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House Democrats Unveil Articles of Impeachment; Wray Rejects Ukraine Conspiracy; Trump Fires Back at Wray; Justice Department's Long-awaited Report. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired December 10, 2019 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Democrats will unveil the articles of impeachment against President Trump. CNN has learned there will be at least two articles, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Democrats are reportedly still divided about bringing a third article of impeachment related to the Mueller report.
So, what's next? Well, we're told that a Judiciary Committee vote will take place by the end of the week with a full House vote on impeachment next week.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right. And the impeachment inquiry is not the only investigation consuming Washington. The final report from the Justice Department inspector general found that the FBI did not spy on the 2016 Trump campaign and that the Russia investigation was justified and unbiased. That debunks years of Trump conspiracy theories. But that hasn't stopped the president or his allies from distorting the facts.
And it comes as President Trump meets today with Russia's foreign minister at the White House.
CAMEROTA: All right, joining us now, we have CNN political analyst David Gregory, CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip, and CNN political commentator Joe Lockhart. He was President Clinton's former press secretary during that impeachment.
Great to have all of you here in studio.
All right, I'll just pull it up one more time. Here's what we expect in less than two hours to be announced, the expected articles of impeachment, abuse of power, obstruction of Congress.
Joe, anything surprising here that there are just two or what they are?
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think they're still debating the third. And I think it's a -- it's an interesting debate. It establishes a pattern, if you bring in Mueller. I think there are a lot of nervous Democrats about bringing in Mueller. As I've been saying, I think they should because the pattern's important. I also think that, for the nervous Democrats, allowing them to go vote no on one of these actually helps them at home with their constituents.
Having said all that, I think we're just going to see two.
BERMAN: Well, look, there were articles that were voted down with Nixon and Clinton.
BERMAN: It does not look like that's where we're going now. Just so people are clear on what the reporting is, they're still discussing, we were told overnight, possible obstruction of justice in the Mueller -- but it's unlikely that they will include that. So it doesn't look like they're going that way, which tells us something. It tells us, David, that I think Nancy Pelosi wants near unanimity within the Democratic caucus on these impeachment votes.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, she wants to be unified and she wants to go fast. And I think that's important.
By the way, I don't think either of those things matter to the final outcome. I don't think the president, at this stage, is going to be removed from office. But I think that going fast has the benefit of doing this before the end of the calendar year and getting into an actual election year.
We can talk about my tie in a second. And -- because I can see where your eyes are going, John. Anyway --
BERMAN: When did you -- the Gregory (INAUDIBLE).
GREGORY: John, we're talking about history. I didn't bring up the poinsettias.
But, too, that I thought the compelling case that they made yesterday in presenting the evidence was that there's an imminent danger that the president's trying to interfere with the 2020 election through all of this. That's an important point for them to make, to rebut that argument that they're in a rush to impeach.
CAMEROTA: Chairman Jerry Nadler addressed that himself about the timing. So here's that moment from yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): 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: OK, so, Abby, that's what Democrats think, that first President Trump invited Russian interference and then, shortly on the heels of that, being somewhat resolved. Then he sought out Ukrainian interference. ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And you can see the
argument here, which is essentially that because the Mueller investigation -- because of this DOJ guideline that the president can't be charged with a crime, the president was never charged with anything associated with what was in our -- the second section of the Mueller investigation on obstruction. And, as a result of that, Democrats argue that he felt emboldened and continued on to do what he did in the Ukraine incident.
That being said, you can establish that as a rhetorical tool to establish the gravity of the situation, why it's so important to protect elections, to have Congress put a line in the sand on this issue without necessarily forcing members to vote on it. And I think that that's where Democrats are ending up here. They don't necessarily believe that they need to actually make people take a difficult vote, some of these moderates who have already said months ago that they did not think that they should impeach President Trump over what was in the Mueller report.
BERMAN: I'm also struck by the calendar here. It was last night. It was within hours after they were done with that last hearing that we heard that there was going to be this announcement imminent this morning laying out the articles of impeachment. That means, Joe, there could be a vote on articles Thursday. I mean tomorrow or Thursday the committee, the Judiciary Committee, could vote on that, which means that by early next week the full House will impeach the president of the United States.
LOCKHART: That's true. I mean there's a -- there's a lot of talk about the Democrats going too fast. This is already the longest impeachment process in our history.
Andrew Johnson was impeached in four days and brought to the Senate. Bill Clinton, I believe it was 73 or 74 days. We're now at day 77. So there is -- there's a precedent for moving like this once you think you have the facts.
It's -- it is -- it does feel like it's moving very quickly, but there's a -- there -- we live in a -- in an environment right now where people's attention moves quickly from one subject to another, and Democrats are, I think, trying to seize the moment and say the president did this, we're going to hold him accountable and here you go. We don't need to deliberate forever.
BERMAN: And Jerry Nadler, and you've pointed to this, Chairman Nadler, we just played the sound, gave a reason -- gave a reason why it needs to be done in his mind, this (INAUDIBLE).
CAMEROTA: They think timing is of the essence.
And also yesterday, David, as I watched that hearing, very fascinating academic exercise to hear from the attorneys. I mean, really, I thought it was really compelling.
However, I got the impression that people's feelings were pretty locked in at that point.
CAMEROTA: So what more is there to hear?
GREGORY: Well, I don't think there is a lot more to hear. You know, one thing we should hold out there, is there's the potential for additional evidence to come up. The Intelligence Committee is still investigating.
But what's been remarkable about this from the start is we knew what happened. The president didn't deny what happened. And now Republicans, with a little bit more clarity are saying, yes, we know what happened and there was nothing wrong with it and here's why because they really want to make this about presidential decision- making and judgment, and you're not -- shouldn't impeach him even if you think he made a bad decision as opposed to abuse of power. And so, you know, that that is where we are.
But I do think there's a lot of clarity about the evidence and I -- again, I thought what -- I don't think it changes minds necessarily. But the point being that if you agree that the president is trying -- was trying to alter the 2020 election, that is akin to what the Russians did in 2016. That is a reason to move forward and take this out of the hands of voters if it's going to be a corrupted process.
BERMAN: I will note that the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, will be at the White House today, the day that the articles of impeachment are announced. And I'll also just note, and this is a really interesting slash some say bizarre split screen, there could be a deal between the White House and House Democrats on USMCA, the new NAFTA, the trade.
CAMEROTA: The trade deal.
BERMAN: So on the very day that articles of impeachment are announced, they may make their biggest bipartisan gesture with each other?
CAMEROTA: I guess they can walk and chew gum.
PHILLIP: Yes. I mean and that's what Nancy Pelosi has been trying to say. She has started almost every news conference that ended up being about impeachment talking about other policy priorities that they have in the House, particularly on trade and on -- on a number -- health care, all these other issues. And -- and you'll note that the president's talking point has been Democrats are the do nothing Congress. They won't even approve this USMCA deal. So, they're taking that off the table. They're about to get this deal essentially ratified. And I think that that is one of the things that Nancy Pelosi wants these parallel tracks to be happening at the same time. Congress is working. Impeachment is happening.
Although I will say, some Democrats are saying, why hand the president a win at this juncture? You know, that's an internal debate that's happening within the Democratic Party as well.
BERMAN: Some Democrats, like that guy who's sitting to your right right there doesn't seem happy.
PHILLIP: (INAUDIBLE) that (ph).
LOCKHART: No, I -- no, I actually think it does prove the point that you -- you can do the people's business and both of these things are the people's business.
But going back to David's point, it -- this idea that this is not about a look back to what happened in 2016. It's about protecting 2020 is exactly why Nancy Pelosi changed her mind on impeachment. It's exactly why Adam Schiff changed his mind on impeachment. Exactly why I changed my mind.
We've been talking for months about why the Democrats shouldn't impeach up until then. So it is a critical point. It's not a talking point that they're just using for an argument. It's why they are moving so quickly.
GREGORY: And the trade deal, the new NAFTA, the, you know, UMYCA, whatever --
GREGORY: Yes, whatever it is. I know what it is. I've forgotten, but I know what it is.
But -- but I do think it's important -- I do think it's important because, you know, we're living in a time of purity tests on all of these issues. And for -- for progressives to say, no, no victory for the president, this is something that a lot of progressives think will be good for U.S. workers. It's an important statement, I think, for -- for Democrats.
BERMAN: All right, amid all this torrent of news, there was one statement last night by the FBI director that I think will upset the president more than anything else, and I am waiting to see how the president responds. We'll play it for you next.
CAMEROTA: And I'm going to take a picture of your tie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: We have no information that indicates that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 presidential election.
I think it's important for the American people to be thoughtful consumers of information and to think about the sources of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: I really can't get over that. That's the FBI director, Christopher Wray, rejecting the conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election. But even more than that, he basically said, consider the source of the people spreading these conspiracies.
CAMEROTA: Yes, that's exactly what he said.
BERMAN: The source being --
CAMEROTA: The president.
BERMAN: Exactly. And his allies.
Back with us, David Gregory, Abby Phillip, and Joe Lockhart.
I have heard that now multiple times this morning, David. I can't get over it. And, to me, it appears to be the kind of thing that will just drive the president crazy.
GREGORY: Yes, well, look, I think Christopher Wray has been a real institutionalist since the beginning. And I think it's been refreshing. It's someone who cares about the FBI and the FBI's mission, who is not going to be buffeted, who is not going to be -- act like a political appointee. You're supposed to be -- you're supposed to transcend politics in that job. That's why you get a 10 year term. But it's a credit to him.
But I do think it's important when we talk about this inspector general report, it's essential to underline that they didn't find any political bias. But I think the mistakes that they made and the abuses in applying for some of these FISA warrants are deeply troubling, not just because of how it looks and that allies of the president can seize on that, but just to get to the bottom of why they did that, was it a zeal in their investigation toward, you know, getting who they thought the bad guys were? Even if it wasn't true political bias, it's a real problem.
CAMEROTA: See, the problem, David, with what you're saying is that you're using critical thinking. Bad boy. Because that's exactly what Christopher Wray is saying, that voters are going to have to do. You're going to have to be able to keep two thoughts in your head at once. You're going to be -- have to be able to see nuance. And that's not what the president specializes in.
GREGORY: Well, can -- and can I just add, you know, if you go back to another era, the Oklahoma City bombing, and there was a big controversy. Remember, there was a "Time" headline that said what's wrong with the FBI because of the handling of the evidence in the Oklahoma City bombing case. You know, they -- people, not just a jury, but the American public was
able to separate some of those things, problems in the lab with some kind of systemic abuse. It's the point. And it's harder today (INAUDIBLE).
CAMEROTA: It is harder today.
BERMAN: And I get it. But what Christopher Wray did there is a -- you know, he talks about the -- the inspector general report. That's a separate thing.
BERMAN: He went above and beyond in a separate issue there and said that Ukraine --
CAMEROTA: Ukraine --
BERMAN: We have no evidence that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election, which is what the president has said and his allies are saying. And, again, he said you need to consider the source of this, Abby.
PHILLIP: Yes. He's not going out on a limb on this. There is no evidence to support the idea that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election in the way that Russia did. That was evident in all of the testimony that we heard from people who were brought forward as Republican witnesses and as Democratic witnesses. So it's not surprising that Christopher Wray would think that because he's living in a fast-based world.
BERMAN: Can I just say, we have breaking news. And, Mr. President, thank you for watching.
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.
CAMEROTA: How do you know him so well? How do you know the president so well?
BERMAN: The president of the United States cannot handle when the FBI director --
LOCKHART: So, as long as he's watching --
LOCKHART: I have -- I have a message for him.
CAMEROTA: Go ahead.
LOCKHART: This is -- you know, this is the long-term damage that Donald Trump's doing to the country. He has systematically sought to undermine every institution in our government. He is stonewalling Congress and saying the Constitution doesn't matter. He has hollowed out the State Department by going after career foreign service officers. DOJ with what Barr is doing is reprehensible. And --
CAMEROTA: Bad mouths the real press.
LOCKHART: Yes, the -- the -- the media, of course, you know what he's done, he's -- and he's done that from the beginning. This is going to -- so this is damage that will live long past Donald Trump. And, you know, put on my partisan hat, it's working. It is working.
GREGORY: Well --
PHILLIP: But that -- that is why --
GREGORY: But -- but can I --
PHILIP: That's why Christopher Wray is getting under the president's skin because from day one he has defended the men and women of the FBI, which he views as part of his job, rebuilding the morale of that organization in the face of a lot of attacks from the president of the United States. And -- and he's doing it because he's -- he's right, and I think this is justified in the IG report, that a few bad apples doesn't indicate that the entire organization is rotten from the bottom up. And I think that that's what he's trying to say here, that there are problems. We need to fix them. We need to identify why these things occurred, to David's point. But to say that the entire organization is corrupt is not the case.
BERMAN: All right, stand by, friends, because we're going to keep our promise to David Gregory. We're going to talk much more --
CAMEROTA: About his tie?
BERMAN: About the inspector general report.
CAMEROTA: Oh, the inspector general.
BERMAN: And his tie with a former FBI general counsel because his tie is a legal matter.
CAMEROTA: It should be.
BERMAN: Jim Baker is going to join us coming up to talk about this IG report that debunked years of conspiracy theories. Jim Baker thinks the president owes the country an apology.
CAMEROTA: The Justice Department's inspector general releasing his long-awaited report on the FBI's Russia investigation, and it basically negates two years of conspiracy theories peddled by the president and his allies.
Here's CNN's Tom Foreman with the five things we learned. TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John.
This report shed light on some areas of this investigation that we really have known very little about. And, boy, were they revealing.
FOREMAN (voice over): The first revelation, there was no FBI mole in the Trump campaign.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you look at Clapper, he sort of admitted that they had spies in the campaign.
FOREMAN: The president has long claimed there was at least one implanted for political purposes, but the IG says, no, the FBI did not insert any agents, nor recruit any Trump staffers. Indeed, when one source was offered a campaign job, the FBI response, no, no, no, absolutely not.
Number two, the Ivanka connection.
IVANKA TRUMP, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S DAUGHTER: My father, and our next president.
FOREMAN: Former British agent Christopher Steele has been accused of being biased against Donald Trump and eager to dig up dirt on the billionaire, but Steele told investigators that was ridiculous. If anything he was favorably disposed toward the Trump family because he had a personal relationship with a family member. Whom CNN has confirmed is Ivanka, visiting her at Trump Tower, giving her a gift. She's had no public comment.
Number three, an FBI agent did attend a Trump campaign briefing. The report says an agent sat in on an intelligence briefing for the Trump campaign and he was collecting information, but the target was not Trump.
GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The next president of the United States right here.
FOREMAN: Rather it was former General Michael Flynn, who would briefly serve as Trump's national security adviser before pleading guilty to misleading the FBI about his contact with Russians.
Number four, the Trump friendly agent. Despite Trump's mocking of FBI agents he says were using the Russia probe to defeat him.
D. TRUMP: We'll get that son of a bitch out.
FOREMAN: The report found an agent who messaged another after Trump won the White House that he was so elated with the election it was like watching a Super Bowl comeback. And, number five, the alleged sex tapes.
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I don't know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes.
FOREMAN: The IG found the FBI did look into the possibility that the Russians had potentially embarrassing videos of Trump with women in a Moscow hotel.
FOREMAN: But a primary source for that claim said they never found proof. It was unconfirmed rumor and speculation.
BERMAN: All right, our thanks to Tom Foreman for that.
Joining us now is CNN legal analyst James Baker. He was the FBI's general counsel when the FBI Russia investigation began.
Jim, thanks so much for being with us.
You have lived this, and I really mean that, on every level now for well over two years. You've had a night to digest this. The top line that the Russia probe properly predicated legal and unbiased.
JAMES BAKER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It was not a hoax. It was not a witch hunt. It was not a coup attempt. There was no sedition. There was no treason. That's not what we were trying to do.
This case was about Russia. It was about defending the United States from the Russians, who, as we now know, were engaged in a systematic attempt to attack the United States and disrupt our elections. And that's what they were trying to do, and that's what they're still trying to do. And so we're all still living with that.
The FBI was not trying to gain political intelligence on the president or disrupt the political campaign. We wanted to stay as far away from politics as we possibly could. Coming out of the Hillary Clinton matter, we were just sick of politics and we just didn't want to have anything to do with it.
We were thrust back into it by the information that we got through or related to George Papadopoulos. That's why we started the investigation. We felt we had an obligation to do that and that it would have been misconduct honestly for us not to pursue the investigation at that point in time given what we knew.
BERMAN: The FBI director, the current FBI director, Christopher Wray, we have some brand new sound on his reaction, again, to that top line finding, no spying, no deep state.
Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Based on the findings in the inspector general report, is the FBI, was it part of some deep state?
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Well, I think that's the kind of label that is a disservice to the 37,000 men and women who work at the FBI. That's not a term I would ever use.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the FBI did not spy on the Trump campaign?
WRAY: Well, that's not a term at the FBI we use to describe our work.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any evidence that the FBI targeted the Trump campaign unfairly?
WRAY: I don't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: He doesn't. Neither does the inspector general report despite years of the president suggesting there was a spy inside the campaign. Again, you lived this, Jim, and overnight you called on the president to apologize to you and to the FBI and to the country. Why?
BAKER: Because he was wrong with respect to what he said, and what he said was damaging to us personally, and it was damaging to the institution of the FBI. And he -- he should step up and do it. It's a -- I respectfully request that he do that. That's the right thing to do under these circumstances when the facts come out and it proves that he was wrong, which the facts do prove that he was wrong, notwithstanding some of these statements I think by Attorney General Barr and Mr. Durham. They don't undercut the fundamental conclusions of the inspector general's report.
BERMAN: What about those statements by the attorney general and John Durham, who is a U.S. attorney? The attorney general said, while he respects Horowitz, he basically doesn't agree that there was a legal justification for the investigation. And Durham's reaction was, I'm doing another investigation now and my evidence, he's suggesting, doesn't comport with what the inspector general found. That seems unusual.
BAKER: Well, Mr. Durham's statement -- let me just take that one first. Mr. Durham's statement is extremely opaque, and I can't really figure out what in the world he's actually saying. And so I would have to wait to see, you know, to see exactly what he comes up with.
I was quite surprised that he did it.