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House Democrats in Judiciary Committee Delay Vote on Articles of Impeachment; Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) Interviewed on Delayed House Impeachment Vote; Soon: House Panel to Vote on Articles of Impeachment; Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) is Interviewed About the House Vote on Articles of Impeachment. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired December 13, 2019 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- what is at stake here, allegations that the president pressured Ukraine, a foreign government, to influence the 2020 U.S. election, and then that the president tried to withhold evidence of his alleged crimes.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: And if that wasn't enough, there's more breaking news. Overnight, a stunning landslide election victory for one of President Trump's biggest allies, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. His Conservative Party now has a commanding majority, its largest since Margaret Thatcher. The win guarantees the country will exit the European Union very soon.
BERMAN: First, we're going to talk to someone central to this morning's impeachment vote on Capitol Hill as well as last night's move to delay the committee vote, Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch. He is a member of the House Judiciary Committee. We heard you speaking several times yesterday, congressman. Thanks so much for being with us.
REP. TED DEUTCH, (D-FL) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Thanks, John.
BERMAN: We thought this vote was going to happen last night in the committee. We were all staying up late. And then the chairman, Jerry Nadler gaveled out, the vote will happen this morning. What happened?
DEUTCH: We went into the day thinking we were going to vote yesterday also, but the Republican -- my Republican colleagues offered amendment after amendment, and it was clear that this was going to go well into the night. And this is the most consequential vote that most members of Congress will ever cast. The American people deserve to see it. It ought to take place in the light of day.
And what we heard over and over is that there should be no rush. This is the most important thing we're going to do in the committee. Of course, we shouldn't rush it. So we decided to go home, take a break, and come back and actually have this vote today after everyone has had an opportunity to think about what they heard over the past two days about the president's abuse of power, and then his obstruction of Congress that led us to this moment to begin with. BERMAN: You say to think about everything that you heard, and you
need to have a vote in the light of day. What is it that you heard that you find to be so important that you do want it voted on in the light of day?
DEUTCH: Well, what was clear over the course of these hearings is that the president of the United States abused his power. He solicited foreign interference in American elections, thereby putting elections at risk. He welcomed Russian interference in 2016, he solicited interference from the Ukrainians, he solicited interference from the Chinese, and he used his office for personal gain.
Let's remember, he conditioned foreign assistance, military assistance, that an ally desperately needed for their war against Russia, and the White House meeting that the new Ukrainian president desperately needed to stand up to Putin. He said you can't have those unless you first announce an investigation into my political rival. That's abuse of power. It's the highest crime in our Constitution. That's why we needed to go forward.
And then there was the fact that the president of the United States is the first president in history, John, who has instructed everyone in his administration to refuse -- he's instructed all of them not to cooperate with the Congress in this impeachment inquiry. Those two articles, when you cut through all the noise yesterday, all of the misinformation and the attempts to spin, the fact is that my Republican colleagues wouldn't defend the president's actions, they can't. And we have to act now to protect our Constitution and to protect our election.
BERMAN: A few times yesterday, and for some of the first times we did hear some of the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee try to defend the Republicans' actions. They were suggesting that they did not believe what you just asserted, that the president was conditioning aid on investigations of Joe Biden. There were some who did suggest that, more often than not, we heard complaints about the process, about how, first the House Intelligence Committee investigated it, and now the House Judiciary Committee you're on is hearing it. And we heard more of that after the chair, Jerry Nadler, did gavel out the hearing last night. This was the Ranking Member Doug Collins.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUG COLLINS, (R-GA) HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I'm not sure what to say. I've been in public life now since 2006, and I have just witnessed the most bush league stunt I've ever witnessed in my professional life. And I've been around a lot of political campaigns, I've been around a lot of things that would make you think. But in the midst of impeachment?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: I understand most members wanted to go home. It is Friday. People like to go home on the weekends. But I'm curious why you think he was so upset by that maneuver. DEUTCH: I don't know. What's so hard for me to understand, John, is
all we kept hearing from the ranking member over the course of the past week is that everyone seems to be in such a hurry to move forward. What's the hurry? Why is the clock driving this? Well, here we are after having spent 14 hours yesterday and the night before walking through the ways that the president abused his power in an unprecedented and unconstitutional way. We got to the middle of the night. No one thinks that we ought to be voting in the middle of the night.
And my guess is -- and let's acknowledge something, John. My guess is that if we had cast our votes at midnight last night, that the ranking member and so many of our colleagues would be on TV this morning asking how we could cast a vote like that in the dead of night when no one is there to watch. That's what's so confusing.
I don't know what he had planned, but there's nothing more important, there's nothing more consequential than taking this important step at a time when the American people can see whether members of Congress, members of this committee are willing to live up to their constitutional duty to defend their protection of the Constitution and cast this vote to defend our elections and defend our Constitution.
BERMAN: I've got a couple more questions I'd love to fit in. Number one, I want to look at the schedule next week. It's looks like, as you look at the House calendar, on Tuesday there will be a vote on a spending deal, on Wednesday, a vote to impeach the president of the United States, and on Thursday, a vote to approve a trade deal. Why is it important for House Democrats to have this impeachment sandwich, if you will, to have these other votes around this major constitutional moment?
DEUTCH: Sure. Well, politically, there's -- these arguments that we've heard over and over from my Republican colleagues that were obsessed with impeachment and unable to work on all the issues, we pointed out yesterday 275 bills that Mitch McConnell refuses to bring up that actually will help the American people, keep the American people safe, secure our elections. Just this week, just yesterday, we moved forward on legislation that will finally allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices for the benefit of the American people. We sent that to the Senate. That will be up to Mitch McConnell.
And next week we're going to show the things that have already been done. Finally there is a deal on spending so that we can take care of the budget for the full year, and the USMCA after we got something that was proposed by the president that didn't have tough standards, that didn't take care of labor, that didn't protect American workers. We strengthened it, we worked on behalf of the American people, and we're getting things done.
BERMAN: You brought up Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell of course is the Senate majority leader. After you vote to impeach the president, and it likely will happen next Wednesday, there will be a Senate trial. The senators are supposed to be jurors in that, impartial jurors in that trial. Senator McConnell last night acknowledged that he's working with the White House on how to run things. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: 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 Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Every senator, including Mitch McConnell, will take an oath to be an impartial juror. So what do you make of the fact that he's acknowledging that he's working with lawyers for the defendant here on how to run the case?
DEUTCH: It's terrible to hear Mitch McConnell say that. Unfortunately, it's not surprising. He shouldn't be worried about working with the president and doing the president's bidding. That's not the role that the Senate plays. And there are senators -- and this is, John, this is what's so important. Mitch McConnell understands that there are senators, Democrat and Republican alike, who value the oath that they took to defend the Constitution, and they understand the separation of powers. And they'll be as upset to hear Mitch McConnell say that as they are that the president obstructed Congress and refused for the first time in history, refused to cooperate with Congress on an impeachment inquiry, and instructed everyone to keep quiet, silence them, refuse to allow them to turn over information. They'll understand that.
And when the trial goes forward, there are members of his own party who are going to stand up for the institution and the separation of powers. He shouldn't behave that way. He knows that he owes his obligation to the Constitution and not to the White House. But I have faith that there are senators who understand why it's so important to stand up at this moment and take this important action to protect our Constitution. That's why we're moving forward with impeachment.
BERMAN: Congressman Ted Deutch, nice to see you in the daylight hours.
DEUTCH: Thanks very much, John.
BERMAN: Have a night day. Appreciate it.
DEUTCH: You, too. Happy holidays.
GOLODRYGA: A big step forward on impeachment this morning. We'll have more on the strategy behind the last-minute moves coming up next.
GOLODRYGA: In less than two hours, two hours and counting, the House Judiciary Committee will vote on two articles of impeachment against President Trump. It was supposed to happen last night, but the committee's Democratic chairman pulled the plug after 14 hours of debate. And here's why.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMIE RASKIN, (D-MD) HOUSE OVERSIGHT AND REFORM COMMITTEE: We suspect there was some strategy to try to drag us into the middle of the night so they could say, oh, the Judiciary Committee did this in the middle of the night, in the thick of night, and so on. And so we want to do it in broad daylight, so first thing in the morning so everyone can see exactly what's going on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Joining us now, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, and CNN global affairs analyst Susan Glasser. She's a staff writer at "The New Yorker." Welcome both of you. And, Susan, let me begin with you, because I just read your latest dispatch for "The New Yorker" where you describe the events of last night, and you said Democrats emphasized the historic gravity of the process and the seriousness of Trump's demand that a foreign power intervene in the upcoming U.S. election. Republicans hued toward aggrieved outrage and high decibel complaint. There was a lot of shouting. No one persuaded anyone. Not a single meaningful amendment passed.
As we heard from Congressman Raskin, it's going to happen again now. They're reconvening in just a couple of hours. Are we going to see more of the same? What is this morning going to look like?
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, you heard the incredible outrage from Congressman Collins, the Republican ranking member of the committee, when the chairman gaveled it to a close after many, many hours yesterday.
And, you know, it seems -- I was struck by the fact that Republicans, A, they certainly settled on a very high voltage strategy. There was a lot of yelling. There was a lot of outrage. But a lot of it seemed to be on their own behalf, more than even on behalf of president Trump who they were defending.
If you listen closely over many, many hours, many of the most passionate speeches from Republicans were about their own prerogatives on the House Judiciary Committee. They were about the rules. They were about process.
And, you know, so you had this congressman screaming in the middle of the night, how dare you gavel the hearing closed at 11:30 at night which, you know, probably reasonable people would think is a fairly reasonable thing to do. But in the end, there's a pro forma quality to this impeachment, right? You know, we have a feeling that we know the outcome so much that it becomes hard to listen to two sides talking past each other over and over and over again for hours.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hell hath no fury like a member of Congress who will miss their flight home on Friday. I think that's one of the things we learned, really. That's the only explanation for why they were so upset. Having the vote last night or this morning, there's no material difference especially over something as serious as impeachment, accusations that the president used his power to ask a foreign government to influence the U.S. election and then withheld evidence in the investigation of the process.
Dana, it's inevitable this vote is going to happen this morning. The House Judiciary Committee will approve it. And next week the full House will vote to impeach the president.
And one of the things I've been struck by over the past 24 hours is there is talk there may be some Democratic defections. We know of at least two House Democrats who will vote against it, and there may be more.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
BERMAN: But Conor Lamb, Democrat from Pennsylvania came out over night and said he's a yes vote. He is from a district that voted for President Trump. He's one of these Democrats who won in an off year election.
To me, I don't know if Nancy Pelosi planned that announcement that he was going to vote for it, but that's an indication, yes, there may be some defections but there's no wave here of moderates who are going to vote no on this.
BASH: Yes, you know the first person to retweet that? Conor Lamb's Republican opponent. So, that's gives you a sense of how the politics are playing in these districts where Democrats are taking or making these very tough decisions, considering the fact their districts won, approved and voted for Donald Trump, and in some cases overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump.
So, yes, this is -- there are times, and you know this, John, when the leadership twists arms and says this is a party line vote. This is shirts and skins time. Get on board.
And impeachment isn't one of them. First of all, just on the substance of it, it's a vote your conscience, very monumental vote. But second of all, just on the practical side of it, Nancy Pelosi wants the Democrats to keep their majority.
And in order to keep their majority, if there are some moderates who feel that if they vote yes on impeachment, they could lose their seats over it, and she hasn't -- she still has enough votes to, you know, to approve impeachment, she's going to set them free.
GOLODRYGA: And in the era of hyper-partisanship and a president who loves to watch television, in particular, one channel, we've got a loud message from Mitch McConnell last night to the president and to the nation about potentially where his objectivity lies going forward as this heads toward the Senate. Let's play it again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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 people in the well of the Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Now we have heard that there potentially could be some Republican senators who vote along with the Democrats in agreeing for impeachment. What does that message send to them, and is that a bit too much optimism there given what we've heard from Mitch McConnell?
BASH: So, I read what Mitch McConnell said a little differently. I've been studying him for more than a few years and covering him. And I read what he did two ways.
Number one, there's been a lot of reporting, including at CNN over the past week, that there is -- that there's a gulf between McConnell and the White House on how to approach this trial. It seems as the week has come to a close, the White House has come around to McConnell's point of view which is keep it quick.
Few, if not no witnesses, because it will drag on, and it could actually hurt the president because it would mean Democrats would have to be allowed to call witnesses.
And on that point, I remember back in 1998, it is a discussion. It is a negotiation between the Republican leadership, between the Democratic leadership in the Senate and the White House about how the trial is conducted. There is precedent for that. And my read of that isn't that McConnell is saying, you know, I'm against impeachment, although he has said that separately. In this context, it's about the process and structure of the trial.
BERMAN: Leave us alone, White House. I've got this.
BERMAN: Susan, how do you see this progressing, or when this goes to the senate, what's that going to look like to you?
GLASSER: Well, I think Dana's right. This is the negotiation that's happening right now.
It's important to note that while you need 20 Republican senators to break ranks to possibly convict President Trump, which no one thinks is possible, and Mitch McConnell reiterated that in his appearance last night on Sean Hannity, the rules of the trial could be set by a majority and, of course, the Republicans could only lose a far fewer number of votes there. So, the Republicans who have been more critical of President Trump like mitt Romney have, in a way, a greater say potentially over the contours and shape of a Senate trial than they do over the ultimate outcome. And so I think that's important to remember, number one. Number two, President Trump seems to sort of be veering back and forth
like he's obviously very unhappy that this essentially black mark can never be erased in history of being only what appears to be the fourth president to have articles of impeachment against him approved by the House of Representatives. But at the same time, he sees the possibility of vindication in the Senate trial.
The issue for him is that he wants to call the whistle-blower. He wants to call Hunter Biden and Joe Biden. There are much more plausible witnesses that the president himself has been blocking from appearing. Let's not forget that the key witnesses here have been absolutely barred by the president from appearing. He has been less cooperative than Nixon, Richard Nixon, than Bill Clinton.
So, Mike Pompeo and Mick Mulvaney are the more obvious people to be called in a Senate trial.
GOLODRYGA: And it will be interesting to hear how these members of the Senate react when they hear from constituents at home over the holidays as well. We'll have to leave it there.
Susan and Dana, thank you.
BASH: Thanks, guys.
GOLODRYGA: So how are Democratic leaders feeling ahead of today's big impeachment vote? We ask Nancy Pelosi's deputy, coming up next.
GOLODRYGA: The House Judiciary Committee will reconvene in about 90 minutes after that marathon debate abruptly ended last night. Democrats have the votes to advance the articles of impeachment which will then go before the full House next week.
Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Ben Ray Lujan. He is the assistant House speaker.
Congressman, thank you so much joining us.
REP. BEN RAY LUJAN (D-NM): Good morning. Good to be with you.
GOLODRYGA: What a night it was left night. Kind of a shocker at the end of the night.
And I want to play for you what Congressman Doug Collins had to say about it a few minutes ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): We proved all day yesterday the facts are just wrong. They're on the wrong side history. Some of his own members didn't know they were going to put it at 10:00 this morning. This is how scared they are of optics, how scared they are of the politics of this and how they just don't have an answer for the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: I'm sure you'll disagree with what he said, but my first question to you is, did Speaker Pelosi know last night before Congressman Nadler said we're going to vote this morning?
LUJAN: Look, I can't answer for that. I don't have -- I don't know. It would surprise me if that was the case.
GOLODRYGA: Did you know?
LUJAN: I did not know. As a matter of fact, last night when I turned on to catch the last few minutes of this, and the hearing was concluding and then there was an announcement there was a vote in the morning.
That shouldn't shock everybody. It was late at night. It's time to get a little bit of rest, get in front of the country again in the morning as members of Congress, whether we're in committee or we're there to vote. That's our job.
And so I was -- I'm surprised a little bit by the reaction of my colleague, Mr. Collins. Everyone should just get back into that hearing room today and make sure they're casting those votes.
And the one thing that caught my interest of the clip you just played, Bianna, was Mr. Collins was suggesting that last night there was not a conversation of facts. In fact, that's what our Democratic colleagues were talking about. There was a conversation about the case, about the facts.
And my Republican colleagues had more interest in distracting and putting on a circus of sorts as opposed to having a conversation about the facts of the case. And answering the simple question, is it OK for the president of the United States to shake down the president of a foreign country, withhold military aid for a personal, political favor. And the answer to that question is simply no.
GOLODRYGA: Well, as John has been talking about and referencing this morning, perhaps that was part of the Republican strategy to distract, to be argumentative, to defend the president and not necessarily the actions but the process.
Do you think that works? Do you think that there are a number of Americans and perhaps even a number of your colleagues that say this is too much and this is too damaging for the country.
LUJAN: Well, I think it's an accurate assessment that that is the goal and the strategy of our Republican colleagues, namely those on the Judiciary Committee. We continue to see more people across the country learning more about the case. I think that's why it's important that this vote, which is an important vote.