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Dems Rip McConnell for White House Coordination in Senate Trial. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired December 16, 2019 - 06:00   ET

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


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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House of Representatives, this week, is expected to vote on those articles of impeachment, making it all but certain that President Trump will become the third president to be impeached.

[05:59:25]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We understood the importance of what we were doing but felt the urgency was such that we could not just allow the president to continue.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Everything I do during this, I'm coordinating with White House counsel.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): There's more damning evidence to be had. And they don't want the American people to see that.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I am ready to vote. I don't really need to hear a lot of witnesses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't need to look at anything that might disagree with their world view of Republicanism and this president.

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

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Monday, December 16. It's 6 a.m. here in New York. Alisyn is off. Erica Hill with me this Monday morning.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning.

BERMAN: Great to have you here. What a week we have in store.

Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump. The only four presidents in U.S. history to face approved articles of impeachment. And breaking overnight, the Judiciary Committee released its full 658-page impeachment report that explains the decision to charge President Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of justice. It lays out the evidence that the president asked a foreign government to investigate a political rival, basically, to jump into the 2020 election, and then that he blocked the investigation into that conduct.

The full House is expected to vote to impeach President Trump on Wednesday, which will make Donald Trump just the third president ever impeached.

HILL: And of course, after that vote, the Senate then takes over from there. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer reaching out to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell publicly for the first time with a detailed proposal for the impeachment trial.

Schumer wants four officials to testify. Among them, active White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton.

Now, Republicans, of course, have made the case for a short trial without witnesses. Schumer's wish list coming after Democrats slammed McConnell for admitting he is in, quote, "total coordination with the White House," despite his role as an impeachment juror.

We're going to speak with Senator Schumer in our 8 a.m. hour.

There is a lot to get to on this busy Monday morning. Let's begin with Suzanne Malveaux, who's live on Capitol Hill.

Suzanne, good morning.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Erica.

There are a lot of moving pieces here on the Hill today. You have the new Judiciary Committee report outlining the committee's reasons, further explaining why they moved forward on articles of impeachment, trying to make their case to the American people.

At the same time on the House side, you have preparations for a full House vote, potentially as early as Wednesday. And also, Senate leaders engaged in a battle, if you will, over the scope and the feel, the content of the Senate trail.

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MALVEAUX (voice-over): This morning, the House Judiciary Committee releasing a 658-page report explaining their decision to charge President Trump with abusing his power and obstructing Congress. Democrats accusing the president of multiple federal crimes, including bribery, alleging President Trump engaged in a pattern of misconduct that will continue if left unchecked.

Ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, Doug Collins writing the dissenting opinion in a report, calling the actions of Democrats unjustifiable, adding this "will only dilute the significance of the dire recourse that is impeachment."

This coming just days before the historic vote to impeach President Trump, which will likely take place Wednesday. The Senate preparing for the impending trail.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer calling for four crucial witnesses, including acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security advisor John Bolton.

In a letter sent overnight, Schumer urges Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hole a fair and honest Senate impeachment trial to begin on January 6, with senators sworn in on January 7.

Schumer also requesting new documents previously withheld by the White House during the House investigation, believing they will shed additional light on the administration's decision-making regarding the delay in security assistance funding to Ukraine.

SCHIFF: I would urge Mitch McConnell to start negotiating with Chuck Schumer to make sure that those senators have a full record. There's more damning evidence to be had. And they don't want the American people to see that. And I, you know, think that's disgraceful.

MALVEAUX: McConnell's spokesperson responding to the letter, assuring the Senate will discuss the trial with Schumer soon. McConnell has previously signaled he was pushing for a quick trial with no new witnesses, even admitting last week that he was working lock step with the White House in planning the proceedings.

MCCONNELL: Everything I do during this, I'm coordinating with White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president's position and our position as to how to handle this.

MALVEAUX: Those comments angering many Democrats.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Here you have the majority leader of the Senate, in effect, the foreman of the jury, saying he's going to work hand in glove with the defense attorney. Now, that's a violation of the oath they're about to take, and it's a complete subversion of the constitutional scheme.

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MALVEAUX: So even before the Senate trial, you have this controversy brewing. There are Democratic senators who are furious with the Republican colleagues, because they have said to reporters that, look, they are not swayed. They will not be swayed by the trial. They will not indict this president.

Democrats saying, look, that they are supposed to be impartial jurors, that you will take an oath to do so, and that this is a violation of their duties, John.

BERMAN: Suzanne Malveaux on Capitol Hill, where history will be made in the next several days. Suzanne, thank you very much.

President Trump is likely to become just the third president in history to be impeached. And we have brand-new numbers on what the public thinks about the process. And these numbers might surprise you. Next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:09:42]

BERMAN: All right. This morning we're getting our first look at how Democrats in the Senate are proposing to handle the impeachment trial. And what they are asking for is witnesses in a way that could put some real pressure on Republicans.

Joining us now, Bianna Golodryga, CNN global affairs analyst, and Elie Honig, former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst.

I want to put up on the screen the names that Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, he wrote a letter that was released overnight. These are the four witnesses he wants to see. The acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney; John Bolton, the former national security adviser; and then a couple OMB officials, Robert Blair and Michael Duffy. All four of these characters, Elie, refused to testify in the House impeachment investigation.

Schumer says he wants them. To me this appears to be a political move, because what it does is it forces Republicans in the Senate to say, you know what? We don't want fact witnesses. We don't want to hear from these people with first-hand information. What do you see?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Exactly right. Chuck Schumer has legally no ability to force these witnesses. The shoe is on the other foot now.

The Senate has a very limited set of rules for how the impeachment process will work. They do not cover witnesses. So this is either going to come down to a deal between Schumer and McConnell or it's going to be majority rule. Schumer is not in the majority and so this is a political play. And what he's saying here is we are the party that wants facts. We are the party that wants witnesses. If you disagree, then you will be the party that is trying to shut this down and turn this into a kangaroo court.

So I think it's a smart political play and the best he can do.

HILL: And yet McConnell, as he mentioned and forewarned last week, he wants this to go quickly. He already gave his indication as to where he believes this will end up and how he believes the president will be vindicated.

I think -- I agree with you. I think that, on principle, it is absolutely right that you call these witnesses and make it known that this is going to be a fair trial, and we need to hear from these people who were fact witnesses, as well.

What Republicans are likely going to say is take it to the courts. It's what we saw during the trials the last two weeks. It's what we saw happen in the House. And it's what they're going to be pointing to the comments and words from Jonathan Turley, and it's saying that you've got a third branch of government. Take it up to the courts. We're not saying that this is something that's never going to happen, but you haven't even pursued that route yet.

If that, in fact, did happen, if we've got to take it to the courts, what does that look like, Elie, and where does that put us in terms of a timeline?

HONIG: It looks like slow playing this to death. There's no possible way --

HILL: There's no way.

HONIG: -- to get into the courts and still get this -- this hearing, this trial.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Which is the point.

HONIG: Yes, exactly. They're trying to kill it. Yes.

BERMAN: Well, except -- except here's the thing. So you're talking about a subpoena coming from a Senate impeachment trial, a subpoena that is signed off on by the chief justice of the United States. So I think the real answer is it's the legal twilight zone. We've never seen anything like it. We don't know what will happen.

If it were ever to happen, the notion would be that how is John Bolton, who's shown some leg and hinted that he might be willing to talk a little bit, how would he say no to Chief Justice John Roberts? It might be difficult.

The other side of this, though, is the politics early on, the negotiation over this. If Chuck Schumer goes to Mitch McConnell when they meet this week and next week and says, I want these witnesses, what if Mitch McConnell says, OK, you can have them, but we want Hunter Biden, or we want the whistle-blower.

And Schumer's letter is specific on this. Schumer's letter says, "We would, of course, be open to hearing the testimony of additional witnesses having direct knowledge of the administration's decisions regarding the delay in security assistance funds to the government of Ukraine and the requests for certain investigations to be announced by the government of Ukraine, if the president's counsel or House managers identify such witnesses."

That doesn't seem to include Hunter Biden there, but Schumer is saying, OK, let's talk about other witnesses, too.

GOLODRYGA: And Schumer's also betting that no Republican or Democrat wants this to turn into a circus, right? The president early on had said he wants this blown out. He wants all these witnesses to testify. He has no problem with the fact witnesses that the Democrats want if, in fact, he'll be able to get Hunter Biden and the witnesses they want to put forward, too.

Mitch McConnell seemed to close that door, said this is going to happen quickly and smoothly. And we can move on from there. And there are many, if not a handful of Republicans who may question whether or not they want to have Hunter Biden testify, as well. They're going to be vulnerable in elections next year. And remember, you need 51 votes to come up with a consensus on who actually will be testifying.

HILL: It also brings it back -- brings it back, too. And what I see in that quote is really from Chuck Schumer. I just want to remind everybody what these articles of impeachment are actually about, and they don't involve the conduct of Hunter Biden.

HONIG: Yes, let's remember. One of the main Republican defenses here is no first-hand witness. Nobody who directly talked with the president. Well, Chuck Schumer is saying here's people who did, and we've not heard from them.

And by the way, I agree with Bianna. I don't think the Republicans, writ large, want Hunter Biden and the whistle-blower. Maybe some. But as a group, that is a dangerous path. Because then you're opening the door to these real witnesses, and you're opening the door to this becoming a complete circus.

BERMAN: Yes, this letter, to me, targets Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Cory Gardner, the moderate Republicans in the Senate who might be inclined to side with some Democrats on things.

I do want to leave with one polling note here. Because there's been a fresh round of polling on impeachment. And this round comes from FOX News, of all places. Fifty percent of Americans, according to the FOX News poll, now support impeaching and removing the president from office. An additional 4 percent support impeaching but not removing the president.

It's just a very -- and I know that number largely hasn't changed, and we're going to have Harry on at the end of the hour, talking to us about how that number has been static. But it's a very high number of people that would like to see the president removed from office, Bianna.

[06:15:11[

And I will -- I checked with Harry. The high-water mark for impeaching and removing Bill Clinton was 38 percent.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. And this is the new normal, right? Where we get customized and used to these type of numbers, where you're right; that is a very high percentage of Americans who believe the president should be impeached. And the only thing, if anything is working in the president's favor, is that number doesn't seem to be going up.

BERMAN: No.

HILL: Though it's not going -- it's also not going down. Right? So if you look at it both ways, the fact that it's staying consistent, great for the president it's not going up. But nothing has also said to people, yes, you're right. There's nothing to see here. We're going to see the number drop. HONIG: Yes. I don't understand how the president is waving these numbers around as good news. I mean, half the country wants him out? That's an astonishing number to me, just as a layperson.

BERMAN: Yes. And as Mandy Patinkin -- I misquoted "The Princess Bride" last week. As Mandy Patinkin says, I don't think this means what you think it means.

HONIG: Right.

BERMAN: When the president's talking about --

(CROSSTALK)

GOLODRYGA: The Republicans are betting -- the Republicans are betting that they muddied the waters up enough over the last few weeks.

BERMAN: Right.

GOLODRYGA: Whatever happens in the Senate, most Americans' minds are made up, and they want this to happen quickly and move on.

BERMAN: It's going to happen soon, though. And we're going to see it. It will be history. Elie Honig, Bianna Golodryga, great to have you here.

The minority leader, Chuck Schumer, he will be with us on NEW DAY later in the show to talk about this letter and these proposals. We're going to ask him a bunch of questions on this. Hey, look, if you have questions for the minority leader, tweet us. Let us know what you want to hear.

HILL: Former FBI director James Comey, meantime, says the inspector general is right; I was wrong. Why he says there was real sloppiness in the bureau's surveillance of a former Trump campaign aide. That's next.

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CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Significant errors in the FISA process, and you say that it was handled in a thoughtful and appropriate way.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: He's right; I was wrong. I was overconfident in the procedures that the FBI and Justice had built over 20 years. I thought they were robust enough. It's incredibly hard to get a FISA. I was over confident in those.

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HILL: Former FBI director James Comey admitting the bureau made significant mistakes in its requests for warrants to wiretap a former Trump campaign adviser, an admission that prompted President Trump to suggest Comey should serve jail time. Comey, of course, has not been charged with any crimes.

Joining us now, Carrie Cordero, CNN legal analyst and former counsel to the U.S. assistant attorney general; and Josh Campbell, CNN correspondent and author of "Crossfire Hurricane: Inside Donald Trump's War on the FBI."

And Josh, I just want to start with you on this, especially based on your background. When you hear those words come out of James Comey's mouth, not only what is your reaction but what does this do for the FBI?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting his response there is consistent with so much of our reporting since this I.G. report has been released, talking to people inside and outside of government.

And that is people were not surprised at the major finding from this I.G. report that the FBI was not some den of, you know, Obama loyalists who were weaponized to go after Donald Trump, which is what the president has been saying for so long. They weren't surprised about that.

So many people, including Comey, my former boss, were surprised at these -- the number of errors -- 17 errors, ranging from sloppiness to outright malicious behavior, at least by one employee. Which is not consistent with the FBI that I knew and, certainly, you know, this has been the topic of conversation for a lot of people inside the FBI. How could this have happened?

What is interesting is Comey mentioned that, you know, if he was the director, he would try to get to the bottom of it. Chris Wray, the current director, is doing that, as well, trying to ensure that this doesn't happen again but also to try to hold accountable anybody that may have strayed from this institution's values.

BERMAN: Now, that's just part of the story about what happened over the weekend. Because the president was commenting on this.

And Carrie, I want to read you one of the things he said. He wrote, "So now Comey's admitting he was wrong. Wow. But he's only doing so because he got caught red handed. He was actually caught a long time ago. So what are the consequences for his" -- the president's wrong with this phrase here -- "his unlawful conduct. Could it be years in jail? Where are the apologies to me and others, Jim?" question mark.

So this is the president of the United States calling for jail time for the former FBI director. The I.G. report, by the way, found no criminal wrongdoing. Specifically said there was no criminal wrongdoing on behalf of the former director there. And we're inured and numb to this kind of comment.

But when the president calls for jail time, even on Twitter, it is a remarkable and, some might say, dangerous thing, Carrie. CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it is. And it also -- the

underlying problem with it is it distorts the information that the I.G., the inspector general of the Justice Department actually developed.

So what the I.G. report says is that there was not political bias in the pursuit of the FISA application. So the I.G. directly contradicts what the president is alleging, that there was some kind of, quote unquote, abuse or intentional wrongdoing or unlawful behavior. That's not what the I.G. says.

What the inspector general did find was all sorts of problems in the applications themselves. And it was interesting in Director Comey's remarks that you played earlier, he says that he thought the procedures that had been developed over 20 years were sufficient. That 20 years is significant to me as someone who used to practice before the FISA court. Because FISA has been in existence for almost -- over 40 years.

But 20 years goes back to when there was another instance of factual inaccuracies that were in applications, and the Justice Department and the FBI came up with a whole new set of procedures to address them.

[06:25:05]

And so what he's referring to and what everybody who has been involved in this process for many years is thinking about is we developed these procedures 20 years ago. This application and this I.G. report indicates that something is not working with those, and they now need to go back and figure out how to fix them.

HILL: So that's one thing. It needs to be fixed. I just want to pick up, too, on something else that we heard from the president. Because it wasn't just going after James Comey.

The president may have been reading another report from everybody else. Because another tweet that he put out, "As bad as the I.G. report is for the FBI and others, and it is really bad, remember that I.G. Horowitz was appointed by Obama. There was tremendous bias and guilt exposed, so obvious, but Horowitz couldn't get himself to say it. Big credibility loss. Obama knew everything!"

The fact that he is -- and we should say once again -- going after his predecessor, going after the former president and throwing this, you know, on Obama once again, Josh.

CAMPBELL: You know, it's interesting. Nothing in that tweet is consistent with the facts as we know them. And what's so interesting is that we see the president going after an independent entity, the inspector general.

This is someone, again, you know, not a Democratic loyalist. He's worked throughout his career for Republicans, for Democrats. He was appointed by President George W. Bush to a government commission and then, obviously, by President Obama to be the DOJ inspector general. Someone who, for all the people, you know, that we speak with, they say he plays it straight down the middle. He's a straight shooter.

But I think because the I.G. came out and said that there was no political bias, the president and, you know, presumably his ally see that as a potential enemy. Someone who's not directly in line with the president.

And what's so fascinating? We see him going after the I.G. to back up, a second, what you were saying earlier about Comey and talking about jailing him.

What I can't help but focus on is, as the president faces impeachment and continues to say that he is being denied due process. He continues to talk about trying to jail his political enemies, people who haven't even been charged with crimes. Which, you know, that is something to focus on. And it's -- it remains stunning, even though it's numbing.

BERMAN: It's no small thing. It's a huge thing, in fact. It's an historically dangerous thing to be talking like that.

He's also wrong about Obama. You know, Horowitz was asked directly in the Senate hearing, did anyone in the White House order this? And he said, we found zero evidence of that.

Carrie, Josh, thank you very much.

The Army and Navy, the military academies at West Point and Annapolis, launching investigations now after suspected white power hand signs were flashed at the Army/Navy game. We have new developments in this investigation, next.

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