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Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) Discusses House Judiciary Vote On Articles Of Impeachment; Houston Police Chief Tears Into GOP Senators Over Gun Laws; FAA Review Found High Risk Of Boeing 737 MAX Crashes. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired December 12, 2019 - 07:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: What Republicans say instead is that Democrats have wanted to impeach the president from the beginning. What's wrong with that argument?

REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA): Because it's not true. Listen, that's the kind of argument they make about process or ad hominem or any other kind of a distraction or deflection point of view instead of dealing with the substance of it all.

I've heard very few Republicans throughout the course of all of this actually defend the president's behavior. In fact, mostly, they deny it. And as a consequence, it's very difficult to have the debate that we ought to be having, which is to what degree should the president be held accountable for his misdeeds?

BERMAN: One of the things I was struck by -- you heard it from Democrats and you heard it from some Republicans, too -- was discussing the solemnity and seriousness of this moment. Why emphasize that?

HECK: Well, the truth of the matter is John that outside the authority to declare war, which the Constitution grants to Congress, there isn't anything more serious that a member of Congress will decide upon.

I suspect that those who have not yet decided how they're going to vote on the floor next week -- and there aren't very many, but there are some -- are going to have a long weekend of prayerful consideration about what it is that's in the best interest of the country and how it is that we need to put the interests of the country ahead of party or even self-interest.

BERMAN: Let's talk about those members who might still be thinking about their vote over the weekend because CNN is reporting that it looks like there might be more than the two Democrats, Jeff Van Drew and Collin Peterson, who have vocally opposed impeachment from the start here. There may be more than two members -- Democratic members who vote against impeachment. Some moderates from districts that President Trump won.

What does it tell you that that number seems to be growing?

HECK: Well, I don't know that that number is growing, John. In fact, I'm not in the prediction business but if you were to ask me to predict I would predict that the articles of impeachment will pass on the floor.

But here is what I do know. Our leadership isn't going to encourage anybody to vote one way or another. They believe that this is, rightfully, a matter of conscience. I also know that any members who do vote no aren't going to be punished by our leadership because they believe it's a matter of conscience.

And you know what, John, the same can't be said of the Republicans. Any Republican that would vote yes on the articles of impeachment -- and we all know that there are some who would like to do. They will privately acknowledge it sometimes -- but that if they do they will be punished. Indeed, by the president, they'll be viciously punished.

BERMAN: You've had Republican members of the House of Representatives tell you they want to vote yes on impeachment?

HECK: I wouldn't violate any confidence for a private conversation I had with anyone.

But I can tell you that there are members on the other side of the aisle who are deeply, deeply concerned about the president's behavior. They believe that what he did was wrong. That what he -- what he is doing to encourage, frankly, Russia's aggression in the Ukraine -- a strategic ally and a democratic republic who is trying to get its feet on the ground -- is wrong.

BERMAN: I'm not asking you to name names here, but you're not suggesting there's actually a member who has told you they wish they could vote yes on the Republican side, are you?

HECK: I'm implying it.

BERMAN: You're implying it? So, did a Republican member tell you that he or she wishes that he or she could vote yes on impeachment?

HECK: More than one Republican has said to me over the nearly three years that the president has occupied the office that they do not understand his behavior, that they do not agree with him, and that he thinks -- that they think that the course he is on is wrong for America.

BERMAN: OK, I appreciate that. That's a different thing, though than someone telling you they wish they could vote yes on impeachment, which is a real tangible thing that's happening now in just a couple of days.

I do wonder what your message is to the uncertain Democratic member who will be thinking about this vote over the weekend. What do you want those members to consider?

HECK: The great consequence of not holding him to account and what it means to our country and our republic going forward. But again, I am with the leadership, John. I think this is a matter of conscience. I think they ought to go have a conversation with themselves and their families and their God and ask themselves what is right for America.

I'm not in the business of persuading my colleagues that what is best for them and what is best for their conscience is to vote the same way I intend to vote, which is to vote for the articles of impeachment as have been drafted.

BERMAN: We're lucky to be talking to you this morning because we're not going to have you to kick around much longer. You're leaving Congress. You have announced your retirement. Why?

HECK: Well, at the time I made the announcement last week, John, I said that frankly, sitting through all of the Intelligence Committee briefings and hearings and testimony, both with the Russia investigation and more recently for the impeachment inquiry, have rendered my soul weary, and that's the case.

I will go to my grave not understanding how it is some of my Republicans colleagues, in particular, have been able to look the over -- look the other way at the president's behavior.

[07:35:00] Again, what he did with respect to the Ukraine and then that phone call with President Zelensky in which he said I would like you to do us a favor, though.

But all of his other behavior as well, whether it's his very distant relationship with the truth or his proclivity to, frankly, viciously attack anybody that simply disagrees with him, or any number of offenses that he's engaged in over the three years. It's made my heart heavy.

And frankly, it wasn't helped at all yesterday, John, when one of the members on the other side of the aisle decided that it was an appropriate time during the Judiciary Committee to publicly indicate the person who was alleged to be the whistleblower.

I've seen way too many times that the tactics on the other side of the aisle have, frankly, shattered norms and degraded our institutions.

I saw it last night in that hearing and I saw it in the SCIF, the Secure (sic) Compartmented Information Facility, when a group of them stormed the facility with their cell phones, John -- an egregious breach of security protocol. Are there no limits?

At some point, we're going to have to get back in this country to having rules of the road, and parameters, and standards of conduct because our --

BERMAN: Isn't wearing you down, though, part of the strategy? Isn't wearing you down part of the strategy and aren't you saying, to an extent, that it worked?

HECK: John, I've run my race, I fought the good fight, and I've kept the faith, and I'm tired. I have 40 years-plus of intermittent public service and as a consequence, in part of what I've experienced over the last year, I'm tired.

BERMAN: Congressman Danny Heck, we wish you joy, happiness, and peace --

HECK: Thank you, sir.

BERMAN: -- in whatever you choose to do next. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

HECK: Thank you, sir.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: What an interesting interview and to hear those personal thoughts of his on his way out.

All right, meanwhile, to this story. A police chief in Texas is leveling harsh criticism on Republicans after a deadly police shooting.


CHIEF ART ACEVEDO, HOUSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: So I don't want to see their little smug faces about how much they care about law enforcement when I'm burying a sergeant.


CAMEROTA: More of his message, next.



CAMEROTA: It's a sad morning in Houston as 32-year-old police sergeant Christopher Brewster will be laid to rest. He was shot and killed responding to a domestic violence call. The city's police chief is fuming and turning his rage on Republican senators and the gun lobby that support them.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov is live in Houston with more. What did he say, Lucy?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Alisyn. This morning, tears and grief over the death of one of Houston's finest. Sergeant Chris Brewster was killed while investigating a domestic disturbance on Saturday. The funeral is expected to take place in just a few hours at the church behind me.

But amidst the sorrow this morning, growing anger and fury from Houston's police chief. He's been lashing out at Republican lawmakers for their perceived inaction on gun control. Take a look.


ACEVEDO: We'll be putting him to rest before Christmas because of the cowardice of the political people that we have in office.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Fighting words from Houston police chief Art Acevedo and a blistering message to Republican lawmakers.

ACEVEDO: So I don't want to see their little smug faces about how much they care about law enforcement when I'm burying a sergeant because they don't want to piss off the NRA.

Make up your minds. Whose side are you on -- gun manufacturers, the gun lobby, or the children that are getting gunned down in this country every single day?

KAFANOV (voice-over): Sgt. Chris Brewster was shot and killed Saturday while responding to a 911 call from a woman who said her boyfriend was armed and assaulting her. Arturo Solis was arrested and charged with capital murder.

But, Acevedo slammed GOP lawmakers for failing to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which stalled in the Senate.

ACEVEDO: And one of the biggest reasons that the Senate, and Mitch McConnell, and John Cornyn, and Ted Cruz and others are not getting into a room and having a conference committee with the House and getting the Violence Against Women's Act is because the NRA doesn't like the fact that we want to take firearms out of the hands of boyfriends that abuse their girlfriends. And who killed our sergeant? A boyfriend abusing his girlfriend.

KAFANOV (voice-over): At issue, a provision known as the boyfriend loophole, which would prohibit dating partners convicted of domestic violence from possessing firearms.

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn said Acevedo was mistaken because existing laws should have kept a gun out of Arturo Solis' hands.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): I regret he took the occasion -- the sad occasion of the officer's murder to try to make a political statement and was factually wrong.

KAFANOV (voice-over): A sentiment echoed by Sen. Ted Cruz who accused the police chief of trying to advance his own political ambitions.

ACEVEDO: To the people that say this is political, this is not political. Death is not political. You see, death is final.

And so the question is simple. Do you, Sen. Cruz, support closing the boyfriend loophole that's in that law -- yes or no?

Because if you look at the response from the elected officials in the Senate, not one of them addressed the loophole. You know why? Because they're on the wrong side of history, that's why.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Brewster was the 13th police officer killed in the line of duty in Texas this year -- too many for Acevedo.

ACEVEDO: And if you can't figure out why I'm pissed, shame on you. A 32-year-old man should not be dead. And it's not just him -- it's every day in this country.



KAFANOV: Emotional words you heard from the chief there. But this morning, John, is not about Washington, it's not about politics. It's about laying Sgt. Brewster to rest and a chance for this Texas community to say goodbye -- John.

BERMAN: The police chief has had enough.

Lucy Kafanov, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

There's new scrutiny this morning of Boeing's handling of its beleaguered 737 MAX fleet. An internal FAA review found a significant risk with the jets following the first fatal crash.

CNN's Rene Marsh live in Washington with more. And, Rene, everything we learn raises new questions.


This new internal FAA document really puts the agency in a bad light. This is the internal analysis raising serious questions about whether the FAA failed in its duty to ensure that the flying public was safe. We have that document. It's the document that was unveiled yesterday.

It shows that the FAA's internal analysis of the Boeing 737 MAX following the Lion Air crash last fall -- it predicted that the plane would crash 15 more times. That's the number that you see there on the screen.

But 15 was a conservative number because it was based on this assumption that 99 out of 100 flight crews would successfully react to all of the alarms and alerts within just 10 seconds. But, John, we all know that that assumption was wrong. The pilots in both of these crashes were overwhelmed and they didn't successfully react in 10 seconds.

Despite knowing this -- the plane -- that this plane had this crash rate than any other plane, the FAA was the last major holdout, waiting to ground the plane after the second MAX crash and after several other countries had already grounded it.

On top of all of that, we heard from two whistleblowers -- one from Boeing, one from the FAA. They told Congress that they raised concerns about this internal pressure during the certification process but they were simply ignored.

Now, we did reach out to Boeing and they said that the analysis that the FAA did internally, they determined that the emergency notice with instructions for pilots -- and I'm quoting now -- "sufficed to allow continued operation of the MAX fleet until changes were made to its software."

In other words, Boeing said we did all the right things following this crash. There's nothing we did wrong here. Many might beg to differ.

Back to you.

CAMEROTA: Yes, Rene. And as a passenger, I think I'd like to know if the plane I was on is predicted to crash 15 more times.


CAMEROTA: Thank you very much for all of that reporting.

So, the House Judiciary Committee is set to vote on articles of impeachment today. Last night, Republican lawmakers called it sad, but they sounded very angry. So how are they feeling this morning? Two Republicans are here to tell us.



CAMEROTA: In just about one hour, the House Judiciary Committee will begin debating the two articles of impeachment against President Trump. So how are Republicans feeling about this today?

Joining me now, CNN political commentators and former Republican congressmen Sean Duffy and Charlie Dent. Great to see both of you this morning.


CAMEROTA: So, Congressman Duffy, I want to start with you --


CAMEROTA: -- because on our air in the past, you have admitted that you were not comfortable with the president asking for help with a political rival on that phone call with the president of Ukraine. So now that today's the day and they begin this debate, and the House Judiciary will vote on impeachment, how are you feeling?

DUFFY: So, first, what I've said is I didn't like the comment that the president made about Rudy Giuliani. I had no problem with the comment about Joe Biden or looking back to the 2016 election, just to be clear.

CAMEROTA: Hold on a second, let's be clear. So you have no problem with asking a foreign leader to help investigate a political rival, yes or no?

DUFFY: Look -- well, I don't have a problem with a president saying hey listen, if we have a former vice president whose son was making millions of dollars in the Ukraine with a corrupt gas company, we should take a look at that. I have no problem with that.

CAMEROTA: And having help from a political -- having help from a foreign -- a foreign country in that way -- you're for that? DUFFY: Well, that's where the investigation -- that's where the investigation would happen. And I think most people look at that and say listen, it smells really bad what Hunter Biden was doing. And if there -- if there was no Hunter Biden in the Ukraine and the president had that call, that would be a different scenario.

But because of what Hunter Biden was doing and Joe Biden was leading American policy in the Ukraine --


DUFFY: -- I do think it was appropriate. I know some people don't like that and there's disagreement on that point, Alisyn. I didn't like -- I didn't --

CAMEROTA: What part weren't you comfortable with since you said you weren't comfortable with some of it?

DUFFY: Yes. I didn't -- I didn't like the point about Rudy Giuliani and the phone call. I think this was an official call. Rudy Giuliani wasn't working in an official capacity. I didn't like that part of it.

But let's be clear. They're not trying to impeach Donald Trump over the part about Rudy Giuliani. I think we're having an American conversation about does this meet the threshold for impeachment.

And I think what I've seen in Wisconsin and I've seen polling in Charlie's state of Pennsylvania --


DUFFY: -- this is dropping like a lead balloon.


DUFFY: America's support for impeachment, it doesn't exist. This is bad for Democrats.

CAMEROTA: OK. First of all, the polls that you're citing -- those state polls -- don't meet -- they are -- the methodology is too sketchy for us to be able to use those state polls. They involve -- it's from a Republican polling firm and they just involve person-to- person texts among -- so we don't use those particular polls.

DUFFY: Well --

CAMEROTA: But, Charlie, let's get to Congressman Duffy's point, which is that the polls don't like this so he doesn't support the impeachment.


CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, (R) FORMER CONGRESSMAN: Well, the polls -- look, the country's fairly evenly divided on impeachment. We know that. That's been the case for some time. In fact, if we're going to talk polls, let's talk about the poll that you showed on your show last week, which was the one in Kendra Horn's district in Oklahoma that showed, I think, 52 percent supported keeping the president in office and about in the high 40s they were -- they were for removing him. That's in Oklahoma.

So, yes, is there a political risk here for all these members in swing districts for the Democrats? Sure, there's risk, but I'm not sure how much.

And we simply don't know the politics -- how it's going to play a year from now. I mean, none of us know this. And so, I think it's completely overstated -- you know, the political implications right now.

And, of course, it cuts both ways because Senate Republicans in those swing states who are up for election also are extremely exposed. So, you know, that's politics of this.

DUFFY: But --

CAMEROTA: Hey, Congressman Duffy, I have a question.


CAMEROTA: If you're comfortable with what the president asked for on the call and if you think that the polls that you've seen suggest that voters in swing states like it, would you like to see him do more of it? Because last week, Rudy Giuliani was back in Ukraine looking for more information or more dirt --


CAMEROTA: -- that can be used in the 2020 race.

So, are you -- if you're comfortable, are you please that more of it can happen before 2020?

DUFFY: Well, listen, the -- what Rudy Giuliani -- I was talking last week, Alisyn -- or I was talking to John last week. Listen, I don't know what Rudy Giuliani is doing in his 007 action in the Ukraine but there's --

CAMEROTA: He's looking for more dirt at the behest of the president, he says.

DUFFY: But there's nothing illegal --

CAMEROTA: That's what he's doing.

DUFFY: There's nothing illegal for an American citizen to go to the Ukraine.

But I will say this.

CAMEROTA: To dig up dirt of the president. That's what he's doing -- DUFFY: So -- but, Alisyn --

CAMEROTA: -- just to be clear, Congressman.

DUFFY: But, CNN has done actually some really good reporting in Wisconsin and it's interesting. Even, I think, last week, you had a -- you had a segment when Charlie and I were on and it was about -- I mean, the most -- one of the most liberal parts of Wisconsin is Milwaukee and you were doing a segment on drinking liberally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


DUFFY: And even there -- even the drinking liberal group in Wisconsin is running away from impeachment because they know it's bad politics.

CAMEROTA: That's my point. So just answer the question. So are you -- so if you are comfortable with this and you think the polls are on your side, would you like to see the president do more of this and ask for more foreign help for 2020?

DUFFY: Well, no. If -- what I say is if we have Joe and Hunter Biden scenarios, I think the president should make sure we investigate it.


DUFFY: Do I think we should have more Democrats trying to impeach a president over what we've all heard about through this phone call? I don't think we should, Alisyn. I don't think Americans like it.

Now, I'll tell you this. Will Americans maybe say I don't agree with what the president has done -- maybe you should censure him? They might say that, but they go this is -- he -- this is -- this is equivalent to a parking --

CAMEROTA: Do you like that idea? Do you think he should be censured?

DENT: Rudy Giuliani -- Rudy Giuliani --

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Charlie.

DUFFY: This isn't -- this isn't a -- this is a parking offense that he's getting -- he's getting the death penalty for. It doesn't make any sense.

CAMEROTA: OK, go ahead, Charlie.

DENT: Look, Rudy Giuliani and Hunter Biden, frankly, are not the issue. The issue here is the president's conduct in office. Yes, what Hunter Biden did smelled. It wasn't criminal, it wasn't illegal, but it certainly doesn't pass the smell test.

And, you know, it's a diversion to talk about Rudy Giuliani. In that transcript, not only did the president throw Rudy Giuliani under the bus, he threw Bill Barr under the bus. He said call Rudy, call Bill Barr, they're going to talk to you. I mean, this is terrible. But the issue is the president's conduct in office and how he used -- or misused his office to solicit a foreign head of government to interfere in the election. The president said ad nauseam during the Russia thing that oh, no collusion, no collusion. Well, this is collusion.

And, of course -- then, of course, there was the quid pro quo and then using federal resources as leverage to compel the Ukrainians to do what he wanted. I mean, that's what's at issue here.

DUFFY: But, Charlie, I --

DENT: I mean, it's pretty straightforward. Rudy didn't do that, Hunter Biden didn't do it, the president did it.

DUFFY: I think a -- I think a lot of Americans look at this though and they realize that Democrats have been trying to impeach Donald Trump since he was elected.

I mean, Jerry Nadler ran for the chairman of the Judiciary Committee saying he would be the best Democrat to impeach Donald Trump. That was over a year ago.

CAMEROTA: As you know, Nancy Pelosi was very reluctant --

DUFFY: I know she was. She was smart --

CAMEROTA: -- very reluctant, Congressman, and that's just not -- so that's not a truism.

DUFFY: No, but the --

CAMEROTA: But some people felt strongly about it, but Nancy Pelosi dragged her feet.

DUFFY: Oh, listen --

DENT: Impeachment was dead after Mueller -- it was dead.

DUFFY: We know that -- we know that Democrats -- I mean, from Schiff to Nadler, some of the lead players in this were trying to impeach the president even before any phone call was made to the Ukraine.

And I think that's -- that does not bolster the credibility of Democrats. It's saying you're looking for an opportunity to impeach the president and you've been looking for it since he was elected. And so you don't have the credibility on this issue.


DENT: Most of the --

CAMEROTA: We've got 10 seconds.

DENT: Most of the smart --

CAMEROTA: Go, Charlie. You have the last word.

DENT: Most of -- most of -- most of the smart Democrats did not want to impeach President Trump until this whole Ukraine matter blew up. And it blew up in such an obvious way and we got all kinds of witness testimony to corroborate it, so that's why we are where we are.

But after Mueller was done, there would have been no -- there would have been no impeachment but for Ukraine.

CAMEROTA: OK. Gentlemen, thank you very much for giving us --

DUFFY: Thanks, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: -- a window into how you are feeling. Sean Duffy, Charlie Dent, we appreciate it.

DUFFY: Have a good morning.


BERMAN: We're about to get a much bigger window into much greater feelings. CNN's special coverage of the debate over the articles of impeachment continues right now with Wolf Blitzer in Washington.