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Dems in Districts Won by Trump Supporting Impeachment; CNN Poll: Nation Split on Impeachment as House Vote Nears; NYT: Giuliani Details What Trump Knew About Ambassador's Removal. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired December 17, 2019 - 06:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the official start to what you're going to see on the House floor for those final votes on the two articles of impeachment.

[05:59:25]

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The White House and President Trump's top allies are concerned about a handful of Republican senators whose views on impeachment remain unclear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sometimes you look to the moderates and think that they're going to behave differently, but in the end, they usually end up going with the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the president's got a defense, this would be the moment for him to present it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All these hearings down in the basement, they haven't presented any direct evidence to show that the president was involved in any crime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Calling witnesses, for the Republicans, is simply opening up a Pandora's box.

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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, December 17, 6 a.m. here in New York.

And tomorrow, President Trump will likely become the third U.S. president ever to be impeached. In just a few hours, the House Rules Committee will provide the final groundwork for this historic event, setting guidelines before the full House votes.

Democrats are signaling that they have the numbers, including votes from several members whose districts supported President Trump. Now this comes as a brand-new CNN poll finds that Americans are split on impeachment, but support for it has dropped. It is at 45 percent. That's how many believe that President Trump should be impeached and removed from office. Forty-seven percent do not.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, admitting to some of the very actions that helped lead to impeachment, or you might call it confessing, maybe even bragging.

In one interview, Giuliani said he needed to get the former ambassador to Ukraine out of the way, because she was going to make investigations into the president's rivals "difficult for everybody." That's a quote.

And then in a new interview overnight, Giuliani sort of implicated his boss. He said he briefed President Trump a couple of times earlier this year about removing Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and the president said, basically, turn it over to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Again, all this is coming out a day before the president is almost definitely going to be impeached. Giuliani is basically running around saying, Yes, I did it.

A lot to get to this morning, beginning with what we will see today on Capitol Hill. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is there -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.

Well, the impeachment process is moving at a rapid pace now. The scale and the scope of the full House vote, that is going to be determined today in the Rules Committee, as House lawmakers are now preparing for this very historic occasion.

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MALVEAUX (voice-over): The House on the brink of a historic vote tomorrow to impeach President Trump. In just hours, the House Rules Committee will hold what is likely to be a contentious hearing to mark up the two articles of impeachment, charging the president with abusing his power and obstructing Congress. Democrats signaling they have the votes, after several Democrats in districts President Trump won in 2016 announcing they support impeachment.

REP. CHRISSY HOULAHAN (D-PA): It took me quite some time to kind of get through all of the data, all of the testimony, and make a good choice. The evidence is overwhelming, and it is my constitutional responsibility to make that difficult vote.

MALVEAUX: Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin holding a town hall in Michigan Monday, causing mixed reactions from her constituents.

REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): I made this decision out of principle and out of a duty to protect and defend the Constitution. I feel that in my bones, and I will stick to that, regardless of what it does to me politically, because this is bigger than politics.

MALVEAUX: Across Capitol Hill, the Senate prepares for its impending trial. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer calling for four crucial witnesses, including acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Trials have witnesses. That's what trials are all about.

These people know better than anybody else the facts. There is no reason on God's green earth why they shouldn't be called and testify, unless you're afraid of what they might say.

MALVEAUX: The White House responding, saying, "Senator Schumer's letter is just more proof that the only evidence the House produced actually proves President Trump did nothing wrong."

The Senate needs a 51-vote majority to pass key measures regarding the trial, so Democrats only need four Republicans to join them to compel witnesses to testify, or other procedural motions.

The debate putting a handful of vulnerable Senate Republicans in the spotlight. Sources tell CNN the White House and GOP leaders are worried about the uncertainty of how those senators would vote on trial-related issues.

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): I think that for all senators and, certainly, Senate Republicans, they have to make sure that this process doesn't seem like a sham, like it's a slam dunk as Senator McConnell has said.

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MALVEAUX: House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, who would normally attend the Rules Committee markup today, as well as introduce the impeachment resolution, has a family emergency. He's not going to be doing that. Instead Congressman Jamie Raskin will be filling in for him today, John.

BERMAN: We do understand Chairman Nadler expects to be back for the full vote. Our thoughts are with his family.

Suzanne Malveaux live on Capitol Hill, keeping us posted there.

We have a brand-new CNN poll with revealing numbers on impeachment, including where do voters stand in the key battleground states? Maybe not exactly where you think. That's next.

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[06:09:36]

BERMAN: We have a brand-new CNN poll showing where the nation stands on the idea of impeaching and removing the president from office. Here's a tease, pretty split.

CNN's political director David Chalian here with these brand-new numbers -- sir. DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: You're absolutely right, John.

This is a country divided when it comes to this issue of impeachment. Look at these brand-new numbers. Forty-five percent say, yes, the president should be impeached and removed from office. Forty-seven percent say no.

Take a look at this "yes" number over time. I want to show you that, once the Ukraine scandal became public in September, support for impeachment has hovered between 45 and 50 percent. That's nearly half the country saying the president should be impeached and removed from office.

Take a look at our poll by party, and I think it's really instructive. The little bit of decline that we see in support for impeachment mostly driven by Democrats. It was at 90 percent support in November, now down to 77. Independents hold steady. A little decline among Republicans, as well.

How about the next step? Is the Senate trial going to change your mind? Is that likely or not? Look at this number: 50 percent in this poll say not likely at all to change their mind in a Senate trial.

And will this help or hurt the president's re-election chances, we asked? The plurality, 37 percent, say no difference, but look among those that say it is going to make a difference. Thirty-two percent say it's going to help the president. Twenty-five percent say it's going to hurt.

And look at this by party, John. I think this is fascinating. Forty percent of Democrats say it's going to hurt the president, but 54 percent of Republicans, a majority of Republicans, think this impeachment matter is going to help the president get reelected.

And of course, his overall approval rating still rock steady. Forty- three percent approve of his job in this poll; 53 percent disapprove. When you look at that number over time, his approval rating just this year in 2019, John, look at this. He operates in such a narrow band, whether it's months before impeachment was on the radar or now on the cusp of being impeached by the House of Representatives. This president's approval rating remains very steady, John.

CAMEROTA: Really interesting. Thank you very much. Stay with us if you would. We have more questions for you.

Also joining us now Rachael Bade, CNN political analyst and congressional reporter for "The Washington Post."

Rachael, those are really interesting numbers. I'm interested in the Democratic support that's gone from 90 percent down to 77 percent, which I think is notable, and I think that you have heard Democrats behind the scenes. I think you have, at least expressing some cold feet about some of this.

And so it's just interesting as the elected officials have to make a decision tomorrow and particularly the moderates. And you're seeing that public support, even among their party drop. RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, it's really

interesting. Clearly, you're seeing Democrats, at least some of them, come around to Nancy Pelosi's thinking. I mean, the speaker has always said that impeachment is a political loser.

I mean, she didn't think this was something that would hold, that would sort of rise to 60 percent or higher in terms of support for impeaching and removing the president, and I think that that is what you're starting to see because, you know, the public, they've sort of been watching this for a while. Perhaps people are becoming numb. And those numbers that were at the 50 percent mark are starting to come down.

And I think that a lot of moderate Democrats who are in these battleground districts have been predicting this and worrying about this, and now they're starting to see it. So they're really, you know, taking a second look. Should they vote for this or not?

I will say, you know, there was a big day for Democrats yesterday in terms of getting a bunch of moderate lawmakers that they thought might vote no actually coming out on the record and saying that they will vote yes. And a part of that calculus is to sort of realize that these moderates are in a bad way -- they're in a bad place either way they go. Either they're going to upset Republicans in their districts or they're going to alienate their base.

And so what I've been hearing from a lot of them is they might as well vote their conscience, because they're going to get hit either way from either side. So they're going to do what they think is best. And a lot of them think that Trump deserves to be impeached, even if they're worried about the politics.

BERMAN: See, I -- I think that's the biggest story from overnight, is that a number of these more moderate Democrats in Trump districts have come out in favor of impeachment early, in fact, indicating to me that maybe it wasn't as hard of a decision for them as we might have thought.

If you had asked me two of the top five Democrats who would vote against it, I would have said McAdams from Utah and Joe Cunningham from South Carolina, and both of them came out in support of it last night, David. I wonder why you think that might be.

And I just want to point to one other number here that's in our poll, which is that you broke down the numbers by battleground states, the 15 battleground states in the country, and it's pretty much dead even.

CHALIAN: Which surprised me, John, I've got to say. I was expecting to see a difference between those 15 most competitive states in the country versus the overall national picture.

But you're right: it is a still split country when you look at those battleground states. And I think that explains why those moderate Democrats. I think this -- everybody in their camp on this showed a lot of those moderate Democrats that there wasn't huge political danger in voting against the president here and voting for his impeachment and removal from office.

And I'll also just offer one other thought about the decline, and I don't want to overdo the decline among Democrats, because when you're looking at that subset, that 13-point decline is not necessarily earth-shattering. It's just where the movement is in the poll.

[06:15:14]

But the last poll, when it was at 90 percent, was taken right on the heels of the House Intelligence Committee hearings, when all the evidence was being put forth publicly. Since then, it's really been much more about the politics of this.

But that's when you might imagine the Democrats were most engaged and enthused about this prospect, because all the evidence had just been laid out in those public hearings.

CAMEROTA: And I think we have a good example, though, of what moderate Democrats have to face at some of their town halls and just the -- the split reaction that they're getting even from their own constituents.

So Elissa Slotkin of Michigan was trying to state her case to her constituents, and she got, I would say, the gamut of responses in this town hall. So watch this moment of jitters.

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SLOTKIN: What was fundamentally different for me is that the president decided to do this for his own political gain and not for the national security interests of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: There's just a lot percolating there, Rachael, of people, some people were calling out, really objecting to what she said, and then when she said, And I've decided to do it, some people stood up and gave her a standing ovation.

BADE: Yes. I mean, I talked to Slotkin a little bit about this last week before she made this decision, and her sort of response was, you know, I'm hearing from a ton of people in my district. The phones are ringing off the hooks. We can't even -- my staff can't even hold the phone down for a minute. People just keep calling.

And she said most of the calls she was getting were actually telling her to vote against impeachment. But she said there are some decisions that leaders make, and she was elected by the people of her district to make these tough choices, where she's got to think about what she thinks is right.

And it was pretty clear at that moment, that even though she didn't say she was going to vote for impeachment, I could sense something was sort of weighing on her conscience in terms of, you know, the voters not wanting her to back it in her district, but feeling like she had an obligation to do so, and she thought that that was the right choice.

I will also say that one other thing that's getting moderates through is this sort of sense that they're ripping the Band-Aid off, as I heard from one moderate Democrats, getting this over before the holiday season, and are able to turn back to legislating in the beginning of 2020 to give them, you know, more than three quarters of a year to campaign on legislative issues that they hope will get them reelected.

BERMAN: Not even turning back in the new year. They're turning back Thursday --

BADE: Right.

BERMAN: -- when they get to vote on trade issues and today when they get to vote on the budget. Nancy Pelosi made sure of that for these members.

Friends, stand by, because we have this question. What's Rudy Giuliani doing? Seriously. Like, what is he doing? More or less admitting or confessing to some of the conduct that has led to the impeachment of his client, the president of the United States. His astounding new comments overnight. That's next.

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[06:22:23]

BERMAN: So we are on the eve, well, the morning of the eve of Donald Trump becoming --

CAMEROTA: Really getting ready.

BERMAN: Donald Trump's about to become the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.

CAMEROTA: It looks that way.

BERMAN: It's the third time it has happened ever. And what is his personal attorney doing overnight? Basically confessing to some of the conduct that has led to this impeachment.

This is what he told "The New York Times" overnight. "Giuliani said on Monday that he provided President Trump with detailed information this year about how the United States ambassador to Ukraine was, in Mr. Giuliani's view, impeding investigations that could benefit Mr. Trump, setting in motion the ambassador's recall from her post."

I want to bring back David Chalian and Rachael Bade.

There was also this quote from "The New Yorker." They did a piece on this, too, where Giuliani said, "I believed that I needed Yovanovitch out of the way. She was going to make the investigations difficult for everybody."

CAMEROTA: Thank you for clarifying, Mayor. We really appreciate you putting a finer point on it, which everybody's been talking about.

BERMAN: And Rachael, I'll just say this again, this is what makes Republicans nervous. It's what makes Mitch McConnell nervous, as this is all moving to the Senate for a trial.

When Rudy Giuliani goes out there and says words out loud, it's a problem for Republicans defending the president.

BADE: Yes, I know. Before the break, you had the question what is Rudy doing? I mean, I hear that all the time on Capitol Hill from Republicans.

But it's sort of funny, because they try to silo him, even though he's causing problems for Trump by bringing all this back up and even admitting something which we already knew beforehand. But you know, showing no remorse about it. They try to, like, silo him and say, Oh, it's just Rudy being Rudy. Rudy being crazy Rudy.

But this is the president's attorney. I mean, he is acting on behalf of the president when he goes to Ukraine in the middle of an impeachment investigation and tries to do exactly what he was doing before, which is get these investigations on Trump's political rivals.

I think the striking thing about these stories is the lack of remorse he has shown for what happened to Yovanovitch, who had this amazing career, and she's still at the State Department. Now, she's on leave right now, but she still considered an active State Department employee.

And here he is, you know, bringing this back up. You would think he would want to sort of stay away from the limelight and keep this under the radar, fly as much under the radar if he can. But no, he does two blockbuster interviews on this and totally admits with no remorse.

CAMEROTA: David, as -- as FBI Director Chris Wray warned everyone last week, consider the source. When you hear right-wing talking points, he said you must consider the source.

You know what the source is for Rudy Giuliani's theories and everything that he has been working on for the past year? These two demonstrably corrupt, disgraced prosecutors, who internationally were known as the diamond prosecutors, because when police raided their team's offices and homes, they found bags of diamonds, which I don't think was part of payroll. And police put two and two together and felt that everybody was on the take and accepting bribes.

[06:25:31]

That's -- Oh, by the way, those two, you know, we're talking about Lutsenko and Shokin, who wanted Marie Yovanovitch out, because she was a corruption buster. They wanted her out.

And they have also admitted to fabricating information that they gave Giuliani about her. These are the sources that Giuliani is still, I guess, believing and that President Trump has come to believe.

CHALIAN: Apparently, team Trump is only looking to root out certain kinds of corruption, not necessarily all -- all kinds of corruption.

But, guys, like lawyer like client here, right? I mean, what Rudy Giuliani is saying out loud, President Trump has said out loud. He said it out loud to Zelensky when he talked about Yovanovitch on the phone call on July 25 and that she was a bad person and he -- on the South Lawn also said out loud about wanting Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. They should absolutely do that. I think he said that right before he invited China to do the same.

So this is not just Rudy Giuliani on a one-off. This is a pattern of behavior from the president himself.

BERMAN: Yes, and again, I think you both make the key point here, which is this isn't just an issue of Giuliani. It's an issue of the president of the United States.

And the president has admitted to or confessed to much of the conduct for which he will be impeached tomorrow. And the question, ultimately, is do Republicans want to give him a pass on that or do they feel in the Senate that it's not worth the removal, Rachael?

But all I'm saying is that it just presents an appearance problem for the president, the more Rudy -- What possibly does he have to gain by Giuliani talking today, tomorrow on the eve of the impeachment vote?

BADE: Yes. Nothing. I mean, bad headlines.

Again, this Yovanovitch was somebody who had a stellar career, rooted out corruption in the places that she worked. And here he is openly admitting that he tried to oust her for reasons that, I mean, clearly siding with corrupt former Ukrainian prosecutors who -- their legitimacy was very much in question. I don't see what he has to gain on this. I don't think any Republicans on the Hill would either.

CAMEROTA: All right. Rachael, David, thank you both very much.

All right. So meanwhile, tornados are carving a deadly path of destruction through the south U.S. We are live on the ground in the storm zone for you, next.

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