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House Panel to Debate Articles of Impeachment. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired December 12, 2019 - 06:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Just hours from now, a contentious debate on articles of impeachment.

[05:59:30]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead. Vote to impeach President Trump. Join us when President Trump is inaugurated again.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): The president is the smoking gun. The smoking gun is reloaded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They parked, they exit and immediately begin firing. That was their target, and they intended to harm people inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An attack on our Jewish community is an attack against all all of us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Thursday, December 12, 6 a.m. here in New York.

And mark this moment. Because by the end of today, the House Judiciary Committee will approve articles of impeachment against the president of the United States; official charges that he abused his power and obstructed justice, that he is not fit to serve as chief executive, that his presence in the White House is a threat to the nation.

Don't lose sight of the significance of those accusations. Don't lose sight of the allegations themselves. That he pressured a foreign government to jump into the 2020 election and then tried to hide the evidence from Congress.

The process today will include a lot of shouting and congressional kabuki theater in the hearing room. I think we have live pictures of that hearing room. Maybe, maybe not. There it is. They're rehearsing. That man will not participate in the hearings, but he is involved with lighting the hearing room.

The moment is bigger than the muddle here. We have learned that, as soon as next Tuesday, the full House will vote to impeach the president. They're fully expected to have the votes, though we're getting new reporting this morning that a handful, maybe a growing handful of Democrats could be getting cold feet.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, CNN has learned that Republicans are warming up to the idea of a short trial in the Senate. That is Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's strategy. But a short trial would not include witnesses. And you've no doubt heard the witness list some in the GOP have in mind.

Also, President Trump is pushing for an aggressive defense. Sources familiar with the president's mindset say the prospect of imminent impeachment is weighing on him. While he is downplaying it publicly, CNN has learned the president is privately, quote, "somber."

So let's begin our coverage with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, live on Capitol Hill for another historic day.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.

I spoke to a number of senators, Democrats and Republicans, from the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. And they all say they want a thorough but speedy trial. One of the Democrats saying just get it over with.

Well, today is going to be a historic day. The House Judiciary Committee expected to, in the markup process, vote it out of committee, sending articles of impeachment to the full House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): The House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote today to advance articles of impeachment against President Trump, accusing him of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Lawmakers will debate the charges against the president.

REP. MARY GAY SCANLON (D-PA): We've been discussing the articles of impeachment, and I think we're very comfortable with where they are.

MALVEAUX: Republicans will try to make changes to the articles, but they are unlikely to pass the Democratic majority.

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): We're going to make amendments, and we're going to talk about the facts.

MALVEAUX: The committee will vote on sending the articles to the full House for final passage as soon as next Tuesday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her team working to finalize those details.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): The Judiciary Committee will please come to order.

MALVEAUX: Last night, the Judiciary Committee kicked off its two-day marathon debate.

NADLER: With a heavy heart but clear in my duty to our country, I support these articles of impeachment.

MALVEAUX: For more than three hours, a passionate display from both sides.

COLLINS: Two articles? Like that? The only abuse of power here is the majority racing the fastest they ever had.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): This is a constitutional crime spree. That's a why courage is so badly needed right here, right now.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): I did not want to get emotional, but the abuses, the obstruction of Congress have come from Congress.

MALVEAUX: With the House entering its final stretch in impeachment proceedings.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): A Senate trial will have to be our first item of business in January.

MALVEAUX: CNN has learned that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is looking to make the Senate trial a quick one, without any witnesses. That would go against what sources have said President Trump wants.

Behind closed doors, impeachment is weighing heavily on the president, despite constantly downplaying it.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is the lightest, weakest impeachment.

MALVEAUX: People familiar with President Trump's thinking say he's privately agitated and worried it will ruin his legacy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And while Trump has been calling for what he prefers as a long, drawn-out process, a real show, if you will, a chance to defend himself with witnesses like Hunter Biden, even the whistle-blower, Adam Schiff, a senior administration official now saying he might be warming up to the possibility of what Mitch McConnell is talking about, the majority leader: something quick and speedy and efficient. Because as this administration official put it, it's his chamber -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Suzanne. Thank you very much. We'll see how all of that plays out.

And a new report suggests that cracks are growing among House Democrats over impeachment. Why a small group of Democrats are now having second thoughts.

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[06:09:19]

BERMAN: So by the end of today, the House Judiciary Committee will approve articles of impeachment. That's a big deal. A very big deal.

Joining us now is CNN senior political analyst John Avlon and CNN political analyst Rachael Bade. She's a congressional reporting for "The Washington Post," with some new reporting, which we'll get to in just a moment.

First, though, John, it began last night, this formal end game of the Judiciary Committee, where they will approve these articles of impeachment. We heard opening statements from each member of the Judiciary Committee.

CAMEROTA: Every 41 of them.

BERMAN: Exactly what America never asked for. Today, they will offer amendments to this. These amendments will not pass. And by tonight, they will pass the articles of impeachment.

But what are you listening for here? Because what struck me is, first of all, both sides tried to make it seem very serious, which it is. They both talked about how somber it was. But by and large, Democrats were talking about the case, and Republicans were yelling.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And that has been the problem throughout this hearing. Republicans haven't been trying to argue the facts, presumably because the actual facts are not in their favor.

So what Americans will be treated to today is a partisan procedural drama that's going to make sausage-making look really accessible and appealing.

And that is, in part, by design. The Republicans are going to try to muddy this up, to make as many people just exasperated as possible so they'll say, look, there's just -- we'll never -- they'll never be able to agree on anything.

The problem is that people aren't contesting the facts. The problem is that this is solemn. But -- but Republicans really have adopted the president's instincts of project and deflect: I know you am -- I know you are, but what am I? And that has led to, I think, what is an increasing perception of a breakdown of our ability to reason together. Because there is a problem in our ability to reason together.

CAMEROTA: And Rachael, about your reporting, one of the things that I know you're looking for is are there cracks emerging within the Democrats? And of course, people have been looking at the vulnerable Democrats who are in the swing districts or the districts that President Trump won. And the numbers are interesting. So you've been trying to get a handle on how many Democrats may defect.

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. I mean, it's still early. We're still a few days out. We could see a vote, potentially, Tuesday or Wednesday next week on the full House floor, but yes, behind the scenes, moderates are continuing to sort of rethink what they want to do here.

A lot of these folks came out very reluctantly for impeachment when the Ukraine controversy broke. They hail from districts Trump won in 2016.

And they're looking at the polls. They're saying that the polls have frozen in terms of moving in Democrats' favor. A lot of them are actually starting to trend the other way, with more people not supporting impeachment of the president and removal than do. And so these people are having second thoughts.

Leadership is expecting right now about a half dozen defections on the vote next week. That is more than the two they had defect on the initial Democratic impeachment inquiry rules vote they had in September.

And look, it's significant, because Republicans are going to take that increase, that number, and say this shows that the Democratic argument is weak.

I mean, this is going to easily pass. Let's be clear here. They are not trying to get to the votes to impeach Trump. They're not going to need to whip this behind the scenes. They're easily going to be there. But those defections, again, they could be problematic in terms of Republican talking points and attacks against the party.

BERMAN: You know, I actually went back and counted. Looked at my notes --

CAMEROTA: Of course you did.

BERMAN: -- from the Clinton impeachment. Which I covered.

CAMEROTA: You still have them.

BERMAN: Which I covered. I have my notes from the Clinton impeachment.

CAMEROTA: And what was -- what were the numbers of defections?

BERMAN: There were five -- well, Republicans lost anywhere from 5 to 81 votes, depending on --

CAMEROTA: Depending upon which part of the trial it was.

BERMAN: I think we have a graphic for this, because it's really interesting.

CAMEROTA: Did you -- Were you up all night designing this graphic?

BERMAN: I was counting on my fingers and toes. They lost five Republicans on one of the articles that passed. They lost 12 Republicans on one of the articles that passed. They lost 28 and 81 on a couple of the articles that did not pass. There were articles that failed. Democrats lost five votes every time, basically.

AVLON: Yes.

BERMAN: Defection.

AVLON: Look. A couple of things to remember about this.

First of all, want to do the politics of impeachment and polling, support -- public support of impeachment for Bill Clinton was never above 35 percent.

And yet still, you saw these cross currents of defections. That's because, as polarized as things felt then, they are vastly more polarized now, particularly on a district by district level.

So there's much more support for impeaching Donald Trump than there ever was for Bill Clinton. But in certain districts, that district polling is what's leading some Democrats to say, particularly from swing districts, I don't know how much I want to be out on this. It's going to be a small number. Rachael makes the point, they've got a 17-vote margin. It's going to pass. It's a very different --

BERMAN: I think Rachael's point is real and important. I think it informs perhaps what we're seeing in terms of the process which is -- which is speed. And I'm not talking about rushing the impeachment through the way the Republicans are. But Nancy Pelosi wants this done by Tuesday so she can do other things. Isn't that right?

BADE: Yes, that's exactly right. I mean, that's been the plan since the week they actually supported the impeachment inquiry in September. I mean, there were discussions that week. We want to get this done expediently. We want this done by the holidays. Even hopes to have it done by Thanksgiving around that time. That obviously didn't happen. We're closer to Christmas.

But yes, they're going to get this done before the end of the year. I think what's interesting on the moderates' sort of freak-out or cold feet, is that thus is coming, despite Pelosi doing everything in her power to sort of cater to these moderates throughout the entire process.

I mean, it was the moderates who said move quickly. Get this done before the holidays. It was the moderates who said focus on Ukraine, make this about national security and sideline the House Judiciary Committee, because it's full of progressive members who have wanted to impeach Trump since day one.

She did all those things. She also listened to them this week when they said, we only want articles on Ukraine and, potentially, obstruction of Congress. No obstruction of justice in the Mueller report.

She listened to them. And she's been giving them a lot of wins behind the scenes. There's one Democrat in particular who's shaky from a Trump district in New York. Trump won it by 15 points. And she gave him this major win in a defense bill this week that's going to boost --

AVLON: Yes.

BADE: -- a manufacturing plant in his district. So she's really working to sort of alleviate their concerns. But again, the worries are still there over the politics.

CAMEROTA: This is the thanks she gets for all of that. That's a fine how do you do.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: That New York story is great. That's the stick-a-fork-in-it district. Go look at what that means, because it's really very interesting what it means. Rachael, John --

CAMEROTA: I think I know what that means.

BERMAN: No. It's about -- it's about requiring that silverware for the military be produced in the United States. And there's only one congressional district where it's manufactured, and it's in New York.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

BERMAN: So he said stick a fork in it.

AVLON: There you go.

BERMAN: It's a good story.

Listen, we've been talking about the House and possible Democratic defections there. When it gets to the Senate, it gets very interesting. And there are signs that Mitch McConnell's concerned about how Republicans will handle it there. We'll tell you that new reporting, next.

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[06:20:37]

MCCONNELL: The Senate has two choices. It could go down the path of calling witnesses and basically having another trial. Or it could decide -- and again, 51 members could make that decision that they've heard enough.

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CAMEROTA: OK. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is advocating for a short impeachment trial in the Senate. In other words, the latter option that he just spelled out.

Sources tell CNN that President Trump is also coming around to that idea, despite pushing for an aggressive defense with live witnesses, originally. So back with us, Rachael Bade and John Avlon.

Rachael, what do you know about that? It seems as though the short trial has the votes right now.

BADE: Yes. They seem to be coalescing around -- around this plan. Look, in this meeting yesterday, McConnell gave a warning to his colleagues. Mutual assured destruction is what he said. That is that witnesses, if they call them, are a double-edged sword.

I mean, Trump might want to bring in the whistle-blower and use the trial to sort of go after his adversaries like Adam Schiff, Nancy Pelosi, try to make this about Hunter Biden and whole the controversy in Ukraine or bring in their former colleague, Joe Biden.

But look, I mean, the problem is this is not -- this is not about what Trump wants. It is about what McConnell can do with 51 votes. How can he get 51 votes to bring somebody in?

And the reality is that there's two things. No. 1, he doesn't know -- McConnell doesn't know that they can get 51 votes to make this sort of the political circus, the political show that Trump wants it to be. Because there are moderate Republicans who would rather hear from serious witnesses like John Bolton, who had very big problems or did not like what was going on with the pressure campaign in Ukraine. They might not want to talk about Hunter Biden. They'd rather talk about the actual facts and the problems with the case.

And the other problem is that Democrats could use this, as well, to their advantage to try to demand people from the White House to come in like Mick Mulvaney, even potentially Vice President Mike Pence.

So McConnell's advice to the White House has been, let's just get this over with. Let's just sort of have the trial without any witnesses. Because if we bring in our people you want, Democrats could potentially push for who they want.

AVLON: Yes. Then the difference being that Democrats would push for people actually directly relevant to this impeachment inquiry, who have so far been denied the right to testify by the White House or by various processes. I mean, Mick Mulvaney is relevant. John Bolton is relevant. Rudy Giuliani could be relevant.

What Trump had been pushing for is sort of his version of a burn-it- all-down trial, where you put -- we're going to put the system on trial. Because you don't actually have the facts on your side.

And behind it all, of course, is the sense that Republicans got a problem because they can't argue the facts. And the president hasn't encouraged them to do so.

BERMAN: It's also -- We talk about the moderates in the House, Democrats getting cold feet. In the Senate, the Susan Collins problem, a Cory Gardner problem, who are up for reelection, you know. Martha McSally in Arizona.

AVLON: Yes.

BERMAN: And Mitt Romney, you know, who's not up for re-election and would never lose, no matter what. But you have enough moderates there who Mitch McConnell may not be able to bring along, if you want to do that. So that would be an issue there.

CAMEROTA: I think that one interesting development is how the president is feeling about this. And the very interesting CNN reporting says -- and I'll just read this quote. "'I think he's been preparing for this for some time,' a Trump advisor said, adding that the president has appeared, though, somewhat taken aback that it's his actions towards Ukraine that are ultimately, possibly leading to his impeachment. Quote, 'Frankly, I think he's a little surprised it's the Ukraine thing that's done it.'"

Which action does he think is impeachable?

AVLON: I love that detail from our reporting. I mean, the whole -- the whole underlying thing being, like, this? This? Out of all the other stuff I do, every day?

CAMEROTA: If you don't like this, you're going to hate this other thing.

AVLON: But you can easily see that being sort of part of the president's kind of -- I mean, impeachment's so big. And of course, he doesn't like the stain on his legacy it represents. You can't get what -- impeachment doesn't come out in the wash, even if you can make a case that you benefit politically. Down the road, it sticks to you.

That said, I love this idea that the president has been like, of all the things I do, this phone call was the thing that got me? That's what's outrageous.

BERMAN: Yes. But -- and it is interesting. And I think it informs what we see today in these hearings and what we will hear from the president. To know that this is really bothering him, Rachael. I mean, despite everything, this is really bothering him, as it should.

AVLON: Yes.

BERMAN: You know, being impeached is not a good thing.

[06:25:01]

BADE: Yes. I mean, remember just a few months ago when we were hearing from the White House and top Trump officials that they wanted the House to impeach the president? Sort of bring it on. This will help his re-election campaign.

AVLON: Yes.

BADE: I mean, look. Clearly, this is not something he's happy with. I mean, the reporting you guys have there is -- is great. I mean, it shows that he is -- he's stewing. There's some behind-the-scenes details there about how he's been

asking about, you know, polling. How is the polling doing on impeachment? Which way are people leaning?

And also, frustration about this sort of clouding other big legislative wins that he's got this week, including USMCA, a new huge trade deal. Look at, you know, the coverage right now. A lot of things are focused on impeachment. He's not getting the sort of applause he wants on that trade deal right now, in part because everybody's focused on impeachment.

So yes, I mean, clearly, this is not something he wants and is happy with.

CAMEROTA: One more bit of color, and this courtesy of "The New York Times'" Katie Rogers.

BERMAN: One more thing.

CAMEROTA: One little more thing, about how the president is trying to orchestrate this from the White House. And he's -- he's apparently cutting out clippings and sending them to people when he wants to bolster their argument. Sending it to his defenders, writing, this is the argument that you should make.

I thought that this was interesting. This is P-120. "At the center of the effort is Mr. Trump. He spends his days," quote, "'presidenting,' as the people who work for him put it, and receiving updates on how his surrogates have performed in more than 360 media appearances in the past month." Presidenting.

AVLON: So there used to be a term called adulting that was created when millennials were trying to figure out how to function. And this --

BADE: Still a term. Still a term.

AVLON: And this is the echo of that.

Still a thing? OK.

BADE: Still a thing.

AVLON: Good to know. Now it just applies to the Oval Office.

CAMEROTA: But what are you doing while you're presidenting?

AVLON: Apparently, you're acting like a casting director.

BADE: Just to jump in there, I do think that it's interesting. Trump has figured something out that even President Obama didn't. And that is that personal contact goes a long way --

AVLON: Sure.

BADE: -- with rank-and-file members. AVLON: Absolutely.

BADE: I mean, what they have done with Camp David --

AVLON: Absolutely.

BADE: -- is just completely amazing. I mean, using this historic retreat that is typically reserved for the president alone and inviting rank-and-file members, to sort of reach out to them and talk about impeachment, but also just hang out. This has gone a long way in terms of buying good will in the House. And again, it shows that just a little contact can go a long way in terms of politics and keeping people on your side.

AVLON: Such a good point.

BERMAN: Working the jury.

Hey, one bit of breaking news before we go to break. CNN has confirmed that Alan Dershowitz, the attorney, is informally advising the president's legal team and could play a role in the Senate trial.

CAMEROTA: So he's joined the legal team?

BERMAN: I think we're saying advising the legal team. Others have said joining the legal team. I'm telling you the CNN reporting is -- we can get into the difference at a later date --

CAMEROTA: Got it. Got it. I'm reading you loud and clear.

BERMAN: Can we say that again?

Rachael, great to have you with us.

John, thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right. Shocking new surveillance video captures the moment that two shooters targeted a Jewish market and went on a killing spree. What we're also learning about their motive, next.

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