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INSIDE POLITICS

House Poised To Impeach Trump This Week; Trump On The Eve Of Impeachment: "It's A Scam"; Does Johnson's U.K. Landslide Mean Anything For U.S. Election?; Debating The Debate. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired December 15, 2019 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:25]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): The Trump impeachment advances.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Chairman, there are 23 ayes and 17 nos.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): The articles agreed to.

KING: The full House votes this week and then an election year Senate trial.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE: There are no crimes. They're impeaching me and there are no crimes.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The president will be held accountable for his abuse of power and for his obstruction of Congress.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: There is no chance the president is going to be removed from office.

KING: And Boris Johnson wins big.

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Thank you for the trust you have placed in us and in me.

KING: Is there a 2020 lesson?

INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King.

To our viewers in the United States and around the world, thank you for sharing your Sunday. A lot to talk about this Sunday, including a big Democratic presidential debate Thursday. One important question for the candidates is whether they see the conservative rout in the U.K. elections as a warning that working class voters are not buying what liberals are selling. First, though, a crossroads moment in American politics. The

Democratic House this week will vote on two articles of impeachment against the Republican president, and every indication is that those articles will pass.

President Trump, of course, does not welcome to indelible stain of impeachment, but he is confident he will not be convicted and removed by the Senate. So, his energy is aimed at preserving Republican loyalty and at trying to turn a 2019 rebuke into a 2020 rallying cry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I watched these Democrats on the commit make fools out of themselves, absolute fools out of themselves. I think that the whole impeachment thing, hoax, I guess you could call it because it is a hoax, and Nancy Pelosi knows it, so it's a very sad thing for our country. But it seems to be very good for me politically.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, Democrats say this is no hoax and they argue the case is overwhelming, that the president abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to announce investigation into the Bidens and he is obstructing Congress by ignoring subpoenas for documents and witnesses central to the Ukraine events.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): The president committed the highest crime against the Constitution by abusing his office.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Come on, get real, be serious. We know exactly what happened here, 17 witnesses. It's uncontradicted. There's no rival story.

REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D-LA): We have an emergency to our national election going on right now. Our oath to the constitution requires us to take this drastic, solemn and regrettable step, but it is necessary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With us this Sunday to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Hirschfeld Davis with "The New York Times," Michael Bender with "The Wall Street Journal", CNN's Manu Raju, and "Politico's" Laura Barron-Lopez.

A very huge ahead. Let's start with a viewers guide as to what to look for. We expect the House to vote on Wednesday. The outcome not really in doubt, the Democrats have the votes to pass these two articles of impeachment.

But there are some people to watch. There are 31 House Democrats from districts carried by President Trump, so 31 House Democrats who have to think once or twice about their own political future as they cast their vote, 16 of those Democrats, we can show you on the screen, won in districts that the president carried by four points or more, so these are stronger Trump districts, a tougher decision.

One of them you see in the bottom right, Representative Jeff Drew. As we have this conversation this morning, Manu, he is a Democrat.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

KING: But he met with the president on Friday. He's talking about switching parties and he's already announced he will vote no on both articles of impeachment. Republicans are casting this as a show of courage by a Democrat leaving his party because of this misguided impeachment.

The facts really are he was probably about to lose the Democratic prime and he's trying to find a way to personally survive, right?

RAJU: Yes, he's under water in his district, he will have a difficult chance if not win reelection as a Democrat. So, a lot of ways, this is personal political survival for Jeff Van Drew, who has been opposed to impeachment from the start and he was, of course, only one of two Democrats to vote against moving forward with a formal impeachment proceedings when they had the procedural vote in the fall.

So it was no surprise that he would take this position. But after he cast that vote, he got a significant amount of backlash from Democrats in his district. He was in a difficult position. I'm told that he's been making phone calls to various members in the delegation.

It sounds like he is going to switch. You're right, the president is going to cast this as a significant victory for him, and political victory.

[08:05:06]

But in reality, this is all about one member's own political survival.

KING: And if we can put up the 16 again, there are 31 Trump district Democrats, if you will, 16 from districts the president carried somewhat comfortably, four points or more.

The challenge here is Speaker Pelosi has said she's not going to whip this vote. That she wants people to vote their conscience. But she also understands the public relations effort the president will make now. Jeff Van Drew, Democrat looking to sneak -- does it increase the pressure on the leadership and these other Democrats to prove that Democrats are not running away from this, that a few Democrats, a few Democrats just like in the Clinton days, are going to go against the party, but?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, honestly, Pelosi was already betting on Van Drew or counting Van Drew as someone who was going to vote against impeachment. She expects a handful to vote against impeachment.

And so, the count for Democrats really isn't expected to change very much just because of Van Drew. JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And also, I do think that it's worth noting that the Democrats clearly expect the president to take any defections and run with them, whether or not we knew in advance, as both of you guys pointed out, we did know that he was going to be a no on these articles. But the president is going to try to make hay.

He's going to try to use it as a distraction, because even though he is saying he thinks the politics are great for him, he does not want to be an impeached president, and anything he can do to shift the focus from himself being impeached to people who disagree with this decision, he is going to try to do.

That doesn't make the decision any easier for the Democrats who are trying to weigh these things of, you know, they have the articles in front of them and a really difficult political situation at home.

KING: Just once more to make the point, Jeff Van Drew was already a no. So, it doesn't affect the math. We do know from our reporting over the weekend that Dave Loebsack, for example, from Iowa, our reporting is that he vote yes. A tough in Iowa, a state the president spent a lot of time and money on in the presidential election.

Max Rose from New York, again, a very tough district for him, will vote yes. We expect most of these Democrats will come around.

To the point, the president is trying -- you heard the president in the beginning. This is good for me politically. The president of the United States is about to be impeached. That will forever be in the top two or three paragraphs about his legacy, as it is for Bill Clinton. This is rare in history.

I get you want to spin it as favorably as you can, but this has to sting a president.

MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Absolutely, and this is sort of the narrative we know about President Trump is that he's more tactical than strategic. He is concerned about the larger legacy questions, but he spends most of his time reacting in moment to moment and day to day. And moment to moment and day to day is that van drew is a good talking point. This has been a messaging war for Trump from the very beginning, not a legal war for him, right?

I mean, he is -- we're going to have an impeachment vote on Wednesday without having heard from any senior White House officials on the questions at hand and the president hasn't paid any political -- hasn't paid any -- hasn't taken any political hits for this. The numbers have stayed the same generally on impeachment and generally on his approval.

What he's talking about this being good for him politically is the fundraising has shot up from the base. Volunteer efforts for his campaign, from his base, have shot up. And he will keep that House Republican Caucus, which is, frankly, the base, intact through this vote. KING: That helps, the gin up of the Republican base, which is you see

in the polling. It's not just the Trump campaign saying it's happening, you see it in the polling. It's keeping the Republicans discipline.

So, the House will vote to impeach and it will move on to the Senate. If you listen to the president's tweets from just several days ago, or the president's most Trumpy supporters in the House, they say call in the whistle-blower, they say call in Hunter Biden. But a key Trump ally in the Senate, who not long ago was semi-open to this, Lindsay Graham, says no.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): This thing will come to the Senate and it will die quickly and I will do everything I can to make it die quickly. I don't want to call anybody, I don't need to hear from Hunter Biden, I don't need to hear from Joe Biden. We can deal with that outside of impeachment. I don't want to talk to Pompeo, I don't want to talk to Pence. I want to hear the House make their case based on the record they established in the House and I want to vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's a simple translation to this. Republicans believe maybe they'll lose one or two senators. But there's no way the president is going to be convicted. Why take the chance of bringing in witnesses, turning it into a circus, and maybe convincing if you look at the senators you have to watch on the Republican side, maybe convincing Martha McSally who is up for re-election next year, Cory Gardner who's up for reelection next year, and Susan Collins who is up for re- election next year, or some of these other senators, Mitt Romney, not loyal to the president, Lamar Alexander retiring, you klnow what, you turn this into a circus, you might lose my vote?

RAJU: Yes, and the vote not necessarily on a acquittal, because I don't think we're expecting any of them to vote to convict the president. What the concern would be in calling forward the witnesses is the senators have to vote to bring forward these witnesses.

[08:10:02]

And some of those could be difficult votes for some of the members if they have to decide whether or not to Senate into a circus, bringing people like the whistle-blower and the like and side with the president or side with trying to keep the process moving forward. They would rather avoid those votes, which is have Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell want this to --

KING: And there's the fact question, to Michael's point. The president has not -- he was invited to present a defense, and he declined to do so. You can read into that whatever you want at home. If he wanted to say this was perfect, he could have let them testify.

If you go to the Senate and the Republicans say, we want Hunter Biden, the Democrats say, great, give us Mick Mulvaney, we want the whistleblower, fine, give us Mike Pence. The president -- the president may say he wants witnesses. The president really doesn't want witnesses, does he?

DAVIS: Well, he doesn't understand the process and I think that's part of what's been going on is we've seen privately Mitch McConnell try to explain what this process actually is and isn't. What it is not is a reality show where you can have surprise people come in and a bombshell revelation. I mean, this is not how these things work.

And I also think that the president and his advisers who are trying to strategize on what this should look like have had to take into account now in the last several days, there are not the Republican votes to do some of these things. And even if we could get them, it's not even necessarily a question of the substantive tough vote. It's the question of having to take vote after vote.

We heard Lindsey Graham just say, I just want to vote and get it out of there. They want a vote on convict or a quit. They don't want to be sitting there for days taking all of these tough decisions.

KING: And the president, again, several days ago was tweeting I want witnesses. He has not been doing that. He appears to be listening for now. That's what the emphasis on, for now.

Up next, the president's defense -- he calls Democrats the party of hate and still insists his Ukraine dealings were perfect. And as we go to break, a little then and now on the politics of impeaching a president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THEN-REP. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): My fear is that when a Republican wins the White House, Democrats will demand payback.

TRUMP: Some day, there will be a Democrat president and there will be a Republican House, and I suspect they're going to remember it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:15:57]

KING: Sometimes history repeats itself, and sometimes it most certainly does not. The last time the House impeached a president was 21 years ago, 1998. The articles of impeachment cleared the Judiciary Committee on the second Friday in December. The president was contrite.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: What I want the American people to know, what I want the Congress to know, is that I am profoundly sorry for all I have done wrong in words and deeds. I never should have misled the country, the Congress, my friends or my family. Quite simply, I gave into my shame. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Fast forward to the here and now, 2019. The articles of impeachment once again cleared the Judiciary Committee on the second Friday in December. The president, anything but contrite.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It's a scam. It's something that shouldn't be allowed, and it's a very bad thing for our country. And you're trivializing impeachment.

My poll numbers, as you know, have gone through the roof. Fundraising for the Republican Party has gone through the roof. We're setting records. Nobody has ever seen anything like it, because the people are disgusted. The people are absolutely disgusted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You try when you have something that is so rare to compare it to the last time and there are some parallels into the Clinton impeachment. I covered the White House in those days.

But the facts in despite, the articles of impeachment are very different. It was personal conduct on Clinton's part. Yes, he lied to a grand jury, but it was about personal conduct.

This is about the exercising of presidential power. The strategy is not, I'm sorry, don't impeach me. It's I'm perfect, don't impeach me.

BENDER: No, in fact, he's doubling down. What got Trump into this whole mess in the first place was asking Ukraine to help legitimize his 2016 election and to settle scores with political rivals. Now he wants the Senate to do the same thing, right?

Trump doesn't want to be acquitted here, he wants to be vindicated. And I know that Trump hasn't said anything lately about having witnesses in the Senate trial, but I'm told behind-the-scenes that he wants both. He wants a short trial that McConnell wants and he wants his witnesses. So I would not equate that sort of silence with acceptance right now until we see something -- until we see Trump on television or on Twitter talking about staying in line the same way that McConnell did.

RAJU: He's not just doubling down. They're doing essentially the same thing they've been doing. Rudy Giuliani was just in Ukraine in an effort to try to dig up dirt on the Bidens and he returned and he was in the White House the day that the House Judiciary Committee was moving to advance the articles of impeachment to the floor.

And according to what he told "The Journal", Trump called him about these very issues.

KING: Let me read that as you go -- let me read that as you go.

When he returned to New York, this is in "The Wall Street Journal", when he returned to New York, the president called him as his plane was still taxiing down the run away. What did you get? More than you can imagine, Mr. Giuliani replied. He's putting his findings in a 20- page report. He's talking about writing reports for the last four years.

So again take that with a grain of salt. But to that point, you have pictures of him arriving at the White House on the day the articles of impeachment are moving through the committee. This is the president trying to say, A, I don't care, I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing.

But it's a cynical effort to normalize it. What are they impeaching for? Everybody does this. Everybody does not do this.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Right. So, Trump and his administration have always tried to say the quiet things out loud and by doing that they think that somehow it normalizes it and makes it legal or OK. But it's the same with when he was out on the lawn saying China, will you also investigate the Bidens, or will you also investigate my political rivals. And that's what happened, as Manu said, with calling Giuliani and saying what did you get after his trip to Ukraine.

KING: The president's strategy has worked so far if the definition of success is keeping Republicans in line. And you see that in the polling and you see that in the House Republican count. We'll watch the Senate, but pretty solid right now.

[08:20:00]

One of the ways he's doing this, Bill Clinton didn't have Twitter.

Just look at the president's average daily tweets. If you want to know the president is engaged in something, you just look at the Internet and you look at the far right of your screen there. He is tweeting at a hyper record level about this. Retweeting last night on story, he re-tweeted Manu --

RAJU: At 12:30 a.m.

KING: At 12:30 a.m., leave that to himself.

One of the other big questions is when this goes to a Senate trial, senators are supposed the jury, they are the jury. Not supposed to be. They are the jury.

Mitch McConnell, you can call him the foreman. He's the majority leader. He makes no bones about this. He met with the president's counsel last week and said everything I do is hand in hand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Everything I do 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 to the extent that we can. 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: There are some Democrats and independent, Angus King, senator of Maine, whose caucuses with the Democrats, are saying this is a conflict. It's supposed to be a fair and impartial juror.

Dana Bash, CNN's Dana Bash, talked to Tom Daschle, who was in the Democratic role in the Clinton impeachment days, the staff talked to the Clinton people all the time. He says he didn't because he was, quote, pissed at Clinton for lying to him about Monica Lewinsky.

Is this -- I mean, it's not unexpected. It's not Mitch McConnell, what he's doing, he's the most political guy in town. But is it wrong?

DAVIS: Listen, he's the majority leader and he has to run this trial. I think it stands to reason that he or his staff are going to have contact with the White House about how this is going to unfold. He'll also have contact with Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, the Democrat.

But I think what's different is that my colleague talked with Trent Lott who was the Republican leader during Clinton's impeachment trial who said we all knew the outcome, we thought he was going to be acquitted, but we really wanted for it to look fair, we want to look like a process that was worthy of the country and that, you know, people could come away from feeling like fairness had been done, impartial justice, as the oath that senators take is done. So we made a lot of efforts to make it look that way.

Mitch McConnell is not making those efforts because I think his perspective seems to be everybody knows how this is going to turn out, everybody knows this is political and I'm not going to spend my time trying to look like I'm above it all when everybody knows where I am and where the president is.

KING: And everyone should also know, he's on the ballot next year and he's trying to protect the Republican majority. He is pushing back on the witness question. We will see how it ultimately resolves itself. But he is pushing back on the witness question. We shall we.

Up next, the 2020 Democrats debate this week, and Boris Johnson's big win in the U.K. election is certain to be a hot topic.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:26:45]

KING: The leading 2020 Democrats debate Thursday night and there's a brash new wrinkle in the fight over whether a liberal or a moderate has the best chance against President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I want to congratulate Boris Johnson on a terrific victory. I think that might be a harbinger of what's to come in our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Johnson and his conservative party won the U.K. elections in a route.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: I say thank you for the trust you have placed in us and in me, and we will work round the clock to repay your trust and to deliver on your priorities with a parliament that works for you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: One obvious question across the Atlantic here is whether Labour's defeat should be a lesson to Democratic voters. Joe Biden certainly hopes so. Quote: Look what happens when the Labour Party moves so far to the left, the former vice president said at a fundraiser Thursday.

Michael Bloomberg is a late entry to the Democratic race, not qualified for this week's debate, but he sees the Tory wave as a wakeup call.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's a catastrophic warning to Democratic Party that you have to have somebody that can beat Donald Trump and that is not going to be easy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Sometimes we overanalyze things, but there is a lesson to be learned, is it what Bloomberg and Biden say, that the Labour Party was too far to the left and working class say we're not buying it?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, it's a smart political tactic for both Bloomberg and Biden. Biden is making the electability moderate his entire run. But it is a bit of an oversimplification. I mean, there are things that Boris Johnson supports like health care that the Conservative Party supports in the U.K. that is actually far more liberal than --

KING: Paris climate accords.

BARRON-PEREZ: Yes, the Paris climate accords, 100 percent renewable energy that the Republican Party here would never support and that Biden has even slightly to the right of Boris Johnson on issues like that. So that's something where it doesn't just cleanly translate.

That said, we can expect Biden to continue to push this ahead of the debate.

KING: Right, and this divide already was the issue in the race, whether it's Medicare for all or the Green New Deal, free college.

RAJU: Yes, you can't really compare the two electorates, the British electorate versus the American electorate. But when you look at kind of the political strategy in Boris Johnson, he had a very simple message, get Brexit done. He made that very clear. The Labour Party's message was more confusing.

And if you translate here in the U.S., Trump's message, keep America great, make America great again, he didn't provide any real specifics of that when he ran in 2016. There are really no specifics on how the president plans to govern when he's reelected. What is his agenda?

There are Democrats who have a bunch more detailed policy platforms, so how do they sell that message? So, that's something --

KING: It's a tough call, because sometimes we see our elections get nationalized. Sometimes, we see them, they're more local, state by state.

[08:29:45]

In the global economy, there have been times, Clinton and Blair, even back to Reagan and Thatcher, where U.S. and U.K. politics have sort of run in line, one tipping off the other, what could be next.

You had Obama and David Cameron. So, it's not always. So, to your point, the Conservative Party, it's hard to call the point.

But this divide was already out there. We head into this debate at a time when the votes are getting much closer. Iowa is just around the corner.

Elizabeth Warren, who owned the summer, has sort of plateaued and maybe even dropped a little bit from the fall into the winter. Listen to her here trying to stoke this again. She doesn't name names. This is about Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We know that one Democratic candidate walked into a room of wealthy donors this year to promise that quote, "nothing would fundamentally change if he's elected president".

We know that another tells 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You don't do this unless you think you need to. You know, she didn't name the names, but everybody knows exactly who she's talking about. She's getting more aggressive because she has, at a minimum, plateaued.

She's going to have to answer in the debate -- well, what is the lesson of Boris Johnson? Are you too far to the left? Will Trump, you know, win 25, 30 states if you do this? But she also is trying to invigorate her campaign by taking some punches. BENDER: It's pretty striking. I mean Elizabeth Warren has been under

attack from the President from day one. She's been -- faced pretty tough questions about her campaign throughout the race here.

But this is the first time we're seeing her actually go at specific candidates here. And just to take a step back, I mean sort of ask about what the -- you know, whether the Labour Party was too left, too far left. I think the broader question here for Democrats is whether or not this sort of global conservatism has found a sweet spot with blue collar voters, right.

I mean the Thatcher/Reagan conservatism of fiscal discipline is gone, right. This is now focused globally more on trade issues that appeal to blue collar workers in the U.K. and in the U.S.

Now, the question has always been for Warren is whether she can do that and maybe taking on some of these Democrats more head on will start to answer some of those questions.

KING: The race has kind of -- it's been getting a lot less attention because of the drama here in Washington, mostly impeachment. But it will be interesting -- the timing here. A big debate -- look at your calendar. Iowa, February 3rd -- getting close.

Our "Sunday Trail Mix" is next including a debate about the 2020 debate rules.

[08:32:16]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Let's turn now to some "Sunday Trail Mix" for a taste of the 2020 campaign. The Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, dropping a not- so-subtle hint about his political future. Despite repeated public denials, Pompeo is building a team to run for the senate back home in Kansas next year. And this weekend, he launched a personal Twitter account complete with a background photo that looks an awful lot like Kansas and a bio that reads "husband, father, Kansan and proud American".

Senator Cory Booker will not be on stage at Thursday's Democratic debate and he says that's a big problem. In a letter to the Democratic National Committee, Booker joined by eight other Democratic candidates is urging changes to the debate qualification rules that Booker says have quote, "unnecessarily and artificially narrowed the field". And he says that that has disproportionately affected the minority candidates.

"Many of the candidates excluded due to these thresholds are the ones who have helped make this year's primary field historically diverse," Senator Booker writes.

There's a chance this week's debate won't actually happen. There's a big labor dispute involving workers at the host university and all seven candidates who have qualified say they will not participate if that means crossing a picket line. Of those seven only one, Andrew Yang, is a person of color. He says he hopes that labor dispute is resolved so that he can take advantage of a less crowded stage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The debates have been a tremendous opportunity for us to continue to present our vision for the country. At each debate we've managed to have new ideas get out, even in the context of relatively limited speaking time.

So if my math is correct, there will be 50 percent fewer candidates on the stage this time and my speaking time would be projected to rise by 50 percent, so it should be a really exciting night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: If he doesn't get elected president, he can be secretary of math.

It's been interesting. I assume this great leverage for the union to try to resolve this labor dispute, I assume the debate is going to take hold.

What about Senator Booker's complaints? The other candidates signed on. Some of them actually privately like the smaller stage because they think it benefits them to have more time.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes. Privately, some other campaign operatives told Politico that they really don't want the stage to go back to being larger, which would maybe require two nights.

But Booker and Castro want the qualifications to change. They say only one of them, either polling or the number of donors, should be something that allows them to get on the stage, because again there's this argument that, look, candidates have been known to be doing poorly in December and then come back by February in Iowa and so they should be able to still be speaking on the stage.

KING: Right. We'll see how the debate goes this week. We'll see how this debate about the debates plays out. Next year will be here before we know it.

Up next -- Space Force, paid family leave and a big trade deal. Even as impeachment advances, the President cutting deals with the Democrats.

[08:38:09]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Washington often sends mixed messages, but this past week was a doozy. Fierce and often personal partisanship in the House impeachment hearings, a sharp partisan divide in the Senate too over a new Justice Department watchdog report outlining major FBI judges lapses in the 2016 Trump/Russia investigation. And yet there were also big bipartisan achievements -- a deal on government spending levels and a Defense budget agreement that includes paid family leave for federal workers and the President's new Space Force. Plus a deal between House Democrats and the Trump White House on the President's top 2019 legislative priority -- the revised trade deal between the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Count the President among the confused. In a tweet he said it was a great deal and good news the Democrats were backing USMCA. But at a campaign rally he suggested Speaker Pelosi came around only out of fear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know why it's a huge deal and it plays down the impeachment because they're embarrassed by the impeachment.

The silver lining of impeachment and this witch hunt -- that's the reason they approved USMCA. So that's ok with me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now Speaker Pelosi did want moderate House Democrats for whom impeachment is tough to have a policy achievement to tout back home. But the Democrats also won several giant concessions from the White House -- on labor standards and enforcement powers (ph) for example. So many concessions, there's grumbling now among Republicans that the President gave away too much.

I call it whiplash week. It is striking that at a time when the President is stoking his base on Twitter, calling the Democrats the party of hate, they're calling the President somebody who is unethical and should be removed from office. And then, boom -- progress on a bunch of things that have been stuck in the quicksand for a long time.

RAJU: A lot of it has to do with the end of the congressional calendar. That's when deals tend to happen at the very end of the year.

But this was also a clear calculation by the Democratic leadership of the House knowing full well that a lot of these moderates do have a tough vote to cast on impeachment, wanted to run on USMCA.

They had been pushing behind the scenes to get the trade deal approved and Pelosi strategically made that decision to announce that deal the same day that they announced moving forward with articles of impeachment.

And also interestingly, next week -- this week, Wednesday will be the impeachment vote, Thursday will be the vote to approve the trade deal. That's what they're going to go home on. And that's what a lot of these members will campaign on.

KING: And as a reminder, we just talked a little bit about Mitch McConnell earlier. It's a reminder that both McConnell and Pelosi, yes that's the top Republican in the Senate and the top Democrat in Congress -- they care first and foremost about protecting their majority.

Yes, Mitch McConnell wants a Republican president. Yes, Nancy Pelosi wants a Democrat to win the next election. But she is going to do things based first and foremost on protecting her majority.

So a lot of Democrats are saying why give President Trump a gift? He can go to Michigan and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and say this USMCA deal is going to help you. Blue collar workers.

Here's the divide. David Axelrod, who helps as a contributor here at our network, helped Obama get elected clearly. "Smart of Speaker Pelosi to deliver this trade deal just at a time when POTUS is trying to portray the House is mono-maniacally focused on impeachment. Wonder if he'll invite her to the signing ceremony."

[08:44:57]

KING: Dan Pfeiffer, who worked with David Axelrod on the Obama team has a different view. "I've been semi-retired from politics for a while now but it seems like things to help Trump win Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan should not be on the Democrats' to-do list."

DAVIS: Well, I mean -- if I can say that they're both correct. I mean they each have a point. But I do think that this was very strategic by Pelosi that not only does she want members to have something to go back and show their constituents after they vote for impeachment, particularly the Democrats in the more moderate districts, but also she wants to take away that talking point that the President has used that all the Democrats can do, all that they've been focused on all year long has been impeachment.

Instead, these are some of the, you know, big bipartisan things that they have been working on and frankly, as Manu said, were on the track to get done. I mean they had to finish a spending deal. We haven't had a year where we don't have a big Defense authorization bill in the end. But they cued them up such that the timing would be advantageous for members.

And on the USMCA, they did manage to wring (ph) a lot of concessions away from the administration on this. They negotiated to get probably what is the most progressive trade deal that they will have considered and that is something that I think Pelosi thought would be worthwhile if they could pull it off.

KING: The interesting part is the grumbling is coming from Republicans who say he gave away too much on USMCA, who say where is the fiscal conservatism in paid family leave. That's an Ivanka Trump priority and Democratic priority. They consider it a spending bill.

There's also some grumbling about China. Essentially the President and China agreed to hit the pause button. Reduce some carrots, they have not solved any of the big structural issues but China hardliners went around (INAUDIBLE).

The pushback here against the President's deal-making which he believes help him is from Republicans saying this is not conservative.

LOPEZ: Right. And what's amazing, to Julie's point, about what Pelosi negotiated is that she has someone, Senator Sherrod Brown on her side who doesn't like trade deals and who appears to be supporting this one. And so if somehow Republicans tank this, that could also be another boon for Pelosi because it's like look, the House is going to pass this out and this didn't happen because of the GOP and the Senate.

BENDER: Right. This was always supposed to be sort of the political promise of Trump was that he was able to blur the lines between the parties and was able to -- should have been able to, a little easier, to reach out to Democrats and middle of the road voters.

And when it comes to the China deal here, there were concessions on both sides. And as far as complaints from Republicans, I think what a lot of people are going to take some satisfaction in is just sort of detente and to call that a victory.

A lot of Republicans were priorly (ph) going to Trump, Sheldon Adelson among them, trying to get him to knock some of this off on China and at least this will, for the time being, will take care of that for them and for markets and for some of their voters.

KING: December 15 -- 10 days before Christmas, we have a detente. I've got to put some money on the table that suggests it's not going to last very long because 2020 happens to be an election year.

It's a wild week. Those are the President's words and I agree.

Our reporters share from their notebooks next, including a Supreme Court review that guarantees the justices a big role in the 2020 election.

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KING: Let's head one last time around the INSIDE POLITICS table, ask our great reporters to share a little something from their notebooks to help get you out ahead of the big political news just around the corner.

Julie.

DAVIS: Well, with all the news this week, it might have been easy to miss this Supreme Court ruling that came -- or Supreme Court decision that came on Friday afternoon that they are going to hear this case in the spring about whether President Trump has to disclose his financial records. This is something he's gone to great lengths to keep hidden.

The Supreme Court is now going to hear the case in the spring about whether he has to, in fact, release these records. And aside from the huge sort of blockbuster nature of the substance of this ruling, it's a big question of presidential powers and accountability. The timing of this is going to be extraordinary because unlike in the Clinton impeachment scenario or even in the Nixon impeachment scenario where there were big Supreme Court rulings that happened before the impeachment and actually played a big role, this will be coming right after or a few months after the President has been impeached and likely acquitted by the Senate and right in the middle of sort of the critical period of the 2020 campaign.

So it will be really interesting to see how that plays out.

KING: The justices love being involved in politics. That is why they go to work every day. Wow.

Michael.

BENDER: Trump is heading to Michigan next week for his 21st campaign rally of the year, 85th since he's been elected -- since he was elected president in 2016.

But this one is going to be a little different -- the circumstances around this one. Laura Trump, the President's daughter-in-law and senior campaign adviser will be in the suburbs of Detroit for a campaign event the day before. Vice President Mike Pence is on a bus tour through the state that will eventually end at the rally.

Now the campaign is worried about Michigan. Of the three key battlegrounds in the Midwest, this is the one they think is going to be the toughest to repeat. But this is actually an effort to sort of expand the footprint of these rallies.

They think that -- these rallies draw like 10,000 to 20,000 people from around the state, around the region. Less noticed is local press from around state, around the region show up as well.

So in order to leverage that, they think that they can eventually get as many as five days of local coverage from these campaign rallies which are essentially a 90-minute speech.

KING: All politics are local.

Manu.

RAJU: John -- there's an under radar lobbying campaign now taking shape among House Democrats for one of the most coveted jobs right now among them. It is to be a case manager, someone presenting the prosecution's case to the Senate that the President deserves to be removed from office during the January trial.

Now, one person who's controlling this and who knows who they will pick and is understanding everything that's going on but is not disclosing what will happen -- that is Nancy Pelosi who has controlled this every step of the way, this impeachment proceeding. And her decision is unknown to the members and when exactly she'll announce is unknown but we probably will know by this week.

Now, this is a significant position, a high profile position -- something that could elevate the careers of some of these members. Look at what happened during the Clinton time when some of these people got -- who presented the Republican case to the Senate, what happened to them? Look at Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Lindsey Graham as being one of them.

So one thing the members don't lack as we know is ambition and they're making this case privately, I'm told. Several members have told me specifically they went directly to Nancy Pelosi and made the case. We'll see what she decides to say.

KING: We'll find out pretty soon.

Laura.

LOPEZ: So all eyes are on California this week, in addition to the upcoming debate there -- the Democratic debate -- a lot of candidates are going to use their time in the Golden State to campaign because it is a big Super Tuesday state now. California moved their date up in order to have more sway in the Democratic primary.

[08:54:55]

LOPEZ: Sanders is going to be there making a big swing with Representative Ocasio-Cortez. And he has a real, competitive shot at winning this state to a lot of people's surprise but he has strong support amongst Latinos and having star power with him doesn't hurt as well.

KING: Our poll that came out this week, him and Joe Biden right at the top there. The Latino vote is quite interesting. We'll watch. California is going to be expensive.

I'll close with this. Yesterday was the seventh anniversary of the mass shooting that was supposed to forever change gun politics in America. "Never again" was the constant refrain after 20 young children and six adults were gunned down at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

But nothing major changed after Sandy Hook or after the long list of mass shootings since, including the Las Vegas massacre in October of 2017 and the Parkland, Florida school shooting in early 2018.

You'll remember President Trump promised significant legislative changes after both Vegas and Parkland but he ultimately bowed to NRA pressure and proposed only a new rule restricting so-called bump stocks.

His 2020 rallies and tweets now include warnings the Democrats are out to roll back the Second Amendment. It is true that all of the leading 2020 Democrats, first they tweeted on the Sandy Hook anniversary and now they promise to make gun violence a major issue in the campaign.

So not much will happen in Congress if anything between now and then. But voters will have their say next November, six weeks before the eighth Newtown anniversary.

That is it for INSIDE POLITICS. Hope you can catch us week days as well in the busy week ahead. We're here at noon Eastern.

Don't go anywhere. Up next "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper. His guests include Republican Senator Rand Paul, Republican Congressman Will Hurd and the Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown.

Thanks again for sharing your Sunday. Have a great day.

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