, though? You got anything? Even if you don't tell us what it is, have you got something that suggests that Barack Obama was not born in the United States?

TRUMP: I just said, we're looking into it very strongly and you will be very surprised.


BERMAN: OK, that was the birther thing, Abby, which was a sham and a lie. And it's the same language he's using on that as now Rudy Giuliani going to Ukraine.

PHILLIP: It -- there -- it's always what seems to be a conspiracy theory in search of evidence, that the president starts with the unfounded theory and then --


PHILLIP: And lie. And then kind of tries to reverse engineer it.

And, in some cases lies, because at that time, in 2011, he did not have any evidence. He claimed that he did and he did not. So I don't think anybody should have any expectation that this is going to be any different.

But I think in this case, it's also extremely serious because he's going to -- he is getting impeached over this.


PHILLIP: He is being impeached. And it's something that, you know, the president does not want, clearly, but it's happening because he won't let go of some of these conspiracy theories.

CAMEROTA: Maybe he could help OJ find the real killers after that.

BERMAN: It's the same thing.


BERMAN: It's the same thing.

HONIG: They're still looking. They're all still looking.

CAMEROTA: It's the same thing.

And so -- HONIG: Yes.

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, of course because Rudy Giuliani meets with disgraced sources, he will come back with something. He will come back from Ukraine with something because that's what they do. They concoct something. And then I predict we will hear that from the president soon.

HONIG: I think he will. There's no question about it.

Rudy Giuliani has become the sort of all-purpose vigilante out there, international crime fighter, sort of on his own, sort of working for the president, but not really. I don't know what they envision ultimately happening. Like Rudy triumphantly getting off a jet with a box full of documents and walking it into DOJ headquarters and saying a-ha, case proved? I mean I -- you know, that seems to be the Rudy approach.

But, also, what is Bill Barr doing here? Why is Bill Barr personally advising the president, you need to keep your distance from Rudy. Two things. First of all, Bill Barr is the attorney general of the United States. He is not the personal lawyer to Donald Trump. And, second --

BERMAN: Does he know that?

HONIG: It seems not. I mean that's been one of the main critiques I share of Bill Barr.

Second of all, where is he getting this information about Rudy Giuliani? I mean, remember, the Southern District of New York, which is part of the Justice Department, has a criminal investigation of Rudy. Is he tipping the president off? Is he giving them a wink and a nod like, hey, you're going to want to be a little careful here? That's the problem with having these meetings, you raise all sorts of problems in appearance.

BERMAN: That's a great point. I hadn't thought about that in terms of Barr's comments there, Elie.

CAMEROTA: That's a great point.

Really helpful. Thank you very much, guys. Great to talk to you.

So another big development coming later today in Washington. The release of the inspector general's report on the origins of the Russia investigation. You've heard so much about this for the past couple of years. We are going to speak with a central player in that report, next.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And there was absolutely spying in my campaign.

Actually spied on my campaign. Can you believe it?

It was all an illegal attempt to overturn the results of the election, spy on our campaign, which is what they did.


CAMEROTA: Well, reporting suggests that today President Trump will find out he was wrong. The long awaited report into the origins of the Russia probe is set to be released this afternoon by the Department of Justice inspector general.

Joining us now is James Clapper, CNN national security analyst and former director of National Intelligence.

Director Clapper, great to have you here. Here's what the reporting suggests will be in this inspector general report. Let me pull it up for everybody. No evidence that the FBI planted any spies in the Trump campaign. The FBI did have sufficient cause and information to open that Russia investigation of the Trump campaign. FBI applications to surveil Carter Page were valid. And that a lower level employees at the FBI made potentially illegal missteps, mistakes. And the FBI properly separated from Christopher Steele after media contacts were discovered.

Was there ever a doubt, Director Clapper, in your mind, that this would be the findings?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, no. I mean, if the rules of evidence were abided by and appropriate objectivity was exhibited by the DOJ inspector general, no, it's not surprising at all. And I don't know Mr. Horowitz but by reputation. He's, you know, thorough and fair and objective. And so that would appear to be the case here.

I will say, though, that there are going to be -- this is kind of reminiscent of the release of the Mueller report, much anticipation but, in the end, there's going to be something in it for everybody. It's probably going to be kind of inconclusive. And now the attention will turn to the Durham investigation, which is, you know, broader than just the confines of the Department of Justice and the FBI. And I would anticipate that there are going to be investigations in some form or another for as long as this administration is in office.

CAMEROTA: See, Director Clapper, what I'm hearing in your voice is resignation rather than vindication because I understand what you're saying. We are living in a time when there's something in it for everybody. People can see whatever they want to see at the moment in these facts.


CAMEROTA: But the truth is, is that it disproves what the president and his supporters have been saying.

[07:29:56] If the reporting bears out, and we have a couple of hours to see the whole thing, that then -- in that case, the FISA warrant was valid because there was enough strange, weird, suspicious stuff circling --