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EARLY START

House Judiciary Committee to Debate Articles of Impeachment; Trump Publicly Downplays Impeachment; Victims of Jersey City Shooting in Mourning. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired December 12, 2019 - 04:00   ET

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


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REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): Do what you were elected to do. You didn't swear an oath to Donald Trump. You swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): House Democrats are not clarifying that no one is above the law. They are just declaring that none of them are above partisanship and politics.

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DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Democrats and Republicans resume their historic debate on impeachment of President Trump just hours from now.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: CNN has learned Republicans are leaning towards a short impeachment trial in the Senate without the witnesses President Trump would like to see called.

BRIGGS: New video shows the moment two shooters launch their deadly attack on a kosher market in New Jersey.

WALKER: Two people emerge unhurt after this plane was scene on video crash-landing on a Phoenix street.

Welcome, everyone. To our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Amara Walker.

BRIGGS: Good morning.

WALKER: Good morning.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is Thursday, December 12th, 4:00 a.m. in New York. We're only 53 days from the Iowa caucuses and smack in the middle of impeachment.

Just a few hours from now, the actual legislative work on articles of impeachment finally begins. After weeks of hearings and last night's many opening statements, today the House Judiciary Committee will debate amendments, possibly a lot of them. By the end of the day, the committee will vote with Democrats almost certainly sending the matter to a full House over Republicans' strenuous objections.

Congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly with more.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Amara and Dave, it was a long night, it was a late night, but it was also an important night for a couple of reasons. First off, this was obviously on Wednesday night the next step to what is clearly going to lead to the impeachment of President Trump. One more step for House Democrats in their effort. One more step of trying to block those Democrats by all Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee.

But there's also the idea of kind of framing. Through the 41 members, Republicans and Democrats on this Judiciary Committee giving their personal statements as to why they were for or against impeachment, kind of how it was laid out. Take a listen to how one Democrat and one Republican put it.

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REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): I believe that three questions should frame our debate. First, does the evidence show clearly that the president committed these acts? Second, do they rise to the level of impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors? Third, what are the consequences for our national security, for the integrity of our elections and for our country if we fail to act?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): This is not about Ukraine. Facts are on the president's side. Zelensky said he wasn't pressured. Ukrainians didn't even know aid was held at the time of the call and most importantly, they did nothing to get the aid released. This is about one basic fact. The Democrats have never accepted the will of the American people.

Three weeks ago, Nancy Pelosi called the president of the United States an impostor and the attacks on the president started before the election.

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MATTINGLY: So, if Wednesday night was the opening statements, Thursday is the legislative action. There's going to be a lot of back and forth. It will be very long. It will be probably be pretty dense in the weeds in terms of what they're actually doing. But kind of the bottom line I think is this, you're going to see Republicans draft and try to propose a number of amendments to try and change the two articles of impeachment that had been presented by House Democrats.

Democrats themselves will defend those articles of impeachment. They will be not looking to amend those articles of impeachment and they will try and keep everything in its own place. And they can do that. They have the majority on the committee. So, whatever Republicans propose, Democrats can one by one shoot it down.

But what it's all kind of leading to right now is the fact that by the end of the day on Thursday, by the end of legislative consideration before the House Judiciary Committee, the House floor is what's next. The full House vote is what's next. Once the Judiciary Committee is done, there are no more stops, there are no more hearings, there are no more closed-door depositions. The House of Representatives will vote to impeach President Donald Trump next week.

We don't have the exact did day yet but that's what the Judiciary Committee meeting actually means. It means it's on its way to the House floor, it means President Trump is on his way to being impeached.

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And it means that in short order, the Senate, not the House anymore, the Senate will take up the mantle. A Senate trial for President Trump to see if they actually have the votes to remove him office -- guys.

WALKER: All right. Phil Mattingly, thank you for that.

Impeachment light. Witch hunt. President Trump has used a lot of slogans to dismiss his imminent impeachment, downplaying it as just another political stunt by the Democrats. But according to people familiar with his mindset, the prospect of becoming the third U.S. president ever to be impeached is weighing heavily on Mr. Trump.

More now from chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Amara, we are hearing President Trump is growing increasingly aggravated over the likelihood that he will be impeached. A Trump campaign adviser told me simply the coverage bugs him. A separate Trump adviser said the president has been preparing for this moment for some time, suspecting for the better part of the last year the Democrats would try to impeach him after taking control of the House.

This adviser said Mr. Trump is somewhat taken aback that it's this Ukraine scandal that is leading to his impeachment. The adviser said, quote, "Frankly, I think he is a little surprised it's the Ukraine thing that's done it."

Another thing that we're hearing is that Mr. Trump is irked by the fact that he will be joining the less than envious list of presidents who have been impeached. Still, aides said that the president is of the belief at this point that he is winning his debate on impeachment. He's satisfied that Republicans aren't showing many signs that they will defect at either the House or the Senate.

Administration officials are pointing to recent polling that shows that support for impeachment has either held steady or begun to slide against removing the president from office. And we should note at his rally this week, the president appeared to crow over the fact that he's only facing two articles of impeachment. He's dubbed this process impeachment light.

But in the history books, Dave and Amara, it doesn't say impeachment light. It says impeached -- Dave and Amara.

BRIGGS: Jim Acosta there at the White House.

If the president is impeached and there is a Senate trial, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not planning to hold a vote quickly to dismiss the articles of impeachment. According to two Republican senators he will wait to hold a final vote to acquit once the majority of senators feel the trial has run its course. Most Republicans want an acquittal to clear the president, rather than rely on a procedural motion to dismiss the charges with a 51-vote threshold. And note that only 34 votes would be acquired for an acquittal.

WALKER: Some Republicans also seemed to be coalescing around the idea of a shorter Senate impeachment trial. Contrary to President Trump's desire, stated desire a short-form trial would not include witnesses like the whistleblower or Hunter Biden.

Those new details coming from CNN interviews with Republican senators over the past few days. They see the trial is still in the planning stages. But no final decisions on strategy or structure have been made. But GOP senators say they are beginning to see the benefit of keeping the process short and simply laying out evidence in a presentation by house managers and the White House.

BRIGGS: The nonpartisan watchdog for the Justice Department, Michael Horowitz, standing by his findings on Crossfire Hurricane. That's the FBI investigation into whether Trump campaign associates coordinated with the Russian government to sway the 2016 presidential election. Testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee, he defended his conclusion that there had been no political bias in launching the FBI probe.

But Horowitz criticized the FBI's handling of the probe in no uncertain terms, saying he uncovered 17 significant errors or omissions in surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee both scoring political points.

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SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): So your report states that you didn't find documentary or testimony or evidence that political bias or improper motivation played a role?

MICHAEL HOROWITZ, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT INSPECTOR GENERAL: That's correct.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you. And you didn't find a deep state conspiracy against candidate or President Trump?

HOROWITZ: As to the opening, we found no bias, no testimony or documentary evidence on that. We found and as we outlined here are deeply concerned that so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate handpicked investigative teams on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Would you have submitted a warrant application as a lawyer? HOROWITZ: Let me put it this way. I would not have submitted the one

they put in. They certainly misled -- it was misleading to the court.

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BRIGGS: Horowitz refused to speculate about the motivations of FBI officials who made major mistakes applying for surveillance warrant.

WALKER: Hundreds of mourners turn out for the victims of a deadly kosher market attack in New Jersey. More on them and the suspects, next.

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BRIGGS: A check on CNN Business at 4:14, Ron Vera is back to support the tariff man. The "New York Times" reports White House trade adviser Peter Navarro has revived his alter ego to make the case that the U.S. should go ahead with new tariffs on Chinese goods. Tariffs on $156 billion will the Chinese imports are set to kick in Sunday. Those tariffs will hit consumer goods like phones, laptops, toys and office supplies.

According to "The Times," Navarro supplemented his argument in a memo sent from an e-mail address that belonged to Ron Vera.

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Navarro has acknowledged quoting his alter ago as an inside joke in his books. The alias is quoted in at least six of Navarro's books including the coming "China Wars" from 2008. Trade officials from both sides are what could delay the tariffs but a source say no final decision has been made and President Trump has not signed off on a delay. Navarro did confirm the memo to "The Times." It's not clear how widely it was sent out.

WALKER: Police officers in Jersey City, New Jersey, lining the streets in memory of Detective Joseph Seals, shot to death by a pair of gunmen who then attacked a kosher supermarket killing three more people. Seals was a 15-year veteran of the department and was Jersey City's officer in charge of trying to get guns off the street.

Investigators say they're still trying to determine a motive for the attack but "The New York Times" is reporting one of the two shooters has been linked to Black Hebrew Israelites Movement. The movement has many splinter groups but experts say they're all united by the belief that African-Americans are the true descendants of the Jews of the Bible.

CNN's Miguel Marquez has more on the victims and the investigation.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Amara, this is the Jewish market where this horrific incident took place. You can see it's boarded up, still surrounded by police tape. The mayor of Jersey City saying there are no ifs, ands or buts about it, this was a hate crime.

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MAYOR STEVEN FULOP, JERSEY CITY, NEW JERSEY: We need to be aggressive in calling it out for what it is. I know some people will say that we should review things and take our time, but when you look at the facts of what transpired yesterday, it's difficult to argue anything other than that.

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MARQUEZ: The lead agencies investigating this crime are being somewhat more circumspect. They're saying that 47-year-old David Anderson and 50-year-old Francine Graham got out of a stolen U-Haul vehicle, pulling out long rifles, went into this store, but it's still not clear what their motivation was.

CNN does understand through other law enforcement officials that not only was there a pipe bomb in the vehicle, in that stolen U-Haul, there were also writings in there, anti-Semitic and anti-police writings, not only in notes in the vehicle, but also online by these two individuals.

Killed in that store were Mindy Ferencz, she was the store owner, 24- year-old Moshe Deutsch who was shopping in the store, and 49-year-old Miguel Douglas we believe was working in the store. A fourth victim was able to escape after being shot and that person is expected to survive.

All authorities pointing to the bravery of the Jersey City police officers, though, that when they heard shooting starts at this location, they were just a couple of blocks away, ran to this location, that's where our officers got injured. We expect to hear more information from officials here in New Jersey later today -- Dave, Amara.

BRIGGS: Miguel, thanks.

A small plane crash in Phoenix caught on a surveillance camera. Take a look at the aircraft slamming into a utility pole before taking out several vehicles in a used car lot and skidding into the middle of the street.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wanted to try to land on 23rd Avenue. And thank God he didn't because if you would he probably would have taken us out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And they led us on to our property for, like, maybe two minutes and seen about ten of our cars damaged.

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BRIGGS: Two people were onboard the plane. A 48-year-old pilot who is also a flight instructor and a 42-year-old passenger. They were not hurt. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

WALKER: Joe Biden denying reports he's considering a pledge to serve only one term. Politico says four people who speak regularly with Biden believe it is virtually inconceivable that he will run for reelection in 2024 when he'll be 82 years old. Campaigning in Las Vegas, Biden said the story just wasn't true.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you ever talk to any aides about a one-term pledge?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. I never have. I don't have any plans and I'm not even there yet.

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WALKER: In 2024, Biden would be the oldest president in U.S. history by more than four years. He says, let's see how I feel.

BRIGGS: All right. A homeowner hoping to catch a package thief caught something else on his front porch. That story, next.

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WALKER: A would-be thief picked the wrong time to rob a convenience store in Newton, Massachusetts. Security video shows him threatening the store clerk with a knife and forcing him to open the register. What the thief didn't know was that an off-duty police officer had entered the store minutes before he did and was at the back of the store. The officer drew the gun. When the suspect didn't drop his weapon and tried to flee, the officer tackled him to the ground. Other customers blocked the door until police backup arrived.

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LT. BRUCE APOTHEKER, NEWTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: Right place, right time for the department. Wrong place, wrong time for the suspect. She showed great restraint. You know, the suspect was armed, had a knife, and the officer, with the help of the community, was able to subdue the suspect and place him under arrest.

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WALKER: The suspect was charged in connection with armed robbery.

BRIGGS: They fell short in their bid to sign ace pitcher Gerrit Cole but it appears the Los Angeles Angels finally have their man. Free agent third basement Anthony Rendon reportedly agreed to a seven-year $245 million contact with the Halos. The 29-year-old Rendon helped lead the Washington Nationals to the World Series title this past season. Sources say the deal includes a full no-trade clause and no opt-out clause.

WALKER: A Los Angeles homeowner can rest easy after learning who was stealing packages from his front door. You see it right there. It turns out it was this little guy. Surveillance video caught the sneaky squirrel in the act, grabbing an Amazon package and dragging it away. It appears the porch pirate has been pretty active. The owner says he frequently finds his packages in the bushes around the apartment complex. At least he's able to recover them.

BRIGGS: Sneaky little fella.

WALKER: Right?

BRIGGS: Well done.

All right, ahead, a marathon two-day debate on the impeachment of President Trump resumes again on Capitol Hill, just hours from now. The latest on that and the next steps, coming up.

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