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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Rudy Giuliani Helping or Hurting Trump?; Republican Senate Leader to Coordinate With White House on Impeachment Trial; Judiciary Committee Votes For Impeachment Articles Against President Trump. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired December 13, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:00]

COY WIRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He said that Army and Navy are the greatest friends 364-and-a-half days of the year, but, on this one Saturday afternoon, we are the worst of enemies.

Game's tomorrow at 3:00 p.m.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Bring it.

Coy, thank you.

And thank for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Only three other people in history have a stain on their legacy like this.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Breaking today: The House Judiciary Committee passes both articles of impeachment against President Trump, as the full House gets ready to vote and the Senate leader works with the White House on the coming trial.

Unite or fight, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren tangling over the best way to beat Trump and move on.

Plus, a murdering mom and child rapist walking free thanks to pardon by the former Kentucky governor as he walked out the door.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Jake Tapper.

And we begin with the politics lead.

President Trump now facing a full House vote to impeach him next week after the House Judiciary Committee approved two articles of impeachment against the 45th president of the United States this morning. All 23 Democrats on the committee voted to impeach, all 17 Republicans voted against, in a strictly party-line decision.

And the White House blasted this move, calling it a -- quote -- "desperate charade" and said the president looked forward to receiving due process in the Senate.

As CNN's Alex Marquardt reports, the president said today he wouldn't mind a long trial where the whistle-blower could be called to testify.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: History in the making.

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

MARQUARDT: For only the fourth time in U.S. history, a vote by the House to approve articles of impeachment against a sitting president.

NADLER: The question now is on article one of the resolution, impeaching President Donald J. Trump for abusing his powers.

MARQUARDT: In an otherwise quiet and methodical process, Republicans make their anger known.

(CROSSTALK)

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): May I ask how I am recorded?

NADLER: How is the gentleman recorded?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Gohmert, you are recorded as no.

GOHMERT: I want to make sure.

MARQUARDT: In just minutes, the two of articles impeachment, obstruction of Congress and abuse of power, approved in the House Judiciary Committee along party lines.

NADLER: The article is agreed to. The resolution is amended as ordered, reported favorably to the House.

MARQUARDT: No rejoicing among Democrats, who emphasized it was a solemn and sad day.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): We're defending the Constitution and we are defending the integrity of the 2020 presidential election.

MARQUARDT: Republicans, knowing their efforts would fail, argued that for Democrats it's only ever been about impeaching a president who they don't like.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Impeachment is their drug. It is their obsession. It is their total focus.

MARQUARDT: Next up, the full House vote set for Wednesday, meaning that, by Christmas, President Trump will almost certainly be impeached.

Then, early in the new year, this Senate trial, where it's Republican turf. Leader Mitch McConnell insists, that's where impeachment stops.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): There's no chance the president is going to be removed from office.

MARQUARDT: Even though Democrats agree they were outraged after McConnell told FOX News he is in lockstep with the White House, despite being on the jury.

MCCONNELL: Everything I do during this, I'm coordinating with the White House counsel.

MARQUARDT: One House Democrat telling CNN McConnell should recuse himself, another calling it outrageous.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): The foreman of the jury, Mitch McConnell, the guy that decides all the rules, is actually going to coordinate with the defendant. That makes no sense whatsoever. It is an outrage.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUARDT: Mitch McConnell and the White House legal team are pushing for a short, fast trial that will almost certainly result in the president's acquittal.

The president, sources say, had wanted a bigger spectacle, a full- throated defense. Now, the details of the Senate trial are still being hashed out, including how it's actually going to work, as well as a potential start date.

But, Brianna, we do know it will be early in the new year.

KEILAR: All right, Alex, thank you so much for that report.

Let's talk about all of this, because it has been quite a week. There have been a lot of the metrics. And yet, at the very end of this, do you think that any minds were changed, Ayesha?

AYESHA RASCOE, NPR: Well, no.

And we had polling on this at NPR that basically showed that, even like weeks ago, that people were locked in and basically said -- most Americans are saying that nothing could happen that would change their mind.

But, still, you did have the nation pretty evenly split on whether the president should be impeached and removed. And you had a large majority of people who said that they felt like he did something wrong, even if they felt like he shouldn't have been removed.

So, I mean, so there is some consensus in this country, and the consensus seemed to be that the president did actually engage in bad behavior.

KEILAR: So what was accomplished?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I think Democrats were -- their goal was to, again, put forward the facts.

And I think the main thing is, they narrowed it down. So there's two articles of impeachment. There was the whole question last week about whether or not Mueller would be included

[16:05:02]

And I think they presented their evidence. I think they did a good job of presenting their evidence. And they moved the process forward. And I think that was the purpose of this week, obviously.

BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: Yes.

I mean, articles of impeachment were voted out of the House Judiciary Committee. That doesn't happen every day. And it happened. And I think very much to the Democrats' credit, they decided -- I didn't actually agree with them on this, but they decided the Mueller report did not provide enough grounds for impeachment.

Speaker Pelosi was not encouraging people to bring it up. The Ukraine story broke. People looked at it for a week or two. The facts basically emerged pretty quickly. Those seven Democratic freshmen, freshwomen Congress -- congress men or women, first-year congress men and women, wrote that letter saying, this is too far.

The party kind of came together on that. I think they did a pretty good job. Despite all the insanity and the Republican theatrics, between the Schiff committee and the Nadler committee, they laid out the facts and I think there are grounds for impeachment.

So I give them credit for that. The House will go to impeach next week. And then the real question for me is, do we get a real trial in the Senate, where -- because I think it's very important that people -- if Republican senators ultimately want to say, look, we don't think there's anything there to convict, we don't -- he did some things wrong, but it doesn't rise to that removal from office level, fine.

But they -- if they take the attitude that we don't need to have a trial, it's obvious there's nothing there, that, I think, is both ridiculous substantively and inappropriate constitutionally. So, for me, the burden is on the Republican senators to not let Mitch McConnell just handle this like some tax bill or appropriations bill and get with his senators and just dispose of it.

KEILAR: Well, to that point, so let's look ahead, right, at the Senate trial, assuming the Democrats have the votes in the House, which is where everything appears to be.

We know that the majority leader, McConnell, is working very closely with the White House. He is in lockstep with counsel for the president.

So is this something that is operating as it should be, Carrie, or is this really outside the norm?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, really, the Senate is supposed to be a venue that is a trial. This isn't a criminal trial. It's an impeachment trial, but they are supposed to be independent arbiters of the facts that are presented before them.

And it's up to the president to submit who his legal team is, who's going to defend him in this case, and then it's up to the House and Speaker Pelosi to determine who's going to make the arguments on behalf of the case.

But the Senate really -- it doesn't strike me as appropriate for the Senate majority leader to be saying that he's going to conduct this completely in lockstep with the White House counsels. The senators are supposed to at least give the appearance of having an open mind about this.

And what I'm really looking for in the Senate vs. the House is, are the Republican members of the Senate going to take this seriously? Are they really going to wrestle with the facts that have been revealed? Because we didn't see that in the House.

We didn't. We saw distraction. We didn't see the Republican members in the House really seem that they understood the gravity of their historical moment.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: Just two footnotes to what Carrie said.

The Senate -- when impeachment comes to the Senate, the Senate reconstitutes itself as a court of impeachment, a court. Who presides? The chief justice, not the senior senator or even the vice president, who obviously couldn't do that.

And they take a new oath. They don't -- they take the oath to the Constitution when they become senators. When the impeachment court, the court of impeachment is convened, the senators take an oath to act.

And it's different from the legislative oath. It's to judge fairly and without bias or something like that.

FINNEY: I think they have to sign it.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: I don't know if they sign it, or they -- so that shows how it is supposed to proceed.

And I...

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: But will it?

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: Well, that is the question. That is the question. FINNEY: It's hard to see that it would, based on -- my read on what

McConnell did today, as much as I also thought it was inappropriate, that felt like more of a message to Trump to calm him down after the tweetstorm of yesterday.

And everything -- reporting that we have been hearing is that, behind the scenes -- and I think we saw this today in the photo opportunity around 11:00 or so -- that he's just -- can't -- he's focused on this. This is where his attention is at. Nothing else seems to be getting done.

And I think the Republicans in the Senate, they're going to try to make it less of a show trial that -- like we saw in the House. But at the same time, I think they also know they have to keep Trump calm.

KEILAR: Let's listen to the president today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will do whatever I want, because we did nothing wrong. So I will do long or short. I will do whatever they want to do. It doesn't matter.

I wouldn't mind the long process, because I'd like to see the whistle- blower, who's a fraud.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: But the question -- we hear the president over and over say, I will testify, I will do this, whether it's the Mueller investigation or what, and then he doesn't.

I mean, when you read what he said there, Ayesha, how do you decipher that?

RASCOE: I do think that the president likely does want -- I think he wants a show.

[16:10:00]

And I think that he would like to see the whistle-blower called, and who was the whistle-blower talking to, and call Hunter Biden and Joe Biden and Adam Schiff and everybody. I think that is what he wants to see.

And I think that's why you have some push and pull with Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, because they know that that likely is not a good idea and that, if you bring in witnesses, you're opening up the door, you don't know what's going to happen when you do that.

And I think they want a more controlled process. So I think that's part of what they're trying to manage right now, and likely trying to convince the president, you really don't want to do that. You don't want to call Hunter Biden and the whistle-blower.

(CROSSTALK) KRISTOL: ... really want to do it? I don't believe that for a minute.

Who is the person stopping witnesses from testifying? The president, right?

RASCOE: Yes.

KRISTOL: Who has actual knowledge of what happened? John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney. If the president wants everyone to testify...

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: In the Senate, he wants to be defended, right?

KRISTOL: He doesn't really.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: He says that because he wants to look bold and confident.

He wants a short trial. He does not want these facts litigated. He does not. And he can say wants Hunter Biden to testify, but if the tradeoff were Hunter Biden and John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney, he wouldn't take it.

KEILAR: It's a very good point.

All right, we have so much to discuss ahead. Fresh off of his trip to Ukraine, another one, a new trip to Ukraine, Rudy Giuliani is paying a visit to the White House today. Is he helping or is he hurting his client's case in the Senate?

And then the former Kentucky governor making headlines as he left office, issuing hundreds of pardons and commutations, including one for a 41-year-old man who raped a 9-year-old girl.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:16:09]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And we're back with our politics lead. What President Trump is calling an embarrassment, the House Judiciary Committee approving two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump today.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports the president is lashing out as he faces the increasingly likely prospect of being the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're trivializing impeachment.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After the House Judiciary Committee voted to advance two articles of impeachment against him, today President Trump accused Democrats of making light of a serious matter.

TRUMP: I think it's a horrible thing to be using the tool of impeachment which is supposed to be used in an emergency --

COLLINS: While the president has made clear privately he doesn't want impeachment on his resume, today he touted the benefits.

TRUMP: It is a very sad thing for our country. But it seems to be very good for me politically.

COLLINS: His campaign manager is making the same argument, telling the reporters it has boosted fundraising, inspired volunteers and, quote, lit up our base. Trump may be touting the benefits but he's not offering much clarity on what he wants when it comes to the Senate trial. First saying this --

TRUMP: I'll do whatever I want.

COLLINS: Then moments later saying he'll listen to Republican senators who have advocated for a short trial with no live witnesses.

TRUMP: I've heard Mitch. I've heard Lindsey. I'll do whatever they want to do.

COLLINS: Trump also referencing but not naming Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vindman, the Ukraine expert for the National Security Council who testified that Trump's July call with the Ukrainian president was improper.

TRUMP: He's another beauty.

COLINS: Vindman still works at the White House. And CNN has learned senior aides are now restricting who listened in on the president's calls with foreign leaders.

Today, his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was spotted entering the West Wing.

Giuliani recently returned from another trip to Ukraine seemingly unfazed by federal prosecutors who were probing his business activity. "The Wall Street Journal" reports Trump called Giuliani while his plane was still taxiing down the runway asking, what did you get? More than you can imagine, Giuliani told him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Brianna, we should note that Giuliani said he wants to put his finding in this 20-page report and then brief lawmakers on it. Though it is unclear when he'll do that or where it will go if he does. We should note that he was at White House today. The White House officials have said repeatedly over the last several weeks they do not think what he's doing is helpful as they are trying to fight off this impeachment inquiry.

KEILAR: You could say that. Kaitlan, thank you so much. Kaitlan Collins at White House.

I mean, it's pretty stunning. All of this is happening. You have Rudy Giuliani who's apparently still this happening. Rudy Giuliani who still on the same mission at the very heart of the impeachment inquiry and these articles of impeachment and off to Ukraine he goes and comes back and first call to the president and visits the White House on the day articles of impeachment are passed through the Judiciary Committee.

What does that tell you, Karen?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it is a lot of hubris, isn't it? It says they are trying to continue the mythology there is nothing wrong, there's nothing wrong with going after Ukraine. This whole thing about trying to make it about going after corruption even though Paul Manafort helped to elect a president of the Ukraine was the most corrupt.

So, look, they're just going to keep doing what they want to do. I think the president -- I've heard from sources that people inside the White House think, look, we're able to survive the Mueller investigation, we are going to survive this, no problem.

KEILAR: But it sounds like the president, I mean, he wants to lean into, right, these conspiracy theories about Ukraine. There are people around him who do not think that that is a smart or wise decision.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: But it doesn't matter what the people around him think, because what we see repeatedly is that it is what the president directs and what he wants to have happen.

[16:20:07]

And he obviously has tasked Rudy Giuliani his private agent to go out and collect information that will assist him politically and they have moved members of Congress and the American public across a line where now it's OK to solicit information from foreign entities and foreign governments into our electoral process. And so they are -- they have crossed that line now. And now, they are really desensitizing the rest of the American public to think that that's OK.

And I think it is going to have profound consequences for future campaigns and future elections if the House and if the Senate doesn't open their eyes to the historical consequences of what's before them in the next couple of weeks.

BILL KRISTOL, CONSERVATIVE WRITER: And the consequences, next year, they're not going to stop. If Rudy gets away with this, we all think oh, the president was just talking when he said China should do something. I don't put it beyond him to actually try to -- get or try to -- or certainly China or if they start to do something, do we have the confidence the president will stop it?

If the DNI comes in and tells the president the Russia is interfering in October of 2020, do you think the president would say that is terrible, I'm going to stop Russia from doing it. We're going to put sanctions on it. We're going to publicize it. So, I think this is really serious in terms of next year's election.

KEILAR: And talking even -- not just about next year's election, but really foreign policy in the immediate future, Ayesha. There are multiple sources telling CNN they are further limiting not only the people who are on the phone calls of the president where foreign leaders but even those who have access to the transcripts of it. It makes you wonder if this all replayed again the folks who raised some concerns, went to the NSC lawyers and if they would have been on the call to raise their hand and say this wasn't -- this was not all right.

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NPR: Well, and part of the reason why you have -- because I've talked to people who have been on these sort of calls and the reason why you have all of the people on the call is because it is supposed to be about, these calls are about setting U.S. policy. And so, the reason -- so when the president on these calls, he's supposed to be dictating policy and then the people on the call then go out to their, you know, to their different agencies and to the different people in the government who are supposed to carry it out.

So when you have less people on the call, you're not going to have those people who know what is the U.S. policy? What are we supposed to be doing towards Ukraine or whatever country.

KEILAR: And --

FINNEY: And there is also -- sorry. It is part of the point of the calls is the continuity of our relationship with those countries. I mean, this is not about Donald Trump. These calls are supposed to be about the United States and whichever country it is that we're speaking to or negotiating with. And, of course, he makes it all about himself.

KEILAR: And as the House is preparing for a full vote on impeachment next week, will all of the Democrats be on the same page? We're going to ask one congressman, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:27:52]

KEILAR: Next Wednesday, the full House is expected to take up articles of impeachment against President Trump. And this comes as the president for his part said today that impeachment will be bad for the country and that it only helps him politically.

I want to bring in Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro. He is back home in San Antonio today.

Sir, thanks for joining us.

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): Yes, thank you for having me.

KEILAR: Safe to say you will vote yes on impeachment?

CASTRO: Yes. I plan to vote yes. I think the president has clearly abused the power of his office and we can't allow a precedent -- actually, a few precedents to be set. First, that a president can ask a country to interfere in our elections, another country to interfere in our elections. And, secondly, to allow -- we can't allow a president to ask a country to investigate an American citizen, a political rival for that president's own benefit.

And if the Congress does nothing to hold Donald Trump accountable, that's exactly the precedent that will be set and I suspect that it will happen again in the future if we do nothing.

KEILAR: That he will be -- that he will do something like this again? Is what you're saying?

CASTRO: Yes. I think -- well, I think it will give him the green light to try to do something like this again. Remember, Brianna, the day after Bob Mueller came and testified to Congress Donald Trump picked up the phone, called the president of Ukraine, and tried to get him to interfere in the 2020 election. So I think Donald Trump will do it again.

But it also cleared the way for the future president to do this again because there will have been a precedent set that the Congress of the United States told the executive branch, the president, that this is OK.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about something that one of your Republican colleagues leveled against you. A claim. This was Congressman John Ratcliffe. He suggested that you have a conflict of interest --

CASTRO: Yes.

KEILAR: -- as you participate in the impeachment process because your brother Julian Castro is running for president. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R-TX): I keep hearing over and over again you can't investigate political opponents. My colleague on the Intel committee, Mr. Castro, was investigating President Trump at the very same moment his brother was running to replace President Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: What do you say to that?

CASTRO: Well, the first thing is that I have my own career. I've been on the Intelligence Committee now more than three years. I was part of the Russia investigation that investigated the president for that.

So, my brother is not in Congress. My brother is the one that is off running for president.