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House Poised to Impeach Trump; Giuliani Needed Yovanovitch Out; Five Arguments about Impeachment; Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) is Interviewed on Impeachment. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired December 17, 2019 - 07:00   ET

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


[07:00:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Impeachment. There is no crime.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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: McConnell clearly wants to avoid this whole thing entirely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He hasn't heard all the evidence. He doesn't know all of the facts.

There's no doubt that this won't be a fair process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is entitled to due process. He has been denied that at every turn.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): There is no reason on God's green earth why they shouldn't be called to testify, unless you're afraid of what they might say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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.

So remember these names because history will. Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump. By tomorrow night, they will be the only presidents in U.S. history ever to be impeached.

This morning there will be some housekeeping to set the rules for that vote. Democrats clearly have the numbers, including a growing number of members from districts that the president won. More and more of them are coming forward overnight saying they will vote to impeach.

Americans, according to the polls, evenly split on the matter. This is the new CNN poll out overnight, 45 percent believe the president should be impeached and removed from office, 47 percent now say they do not. ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Also breaking overnight, Rudy Giuliani's

stunning new interviews. The president's personal lawyer confirming that he briefed President Trump, quote, a couple of times earlier this year about removing then Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Giuliani says she was impeding his ability to look into these things for President Trump.

In a separate interview, Giuliani said he needed to get Yovanovitch, quote, out of the way because she was going to make investigations into the president's political rivals, quote, difficult for everybody.

BERMAN: Can't have that.

CAMEROTA: I appreciate the candor.

Joining us now are David Chalian, CNN political director, Kirsten Powers, CNN political analyst and "USA Today" columnist, and Jeffrey Toobin, CNN chief legal analyst and staff writer for "The New Yorker."

OK, we'll put Giuliani on ice for a second.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: OK.

CAMEROTA: Let's move --

BERMAN: Can I tell you, the entire Republican membership of Congress would like to do the same, because he's making their lives more difficult.

CAMEROTA: I suppose so. I mean, except that he's doing it with complete impunity. He speaks.

BERMAN: Yes.

CAMEROTA: He gave all these interviews. There's nothing abashed. He's explaining exactly what he was doing trying to get Yovanovitch out of the way.

But I said I wasn't going to talk about that yet.

BERMAN: Let's put him on ice.

CAMEROTA: OK, that's on ice.

I want to get to that -- the jokes that we just said, Jeffrey, for a second. How is it that Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, can say that he's coordinating every step of the way with the president and the White House when he's a juror in this.

TOOBIN: Well, to offer a partial defense, I mean when the framers set up the jury, they didn't pick a jury like in a criminal trial with people who are not known to have previous opinions. They picked politicians. So they knew people would have pre-existing views.

What McConnell is doing is taking that to a kind of ludicrous extreme. The idea that every step will be planned with the White House is certainly not something that the framers contemplated, but it is also true that the framers did not -- you know, did not select, you know, people who were impartial jurors, right.

CAMEROTA: Impartial (INAUDIBLE). OK. Got it. Got it.

TOOBIN: Fair enough.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

BERMAN: So before we get to the Senate trial, and it's coming soon, we have to get through this impeachment vote tomorrow.

And, Kirsten, I have been struck by the last 24 hours when more and more of these Democrats in swing districts or districts that Trump won have come out and said they are going to vote to impeach. More than I thought would. And for more of them it seems like a more clear decision than I thought it would be.

Joe Cunningham from South Carolina, Ben McAdams of Utah, both who seemed likely maybe to vote against impeachment, now coming out for it.

David is going to tell us what the polls say in just a moment, but why are more and more of these Democrats voting with their feet right now?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they're voting their conscience, honestly. I'm actually not that surprised by it. And, remember this whole process basically started when moderate Democrats came out and said, this is a bridge too far. You know, they -- they -- they just felt it was such a cut and dry, clear violation, and it's something that if you don't -- you know, if we don't address this now, then in the future presidents can basically do whatever they want.

So I think that their -- you know, and I -- I think Elissa Slotkin said, like, if I lose my seat, I lose my seat. Sometimes people actually, believe it or not, in Washington do -- do things because they think it's the right thing, not just for political reasons, and, you know, it's not without risk.

That said, I think that we could also overstate how much impeachment's going to play a role in their races. I -- you know, it could be a couple points or something like that, but I don't think it's dispositive. I don't think because you voted for impeachment that necessarily means because you're in a swing district you're going to lose your district.

TOOBIN: I agree with all of that. I would just add a light -- a slightly more cynical point, which is that, if you are a Democrat and you need to fundraise, as all these people do, it's going to be very tough to fundraise if you vote against impeachment.

[07:05:09]

And Mike Bloomberg, in addition, has said he's going to spend $10 million independently to protect Democrats in swing districts who voted for the president -- who voted for impeachment.

CAMEROTA: OK. So, David, give us a read on where the polls are right now with impeachment because, you told us earlier, that the support has softened a little bit among Democrats.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. I mean John showed the numbers. This is a country divided on this, 45 percent support impeachment and removal, 47 percent are opposed. But if you do look at -- by party, Alisyn, you're right, you see a decline from our last poll from Democratic support from 90 percent down to 77 percent. You see independents holding roughly steady, they're in a slight decline among Republicans.

I would just note that that November poll was taken right on the heels of that House Intelligence Committee hearings, all the public evidence being put forth to the American people, and probably, because of how damning the evidence is, Democrats probably were at their most enthused, engaged and in supportive mode of impeachment.

In the weeks since then, it's been much more political warfare. But -- but let's be clear, overwhelmingly Democrats are supporting this. Overwhelmingly Republicans are opposed.

TOOBIN: Can I just say to my twin brother that I don't believe that poll for one second.

CAMEROTA: What part don't you believe?

TOOBIN: The 90 to 77 percent. I, you know, it's just I don't believe it. Like, it makes no sense that that number would change like that.

CAMEROTA: You don't believe that?

CHALIAN: Well, it's a subset -- it's a subset of the poll. The margin of error when you look at just Democrats is like 6.7 percent in here. It's not a wild swing, it's just where the movement is in the poll. I don't know what's not to believe. That's what, you know, you call people up on the telephone, you get their information, you pump out a survey. This is what those that we polled told us.

TOOBIN: I get it, but, I mean, you know, life mean -- life has shown us that polls are sometimes wrong. And, David, that poll is wrong. Just because I said so, OK?

CAMEROTA: Wow. Wow.

BERMAN: Look -- look it does -- we don't know why necessarily. It --

TOOBIN: Just -- I know, I'm just --

POWERS: Well, I mean I think --

BERMAN: It could be that some -- go ahead.

POWERS: Well, so I think one of the reasons that I had this -- a similar reaction in the sense that it doesn't -- if you dig down deeper, there really isn't an explanation. So -- because the initial thing, when you'd think, well, they -- maybe they've changed their mind because they think it's going to hurt Democrats during the election, but that's actually not true. Only 13 percent of them said that they thought that this would help Donald Trump.

So the question why would they suddenly have dropped? Now, it's true what David said, it's still a lot of Democrats supporting impeachment, but it's -- there is a question and the only answer I could think of is maybe they're fatigued, right? I mean I don't know. So I'm not going to go as far as Jeffrey as telling David that his poll is wrong.

TOOBIN: What -- what do I know, I thought Hillary Clinton was going to win in 2016. So, you know --

BERMAN: We're going to turn off Jeffrey's mic for a moment. Just -- I'm going to play some sound from Elissa Slotkin, who is a member from Michigan, one of these Trump districts. She came out in favor of impeachment. I want to play this sound because it's clearly a split. I mean her audience, when she tells them she's going to vote for impeachment, she gets cheers but she also gets jeers. So, listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): But 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)

BERMAN: So, David, you heard both sides there reacting. I want to put up one more number from this poll, which I believe, because I, frankly, believe polls which tell us when we ask voters what they think, they're telling us what they think. These are the 15 battleground states we polled, 47 percent -- 46 percent say yes they favor impeachment, 45 percent say no.

And the point I'm making, there's clearly a divide here. We went to listen to that town meeting with Elissa Slotkin. Now, if Susan Collins, Republican from Maine, who is up in a tough re-election battle for her Senate seat, if she held a town meeting in Portland, Maine, and we sent cameras there, I bet you we'd hear a similar reaction from her voters in this swing state.

There are people on both sides of this who feel passionately and, yes, it might be tough for some Democrats making the vote, but Republicans in the Senate are going to have a tough vote too soon.

CHALIAN: There's no doubt about that. Every -- all this attention you've seen on these moderate Democrats, these 31 Democrats in the Trump district on the House side, it immediately turns when the hot potato of impeachment is passed over to the Senate to exactly those vulnerable Republicans that you're describing, Collins in Maine, Cory Gardner in Colorado, Martha McSally in Arizona. Look on your screen there, you see a bunch of them there, as well as folks who have just been critics, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, the retiring Lamar Alexander. But -- but those Republican senators up for re-election next year,

John, in very tough states, they are going to feel some of that heat. And, yes, this is what a nation divided on this issue looks like. When you go to a competitive place, you're going to hear both sides of the argument from those constituents.

[07:10:04]

TOOBIN: Does that mean that maybe the impeachment vote doesn't matter that much for these politicians because there's such an even divide?

CAMEROTA: (INAUDIBLE).

CHALIAN: Yes, I think it's part of the calculation, Jeffrey, I really do.

TOOBIN: Maybe.

CHALIAN: I think -- I think there was -- as Kirsten was saying before, an overestimation perhaps early on of the political risk that might be involved here. But when everyone is so locked in, that political risk could be diminished.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about Rudy Giuliani. Rudy Giuliani is admitting in various interviews, John said, you know, sounded proudly or bragging, that he had to get -- he was working with these two disgraced, demonstrably corrupt former prosecutors in Ukraine, Shokin and Lutsenko, and they needed Marie Yovanovitch out of the way because they wanted to do what they wanted to do, and they didn't like that she was investigating them and they planted the seed that maybe, you know, wink, wink, she should be investigating Joe Biden. Rudy Giuliani liked that, I suppose, or liked that narrative, and he's saying that, yes, he had to get her out of the way.

I mean it couldn't be -- sometimes, Jeffrey, you want to slap your head when something is just so out there and so obvious.

TOOBIN: Well, you know, everyone should read my colleague, Adam Entous' piece in "The New Yorker," which is where Giuliani first made the -- made these statements. And this is what I think Democrats mean when they say the facts are undisputed in this case.

I mean Giuliani is admitting that he got the American ambassador to Ukraine fired. I mean that's what he was bragging about. And it's really undisputed. And why did he do that? Because he wanted to get dirt on Joe Biden to help the president. And the president yesterday had nothing but praise for Rudy Giuliani.

So this just shows that, you know, the Democrats narrative is just true about what happened here.

Now, we can decide whether it's impeachable or not. People can sort of have different views. But the facts are the facts.

BERMAN: And to your point, Kirsten, it might be that when the likes of Rudy Giuliani are out there confessing to something like this, that it makes the decision for a Democrat easier because you can think of the substance and why this matters to America here.

POWERS: Yes. I just think that the -- the -- that they've decided, the White House, Trump, Republicans, have decided to double down and basically say nothing -- he didn't do anything wrong. There's nothing wrong with this. And they're going to continue to do it. And I think that's why he's doing it so brazenly and out in the open is because that's their fundamental argument, which is that it's not impeachable because he didn't do anything wrong. The president's allowed to do this. If the president wants to investigate the Bidens, he can, you know, put pressure on a foreign government to investigate the Bidens. He can do that. That's, of course, not true. You know, that's not acceptable behavior. But I think that they're not -- there's just no other reason for Rudy to be so brazen and to go out.

And, of course, he's not freelancing, right? I mean he's talking to the president about this. This is -- you hear some Republicans throwing -- they've kind of stopped doing this, but saying, oh, they're going to throw Rudy under the bus. It's like, even if they threw Rudy under the bus, they can't because the president's with him every step of the way.

CAMEROTA: I mean of course there are laws against this, as you point out.

POWERS: Yes.

CAMEROTA: David, I mean, accepting help from a foreign government, encouraging foreign influence in our elections. Actually, there are laws about that.

CHALIAN: You're not allowed to do that. Yes, yes, you're not allowed to do that.

Listen, it comes down to something very simple. Just saying it out loud doesn't make it all of a sudden OK. I mean it just doesn't. And the president and his -- his attorney and his supporters seem to think, if you just say it out loud enough of what he was doing, it somehow makes it OK. It does not.

BERMAN: And let's remind people what he said he did out loud, which is pressure the leader of Ukraine to investigate a political rival. He told us he did it. We saw the transcript of the phone call, and then on October 3rd on the South Lawn he admitted to as much. That we can all agree to.

Jeffrey Toobin, Kirsten Powers, David Chalian, thank you.

CHALIAN: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: All right, you've heard the Republican defenses of the president, but how do they hold up under cross examination? We have a "Reality Check" for you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:18:51] BERMAN: Again, we are a day and a half by tomorrow night Donald J. Trump will become the third U.S. president ever impeached.

What about the arguments against it that we've been hearing from the president and his allies? How do they hold up?

John Avlon with a "Reality Check."

John.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Guys, you know, we live in an age of disinformation where arguments designed to distract and divide often regardless of facts. So with an historic House vote one day away, here are five arguments you might have heard about impeachment and why they don't hold water.

All right, number five, there's no crime.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVEN CHABOT (R-OH): This president isn't even accused of committing a crime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My standard for impeachment has always been a violation of the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: All right, a Senate impeachment trial is not a criminal proceeding. But don't take my word for it. How about this fresh faced South Carolina congressman back in 1999.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC) : You don't even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic. Impeachment is about cleansing the office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: That's right. And there's another reason this argument doesn't work. That's because the House Judiciary Committee just formally accused the president of criminal bribery and wire fraud in their official report.

All right, number four, what obstruction of Congress?

[07:20:02]

House Republicans have now tried to flip it around and are accusing congressional Democrats of obstructing Congress simply by exercising oversight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. GUY RESCHENTHALER (R-PA): Who is really obstructing Congress? The Democrats have no case when it comes to obstruction. This obstruction charge is completely baseless and bogus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: All right, these are nonsense words because President Trump told us he was embracing an obstruction strategy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we're fighting all the subpoenas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: And you could argue that the day Trump failed to answer those subpoenas was the day he was subject to impeachment, just like the fellow from South Carolina once said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC) (December 18, 1998): The day Richard Nixon failed to answer that subpoena is the day that he was subject to impeachment because he took the power from Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: All right, number three.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In modern history, we've never gone after impeaching a president in the first term.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: OK, there's no provision for protecting first term presidents. Our first impeachment occurred during Andrew Johnson's first term, for what's that worth. It's also closely related to the you're going to nullify the 2016 election argument, which doesn't make sense when you consider that Richard Nixon resigned rather than be impeached less than two years after he won a massive 49-state landslide.

All right, number two, Democrats have been trying to impeach Trump since day one, or maybe even before.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The impeachment is a hoax. It's a sham. It started a long time ago, probably before I came down the escalator with the future first lady.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: Before he came down the escalator.

But you know who definitely were talking about impeachment days before the election, several Republican congressmen gunning for Hillary Clinton according to "The Washington Post." And it's worth remembering that Speaker Pelosi and even Adam Schiff opposed impeachment after the Mueller report despite pressure from the left. It was the president's pattern of behavior with foreign election interference that ultimately changed their minds. And, finally, number one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): They have no facts. They're trying to just jam it through as best they can to convince the American people they actually have something.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: But we do know the facts after weeks of testimony despite the White House blocking key witnesses. The president asked a foreign power to dig up dirt on a domestic political rival full stop. Look, no one should be an impeachment enthusiast, but the facts aren't being disputed, they're being ignored because they're not helpful to the Republican argument. Facts exist. Facts matter. And simply saying the opposite doesn't make it so.

And that's your "Reality Check."

BERMAN: The president told us that he wanted Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. We read the transcript where the president asked Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. So we can all agree that happened.

AVLON: Right?

CAMEROTA: You'd think. But we really appreciate you always going in the time machine and reminding us of how different it's sounding --

AVLON: Just connecting the dots in case you feel a little crazy making.

CAMEROTA: Very helpful. Thank you very much, John.

As the House prepares to vote on impeachment, a freshman Democrat may abandon the party. Do his colleagues consider that a loss? A Democrat on Intel is here next

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:27:23]

CAMEROTA: Tomorrow, the full House of Representatives will vote on two articles of impeachment against President Trump. A new CNN poll shows support is nearly split on impeachment and removal of President Trump, 45 at the moment yes, 47 no. But it has fallen among Democrats. It was 90 percent in November. Now the poll suggests it is at 77 percent.

What's behind this? Well, joining us now is Democratic Congressman Denny Heck.

Good morning, Congressman.

REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA): Good morning, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Do you think that support is softening among Democrats as we see in that poll?

HECK: I think Americans are split right down the middle, and I think it is emblematic of the divisions within this country. I think the more interesting question, however, Alisyn, isn't how the vote's going to come out and what it means, it's, how are we going to get past it after we are past it? How are we going to bring ourselves together? How are we going to heal? How are we ever going to find common purpose again as a country?

CAMEROTA: What's the answer?

HECK: I don't have it. If I were, I probably would be running for president. But I don't have the answer to that, Alisyn.

I do think, however, that we need to have somebody in the White House who strikes a tone, frankly, of a bit more decency and a bit more of a commitment to telling the truth, somebody who will stand down from an unrelenting attack on a free press and doesn't feel obligated to viciously attack anybody who would dare to disagree with him on any given point on any given day.

CAMEROTA: Those things don't seem as important to your Republican colleagues. And the reason that I say that is because they talk a lot about the stock market, and they talk a lot about the economy, and it sounds like they believe only President Trump is equipped to deal with both those things, which they like. They think that those things are going gang busters.

And so, you know, what you talk about wanting in a president doesn't sound like where the president's supporters are right now.

HECK: Well, I definitely believe that we need somebody in the White House who understands how the economy works and who is looking after it.

I would disagree, however, with anybody who asserts that the rise in Wall Street is the only valid measure of a healthy economy. I celebrate the fact that the unemployment rate is down to 3.6 or 3.7 percent. But, frankly, Alisyn, when you add 266,000 jobs in a single month, like we did last month, clearly we're not at full employment. And, clearly, after 30 years of basically frozen or paralyzed wage growth, it's time that we look at economic strategies that will enable more broadly shared participation and the prosperity that this nation has enjoyed.

[07:30:00]

CAMEROTA: You've been candid about why you're getting out of Congress. Basically you've said that your soul has gotten weary.

END