Return to Transcripts main page


House to Vote Today; Democrats Learn from U.K. Elections; Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) is Interviewed about Impeachment. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired December 13, 2019 - 07:00   ET



BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: Was beneath the president to go after a minor, right, especially --

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Wasn't beneath this president.

Look, there's nothing funny about criticizing a 16-year-old girl who has Asperger's --

GOLODRYGA: Or any 16-year-old.

BERMAN: And saying that there's an issue with anger management there.

All right, an historic morning ahead. The debate over articles of impeachment is in overtime after a dramatic overnight confrontation. That's next.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The committee vote on articles of impeachment against President Trump delayed until this morning.

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): This crap like this is why people are having such a terrible opinion of Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump leading an anti-corruption effort is like Kim Jong-un leading a human rights effort.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): There is no way honestly pursuing actual corruption is an impeachable offense.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): President Zelensky says he wasn't pressured. Of course he said he wasn't pressured. He has a gun to his head.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The case is so darn weak, there's no chance the president is going to be removed from office.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This is a vote that people will have to come to their own conclusion on. The facts are clear.


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

All right, welcome to NEW DAY. It is Friday, December 13th. Friday, the 13th. If it sounds ominous, it should.

Alisyn is off. Bianna Golodryga joins me now. That's not why it's ominous.

GOLODRYGA: On this ominous morning, right?

BERMAN: That's why -- you're not like Freddy Krueger most of the time.

GOLODRYGA: No, no. Hope not.

BERMAN: This morning, the debate over articles of impeachment is in overtime. These are the official charges, that the president asked a foreign government to interfere in the U.S. election, then tried to block the investigation into the matter. These are serious charges. And it's a serious matter. And the vote over all of it was supposed to happen yesterday, but Republicans worked the hearing so much and for so long that ultimately overnight Chairman Jerry Nadler said he had enough.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): The committee is in recess.

REP. DOUG COLLINS (D-GA): Mr. Chairman -- Mr. Chairman, this is the -- this is the kangaroo court that we're talking about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is outrageous.

COLLINS: And it's forcing --


BERMAN: So now the vote will happen this morning in the House Judiciary Committee. Democrats want it to be in daylight. Which does set up an epic few days next week. Something of an impeachment sandwich. A vote on a measure to fund the government will happen on Tuesday. The president of the United States will likely be impeached on Wednesday. Let that sink in. Then on Thursday, the House will have a new trade agreement. And this is all before lawmakers head out of town for their holiday break.

GOLODRYGA: That's a now one, an impeachment sandwich. That's a Berman for sure.

We're also bringing you major news from overseas in the United Kingdom. A sweeping election victory and a commanding majority for Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his conservative party. The result sets up a long awaited exit from the European Union by the end of next month. More on what this could mean for our 2020 election coming up.

BERMAN: All right, joining us now, CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and CNN political analyst Margaret Talev. She's the politics and White House editor for "Axios."

Jeffrey Toobin, it was dramatic overnight. Fourteen hours of parliamentary bickering back and forth ended with the smash of a gavel from Jerry Nadler, who basically said, I've had enough. We're going to vote in daylight tomorrow over articles of impeachment today in just a few hours. And it should not obscure the seriousness of the charges here. These are articles of impeachment. The president is being charged with asking a government to intervene in the U.S. election and then interfering into the investigation of the matter.

How did you see this moment?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, the -- you know, it is always worth remembering that -- that even in our polarized politics, impeachment does not happen very often. You know, three times since -- in the last 45 years. Four times in all of American history. And it's going to happen again next Wednesday.

The debate yesterday was very revealing about what was really going on here. I think the Republicans were doing Donald Trump's work. They were talking constantly about Hunter Biden and Joe Biden and the alleged corruption that they were involved in. And the Democrats were talked about Donald Trump.

And the question is how this battle plays out not really Wednesday. I think we know how it's going to play out when the vote comes later this morning and in the full House next Wednesday, but how the country sees it next November.

GOLODRYGA: And, Abby, yes, there were Republican and Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee in the same room, but they might as well have been on different planets last night because you had Democrats talking about the president upending the U.S. Constitution and you had Republicans defending the transcript. And actually at points that still stun me, and I can't believe I can still be stunned at this point, there were times where they said that Democrats were undermining Zelensky and calling him a liar and making him look weak as that country is in the middle of a hot war with Russia.


You couldn't see these sides more further apart.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And in some ways it was so interesting to hear the kind of talking past each other on the facts of the matter. You had Republicans repeating things that we know are not true. For example, that Ukraine -- that the president was so concerned about corruption that he justifiably held up the money, even though we know that -- that his own government, the president's own government, had certified that corruption was sufficiently addressed to allow that money to be released. So that's just one example of some of the many factual points that Republicans continued to repeat that were simply not supported by any facts.

And then, on the other side, you have Democrats, you know, continuing to try to train the focus on the president. But it's emblematic of how these hearings, as important as they are and as important as the fact pattern is, it's hard to see them really shifting much in the way of whatever persuadable minds there are that exist in the world left.

And it's a problem because, you know, the hearings are important. We want the American public to know what is going on. But, at the same time, they're not very informative. You're not learning a whole -- a whole lot because -- because the facts are so muddled and mixed up that it's hard for any reasonable person to listen to 14 hours of this and come away with anything that is -- that is clear about what is actually going on here.

BERMAN: But that's the goal. I mean that's the Republicans' goal here. Let me just read you this tweet from Erin Ryan at "Crooked Media" overnight. The GOP impeachment strategy is to be so annoying that everybody stops listening.

That's the goal there. And, again, I think it's incumbent on everyone just to remind people of what is actually at stake here, which is a matter of the Constitution, Margaret, which is articles of impeachment suggesting that the president abused his power by asking a foreign government to intervene in the U.S. election. But if the Republicans' goal here is to make it so annoying that people lose focus, how do you get that message across?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, John, that's a good point. If you actually read the articles of impeachment, there's just a couple. They're pretty clear. It's not that complicated to understand them. People can read the evidence fairly easily. And this really is something that individual American voters, as they consider this in terms of how it shapes their thoughts about the election, have to do their own homework because you can't watch 14 hours of hearings and come away with any sort of clarity.

And, you know, for Republicans, the kind of play yesterday was to stretch this deep into the night, create a spectacle, make it seem like theater, and then complain when Democrats pull the cord overnight. But I'm not sure you get to have it both ways. If your argument is that there should be transparency and this should happen in the light of day --

BERMAN: Well, yes.

TALEV: Then it creates an easy justification when Jerry Nadler says, hey, let's do this in the morning.

BERMAN: Now what this did was mess up the Republican talking point of, you did the vote in the dark of night. How can you do this vote in the dark of night? I mean that was surely --

GOLODRYGA: Now it's, you messed up our Friday morning.

BERMAN: Exactly. Now it's, you messed up our Friday morning. Exactly.

GOLODRYGA: And, Jeffrey, let me ask you, because there's debate, and there has been debate, about how many articles of impeachment to bring forward. We know that Republicans' talking point is, ah, you see, they had so few, they only had two, it's such a thin indictment from the Democrats. Of course the flipside would have been that you're throwing spaghetti at the wall trying to come after this president.

But I'm wondering, because the strategy for the Democrats seemed to be to lay out the most clear, strongest case of abuse with as much of a clear and simple array of evidence as possible. Do you think that this was, given what we saw play out over the last 48 hours, still the right decision for Democrats to make?

TOOBIN: You know, I think it was an understandable decision. You know, in the big picture, I don't think it matters how many articles of impeachment there are. How many people remember how many articles there were against Bill Clinton or against Richard Nixon? All you remember is that Bill Clinton was impeached and that Richard Nixon, the committee voted impeachment articles and then he resigned. I mean the -- yes, it -- I think what the Democrats did is they gave moderate Democrats the easiest path to vote for the articles of impeachment. They don't -- there were many moderates, for whatever reason, it never was really clear to me, who didn't want to get involved in any evidence regarding the Mueller report. It came up occasionally in -- in the debates, evidence from the Mueller report.

But this was the path favored by the more moderate Democrats. They're the ones whose votes are at least theoretically in play. I think they are -- they were accommodated.

But, you know, when the history of Donald Trump's presidency is written, whether it's a four-year presidency or an eight-year presidency, what they're going to say is that he was impeached.


The number of articles, I don't think, really matters that much.

BERMAN: I just want to leave people with a flavor of what happened last night so they can see what we're talking about here with Republicans asserting things and then the Democrats sort of explaining things.



REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): We had two hearings. None of which featured fact witnesses.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): There were 12 fact witnesses who testified during the intel hearing.

REP. STEVE CHABOT (R-OH): Now the American people know there simply wasn't a crime committed here. And there shouldn't be an impeachment here either.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): There are no crimes here? The president committed the highest crime against the Constitution by abusing his office. REP. ANDY BIGGS (R-AZ): No pressure in the phone call. Mr. Zelensky

has said that repeatedly.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Well, of course he said he wasn't pressured. The United States is a powerful nation on which his nation is dependent. He has a gun to his head.


BERMAN: These were the moments of civility, by the way, in the hearing yesterday.

So after the House Judiciary Committee votes this morning, and they will approve these articles of impeachment, we now know that next week it looks like there will be a vote to impeach the president of the United States on Wednesday. That is an historic moment as our chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin keeps on pointing out. Wednesday, in the middle of a vote on a spending deal, and a trade deal.

After that, it will go to the Senate for a trial, where in order to remove the president from office it takes a two-thirds vote. That is not likely to happen. The makeup of that trial is still under discussion. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last night basically told us that he's making the decisions about how to run the trial with the defendant.



SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Everything I do during this, I'm coordinating with White House counsel. We'll be working through this process, hopefully in a fairly short period of time, in total coordination with the White House counsel's office and the people who are representing the president in the well of the Senate.


BERMAN: In total coordination with lawyers for the defendant. And Mitch McConnell, and every senator will take this oath, which I will now read to you, Abby. I solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.

He's doing impartial justice in coordination, Abby, with the defendant.

PHILLIP: Yes, and I think this is one of those cases where McConnell is willfully sort of violating norms that we have about his conduct or what it's supposed to be in this setting where he's supposed to be impartial in order to send a very clear message to the president, which is, stay out of it, we are working together, I am trying to help you. That is the message to the president.

They're -- you know, the problem for McConnell had been that for -- for several days now the president had wanted something very different from what he wanted. Trump wanted a show. He wanted witnesses. He wanted to be vindicated explicitly. And what McConnell thinks is the right strategy politically for his members and also for the president is to just get this thing other with.

And so by going on Fox last night he's essentially saying, look, Mr. President, I am on your side here. Just take a step back. We're working with you. This is going to be done and you will be acquitted. And he's doing it even though he knows fully well, as a long time institutionalist of the Senate, that that is not what he ought to be saying at this moment. But times have changed here in Washington and I think this is just another example of that.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, the question is whether the president will heed that advice and that warning from McConnell.

Margaret, Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that she will not be whipping votes and that members of her caucus should be voting their conscience. What does that tell you?

TALEV: It tells me she has enough votes to pass it. That's the most important thing.

And also it tells me that she -- they don't think they need to whip votes because, number one, the whip is not going to change any minds. Number two, she's the speaker of the House and she wants to remain so. And to do it, she needs to keep the majority. And if that means losing a few votes, so bet it.

And, number three, they think they know the ballpark range of what we're talking about here, may somewhere in the neighborhood of four to seven defections and for reasons that will become obvious when you look at the congressional district map and where those lawmakers, constituents voted in the last presidential election

But, in the end, like is putting the hammer down really going to sway those lawmakers? And is swaying those lawmakers really going to help her end goal? She was never the hugest fan of doing this anyway, but now it has to happen. And as long as they can pass the baton to the Senate, I think she feels she's done her job.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, and she is looking out for those more moderate members as well.

BERMAN: Toobs -- Toobs, you want a quick last word?

TOOBIN: Well, I'd just like -- Nancy Pelosi is running this show so much.


Remember what's happening Thursday. They're going to vote on the trade deal with Mexico and Canada. So she has been determined to show the public that the House of Representatives is not just doing impeachment, they are doing other things. So right on top of impeachment, they are going to be doing this big trade deal so her venerable members can go back to their communities and say, look, we are not just doing impeachment, we are doing important work. And, I mean, it's just indicative of how much Nancy Pelosi is running the House of Representatives.

GOLODRYGA: She has said, they can walk and chew gum at the same time.

John called it an impeachment sandwich that we're going to see next week.

BERMAN: With cheese.

GOLODRYGA: A busy, historic week next week.

Mayonnaise or mustard?

BERMAN: Cheese.

GOLODRYGA: Cheese. Cheese. Extra cheese.

All right, panel, thank you.

Well now to more breaking news overnight.

A resounding victory for Britain's prime minister in the U.K. we're going to break down why Boris Johnson's big win could spell trouble for Democrats here in the U.S. That's coming up.



BERMAN: All right, breaking news. Major breaking news.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his conservative party won a commanding majority in the United Kingdom. This was a wipeout election.

John Avlon is here to tell us why here in the United States Democrats should be paying very close attention.



Democrats should be paying close attention to the Labour Party's brutal beating in the U.K. elections last night. Because it's a cautionary tale as they prepare for the 2020 primaries.

On the one side, the U.K. had an unpopular, conservative incumbent, a charismatic nationalist with a truth telling problem. Also that Labour should have been primed to take back 10 Downing Street. But they decided to stick with an unreconstructed socialist, Jeremy Corbyn, and a party dogged by accusations of Anti-Semitism. And Corbyn's personal record of admiration for leftist autocrats from Cuba to Venezuela, a mottled message on Brexit, someone promising to nationalize utilities and spend more than a hundred billion remaking society. But in American context, Jeremy Corbyn makes Bernie Sanders look like

Bill Clinton. But he was beloved by the party's base and young voters who boosted him on social media.

And so despite polls showing that Corbyn was the least popular opposition leader in almost a half century, they decided to take the leap, convinced that the unpopularity of the Tory's meant maybe they could sneak Corbyn into 10 Downing.

Not so much. Actually, not at all. Last night, led by Corbyn, the Labour Party appeared to have its worst showing since 1935. They lost Labour strongholds throughout the middle of the country.

Look, even in a parliamentary system, elections are compared to what proposition? And Boris Johnson, a former mayor of London with a clear message on Brexit, cleaned up, delivering a gain of about 86 seats.

Look, many on the left now hate Tony Blair with a passion only second to Margaret Thatcher, but his centrist new Labour won three consecutive elections, something no other Labour leader has done, while more left-wing candidates before and after him have lost badly.

There are no perfect parallels between different countries, but in the U.K., as in the USA, we see how polarization distorts democracies. The center can hold, though, when it's given a strong and clear voice. But in its absence, right wing populism beats left wing populism.

And that's your "Reality Check."

BERMAN: A lot of people were watching this late into the night and early into the morning. Not just in the U.K., but here as well, John. Thank you very much for that.

GOLODRYGA: Thank you.

BERMAN: So, an historic day here in the United States. There's history all around (INAUDIBLE).

GOLODRYGA: Yes, every day. Yes.

BERMAN: Just hours from now, Democrats in the House Judiciary Committee will approve articles of impeachment against the president of the United States. That is an historic moment. We'll give you the very latest developments, next.



BERMAN: In just a few hours after a night of high drama, the House Judiciary Committee will vote to advance articles of impeachment to the full House of Representatives. This was supposed to happen last night, but House Chair -- Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler gaveled the session out so they could do the vote in daylight today.

Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Congressman, thanks so much for being here.

REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA): Good to be back.

BERMAN: Look, this was fourteen hours of shouting yesterday. I think people can lose sense of what is at stake here in the screaming and shouting.

What's important? What do you think people need to take away against these very serious matters?

MOULTON: The only thing that matters is that the president of the United States broke the law. And he did so in a manner that's worse than any other president in history. He rigged -- he's trying to rig our elections by getting a foreign ally involved just -- just so that he can, you know, for his political benefit.

And the founding fathers were very clear that they were very -- they were frightened of foreign involvement in our elections. They were afraid of France getting involved in the time, buying off politicians. I don't think they ever imagined that one of our own presidents would try to rig our election with foreign help. That's what -- that's what Trump has done.

And so all these other political arguments attacking the process, attacking some of the witnesses, this is what the Republicans are doing. They're throwing smoke grenades to distract people's attention because they cannot defend the president's behavior.

BERMAN: If the message is so clear and if what is at stake is so clear, why is it that, at least in some parts of the country, it doesn't seem to be getting through as clearly as you would like? There is this poll from Wisconsin, from Marquette University, should President Trump be impeached and removed from office? Yes, 40 percent, no, 52 percent. And that number hasn't changed. That's been a static number in Wisconsin.

If it's clear to you, why isn't it as clear to everybody?

MOULTON: Well, I think there's two things. First of all, we obviously live in very polarized times. I mean it's tribal times when people are just, you know, getting in their camps and holding firm and a lot of people don't want to listen to rational arguments and to -- and to reason.

And the second thing, frankly, is that the Republican's tactics are kind of working, right? Their smoke grenades are getting attention. And people are talking about things that are not related to the president's behavior.

But we have a constitutional duty in Congress to hold the administration accountable to have impeachment hearings if a president of the United States breaks the law. And that's what's at stake here. That's what matters. That's the only thing that we should be focused on.

BERMAN: We've actually been talking about that this morning, that the Republican strategy, to a certain extent, is to make the process so annoying that people stop paying attention. That's process. It's not really what these charges are about.


The House, in all likelihood next Wednesday, and you'll have a vote in this, will impeach the president of the United States. That's just the third time that will happen in our -- in our history.