Return to Transcripts main page


House Panel Sets Rules for Impeachment Debate Ahead of Vote; Schumer Defended Proposal after McConnell Objected to Witnesses at Senate Trial; Former Trump Aide Rick Gates Sentenced; Giuliani Brazenly Admits Role in Removal of Former Ukraine Ambassador. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired December 17, 2019 - 13:30   ET



REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D-MA): We all know how he did it. He tried to shake down the government of Ukraine, to basically get dirt on his political opponent to help him in the upcoming 2020 election. And he engaged in a systemic pattern of denying any documents, of any cooperation with Congress. That is obstruction of Congress.

And, Mr. Collins, you kept on saying something that I actually agree with. You talked about how the clock and the calendar is important. From my vantage point, and from the way that I look at what's happened here, it is important because I believe, as Mr. Raskin stated at the beginning of his testimony, that there was a crime in progress.

We have an election coming up in less than a year and the president is openly trying to encourage foreign interference in that election. That should have shocked everybody not just in this committee, in this chamber, but throughout this country. It is wrong. It is so wrong.

So we will continue this hearing. We just had votes and we will recess and come back at the beginning of the last vote where we will then turn to Mr. Hastings.

The Rules Committee stands in recess.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: And you have been watching something we don't usually get to see, but a very important part of the legislative process inside the House of Representatives.

You've been watching the House Rules Committee, and we obviously have been watching it because this isn't just an ordinary piece of legislation. It's not legislation at all. It's two articles of impeachment. And what this committee does is set the parameters for debate of anything that comes to the House floor. So they are debating the debate.

That's basically what you saw right there with a lot of the arguments that we've heard for and against the impeachment of the president of the United States for the past couple of weeks as we've seen the process move through the House of Representatives.

I want to get straight to Capitol Hill where Manu Raju is, as he is always is joining us from his perch there.

Manu, you've been watching this. This is something Capitol Hill nerds like us get to watch on C-Span, but this is not your run-of-the-mill Rules Committee.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is inside baseball on how Congress actually works --

BASH: Yes.

RAJU: -- and dealing with the floor procedures.

The significance here, enormous, given the fact this historic vote will take place tomorrow, the third time in American history. We expect the president to be impeached on two counts of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

What we witnessed here this morning was a very lengthy procedure, because this committee does not have time limits for the amount of time that members can question each other.

And so that allows the members -- as you saw Republican Tom Cole -- to question for an extensive amount of time. Typically, it's about five minutes each. But here, he went into a long line of questioning to push back against the Democratic resolution.

And we expect other members, when they come back from votes and when they reconvene, there will be more questions that could go on for quite some time before they approve that rule, laying out the ground rules for the procedures of tomorrow's debate.

In regard to tomorrow's debate, we are expecting that Democrats will have the votes to impeach the president.

More and more Democrats, particularly in swing districts, people we've been watching very closely, the 31 Democrats who represent districts that President Trump won in 2016, they're increasingly siding with a notion that the president should be impeached.

Democrat after Democrat is coming out and saying that they will, in fact, vote for impeachment.

We have not heard of any defectors beyond the two Democrats who said they would likely defect.

Jeff Van Drew, the Democrat who is expected to switch and become a Republican because of the backlash he's been getting in his district. He is going to be a no on both the counts.

And Collin Peterson, a Minnesota Democrats, who had previously said he would not vote to move forward on an impeachment inquiry, signaled in the past that he'd vote against both articles of impeachment.

But, Dana, when I caught up with him about an hour ago, I said, are you going to vote against both articles of impeachment. He refused to say. He said, we'll wait to see to see what happens tomorrow. We'll see if anything changes between now and then. We still expect him to be a no but he's still not saying.

But at the moment, Democrats believe they have -- in fact, very limited, perhaps only the two that we've been expecting as they move forward and plan for that historic vote tomorrow -- Dana?

BASH: That's real interesting.

Manu, thank you so much.

I'm here in the studio with my panel of experts.

I want to turn to Gloria Borger first.

Because, Gloria, you and I have sat in Rules Committee meetings plenty of times. I want to hear your actual thoughts. And what is striking is, as we've seen this process move forward, it's been very, very partisan. The arguments we heard throughout the morning were partisan.

But the personalities were very different. You had, frankly, an old- school Democratic chairman, and an old-school Republican ranking member who dis-comported themselves differently, even though they were making the same arguments.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Exactly. It wasn't old school here.

And first of all --


BORGER: -- this is a historic moment because we were all watching the Rules Committee with a great deal of interest. Because it's going to govern the debate tomorrow and what the American people can see and hear tomorrow.

They weren't relitigating arguments but they were debating in a way that they could because there were no time limits on them.

What was striking to me is was Congressman Raskin, who is a constitutional attorney, was making the same points we've heard over and over again about abuse of power and about obstruction of Congress.

But he also said something about obstruction that was interesting to me. He said, "Donald Trump makes Richard Nixon look like a little leaguer," in terms of how many witnesses he has kept from testifying.

He kept saying over and over again that Donald Trump's administration ordered -- ordered -- the executive branch not to cooperate.

I think he was quite effective making his point, as was Congressman McGovern, who held up a long list of people who chose not to appear.

BASH: So, Ross Garber, you are a law professor and your expertise is impeachment. You're kind of like Raskin. Raskin actually got to make the argument but you were watching it, the kind of thing I imagine you talk about with your students.

What's your takeaway?

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And I've actually represented several clients in impeachments. So I am very critical of how the Democrats have presented their case for several weeks. They've had constitutional law professors who have talked about lofty concepts of the Constitution. They had politicians talk about sort of the nitty- gritty of the partisan politics.

I've been very impressed with Raskin. I think today's hearing probably was the best distillation for the Democrats of the case for impeachment.

Because I do think Raskin sort of brought the two together. He understands the Constitution. He also understands the politics. And he also understands how to communicate.

I thought this was actually -- maybe not just because I'm a nerd. Maybe.


BASH: You're in good company, Ross.

GARBER: But I think today was probably the best distillation so far of the arguments for and against impeachment.

BASH: Again, the reason, in addition to the substance of what we heard, the reason for this is because we don't know yet tomorrow how long the debate is going to be for each article of impeachment, when they're going to occur and so forth.

So that really is what this Rules Committee, what any Rules Committee meeting on a procedure is, is to set those parameters. We still don't know what's going to happen.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's what's sort of interesting, that they finish this portion, is that we still don't actually know what details they're going to hammer out for tomorrow.

And while Representative Raskin was able to address some of the substance that goes to the heart of the impeachment articles, Representative Collins used it as another opportunity to air grievances when it comes to process.

He was able to go through all the different things Republicans have been upset about on the Judiciary Committee, regarding numbers of witnesses, the hearings that were conducted by the House Intelligence Committee, the fact that, from their perspective, this process went too quickly. And then he talked about the fact there was not a minority hearing day.

All of which are things that we've heard before and none of which tells us what they're going to do tomorrow.

BASH: That's true, except that we're probably going to hear a lot more of that tomorrow on the floor of the House.

Meanwhile, while all of this is happening, there's been a lot of rhetorical back and forth on the Senate side where all of this is going to move very quickly.

The majority leader, Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, Chuck Schumer, are butting heads over what a Senate hearing will look like.

Today, McConnell responded to Schumer's request for four Trump administration witnesses, who refused to participate in the House investigation. Listen.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): If the House moves ahead, if this ends up here in the Senate, we certainly do not need jurors to start brainstorming witness lists for the prosecution and demanding to lock them in before we've even heard opening arguments.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I still expect we'll sit down and discuss trial parameters despite his public appearances on FOX News. But let me say this. I listened to the leader's speech. I did not hear a single sentence, a single argument as to why the witnesses I suggested should not give testimony.


BASH: So this is really important back and forth that we're hearing. These two leaders are talking publicly. They are going to talk privately, begin to work things out. We think. That's normally how it's done. Then again, we're not in the normal world.


BORGER: We are not.


BORGER: We are not.

And the precedent, of course, if you go back to Bill Clinton's impeachment was there were three witnesses, who were interviewed privately, videotaped and then portions of that testimony were shown -- believe it or not, they put TV screens up in the Senate, shocking as that may sound -- and then Senators could watch that testimony.

However, they only agreed on witnesses after the rules.

Right, Ross? Am I right on that?

GARBER: Yes. That's right. BORGER: So what Senator McConnell is saying is, first of all, this isn't our job. We are the jurors. We're not the prosecution. They should have done that in the House.

And what the House guys are arguing in the Rules Committee is, well, we would have done it in the House if you guys hadn't been stonewalling us.

It becomes circular at a certain point.

GARBER: Yes. But I think what Senator McConnell is saying is that he's looking to adopt essentially at least the first part of the Clinton rules.

What happened first were opening arguments, long opening arguments by the House managers, members of Congress -- members of the House who were essentially acting as prosecutors and the president's defense lawyers.

And after that, and only after that, then the Senators will decide whether they want testimony and in what format.

So that's what Senator McConnell is suggesting that any discussion of this witness or that witness at this point is just premature.

BASH: That is what happened, you're exactly right, in 1999, the beginning of 1999.

But that was also, on kind of the template of that, was bipartisanship, was bipartisan agreement.

And you remember -- we were there -- all 100 Senators voted on the template of what the trial would look like in the old Senate chamber. And the Democratic and Republican leader had a press conference together.

So they made the decisions about witnesses, maybe they didn't agree, but --


GARBER: Yes, and although, notably, in the House, in the Clinton impeachment process, the rules and procedures were actually adopted unanimously. So that bipartisanship, obviously, isn't here now.

One of the interesting things -- I talked to one of the House managers from Clinton a few days ago. What he was saying was he was very disappointed and upset with the Senate rules then because he thought the Senate rules sort of cut their knees out from under them.

BASH: Yes.

GARBER: And there, the House managers were Republicans. The Senate was controlled by Republicans.

BASH: Right. GARBER: But you're exactly right. At the end of the day, the Senate leaders came together and agreed.

BASH: Talk about the meat of this and the reason why this is so different. And the specific point of contention is four key witnesses didn't testify in the House. The White House, the president didn't want them to.

What the Democrats are saying now is, if the president wants to provide any exculpatory information of evidence through these witnesses, have at it. We have the Senate trial. Come on down.

CORDERO: We know they don't really want --

BASH: Right.

CORDERO: -- because that's really not in his interest substantively.

BASH: But it's a tactics.

CORDERO: -- to have more witnesses who have firsthand knowledge and would be under oath. I think they know that. They're drawing that out. And they're showing he's not being cooperative even if he might say that he is.

I think, with respect to the historical references, it's important to point out that this will only be the third time in history that we're going to have one of these Senate trials, assuming it goes forward. So while we look to the Clinton impeachment as the most recent example, there's not actually something that says it has to be that way.

BASH: Not at all.

CORDERO: So there's flexibility for the Senate to craft a modern impeachment based on the particular articles in front of them in this moment --


BASH: It is up to the Senate to do it.

BORGER: Can I ask Ross just one quick question?

What if they did call a witness of two and the majority of the Senate agreed. Why would they have to show? Would they have to show?

GARBER: Well, what you'd wind up with is the same issue that the House is facing. The Senate would be authorized to issue a subpoena but then enforcement is a completely separate issue.

So would they have to show? Theoretically. But how to force them to show --


GARBER: -- you would probably have to go to court. And that would be a long, drawn-out process.

BASH: I've heard that before.


GARBER: Yes. It's unlikely to happen here.

BASH: All right, everybody, stand by.

Up next, one-time player in the Trump campaign, who flipped on the president in the Mueller investigation, he was just sentenced in federal court in the last hour. We're going to tell you how long Rick Gates will be spending in jail.


Stay with us.


BASH: Ex Trump campaign aide, Rick Gates, has been ordered to serve 45 days in jail and three years' probation after pleading guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI.

Gates' attorneys asked for leniency after Gates worked as a star witness in Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. He testified against several people in President Trump's inner circle, including former Trump campaign manager and Gates' boss, Paul Manafort, and confident, Roger Stone.

I want to straight to CNN's senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez, who was inside the courtroom for the sentencing.

Evan, tell us how it went.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Dana, it was extraordinary because the prosecutors were talking about how much as asset Rick Gates was to their cases. He said he was an extraordinary cooperator. And they said that they recommended essentially that he serve only probation.

But the judge really took to heart the fact that she said this was a scheme that went over several years. She also said the seriousness of these crimes merited some time in jail, which is why she ended up at 45 days, which he can serve intermittently during the next three years of probation.


And she seemed to be speaking to people outside the courtroom as much as people inside.

She talked about how the facts in the Rick Gates case were fact, not alternative facts. And she talked about how this was a case investigated by this administration. She said that the information that Gates provided alone, she said, demanded, demanded, further investigation.

That seems to be at least a rejoinder to some of the words you hear from Attorney General Bill Barr, who is saying that essentially this investigation was about nothing. It had no merit. Certainly, it should not have gone on as long as it did.

Extraordinary words from this judge.

BASH: Sure sounds that way.

Evan, thank you so much for that reporting.

Meantime, the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani is making a brazen admission about his role in the removal of the former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.

Giuliani says he forced Yovanovitch out, at least he played a role in it, a big one, because she was getting in the way of what we wanted to do to investigate in Ukraine.

I spoke to Giuliani this morning and he declined to say if the president directed him to go on his most recent trip there. But he did tell me the president is, quote, "very supportive" of his continued efforts in Ukraine," and that they are both, quote, "on the same page."

Joining me to discuss is CNN reporter, Michael Warren, and Kelly Magsamen -- sorry about that -- who served on the National Security Council under President George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

So, Michael, we have a story on with both of our reporting on Giuliani.

What's your takeaway on the fact that he's just saying he and the president are completely on the same page on his continued efforts that he's doing in plain sight and crowing about in Ukraine?

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: You and I have spoken with Rudy Giuliani several times over the last several months. One thing he's been consistent on is that he is doing all of this work as the president's personal attorney. They are very close personally. Very close in age.

It's clear that, that relationship remains, according to Giuliani, remains the same.

It's also interesting that after all the president has been through, we're just a day before he's likely to be impeached by the House --


BASH: That's key.


BASH: On this kind of conduct. WARREN: Exactly. That -- things don't seem to have changed as far as

the president's expectation of what his personal attorney is doing, and what the personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, thinks his job is to go -- keep going as he did a couple weeks ago back to Ukraine, back to all the dirt digging.

BASH: Kelly, the other thing Giuliani talked to me -- by the way, he talked to other news outlets as well -- in a very detailed way about all of the reasons why Marie Yovanovitch was a terrible ambassador, from his point of view.

He said that he has gathered evidence about the fact that she was blocking him from doing investigations. And he didn't offer that evidence to me. He says he has it in a report in a safe.

But what does it say to you that -- the other thing he insists, he said, at some point, it will come out she perjured herself in front of Congress.

What does that say to you this is still a tree that he is barking up?

KELLY MAGSAMEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: For a national security person, it terrifies me that Rudy Giuliani and President Trump are still actively obsessed over this disinformation campaign as respects to Ukrainian involvement in our elections. So that really concerns me.

Also it's very clear that Ambassador Yovanovitch was going to have none of it. She was a point of friction for the president and for Rudy Giuliani. And essentially, they're like two mob bosses who decided to remove an uncooperative witness to a crime.

BASH: I was going to ask you --


BASH: Can I push back on saying what you said --


BASH: -- and on the notion that isn't he meeting with people in Ukraine who are, you know, backers of Russia and aren't you playing into Russia's hands. And he very aggressively pushed back on that and said that, no, that's just a media narrative and these are all people who don't like the Russians.

Meaning, that he's trying to paint Yovanovitch as somebody who, you know, was on the wrong side of this.

MAGSAMEN: I think Ambassador Yovanovitch was doing the absolutely right thing. And our own Intelligence Community has come out and said this is a massive Russian disinformation campaign. And Rudy Giuliani and President Trump continue to play into it.

BASH: The other thing just on the politics of this, unsolicited, the former New York mayor said to me, and if you're wondering whether or not we're on the defense or offense, we are on the offense here. That as he, know, was talking to several media outlets. What does that tell you?

WARREN: That something you definitely say when you feel very strong, like you're in a position of strength.

But, again, tomorrow's the day we all expect the House of Representatives to vote to impeach the president, impeach Rudy Giuliani's client.

It's clear that the former New York City mayor is really trying to re- emerge after sort of a period of quiet, after many of these hearings, to try to say, we're still fighting, we're still pushing, and we're still focused, frankly, on the 2020 election.


BASH: Michael Warren, Kelly Magsamen -- I got it right that time -- thank you so much to both of you. Appreciate it.

President Trump is expected to speak at any minute. His latest reaction to the ongoing House debate and tomorrow's full House impeachment vote, is next.

Stay with CNN.