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Trump Holds Oval Office Meeting With Russian Foreign Minister; Interview With Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA); Trump Administration at War Internally Over I.G. Report on Russia Probe?; House Drafts Articles of Impeachment Against President Trump; Russian Foreign Minister Unclear On Whether Trump Warned of Election Meddling, White House Says He Did; Four Killed in New Jersey Shooting, Including an Officer, Two Suspects Also Are Dead; FBI Director At Odds With Attorney General Barr Over I.G. Report Findings; House Judiciary To Take Next Steps Toward Vote On New Impeachment Articles Tomorrow. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 10, 2019 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: House Democrats may take the next step even more quickly than expected.

Disputing the report. Attorney General William Barr is speaking out, refusing to accept the new finding that the FBI was justified and unbiased in opening its Russia investigation. Why is he publicly contradicting his own department's inspector general?

And Trump hosts Russia. As the president faces impeachment on charges he invited election meddling by Ukraine, he's been meeting with the Kremlin's top diplomat. Did they discuss potential Russian interference in 2020?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the new articles of impeachment against President Trump accusing him of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

House Democrats taking this rare and historic step. They are now pushing for quick impeachment votes. The Judiciary Committee just announced it will take up the articles tomorrow evening.

Tonight, the White House is again insisting the president did nothing wrong in his dealings with Ukraine, predicting he will be cleared in a Senate trial, where Republicans will be in charge.

This hour, I will talk to Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a Democrat on the Intelligence and Oversight committees. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our senior national correspondent, Alex Marquardt.

Alex, the impeachment process is moving very quickly, with the Judiciary Committee now set to take up the articles tomorrow.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf.

And those articles of impeachment are just nine pages' long, but they could not be clearer. The president ignored and injured national security, the Democrats said, in the draft of those charges. And in abusing his office, they wrote, the president betrayed the nation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

MARQUARDT (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 help 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: The proof that misconduct, Adam Schiff said, is overwhelming and uncontested.

He and those other Democratic leaders, they're insisting they did not want to pursue impeachment, but had no choice. And now, with these votes on the horizon, this process is about to shift into a whole new gear -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly will.

All right, thanks very much, Alex, for that report.

Let's go to Capitol Hill right now.

Our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly, is watching all of this unfold.

Phil, so what happens next?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, Alex is right. This is moving into a new stage, and it's going to move quickly.

And it will all start tomorrow night in the Judiciary Committee. Obviously, this has been the committee, Wolf, where they have held the last two impeachment hearings. The hearings are done. Now it's time for consideration of those two articles of impeachment, obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.

Tomorrow night, at 7:00 p.m., they will start opening statements. Every member on the committee will have an opportunity to give their opening statement about those articles of impeachment and the place that they are in at this moment in time.

The actual consideration, legislative markup of those articles of impeachment, will take place Thursday. And, Wolf, we don't expect any changes, but there aren't going to be a shortage of opportunities for Republicans to try and make changes, try and amend that language, try and strip that language maybe in some cases, in what will likely be a very long and divisive process.

[18:05:10]

But the bottom line here is, where we are at this moment is this. The House next week will vote to impeach President Donald Trump. The committee process is almost a sure thing. Democrats have the majority. They will move the articles of impeachment through on that majority vote. No Republicans expected to deflect at all, setting up that House floor vote next week.

We don't have an exact date. But, Wolf, we have been talking about this for several weeks. The goal of House leadership was to have that vote the week before they left for the holidays. That vote is now teed up. The big question now, will any Democrats defect? We expect a few will.

Will any Republicans come on board? At this point in time, I'm told there's almost no chance, according to one senior Republican aide. It's going to be down the middle, party line, and both articles of impeachment are expected to be approved -- Wolf.

BLITZER: They certainly will be.

All right, Phil Mattingly, thank you very much.

President Trump has been relatively quiet since the Democrats introduced the articles of impeachment. But he's likely to unload later tonight at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

So, Jim, what are you hearing from the White House?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Trump is on his way to a rally in Pennsylvania, where the White House says he's likely to respond to the articles of impeachment announced by House Democrats.

Just a few moments ago, he spoke with reporters, where he once again said he hasn't done anything wrong. But the president had one other notable item on his agenda today. In perhaps the irony of all ironies, he had a meeting with the Russian foreign minister, who visited the White House the same day Mr. Trump took another step toward impeachment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): With the president now facing two articles of impeachment in the House, aides to Mr. Trump say he is clear-eyed about what lies ahead, a vote to impeach almost certain in the House and a trial to come in the Senate, where the White House could call their own witnesses, from the Biden family to the whistle-blower.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They put up new articles that, frankly, are very weak. And they're very weak. Oh, I think the Democrats, I can't imagine they vote for it, because we did nothing wrong. There was absolutely nothing done wrong. I think it's a disgrace that people can make impeachment out of nothing.

ACOSTA: The president started the day lashing out from his social media bunker, tweeting: "To impeach a president who has proven through results, including producing perhaps the strongest economy in our country's history, to have one of the most successful presidencies ever, and, most importantly, who has done nothing wrong, is sheer political madness."

As for a Senate trial, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who's been barred from testifying in the House, says it's up to the president to decide who will participate.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We will do whatever the president wants us to do is what it comes down to. So, if the Senate decides to take live witnesses, and the president directs us to do it, we will. If he directs us not to, we won't.

ACOSTA: That dodgy answer is why House Democrats decided to move forward with articles of impeachment without the testimony of potential blockbuster witnesses, from the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

SCHIFF: The argument, why don't you just wait, amounts to this. Why don't you just let him cheat in one more election? Why not let him cheat just one more time? Why not let him have foreign help just one more time? That is what that argument amounts to.

ACOSTA: The White House strategy had been to paint Democrats as do- nothing lawmakers. That's much tougher now that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is giving the green light to the administration's new USMCA trade deal.

PELOSI: There is 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.

ACOSTA: Just as House Democrats were accusing the president of pressuring Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, the ghost of 2016 arrived at the White House in the form of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who didn't answer when asked if the Russians will interfere in 2020.

(on camera): Will Russia stay out of the 2020 election, sir?

SERGEI LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: I will say, good afternoon, Mr. President.

ACOSTA (voice-over): At a press conference with Pompeo, Lavrov flatly denied Moscow meddled in 2016, which is false.

LAVROV (through translator): We have highlighted once again that all speculation about our alleged interference in domestic processes in the U.S. are baseless. There are no facts that would support that.

ACOSTA: Pompeo politely warned Lavrov not to try it.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Should Russia or any foreign actor take steps to undermine our democratic processes, we will take action in response.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now that the impeachment process is likely to move to the Senate lawmakers have a logjam in the making.

Senate Republicans expect to conduct a trial of the president after the new year, after -- before moving to passing the USMCA trade deal, which means one of the president's priorities, top domestic priorities, will have to wait potentially weeks, as his administration hangs in the balance.

And getting back to the president's meeting with the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, we should point out the president just tweeted out a photograph of that meeting just a short while ago.

[18:10:03]

We can put that up on screen. It shows the president and the foreign minister right there in the Oval Office right there at the desk. One thing we should point out, the press was not allowed into that meeting. So this is a White House photograph, not one from the news media.

The other thing we should point out, Wolf, is that, this evening, the White House is saying the president brought up election interference in his meeting with Sergei Lavrov and warned the Russians not to interfere in the 2020 election.

Just a few moments ago, the Russian foreign minister was holding a press conference at the Russian Embassy here in Washington and, according to our Kylie Atwood and other reporters in the room, Lavrov was not exactly clear as to whether or not the subject of election interference came up during his meeting with the president.

So a bit of a he said/he said coming out of this meeting, at least for right now. We're waiting to find out if we can get some more clarity on exactly what Sergei Lavrov told reporters -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very interesting, indeed. All right, Jim Acosta, thank you.

Joining us now, Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a member of both the Intelligence and Oversight committees, who took part in the impeachment hearings.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.

Are you satisfied with the Democrats, the leadership's decision to move forward with these two articles of impeachment, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, while not including allegations from the Mueller report?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): I absolutely am supportive of this effort.

I thought that reaching into the Mueller report would be more complicated and make for a less effective effort to make our case. This is wholly focused on the phone call by President Trump to the president of Ukraine on July 25 and all the machinations and efforts that happened afterwards to withhold aid, to withhold a meeting in the White House.

Ironically, you mentioned that that Foreign Minister Lavrov has now been to the White House for a second time with a meeting with the president. And President Zelensky, our ally, not our adversary, our ally, has yet to have that meeting in the White House.

BLITZER: They did have a meeting in New York, when they were both there for the United Nations. But you're right. He has not been invited yet to the Oval Office, as Lavrov was once again today.

Your -- the Judiciary Committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, privately, we're told, advocated for a third article on obstruction of justice. Why do you think that was ultimately decided against?

SPEIER: I think it was very important to keep it simple and focus on the crime that is before us.

None of this would have happened but for the fact that a whistle- blower came forward, that the president attempted through his staff to hide the summary of that phone call, and then made the decision, well, I will just admit that I had this phone call, it was a perfect phone call -- except we now have so many people within the administration who came forward during our fact-finding to establish that this was very problematic and, in fact, created this quid pro quo.

And now we have over 500 persons who are constitutional scholars coming forward and saying this is, in fact, an impeachable offense.

BLITZER: The Judiciary Committee will start taking up the articles of impeachment tomorrow night, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Can you tell us anything about how the process will then unfold?

SPEIER: The process will be one in which each of the members will have an opportunity to make opening statements. And then they will mark up the articles of impeachment, they will consider amendments, probably being made by the Republicans, probably put down by the Democrats.

And once that process is complete, it will come to the House floor for a vote next week.

BLITZER: So, do you have any idea what day next week that might take place?

SPEIER: No, but it probably -- my sense would be in the middle of the week

BLITZER: In the middle of the week sometime. And then it goes to the Senate.

Does it concern you at all that it's almost certainly not going to pass the two-thirds majority required in the Senate for conviction and removal of the president from office?

SPEIER: I think it's very important that we do our job.

And our job was to do the fact-finding, determine whether or not there was the equivalent of an indictment, that the president should be tried as to whether or not this constituted bribery, if this was, in fact, an abuse of power.

It was Hamilton who in the 65th Federalist Paper talked about the abuse of power being -- doing something that violates the public trust. When you put your personal interests above the American people's interest in trying to get dirt on one of your campaign opponents, that is putting yourself first.

And it creates a potential for our national security to be compromised, because we want to maintain Ukraine as a independent country. And, right now, they have Russia in Donbass attempting to of a sphere of influence in Ukraine, which could create the first attempts in 70 years to create a war in Europe.

[18:15:10]

BLITZER: It certainly looks like all the House Republicans will vote against impeachment.

Do you expect some of the more moderate Democrats, who may be vulnerable politically in districts won by President Trump, for example, do you expect some of them will vote against impeaching the president?

SPEIER: I don't know the answer to that question.

It's really a decision that each and every member has to make independently on their own. This is not kind of issue that you would attempt to twist arms. And the speaker has made it very clear that this is a personal decision, weighed by each member, as to whether or not they believe that the impeachment vote should be one in which they vote in favor of it.

BLITZER: Because some of those more moderate Democrats were actually saying, instead of impeachment, maybe censure, since it's not going to be approved in the full Senate down the road, maybe just go with censure and then move on and avoid a trial in the Senate.

What do you say to that?

SPEIER: Well, actually, I don't support the idea of censure.

This was a high crime and misdemeanor. When it does go to the Senate, many of those people that basically defied the subpoenas by Congress, nine of the members within his administration, and all the documents that were not provided, those could, in fact, be brought into the case, which would, in fact, change the dynamics dramatically.

It's ironic that we have been able to cobble together the evidence based on the private texts of Ambassador Kurt Volker. But for those texts, we would not know virtually any of this.

This has been an effort to stonewall this investigation by the president. It is indeed a cover-up, and it needs to be called out for what it is.

BLITZER: Obstruction of Congress, abuse of power, those are the two articles of impeachment.

Representative Jackie Speier, thanks so much for joining us.

SPEIER: Thank you for having me. BLITZER: All right, the breaking news continues next, the attorney

general of the United States, William Barr, contradicting his own inspector general and criticizing the FBI.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:21:56]

BLITZER: There's more breaking news we're following tonight on stunning new interviews by the attorney general of the United States, William Barr.

He is going even further in disputing a new report that the FBI was justified and unbiased in opening its Russia investigation. Barr is claiming the bureau may have acted in bad faith and that its evidence, in his word, was flimsy.

Listen to him contradict the inspector general of his own department, Michael Horowitz.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Where I disagree with Mike is, I just think this was very flimsy.

This was a comment made by a 28-year-old volunteer in a campaign in a bar offhand, which was described as a suggestion of a suggestion.

QUESTION: Right.

BARR: And I personally think the subject matter of it, which was the fact -- some vague allusion to the fact that the Russians may have something that they could dump at that time in May 2016, there was rampant speculation going on in the media, on the blogosphere, and in political circles that Hillary Clinton's e-mail server had in 2014 been hacked, and therefore the Russians might have those e-mails.

So drawing the conclusion that this kind of vague comment related to and showed pre-knowledge of the DNC hack and dump, I think, was a big stretch.

But let me just finalize it, which is, from my experience, the normal thing to do in this kind of situation -- and I have had an analogous experience here -- is go to the campaign.

And, here, I don't think there's a legitimate explanation for why they didn't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, let's bring in our senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez, our crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, and our chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Evan, explain his thinking on this, the attorney general -- you cover the Justice Department for us -- because it's pretty stunning to hear an attorney general so openly dismiss the conclusions of the inspector general.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right.

And, look, I mean, the inspector general report addresses exactly what Bill Barr is talking about. And, look, if you go back to July of 2016, the Russians clearly have hacked into and are starting to release some of the information from Democrats.

And then this information comes in. The FBI is trying to figure out, what are the Russians up to? And now they're thinking, is it possible that someone either wittingly or unwittingly is part of this?

And so you kind of have to think back to 2016. That's what the attorney general seems to not be doing. It's funny. He's going back to May of 2016 to talk about what was going on, on FOX News at that time, which we know, obviously, he's very well aware of.

He doesn't seem to -- or discounts what else was happening in July of 2016, when this investigation goes on. And, really, Wolf, you have to think about it. I mean, if the FBI hadn't open this investigation, I think we'd be sitting here right now with an I.G. report looking at what the FBI did wrong in not looking at this.

[18:25:03]

BLITZER: Yes.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Bill Barr is going to keep investigating the FBI until someone condemns him, the way he wants it and the way people on FOX News want it.

I mean, this is such outrageous behavior by the attorney general. And he's even dragging down with him John Durham, who had a good reputation as U.S. attorney in Connecticut, who is doing the next investigation of this.

And he comes out of nowhere with an incomplete investigation and disparages Horowitz's report yesterday. I mean, it is unprecedented. It is not consistent with the rule of law. And this is indicative of a Justice Department that is really out of control.

BLITZER: But John Durham is the U.S. attorney who was named by the attorney general to do a separate investigation, not -- separate from the inspector general's investigation, and he hasn't concluded his criminal investigation.

It's a criminal investigation. And in the midst of a criminal investigation, he releases a statement?

TOOBIN: Never been done. Never been done, except maybe by James Comey on the eve of the...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: As far as the Hillary Clinton investigation.

TOOBIN: Yes, which I think is not considered an excellent precedent.

PEREZ: Look, everybody at the Department of Justice says, we're not going to do any more Comeys.

And that's exactly what John Durham did yesterday.

BLITZER: Yes.

As soon as I saw that statement -- I'm sure, Shimon, you saw it -- I said...

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: No, I thought it was a problem.

And I think -- every all of us were surprised. Look, we did expect some of this from the attorney general. But then, when you have this independent, supposedly independent U.S. attorney that's looking at all of this coming out with this kind of a statement in the middle of the investigation, of course it's a problem.

But just to go on what Jeffrey said about the attorney general bringing down all these different people, I mean, even the current FBI director, Chris Wray, is being brought down in all of this in some ways, because he doesn't agree with what the attorney general is saying here.

He's not agreeing with most of what the attorney general here is saying. And this is the man who reports to the attorney general. The attorney general is his boss.

TOOBIN: And the president tweets this morning, criticizing Chris Wray, the head of the FBI, referring to him as the current FBI director, as if he may not be the future FBI director.

BLITZER: Right. He says: "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."

He keeps saying, William Barr, the attorney general of the United States, that the FBI was spying on the Trump campaign. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: Oh, it was clearly spied upon. I mean, that's what electronic surveillance is.

I think wiring people up to go in and talk to people and make recordings of their conversations is spying. I think going through people's e-mails, which they did as a result of the FISA warrant, they went through everything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Christopher Wray, the FBI director, doesn't say it was spying. TOOBIN: This is court-authorized investigation. That's why you have

a FISA court. The FISA court reviews what the Justice Department puts forward and says, yes, it is appropriate.

So, you can call it spying, but, obviously, it's a pejorative term.

PROKUPECZ: And, also, they didn't wire anyone up.

TOOBIN: Yes. I was going to say. What was that...

(CROSSTALK)

PROKUPECZ: This idea that somehow someone wore a wire inside the campaign, that is completely not true.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: I mean, it's just -- in a fact, that -- no one was wired in this entire investigation.

PROKUPECZ: The entire investigation.

PEREZ: One thing I think, to step back from all this, if, as a result of all of this, the FBI and the intelligence agencies decide that, in the future, if they see something and it has to do with a campaign, then they don't say anything, they're not going to investigate, because of what the attorney general is doing right now, I think that is going to be something that we will look back and say, Bill Barr is the one that built the new Chinese wall, right?

This is the whole thing that came after 9/11. And we looked at Jamie Gorelick, and people said, oh, she built the Chinese wall. Well, Bill Barr could be the new builder of another wall that is going to prevent future FBI agents and FBI directors from doing investigations that necessarily have to be done whenever there is a foreign power trying to attack an election.

BLITZER: Shimon, listen to this. This is Bill Barr, the attorney general, Christopher Wray, the FBI director, commenting on Ukraine, which is, of course, the center of the impeachment inquiry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: What about the allegation that it was the Ukrainians who meddled in the election, not the Russians? Are you satisfied that's not the case?

BARR: I am confident the Russians attempted to interfere in the election.

I don't know about the Ukrainians.

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

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Why does Barr say, I have no information?

PROKUPECZ: Because he is speaking to one person, and that would be the president, Donald Trump.

It seemed that he didn't want to go against perhaps the president on all of this. This was one of the most probably stunning parts of this interview. Yes, you can talk about the FISA stuff the FBI, but this is a current issue that is going on right now.

So, we just had hearings, days of hearings, by members of the Foreign Services testifying to this, saying that this is exactly what Russia wants.

The attorney general knows this, because he has access to all this intelligence.

[18:30:00]

And to go with, he -- again, here is another moment where he is going against his FBI director. That, to me, is what I found so shocking and, in some ways, so troubling because he is undermining the FBI director and, in some ways, in all of this, undermining the FBI because they are fighting this battle. They're continuing to fight this battle by the Russians who are trying to keep and continuing to say that the Ukrainians were the ones that did this hacking.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The Wall Street Journal event that he did just shortly after that interview, he sort of made some more truthful answer, in which he says I have been smart enough to stay away from this Ukraine stuff. That's a reference to what Rudy Giuliani is doing. I think that's the real answer that Bill Barr has. He couldn't give that answer at the NBC interview because, as Shimon says, he doesn't want to upset the president.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: Everybody stick around. There's more news we're following. More breaking news, why House Democrats decided on a narrow focus for their impeachment case against President Trump.

Plus, at least six people killed in a terrifying shoot out just outside New York. We're learning new details.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:35:00]

BLITZER: Breaking news tonight, the House Judiciary Committee will take the next step toward impeaching President Trump a little over 24 hours from now.

Let's bring in our analyst.

And, Abby Phillip, the House Democrats, they moved forward with two articles of Impeachment, abuse of power, obstruction of Congress. Why did they decide on a relatively narrow focus? ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It definitely seems this was about as keeping as much unity as possible in this process. That's been really tough for a lot of Democrats, especially the moderate ones. And Nancy Pelosi, herself, has been pretty reluctant to get to this point. And she's cognizant that a lot of these moderate members who voted yes to authorize the impeachment inquiry were a no on whether or not to impeach the president over the Mueller report.

So to then bring that back in at this late stage, I think, would have caused some trouble and several members alluded to that over the last several days that they would have been mixed votes. They might not have been able to get a majority on some of the other obstruction of justice, for example, articles of impeachment.

And I think there's an expectation that there will be some Democratic losses, but the fact that there will be almost no Republican losses ups the pressure on Pelosi to keep her caucus in line.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Just to Abby's point, what do we know about Nancy Pelosi? She knows how to count votes. This was about political reality. She has some vulnerable members. And if they went to Mueller, we heard Adam Schiff say that there was a pattern of behavior. It's one thing to talk about it, it's another thing to charge it.

Criminal prosecutors can overcharge. She can't afford to overcharge because she can give out some hall passes to members who need them but she wants to make sure she has as many votes as possible.

BLITZER: Bianna, the House Judiciary Committee, a little bit more than 24 hours from now, 7:00 P.M. Eastern tomorrow night, they'll begin the process, the formal process of marking up the articles of impeachment, getting ready for a vote the next day, Thursday, in the House Judiciary Committee, the following the week on the floor of the House of Representatives. What are you watching for specifically as this process moves forward very quickly?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I'll be watching to see if there remains this unity that we can see right now as of this morning when they all agreed on these two really narrow forms of impeachment, on these articles of impeachment.

And I think it was important, symbolically, which is why you saw Nancy Pelosi an hour after they were introduced announce that there was a deal on USMCA. It was way for her to tell constituents and the rest of her caucus that, yes, we will focus on impeachment now because we were forced to but we can also focus on policy. And it reinforces where she stood from the get-go, which is that impeachment was the last choice for her and it's something that she really wanted to avoid.

But it also addresses lot of the criticism from Republicans that we've seen that this is the do-nothing Democratic Caucus and all they want to do is focus on impeachment. This was her way of saying that when it comes to Americans and every day Americans and their jobs and their pocketbooks, we're equally, if not, more focused on that.

BLITZER: Pamela, you've been doing some terrific reporting on potentially some differences as far as the Senate trial is concerned between the Republican leadership in the Senate and the president.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, between the president and Mitch McConnell who will ultimately be the one deciding how the Senate trial is going to look. And what we're told from sources is that the president wants a show. Not surprisingly, he's made clear he wants live witnesses, like Hunter Biden, Adam Schiff, the whistleblower to come and testify on the floor. He wants this to be a production. He wants it to be entertaining. And he's been looking forward to mounting his defense on this venue.

Mitch McConnell, on the other hand, is looking -- he doesn't want a show. He wants this to be over with as quickly as possible. Sources tell my colleagues, (INAUDIBLE) and Kaitlan Collins that he's even floated a ten-day minimum, that he's just looking for the votes for a motion to acquit and then have it be done. So what the president wants and what the reality will end up being is probably very different.

GANGEL: Just -- Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump are two very different people to begin with.

[18:40:00]

I know that Republicans have been calling from the Senate, have been calling up to the White House and saying this cannot be a circus. I would not be surprised if there are no live witnesses. Mitch McConnell want this is very buttoned up and over as quickly as possible.

GOLODRYGA: And Mitch McConnell hasn't come out and fully embraced and endorsed this phone call either. It's something to make note of.

BLITZER: Right. Everybody stick around. There's a lot more news we're following. New details emerging now, President Trump's Oval Office meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and a possible warning he gave Moscow's top diplomat.

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[18:45:32]

BLITZER: There are new questions tonight about what President Trump said to the Russian foreign minister in a meeting earlier today at the White House and whether he warned about Kremlin interference in the 2020 election.

Let's get more on the breaking story from our national security reporter, Kylie Atwood.

Kylie, what are you learning? KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes. Well, the day

started with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo standing next to foreign minister here at the State Department and saying the U.S. would take action if indeed Russia meddled in the elections of the U.S., a clear threat there from the secretary of state. Not many details.

However, even at the White House, the White House put out a statement today saying that Foreign Minister Lavrov met with President Trump. We know that that meeting was about an hour long and President Trump also issued a warning against Russia, do not interfere in U.S. elections.

But later today, the foreign minister of Russia, Lavrov, was at the Russian embassy and he was a little bit evasive when asked about this discussion.

Let's listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): We haven't discussed elections. And President Trump, oh, by the way, I told him that state secretary mentioned it publicly. In response, I have publicly reminded that we have offered to the current administration to publish the correspondence of the channel that was especially established to warn about the cyber threats.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ATWOOD: Now, there, he's a little bit unclear, but admitting that it did indeed come up when he was at the White House today. He referenced fact that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo brought up Russian meddling when he was in those discussions with President Trump.

Now, another thing that foreign minister of Russia was asked about today, are those allegations, those debunked theories that Ukraine interfere in the U.S. elections. We know that Russia have peddled those theories and Trump and his allies latched on and really propagated those theories. But Foreign Minister Lavrov, despite the fact that we know Russians have been pushing those theories said that has nothing to do with Russia and it's an issue for two sovereign states -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Kylie, thanks very much.

The breaking news continues next. We're getting new information about a chaotic and deadly gun battle in New Jersey. We'll have a live update.

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[18:52:33]

BLITZER: We're following a breaking story out of New Jersey and a deadly gun battle and hours' long standoff. Those two suspected shooters faced off with police. Four people were killed, including an officer. The two suspects are dead, as well.

Our national correspondent Jason Carroll is joining us from Jersey City right now.

So, Jason, what's the latest?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, law enforcement, Wolf, talked about the bravery of the officers out here tonight. Law enforcement came under fire for hours during this shootout, and when it was over, two suspects were dead and one of their own, Detective Joseph Seals killed in the line of duty.

This apparently all started at a cemetery not far from where we are now. Detective Seals who was a 15-year veteran had been involved in getting illegal guns off the streets and he confronted the two suspects. That erupted somehow into gun fire and the gun fire ended up moving into a standoff at a small supermarket and that's where we had that standoff occurring for hours.

When that standoff was over again, the two suspects killed. Three civilians inside the supermarket killed by the suspects. Two officers, Wolf, were also injured, but fortunately they were able to survive their injuries and were released from the hospital tonight. Law enforcement officials talking about the bravery not only of Detective Seals, but all of the officers who responded.

New Jersey's governor was just out here just a few minutes ago giving a briefing and commending all of the officers for their bravery in terms of how they handled what happened out here tonight. But again, hearts and prayers are from law enforcement officials going out to Detective Seals and his family. He is survived by his wife and a young baby -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jason Carroll, thanks very much for that update.

And stay with us. There's more news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:58:54]

BLITZER: Finally tonight, no matter where you stand on impeachment, this is a very brave moment for the nation. A president of the United States facing articles of impeachment for only the fourth time in our history. President Trump, now in a league with Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, accused of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Remember, Nixon was the only one who actually left office, resigning before he could be impeached by the House of Representatives. Johnson and Clinton were both impeached, but the Senate failed to convict him.

I covered the Clinton impeachment as CNN senior White House correspondent and reported the outcome of the Senate trial to the nation on February 12th, 1999.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The president of the United States has been acquitted on both of these articles of impeachment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, President Trump faces the next steps in this process, created by the Founding Fathers and enshrined in the Constitution. Regardless of party, all Americans have a stake in what happens in the days and weeks and possibly months ahead.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. You can tweet the show @CNNsitroom.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

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