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AT THIS HOUR

Democrats Unveil 2 Articles of Impeachment, Abuse of Power, Obstruction of Congress; Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) Discusses Impeachment, USMCA; Trump Slams FBI Director for Embracing Watchdog's Findings; Deal Reached to Advance USMCA Trade Agreement; Pelosi Speaks on USMCA. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired December 10, 2019 - 11:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:33:48]

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Just released, the formal articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, abuse of power, obstruction of Congress. Democrats from the key committees standing together this morning to make that announcement, setting the stage for a House impeachment vote before Christmas.

Both charges are connected to the effort by the president and the White House to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in security related aid and a key White House meeting to Ukraine, in order to pressure the Ukrainian president to announce investigations into Trump's political rival, Joe Biden.

So, what now?

Democratic Congressman Stephen Lynch joining me now. He's a member of the House Oversight Committee, one of the committees that helped lead the charge in this investigation into the president.

Congressman, thanks for coming in.

REP. STEPHEN LYNCH (D-MA): Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: So you have now seen the articles of impeachment. What do you say? Will you --

(CROSSTALK)

LYNCH: We haven't actually seen the text of it yet. We know that --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Oh, we have.

LYNCH: We know that as you have described - OK, they must have just come out, then.

BOLDUAN: They did, they did, Congressman. Let's talk then about the two charges. Abuse of power, obstruction of

Congress, as it relates to Ukraine. Knowing that, will you be voting in support of both?

[11:35:00]

LYNCH: I would like to read the charges before I make an announcement.

But, look, I've sat through these depositions. There are plenty of -- there's plenty of evidence of the president's wrongdoing. And I do think it rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors. But I would like the opportunity to look at the charges.

You know, I'm not quite sure what the strategy was there to narrow it to these two. But it may be that once I read the text, some of the other charges like perhaps conspiracy to commit bribery subsumed under the abuse of power impeachment articles.

So that could --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: So are you saying -- that's interesting, Congressman. Are you saying on its face, you would be -- you, in your gut, would have liked to have seen more charges be brought against the president?

LYNCH: I do think you need to be very specific about what you're charging the president with. And I think that abuse of power is, you know, it's a little bit of fuzzier. It's sort of nebulous.

So, you know, I think there were probably elements of, you know, a conspiracy to commit bribery that were clearly, you know, articulated during the depositions.

So -- but, look, if this is a matter of strategy, I am totally supportive of the chairman and the speaker, if this is the way they want to go.

But I would like the opportunity, as I've said before, to read the actual charges.

BOLDUAN: Yes. I guess, maybe the best way to ask it is, do you think you're going to find anything in the text of those charges that is going to persuade you to vote against either of these charges?

LYNCH: I doubt it. I doubt it very much. I'm sure -- they have been very thorough. So there's plenty there, right?

BOLDUAN: So Republicans continue to say that you all are moving too fast for the historic nature of what we're talking about here, impeaching the president of the United States. That you're not waiting for more fact witnesses to testify. What do you say to that?

LYNCH: They're the ones that made it take so long. Look, they're not cooperating, right? So their game is to not provide witnesses, not to provide even justification for the president's conduct, not to provide the documents that we've requested.

So their game is to drag this out and not be responsive, so we're not going to play that game, right? We want to resolve this.

I think the fact pattern is rather concise. I think the activity by the president, by Mr. Giuliani, and others, is rather encapsulated in a narrow time frame. And I think this case is fairly clear on the facts as to what the basis of the charges would be.

BOLDUAN: Let me play for you what the top Republican in the House, Kevin McCarthy, what he just said about why Democrats announced a deal today with the White House on the new NAFTA agreement on the very same day of announcing articles of impeachment. Please listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): 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, 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 in 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: What do you say to that, Congressman? Because what he's saying is that the new NAFTA deal was held up because -- held up until, essentially, Speaker Pelosi felt that she couldn't maybe help out vulnerable Democrats without bringing this forward at the same time as announcing impeachment.

LYNCH: Completely baseless. So, the reason that we're bringing the USMCA up now is because we just got agreement from major stakeholders, including the AFL-CIO, that finally, this week, said, OK, the enforcement provisions are sufficient to protect American workers. That's why we're bringing that forward.

Number two, we're not going for impeachment because we think it's popular. We're going for impeachment because we think it's necessary. That it's necessary -- it's a greater danger to leave this president in office than it is to remove him.

And so, you know, that's a decision that the Senate will have to make. But there's plenty of evidence here. They're blind to it, but look, we're not doing this because it's popular. But we're moving to impeach the president because we took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. That's why we're moving in this direction. [11:40:10]

BOLDUAN: And moving forward, it is, especially marking today as the day that these charges were announced.

Congressman, thank you for coming in. We'll talk to you very soon.

LYNCH: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up for us, President Trump is lashing out, not at Republicans, not at Democrats, at his own FBI director. The two have very different takes on the takeaways from the inspector general's report on the origins of the Russia investigation. So, how far is the president now willing to push back?

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[11:45:36]

BOLDUAN: The Justice Department's inspector general report looking into the origins of the Russia investigation is out. The FBI director does an interview and this morning, the president launches into another feud with another top member of his administration.

And so for a key finding in the I.G. report that there was no political bias tainting the launch of the investigation. Here's the line from the report: "We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the official's decision to open the investigation."

And then, here's what FBI Director Wray said in his first interview after the release with ABC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Well, I think there's a number of takeaways that are important. One, that we full cooperated with this independent review. Two, that we fully accept its findings and recommendations. Three, that the inspector general did not find political bias or improper motivations impacting the opening of the investigation or the decision to use investigative tools during the investigations.

UNIDENTIFIED ABC CORRESPONDENT: Including FISA?

WRAY: Including FISA.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: To that, Christopher Wray's boss was not happy, apparently.

President Trump lashing out at the FBI director in a tweet this morning, saying this. "I don't know what report current director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, was reading, but it sure wasn't the one given to me. With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken, despite having some of the greatest men and women working there."

The fact that he puts "current" before his name might be a bad omen.

Joining me now, CNN analyst, Shan Wu, who worked with the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, at the Department of Justice, and Josh Geltzer, who worked at the Justice Department and in President Obama's National Security Council.

It's good to see you guys.

Shan, so FBI Director Wray ordered over 40 corrective measures thanks to problems spotlighted in the inspector general report. But the fact that the president is attacking Chris Wray for accurately quoting conclusions from the very same report, what does that tell you?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Kate, as you know, logic and the law are not always in congruence. Here they are.

The president's take on this, his statements about it, whether you look at it legally or logically, are just completely nonsensical.

And what it tells us is that, once again, the president is willing to undermine the American people's confidence in their institutions to further his own interests.

There's no basis for what he is saying. No one can read that report -- and I do know Michael Horowitz, worked with him, is very, very thorough. And as I would expect, the report is evenhanded. It criticizes as well as vindicates.

BOLDUAN: Josh, let me play something else that the FBI director said in this new interview and get your take on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WRAY: We have no information that indicates that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 presidential election.

UNIDENTIFIED ABC CORRESPONDENT: When you see politicians pushing this notion, are you concerned about that in terms of its impact on the American public?

WRAY: Well, look, there's all kinds of people saying all kinds of things out there. I think it's important for the American people to be thoughtful consumers of information, to think about the sources of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Do not let the tone of what the FBI director says to lull you into not understanding that that is very important, what he just said, Josh.

Two things, first, he stands up to the president here in debunking once again the conspiracy theory about Ukraine in 2016. Something other administration officials have refused to do.

And, secondly, right at the end, Chris Wray speaking out against disinformation. And everyone knows one source of that is President Trump. Wray doesn't mention him by name, but there's no way that Chris Wray doesn't know what he is saying there.

What does that tell you?

JOSHUA GELTZER, GEORGETOWN LAW PROFESSOR & FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL OFFICIAL: It tells me that he is aware that, as 2020 and the election cycle heats up, disinformation, this time, is coming not just from outside the United States, but actually from within our country, from elected office.

And he's the FBI director. Part of his mandate, especially right now, is to protect the integrity of America's elections, the foundations of our democracy.

And as he deals with a challenge that was hard enough in 2016, he's finding it even harder, given the spread of disinformation by U.S. political actors.

BOLDUAN: It's really kind of an amazing thing. I think it was really important interview. Let's see, we've had conversations ad nauseam about what does it mean for the future of "X," "Y," and "Z" official in their job. I guess we can stand by for that. But more importantly, it's a discussion about we're having a discussion of what this means for 2020.

[11:50:13]

Thanks guys. I really appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Still ahead for us, on the same days the Democrats reveal articles of impeachment, they also announce progress on one of the president's top legislative authorities, a deal between House Democrats and the White House on the new NAFTA. What's in it? And who is actually winning here?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:55:22]

BOLDUAN: On the same day House Democrats formally announced articles of impeachment against the president, almost the unimaginable happened. Hose Democrats and the White House reached a deal, a deal both sides claim is a victory, a deal on the long-awaited NAFTA agreement that the president got a handshake on over a year ago but that Democrats have been demanding a change to. The trade agreement is known as USMCA.

Here's what the speaker had to say about it this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): There's no question, of course, that this trade agreement is much better than NAFTA. But in terms of our work here, it is infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Sources tell CNN that during a closed-door caucus meeting this morning, Pelosi said the Democrats, quote, unquote, "ate their lunch in negotiating this deal with this administration."

However, this is the biggest deal for President Trump. This is one of his biggest legislative priorities. What is the different with this deal now?

Here with me, CNN global economic analyst, and associate editor with the "Financial Times," Rana Foroohar, and CNN political correspondent, Abby Phillip.

Good to see you guys.

(CROSSTALK)

Rana, first and foremost, it sounds simple, but it never is. How is this trade deal different from the old NAFTA, however old NAFTA is, a quarter century old?

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: It's trade between Mexico, the United States and Canada. What's different now?

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: Basically this is a different deal for labor. Better environmental standards. The right for more products like cars to be made in the U.S., to get better deals for U.S. workers in the Rust Belt, in those pretentious areas. Also, it will be easier for labor unions to organize in Mexico.

It's basically you're going to take basically you're going to take some of those high standards that the left have been arguing about for some time in this deal.

BOLDUAN: But, Abby, there are rarely coincidences when it comes to politics. An hour after announcing articles of impeachment, Democrats formally announce this deal with the White House. What are the politics here? Clearly, a lot.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is what Nancy Pelosi has been trying to say for some time now. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can actually impeach you and strike a deal with you on trade, and that is literally what they have done over the last several weeks.

It's been very important to her as she's talked about impeachment over the last several weeks. Every press conference starts with a recitation of their agenda items in the House of Representatives. And this has always been one of them. They've been unhappy with some components. They've worked with the administration behind the scenes. Now we have USMCA.

And what it does is take away a talking point the president has had. The Democrats have done nothing and they can't do anything while they're investigating him and while they're impeaching him.

What Pelosi is doing by doing this literally an hour after announcing articles of impeachment is saying, that's not true, we actually can do something, and here's proof.

BOLDUAN: Just a second.

Nancy Pelosi is speaking right now with Anna Palmer. Let's listen in.

PELOSI: At 9:00, the chairmen made their announcement. At 10:00, we had a press conference announcing the U.S./Mexico/Canada trade agreement that we had come a long way from the original proposal that the administration had given us to a place where we could come to an agreement.

So in the press people said, wow, 9:00, 10:00. I said, the day is young, and look, here we all are.

(LAUGHTER)

PELOSI: It's a very sad day, actually, a solemn day. It's something no one comes to Congress to do, to impeach a president. Again, weighing the equities of it.

I was just clobbered because I didn't impeach President Bush for the war in Iraq. But I just didn't think -- they impeached Clinton for really no good cause, and then we were going to disagree on policy and go down that path. That's not what this is about.

This is about the oath of office that we take to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, which, in its wisdom, our founders put a republic -- Franklin said, if you can keep a republic, separation of power, not a monarchy. That's what they fought against.

[11:59:58]

So it's the most -- as I said this morning, the first order of business for Congress or anyone engaged in official duties. But speaking for ourselves, is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.