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House Panel To Debate Articles of Impeachment; Four Killed at Kosher Market; Pelosi's Impeachment Moment; Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is Interviewed on Horowitz Testimony. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired December 11, 2019 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Reacting to this likelihood that he's about to become the third U.S. president ever to be impeached? Well, among other things, he's lying.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The president and the attorney general are distorting the findings of the Justice Department inspector general's report, which found the FBI investigation of the 2016 Trump campaign, the origins of the Russia investigation, was unbiased and justified.
Now, in just a few hours, that inspector general will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. His findings are squarely at odds with Attorney General Bill Barr and the president, who continue to peddle this now debunked lie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Folks, they spied on our campaign, OK? They spied.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: All right, joining us now we have CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and CNN political analyst Rachael Bade. She's a congressional reporter for "The Washington Post."
Jeffrey, before we get to what's going to happen next in impeachment, I just want to start there because I know you have strong feelings about what Bill Barr is saying, what the president said last night at his rally. They continue to use the term "spying," though the inspector general debunked that.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the astonishing thing that you see, especially from Bill Barr, who presumably knows better, is that he is reciting facts that just didn't happen. I mean he -- he said in this interview with -- with Pete Williams yesterday on NBC that, you know, they -- they sent people in wired up, you know, with -- on -- you know, with -- you know, people wearing wires to talk to the campaign. It never happened. I mean he's just making things up about what this investigation was. And now we have this exhaustive report that the president and the
attorney general had touted as sort of the definitive word on the appropriateness of this investigation, which they're now completely casting aside. And they seem determined to investigate and investigate the FBI until they get someone who will reach the conclusion that they want. Now they're putting their faith in this John Durham from Connecticut.
But, I mean, it is just something that is so astonishing, especially coming from the Justice Department.
BERMAN: And, Jeffrey, I watch TV occasionally at night. I heard you call William Barr, the attorney general of the United States, a Fox bot. What did you mean by that?
TOOBIN: Well, it's that, you know, he and Fox News are repeating talking points about this investigation that are simply not true. And, you know, to be demeaning the FBI as spying on a political campaign when, you know, this exhaustive 500 page report said that this was appropriate. It was done through appropriate channels. It was not done with political motivation. I mean it's just something that we haven't seen before. Maybe since the Nixon years. But even then you didn't have the brazenness that you have from the attorney general and from the president on this subject.
CAMEROTA: And, Rachael, that's why today is going to be so fascinating. So this morning Michael Horowitz, that inspector general, is going to testify. And he's going to have to explain and thread the needle somehow between the attorney general of the United States, Bill Barr, and his impressions, and the director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, who says this is called surveillance and investigation. This is exactly what the FBI does. This is our mission statement. It's not called spying. That's not the same thing. And so that will be fascinating to watch.
And then, a few hours later, there will be this primetime moment of the Judiciary Committee arguing in five-minute increments where we are with impeachment.
What will you be watching?
RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I'll be trying to pay attention to all at once.
I mean it just shows the sort of dual reality that we see here in Washington, or I guess you call the split screen. I mean Republicans in the Senate very much have been focusing on this whole investigating of the investigator. Obviously the report did not come out like they wanted it to. There was no finding of political bias. But it did leave enough of little pieces in there that they can pick things out and say the FBI didn't quite follow standards or may have done something wrong in terms of this investigation. Obviously there was no bias again. So this undercuts the Republican argument.
At the same time, Democrats moving forward with their opening statements. I mean this is going to be political grandstanding at its finest or at its worst, depending on which way you want to look at it. But, yes, it's going to be really interesting over in the House and to see these sort of dual things play out at the same time.
I will say, I'm watching a third thing that is not going to be on the TV cameras, and that is a bunch of shaky moderates right now who behind the scenes are getting cold feet and have been talking about wanting to potentially censure the president instead of impeach him, which, of course, we know is not going to happen.
But, again, it just speaks to all these different dynamics that are happening with Republicans trying to push their counter narrative, Democrats trying to move forward with their own impeachment. And in all these other dynamics behind the scenes, including moderates scared about and voting on impeaching next week.
BERMAN: Rachael, how cold and how many I think is a key question. And in the broader question is -- because there's a large amount of inevitability about what we're going to see starting tonight. This process is now in full gear and we know where it's headed. But in addition to that question I just asked you, what else are you looking for, broadly speaking, in the next five or six days?
BADE: Yes, I mean, I think with the moderates, a lot of them are nervous. I would put the number at at least, you know, 10, a dozen or so who are concerned about next week. But the question is going to be, how many of them are actually willing to vote against some of these articles. I mean there was a discussion on Tuesday night, a group of ten of them that met that said, we'd rather vote on censure. We don't want to vote on impeachment.
But I think these folks also know that it doesn't matter what they want. This is a train that is not stopping. And so them going to leadership and saying they want censure, it's a little late for that and I think they also know.
There has been some discussion, though, from my understanding, about some moderates voting against the article of obstruction of Congress, which I find very fascinating because that they have a ton of evidence for. I mean Trump has stonewalled more than two dozen congressional investigations flat out. No subpoenas. No complying with documents. No witnesses. And yet some of these moderates are looking at potentially voting down on that article and voting up on the abuse of power charge on Ukraine. So they think that will show some independence with some of their Democratic colleagues. Obviously they're worried about Republicans back home who are saying they're only the Democrats who want to impeach Trump. They're not helping, you know, Americans. They're not trying to pass legislation. They're really concerned about those types of adds. And so they want to show some sort of independence.
TOOBIN: Can -- and can I just add an even more cynical view here?
A lot of these moderates are going to lose a lot of campaign contributions from the core Democratic constituents if they don't vote for impeachment. So they have different forces pushing them in different directions. The base of the party really wants impeachment. And if they vote against it, look for their campaign contributions to have serious problems.
CAMEROTA: That is a pickle for them. I mean we can see why they are quite uncomfortable today.
Jeffrey, what are you watching on yet another historic day today?
TOOBIN: Well, you know, I'm thinking back. I was just a kid, I wasn't there, but, you know, in -- at this moment in 1974, Barbara Jordon, who was the African-American -- first African-American woman to represent Texas in Congress gave a famous speech about why she was voting for the impeachment of Richard Nixon in the House Judiciary Committee. And it will be interesting to see if anyone rises to the occasion with that level of eloquence. I think everybody knows what the votes are in the Judiciary Committee, but, you know, will anyone be able to speak in a way that we'll remember for longer than a day?
BERMAN: Jeffrey, and you've been so good about reminding us about how historically significant this moment is, and also how serious the charges are against the president of the United States, which is why it is remarkable, once again, and we use that word maybe too much in regards to this president, it's remarkable about how he tried to spin the severity of the impeachment charges.
He was at a rally last night. I noted earlier that it was geographically in Pennsylvania but metaphorically in the twilight zone. This is how he described the articles of impeachment against him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You saw their so-called articles of impeachment today? People are saying they're not even a crime. What happened? All of these horrible things. Remember, bribery and this and that it -- where are they? They send these two things. They're not even a crime. This is the lightest, weakest impeachment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Now, he normally likes things to be the biggest --
TOOBIN: Impeachment light.
CAMEROTA: But this time it's the lightest.
TOOBIN: I -- you know, I -- I don't think James Madison had a category in the Constitution for impeachment and impeachment light. It's kind of -- it's kind of an on/off switch.
You know, look, I -- the number that keeps sticking in my mind is that, you know, for 200 years we had one impeachment. And now we've had three proceedings in the last 45 years. You know, Nixon, Clinton, and Trump. And I think that is indicative of, you know, just how volatile and angry our politics have become. But the -- but the even bigger difference is that, you know, with Clinton and Nixon, there was even a slight element of contrition and that, you know, and argument on the part of the president's supporters at least that, yes, mistakes were made.
And what we don't see from the president at all is any indication that he would have done anything differently. And in a way it really raises the stakes for 2020 because I don't think there's any doubt that if he president is re-elected, we are going to see more like this. And with the sanction of re-election, we're going to see the president even more emboldened to go to foreign powers, for example, and say help me politically.
BERMAN: Why wouldn't he?
BERMAN: Why wouldn't he?
BADE: Yes, I mean, just to jump off what Jeffrey was saying there, I mean I just -- the whole question that has been in the back of my mind throughout the past few weeks is, is this working? I mean the founders made impeachment for the sort of last ditch, extreme measure to check a president. And, I mean, clearly this process is moving forward. It's all partisan. Republicans are not even willing to acknowledge wrongdoing.
And Democrats are arguing, we have to move fast right now because Trump is -- you know, he's continuing to push, you know, Ukraine to do these investigations. Giuliani's there. We got to move now.
But by impeaching Trump, I mean, without any Republican support and without any contrition on the part of the president, I mean, Giuliani's over there right now pressuring Ukraine. Is this even working? And so I just have had, you know, real questions about the checks and balances in our democracy. Is something broken? And, I mean, it's just -- it's just baffling, I would say.
CAMEROTA: Excellent point to end on.
Rachael, Jeffrey, thank you very much for all of the analysis.
So the impeachment of Donald Trump is setting up an epic showdown between the president and the speaker of the House. A look at Nancy Pelosi's evolution to this pivotal moment in history.
BERMAN: Breaking news.
The mayor of Jersey City now says surveillance video shows that two shooters clearly targeted a kosher market when they engaged in an hours' long shootout with police. Three civilians and a veteran police officer were killed, along with the two suspects.
CNN's Alexandra Field is live in Jersey City with the breaking details.
He suggested that the kosher market is targeted. Now he says he's seen proof, Alexandra.
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. He says that there are hours of this CCTV video. What Steven Fulop, this mayor of Jersey City, does not say is what exactly is shown by that video that leads him to the conclusion that it was targeted. But he is saying unequivocally that this kosher market behind me was, in fact, the target of these shooters, where this hours' long standoff occurred.
He goes on to say in a series of tweets this morning that he is Jewish, that he is proud to be a resident of Jersey City, that there is no place in this city for anti-Semitism. He also says there are also no outstanding credible threats to the city, but that there will be a stepped up law enforcement presence regardless. We're hearing the same thing from New York City's mayor, Bill de Blasio, who says he is adding police to key locations in the Jewish community there despite the facts that there are also no further credible threats in New York City.
Meanwhile, the investigation in Jersey City does continue. The names of the suspects have not yet been released. The civilians killed have not yet been publicly identified. And we know the officers are on scene at at least two other locations that they believe are tied to the standoff and the shooting at the kosher market. They're looking at a U-Haul that's being examined by the bomb squad. Also, of course, they are investigating the shooting death of a detective in Jersey City, who spent his career trying to get guns off the street. Yesterday afternoon, policy say he was gunned down by the suspects near a cemetery not far from here.
CAMEROTA: Alexandra, it sounds like police are moving quickly with their investigation here. Thank you very much for the update.
So the Pentagon is halting its training program for hundreds of Saudi military personnel in the wake of the deadly shooting by a Saudi airman at a naval air station in Pensacola. The FBI issued a warning back in May about a loophole that allowed this shooter to legally purchase the gun he used. It permits non-immigrant visa holders to buy firearms with a hunting license. Authorities are treating this as a possible act of terrorism. A new report in "The Washington Post" suggests the gunman may have been radicalized years before coming to the U.S.
BERMAN: So, for months, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was reluctant to support impeachment. She didn't support it. But now she stands firmly behind it, believing that President Trump's actions are too egregious to ignore. Still, the House speaker faces a delicate balancing act, one that is putting her political prowess to the test. CNN's Tom Foreman has the story.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): That is not a point of order.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a point of order.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I made a point of order.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In a rough week amid tumbling times, Nancy Pelosi is walking a tight rope on government --
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We're not going to have a shutdown.
FOREMAN: On a new trade deal.
PELOSI: This trade agreement is much better than NAFTA.
FOREMAN: And on the impeachment probe of Donald Trump.
PELOSI: If we did not hold him accountable, he would continue to undermine our election.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's really bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
FOREMAN: It's been a long time coming for the speaker of the House. Just nine months ago, Pelosi dodged the idea of impeaching Trump, even in the face of intense pressure from progressives, arguing it was too divisive for the country, she told "The Washington Post," he's just not worth it.
TRUMP: You take a look at that call, it was perfect. I didn't do it. There was no quid pro quo.
FOREMAN: By early fall, as the Ukraine scandal boiled up, polls showed even independents were warming to the idea that Trump should be removed from office.
Yet Pelosi would say only that the White House could be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness.
Then came the formal vote on an impeachment inquiry. Team Trump's effective pledge to stonewall congressional oversight. And Pelosi told a CNN town hall she's had enough.
PELOSI: If we were not to proceed, it would say to any president, any future president, whoever she or he may be, Democratic or Republican, that our democracy is gone. The president is king. He can do whatever he wants in violation of the law and ignoring the acts of Congress, undermining our system of checks and balances.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I just hope no Congress ever repeats what we're going through today.
FOREMAN: To blunt Republican talking points about her party being obsessed with impeachment and to give her fellow Democrats cover, Pelosi seems to be everywhere talking about legislation, policies, the work of Washington, even how she deals with Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How would you describe your relationship with the president?
FOREMAN: And she is hitting hard at anyone who suggests she simply hates him.
PELOSI: And I still pray for the president. I pray for the president all the time. So don't mess with me when it comes to words like that.
FOREMAN: She is striking a very fine balance on a very high wire to be sure, trying not to alienate the political left or middle by working too readily with the White House on legislation, while doing battle simultaneously with a president who rarely misses a chance to give her a shove from the right.
CAMEROTA: Our thanks to Tom Foreman there. Very interesting to watch how Nancy Pelosi has coming to the fore here.
So, Attorney General Bill Barr disagreeing with the inspector general's report and defying the FBI director. What will the inspector general himself say today under oath? A Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee is here on that, next.
BERMAN: So, in the middle of an historic impeachment process in the House of Representatives, what promises to be a dramatic day in the senate? The Justice Department inspector general will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Michael Horowitz just released a report critical of how the FBI applied for surveillance warrants in the Russia investigation, but found that the investigation was legal and that there was no evidence of political bias in how they launched the investigation.
Joining me now is Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal. He is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and will take part in these hearings today.
Michael Horowitz, what do you want to hear from him today?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): What I want to hear is a clear, explicit picture of how this investigation was in no way the result of anti-Trump animus or bias. No cause by a cabal or deep red state animus against Trump.
I want to hear him confront directly and rebut the real insult from Attorney General Barr against all federal law enforcement but most particularly against the integrity of his report because what the attorney general seems to be doing is simply festering and supporting the right wing conspiracy theories about this Russia investigation, which produced very dramatic convictions, 37 indictments and seven convictions, five prison sentences, not a bogus narrative as the attorney general says. And that's what I want to hear from Mr. Horowitz.
BERMAN: And just to remind people again, the Horowitz report found that the investigation was properly predicted, it was legal and there was no evidence in political bias in how it was launched. Yet, as you say, the attorney general of the United States is citing bad faith.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: They not only didn't tell the court that what they had been relying on was completely, you know, rubbish. They actually started putting in things to bolster the Steele report.
These irregularities, these misstatements, these omissions were not satisfactorily explained. And I think that leaves open the possibility to infer bad faith.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: And, again, the inspector general did not infer bad faith, specifically found no evidence of political bias there. And what's really remarkable, Senator, is what we now hear from the FBI director, Christopher Wray, who finds himself in a pickle because he seems to agree with the inspector general report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: The inspector general did not find that political bias or improper motivations impacted the decision to open the Russia interference investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: What do you make of this apparent rift now between the FBI director and the attorney general and the president of the United States?
BLUMENTHAL: This rift is absolutely unprecedented in a case of this magnitude. The director of the FBI is not merely defending its agency. He is stating the truth that whatever the errors or omissions in seeking the warrants for electronic surveillance were not the result of bad faith, not anti-Trump animus or bias, and the attorney general, who theoretically is his boss, is perpetuating this right-wing conspiracy theory about bad faith, anti-Trump animus. And, in fact, impugning the integrity of the entire FBI and law enforcement.
That is striking. And it's a real disservice to law enforcement.
But the --