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Trump's Saudi Support under Scrutiny; Hoax Sold to Trump Supporters; House to Unveil Articles of Impeachment. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired December 10, 2019 - 08:30   ET



IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: If it had been a Muslim from Iran, and, of course, they wouldn't have been training on a U.S. base, to be clear, but if it had been some other part of the United States, God forbid, Trump's response I'm sure would have been closer to what Steven Miller had wanted. We would have said that's consistent and yet it would have been worse for the country.

So I -- pragmatically, I do want us to at least recognize for a second that it's good -- objectively good for the U.S. that Trump isn't going nuts on all Muslims in the United States, which he could easily be doing.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: On all Muslims, but I -- but I will say -- but it may --


BERMAN: It may very well be that there needs to be more oversight over what the Saudis are doing, not just in terms of its people in the United States, but internationally as well.

BREMMER: But take my point.

BERMAN: I do understand.

BREMMER: The inclination in the U.S. has been historically --

BERMAN: I gotcha.

BREMMER: To go nuts when there's one Muslim attack and everybody --

BERMAN: Yes, I understand the distinction on radical Islamic terror versus the oversight of the Saudis.

BREMMER: Yes. Yes.

BERMAN: I do want to ask you, in terms of pursuit of political expediency --


BERMAN: Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister -- BREMMER: The Russian foreign minister.

BERMAN: Is going to be at the White House today. What do you expect from that meeting and how about the timing on the day that articles of impeachment will be presented?

BREMMER: Well, I think the most important thing is Trump has given inclinations over the last week that he's interested in making moves on an arms deal. Now, this is the same guy that pulled the U.S. out of the intermediate nuclear forces agreement in Europe with the Russians and the Europeans have been worried about that.

Putin has said in the last few weeks that he wants to make sure that the START arms control agreement doesn't lapse in 2021. He'd like it agreed to by the end of the year. So it wouldn't surprise me at all if we actually see something that feels like an announcement, they're making progress, they're going to get that done. I think that's the one concrete piece that comes.

But, of course, whenever you have Trump meeting with the Russians, and meeting with a foreign minister in the Oval is, you know, not exactly protocol, right? I mean they easily could be focusing on things like the Ukrainians and this crazy IG report and weren't they the ones that were also meddling and mess with the U.S. election, which will drive everybody crazy that Trump is --

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And we may not know because last time this happened we had to rely on Russian news service to get information about what they discussed in the Oval Office.

BREMMER: Well, the first time it happened, you had to rely on me to break the fact that Trump was actually having dinner sitting next to Putin and they refused to admit it --

BERMAN: That was over --

BREMMER: Because he hadn't told his own White House adviser. But, yes, (INAUDIBLE).

CAMEROTA: Thank you. Please come back with whatever tidbits you get about this. Thanks.

BERMAN: We rely on you for a lot, Ian.


BERMAN: Appreciate it.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

So for months we have been hearing from the president and his supporters that the inspector general report into the Russia investigation would be devastating, worse than anybody thought. How did that work out? A "Reality Check" is next.


BERMAN: The president and his right wing media backers have been saying for months that the IG report into the beginnings of the Russia investigation would reveal this giant deep state conspiracy and that it would reveal spying on the Trump campaign. Well, it didn't at all. So what will the president and his team say now?

John Avlon here with a "Reality Check."



Look, for months we heard the partisan drum beats only getting louder. The calls to investigate the investigators, accusations of spying starting just six weeks after Trump took office. There's been talk of treason, coups and the arrests of perceived political opponents, all pegged to the release of the inspector general's report.

And we heard a lot of this kind of talk straight from President Trump.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (May 20, 2019): They were spying. They were spying on our campaign.

It was treason. And it should never be allowed to happen to another president again. Ever. Ever. Ever.

TRUMP (April 26, 2019): Spying, surveillance, trying for an overthrow, and we caught them. We caught them.


AVLON: But the president didn't act alone. There was the attorney general.


BILL BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL (April 10, 2019): I think there's -- spying did occur.


AVLON: And the usual talk on Fox News from folks like Lou Dobbs.


LOU DOBBS, FOX NEWS HOST (April 18, 2019): Everyone involved, the Dems who funded it, the Christopher Steele and the law firms, they should be in orange jumpsuits.



GREG JARRETT, FOX NEWS HOST (July 17, 2019): Comey and the other people I mentioned are in a world of trouble. I guarantee you that Horowitz, the inspector general, has the goods on them.


AVLON: That's the same guy, by the way, who compared the FBI to the KGB. But, of course, there's always Sean Hannity.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST (August 6, 2019): The inspector general, Horowitz, it will shock the conscience of a nation. That's a quote.


AVLON: And we can't forget Senator Lindsey Graham.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC) (August 17, 2019): And I believe the Horowitz report is going to be ugly and damning regarding the Department of Justice's handling of the Russian probe. I want the American people to hear the story. I want all this information to come out.


AVLON: OK. Well, now we have the information. It's out. All 476 pages. And here's the real deal. No FBI spying on the Trump campaign. No political bias or improper motivation for the investigation. And the so-called Steele dossier, that didn't spur the investigation. It came into FBI hands more than a month after it all began.

But the IG report did find serious errors in the FISA process and recommended important reforms. Now we know the truth. It's messy, as humans are, but it's not that complicated. This was essentially right wing hype. This information designed to divide us and demonize dedicated public servants. But for some folks, facts don't seem to matter as much as partisan narratives.


Here's President Trump's fact free reaction to the report.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's far worse than I would have ever thought possible.

This was an overthrow of government.

(END VIDEO CLIP) AVLON: And now, this morning, he's trying to gaslight his own FBI director, while the attorney general took the extraordinary step of mischaracterizing and disagreeing with the conclusions of his own inspector general.

Now, here's the bottom line. No witch hunt. No spying. No treason. And the only hoax seems to have been perpetrated by the president and his apologists who now hope that their supporters won't notice or won't care.

I don't say this very often, but maybe Sean Hannity said it best.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST (July 25, 2019): They've been caught spreading a baseless hoax, conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory. Here's my prediction on the media, sad, but it will be true, they will never apologize to their audiences.


AVLON: And that's your "Reality Check."

CAMEROTA: Not self-reflection. That was projection.

AVLON: No, project and deflect, always.

CAMEROTA: John, thank you very much for all of that.

All right, so Democrats are just minutes away now from announcing the articles of impeachment. This is the room, the Rayburn Room, on Capitol Hill where this will be happening. The committee chairs will all get together and go to the podium and announce what we expect to be two articles of impeachment at this historic moment.



CAMEROTA: Breaking news.

House Democratic leaders are moments away from unveiling the articles of impeachment against President Trump. Sources tell CNN there will be two of those articles, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

BERMAN: Now, what's notable here is that there will not be, it appears, a third article that deals specifically with the Mueller report. That would be obstruction of justice. It doesn't seem like they will go there. We'll know in just minutes.

Joining us now to discuss, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, thank you so much for being with us to understand.

What's the significance of the two, and it appears only two, articles of impeachment. JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, the

significance is that Donald Trump is about to be impeached.

BERMAN: Right.

TOOBIN: I mean the -- you know, it's -- you know, we're sometimes in the hype business in news. You don't have to hype this. This is a major event in American history. We've had only three impeachments in -- out of 45 presidents. And that's a -- that's a very big deal. And I think that's a bigger deal than the precise wording and number of articles.

But as you suggest, the fact that there is not going to be an obstruction of justice article does mean that the Democrats who were running this process are limiting the actual impeachment articles to Ukraine-related matters. They are not including the Russia investigation, which was conducted by the Robert Mueller and his team.

I don't -- I am sure that in the course of discussing them, they will discuss the pattern that was established in the Mueller investigation. But the actual articles will only be the abuse of power in connection with the dealings with President Zelensky and the refusal to participate, produce any documents or witnesses in the course of that investigation.

CAMEROTA: You can obviously see the media getting into position there for what, Jeffrey, I should say, is this historic moment.

And, you know, Democrats have been making the case that they've -- they need to move with the lacrady (ph) here because they believe President Trump will do this again. If unchecked they believe he will again seek out foreign assistance, they say, for help with the 2020 election and part of their evidence is the fact that Rudy Giuliani just went to Ukraine this week and the fact that President Trump doesn't think he's done anything wrong.

Nancy Pelosi tweeted about this and about her motivation. I don't have it, but I think that we're going to pull it up on the screen. Here we go. The president used the power of his office against a foreign country to corrupt our upcoming elections. He is a continuing threat to our democracy and national security. At 9:00 p.m. Eastern, the House will announce our intent to defend our democracy.

Jeffrey, your thoughts on the timing and everything that we've seen over these past few weeks?

TOOBIN: Well, look, this is a process that takes place in the House of Representatives, which means, by definition, is it -- it is at least partially political. And one reason why the House is moving so quickly is that Nancy Pelosi wants to get on to other business, wants to show the voters in November of next year that the House of Representatives is doing more than just impeaching the president.

But it is also true that it doesn't take much detective work to say -- to determine if the president has been chastened by this experience, is determined not to do it again because he said he'd do it again. He said he -- he said China should open an investigation of the Bidens. He has, you know, he has said that the phone call that is part, although not the entire basis for this impeachment, was perfect. That he has nothing to regret about that. I mean this is -- that's a huge difference between this impeachment and the impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998 and 1999 was that Bill Clinton recognized that he had done something wrong and -- and acknowledged that, though, of course, he and his supporters did not say it merited impeachment.


But here the president has said, I -- I didn't do anything wrong. It was perfect. And I'd do it again with other countries. So the idea that it is necessary to issue a sanction has a lot of basis, I would think.

BERMAN: And I would just note that every day and every moment now is historic. They will announce the articles of impeachment momentarily. In a few days, they will vote and pass these two articles of impeachment in the Judiciary Committee and then next week the full house in all likelihood will vote to impeach the president. That will be just the third time a U.S. president is impeached with Richard Nixon, he quit in between essentially today and what will happen next week.

Jeffrey Toobin, thank you so much for helping us understand what we're about to see here.

Stand by because this huge announcement on the articles of impeachment is coming up.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning, everyone. We are on the cusp of history. I'm Poppy Harlow.


As an American, take a moment to witness this. It has only happened four times in our country's history that articles of impeachment against a sitting president have been introduced. Minutes from now, House Democrats will move forward with at least two articles of impeachment against President Trump. They are set to lay out charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

This is the culmination of nearly three months of investigations that sets the stage for a vote that will make Trump the third president in history if the Democrats do indeed prove to have the votes to impeach -- to be impeached by the House.

HARLOW: Also this morning, if you can believe it, this is the world we live in, another major announcement, this one of a deal. One hour from now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal will hold a press conference to announce a USMCA trade deal. A deal with the president. A deal that would hand the president a major win as this impeachment battle weighs on his presidency.

Impeachment, though, is where we begin. Manu Raju is standing by on Capitol Hill.

So, four minutes away from a major announcement. What are we going to hear?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Nancy Pelosi right now is meeting with her Democratic chairman who are going to make this historic announcement about their steps forward on impeachment that we expect them to unveil two articles of impeachment, one about abuse of power, the other about obstruction of Congress. It's going to detail the allegations that were laid out through the course of their investigation, the president's handling with relations with Ukraine, something that Democrats contend was a clear violation of his oath of office. They believe he corrupted U.S. elections and they believe this warrants his impeachment.

Now, it's also expected to detail a pattern of behavior. And that's where we could expect potentially some references to how he acted in relation to the Mueller investigation, efforts to thwart that investigation. We'll have to see exactly how that is detailed because this has been a subject of discussions that have been going on through late in the night until early this morning, up until this moment, and also a question about -- they're also going to push internally about adding a third article of impeachment, that about obstruction of justice. But it appears that is not the direction that they're going because of concerns that they may not have the votes.

I'm told behind the scenes, behind closed doors, in the speaker's office last night they debated whether or not to have an article of impeachment on obstruction of justice. There was some discussion about whether there were the votes to get there. Perhaps there weren't because of resistance from some moderate Democrats. But, nevertheless, it appears at least two will be announced in just a matter of minutes.

Now, I did catch up last night with Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, who declined to comment about the articles of impeachment, but said that Republicans, in his view, were not able to defend the president's actions in their hearing yesterday.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Republicans hardly attempted to defend the president's conduct. All they talked about was the -- from their point of view improper process about Biden and Burisma and Ukraine, but nothing about defending the president's conduct. And that's probably because the evidence is overwhelming and the conduct indefensible.


RAJU: Now, once these articles are unveiled, in just a matter of moments, expect this to happen quickly. We expect a vote in the House Judiciary Committee Thursday. That could take at least most of Thursday, maybe it will spill into Friday. And then House action in the full House next week, that historic vote. Now the question will be where the votes are. Will Democrats lose any more than two Democrats at the moment who are suggesting they'll vote against it? Will they lose any more? Will they pick up any Republicans? At the moment, that seems very unlikely.

But expect this -- the Democrats to make their pitch about why they believe their caucus should be united in just a matter of moments here, guys.

SCIUTTO: Manu Raju, thank you.

We have this new reporting into CNN from our colleague, Lauren Fox, also covers Capitol Hill. She says the representative, Steven Cohen, of course, who's a member of the House Judiciary Committee, that when he was asked this morning, how many articles of impeachment, he raised two fingers. That would seem to indicate -- and, of course, we'll have confirmation in just a couple of minutes now --


SCIUTTO: That the decision was made to focus then --


SCIUTTO: On the Ukraine question, not expand it to the Mueller report and possible obstruction of justice.


SCIUTTO: But, of course, we'll hear conformation when they go to the podium there.

HARLOW: And interesting to note that apparently he's saying that there will be a reference to a pattern of behavior from the president. So potentially, including some language from the Mueller report, but sticking narrowly to those two articles.

SCIUTTO: Good point. A way to include both perhaps without having that problem of not having sufficient votes to pass a third article of impeachment.


SCIUTTO: Let's go to the White House now, CNN's senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown. She's standing by.

Pamela, the president has claimed at times that impeachment is good for him. I wonder what the mood is in the White House today. This is moments away from something that, let's be frank, no president wishes upon themselves to be in this tiny group of U.S. presidents who have had articles of impeachment introduced against them.

Tell us what the mood is for real in the White House this morning.

[09:00:03] PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're right, and the president does not want this to be a stain on his legacy. So it has bothered the president this day has come --