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House Judiciary Committee Releases Impeachment Report; Schumer's Impeachment Trial Witness List Includes Mulvaney & Bolton; Graham on Impeachment: I Want Something Done Quickly and Move On; Impeachment Polls Remain Static; Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) Discusses Centrist Democrats' Positions on Impeachment & Pelosi Considering Amash as Democratic Manager in Senate Trial. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired December 16, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.
The country is facing a hugely historic week. That is not hyperbole. It is by definition this week historic. For only the third time in history -- the third time in the history of this country, the full House of Representatives is expected to vote to impeach the president of the United States. History.
Just this morning, the House Judiciary Committee released its full impeachment report, 658 pages, laying out its decision to charge President Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
It states this in part, "Taken together, the articles charge that President Trump has placed his personal, political interests above our national security, our free and fair elections, and our system of checks and balances. He has engaged," it goes on to say, "in a pattern of misconduct that will continue if left unchecked."
Also today, the opening bid in negotiations of how the Senate trial will unfold.
The Democratic minority leader, Chuck Schumer, laying out in a letter to the Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, his request that at least four witnesses testify, including acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, and former national security adviser, John Bolton.
Here's Schumer with John Berman this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): All the facts should come out. These four witnesses have direct knowledge of the facts, particularly in regard to the delay in the aid to Ukraine.
This is the right evidence. We want a trial to be fair for the American people to think it should be fair but not to be a coverup, not to be something where there are witnesses who have direct knowledge as to what happened do not testify.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: How is McConnell going to respond? That is one of the many things that we do not yet know.
There's a lot we do know so let's get to Capitol Hill. CNN congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is there.
Manu, we'll get to the Senate in just a moment. I want to ask you first about what you're hearing on how this first full House vote is going to go.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we do expect a majority of the House to vote to impeach the president on Wednesday. That historic vote is expected to succeed as Democrats are mostly voting in line to vote to impeach on two counts, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
A key sign today, one freshman Democrat, a swing Democrat from Michigan, Elissa Slotkin, who had previously opposed moving forward with an impeachment inquiry but then got behind an inquiry in the aftermath of the Ukraine revelations, announced today that she would vote for both counts of impeachment. And we expect others in similar predicaments who face tough races also to come down along those lines.
We do expect at least two defections on the Democratic side, and including one Democratic member, Jeff Van Drew, who's indicating he will switch parties in the aftermath of the backlash he's receiving back home and the questions over whether he can win re-election as a Democrat. We expect those defections to happen.
On the Republican side, a former Republican-turned Independent, Justin Amash, is expected to support those two counts, those two articles of impeachment. So expect mostly along party lines a handful of defections.
But that historic vote expected to succeed as we get prepared for that critical vote on Wednesday. Some procedural matters will occur, including a rules committee hearing tomorrow that will set the parameters of that floor debate, some contentious testimony before that committee.
Expect everything to move forward as Democrats are expecting they'll have the votes on Wednesday -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: What else are you then hearing about this request, this kind of opening bid coming from Chuck Schumer? Anything from McConnell's office yet?
RAJU: Officially, they're saying that they're simply planning to have discussions with Chuck Schumer in the days ahead.
But in talking to Republican sources today, the argument is taking shape against the Schumer proposal. What the Republicans are saying privately and some are indicating this publicly as well is that they believe that the House's job was to get those witnesses, those four witnesses that Schumer requested, Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, John Bolton, the former national security adviser, as well as a top aide to Mick Mulvaney, Rob Blair, and the top Office of Management and Budget official, Michael Duffey, who declined to appear before the House impeachment inquiry.
The Republicans are arguing it was the House's job to do that. It was the House's decision not to go to court to secure their testimony.
And what the Republicans are planning to argue is their job is not fact finders in the Senate trial. That's the House's job. And because the House did not go that route, they're not going to request witnesses who did not appear before the House committee. So expect Republicans to make that argument.
But, Kate, the ultimate question is, will there be a majority of Senators who agree. Just four Republican Senators can break ranks and vote to secure testimony by joining Democrats in a majority vote. That is unclear how that will happen.
There will be drama on the Senate floor as Democrats call for witnesses and votes take place to see if they will actual testify -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: Stand by to stand by on all of this.
Manu, thank you so much. Great to see you. Thank you.
Joining me right now, former Republican governor of Ohio, John Kasich.
Good to see you, Governor.
JOHN KASICH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thanks, Kate.
BOLDUAN: I was in that great state just yesterday. Ohio doing well.
OK, you've come out to say that you have seen enough when it comes to the president and Ukraine and impeachment. You announced in October that you think the president should be impeached and removed.
Looking at the Senate, should this trial have witnesses, do you think?
KASICH: Well, this is going to be back and forth, Kate. We're not going to see any great movement. My feelings have always been, get all the information, all the facts out there and so the answer is that to me the more information, the better, one way or the other.
KASICH: But I don't think we're talking here about much about principle. I think everybody is trying to put themselves in a position to affect how the public sees this whole thing.
BOLDUAN: Yes. And public opinion, I want to ask you about in just a second.
We know now with the letter from Chuck Schumer, we know who Democrats would like to call as witnesses in the Senate trial.
When you look at it, do you think that with Democrats being in the minority, you got to give somewhere to get what you want. Do you think that they should give on, say, calling Hunter Biden to testify to get a Mick Mulvaney or a John Bolton to testify as well --
BOLDUAN: -- if that was the trade?
KASICH: Look, I don't know how that's all going to work out, Kate.
KASICH: I mean, the guy that I would like to see is John Bolton. I don't know how Hunter Biden fits into any of this. This has nothing to do with what the charges are against the president.
Do I think we're going to see Bolton? I don't think so. I don't think he's coming. He would be the one that I would be the most interested in hearing. And frankly, I wish the Democrats had pursued this in the courts but they say they don't have the time and all that.
I happen to believe the more information, the more witnesses, the more testimony, the more facts, the better off you do when it comes time to make a decision. They didn't get there on that.
And as to whether the Senate is going to do it, I think not. I think the Senate wants to have something done quickly and move on.
KASICH: I think both parties are going to be there, too.
BOLDUAN: One person who says they want something done quickly and move on is Senator Lindsey Graham. He said exactly that this weekend. And even before this trial begins, we know that some, when it comes to Republicans, some Republicans have made up their minds like Lindsey Graham.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I am trying to give a pretty clear signal I have made up my mind.
GRAHAM: I'm not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here. I'm telling you right now, if Mueller had found something against
Trump, I would have been his loudest critic and I told the president to his face. What I see happening today is just a partisan nonsense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: And also some Democrats have said that they have made up their minds as well in terms of how they're going to vote in the Senate.
What do you think about what Lindsey Graham is saying there, that he doesn't even try to pretend to be a fair juror here?
KASICH: I don't want to get into a war with Lindsey Graham. I just don't happen to agree with him.
I think when the president gives -- Tom Ridge, the former head of Homeland Security, widely respected -- apparently said just recently that there's no way he's going to support Trump in 2020 because you had a president that was using foreign aid to a country that badly needed it in exchange for an investigation into the president's political enemy.
I mean, it's pretty simple to me and I think we're at a point now where people aren't listening.
And, Kate, I wanted to show you. This is a triangle here about how I think things work in America and American politics. You have the political party which is always critical. When you're a Republican, they help you get elected, put resources in. They matter a lot.
Then you have the public. And sometimes the public, in these gerrymandered districts, the ones that are all Republican or all Democrat, the public and the party are consistent so there's not much room for conscience.
It's interesting, the guy in New Jersey is feeling so much pressure from the public that he's thinking about changing his party, which is really interesting --
BOLDUAN: Where does that lead him in terms of his conscience?
KASICH: Well, you have to ask yourself, is he doing it because of conscience or is he doing it because it's survival, that the public has given him an order and he's going to abandon his party so he can have survival. I don't know how much conscience is in the middle of it.
If you look at these United States Senators from states that are very closely contested, they're feeling a lot of pressure because, whenever way they go, the public is going to have something to say.
[11:10:04] So these vulnerable Senators in these states, they're having the hardest time. And they've got to decide, are they going to respond to the public or are they going to respond to the party, or does their conscience dictate what they're going to do.
BOLDUAN: Which is your advice? Which is your advice?
KASICH: My advice is always to follow your conscience. There's the realities of party. There's the realities of public. But at the end, you've got to do what you think is right because that's how you have a legacy.
Here I was trying to balance the federal budget and I had everybody in the world yelling and screaming at me. But at the end, I thought it was right and so I pursued it.
So to me the party was my vehicle, not my master. I had to listen to the public. But at the end, my conscience had to be my guide.
And not that I'm some perfect person in any of this stuff.
KASICH: But I did my best to let the conscience, respecting the party, listening to the public, guide my decision-making.
BOLDUAN: It's interesting, as you lay out, with the triangle in terms of public opinion, you see the polls that have just come out that public opinion isn't moving, right?
BOLDUAN: I mean, largely it is static. It is a big number though.
KASICH: That's right.
BOLDUAN: You have 50 percent of voters in a FOX poll saying that the president should be impeached and removed, but when you look at the trend since September, October, November, these numbers have stayed where they are.
I think that's a really interesting element of ---
KASICH: Yes. Well, that's another --
BOLDUAN: When you show kind of -- I think that puts even more pressure on the conscience because there's not really a question of where public opinion is now.
KASICH: Well, it depends what your district looks like. If it's close, that causes you to have more --
KASICH: It causes you to think more and to have more anxiety about your vote.
But there's another thing that's going on here, that I'm going to show at some point in the future. We live in a silo. And on social media, you know the social media pounds you if you get out of your silo.
So you're in your silo, you have these things you think and then the social media is telling you, if you step out of that, we're going to hit you over the head. So these are all the things that are going on today.
So if I'm a Republican and I start saying, well, I'm not so sure about Donald Trump, do you know the attacks you get on social media? It sort of boxes you back in.
At the end, if you're free to do what you believe you were sent to do, those things can be overcome. Even if you lose, if you lose, so what? Then you get a better job.
BOLDUAN: Says the man who has a wonderful job right now.
Good to see you, Governor. Thank you.
KASICH: Thanks, Kate. See you.
BOLDUAN: Thanks. See you soon.
Coming up, making the case. A centrist Democrat, one of the folks that we're kind of -- that we're talking about here, a centrist Democrat makes a tough call on impeachment and is facing her constituents right now. What's the case she's making and what are her constituents saying? And what are her constituents saying in return?
Later, with the Senate impeachment trial expected just after the New Year, the five Democratic Senators who are running for president, they could be pulled off the campaign trail just weeks before first votes. How does that impact their campaigns? We'll talk to one of those candidates coming up.
BOLDUAN: Thirty-one, that is the number of seats that Democrats currently hold in districts Donald Trump won in 2016. The Democrats, seen as most vulnerable in 2020. And the most closely watched Democrats this week as the House prepares to vote on impeaching President Trump.
Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin is one of those members. This is the start of her town hall right now with constituents in Michigan after she announced this morning that she will be voting in support of both articles of impeachment.
Here's what she laid out in her opinion piece in the "Detroit Free Press," in part, "In the national security world that I come from, we are trained to make hard calls on things, even if they are unpopular, if we believe the security of the country is at stake. There are some decisions in life that have to be made based on what you know in your bones is right, and this is one of those times."
She's speaking to constituents right now. We'll hear when she gets back in return from her constituents.
Here with me now is the vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Congresswoman Katherine Clark.
Thank you for coming in.
REP. KATHERINE CLARK (D-MA): Good to be with you, Katie (sic).
BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.
So Elissa Slotkin laying out her reasoning in an opinion piece and she's speaking with voters now. Of the 31 Democrats in a similar spot as her in these swing districts, 18 of them have still not announced their decision on impeachment.
What do you think Congresswoman Slotkin's decision means for them?
CLARK: Well, I think she reflects exactly why these members of Congress were able to win in tough spots, because she is someone who seeks the truth and who understands what's at stake for our national security.
She was very, like many of her freshmen colleagues, very slow to come to support an impeachment inquiry. But it was the facts around this allegation, this corruption of our election process by the president, where he not only invited foreign influence for his personal gain, he did it at the expense of the national security.
That's what made a difference for Elissa. And she's right.
Many of our freshmen are veterans, have been CIA agents, worked in national security. They know that their pledge of allegiance is to the United States, not to a president, not to a party.
And we, as Democrats, have been, from the beginning of this inquiry, committed to setting out the truth. That is what Elissa has seen and that's why she's made her decision to vote for impeachment.
BOLDUAN: One of the Democrats that has announced that he is voting against impeachment is Jeff Van Drew. And according to CNN's reporting, he's getting ready to announce that he's switching parties.
At least some of this has to do with New Jersey politics. Sources are saying internal polls show that he is losing major support from Democrats in the district. So it has to do with his re-election chances.
What's your reaction to him this morning?
CLARK: You know, I think this is about political expediency for Congressman Van Drew. And we have a big tent in the Democratic caucus. It's not about shared voting records. It's about shared values.
If his values are no longer putting the American people first, working to reduce their costs of health care, reduce gun violence in this country, to make sure we're making investments in infrastructure and rooting out corruption in politics, that's a decision he's free to make.
BOLDUAN: Were you surprised?
CLARK: You know, I don't think anything really surprises me anymore in this political state that we are in.
But I can say this, you know, we run as Democrats for those shared values and none of those are being supported by the Republicans.
When we have a prescription drug bill that passed last week with overwhelming support from the Democrats but only two Republicans voted to expand Medicare benefits and dramatically reduce the cost of prescription drugs, you have to wonder, what are the values of this Republican Party.
CLARK: When Mitch McConnell and the Senate is holding up 300 of the bills we passed, many of them dealing with rooting out corruption, restoring the voice of the people to our political process, you got to wonder again, what are those values and why would anyone want to join that party at this point in time.
BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, I sincerely appreciate, as I've heard from Speaker Pelosi in every one of her press conferences, the desire to have the focus on the other things that the House is doing at the very same time of impeachment.
But if I could, I wanted to ask you about one because this is a historic week on impeachment. I want to ask you about the next step.
When it comes to the next step, Speaker Pelosi, she needs to announce who the House managers are of the Senate trial. That sounds maybe in the weeds for folks, but essentially it's the prosecutors, as you think of this as a trial to take place over there.
There's a movement among some freshmen Democrats to have a Republican- turned-Independent, a man who's a major critic of President Trump, Congressman Justin Amash, named as one of the House managers. What do you think of that?
CLARK: I think that we will decide tomorrow when we reconvene and the rules committee comes together, the process. And the speaker will probably announce shortly, either tomorrow or the next day, who those House managers will be.
But again, I think it goes to show the --
BOLDUAN: Do you think Justin Amash -- would you be supportive if Justin Amash was announced as one of the managers?
CLARK: I'm going to leave that decision up to the speaker.
But I do think it goes to show that on the Democratic side and those who have put this letter together, they are desperately trying to say look at the facts, have the GOP look at the facts, and be the impartial jurors that you are going to take an oath to be in the Senate.
And showing the American people we have had a very fair process and we would be willing to even put a former Republican in as a manager to show that we are after the truth here.
This is not about party. This is not about a single president.
BOLDUAN: But what do you think of Justin Amash being name though? Do you really think there's a chance he'll be named as manager?
CLARK: I have no idea what the speaker will decide to do, but I trust her to make the right decision.
BOLDUAN: OK. Congresswoman, thank you so much for coming in.
CLARK: Thank you, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Appreciate it.
Coming up for us, James Comey says he was overconfident, he was wrong. And coming up, the former FBI director makes a really stunning admission about the origins of the Russia investigation.
We'll be right back.