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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Trump Slams Impeachment In Scathing Letter To Pelosi; GOP House Member On Trump's Anti-Impeachment Letter; Judge: Case Against 13- Year-Old Connected To Fatal Stabbing Of NYC Student To Move Forward. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 17, 2019 - 21:00   ET

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


[21:00:00]

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm sure you guys have been talking about it tonight, talking about the stakes, talking about the moment for her Caucus, why this is a somber issue, but the most important kind of issue they have to vote on.

She made clear. She wants all the Members of her Caucus to be on the House floor tomorrow when the House floor opens up. There will be votes early.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Yes.

MATTINGLY: And they want everybody there to be a part of this, underscoring how important this moment is, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Phil Mattingly, you will be there 9 A.M. tomorrow. I'll be covering it with Wolf and Jake Tapper and all the rest.

News continues. Want to hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, Anderson, thank you very much. Excellent coverage tonight. I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

Reality is sitting in for this President. He is about to be impeached in all likelihood. What's unreal is how in this final moment that could define how this goes, he's trying to burn down the House in a letter for the ages that the Speaker is calling "Sick" tonight.

Here's the letter. But you will not believe what's in it, but more importantly, what it does to this President. It is some of the wildest Trump arguments yet.

A night like this, if we compare with what Bill Clinton did, and we'll do that tonight, you'll see how the choices you make can lead you to very different places. We have Clinton's former Chief of Staff here to talk about what impeachment was for them and how different than what it is that we're dealing with right now.

Let's get after it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: All right, look, like I said, I hold in my hand this six-page letter.

It's unlike anything I've ever seen from a sitting President, really anything I've ever seen even from Donald Trump, marshaling the weight of the world's most powerful Office to declare himself as the sole arbiter of what actions are impeachable.

Have you read this?

He does so without any kind of real deep thought. It's just a stream of consciousness, bombarding you with mistruths, with lies, with personal animus, and a staggering lack of comprehension for the reality that he now finds himself in, and as a result, the rest of us do as well.

Set aside the absurdity that is littered throughout this thing. Again, you can read it for yourself. Here are some of the highlights.

He says Pelosi has "Cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!" that she views democracy as her enemy or when the sitting President in an official letter declare - declares an "Attempted coup" is underway.

The basic facts that he tries to present are not on his side. He attempts to defend his conversation with the President of Ukraine by saying he put the transcript of his phone call immediately out.

But the call happened in July. We didn't see a word of it until September. And remember when that was. It was after the whistleblower went public.

As for his instance that "Every time, I talk with a foreign leader, I put America's interests first," we wouldn't know. His White House quit releasing readouts with calls of foreign leaders. And now they just changed the rules, so even fewer can hear what he says.

There's been a dozen between two that you should hear though.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.

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CUOMO: I keep playing that because it was the most embarrassing moment I've had as an American vis-a-vis our President, in Helsinki, before the world, next to Putin, the guy responsible.

You can see a little smile on his face as the President threw his own country under the bus. But he just keeps talking to him, and obviously, taking his advice.

All this is undercut in the very next paragraph where the President blows up any argument this was about broader corruption-fighting by launching into a tirade against Joe Biden.

He offers up the Sharpie-worthy testimony of his donor buddy turned Ambassador, Gordon Sondland, despite the questions that persist about I don't even know whether that call happened. The White House won't give us proof of it. The State Department won't give us proof of it.

It just happens to have the President saying everything he needed to say, to clear himself from this, using language that only the whistleblower used, certainly not the Latin that this President is used to saying.

So, I don't even know that it happened. But he uses it and states it as fact. He ignores the full context. And none of this is new for this President.

He teed off on another favorite target, House Intel Chair Adam Schiff, for what he calls "Shameless lies, fantasy language," despite the fact that Schiff said this at the same hearing.

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REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well it reads like a classic organized crime shakedown. Shorn of its rambling character, and in not so many words, this is the essence of what the President communicates.

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[21:05:00]

CUOMO: Look, while we're pointing out the factual mistake, there's also the President's insistence that you found nothing when it comes to the Mueller report.

In fact, the Special Counsel listed at least 10 instances of potential obstruction, and he clearly wanted to leave it for Congress. And he also said this, Mr. Mueller, about the President's conduct.

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ROBERT MUELLER, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE SPECIAL COUNSEL: The President was not exculpated for the acts that he allegedly committed.

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CUOMO: Look, I think the Democrats should be scrutinized for not including those in the articles of impeachment. Well why? Because, back then, they were saying those were impeachable acts.

They were talking about impeachment then. That was their play, and arguably, a misplay, and one that Pelosi didn't want to follow until she ultimately had to. So now, they don't even include them? I think that's worthy of scrutiny if you're going to have one for the history books.

And look, make no mistake, Donald Trump can be a uniquely skilled politician. But when it gets personal, and he gets into the mode of him, or anybody and anything else, this letter is what you get.

He can't admit that he did anything wrong, so he must be the victim, bemoaning "The great damage and hurt inflicted upon wonderful and loving members of my family," the irony here is that there's a long line of families like Gold Star father, Khizr Khan, and 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who have felt the pain of being targeted by the most powerful man on the planet.

People don't go after him and his family the way he does others. And even if they did, since when is the President of the United States equal to his worst opponents? There is one person in his Office. He is arguably the most powerful person in the world.

And yet, people around him, and obviously, he himself, believe that it is OK for him to act the same way as his worst opponent. Since when has bet - that been the standard of conduct for a sitting President, for a higher power, for someone who believes in that?

And yet, here he is, assuming he speaks for all Americans of faith, by attacking the Speaker, saying "You are offending Americans of faith by continually saying "I pray for the President." Does he not understand prayer?

Prayer doesn't change things. It is an attempt to change people. It would be Pelosi asking for help for him, but inasmuch doing that help for herself to deal with her situation. That's what prayer is.

It's not magic. And it's certainly not offensive to anybody of faith. If we had more prayer from our people in elected office, and from all of us, we'd be in a better place no matter what you believe.

Now, the statement's not true. It's not offensive, unless you mean it in a negative sense. "It's a terrible thing you're doing, but you'll have to live with it, not I!" he says. "Not I?" Can you really believe that what you said and what you did doesn't follow you?

Now look, I'll let you decide for yourself what this letter says about our President and just the mere notion that he takes prayers on his behalf as an affront. I have repeatedly said I'm not sure if removal from Office is the appropriate remedy.

I don't even know if impeachment is the right mechanism here because the Founders did not anticipate one Party refusing to do its job in this situation and, just out of deference, stand in defense of a President. I don't think they encountered that.

What they were worried about was someone like the Democrats right now in power just using numbers to muscle through a case. But that's not what this is. We've never seen the Party of the President refuse.

In Clinton, 31 Democrats voted to move forward with the inquiry. Five voted to impeach him. He was saved by Republicans in the Senate. Why? Because Clinton worked

to get things done while he was impeached, and there were foreign entanglements that he handled the right way, and that boosts the President.

God forbid we have to see that in this situation.

He wound up at 73 percent because of how he handled it, and he apologized. He apologized his heart out. That matters. Not this President!

There's a big difference between discussing the weight of the moment and accusing Democrats of violating their oaths of Office, breaking their allegiance to the Constitution, declaring open war on American Democracy, these are things that a pundit should think about saying, let alone a President.

Are you really going to use the power of your Office just for the sake of your own protection to threaten the democracy, and have the millions and millions of people, who for whatever reason believe what you say, to believe that we're at war, that our democracy is tearing apart, and people like me, and anybody who you see as a critic, is an enemy?

[21:10:00]

Do you really want that? And would you be comfortable living with the consequences of people acting on your ambitions? I hope you think about it because tomorrow we will be at the most sensitive period in our collective history since this Presidency.

This is heavy stuff. And it's going to hit hard in a way that we will have to deal with. The Constitution made what the duty was for this House, and it is clear.

I have argued many times. I don't know about this mechanism when you know you have no buy-in from both sides. But if you're going to look at what they were worried about, the Founders, he checks every box.

You want to oppose, that's fine. You want to criticize them, and say they're not doing it the right way, that's fine. You want to say you don't agree, that's fine. But if you want to say that they're enemies of democracy, you've got to think about it.

If you want to try to bring in that people who believe in something higher than themselves that they should see these Democrats as inimical to their faith, you better think about it. And if you're going to listen to it in a way that you're going to think about whether or not you accept it as truth, you need to think about it too.

You are not lemmings, you are not sheep. This man is your President. These people are the elected officials that you put in Office.

But do they not rule you, you rule them. You gave them this power. And tomorrow, you're going to have to think about where it has brought us, and we're going to have to figure out where we go from here. Point of perspective, when it was Hamilton, and he was trying to make the case about what this would be, and who to hope you'd never have to deal with, he quoted this, the "hope to aggrandize themselves by the confusions of their country." that's fancy. He was a genius. This is simple.

Beware a leader that takes what he knows is sensitive, what he knows could divide, and takes that string in his hand, and yanks it for all it's worth, because he wants to put more cushion under his own feet.

Where does it leave the rest of us?

There's a lot in this letter. But right in the middle is this paragraph. "You are the ones interfering in America's elections. You are the ones subverting America's democracy. You are the ones obstructing justice. You are the ones bringing pain and suffering to our Republic for your own selfish personal, political, and partisan gain."

I will tell you this. The facts make it very clear that all of those allegations apply equally or greatly more so to this President. We are in this situation because of what he did.

Rudy Giuliani is in the situation that he's in largely because of what this President did. He was an agent, not a principal. He was inserted like a virus into our diplomacy to get the very special thing that Trump wanted, and that only he wanted, and that he wanted for himself. He didn't even have to do it this way.

If Mr. Giuliani finds proof about Biden's perfidy, or any illegality, I welcome it on this show because you deserve that truth. But it still doesn't make what this President did right. It still makes it impeachable, why? Because how you use your power matters.

And if you thought something was wrong with Biden, go to the DOJ, go to your friends in the Senate, why did you not? Because you know that this looks better politically. Let the stink be on somebody else, not on me. That mitigates it.

Mr. Trump is very savvy. He always has been, and he knows how to play us like a fiddle.

He's doing it again tonight, having me recite his letter. So why do I do it? Little bit because that's what's happening in the media, but I don't have that excuse, not on this show. You know that this is about our unique take on what's going on.

I do it because I want you to know what he is willing to do to defend himself. And just remember this. In that call that he calls perfect, he ordered a favor. He made it a favor. A favor is not for us. It's for the person asking it.

This is what he says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you take any responsibility for the fact that you are about to be impeached?

TRUMP: No. I don't take any. Zero, to put it mildly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Look, the letter's the perfect illustration of why. Despite what he says in front of the cameras, you will never see this President testify under oath about any of this because his main inclination is to fight the truth, to find ways to get away from it, not to admit it.

Six pages tells you everything you need to know about where his head and his heart are, and you're not mentioned in it anywhere, except to drive a wedge between me, and you, and anybody else that he sees as an opponent. Just know that, all right?

Now, TV is about time. I took too much time here at the top because this show should be about the guests.

But I've never told you anything that matters more than what I'm talking to you about tonight. I am worried about where we are. I believe this country is stronger than any single situation.

I think its institutions will outlive us all, and for good reason. And they will only get stronger with time and with generations that understand each other better than we apparently do today.

[21:15:00]

But I do have to remind you, this is very heavy. And it is not going to last just a day.

Tomorrow is a vote. Every day after that, including the Senate trial, and way beyond, is going to be the effect of those events. And God willing, we will be in it together, because in this country, that's all we have.

Now, Bill Clinton was in the same boat 21 years ago. We have to look at how he handled it, and what difference it made in that process. We have former Clinton Chief of Staff, John Podesta. He's next. Thank you for listening to what I had to say.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: President Bill Clinton's former Chief of Staff, John Podesta is here. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: ONE ON ONE.

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CUOMO: I haven't seen you in a while. The best for the Holy days to you and your family.

JOHN PODESTA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you. Merry Christmas.

[21:20:00]

CUOMO: You know, I was going to go through this exercise with you because as - as you all should remember, it was Podesta's emails that was really the largest part of the trove of the hack of the DNC server.

I wanted you to help us understand that there was no server that it was a cloud system, so there's nothing to be in Ukraine. But you know what? If people don't know that it's because they don't care about it at this point, so forget it.

PODESTA: Exactly.

CUOMO: You made a very different decision, Podesta, in how to handle impeachment with the President. What decision - what led to the decision you guys made about how to handle impeachment and messaging of the same? And what difference did it make in your situation?

PODESTA: Well look, I think we respected the process that we're going through. We didn't think the President should be impeached or removed from Office.

We fought about that with people on Capitol Hill. But we respected the process. Our lawyers participated in the process. Witnesses were called. We made the arguments, and ultimately prevailed.

The American people stood with the President. I think they - they understood that he was doing a job for them, and was spending his time continuing to do that job.

CUOMO: That was the key.

PODESTA: And I think--

CUOMO: You guys called it compartmentalization. The President went on an ambitious agenda. Unfortunately, we had some foreign entanglements going on in Iraq, and elsewhere, that he had to deal with, and the government dealt with it well. It always helps a President.

But he decided, again, this compartmentalization, "Let me get things done," the approval rating wound up being at 73 percent, job approval, his personal approval was a different story. But what went into that calculation?

PODESTA: I think that - that - you know, first of all, he admitted what he did was wrong, and - and apologized, first and foremost, to his wife and family, and to the American public.

But then he moved on, and said, "I got elected to do a job for the American people. And my best defense essentially is just to do my job, not spend my time in self-pity," and wallowing in the kind of statement you just read that the President offered up, but to do the job he was elected to do.

And I think that proved to be a good judgment, the right judgment. American people saw that. And they saw that - that he was spending his time, as you said, on foreign policy matters, but also on - on domestic policy and trying to get things done, serving up the budget, the State of the Union.

We, in fact, had a pretty productive 1999, following the impeachment and the trial in the Senate.

CUOMO: Right.

PODESTA: He prosecuted the - and reversed the ethnic cleansing going on in Kosovo. We ended up with major agreements with the Speaker on - on things like providing healthcare to people with disabilities.

CUOMO: Right. Well be - created a different dynamic.

PODESTA: So, we - you know, we - we kept - we kept--

CUOMO: When it became clear--

PODESTA: --our nose to the grindstone in terms of work.

CUOMO: Right. When it became clear that Clinton wanted to do deals on - no politician in a position of power can really ignore that because they were going to get both what they wanted anyway. They were going to impeach him anyway. But it wound up making a difference in the Senate and in the climate of the country.

Where do you think this current process leaves us - leaves us? He's going to be impeached tomorrow in all likelihood. We don't know how many Democrats won't go along with it. But it should happen. Where does this leave us at the end of the day?

PODESTA: Well, you know, I think nobody really knows. I think you see the Leader in the Senate, Mr. McConnell saying he's already prejudged the case. He doesn't think that--

CUOMO: So he gets acquitted. And it's quick. Then what?

PODESTA: --he's - he's impartial.

CUOMO: Then what?

PODESTA: You know, I still think there's an important element to having the trial in the Senate.

The American people has a - deserve to see that. They want it set - the Washington Post/ABC poll just showed that 71 percent of the people think that his top aides should come before the Senate. 64 percent of Republicans think they should testify.

And I think that's an important, as you were noting in your opening, it's important to educate the public about what really happened.

The fact that he actually leaned on, extorted, asked for a favor, of a foreign leader to interfere in our democracy, and I think that getting those witnesses who were in the room with him, who he ordered not to testify, before the House, is an important function.

I think Senator Schumer's asked for a very limited number of witnesses. I think that's wise. He's asked for similar treatment, a truncated process, but a real process. And I think the American people want to see - want to see a trial.

And for McConnell to say that "Well there shouldn't be any witnesses in a trial," well what is a trial--

CUOMO: Well--

PODESTA: --if it's not to hear the evidence.

CUOMO: --he said something different, as all the Republicans did, when they were on - on the other side of it. But, to be frank--

PODESTA: Yes, absolutely.

CUOMO: --the Democrats were making a lot of the same arguments they've been making now. They just have a better set of facts than the Republicans had back in '98, '99.

PODESTA: Well, you know, you quoted the - the Founders.

CUOMO: Right.

PODESTA: What the Founders were worried most about, and why they included the impeachment clause, and the emoluments clause, was foreign interference--

CUOMO: Right.

PODESTA: --in our democracy. We were a young democracy. We were susceptible to foreign interference. And I think they were worried about that.

CUOMO: Right.

PODESTA: And that's why they - they included it. That's why they didn't make a king. They had a President.

CUOMO: Right.

[21:25:00]

PODESTA: And I think that the facts in this case are really right at the heart of what they were worried about.

CUOMO: John Podesta, thank you very much for your perspective, appreciate it.

PODESTA: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, now, what Bill Clinton did not have at the time of his impeachment that was a trial stacked with a majority of jurors from his own Party.

Remember, the Republicans were in control of the Senate, not the Democrats, and he didn't have a Fox News to use as a trumpet for his own cause, and he didn't have this kind of loyalty.

Where does it leave us? I want to talk to Republicans on this show. You always know that. I believe in perspective. And I believe that if we don't get there together we get nowhere. So, let's talk to an impeachment player, next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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[21:30:00]

CUOMO: President Trump had an army of GOP defenders during the impeachment process in the House. Now, some of the loudest may be back for the Senate trial. Where does this leave us? Where does it leave the GOP? Where does it leave the country?

GOP Rep. Tom Reed is here.

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TEXT: ONE ON ONE.

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CUOMO: It's good to have you on PRIME TIME. I wish you and the family the best for the Holy days. He's going to get impeached.

REP. TOM REED (R-NY): Same to you, Chris.

CUOMO: You can have an argument about whether or not you think what he did warrants it.

I know that if I were to quiz you, you would say you wouldn't do what he did. If I were to ask you, would you say that Nancy Pelosi looks like her teeth are falling out, you'd say "No, I wouldn't say that." Am I correct?

REED: I would agree with - with those general conclusions that, you know, what this rhetoric has devolved down to is just the - the worst of partisan politics in my humble opinion.

CUOMO: But I think that one aspect of it is that the idea that it is universal is untrue. That letter today could only be penned by one President, by one man in elected office right now. Not even Steve King would say the kinds of things that he did.

And Tom, I'm telling you. You and I know each other. I had Sean Duffy on here last night. I like and respect Duffy.

REED: Good man.

CUOMO: And he could not say "Yes, he shouldn't have said that about Nancy Pelosi. It was wrong."

All he can say is what I hear from all of you, which is "You got to look at the other side though, Chris. You got to look at what they say about him. He's frustrated. He's angry."

People beat you up Tom Reed. You're going to have a tough election this time too.

Would you talk about the teeth of your opponent? Would you say he's a bum, and he's bad for democracy, and he's an enemy? You don't talk like that, but you won't tell Trump not to, and that's why he won't stop doing it.

REED: Well I've always had a personal relationship with the President. I've expressed my concerns with him personally. I don't talk about it, and throw bombs on the public airwaves.

But the bottom line is this. I mean he wrote it. It - it's for the American people to judge that letter. I appreciated your reference in your opening segment about that people can read this letter. They can hear what the President is trying to say.

I understand what the President is frustrated with. I understand that this partisan politics is dividing the country even further. That's what I also saw in that letter, on display, from President Trump that there's a frustration where - where D.C. is at. And I - I agree with that frustration.

This shouldn't be about partisan politics day in and day out. We need to get things done for the American people, like what we did today in our Committee with Mexico Canada's trade agreement. That was a huge win for America's farmers and manufacturers.

CUOMO: Imagine if that's what he was talking about all the time, imagine if he was just going after the Democrats for not signing it, and going through the different conditions that, in his opinion, bettered the American workers' situation--

REED: Well he used to--

CUOMO: --instead of what he chooses to do most of his time.

REED: But he did talk about that, Chris.

CUOMO: But--

REED: I mean, he has talked about that in his--

CUOMO: --it's a minority of his time, Tom.

REED: Yes.

CUOMO: He talks about himself, and his people, and his perceived opponents. That's what he does.

REED: Well - well--

CUOMO: And it's not - that's not a criticism.

REED: Yes, yes.

CUOMO: It's not even a commentary. It's an observation.

He shouldn't be bothering his time with me, and you know it. No President would. No President would ever deign to give a journalist that kind of attention, let alone to set him up as an enemy of the democracy.

We are where we are, Tom, because he has been given full freedom to exercise avarice with everything he says and does.

REED: Well I disagree with that because he's in Office because the American people elected him. And he'll be standing for re-election, based on what the American people do.

And - and I think, fundamentally, that's where the American people want this to go, and us to do our work in Congress that impacts their lives on a positive basis day to day.

And what you see today in regards to the impeachment process, I see it all just evolving and devolving into this partisan political us- versus-them and getting through this as quick as possible--

CUOMO: But who says that--

REED: --in order to avoid that.

CUOMO: --more than the President does? I know he was legitimately elected. I keep--

REED: Yes. CUOMO: --making the argument to him, and his defenders, "Stop saying that Russian interference means you didn't win."

You did win. You crushed it in the Electoral College. It opened up all our eyes to the realities that it's not just about how many. It's about where they are, and which polls to monitor.

And, by the way, we're making that mistake again early on until we started looking state-to-state. I know the President's strong. I - that - that doesn't hurt me to say.

What worries me, Tom, is he is the divider most often, not you, not the Head, not - not even Nunes, not Jordan. They take their cues from him. None of you call him out, and say, "Mr. President, don't say this."

You say you say it in private. You know that's not enough, Tom.

REED: And - well and I've said it publicly before, when I've criticized on certain comments here and there. But the - the bottom line is I keep the personal conversations between me and the President, and I think that's more appropriate.

[21:35:00]

I think what we need to be doing is focusing more on where can we unite the country, and that's where I can control in my day-to-day activity, and that's what I try to do, and I appreciate--

CUOMO: But how can you unite--

REED: --you recognizing that Chris.

CUOMO: --when the team leader is talking about the teeth of Nancy Pelosi--

REED: Well--

CUOMO: --and saying that Democrats are enemies of democracy.

REED: Look--

CUOMO: And any reporter who says something he doesn't like is--

REED: Chris?

CUOMO: --an enemy of the people?

REED: But this goes both ways. I mean you see Democratic Members, you know, "We're going to impeach the mother-blank, and we're going to engage in this type of partisan. We got to impeach him now, so he doesn't get reelected."

CUOMO: And we called them out. And we say that they're premature.

REED: And - and I totally agree with that, I mean. CUOMO: And we say that they're rude.

And now, people like me will say, "Man, you were talking his impeachment talk all through Mueller. He gave you those 10 counts. Now, you don't even include them? You're talking about how it's a bribery. Now you don't even include it?"

Listen, they're not even in power, but they must be held to account as well.

REED: Yes.

CUOMO: I'm saying if you guys don't talk about your own, you talk about everybody else. It's just him, Tom. You never ever step out of line where the President is involved. What makes you think he would ever toe a line other than the one he wants to walk?

REED: Well, you know, I disagree with your assessment of our actions. I'll leave that again. The record is clear that people can judge that in our own district.

But the end of the day, I - I look at this impeachment. This is a historical vote, Chris.

And when we talk about impeachment, I think when you had Mr. Podesta on there, Bill Clinton situation, the lessons of Clinton, you know, the President - President Trump has the presumption of innocence.

And when you look at the prior impeachments, Clinton and Nixon, I think, are great test case to look at. When you look at what they were involved with, there was no legitimate government function by the President in those cases.

It was a burglary at Watergate. It was lying under oath about sex in the Oval Office with an intern. You know, that - that to me, where's the government operation there.

Here, we had the legitimate issue of corruption, and with the presumption of innocent, I think we can get through this rather quickly, and I think that's what the Senate's going to do.

CUOMO: I hear the alarm for the vote there. I don't want to make you late for the job.

I would argue it in reverse. Because this was so intimately involved with the function of government, it's exactly what the Founders were worried about. But we didn't need to be here.

If he admitted he did this the wrong way, but he wanted to fight interference, and he didn't have any corrupt intent that people were wrong about that, he wouldn't be where he is tonight.

Congressman Tom Reed, I welcome you on this show always to make the argument. And I wish you the best for the Holy days.

REED: Happy holidays to you, very much to your family and everyone else there, Chris.

CUOMO: Thank you, Congressman.

All right, another story, you know. Look, we know what's going to happen tomorrow. It's not the only thing going on.

There is crime going on across this country that is going in the wrong direction, property crimes but also homicide. And this crime that just happened in New York City that people are starting to catch on to, I haven't seen anything like it in decades.

College freshman Tessa Majors, walking through a place in New York City, right by Columbia University, that's supposed to be safe, that has been safe, not only is she murdered, not only is it brutal, but it involves kids in a way that I haven't seen since the Central Park Five.

The mystery here and which way it's taking us is staggering. They had a 13-year-old suspect in court today. He was saying things that people couldn't even understand. It shook them.

The details, next.

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CUOMO: All right, we have new details tonight. I don't know if you've heard about this. It just happened last week Wednesday.

This Barnard College, that's Columbia University, a freshman named Tessa Majors, just starting school up from Virginia, murdered. A Judge ruled today the case against a 13-year-old suspect will move forward.

Police say there are other teens involved. They think it's about three, right now, but they're not sure.

I've seen this happen before. And now they're getting surveillance video, and it's raising all kinds of questions about the depravity that's going on in this city, the rising crime rates that are across this country, and what makes kids do something like this.

Let's dig in. We have Paul Callan and Kris Mohandie. Now, Paul was involved in the Central Park Five. He represented a couple of the officers that were investigating the case that actually wound up reversing the findings, so he remembers that period very well.

But Paul, you know, you're a mentor of mine. Feel free to back me off it. But we know the rates are going up around the country. We know that in this city, we're seeing it. We know that homicide is even ticking up.

But a crime like this, when is the last time you heard of 13- and 14- year-olds knifing somebody this way? When the 13-year-old described it, people in the court couldn't even take it.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well it's a horrible, horrible crime, and it sends shivers across New York City.

And you're right. It brings back the memory of the Central Park Five case, which I represented two of the Assistant District Attorneys who reinvestigated the - the case, and found that the confessions were inaccurate, and the wrong people were arrested in that case.

But that case terrified the city because it happened in a beloved park, and it really emphasized how dangerous the city had become.

And just to give you an indication, when I was a Homicide Assistant D.A. in Brooklyn, in the 1970s, the homicide rate was about 1,600 per year. It then peaked at over 2,000 per year in 1980.

Last year, you know what it was? It was 289 homicides. It had fallen to 289. And now, police are saying that violent crime may be up as much as 25 percent in New York City. And you're right. It is a trend that we're seeing nationally.

CUOMO: Right. And look, remember, what made us scared at the time these were the wrong kids that they got. And one of the reasons that they were falsely convicted, of course it was color, of course it was socio-economic, of course it was about policing culture at that time.

But Wilding was real, kids running around the city like a pack of dogs doing terrible things was real, White kids, Brown kids, all kinds of kids, so that fed it.

Kris, that takes me to you and the psychology of this. I haven't seen it since then. And once again, the shock value is there. Kids don't do this. Adults--

KRIS MOHANDIE, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: This--

CUOMO: --have to form that kind of mens rea that mental component. What do we understand from psychology?

MOHANDIE: Well that's what's so troubling about this is that you usually see kids engaging in, you know, property crime, you know, simple mistakes of - of youth, you know, shoplifting is a pretty common one, maybe some, you know, use of alcohol or experimentation with drugs.

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This is embracing a different level of criminality. This is adult- level aggression, the willingness to strike out against adults.

To go there apparently what's alleged is with the intent to rob people as part of a group, whether it was a gang or just operating kind of like with a gang like ethos. That's what's so disturbing. And when we see that--

CUOMO: Also more common for kids.

MOHANDIE: Yes.

CUOMO: Kids often operate more in packs. It gives them confidence. But I want you to play on one other point, Kris.

MOHANDIE: Right.

CUOMO: Let's say that this kid's telling the truth, all right?

MOHANDIE: Right.

CUOMO: It's a little convenient that he touched the knife, but he didn't use the knife, he gave it to somebody else, whatever.

The idea that they passed up a guy, and then targeted the woman, but it was still a robbery, and they get her in a chokehold.

MOHANDIE: Right.

CUOMO: Then it goes wrong, they stab her over--

MOHANDIE: Right.

CUOMO: --a dozen times, by the early reporting estimate. That's a different way to kill than pulling a trigger, one, two, or three times.

MOHANDIE: It's up close. It's personal. It's hands off - it's hands- on.

And it - it really speaks to a level of lacking of empathy, you know, not really caring about other people, and just the level of commitment that you're right is - is qualitatively different than what we - what we usually see in kids of this developmental phase.

And that speaks to what we, in my profession, often refer to as conduct disorder, which is the junior version of what people grow up into being the adult version of antisocial personality are, you know, there's a lot of those folks that are in prison.

It starts someplace. And unfortunately, I think what we have is a group of kids that maybe, you know, heading down that path, again, qualitatively different. CUOMO: Right. No, I hear you.

MOHANDIE: You're right.

CUOMO: And, you know, Paul, here's the part that troubles me about this.

They're looking for two other young kids. They had one on Friday night, maybe that's the kid. Maybe they're looking for a third. They're a little soft on the numbers, and that's fine.

They can't find this kid. That's unusual to not find a kid that age. You know, they're vulnerable. They don't have resources and connections the way, you know, somebody who's connected to an organization or an adult might.

What's your read on that?

CALLAN: It's very, very unusual.

And I have to say, Chris, the picture that was described by the 13- year-old, who has been apprehended, of the knife going into Tessa Majors repeatedly, and feathers flying from her coat, presumably she was wearing some kind of a down jacket, we'll find out later on, is just a haunting--

CUOMO: And her crying for help.

CALLAN: --horrific - yes, crying.

CUOMO: The kids were aware of what she was going through. They made a decision.

And not being able to find a kid suggests that somebody is helping to hide them. And that's why, I think, this is an open window into what's going on here. And we're going to learn more, and every piece of it is troubling as hell.

Paul Callan, thank you.

CALLAN: Thank you.

CUOMO: Dr. Kris Mohandie, thank you very much, both of you. All right.

MOHANDIE: Thank you.

CUOMO: The clock's ticking down. The President, in all likelihood, is going to be impeached. He doesn't have to say that he did anything wrong, but if he had, it would have changed it.

I don't have an argument. I gave it to you at the top. But I do have a concern I want to share with you tonight because we're only going to be here once. Everything changes tomorrow. That's next.

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CUOMO: In all likelihood, it ends tomorrow. President Trump will bear the stain of being impeached, only the second in modern history. I do not envy his position or his fate. But I'm not worried about Donald Trump. He'll be fine. He always is.

I worry about the rest of us. To be clear, we all know this is about what this President did and said. But where we are right now is really because of how he handled it.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you take any responsibility for the fact that you are about to be impeached?

TRUMP: No. I don't take any. Zero, to put it mildly.

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CUOMO: And that's the problem. He said it. He did it. But remember, this is the man who has said he never needed to ask God for forgiveness, so he's being true to form.

If he had admitted some wrongdoing and argued that his intentions were not this corruption that the Democrats say, he very well may not be where he is. But instead, he's filled with enmity. It's everybody but him.

And you know what? Now, it's become contagious.

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SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I'm not an impartial juror.

I would anticipate we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate. I'm not impartial about this at all.

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CUOMO: Just so you know, McConnell and all the other Senators are going to take an oath, and here's what it says.

"I solemnly swear (or affirm) that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: so help me God."

He just told you that his fealty is to Trump, and that comes before the article of faith I just read you, his oath to you and what we're about. Just because he's straight about it doesn't mean it's a straight thing to say.

The Republicans are little more than Trump's shadow. The Democrats are part of this toxic tension as well. And it's hard for anybody to seem like they're better than what's going on around them. We don't even know what their eventual message or mess - or who their messenger is going to be.

So, I argue we can't look to electeds to get us out of this. It's got to be on us to make things better. The practical argument is look, let's be honest, these people mostly do what you allow them to do.

You say I am out. If anyone has more insults than insights, if you don't have plans, if there's no progress, I won't for any - vote for anyone in here that would work. But it doesn't happen. We reward opposition.

On a deeper level, we can't keep hating people because we disagree with them. It's not American. It doesn't just cheapen our politics. It cheapens us. It's poisoning us.

And here's the biggest reason. What we got here is fragile. I have had the blessing of travelling this world as a journalist. Nobody is trying to do what we have succeeded at here. It's an experiment because it's a work in progress.

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Nobody's ever even tried what we're doing, combining faces and places, united by no real even common tongue, or culture or tradition, just a respect for bigger things, freedom, secured by law.

We don't have the similarities that make it easy. So, right now, we must do what's hard. We cannot keep succumbing to the ease of animus. You have to be better than what you oppose. You have to be what you know matters more than division. You have to remember to disagree with decency.

Me too! Be what your family should see in you, not some hyenas on social media. Tomorrow changes everything. Where do you want to go after this? It's a question of what you want. And God bless, we all make the right choice.

So look, while this is going on, one of the concerns is what it means for our enemies. What's Putin doing during this? How about what's his boat doing off Eastern shores? BOLO.

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CUOMO: BOLO, Be On the Look-Out.

A Russian spy ship is operating in what they call an unsafe manner along the East Coast.

U.S. Military says they're sailing without running lights, failing to respond to radio calls, just off the coast of South Carolina and Florida. Officials suspect the ship is mapping undersea internet cables, gathering Intelligence on U.S. nuclear submarines. The obvious, Putin is not our pal.

All right, that's all for us. Time for "CNN TONIGHT" with the man, D. Lemon.