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Democrats Unveil 2 Articles of Impeachment Against Trump; Republicans Hold Press Conference on Impeachment. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired December 10, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.
History is being made today. House Democrats have now announced articles of impeachment against the president of the United States. President Trump now facing two charges as the top Democrats of the key committees stood together to announce it all this morning abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
All related to the effort by the president and the White House to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in security assistance to Ukraine in order to pressure the president of Ukraine to publicly announce investigation into Trump's political rival, Joe Biden.
Listen to how House Judiciary Committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, spoke about the charges this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Elections are the cornerstone of democracy and are foundational to the rule of law. But the integrity of our next election is at risk from a president who has already sought foreign interference in the 2016 and 2020 elections and who consistently puts himself above country. That is why we must act now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Now, look, it does feel like we are covering historic events on a daily basis with such speed, it's whiplash inducing. But make no mistake, this is history. This will be just the fourth time in history a president will be facing articles of impeachment.
CNN's senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is standing by, live on the Hill. Senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown, standing by as well.
Let's go to Manu.
Manu, what happens now? What are you hearing? MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We expect the
House Judiciary Committee to vote on these two articles of impeachment on Thursday.
We're actually first waiting to see the immediate text of those articles of impeachment that have yet to be released. Democrats have been talking about what they will say. Of course, we now know that it's going to include abuse of power, as well as obstruction of Congress.
There has been some discussion about whether or not there should be a third article of impeachment, obstruction of justice, detailing those allegations in the Mueller report, the president allegedly seeking to undercut that investigation into his campaign, into his presidency.
A lot of Democrats had pushed for that third article of impeachment, but Democrats decided, ultimately, to pull back and not go that route, in part, because they were getting some resistance from some freshman members who wanted to keep this focus on Ukraine, the president's handling with relations in that country.
In their view, the president's abuse of power, in their view, his efforts to withhold military aid, as well as withhold a key White House meeting while pushing for those investigations into his political rivals.
But when I talked to some Democrats today, earlier today, they said they made clear that the reason why they chose those two articles of impeachment and not obstruction of justice is because they believe that's where they had the most consensus within their caucus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D-NY): It was a matter of judgment being made. And the prevailing feeling was that we were better off, ultimately, with two, because the obstruction of justice brought in a whole bunch of things and it was a mixed bag of tricks, so the consensus was that we were better off standing with two rock solidly and trying the spread ourselves too thin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, the question is, who will ultimately vote for this on the floor and will any Republicans defect. At the moment, it does not seem that way.
I spoke to one Republican congressman who's facing a tough race next year and he indicated to me that he's expected to vote against both of those articles.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RODNEY DAVIS (R-IL)If you look at the transcript of a call, which is actually unprecedented, to release a transcript of a call between two foreign leaders, the paragraph that you're talking about actually talks about corruption. I think we should -- (CROSSTALK)
RAJU: He doesn't mention corruption, though.
DAVIS: He mentions the 2016 election process, and that was part of corruption in Ukraine. We passed a bipartisan --
RAJU: He never says "corruption" in two conversations with Zelensky, though.
DAVIS: We've talked about corruption in Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So that was, of course, in reference to those phone calls that the president had with President Zelensky of Ukraine. The president asked for those investigations into Joe Biden. He never mentioned the word "corruption." But that is still the argument that Republicans are making up here. That's why the president asked for those investigations.
So don't expect any Republicans to defect at this point -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: Yes, and on that point -- Manu, Pam, if you can just stand by -- let's jump over to Capitol Hill, a different part of the Hill where Manu is right now and listen to one of top Republicans in the House, Steve Scalise, talking about impeachment.
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): -- elected on his own. That's something that she's ultimately going to have to account for.
Again, you've seen a lot of her own colleagues trying to find an off- ramp, trying to say, let's get away from impeachment, but she couldn't stand up to the most radical elements of her conference.
And make no mistake, they wouldn't be talking about this if they felt confident in their field of candidates. More and more Democrats are talking about getting in the race for president to this day.
But ultimately, they ought to trust the American people with the election and not still try to reverse the results of the last election. That's what impeachment was supposed to be for. But not an impeachable offense.
And keep in mind, Zelensky never did the investigation got the money. Zelensky himself said there was no pressure applied. And that's the basis for them impeaching a president?
I think people know what's really going on here. They know this is all about politics and they've seen the abuse of power. Last week, Adam Schiff, spying on members of the press, subpoenaing
phone records of journalists. We don't know how many. I asked last week, can you tell me how many journalists Adam Schiff was spying on? He couldn't answer that. How many members of Congress is he spying on or other citizens across this country? And they can't answer a basic question like that.
We should all be alarmed at how they've abused their power with this majority in Congress. And it's a shame, because there's a lot more we should be doing that families across this country are counting on us to do, like lower drug prices.
At least, as House Republicans, we're going to stay focused on fighting hard for those families across America who are counting on us and working with President Trump to go deliver more wins for American workers in the American economy.
And with that, I'll turn it over to our Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Thank you, Steve.
You know, back in 2016, the Democrats called those who supported Donald Trump deplorables. And now they're trying to disqualify their votes. Democrats still could not get over the fact that the president won the election and they lost.
Just last week, at this podium, Nancy Pelosi went to point out that they created a timeline to impeach President Trump, that she said started two and a half years ago.
Many of you know of this timeline, because once they took the majority, they had to decide who would become chairs of their committee. The impeachment committee in the Judiciary, who could win?
Jerry Nadler campaigned on that he would be the very strongest member to lead a potential impeachment.
On the day of swearing in, these new freshmen that gave him the majority, a mere few hours after being sworn in, Congresswoman Tlaib proclaimed, we are going to impeach the mother.
You had Al Green admitting that the Democrats have true fears if they do not impeach President Trump that he would win re-election.
And now today, we watched them introduce two articles of impeachment. We changed the course of Congress to take away due process for any point of where we are.
This is a fear that Alexander Hamilton had that came to fruition in this Congress. I just hope no Congress ever repeats what we're going through today.
They have a lot of members on their side very concerned. Because from the moment they started impeachment and letting the American public see what they believed and keep changing the term of what they thought was out there, it has been falling in the polls.
If you need any more evidence of how unpopular impeachment is, watch the two press conferences today.
After announcing impeachment within less than an hour, the speaker finally relented and said she would bring USMCA up. She has held it for more than a year, making America weaker in our negotiations with China. Our number one and number two trader, Mexico and Canada, was being held up within our own agreement.
But those who are vulnerable in this vote for impeachment continuing to make the argument, as the rest of America was, too. At no time when she would bring this bill up was there ever fear of it not passing. But the only reason she finally relented is because of the unpopularity of impeachment itself.
We watched in a hearing a Democrat constitutional scholar that did not vote for President Trump say this was the weakest, the thinnest, the fastest impeachment in the history of America.
He then went to say, "If there was an abuse, it would be abuse on the Democrats to move forward."
The speaker must not have listened to that hearing.
If the speaker had only waited 48 hours to release of the transcript, America would not be put through this nightmare.
If the speaker would pause and read the I.G. report, the inspector general -- to think in a place of America, that we would have a law enforcement agency spy on a presidential campaign in more than 51 instances, not hold up to the rule of law or change all the information in evidence to be able to move forward on something they knew or should have known was not true is a sad day for America.
But to compound that with the idea, just because you created a timeline to impeach a president that you disliked, you ignored facts. We would never be here if they paid attention to the facts or the hearings.
This is not a day that America will be proud about. It's not a day that history will write that anybody wants to repeat.
Alexander Hamilton warned us that this day would come, that a majority would use their political power just for politics, even though we all raise our hands to uphold the Constitution.
I just hope no Congress, regardless of who's in the majority, will ever take us down this path again.
We have such great potential in this nation, but to have wasted a majority on this, is an embarrassment to this Congress. Questions?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Does it make it harder to defend the president when his personal attorney is still traveling to Ukraine, investigating his campaign rivals, and claims he wants to give some sort of presentation about it to Congress.
MCCARTHY: It does not -- it is not hard to defend this president, sheerly on the facts of what's out there.
I think it's hard for the Democrats to move forward when they start with a quid pro quo, to bribery, to every other element they go. It's hard for the Democrats to continue this when the people they bring forth in their hearings are pretty much donors.
Their expert witnesses when it comes to their scholars were donors to presidential campaigns.
The idea that they're going to change the course of history, that staff is going to interview staff and they're going to come out with articles of impeachment? What power do members of Congress who run to represent their districts have that they take it away?
The idea that Democrats would control who can ask questions inside a hearing or how the structure would go. That's an embarrassment.
So, no, it is not difficult to defend this president, because this president did nothing that's impeachable.
It's hard to defend Democrats on how they're running this House and what they're doing inside their majority. That's the difficulty that I have.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But is it OK for Giuliani to do what he's doing?
He's an individual citizen. That is not the question that we have before us. It's about impeachment.
You've got to understand what impeachment means. Impeachment is the removal of the highest-elected person in this land. I don't care if you think Americans who support President Trump or deplorables, but you do not have the right to disqualify their vote just because you do not like President Trump.
We are a nation of law. And the idea that they would use their power, they would lie and they would continue to lie, just because they dislike this president. They would change the course of history, where they would move it from Judiciary into the Intel Committee. They would disallow individuals to even ask questions. They would disallow the president to have due process to ask a question. They would not allow a minority to have witnesses. And they're proud about that?
The idea of a vote of impeachment -- the only higher vote I think we would have a member of Congress, is whether we send women or men out to war. But the way they have handled this, from the very beginning -- I know they set a timeline and they wanted to keep to their timeline, they just never paid attention to the facts. So they changed the rules to meet their timeline.
They may think it's not important, but it goes to the sheer fact of the country of who we are. One of our greatest strengths is the rule of law. Other countries admire us because we believe in the rule of law. We believe in due process.
But not in Nancy Pelosi's House when she becomes speaker.
She has weighed and hinged her entire majority on the impeachment of the president.
When she selected Adam Schiff to be the Intel chair and kept him there after he lied to the American public that he had proof beyond circumstantial, when we walked down through a nightmare, spent millions of dollars, went to 14 different countries and found that was a lie?
You had an inspector general just give you a report yesterday to show that a law enforcement agency spied on a presidential campaign. And when they couldn't get their own facts, they changed it to go to a secret court in FISA to try to spy further.
They based that all on something that the Democratic Party spent money on that was a lie to try to discredit somebody running for office.
I would have used the majority to clean that up. To go back to the rule of law. I would have not used the majority simply for your own political gain. And if you can't meet your timeline, change all the rules that this history has ever seen.
So, no, it is not difficult to defend this president. But it is very difficult to defend this Congress on what they have done. And history will not be kind to them.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So the Democrats say --
BOLDUAN: All right. You're listening right there to the top Republican in the House, Kevin McCarthy, laying out what is clearly going to be the Republican case going forward in the light of this historic day when Democrats in the House announce articles of impeachment.
We are getting new detail on what exactly those articles, how they are spelled out in the text that will be presented in the House Judiciary Committee and, of course, then, will be reported to the full House.
Let's get back over to Manu Raju. Manu has the text of it. He's been going through it.
Manu, I just started going through it myself. What are you seeing here?
RAJU: It's a pretty brief document. Nine pages detailing what they're laying out are impeachable offenses. One, abuse of power. Two, obstruction of Congress.
It starts off talking about detailing the president's actions with Ukraine and it says that his actions are subject -- the president should be impeached over and he should be removed from office.
And it says, in this line here, "The president used the powers of the presidency in a manner that compromised the national security of the United States and undermined the integrity of the United States democratic process. He thus ignored and injured the interests of the nation."
And it goes on to talk about some of his actions.
And lower down, there have been questions about how they would deal with some of the other actions in the past, including what was detailed in the Mueller report, allegations that the president sought to undercut that investigation. A number of Democrats have pushed to get that in the articles of impeachment.
Now, there are no explicit references to the Mueller report in these articles. It does allude to them, in a couple of ways. One, it repeats the section a couple of times. It says, "These actions were consistent with President Trump's previous invitations of foreign interference in the U.S. elections."
And it also says, separately, in referring to also in the articles, it says, "These actions were consistent with President Trump's previous efforts to undermine U.S. government investigations into foreign interference in U.S. elections."
That referring to the president seeking to block information from coming to Capitol Hill, interfere with the Mueller investigation. That is part of the obstruction of Congress charge.
They don't explicitly reference the Mueller investigation, the evidence in there. They only allude to it.
And that's what Democrats have been talking about in the past days, saying they expected the articles to refer to a, quote, "pattern of behavior." That seems to be what the Democrats are referring to.
But this predominantly focusing on his actions, as in respect to Ukraine, talking about how he, in their view, solicited foreign interference in the 2020 elections. How he leveraged the power of his presidency to do just that, everything that we heard about asking for foreign -- withholding the foreign aid, as well as delaying a key meeting in the White House with President Zelensky of Ukraine.
It spells it out in the text of these articles of impeachment, saying the president abused power, number one, and, two, obstructed Congress, in their investigation into the president's actions.
That's how they detail this in the nine-page articles of impeachment that have just been released that the House Judiciary Committee will now vote on, on Thursday. And we expect it to go to the House floor next week -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: And it is online for everyone to see.
But these nine pages, as Manu is just detailing, this is another document that will be inserted into the history books, as this is the fourth time only in history that a president has faced impeachment charges, as we are looking at right now.
Manu, stick close. Thank you so much.
So, we were listening previously to Steve Scalise, Kevin McCarthy laying out what the Republican argument is here and going forward in the face of these impeachment charges.
Let's get over to Pamela Brown who's at the White House.
Very clearly, it sounds like what we hear, we're going to hear more from the president, what we just heard from Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise. Pam, what are you hearing there?
PAMELA BROWN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Republicans on the Hill and the White House are very much in line on their messaging. It's very much backed in at this point.
We're hearing those same talking points that what is transpiring with the Democrats is really their intent to overturn the will of the people. That the argument made here at the White House and Republicans on the Hill feel as Democrats don't feel they can legitimately beat the president at the ballot box, so that is why they're taking these actions.
But you heard Adam Schiff today say that they feel as though they need to act quickly to make sure that the president doesn't cheat in another election. So the election is a key theme here.
Also in this statement from the press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, she says, "The president will address these charges in the Senate and expects to be full exonerated because he did nothing wrong."
I'm told, at this point, the plan is for that case to be made through the president's lawyers. It's something that the president has been very much looking forward as he set out the Democratic House process, and now the lawyers are really gearing up for the Senate trial.
In fact, White House aides have signaled that they would like this trial to begin immediately after the vote, even if that means the trial will happen over Christmas.
As one source I just spoke to said, look, if we can have this done before the first of the year, that would be great.
But there's an acknowledgement here at the White House that that is likely not going to happen because Republicans on the Hill believe the trial will start in January. And it's ultimately up to them and the majority leader, Mitch McConnell.
But clearly, the White House is testing the water, trying to see how much influence it can have in influencing the process here.
But it wants to make its case. It believes that the president -- as you know, Kate, it has argued that the president was deprived of due process in the House process. It believes that the Senate will be the venue where it can mount a robust defense of the president, where the lawyers plans to argue that he was well within these his rights to bring up the Bidens to Ukrainian President Zelensky.
Looking ahead today, this has obviously been a big focus here at the White House.
But also, Kate, there's hope that this Canada/Mexico trade deal will offer a distraction. It is seen as a big victory here at the White House.
And as you know, Kate, the president this afternoon will be meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in the Oval Office this afternoon. That is closed press.
And he's going to be heading to a rally tonight where we do expect him to bring up impeachment and the talking points.
BOLDUAN: A remarkable thing to be happening all in the same day --
BOLDUAN: -- no question.
It's good to see you, Pam. Thank you so much. Much more to come from the White House.
Thank you, Pam.
Joining me right now is Susan Glasser, a CNN global affairs analyst and staff writer for the "New Yorker." Kim Wehle, a former federal prosecutor and author of the book "How to Read the Constitution and Why."
So it's great to have you guys.
We've just got these articles of impeachment that -- the resolution just coming out. We were taking a look through it.
But, in general, Kim, what do you make of the scope of these charges they laid out this morning. There's been a lot of debate. We've heard from various lawmakers talking about how far, how vast, keep it narrow, including, oh, Russia, investigation, charges related to that, what do you make of the scope?
KIM WEHLE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR & AUTHOR: You know, I think they've done enough, frankly, and there's a strategy to only having two. Whether it's because the caucus wanted the strategy or not. And that is, without throwing the book at the president, it deprives the Republicans of this argument that this is just unfairness, we hate this president, we always wanted this president to be gone the day he came into office. Look how outrageous the Democrats are.
I think these are two articles of impeachment that, frankly, as a matter of our Constitution and our structure, if these issues go unaddressed by the Congress, we are seeing our Constitution morph before our very eyes for our children and our grandchildren, in a number of fronts.
One is the obstruction charge. This is an unprecedented, for the White House to say, we will not comply at all. Not a single document has been turned over in response to a co-equal branch of government.
And I believe had the Democrats moved to compel these, they would have won uniformly in the courts and they would have then another branch backing up that article of impeachment.
The other thing with respect to abuse of office, there really isn't a factual narrative that has any basis in fact. The factual counternarrative to that is this hoax, frankly, about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.
Americans need to understand that we are accepting foreign interference in our elections. We are accepting a presidency, an office, that can use the massive power of the office to essentially get re-elected. We are watching our own right to self-govern wither before our very eyes.
In addition to one of the reporters' questions about Rudy Giuliani, that Kevin McCarthy could not answer. This is outsourcing the State Department to a private lawyer who operates outside the boundaries of the Constitution and the rules and laws that govern regular government workers.
This -- all of this is going to change representative democracy in America forever. And I understand the political implications, but people need to see what's happening in a -- from a meta standpoint when it comes to our constitutional structure.
BOLDUAN: Still, Kim, it is hard to see at this moment -- and look, there's still a process to unfold and more information for people to see and to take in. But at this moment, while you say there's a change -- this is changing our Constitution, this -- I don't see any change in anyone's position, from the beginning of this impeachment investigation to where they are at this moment.
[11:25:12] And I did find, Susan, it very interesting that Chairman Nadler, in speaking this morning, kept his focus very squarely on the interference, not in the 2016 election, but rather the focus on the 2020 election. It is alluded to, as Manu points out, in the articles, but it's very clearly a decision of why they kept it that way.
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, Kate, I think you're right. Not just Chairman Nadler, you heard it from Chairman Schiff as well, the sort of stop Trump before he calls on Russia to interfere again, saying, although he's going to be meeting with Sergey Lavrov in just a couple of hours in the Oval Office, and so we'll see what his public statement is at that time.
But you know, the Democrats have made three key decisions about the politics of impeachment in the last few days that we're seeing rolled out today.
Number one, they abandoned the language around bribery. For a couple of weeks, they were talking about this as an act of bribery on the part of President Trump to condition official acts in effect on this. They said they were using that language, because it's specifically referenced in the constitution in the context of high crimes and misdemeanors. They chose not to choose that. Number one.
Number two, they made a decision after some argument back and forth inside the House Democratic caucus. They made a decision not to include acts in the Mueller report. Manu pointed out that it sort of referenced in vague language in the articles of impeachment.
But, in fact, all of the two-year Mueller investigation, including 10 alleged acts of obstruction of justice on the part of the president of the United States, including, by the way, firing the FBI director in order -- he hoped, to shut down the Russia investigation.
I'm reminded of that, he's meeting with Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office, which he did the last time he fired the FBI director.
So none of that is referenced in these articles. That's the second very consequential decision it seems to me that Democrats made.
And of course, the third decision is to proceed with moving ahead with President Trump's trade deal with Mexico and Canada, on the very same day they announced these articles of impeachment.
Is that because it was the political price paid by Nancy Pelosi for making sure that her more moderate members who are up for tough re- elections would agree to go forward with impeachment? It appears to be that way.
You have a lot of liberal outrage at the idea that Democrats are stepping on this solemn moment when they're proceeding with a president they say that is literally unfit for office, for all the reasons that we've been talking about here.
And yet, they're making a major deal with him on the exact same day. Does that make him look good? People that are governing the country and people who are willing to do their jobs even in the face of a difficult president?
Or does it make them simply look as though they're handing a victory to the president? It's not clear how history will judge that.
But I think today is a very significant day in the Trump presidency.
BOLDUAN: A very significant day, because no matter what happens, we do know that with this announcement today, it sets off a chain of events that cannot be stopped at this point.
There will be a vote in the House Judiciary. There will be a vote on the House floor. And the Senate will take this up in trial. This is a significant moment to mark and everyone essentially, as we well know, guys, stand by to stand by, to see exactly where we all end up.
It's good the see you, Susan, Kim. Great to see you.
BOLDUAN: Still ahead for us, ow that House leadership has unveiled these two articles of impeachment against the president, what's the reaction coming from inside the Democratic caucus? Is everyone happy about the scope and the timing and everything involved with how this is playing out and where this is headed now? I'll talk to a member of the House Oversight Committee, next.