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House Dems to Unveil Articles of Impeachment; Watchdog: FBI's Launch of Russia Probe Justified & Unbiased. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired December 10, 2019 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Articles of impeachment will be unveiled after a contentious final day of House hearings on the subject.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's the impeachable offense? Why are we here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Abused his power, betrayed his oath, and corrupted our election process.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To impeach a president over eight lines in a call transcript is baloney.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Each of us took an oath to defend the Constitution. The president is a continuing threat to our democracy.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, December 10, 6 a.m. here in New York. And we do have breaking news.
CNN has learned that this morning House Democrats will unveil the articles of impeachment they plan to bring against President Trump. We're waiting for that event on Capitol Hill to hear exactly what they say. But sources tell CNN they will move forward with at least two articles: abuse of power and obstruction of justice. Now, the key number there is two and likely only two. We're told the Democratic leadership is still debating whether to include an article of obstruction of justice related to the Mueller report. But at this point, that appears unlikely.
A committee vote will take place within days, which puts the House on track to impeach the president next week. That will be just the third time that it's ever happened in U.S. history.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And the other investigation making headlines in Washington, the long-awaited report from the Justice Department's inspector general is out, and it negates two years of Trump conspiracy theories. It turns out the FBI did not spy on the 2016 Trump campaign and that
the Russia investigation was justified and unbiased.
Of course, that has not silenced President Trump or his allies, who continue to distort the findings. All of this comes as the president meets with Russia's foreign minister today and Democrats work with the White House to strike a huge trade deal. So a lot is going on in Washington.
Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Lauren Fox. She is live on Capitol Hill -- Lauren.
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.
We are hours away from history-making articles of impeachment being unveiled by the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler. That would put the House on track to potentially impeach the president before Christmas.
FOX (voice-over): Sources tell CNN that House Democrats will unveil at least two articles of impeachment against President Trump, charging him with abuse of power for pressing Ukraine to launch investigations into his political rivals, using nearly $400 million in military aid and a White House meeting as leverage; and obstruction of Congress for stonewalling and defying subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): We're not going to put a timeline on it, but we want to move expeditiously, fairly, but also with the urgency of a crime spree in progress.
FOX: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have to give her approval for the articles drafted by Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler and his team. Pelosi met privately with top Democrats last night, debating whether to include findings from the Mueller report in a third article as obstruction of justice. That move could split moderate Democrats from other lawmakers in the party.
REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): There's two schools of thought. One is to keep it tight. The other is to -- is to put everything in it. We don't want to lose Democratic votes, and we don't want to hurt Democratic members.
FOX: Still, Mueller's investigation could be mentioned to show a pattern of misconduct by the president.
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): What we want to be able to do is to have articles that are constitutionally grounded and are solidified by facts.
FOX: Trump continuing to attack the impeachment investigation.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a disgrace to our country. It's a hoax, and it should never, ever be allowed to happen again. FOX: His allies also fighting back.
REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): When President Trump claims a privilege, all of a sudden that's obstruction. They've obstructed our inquiry and our ability to gather information to try to bring out the truth, yet when President Trump does that legitimately, they just charge him with obstruction.
FOX: Something the House GOP highlighted at House Judiciary's fiery impeachment hearing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bang it harder. It still doesn't make the point that you're not doing it right.
REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): They can't get over the fact Donald Trump is president of the United States.
FOX: The lawyer leading the Ukraine probe for the majority on the House Intelligence Committee argues.
DANIEL GOLDMAN, COUNSEL FOR INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE MAJORITY: President Trump's persistent and continuing effort to coerce a foreign country to help him cheat to win an election is a clear and present danger to our free and fair elections and to our national security.
NADLER: I want to be absolutely clear the integrity of our next election is at stake. Nothing could be more urgent.
FOX: And, of course, sources are telling CNN that on Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee could debate these articles of impeachment and potentially vote them out of the committee. That, of course, would put the House of Representatives on track to vote to impeach President Trump the week after -- Alisyn.
FOX: Lauren, thank you very much for that reporting. So in the next two weeks, President Trump may become the third president in history to be impeached. We discuss the Democrats' plan, next.
BERMAN: All right. It is a big, big morning. We are waiting to hear from House Democrats. They are getting ready to announce at least two articles of impeachment against President Trump: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Joining us now to discuss, CNN senior political analyst John Avlon and CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip.
Let's put it up on the screen, just -- just to emphasize exactly what we're talking about here: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, two articles. They haven't ruled out a third, but it doesn't look likely, and that third would have been obstruction of justice. That would have been the Mueller charges.
What does it tell you, John, that basically, it appears they're deciding not to go with including Mueller?
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This is something Democrats were reportedly debating behind closed doors last night. And the issue seems to be that some of the more centrist Democrats are concerned that, if they widen the scope explicitly to have a charge related to the Mueller report, remember, they basically -- Mueller, some folks said, had a road map for impeachment regarding obstruction of justice. Don McGahn and other claims.
But apparently, some centrist Democrats are concerned about the way polls are going, and they're saying, look, let's keep it tightly focused on Ukraine. That is the crux of the issue. There is, however, reporting that the Mueller report will be referred to to establish a pattern, but not its own article of impeachment.
CAMEROTA: Abby, is this the deciding factor? Is that the deciding factor for the Democrats, who are in red districts whether or not some of the Mueller stuff is -- is included or not? Is that what's going to be the difference for them about whether they vote for impeachment?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot of those Democrats have already made a decision. They've already made -- cast the deciding vote in terms of how they're going to be painted politically by voting in many cases to authorize the impeachment inquiry.
However, I think a lot of them are saying don't make this harder than it needs to be for us. We already have gotten you to this point. Let's leave it as a very narrow, narrowly-tailored impeachment inquiry and then a vote on two articles that are related to that inquiry.
Remember, a lot of these members were not on board with impeaching the president over the Mueller charges. They already had that debate within the Democratic caucus, and many of these people were not there. It was not until Ukraine that brought some of these people over, and so then to expand it after the fact, I think to them seemed to be like adding an extra layer of political burden for them when they're already in a really tough spot.
BERMAN: You know, it tells me that Nancy Pelosi is concerned or taking care of party unity here, because with Nixon and Clinton, there were articles of impeachment that got voted down that did not pass, and it doesn't seem that that's what Nancy Pelosi wants here. She wants both articles to pass comfortably.
AVLON: That's right. And that's you're getting if you narrow the focus on Ukraine. I will say the counter argument being offered by progressive members of Congress in the caucus is this.
The key here, the reason folks rush to the issue of impeachment around Ukraine wasn't the call itself. It was the pattern. It was the fact the call occurs the morning after Mueller testifies to Congress. And it's a way to codify that pattern of behavior.
But it does appear that, rather than risk losing an article, it's going to be straightforward.
PHILLIP: And I'm not sure that moderates really will take -- let's say that you have four articles, and they're allowed to vote no on a few of them. I'm not sure moderates in this particular case will take that permission structure. I don't think it will change the calculus for them.
So from Nancy Pelosi's perspective, if you're not going to gain any more votes by including things that are going to get knocked down, she's -- it's probably better for Democrats to just remove the -- the political talking point that you're going to hear from the White House, which is that Democrats are not united on impeachment. They've -- they've been saying that from day one. Democrats are not united. They can't get their entire caucus on board.
If you look at the Republican side, the president hasn't lost anyone on this, and that's what you're going to hear a lot of if you have a couple of articles that are voted down, even by some or even many Democrats.
AVLON: And it would fall the fact that we saw yesterday a lot of Republicans arguing the process, rather than defending the president on the substance. And I will say Justin Amash, former Republican now independent, is announcing he's going to vote for the articles of impeachment. And the fact that he left the Republican Party, in part, over this issue has allowed Republicans to sort of have the fig leaf from saying that it's -- they're unified and Democrats are divided and it's not bipartisan.
CAMEROTA: But to your point, John, in terms of the timing of this and why this has to happen now, chair -- chairman of the Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler explained that, basically, the day after, as you say, Robert Mueller testified, in his view, President Trump was at it again. And so here is Jerry Nadler explaining why he thinks this is urgent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NADLER: If these abuses go unchecked, they will only continue and only grow worse. Each of us took an oath to defend the Constitution. The president is a continuing threat to that Constitution and to our democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: A continuing threat, Abby. I mean, basically, what he's saying is that first President Trump willingly invited the help of Russia as we all remember, "Russia, if you're listening. WikiLeaks, if you're listening. And then courted Ukraine three years later, and so he thinks that it's all part of a pattern.
PHILLIP: Yes, I think many Democrats do, including many members of leadership. You heard Nancy Pelosi a couple of days ago saying, essentially, the same thing, that this is about a two-year life span of Russian interference in American elections. That she believes was -- has been enabled by President Trump.
But you can make that argument as a rhetorical argument and also as a tool to help you establish the scope and the severity of the -- of the problem here. But I think, if they do not go forward with the Mueller charge, it tells you that they do not believe that from -- from a practical perspective, when you're trying to just get impeachment through, that it's helpful to them to include that in the articles.
AVLON: Yes, and I would just say pull the camera back for a second. You've got two major issues.
One, the Founding Fathers did worry about foreign interference in our elections. This is an impeachment inquiry. Out of all the others we've had in our history, only three others and one didn't get to a vote, this is the one that parallels that particular concern.
The other question, it's going to be a question of how people are framing this debate for themselves. Is do Republicans -- are they willing to say that they would be fine if a Democratic president did this to them is this, because that's the precedent they will be setting with their vote.
BERMAN: All right. We're going to hear in just a couple hours right now. I mean, the speed with which this is going through now, very, very deliberate. The House, in all likelihood, will impeach the president next week.
In the meantime, the inspector general for the Justice Department is debunking a series of conspiracy theories that President Trump and the Republicans have been pushing for years. We're going to talk about what this report revealed overnight and this new strange link to the president's daughter. Next.
CAMEROTA: President Trump and his allies have spent years promoting a conspiracy theory that the deep state attempted to derail his 2016 campaign.
BERMAN: You run out of quotation marks here.
CAMEROTA: I'm over using the air quotes.
BERMAN: I don't think so in this case.
CAMEROTA: Now the Justice Department's inspector general has just negated that claim, writing in a highly-anticipated report that the I.G. "did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the decision to open" the FBI's Russia investigation. Joining us now, CNN justice correspondent Laura Jarrett; and Josh
Campbell, CNN correspondent and former FBI special agent.
And that's why I want to start with you, Josh. You are also, I should mention, the author of the new book, "Crossfire Hurricane: Inside Donald Trump's War on the FBI," which seems quite relevant today, as a matter of fact, Josh.
Listen, I think that what they've found is that the report says Russia, the Russia probe was legal. It was unbiased. Any FBI agent worth his salt, when presented with the evidence that was coming their way, would have opened an investigation into what George Papadopoulos or Carter Page was doing.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, and what you just laid out is what the inspector general found. Now compare that with what we have heard for over two years from both the president and obviously his allies, as well, seemingly a torrent of lies about the FBI, that this was some anti-Trump, you know, deep- state cabal of Obama loyalists who weaponized, you know, the FBI to go after Donald Trump to try to bring him down.
That has been the narrative that has been repeated over and over and over again. That does not square with what this independent inspector general, a nonpartisan entity, came out with, saying as you mentioned, that there was no political bias that was found inside the FBI.
You had FBI agents that stared at the facts at the time that you had this growing Russia threat. You had people in Trump world who had these suspicious ties to Russia, and they had to look into this and open this investigation. So that is vindication for the men and women of the FBI to finally have someone in a high position in government to say that these were just lies.
I will also point out that this is not necessarily a banner day for the FBI, because this inspector general report is damning and scathing in the sense that these FISA abuses that were unearthed, some 17 instances of FBI, everything from misbehavior to outright abuse, clearly the bureau has to get its house in order. But the story today, I think, is that we now have an independent body coming out saying this Spygate, deep-state nonsense is just that, nonsense.
BERMAN: We'll get to the FISA abuses in just a moment there. But first, the lies. They used that word repeatedly, and that's because they spewed from the mouth of the president and his allies repeatedly. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All of their spying, spying. They actually spied on my campaign. Can you believe it?
They were spying. They were spying on our campaign.
They were talking about spying on my campaign. That's a story bigger than Watergate, as far as I'm concerned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: It wasn't, they weren't, and they didn't. And Laura, Jim Baker, who was the general counsel at the FBI, we're going to have on next hour, by the way, has suggested that the president owes the FBI and the American people an apology.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Look, their lives have been upended, because the president, at every opportunity that he has, whether it's at rallies or from the Oval Office, has said these people were out to get him. He has accused the premier law enforcement agency in America of a deep-state plot. And it's turned out it's all not true.
And so I think for folks like Baker or even Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, the two FBI agents who exchanged all those infamous text messages, even on that score, the inspector general said, look, the text messages are bad, but none of them were in a position to actually make decisions alone about this investigation. So they weren't actually in charge here.
Of course, there are a whole host of people who have political opinions, but they actually weren't the ones who opened the investigation in the first place, and more to the point, there were actually pro-Trump text messages that were uncovered.
CAMEROTA: Ding, ding, ding, ding.
JARRETT: There is a text message that actually says it's a Super Bowl comeback, because he won. And so that doesn't set aside the fact that there were plenty of anti-Trump text messages. But it just shows, there were a whole bunch of political opinions. And the inspector general said at the end of the day, none of them mattered.
CAMEROTA: That is such a great point. There were lots of pro-Trump opinions also. When people's personal text messages are revealed, sometimes they say personal things that might be embarrassing if they're revealed.
BERMAN: I don't forget it either, by the way.
CAMEROTA: TOK. hey still -- stop texting me.
BERMAN: I have my phone right there.
CAMEROTA: Now to those mistakes, Josh, that you were talking about. So serious mistakes were made, like the surveillance warrants targeting Carter Page. They had inaccuracies, 17 significant inaccuracies and omissions.
So was this -- now that you have read through it, Josh, human error? Was this sloppiness? What -- what are those?
CAMPBELL: Well, I think we're talking about a spectrum here. You have everything from sloppiness to, again, outright abuse. There's one instance of an FBI lawyer who is accused of altering a document. Now there's still a question as to whether the change that was made would have actually impacted this FISA warrant, the application.
But nevertheless, that appears to be a crime. I mean, to actually alter a document that someone is then going to swear in front of a federal judge attesting to its truthfulness, that has to be addressed, and we know that the FBI and the inspector general are obviously looking into those -- those issues.
The FBI director, current director, Chris Wray, coming out with a host of sweeping changes in order to try to ensure that this type of abuse doesn't happen again.
But I can tell you, having been in the FBI and worked a number of different FISAs, this was inconsistent with my experience inside the FBI. These surveillance warrants are highly scrutinized. Obviously, every, you know, fact that is attested to has to be checked. And just to see, again, this not one, two, but over 17 different instances of apparent abuse here is really, really damning.
But again, you know, the main takeaway today, I think, is that has to be rectified. Obviously, that's something that the FBI is looking into, but that does not square with this political narrative, this political campaign of attack against this agency that's been underway for over two years.
BERMAN: And one last thing, Laura, and this is not insignificant. The attorney general of the United States and the U.S. attorney working for him seemed to try to undercut the main conclusion of this.
William Barr wrote, "The inspector general's report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken." That's not what the report says, by the way.
And then John Durham, who's doing this other investigation, which includes the intelligence agency, says, "Based on the evidence collected to date and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the inspector general we do not agree with some of the report's conclusions as to the predication of how the FBI case was opened."
These statements are unusual, to say the least.
JARRETT: Unusual, and Barr's statement is political, right? We've seen him already defend the president. We've seen him talk about spying.
The Durham statement is even more, I think, kind of eyebrow-raising for many people, because the investigation is ongoing and he's in charge of it; and he hasn't finished yet. So to come out and say, "I disagree with Horowitz, but there's more to come," it is troubling.
CAMEROTA: OK. Laura, Josh, thank you very much for all of your expertise in this.
Now to this story. This morning there are fears that the death toll will rise after the eruption of a volcano on a popular tourist island in New Zealand. Officials say there are no signs of life. We have a live report on the search for survivors next.