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Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA 10th District) Discusses The Nation's Split On Impeachment; Committee Sets Rules Today For Impeachment Debate; Trump's Signature Trade Deal Hangs In The Balance. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired December 17, 2019 - 07:30   ET

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


[07:30:00]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: You've been candid about why you're getting out of Congress. Basically, you've said that your soul has gotten weary. I think your quote was "The countless hours I've spent in the investigation of Russian election interference and the impeachment inquiry have rendered my soul weary."

Do you think that's happening to other Democrats and some of your colleagues and that that's part of what we're seeing in these polls?

REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA 10TH DISTRICT): I think it's happening to Americans, as a matter of fact.

Look, this is not, as has been suggested, some kind of a form of spectator sport or entertainment. This is a fundamentally important debate about the future of our republic and what is necessary in order for us to uphold constitutional principles.

So I don't -- I don't think it's something that we should, quote, "tire of" but I do understand the phenomenon because I admitted to experiencing it myself with growing weary of this debate.

But to be clear Alisyn, I'm especially weary of those who refuse to accept basic facts. I'm of -- I'm of the point of view that everybody is entitled to their opinion and, in fact, there is -- there is great benefit to be had in diversity of opinion, but not everybody is entitled to their facts. I would like to see us get back to the point where we can all be on the same page of the facts and then we can have a healthy disagreement about what to do with the facts.

CAMEROTA: Another poll suggests that the vast majority of Americans do believe that President Trump's aides should be called in this trial. Seventy-one percent of Americans, OK? This is Democrats, and Republicans, and Independents believe that President Trump should allow his aides to testify in the Senate trial.

And so is there some sense that Democrats are rushing this? You know, as I understand it, for instance, on January third there is a court case deciding whether House Democrats will be able to get their hands on access to grand jury material from the Mueller investigation. That's not that far away. I mean, that's three weeks away. Is there a way to see this play out a little bit more in the courts and see if the courts can compel Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton, et cetera to testify?

HECK: Well, Alisyn, there's a court case scheduled on one of the elements of this on January third which, in and of itself, will be appealed. Obviously, the president has made it very clear that he doesn't intend in any way, shape or form to allow any of those people to testify. And he will order them, as he already has, to stand down and appeal, and that will go on and on and on.

Alisyn, let us remember what is the essence of this. The president's trying to cheat in the 2020 election. So for us to basically allow him to stall out the rest of the game, play slowdown offense until the clock runs out, of course, would enable him to successfully cheat on the election in 2020 and that's what we're trying to avoid.

CAMEROTA: There are some Republican senators who have not been in lockstep with the president. I think we have a graphic of some people who have spoken out at different times about the president.

Do you predict that any Republican in the Senate will not vote to convict?

HECK: No, I'm not in the prediction game in that specific of a regard, Alisyn.

Here's -- I'll tell you what I would hope for, which is that at least enough Republican senators would vote for the rules and the approach that they're going to take in the Senate -- the process itself -- that would enable a subpoena to be successfully executed on some of the four people that you eluded to earlier.

Whether or not they would vote to impeach at this point, I think is wishful thinking. But they might be willing to set fair ground rules that will enable some of the rest of Senate Republicans to see what it is that I think is abundantly clear in all of the evidence that has been brought forth to date, namely that there is overwhelming evidence that he did this and it is an impeachable offense.

CAMEROTA: Last, New Jersey Democrat Jeff Van Drew signaled that he may leave the party after the vote. Is that a loss for Democrats?

HECK: Well, addition is always better than subtraction, Alisyn, as a matter of fact. But look, I think there is not a lot of doubt that one of the reasons that Jeff reached his decision was that there was a recent poll in his district which showed that if he opposed impeachment he couldn't be renominated in the Democratic primary.

Now, I prefer to add rather than to subtract. I have -- I have always given to my colleagues the benefit of the doubt of reaching their conclusion to best represent the interests of their district and their own conscience, as a matter of fact.

I think there's an awful lot of soulful self-introspection going on over the last week and it is revealed by the number of announcements that were made. And frankly, I trust that that will serve them in good stead over the long term.

I think we don't give voters enough credit that if somebody comes to a conclusion as a matter of conscience and they -- and they face the music, they stand before them, they look them in the eye and they say here is why I decided what I did, then they're going to be given quite a bit of latitude on the part of the voters.

But will some vote -- will some members of Congress potentially suffer the ultimate political price for voting either for or against impeachment by losing their jobs, yes. But you know what, Alisyn? Some votes are worth losing your job over.

[07:35:15]

CAMEROTA: Congressman Denny Heck, thank you very much for being on NEW DAY. Great to get your perspective.

HECK: Thank you, Alisyn.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: There is no question the next 24 hours or so will be historic, but how does this impeachment moment differ from those in the nation's past? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: We are in the middle of a very historic week. In just a few hours, the House Rules Committee will set the guidelines for debate on the articles of impeachment. And tomorrow, the House will vote, it appears, to impeach President Trump.

[07:40:00]

Here to help us understand this moment in time and history, CNN presidential historian Tim Naftali. Tim, great to have you here.

So, what are your high-level thoughts at this moment of this important day?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN, CLINICAL ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC SERVICE, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, AUTHOR, "IMPEACHMENT: AN AMERICAN HISTORY", FORMER DIRECTOR, NIXON PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY: Well, what I'm hoping tomorrow is that we hear a debate from both sides about the nature of impeachment and what one expects from a president who is faithfully defending our Constitution.

We didn't see that in the House Judiciary Committee. The Democrats were making first principle arguments but the Republicans were making this out to be the Democrats versus 63 million people. They were -- they were making cultural arguments. They weren't getting at the heart of the issue, which is --

CAMEROTA: Don't you think we're going to see that again tomorrow?

NAFTALI: I fear we will but I'm starting with the hope because after all, these impeachment debates don't happen very often, thankfully, in our country. And I hope this, by the way, won't become the new normal.

What you really expect at this point and I am sure what the founders expected was that it be a serious discussion of whether the conduct of the president is threatening our constitutional order. That's what the -- that's what the threshold is.

BERMAN: Let's put up on the screen the faces that President Trump will join as of tomorrow night. And this one includes Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and now, Donald Trump. I can do sock puppets if we don't have the faces here.

CAMEROTA: Can you?

BERMAN: Yes. He will be --

CAMEROTA: There they are.

BERMAN: -- one of three presidents ever impeached. There will be four who have faced approved articles of impeachment.

NAFTALI: Yes.

BERMAN: Richard Nixon, of course. And, you know, Donald Trump beat Richard Nixon on one thing -- Donald Trump will be impeached.

NAFTALI: Yes.

BERMAN: Richard Nixon never even made it that far.

NAFTALI: He never made it that far.

BERMAN: Tim, you've studied this so closely. What have past presidents -- how have they felt after the fact -- after these moments where they are condemned by Congress like this?

NAFTALI: Oh, it's terrible because this is a -- this is a stain forever.

Richard Nixon nearly died. I mean, he was very -- he was physically and mentally -- physically ill and emotionally exhausted when he left the office of the President of the United States in 1974 and nearly died that fall.

Every president who has been impeached feels he's with -- in a struggle with history. For the rest of time they are going to be struggling -- actually fighting this over and over again to prove to the public and to history, whatever -- whoever history is that they were wrongfully accused. So this is the beginning of a struggle.

Trump -- President Trump has had this struggle before because he changes norms. So he's actually been fighting with history from the start, to the extent that he cares about it. This will be a battle forever that he is about to wage.

BERMAN: Yes, I'm sure with Bill Clinton, beating impeachment is worse than being convicted and thrown out of office. Yet, it sticks with you is what you're saying.

NAFTALI: Oh, it -- he will be in that select not -- there's a president's club and that's a great club to be part of. This impeachment club is not a great club to be part of. It's not a club you want to join and it's a club you can never leave.

CAMEROTA: But can't we assume that the Clinton lens or the Nixon lens just doesn't apply here? And the reason that I say that is because President Trump has such support, still, among the Republican senators who have surrounded him that will this be as ignominious an experience?

NAFTALI: Well, that's the thing. That's what makes -- and by the way, that's what makes history so much fun to do and so important. It evolves.

I can't tell you right now what the legacy will be of Donald Trump. We don't know yet. There are a lot of things to look for.

Number one, 2020. How do the American people react?

Number two, will we hear more -- will we get more evidence? Probably not at the trial but maybe afterwards.

Nixon's impeachment -- the understanding -- the reason for it has grown deeper and deeper with time as we've gotten more evidence. Bill Clinton's impeachment has become less and less significant, although in the MeToo movement and moment right now we begin to ask maybe he should have resigned for other reasons. And so with time, impeachment and its legacy shifts.

It's too early to tell but I'm telling you right now this is a struggle that Donald Trump will have for the rest of his life.

BERMAN: I will tell you Bill Clinton's approval rating was in the 60s when he was impeached. Donald Trump is 10 miles from the 60s in his approval rating. There's a big difference there.

CAMEROTA: I mean, most of the people who are -- who are surrounding the wagons -- is that the word I'm looking for?

BERMAN: Circling the wagons. Yes, look --

CAMEROTA: Circling the wagons.

BERMAN: -- he has -- he has Republican support but overall, the public looked much more favorably on Bill Clinton than they ever did on Donald Trump.

Tim, Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader who is going to have a big say on how this trial is run -- he's been studying. And what has he been studying? Your book.

CAMEROTA: Congratulations.

NAFTALI: Thank you. BERMAN: What has he learned from reading your book on impeachment there?

NAFTALI: Well, you know, I teach at NYU and this is exam season. And one of the challenges in exam season is the hope that people will read the assigned readings and maybe glean from them what you were hoping they'd learn.

Peter Baker has a magnificent chapter in our book. I wrote the chapter on Nixon. He has a great chapter about the Clinton impeachment.

[07:45:00]

If Mitch McConnell read it carefully he would see that what our country needs at a divisive time -- because look, 1998-1999, a very partisan time, too. What we need are Senate rules for the trial that all senators feel comfortable with and the American people understand it's a fair trial.

The vote was 100 to zero for the rules that majority leader Trent Lott and Tom Daschle put together in 1999.

Mitch McConnell has already told us that he's coordinating his activities with the White House. Clearly, he didn't read the book in that regard. What he should be doing is working with Sen. Schumer to come up with rules that both sides can find acceptable.

CAMEROTA: And just out of curiosity, would those rules include live witnesses?

NAFTALI: Well, actually, in 1999, there was a debate and what they decided was they would have two votes. One vote at the beginning which would say we will -- we will see if we need witnesses later. Then they had a second discussion and they decided not to have live witnesses but four witnesses on videotape.

At the very least, they should have witnesses and I hope that it will come to that understanding this time. But right now, with the majority leader saying he's tying to the White House, I don't know if we're going to get that nonpartisan understanding that we need as Americans.

CAMEROTA: Tim Naftali, great to get the historical perspective from you. Thank you very much for all of our expertise.

NAFTALI: My pleasure. My pleasure.

CAMEROTA: All right, now to this news.

A deadly outbreak of tornadoes slamming the southern U.S. The new images overnight from the hardest-hit areas.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:51:01] BERMAN: All right. We have -- we have the remainder, by the way, of holiday cookies.

CAMEROTA: This used to be full but somehow the camera crew got ahold of it.

BERMAN: And with apologies to one of our morning show rivals, we are calling them holiday cookies because why not? Any holiday you want, these cookies are for.

Markets in Asia moving higher this morning as the U.S. and China appear close to agreeing on a phase one trade deal. Meanwhile, the president's signature pact with Mexico and Canada will head to a vote in Congress this week despite a little bit of a rocky road with Mexico.

Joining us now, Christine Romans, CNN chief business correspondent who took the naked gingerbread man.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR, "EARLY START": I took two. I have the naked gingerbread man and this looks like a Target bullseye.

CAMEROTA: And I hear it's delicious.

ROMANS: Thank you to the Berman household for these.

BERMAN: And, John Avlon, CNN senior political analyst.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and this has kind of a peppermint kiss --

CAMEROTA: That will ruin your suit in a heartbeat but it will be delicious.

BERMAN: Fantastic.

AVLON: Yes, it's all worth it.

BERMAN: So --

AVLON: All right.

BERMAN: -- Romans, these two trade deals --

ROMANS: Yes.

BERMAN: -- basically closed at the end of this calendar --

ROMANS: Yes.

BERMAN: -- year or so we thought. Give us a status report on both.

ROMANS: Nothing was easy about any of this.

OK, so first, the USMCA -- the old NAFTA -- it looks like that's going to head to a vote in the House this week.

And there were some last-minute worries from the Mexican government about wait, what's this enforcement that the Americans want to do? They want to send five Americans to audit our factories in Mexico to make sure that we're living up to our end of the agreement? They did not like that. So the U.S. managed to smooth over those feathers over the last day or two.

And remember, the big complaint about these big trade deals over the years has been that we never enforce them. People make promises about not -- you know, not just having terrible human rights records and terrible environmental records and terrible labor standards and we're like OK, just outsource your factories -- so enforcement is really important here.

On the China deal, I will say this. It is an important symbolic win for this White House. They want to go into the election with these two wins under their belt and to convince the American people it's the economy, stupid. You're better off today -- you feel good.

But there are a lot of -- this was low-hanging fruit. A lot of economists will agree this was -- it took them a year and a half to do the easy part and there's a lot of hard stuff for next year and still, uncertainty for American businesses.

So I would call this a symbolic victory.

CAMEROTA: But I'm also just reminded John of when trade rep Peter Navarro -- or adviser -- came on our show and talked about this whole laundry list he had of the things that China was going to have to do, and did they get them?

AVLON: No. This is not the grand bargain that the China hawks hoped for at all. This is essentially sort of a retreat and declare victory. They avoid raising tariffs in the Christmas season.

ROMANS: Yes.

AVLON: They smoothed things over for markets by saying there's a first phase deal heading into the next election but it doesn't deal with any of the fundamentals. And that's after we already spent twice as much on the auto bailout as we did for farmers to smooth the effects of this trade war. The trade war is not over, folks.

ROMANS: Twice as much on farmers as we did on the auto bailout.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: Right, right. Twice as much on a self-inflicted farm crisis than we did on the auto industry.

CAMEROTA: I mean, I just happen to remember when Republicans didn't like the auto bailout --

AVLON: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- and there was so much hue and cry. And you're saying twice as much --

AVLON: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- to make this farm thing.

ROMANS: And you could make the argument that it's redistribution of wealth, right, from consumers --

CAMEROTA: It is a redistribution of wealth.

ROMANS: -- and importing companies to farmers, orchestrated by a Republican administration.

AVLON: But wouldn't that be socialism?

BERMAN: But you could make the case --

AVLON: I was told there'd be no socialism.

BERMAN: China agreed to $50 billion of farm purchases. How much did it cost U.S. taxpayers and consumers in tariffs over the last year?

ROMANS: Well, $28 billion for the -- for the farm bailout and then I think it was something like $5 billion a month, I want to say, for American companies that had to pay for the tariffs. And look, there are still tariffs that are on --

AVLON: Yes.

ROMANS: -- and there are some strategic tariffs on.

You know, China has this China 2025 Made in China strategy to try to dominate all high tech. The United States still has tariffs on those things to try to protect American companies in that area.

AVLON: And look, the national security struggles with China are still not over. There is --

ROMANS: And they're real.

AVLON: proof -- and they're very real and there's increasing bipartisan consensus on that.

The administration deserves credit for getting tougher on China but this is a backtrack for political purposes just because -- and because they don't want the economy to have that drag heading into the next thing.

[07:55:04]

The USMCA, by the way, is a win for the Trump administration. Democrats are happy about it.

ROMANS: Yes.

AVLON: It's essentially just a reforming of NAFTA but the president can check that -- check that one off the box.

CAMEROTA: OK. And so, Peter Navarro did not get what he wanted.

(CROSSTALK)

AVLON: That's right, to return to your main point -- yes.

ROMANS: But the stock market is here at record highs again yesterday. The president tweeting I never get tired of pointing out stock market records highs, except when the stock markets going down and he says I don't --

CAMEROTA: Except the days that it goes down.

ROMANS: -- watch the stock market. But that is this president and they will try to spin or highlight what is -- it is -- the stock market is at record highs. That is the truth. Does that carry all voters, though, into the election and that's what I'm going to be interested to see.

AVLON: Wall Street versus Main Street. That division is basic, folks. And we also learned something very much important about what's under (INAUDIBLE) a lot of this growth in the stock market.

We found in 2018, 91 companies didn't -- paid zero in corporate taxes.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

AVLON: And the effective rate is 11 percent versus the 21 percent they negotiated.

CAMEROTA: That is remarkable. I'm so glad you brought that up because that just is from, as you said, yesterday -- the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. "Companies overall paying a collective effective tax rate of 11 percent, which is barely more than half the 21 percent rate established by the tax law."

ROMANS: It's interesting that 21 percent tax rate -- you know, for years, I've heard companies say we really need a fair corporate tax rate -- more like 25 percent. They got a tax rate that was lower than they even asked for. And they used that extra money to buy back shares, which benefits shareholders, not building big factories and things like that.

So I wonder how that tax message will resonate on the campaign trail. What I hear from allies of the president is that they think the economy is good for them. They think if the election --

AVLON: Sure.

ROMANS: -- happened today and voters went into the polling place with the economy on their mind -- their own personal finances on their mind -- Trump will be reelected.

BERMAN: The economy is in a different place than it was in September when the yield curve was inverted when the trade war was full-on. ROMANS: It stabilized -- it has stabilized. It really has.

And we have a story on "CNN Business" this morning called "FOMO." They think that the fear of missing out on the early part -- early gains in the stock market in the beginning of the year is something that could drive the market -- in the early part of the year.

AVLON: That never works out well for investors.

ROMANS: Well, that's true. But you have this -- at least a symbolic first little tranche of this trade deal is done. That's done. It is symbolic.

You also have a balance sheet at the Fed that is huge, so there's still a lot of Fed liquidity in the system. And two percent economic growth in the U.S. -- check, check, check. Those could be reasons that the White House is happy about.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, I'm not going to bring up the deficit. That would be a bummer.

ROMANS: That also is at records.

CAMEROTA: It's a record high.

AVLON: We've decided that deficits only matter if a Democrat is president.

CAMEROTA: That's right. That's what we have cited.

ROMANS: And wealth redistribution --

AVLON: Yes.

ROMANS: -- deficits and picking winners and losers, that's --

AVLON: Only --

ROMANS: -- so 2009.

CAMEROTA: Socialism only works if it's a Republican in the office.

AVLON: That's right.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. I'm glad to have these new notes. Thank you.

AVLON: It's good to have this little talk.

ROMANS: The world is upside down.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much.

All right, we do have some breaking news to get to right now because at least three people are dead after more than two dozen tornadoes have hit the Deep South. Howling winds whipping past a home in Guntown, Mississippi there. A tornado destroying a church and severely damaging homes.

Also, a tornado in Louisiana destroyed a school minutes after teachers evacuated students to the church next door. Local reports say they survived by ducking under pews. The church, in the end, was a total loss.

BERMAN: We'll have much more on this coming up.

Also, thank you to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" with Max Foster is next.

For our U.S. viewers, we have new questions about Rudy Giuliani because Rudy Giuliani is confessing to a lot of the actions that led to the president's inevitable impeachment. NEW DAY continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the official start to what you are going to see on the House floor for those final votes on the two articles of impeachment.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": 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: And 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.

REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): All these hearings down in the basement 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, December 17th, 8:00 now in the east.

What is expected to be an unruly meeting of the House Rules Committee --

BERMAN: Uh-oh, irony.

CAMEROTA: I think it was mostly just a pun.

BERMAN: The House unruly committee.

CAMEROTA: I like that. That's what we'll call it because in just under three hours it will get underway.

Democrats will present how they want tomorrow's full House vote on impeachment to play out and Republicans are expected to push back. By the end of the session, the groundwork will be laid for President Trump to, it appears, become the third U.S. president ever to be impeached.

There's also brand-new CNN polling to show you this morning.

END