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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) is Interviewed About Impeaching President Trump; Supreme Court to Hear Trump Please to Block House Subpoena for Financial Records. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired December 13, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


(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)

[16:30:05]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: What do you say to that?

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): 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.

But also I would ask John, my colleague, Mr. Ratcliffe, if he thinks that my opinion and my perspective about what Donald Trump did would be any different if my brother wasn't running for president. Donald Trump abused his office and he has obstructed Congress and he has to be held accountable.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about the senator majority leader because we're looking at this. It does seem the Democrats very likely will have the votes to move these articles of impeachment forward next week, before the full House. And so, then, it's on to the Senate, led by Republicans and Mitch McConnell and he said he's working closely with the White House counsel as potential Senate trial is looking more real.

Let's hear what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Everything I do during this, I'm coordinating with White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president's position and our position, as to how to handle this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: This is essentially the jury in the case coordinating with the defense. What do you think of this?

CASTRO: Yes, I think as soon as Americans heard that and saw the clip of that, they understood that this is not a fair trial. Not if Mitch McConnell who is basically heading up the jury is coordinating with the defense team. That would not be considered a fair trial in any American courtroom. Yet that is exactly what is going on.

And I think a big part of the reason for that is that Mitch McConnell is definitely afraid of losing his reelection in Kentucky and he feels like he can't do any little thing to upset the president and have the president say a bad word about him because he needs the Republican base that the president brings to stay loyal to him.

But in the meantime, as he's doing that, he's corrupting the American system really of justice here.

KEILAR: I wonder though about accountability, because he's able to do this. And if the House votes to impeach the president, if the Senate acquits him and that is where all arrows are pointed now and he wins reelection, a very real possibility, I mean, how do you, how do Democrats, how does Congress hold President Trump accountable?

CASTRO: Well, you're right. And it is a concern. And I think it has been on people's minds.

Under the Constitution impeachment is the way that you would hold the president accountable for these actions. But what we have in this modern era now, this contemporary era is one political party that decided to completely bury its head in the sand, to deny reality, not to accept facts, and to cling to the president no matter what he does. And it's sad to say, but Donald Trump was somewhat right a few years ago where when he said that he could go to Fifth Avenue or wherever in New York and shoot somebody and at that point, I'm convinced that some of the people would still stick by him.

As strange and bizarre and as sad that sounds, that's about where we've come to in the Republican Party that folks have decided to close their eyes completely and it's very dangerous and it's very scary for this country.

KEILAR: Congressman Joaquin Castro, thanks for joining us on THE LEAD.

CASTRO: Thank you.

KEILAR: House Republicans using the Clinton impeachment as an argument against Democrats. But are both impeachments really that different? We'll find out next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:37:56]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: We have breaking news.

The Supreme Court has just announced it will hear cases related to President Trump's efforts to stop the release of his financial records.

I want to bring in CNN reporter Kara Scannell and CNN Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic with us as well.

Kara, what can you tell us?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: So, Brianna, we just got the news out of the Supreme Court they are going to hear Donald Trump's appeals to block subpoenas to his accounting firm and to his bank. Now, there were three cases up before the courts and they've granted in all of them saying they will hear them. That has to do with both the Manhattan D.A.'s office, they sent a grand jury to Donald Trump's accounting firm seeking his tax returns. The court said that they will hear that.

And they're also going to hear the other appeals where you have the House Democrats wanting to obtain Donald Trump's financial records from his accounting firm and from Deutsche Bank and Capital One, two banks that have done business with the family. So, the Supreme Court will hear those cases. That sets up big arguments and debates about presidential immunity as it relates to the grand jury investigation as well as separation of powers and what Congress oversight could be of the president.

Now, the Supreme Court also set a calendar for this saying they will hear arguments in these cases in March. That means a decision is likely by June. So, in the middle of the presidential campaign, we'll have a decision from the Supreme Court.

And in the meantime, these subpoenas for the documents are on hold. But their ultimate fate will be known in June when the Supreme Court rules on these cases, Brianna.

KEILAR: And, Joan, you can't really overstate what a big deal this could be to the president, especially as even though there is a 5-4 conservative majority on the court, it is unclear where it might come down on something like this?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: That is right. We've got three different cases. It takes only four justices to agree to hear a case, but five to decide it. And I cannot stress enough that this is not just a moment where the fate of President Trump hangs in the balance in terms of the misconduct -- potential misconduct at issue in these cases.

[16:40:03]

But it is also a very defining moment for the Roberts court.

You mentioned that it splits 5-4 along ideology lines, but just think of everything we've heard from John Roberts over the past two years about how this is -- an impartial body. It wants to stay out of politics. It doesn't want to define itself by Trump judges or Obama judges or Bush judges as he happens to be.

And this puts these nine justices squarely in the middle of a clash between the branches that's involving the House documents, but also this major claim of absolute immunity that the president is pushing in the New York grand jury case.

KEILAR: It is a huge story.

BISKUPIC: Yes.

KEILAR: Joan Biskupic, Kara Scannell, thank you so much for that reporting.

Unite or fight? That is one of the questions facing the Democratic presidential candidates right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:35]

KEILAR: In our politics lead: December 12, 1998, a front page for the history books, as the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against another president, Bill Clinton.

Nearly 21 years later to the day, the House Judiciary Committee approved articles against President Trump.

And, as CNN's Tom Foreman explains, from the timeline to the charges, Trump's impeachment is going down a bit differently than President Clinton's.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Start with the evidence.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: This is something very, very serious.

FOREMAN: The impeachment of Bill Clinton began with the investigation of the Whitewater land deal in Arkansas. It turned into a wide- ranging four-year probe by independent counsel Ken Starr.

KENNETH STARR, FORMER SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: The president, in the course of those efforts, misused his authority and his power as president.

FOREMAN: Starr's massive report laid out the complete allegations against Clinton for Congress to consider. With Donald Trump, the Ukraine scandal has been unfolding in real time with new witnesses and testimony day by day. Compared to the Clinton case, it is moving at lightning speed.

Next, the charges. When asked about his relationship with a White House intern Bill Clinton, under oath, misled investigators, just as he had the public.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did not have sexual relations with that woman.

REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R-WI): The important thing is, is that Bill Clinton lied to grand jury. That is a crime.

FOREMAN: But Trump?

REP. STEVE CHABOT (R-OH): This president isn't even accused of committing a crime.

FOREMAN: Still, Democrats say Clinton lied about a personal matter, while Trump used taxpayer dollars to strong-arm a foreign ally to investigate a rival to help his own political ambitions.

REP. DEBBIE MUCARSEL-POWELL (D-FL): There is no higher crime than for the president to use the power of his office to corrupt our elections.

FOREMAN: And then there is Congress.

Clinton and Trump each faced a House of Representatives controlled by the opposition party, both arguing the investigations were partisan hit jobs, both resisting participation, Clinton by insisting on specific terms for his testimony, Trump by going much further, instructing his team to ignore subpoenas, claiming absolute immunity.

REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-TX): This president has achieved a new low.

FOREMAN: And belittling his accusers.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These people are stone- cold crooked.

FOREMAN: And as for the likely next step, a Senate trial, even though Republicans held a solid majority during Clinton's impeachment, several GOP senators crossed over to help Democrats defeat the charges.

For Trump, the Republicans are in charge again, but, this time, while Democratic leaders say their members should vote as they wish, Republicans?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): My hope is that there won't be a single Republican who votes for either of these articles of impeachment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Here is one more stark difference in all of this.

At the height of impeachment, 60 percent of Americans thought President Clinton was doing a good job and they wanted him to stay. Donald Trump has never been anywhere near that level of approval. And about half the public thinks he should go -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Tom Foreman, thank you so much.

FOREMAN: You're welcome.

KEILAR: Up next: the fight for the presidency and the Democratic Party.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:53:28]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Unlike some -- some candidates for the Democratic nomination, I am not counting on Republican politicians having an epiphany.

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mayor Pete obviously has had difficulty garnering black support in his home city.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The thing about these purity tests is the people issuing them can't even meet them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: In our 2020 lead, Senator Elizabeth Warren is attacking Joe Biden, Biden's going after Pete Buttigieg, and Buttigieg is taking a jab at Senator Warren.

But, at the end of the day, who's actually winning over voters to be the Democratic nominee?

As CNN's Abby Phillip reports, it's not just a fight for votes, but a fight for what the Democratic Party stands for.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BIDEN: If you can't bring the country together, we're in real, real, real trouble.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the 2020 race, some Democrats are pitching themselves as healers.

BUTTIGIEG: I am running to be the president who can do that, who can gather up those pieces and bring the American people together.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

PHILLIP: While others present themselves as fighters.

WARREN: When I got into the race for president, I knew what I'd be fighting for, I knew who I'd be fighting for.

PHILLIP: With just 52 days to go before voting starts, candidates are in a fierce debate about what America will need in a post-Trump world.

BUTTIGIEG: What we need to do right now is galvanize, not polarize. PHILLIP: Buttigieg taking a jab at Senator Elizabeth Warren.

BUTTIGIEG: We will fight when we must fight. But I will never allow us to get so wrapped up in fighting that we start to think fighting is the point.

[16:55:04]

PHILLIP: Biden echoing that message, criticizing the progressive candidates' approach on health care.

BIDEN: These guys are saying, no, no, my way or the highway.

PHILLIP: Warren hit back in a major speech in New Hampshire and, without naming them, targeted Biden.

WARREN: Unlike some -- some candidates for the Democratic nomination, I am not counting on Republican politicians having an epiphany.

PHILLIP: And Buttigieg.

WARREN: We know that another calls people who raise a quarter-of-a- million dollars for him his -- quote -- "national investors circle."

And he offers them regular phone calls and special access.

PHILLIP: As Elizabeth warren has stalled in the polls, she's upped her criticism of her more moderate rivals.

WARREN: I'm not betting my agenda on the naive hope that, if Democrats adopt Republican critiques of progressive policies, or make vague calls for unity, that somehow the wealthy and well-connected will stand down.

PHILLIP: Biden insists Warren is wrong, telling donors at a fund- raiser last night that, "If we can't unify the country, you all ought to go home now, because nothing is going to happen except by executive order."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP: And voters do tell me that, despite their differing approaches, they are deciding between Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren.

That's why we have seen those two going after each other more and more in recent weeks. And we will see even more ahead of this debate next week. They are duking it out for those college-educated voters, especially in Iowa -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Abby, thank you so much for that report.

And it's pretty interesting to look at this, because you are seeing -- it's almost like the end of that sprint, right? And it's who's really digging it out at the end of it.

What do you think as you watch this?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, absolutely.

We're getting closer to Iowa. There's only a couple of weeks in December when you really think that voters are paying attention because of the holidays. So they are trying get their digs in now.

And, again, things are tightening up. And that's what we're seeing.

BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: Yes, it's like -- I think especially Elizabeth Warren and the others also have noticed that Joe Biden is not collapsing, even though everyone has spent -- we have all spent nine months here explaining why, well, he's got some temporary lead because he was Obama's vice president and name I.D., but, of course, it can't be sustained.

And you know what? He's in pretty good shape. So I do think there's a real -- I think it's becoming sort of, can they stop Biden? We're getting pretty close to that.

PHILLIP: And this is really the fundamental divide in the Democratic race right now.

Do you want a big structural change agent? Or do you want someone who is more moderate, who is maybe looking toward more incremental change? That's what this debate is all about.

And that's why it's gotten so fierce, because it gets down to the meat of it for some of these voters. The answer to that question could largely decide who the nominee ends up being in this race overall.

KEILAR: And voters say they want someone, Ayesha, who's going to beat Donald Trump?

So that's -- is that sort of an outstanding question?

AYESHA RASCOE, NPR: I mean, I think that's why you have seen strength with Biden. It's not because he has this great vision that he's really presenting, but because voters, for whatever reason, they feel like that he could beat President Bush -- I mean -- President Bush -- President Trump.

(LAUGHTER)

RASCOE: My lord. Where am I going?

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: We just did this day in history in the last block.

Go on.

KRISTOL: Well, Biden's first presidential race was against George H.W. Bush, against the first Bush. Think about that, 1988.

(CROSSTALK) (LAUGHTER)

RASCOE: Well, yes, you I think that's -- so, that's I think that's what this is coming down to.

When you have people choosing between Buttigieg and Warren, I mean, they -- these are two totally different candidates. So, they're not just looking at policy there.

PHILLIP: You also heard Buttigieg today talking about purity tests, that he was accusing...

KEILAR: Yes, that's right.

PHILLIP: ... Warren of issuing these purity tests that he said she can't even meet.

He was referencing the fact that, when she was a senator, she was fund-raising in a traditional way, taking big-dollar money, and then she transferred some of that money into her presidential account.

So he's really trying to kind of un -- peel some parts of the onion here and basically saying it's just not fair to hold candidates to this kind of standard today, when, just a few years ago, they weren't being held to that standard.

KEILAR: She also said -- and she was implying that Biden's kind of naive, right, when he thinks that he can unify the country.

I mean, look, we have just gone through, on the House side, this impeachment inquiry. What we discussed earlier was that no minds have changed. I mean, does she have a point?

FINNEY: Well, but what Biden would say is, given the relationships that he has, particularly with people in the Senate, he has the ability to get some things done.

We have heard him make that argument, that you got to have these ideas, you have got to be able to get them done.

So I do think he's right. I think he has a better relationship. I mean, take a look at what happened with Trump. He -- no relationship, and it was kind of rocky at the beginning.

KEILAR: Tune in to CNN this Sunday morning for "STATE OF THE UNION."

Jake Tapper is going to be speaking with Republican Senator Rand Paul and Republican Congressman Will Hurd. That is at 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. Eastern this Sunday.

You can follow me on Twitter @BriKeilarCNN or tweet the show @THELEADCNN.

And our coverage on CNN continues right now.

[17:00:00]