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House Panel to Debate Impeachment; Dershowitz Informally Advising Trump; House Democrats Brace for Defections; Impeachment Then and Now; Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) is Interviewed on Impeachment. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired December 12, 2019 - 07:00   ET

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


[07:00:00]

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Or inconsequential mistake. He does conclude that there is no evidence that those omissions were intentional. And I think that's an important point.

CAMEROTA: But do you know why Carter Page wasn't -- why that information about Carter Page wasn't included?

MCCABE: I do not. I do not. That the kind of back and forth about those facts that were not represented to the court is not something that ever came to my attention or the attention of anyone that I worked with at headquarters as far as I know.

CAMEROTA: Andrew McCabe, we really appreciate your perspective on all of this as someone who is involved.

MCCABE: Sure.

BERMAN: Thanks, Andy.

MCCABE: Yes, thanks very much.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much.

BERMAN: All right, this is an historic day. The push to impeach the president. The articles of impeachment will be approved by the end of today.

NEW DAY continues right now.

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

CAMEROTA: And we want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is a special edition of NEW DAY.

We are just hours away from the House Judiciary Committee debating the two articles of impeachment against President Trump, accusing him of abusing his power and obstructing Congress. By the end of today, lawmakers on that committee will vote to send the articles to the full House of Representatives for this significant vote to impeach the president. BERMAN: The Republicans, obviously, not happy about it. They haven't

so much talked about the facts as they've railed against the process. And you can expect much the same today. Republicans will offer as many amendments as they can to drag out this fight. But ultimately, by the end of the day, this committee will approve the articles of impeachment.

Also today we're learning more about what the eventual trial in the Senate might look like. Mitch McConnell may be amenable to not having witnesses and allowing a vote to acquit the president as soon as possible.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live inside the hearing room, begins in just two hours.

Suzanne, what are you seeing?

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

Well, this is the last time that we're going to be in this beautiful House chamber. The next step in the process is going to be before the full House. It was yesterday I spoke with several senators, Democrats and Republicans, on (INAUDIBLE) they want this to go thoroughly and as quickly as possible. One Democrat saying, let's just get it over with.

In two hours, you're absolutely right, the House Judiciary Committee is going to be making history here as they continue the debate and the amendment process of these two articles of impeachment.

Now, here's how it's going to work. First it will start with a formal introduction of those articles of impeachment, abuse of power, obstruction of Congress. Then you will have the -- each 41 of those members given a chance to introduce amendments to those articles. We expect that Democrats will not offer amendments. They're pretty much on the same page with Chair Jerry Nadler. But Republicans are going to flood the zone here. So they can either change the articles or they can obstruct in some way. They can delay the process. And those we anticipate, of course, will be struck down, voted on one by one.

Each of the members, the 41 members, will have a chance to talk up to five minutes about those amendments that they introduce. And then finally what will happen, those articles of impeachment very much expected that they will pass out of committee and then be sent on to the full House as early as next Tuesday.

John and Alisyn, when do we expect the process to end? We do know that there's a congressional ball tonight at 7:00 at the White House that many Republicans would like to attend. And so we do anticipate that this process could wrap up in the early evening.

John and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: That's really helpful.

BERMAN: Fancy dress will expedite (ph) the entire process.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

BERMAN: This is always the case.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Congress should have a fancy ball or dance or whatever every night and I think a lot more would get done.

BERMAN: It's a great idea.

CAMEROTA: OK. Fantastic.

Joining us now, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, and CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman. She's a White House correspondent for "The New York Times."

Great to see you both.

So, Dana, now the real wheeling and dealing begins. It's the sausage making that we so often hear about. There'll be lots of amendments that Republicans propose. None of those are expected to pass. So what do we expect today?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly that. I mean, look, we are -- this is the last chance for the Republicans who are on this committee to make the case, as they did late into the night last night, that this process, and really they almost entirely did focus on process, and we have to keep, you know, sort of reminding about that, that this process, they don't think is right and that this is, you know, just a -- you know, unnecessary to go down this road because the Democrats have wanted to impeach the president since the beginning. And the Democrats are going to try to keep the train on the track. That track being these two articles of impeachment that they agreed on. And on the substance of what they think the president did that was and is an impeachable offense with regard to Ukraine, asking Ukraine to investigate his political opponent, Joe Biden.

[07:05:06]

The president asking the leader in a White House released transcript summary of a phone call in exchange for a meeting and for releasing military aid to that ally.

The goal is going to be to keep (INAUDIBLE) focus. For Democrats, it's going to be very hard because Republicans are going to use the tools that they have in this committee to try to change the topic. But at the end of the day, we are going to see the votes and it is going to be history. And that's the thing to keep in mind.

BERMAN: Exactly. And those charges you laid out are a very big deal, Dana. They're just important to note. It's also a big deal that the articles of impeachment will likely be approved today and that the president will be impeached next week. That is a big deal. And sometimes it's easy to lose sight of that in the midst of the shouting and the theater that we're going to see in this hearing room today.

BASH: Exactly. BERMAN: Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Maggie, the White House knows it's a big deal. And you can tell they know by some of the actions they are now taking. CNN is reporting that Alan Dershowitz is advising the White House impeachment team. You were reporting this as well. CNN says he could be involved in the Senate trial in terms of explaining his side of the constitutionality of the charges here.

What are you hearing?

HABERMAN: Exactly that. I don't think he actually is formally advising the White House team yet, but there has been discussion within the White House among the president's personal advisers about whether to bring him on. You had Mark Meadows, Congressman from North Carolina, who's very close to the president who said it publicly this week that he would like to see Alan Dershowitz added to the team.

And it is, as you said, to be on this narrow area of the law if he is involved in helping defend on this trial. Dershowitz, obviously, had some connection to the Jeffrey Epstein case. And he has denied doing anything wrong. But it would -- there would be headlines around that. And some of the president's advisers are mindful that that could become a distraction. Most of them think that he would be a good addition. The president, remember, welcomed him to the dais or to the podium yesterday at a Hanukkah reception at the White House, Alan Dershowitz. The president likes him very much. He's very comfortable with him, has consulted with him on and off at various points over the last three years.

But they are now very much focused on the trial and what comes next. They are going to try to get their shots in today. Republicans are. But the White House and the Senate GOP are very focused on what the next phase of this will look like.

CAMEROTA: In terms of the president's mind-set, Dana, I think that CNN has some interesting reporting. This is from Kaitlan Collins and Jim Acosta. It says, quote, I think he's been preparing for this for some time, a Trump adviser said, adding, the president has appeared somewhat taken aback that his actions toward Ukraine are ultimately what led to his likely impeachment. Quote, frankly, I think he's a little surprised it's the Ukraine thing that's done it, the adviser said. Which, of course, begs the question, what did he think would do it?

BASH: Exactly. Please, come investigate the other things that I did that could be impeachable offenses.

Look, this is kind of classic. It's classic Donald Trump. I know Maggie has been saying to anybody who will listen, as much as on the political side of the Trump White House and the Trump world. They say that this is great. They show us polls. That how much is this going to hurt Democrats in -- on the congressional side, even potentially the Democrat who runs against -- against President Trump.

But, at the end of the day, this is a guy who spent his business career putting his name on buildings in the biggest letters he can find. And that is because his legacy matters so much. His name brand matters so much. And he knows that after -- after this process in the House is done, no matter what happens in the Senate, he will go down as one of likely three U.S. presidents of 45 who will be impeached by the House of Representatives. And that is not a legacy that he wants.

BERMAN: Maggie, some numbers here. We're getting some more reporting. Rachael Bade was on from "The Washington Post" before and CNN has this reporting now that House leaders, Democratic leaders, think they could lose more than the two Democrats we know who already opposed impeachment. They're thinking anywhere from three to six right now, those numbers are.

And just so people know, that's actually in line with the Clinton impeachment. When Republicans impeached President Trump, they lost five votes on one. They lost 81 votes on a different article of impeachment.

CAMEROTA: Republicans did.

BERMAN: Republicans did.

CAMEROTA: I mean, just to be clear, that -- those numbers are -- are really staggering here.

BERMAN: Yes, Republicans did.

So -- so, you know, six votes isn't enough to sink him. I don't think Nancy Pelosi is worried at all that it will go down.

And then you go to the Senate. You say the White House is preparing for the Senate trial and CNN has reporting on that as well, Maggie, that right now Republicans in the Senate seem to be leaning toward the idea of just getting this done quickly and don't have the circus that the president has wanted with all these different kinds of witnesses.

[07:10:05]

What are you hearing?

HABERMAN: Well, John, remember, there's a really important fact there, which is that there are not currently 51 votes in the Senate to approve the witnesses that would go along with what you just described as the circus that the White House would want. I think that they would look at it as a chance to make their -- make their case.

Ted Cruz, senator from Texas, was part of a meeting at the White House, I think it was three weeks ago, three and a half weeks ago, and he was among the senators who made clear to the White House, there are not 51 votes for witnesses. That is how this has to happen. The process has to get approved by vote if they're going to proceed with that.

Now, that also meant there weren't 51 votes for the witnesses Democrats wanted either. But he was making clear, it was taken by people in the room, referring to some of the, you know, edgier witnesses, like Hunter Biden, who the White House might want to call. So if you're not going to do that kind of a trial and I know we've

discussed this before in this show, but trial is a really loose word because we don't really know what this is going to look like. And it could look like a lot of things. Absent that, I think that Senate Republicans see value in just getting this over fast. I think that there has been a decision made against a vote to dismiss. I think that a number of senators believe they have to do something to reflect what they are voting on the case itself, but I think that it's going to go quickly, possibly with no witnesses.

BASH: And can I just add to that, the -- what Maggie just said, a decision. Looks like the majority leader, Mitch McConnell has made a decision not to just dismiss. So the reason this is important is it sounds very procedural and very in the weeds.

But here's why it matters. And this is new reporting from Ted Barrett and Manu Raju, which is that if they move to -- move to acquit, you have a visual. You have a moment. You have a made for ad moment with the chief justice of the United States saying the president of the United States is acquitted. So to be able to use that and juxtapose that against, you know, what is now in the zeitgeist at that point, which is the president got impeached but the House, that's huge politically going forward for a president.

Again, talking about the history, we haven't seen this before. A president going through this right before he's going on the ballot. In Clinton and Nixon, it didn't get that far. They were already in their second term. So this is unchartered territory when it comes not just to substance and much more importantly it's uncharted when it comes to the politics and the calendar.

CAMEROTA: That's really interesting context.

I want to move on to Bill Barr, the attorney general.

A lot has been revealed, I think, about Bill Barr and his mind-set, Maggie, during this inspector general report. He continues to use the term spying, which we know is loaded, has all sorts of negative connotations. And so if the chief law enforcement officer of the country is not comfortable with the investigative tools of surveillance and informants, which, of course, the FBI uses all the time, every day, to crack cases, we're not quite sure what that means going forward.

Here's what the former attorney general under Barack Obama, Eric Holder, had to say in an op-ed today in "The Washington Post."

Attorney General Bill Barr has made a series of public statements and taken actions that are so plainly ideological, so nakedly partisan and so deeply inappropriate for America's chief law enforcement official that they demand a response from someone who held the same office. I now fear that his conduct running political interference for an increasingly lawless president will wreak lasting damage.

The significance, Maggie? HABERMAN: Look, it's pretty breathtaking. You usually don't hear one of the predecessors of a sitting attorney general make comments like that. Holder is not given to making comments like that. He has gotten more into the political realm. We haven't heard him talk about DOJ in quote this way.

You know, I've been thinking, looking at what -- their -- I don't -- I can't think of a precedent for what Bill Bar has said in terms of a sitting AG talking about the FBI. Obviously this is all relegated to the last, you know, however many years, 80 or so.

But, still, I can't think of another time where we've had a situation like this. And you have to think that what Barr is saying isn't going to be seen as relevant just in the case of President Trump. But there are going to be people who get arrested, there are going to be people who get investigated by the FBI, and are they going to refer in their cases to the words of the AG as, you know, predisposed to thinking the FBI is not doing things appropriately? I just can't -- it's hard to -- and I think this is some of what Holder is getting at, is this is not just about this instance. This is about the future of law enforcement in this country and the integrity of the Justice Department. And Holders words are really surprising.

CAMEROTA: Dana, Maggie, thank you both very much for all of that context on this very important day.

BASH: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: So the battle lines for impeachment fall almost entirely along party lines. So what about when it was Republicans leading the impeachment charge?

[07:15:00]

Twenty-one years ago, almost exactly, hear what some lawmakers had to say then compared to what they're saying now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: This morning, the House Judiciary Committee debates impeaching President Trump. Five members of that committee were in the same position 21 years ago today for the impeachment of President Clinton. So surely their strongly held views 21 years ago are consistent with what they are saying today.

[07:20:03]

CAMEROTA: I'm sure they are.

BERMAN: Right?

CNN's Dana Bash back with us.

You actually went and checked the tape, Dana.

BASH: Well, I could have just checked your notes, it sounds like, because you have them all --

CAMEROTA: He kept them.

BERMAN: Extensively.

BASH: From 21 years ago. So, had I known.

But, you're right, it was really almost to the day 21 years ago that this impeachment happened and we took a stroll down memory lane with a handful of the same players still there. They're singing very different tunes this time around.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice over): Democrat Jerry Nadler in 2019 --

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Serious abuse of power.

BASH: Sound a lot like Republican James Sensenbrenner in 1998.

REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R-WI): Obstructed and abused power.

BASH: Sensenbrenner now argues Democrats wanted to oust Trump since his election.

SENSENBRENNER: And they haven't liked him from the beginning of his term.

BASH: Like Jerry Nadler said then about the GOP and Bill Clinton.

NADLER: There are clearly some members of the Republican majority who have never accepted the results of the 1992 or 1996 elections.

BASH: This time the allegations are obviously quite different, but worth noting another significant difference, which party's president is being impeached and which party holds the gavel.

Five members of House Judiciary, the committee that voted to impeach President Clinton, are still there now, three Democrats. Nadler, Sheila Jackson Lee, Zoe Lofgren, and two Republicans, Sensenbrenner and Steve Chabot.

BASH (on camera): Do you feel like this is deja vu in reverse?

REP. STEVE CHABOT (R-OH): Well, when I was involved in this two decade ago, I really never dreamed that we'd see it again.

BASH: In your opening statement back December 10, 1998, it's so weird it's almost to the day, you said, allowing the president's actions --

CHABOT: The president's actions to go unpunished would gravely damage the office of the president, our judicial system and our country.

BASH: That's what Democrats are saying about this president right now, almost to the word.

CHABOT: They're saying it, but I think the facts are very different.

BASH (voice over): Very different. What is similar? The palpable solemnity of the moment.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): I come bearing feelings of somberness and sadness.

I'm remember of my time on the House Judiciary Committee during the 1990s impeachment, and as well a number of federal judges. I was guided then not only by the facts but by the Constitution and the duty to serve this nation.

BASH: And tensions very high.

NADLER: Irrelevant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now let's slow down a bit here.

NADLER: Gentlemen, the --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's slow down a bit.

BASH: In 1998, Nadler warned against any impeachment backed by one party and opposed by another.

NADLER: Such an impeachment with lack legitimacy, would produce divisiveness and bitterness in our politics for years to come.

BASH (on camera): Is it fair to say that this impeachment, in your words from back then, will produce divisiveness and bitterness in our politics for years to come?

NADLER: Well, I think what puts bitterness and divisiveness into our politics is the conduct of the president who calls -- who questions the patriotism of people who don't agree with him, who calls political opponents human scum.

BASH (voice over): In '98, Democrat Zoe Lofgren predicted the GOP would suffer for impeaching Bill Clinton.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): For those who are out to get the president, shame on you. But beware, next election the voters will be out to get you.

BASH: Again, roles are reversed.

CHABOT: If I were a Democrat, I'd be worried about it. And I think Zoe's comments back there could be probably coming out of the lips of a Republican right now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Lofgren, of course, was right, Republicans did lose congressional seats in the '98 elections after impeaching Bill Clinton. We won't know until this November if that history will repeat itself too. But if you watched into the night last night, you heard a lot of Republicans saying what Chabot just mentioned there, that they were warning Democrats that they will lose seats over this in November.

BERMAN: What they don't say is that Republicans won the White House in the next election in 2000 after the impeachment vote. So it works both ways.

Dana Bash --

CAMEROTA: Yes, maybe they can just exchange scripts every so often to save themselves having to reinvent the wheel.

BASH: They could, or just borrow John Berman's notes.

CAMEROTA: That -- there you go.

BERMAN: Extensive.

CAMEROTA: That's what I do, actually, in the morning.

BERMAN: But not accessible by prosecutors, just saying.

All right, so as the House moves closer to a vote on impeachment, there is a growing number -- are a growing number of Democrats who may vote against it. We have some new reporting on that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:28:58]

BERMAN: The House Judiciary Committee is set to approve two articles of impeachment by close of business today. It will follow what promises to be hours of bitter debate.

Joining us now to discuss is Congressman Denny Heck. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee, whose work is largely being discussed in the Judiciary Committee today.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.

This will be contentious today. There will be shouting. There'll be a lot of procedure. People might get lost in the circus, but they shouldn't.

What do you want Americans to take away from what they are seeing today?

REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA): That the president did it and that he needs to be held account for it. John, it's pretty straightforward. He betrayed his oath of office. He's abused power. He shook down a foreign government to interfere in our election next year and we cannot allow that to stand and still operate under the rule of law and have what we consider to be free, fair and open elections. It's against the law for him to have done it and he needs to be held to account.

BERMAN: What you don't hear from Republicans as -- that the phone call didn't happen.

[08:00:01]

What Republicans say instead is that Democrats have wanted to impeach the president from the beginning.

What's wrong with that argument?

HECK: Because it's not true.