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House Panel Advances Impeachment Articles & Full House Vote Next Week; Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) Discusses Impeachment; Giuliani Visits White House After Ukraine Trip; Boris Johnson's Conservative Party Win Majority in U.K. Vote. Aired 11:30a-12p ET
Aired December 13, 2019 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: History made this morning up on Capitol Hill. The House Judiciary Committee voting to send two articles of impeachment against President Trump, voting to send those articles to the House floor. The first article for alleged abuse of power, the second for alleged obstruction of Congress.
This morning's vote to advance the articles to the full House was clearly straight along party lines. On abuse of power, 23 Democratic votes in favor, 17 Republican votes against. And as you see the same result on the second article, obstruction of Congress.
They now move to the full House for a vote that's expected next week. We're told maybe Wednesday.
Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin, of Maryland. He sits on the House Judiciary Committee, and the House Oversight Committee, and teaches law at the American University Law School here in Washington.
Congressman, first of all, what's your reaction to today's vote?
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): It was very solemn, Wolf. You feel the weight of the present, but the weight of the present, the past, and the framers and founders, and everybody who's fought for our democracy and voting rights feel the weight of the future, future generations, kids, and grandchildren.
For me, what it came down to is really this idea embodied in the first article of impeachment of abuse of power. That was one of the articles that was brought against Richard Nixon. Nixon organized the break-in of one campaign headquarters to get dirt on his political opponent.
Donald Trump has organized a break-in of our entire democracy, in order to plant dirt on a political opponent. And he used a foreign power to do it. So that escalates the stakes immensely.
And then, of course, the president scrambled to cover up this original misconduct by blockading our investigation in Congress, withholding evidence and preventing witnesses from testifying and so on. And this is obstruction of Congress.
So these two articles went through on a vote of 23-17. They will come to the House floor presumably next week, where we hope everybody will familiarize themselves with the overwhelming evidence of the president's misconduct, overwhelming and uncontradicted evidence, and vote their conscience.
BLITZER: The articles of impeachment cite high crimes and misdemeanors committed by the president. The Republicans argue, unlike Nixon and Bill Clinton, there was no actual crime committed by this president, to which you say?
RASKIN: Well, you know, I didn't understand that argument. The Republicans seem to be suggesting that there needs to be a statutory crime and prosecution before there's a constitutional crime and impeachment. And of course, that is not at all the intent of the framers and that's not what's happened before.
Bill Clinton had not been prosecuted before. Richard Nixon hadn't been prosecuted before. In fact, their whole argument is that, according to Attorney General Barr and the Department of Justice, the president cannot be prosecuted.
So on the logic of their argument, the president cannot be prosecuted or indicted while he's in office and he cannot be impeached until first you show that he's violated a criminal statute. And that's just wrong. That is not the constitutional design. It's never been understood that way by Democrats or Republicans.
Constitutional offenses are separate. The Constitution, in Article II, talks about treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors. And both sides have always understood that abuse of power is an offense against the Constitution --
RASKIN: -- as well as obstruction of Congress.
BLITZER: Because they argue that Bill Clinton committed a crime by lying under oath during his testimony before a federal grand jury and they say that was the crime that was committed.
But what I hear you saying is there was no actual crime committed by this president?
RASKIN: Well, no, there was, perhaps multiple crimes committed by this president. Bill Clinton had not been prosecuted or indicted for perjury. They just pled the elements of perjury in the article of impeachment.
We have pled within our impeachment and within the accompanying report lots of factual evidence that could lead to prosecution of the president later. But, you know, they seem to want to have it both ways. You can never
prosecute the president, you can't indict the president while he's in office, but you can't impeach him either, because you haven't prosecuted or indicted him yet.
I think everyone will see the phoniness of that argument.
BLITZER: Looking towards the full House vote next week, we've heard from two of your colleagues, Congressman Jeff Van Drew and Collin Peterson, who say they say they will vote "no" on both articles Do you think other Democrats will join them?
RASKIN: I hope all of our colleagues, Democrats and Republican alike, as well as Justin Amash, the new Independent after he's been extruded from the Republican caucus, I hope all of them will read the voluminous evidence here, which is really incontrovertible and uncontested.
There's no rival factual hypothesis to the president having gone to great pains in shake down a foreign government in order to extract from President Zelensky the promise to make an announcement that the president's rival, Joe Biden, was being investigated.
And he also wanted Zelensky to discredit what our Intelligence Community, the FBI, the CIA, the Senate Committee on Intelligence, everybody has found that it was Russia that attacked our election in 2016, not Ukraine.
And yet, he wanted Zelensky to come forward and say, it wasn't Vladimir Putin, it was Ukraine that had done it.
So the evidence points overwhelmingly to that. There's no other rival story out there, which is why the president's private lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, continues to galivant all around the world in search of conspiracy theories that will further validate other conspiracy theories that have already been debunked and discredited.
BLITZER: And Giuliani is just back from a visit to Ukraine, where presumably he was digging up what is obviously described as dirt as far as the Bidens are concerned and the Democrats are concerned.
And just within the last hour or so, he was spotted going into the White House. So we're following up on that story, as well.
Do you want to make a final point?
RASKIN: I would just say, in order to buy the theory that was being advanced by the Republicans in the House Judiciary Committee over the last several days, you would have to believe that Donald Trump is a crusading anti-corruption fighter.
You would have to believe that the same guy who has 3,000 lawsuits against him, who ran the fraudulent Trump University and paid millions of dollars out to his victims there, who just paid, I think, this week, $2 million to charities because he ripped off his own charity by basically defrauding people who contributed to it, by giving that money to other places.
That this is an anti-corruption fighter who is not interested in setting up Joe Biden by bringing Zelensky in. He was interested in pursuing to a hitherto secret anti-corruption agenda there.
In fact, he had cut anti-corruption funding for Ukraine. He had participated with Rudy Giuliani in this smear campaign against Ambassador Yovanovitch. He recalled her from Ukraine when she was the strongest anti-corruption ambassador in the world, fighting corruption in Ukraine. So they've turned this story upside-down, as the president usually does.
But the truth is coming out, Wolf. And I think that when people study the record, they will understand that this president is being charged with two high crimes and misdemeanors with overwhelming evidence to support the articles.
BLITZER: Congressman Jamie Raskin, of Maryland, thanks so much for joining us.
RASKIN: Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: We're getting more information now on the Giuliani angle in all of this. Spotted at the White House, going in just a little while ago. We'll have that and much more right after a quick break.
BLITZER: Amid everything going on here in Washington, the "Wall Street Journal" is now reporting that Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, is still working with Ukraine on investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden, pushing ahead on his work to defend the president.
Giuliani just returned from his trip to Ukraine. According to the "Wall Street Journal" -- let me read this sentence to you -- "When he returned to New York on Saturday, the president called him as his plane was still taxiing down the runway, Mr. Giuliani said. 'What did you get,' he said Mr. Trump asked. 'More than you can imagine,' Mr. Giuliani replied. He is putting his findings into a 20-page report."
That according to the "Wall Street Journal."
And just this morning, he was seen heading into the White House as the House Judiciary Committee voted to pass two articles of impeachment against President Trump.
Let's bring back our experts and our analysts to discuss.
This potentially, Jim Sciutto, is a very significant development.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Listen, the president's been emboldened, apparently, not chastened by the impeachment process.
The core of the impeachment is a cooperation with a foreign government, invitation to a foreign government to dig up -- well, pressure, in fact, on a foreign government to dig up dirt on a political opponent, driven by his personal attorney outside the normal policy process, including people appointed by this president.
That's the essential claim here. And we've seen loads of sworn testimony to that effect during the public hearings.
So now you have the president's personal attorney still going to Ukraine, meeting with some shady characters there with pro-Russian ties, seeming to invite foreign interference in the election again.
It's just remarkable, I mean, that the president takes from this process, in effect, a free pass to continue doing that.
And we should note, now, Republicans have made the argument that, hey, why not investigate. OK, but just remember how this investigation -- you have a Department of Justice, right, that investigates this sort of stuff and is run, by the way, by Bill Barr, who you appointed.
You don't have your personal attorney doing that, and interviewing characters over there who, for instance, one of them studied with the KGB, worked with the prior pro-Russian government. If that is your source of information in a report, that I wouldn't doubt we see tweeted out by the president in due course, raises at least questions --
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And what is remarkable and bears sort of underscoring is they're doing this in plain sight. They're not, you know, picking up the phone quietly and calling the Ukrainians.
Rudy Giuliani is there, having meetings, talking about his meetings, talking about the fact that he wants to come back and brief the president.
The president, last weekend, on the lawn of the White House, says he can't wait to talk to Giuliani to hear about what he said and that Giuliani should go to Congress and give the report.
Now the split screen is almost mind blowing of the impeachment happening and Giuliani arriving at the White House to delivery that report.
BLITZER: Go ahead.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the risk for Republicans. They've spent a lot of oxygen, especially yesterday, really litigating this idea that when the president said, "Do us a favor, though" that the operative word was "us" and "us" suddenly meant the United States of America and that, as a result of that, it was a legitimate inquiry for him to make to the Ukrainian president.
But the problem is that that is, first of all, not true, but, secondly, it was refuted by the president's own administration officials in the sworn testimony that we heard over the course of the last several weeks.
And the risk now is that now that Giuliani is emboldened, he's going this all again, he's now digging even deeper into those wells of conspiracy to pull up something new that Republicans are now going to be forced to defend. And I think it's going to be a lot harder.
BLITZER: The Republicans kept saying, so many of them, during the 14 hours of debate yesterday on their various amendments, all of which went down Michael, that the president was totally justified in raising the possibility of criminal behavior by the former vice president's son, Hunter Biden, who was on the border of Burisma, this Ukrainian gas company.
MICHAEL GERHARDT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's -- it turns out that that's wrong, too. If we -- so here's a quick lesson in constitutional law. The president of the United States has to be following one of two things when he takes action, a policy or the Constitution. He doesn't make the policy. Congress makes the policy. It appropriated the money here.
That leaves him with the Constitution. Nothing in the Constitution authorizes him to put together a shadow operation that would include Rudy Giuliani going abroad. The Constitution certainly doesn't authorize him to enlist a foreign government's aid here.
And, lastly, the Republicans have been complaining about closed-door hearings. This is considerably worse than any closed-door hearing, because this took place on foreign soil.
It's just Rudy Giuliani there, who's not accountable to anybody. And he's going to bring back something we have to presume is accurate, but as Jim has pointed out, may well be based on Russian propaganda.
SCIUTTO: So it's the worst of all possible worlds.
BLITZER: We're going to stay on top of this and on top of all of the events going on.
There's other major news happening as well, including this. A resounding victory for Britain's prime minister. We're going to break down Boris Johnson's big win right after this.
[11:53:02] BLITZER: With all the news here in Washington, a major victory for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his quest to get Britain out of the European Union as soon as possible. His Conservative Party won a landslide victory in Thursday's elections and will have a solid majority in parliament.
Well wishes for the prime minister poured in from around the world, including from President Trump, who tweeted this: "Congratulations to Boris Johnson on his great win."
CNN's Nic Robertson is joining us from just outside of Number 10 Downing Street in London.
First, Nic, what does this mean for Brexit?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: This means Brexit will happen the 31st of January. Boris Johnson now has the mandate. He has the number of votes he requires in the House of parliament to get that divorce part of the Brexit deal done by the end of January.
Of course, the negotiations for the future relationship begin after that, and that all needs to be tied up by this time next year.
This is an absolutely historic outcome. It is against all the odds and many predictions when Boris Johnson became prime minister in the summer where he had a very, very weak hand.
This is on par with Margaret Thatcher's victory in the late 1980s. It's on par with the late prime minister, Tony Blair, in the late 1990s. So this is a huge moment in the United Kingdom.
Boris Johnson is saying he will now unite the country, promising to get Brexit done, promising to deliver on all the things he said he would deliver in social care, in the health service in Britain, on infrastructure, on education, on policing, on security. All of those things he says he'll now deliver on.
He faces a major challenge from Scotland, however. The Scottish National Party there won 48 out of the 55 seats. Their leader sees that as a mandate for an independence referendum next year. Boris Johnson has said in the past that is not going to be on the cards.
And in his speech today, he talked about leveling up a united country. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all united. Boris Johnson very clear on that.
So big challenges ahead -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Landslide historic win for the British prime minister.
Thank you very much, Nic Robertson, joining us from London.
Coming up, we're going to have much more on CNN's special coverage on the historic vote to send two articles of impeachment against President Trump to the House floor.
"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King begins right after a quick break.