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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

House Drafts Articles of Impeachment Against President Trump; Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) is Interviewed About Democratic Efforts of Impeachment. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired December 10, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:00]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Thank you all for being with me.

We'll send it to Washington now. "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The four words no president ever wants to hear: high crimes and misdemeanors.

THE LEAD starts right now.

A momentous and solemn day for the nation, as House Democrats unveil two articles of impeachment against President Trump, as the president looks to put on a show with his presidency on the line at a Senate trial.

Well, the president of Ukraine cannot get an Oval Office visit, but guess who just did? The foreign minister for the very country that actually did attack the U.S. during the 2016 election.

What happened today when Putin's point man came to town?

Plus: The truth hurts. President Trump attacking his own FBI director for backing an inspector general report that shoots down a self-serving conspiracy theory, not unlike the conspiracy theories that got the president to the brink of impeachment.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin today with the politics lead in what can only be described as a serious and historic day in American history, Democrats unveiling two articles of impeachment against President Donald John Trump, one for abuse of power, the other for obstruction of Congress, setting the stage for the third ever impeachment of a sitting U.S. president in history.

The full House of Representatives could vote on the articles next week, after they are voted upon and sent to the floor of the House by the House Judiciary Committee. That committee vote could happen as early as Thursday of this week.

Democrats allege that President Trump abused the power of his office by pushing a foreign government, the Ukrainians, to interfere in the 2020 election. And then they say the president stonewalled Congress from conducting proper oversight.

The response from the president and his allies has largely been to dispute empirical facts, to muddle the truth with half-truths and confusion, to lie, to put party unity above the obvious answer to a simple question: Is it acceptable for an American president to ask a foreign nation to investigate a domestic political rival?

As CNN's Alex Marquardt now reports for us, the ultimate decision to impeach, the House vote, is expected to fall largely along partisan lines.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Good morning, everyone.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): A solemn day, Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it, as the Democratic leadership announced for just the fourth time in American history articles of impeachment against a president.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler laying out the two articles that charged the president with committing high crimes and misdemeanors, the first, abuse of power.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): That is exactly what President Trump did when he solicited and pressured Ukraine to interfere in our 2020 presidential election.

MARQUARDT: The second article, obstruction of Congress.

NADLER: President Trump engaged in unprecedented, categorical and indiscriminate defiance of the impeachment inquiry. We must be clear. No one, not even the president, is above the law.

MARQUARDT: Other articles of impeachment had been discussed, but were eventually ruled out, including obstruction of justice going back to the Mueller probe, which some Democrats objected to including.

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D-NY): 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.

MARQUARDT: Republicans, for their part, blasted today's announcement as a political move that is an embarrassment to Congress.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): 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.

MARQUARDT: GOP leaders attacking the speed with which Democrats conducted their investigation in just over two months, which House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said would otherwise get dragged out by the president into a crucial election year.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Why not let him cheat just one more time? Why not let him have foreign health just one more time? That is what that argument amounts to. The president's misconduct goes to the heart of whether we can conduct a free and fair election in 2020.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUARDT: Things are now moving fast.

Sources saying that voting on these two articles are expected to begin on Thursday in the Judiciary Committee. Then we move onto the full House vote, which is expected next week -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Alex Marquardt, thanks.

Let's all take a step back here, because this is a huge moment in American history. I mean, the House Democrats, a majority party, saying the president tried to cheat in another election, and we're going forward.

And it looks like they probably have the votes to impeach him.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it does.

Even with the few House Democrats that are saying they would prefer a censure motion against the president vs. an actual impeachment vote, it does look as though Pelosi will have the vast majority of Democrats on her side, more than enough to impeach him, and maybe release a few of those Democrats that are in difficult districts to go ahead and vote against the impeachment motion once it reaches the floor.

[16:05:19]

TAPPER: And, Seung Min, no matter how much the president says, this is a hoax or whatever, at the end of the day, like, this is going to be a big stain on his presidency.

He is almost certainly going to be impeached by the House.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, remember, he will be the third U.S. president in the history of America to become impeached. And that is a very big deal and a very momentous occasion here.

And I think the president is very cognizant of that. But the president is already looking forward to the Senate, obviously. And they -- he is looking to that as more of a favorable terrain, more where he could sort of have more allies on his side, maybe procedural -- procedures on his side.

And -- but you're right. It doesn't discount the fact that what we are headed towards, through a committee vote later, perhaps later this week and a full floor vote, the really momentous, significant moment for him.

TAPPER: And, Amanda, you're a Republican here. What's going through your head as this happens? AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: When I listen to

Republicans say that the reason we're here today is because Democrats are upset about the election, that is not what the history books will say.

The history books will say that Donald Trump was impeached by the House in the year 2019 because he solicited foreign interference in an election. It's the second time we have been here.

But what made this different than 2016 was the fact that he paused aid that was due to Ukraine that was authorized by Congress. And that's why I'm kind of left hanging. They dropped -- the Democrats dropped the bribery charge, because we didn't find out exactly how that aid was paused.

We can take the inference that it was for purposes, but they didn't get there. And so I'm a little frustrated, because if you want any chance of removing the president in the Senate, you had to prove that, because, otherwise, it's the Mueller report all over again.

TAPPER: I asked Schiff about that a few weeks ago, and his answer was basically, we have the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who said on camera there was a quid pro quo.

CARPENTER: Well, there's a paper trail.

TAPPER: There was a quid pro quo. Right. There is a paper trail. But, obviously, the White House has been stonewalling.

Paul, you have been here, except on the other side of it, with President Clinton. Take a listen to the House Republican leader, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCARTHY: Democrats still cannot get over the fact that the president won the election and they lost. It is not hard to defend this president sheerly on the facts of what's out there.

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: It's a very different argument from what we heard from House Democrats during the Bill Clinton impeachment. House Democrats basically said, what the president did was wrong. It just doesn't rise to the level of impeachment for the most part.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

TAPPER: And this is just denying basic facts on the ground that we all know to be true.

BEGALA: Right. This is now a cult of personality. And it's a great party with a terrific history going back to Abraham

Lincoln, apparently the second best Republican president in the eyes of 53 percent of modern-day Republicans.

TAPPER: Well, there's a poll that shows the Democrats think that Obama was better than George Washington.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Are you kidding?

CARPENTER: Yes.

BEGALA: Well, that's equally preposterous.

TAPPER: Anyway...

BEGALA: But at least Obama was not a criminal, and Trump is now charged with abusing his office.

And this is what -- this is what troubles me. I think Amanda makes a great point, that the cover-up worked, the obstruction worked. There is a paper trail.

My guess -- it's just a guess, but it's a highly educated one -- is, if we saw those papers, they would not prove the president innocent, that he's probably hiding them -- I know I'm cynical -- because they prove his guilt.

But we still know this pattern of obstructing not just the Congress, but of trying to interfere with the election. As we meet, he is sitting down with the Russian foreign minister, giving the Russians, as you noted at the top of the show, the meeting that he denied our allies in Ukraine.

He began all this in July of the election year, asking Russia on national television, big press conference, Russia, if you're listening, hack Hillary's e-mails, right? Within hours, we now know from the Mueller report, they did hack.

So we go through all that. He does the same thing with Ukraine the day after Mueller testifies. He calls the Ukrainian prime minister -- or president, and starts to try to get them to interfere in our election.

He has called on China publicly to interfere. He told my old buddy George Stephanopoulos in an interview, oh, yes, I would welcome foreign interference.

How much more proof do we need that this guy -- and I think it's because he actually lost the vote. The American people...

TAPPER: Popular vote.

BEGALA: Mr. McCarthy says that Democrats don't like the results. We like the results. We didn't like how the Constitution required us to install and respect and obey the laws of a president who was not the choice of the people.

But we followed the Constitution. So we do here. The Constitution says, if the president commits high crimes and misdemeanors, the House can impeach him. And I think they should.

TAPPER: And, Laura, the Democrats have been accused of rushing this process. How come you're not taking them, the White House, to court to force these subpoenas, to force the testimony?

[16:10:00]

Here's the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Democrat Adam Schiff, earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHIFF: The argument, why don't you just wait, amounts to this. Why don't you just let him cheat in one more election?

Despite everything we have uncovered, the president's misconduct continues to this day, unapologetically and right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That seems to be the prevailing argument in the Democratic Caucus.

BARRON-LOPEZ: That, and as well as Pelosi earlier today told Politico and at event that we were holding that they have waited, that it's been two years, and that they waited for the Mueller report.

And then they -- once the Ukraine transcripts came out, they decided to conduct that investigation, and that she argued that there is some urgency, given the 2020 election. So that is why she very much wants them to hold the vote ahead of Christmas.

TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around. We got a lot more to talk about, possible bad news for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, some new reporting on why some Democrats are looking at another option that is not impeachment.

Plus, he's back in the USA, President Trump welcoming Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with another Oval Office visit -- detail of what's happening inside coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:16:00]

TAPPER: In our politics lead today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she's not worried that impeachment could cost Democrats the House. But some of her in caucus do seemed concern. A group of Democrats in districts that President Trump won were pushing for the president to be censured instead of impeached, and at least two Democrats are leaning towards voting against impeachment.

Joining me now is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington state.

Congresswoman, good to see you as always. Thanks for joining us.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Thank you.

TAPPER: Let me ask you, the odds that the Republican-led Senate will remove the president from office are not particularly high. Why not censure President Trump instead of impeaching him? A censure motion is probably more likely to pick up some Senate Republican votes and put an official black mark next to the president's name? No?

JAYAPAL: This just isn't about what the Senate will do. This is about upholding our oath to the Constitution. And here's the thing: we have a president who has committed the gravest abuses -- abuses of power and obstruction of Congress which essentially said he's a monarch. He's a dictator.

This is a man who used the Oval Office to bully and coerce a foreign ally to interfere in our election. And it isn't just Ukraine, Jake. As you know, there is a pattern of conduct here with this president trying to literally take away our democracy. That is a grave threat.

This is also a president unprecedented, by the way, this didn't happen with Nixon, didn't happen with Clinton, he has obstructed Congress at every single stage, refused to send his people in to testify, refused to provide any documents. He has said that Article II gives him the power to do anything he wants.

TAPPER: Uh-huh.

JAYAPAL: We cannot allow that to happen. And I hope that the Republicans in the House and in the Senate understand that we are not here serving our parties. We are here to serve our nation.

And that means that we have to look at the uncontested facts that are in front of us, the gravity of the situation, and they should stand with us to vote yes on these articles of impeachment.

TAPPER: Do you know of any House Republicans who might vote to impeach?

JAYAPAL: Well, I'm waiting for them to emerge. You know, two weeks ago, my former Washington state Senator Slade Gorton, a Republican, came out with an op-ed that said Republicans have plenty in front of them to vote to impeach this president, and that's what they should do. He broke with his party on the Clinton impeachment.

That is the kind of courage we need. We need the patriotism and courage of the -- similar to the, you know, many Foreign Service individuals who came and testified before us. And so, that's I think the most important thing. It looks like a lost my earpiece there. So --

TAPPER: OK. You don't have the earpiece. Hopefully you'll be able to get it.

JAYAPAL: OK. There you go. I got it again.

TAPPER: OK. Democratic sources tell CNN that the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, your committee, Jerry Nadler, privately advocated for obstruction of justice to be one of the articles of impeachment which would have included evidence from the Mueller probe. That was a point of contention in your party. Ultimately, it was not included as an article of impeachment.

Do you think it should have been included?

JAYAPAL: I don't think it was a point of contention. I will tell you that these two articles, there are different views here and we looked at all of the views. The most important thing to us on the Judiciary Committee as we had our many discussions was that the pattern of conduct that was found in the Mueller report, in the Mueller investigation, that we had a way to present that into these articles and both articles on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress have that built into it.

There are a couple of lines in each article that talks about that pattern of conduct. Because as terrible as what happened in the Mueller report was, this is while Donald Trump is president. So, Ukraine was so much more egregious in different ways but had we not had the Mueller investigation I'm not sure we would be at this point. So that was incredibly important, that pattern of conduct, and we have included those in these articles of impeachment.

[16:20:06]

And I think that's what most of us were very concerned about.

TAPPER: Congresswoman, I want your reaction as a member of the House Judiciary Committee to Attorney General Bill Barr today saying that the FBI may have acted in bad faith by opening the Russia investigation and saying that the Trump campaign was spied on, despite what the inspector general report actually said, which is neither of those things.

JAYAPAL: Bill Barr is a sham as an attorney general. He should not be in that position. He is supposed to be advocating for the country. He's not supposed to be the president's personal lawyer.

To criticize his own attorney general or contradict his own attorney general, it shows us exactly his true colors. He's never going to stand up for the country. He's only going to stand up for a corrupt president who has abused his office and obstructed Congress and I that, you know, Bill Barr should not be the attorney general. That should be for somebody who is dedicated to the law of the country not to being the president's personal attorney.

TAPPER: Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington state, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

JAYAPAL: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: President Trump and Senate Majority Mitch McConnell are not on the same page when it comes to impeachment. Some new CNN reporting next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:26:14]

TAPPER: In the politics lead, 9:08 Eastern Time today, House Democratic leaders officially announced two articles of impeachment against President Trump. 10:07 a.m., House Democratic leaders approved a trade deal with President Trump. 2:22 p.m., the Russian foreign minister arrived at the White House to meet with President Trump, getting an Oval Office visit, one that the president of Ukraine has yet to be granted, one might observed, but as President Trump rolls out the red carpet, again, for Russians.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports there is a growing division between President Trump and one of his closest Republican allies here at home.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: So, he is not relieved but we did expect this.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After House Democrats outlined two articles of impeachment against the president today, White House officials said they were surprised they didn't go further.

GRISHAM: We thought actually that it was going to be four or five. Bribery, Mueller, emoluments --

COLLINS: Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham telling Fox News the White House is gearing up for a Senate trial.

GRISHAM: I'm sure we'll participate in some -- in some way.

COLLINS: But sources tell CNN there is a growing divide between Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over what that trial will look like.

GRISHAM: We would love for a lot of witnesses --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will the president participate?

COLLINS: Sources say McConnell wants it over quickly, even floating a ten-day minimum as he hopes to avoid a circus that could come with damaging votes for his members.

But on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, they're looking for a show, including live witness testimony from Hunter Biden.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Good morning, everyone.

COLLINS: Just moments after unveiling the impeachment articles, Democrats returned to announce support for the president's trade deal with Canada and Mexico after months of negotiations.

PELOSI: There is no question, of course, that this trade agreement is much better than NAFTA.

COLLINS: That announcement coming at a striking moment as the same group of House Democrats are moving closer to impeachment. But Pelosi said she's not handing Trump a win.

PELOSI: It is way far away from what the president was proposing. He wouldn't even recognize it.

COLLINS: Back at the White House, Trump also met this afternoon with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The last time Lavrov was in the Oval Office, Trump bragged about firing James Comey the day before and revealed classified information about ISIS that had been provided to the U.S. by Israeli intelligence.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Jake, the Senate majority leader spoke this afternoon. He said he doesn't think the Senate is going to get to that impeachment trial until early next year and when it comes to whether or not there are going to be witnesses, live witnesses as the president wants in person during that trial, he said that's a decision that will be made after the opening statement has already happened.

TAPPER: Hmm.

All right. Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us, thank you so much.

Let's discuss with this.

Seung Min, sources say McConnell wants to wrap up the impeachment trial quickly and protect Republicans from any potential damaging votes. Trump obviously wants to turn this into what people close to him call a spectacle with Hunter Biden, Adam Schiff, the whistleblower testifying.

Who do you think ultimately will win the argument?

MIN KIM: Well, I think what McConnell is looking towards is basically what will protect most of his members and also what has 51 votes, because so far, while the White House has made a lot of pronouncements about an aggressive trial strategy, live witnesses on the Senate chamber and, obviously, the president himself saying a whole bunch of things that he wants in a Senate trial, in private, at least what we've been told, is that on procedure, they have sort of a difference of what could actually pass the Senate.

You know, the Senate -- Schumer and McConnell have to pass some sort of -- or they're trying to agree to some sort of a structured resolution to set up the contours of a trial. If that doesn't work, McConnell will see what gets 51 of his members on board.

But the bottom line is, McConnell, who is in charge of the chamber, does not want a circus. His leadership does not want a circus and his members are running in tough races next November don't want a circus either, and I would presume McConnell may have a lot of talking and persuading to do of President Trump in the future about --