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House Set To Vote To Impeach President Donald Trump; President Trump Writes Angry Letter To House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; House Okays $1.4 Trillion Spending Bill. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 18, 2019 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: December 18, 2019, a grave day in American history. The House of Representatives will vote today on articles of impeachment and they charge the president -- President Trump -- with violating his oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. Those articles certain to pass and almost entirely along party lines.

Congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill with a look ahead at this consequential day.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine and Dave, in a few hours, history. The House is slated to vote to impeach President Donald Trump, making him the third president in the history of the country to be impeached by the House of Representatives.

Now, the votes, they aren't even in question anymore. House Democratic leaders know they have the votes to pass both articles of impeachment -- one, obstruction of Congress; two, abuse of power.

The vast majority of the frontline members -- of the caucus members that people weren't sure which way they'd go on this issue -- they are voting yes. All but one or two, at this point, have committed to doing just that, so this is a foregone conclusion at this point.

However, you are going to want to pay attention to the House floor throughout the course of this day as they debate this momentous and historic occasion.

You're going to have Democrats make clear why they believe the president has conducted impeachable acts. Why they believe they've gotten to this point as it relates to the president's decision to withhold U.S. security assistance to Ukraine, and what Democrats allege was an exchange for investigations into his political rivals.

And you're going to have Republicans who are also unified to a person. Not a single Republican expected to break and vote with Democrats on those articles.

Why they oppose this and have opposed this each step of this process, every step of the way from the closed-door depositions to the public hearings in the House Intelligence Committee, the impeachment hearings in the House Judiciary Committee, the Rules Committee meeting that went for hours on end yesterday, to today, the House floor vote.

And I will tell you this. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on Tuesday night shortly before members broke for the evening, sending a letter to all of her Democratic colleagues, laying out the stakes and the solemnity of the occasion, and also asking every single member of the Democratic caucus to join her on the floor when the floor opens up at 9:00 a.m. Keep an eye out on that as well.

Everybody knows the stakes for the vote that they're about to take. Everybody knows the history behind what they're about to do. Now all that's left to do is to vote -- guys.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Phil, thank you.

On the eve of today's historic impeachment vote, President Trump also fired off an extraordinary letter. Mr. Trump's six-page, single- spaced tirade addressed to Speaker Pelosi. It attacks the people and processes lined up against him, sometimes in very personal terms. President Trump says he intends the letter for, quote, "the purpose of history."

Jim Acosta with more from the White House.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, President Trump is taking some very personal swipes at Democrats as the House is just hours away from this impeachment vote. The president fired off an angry letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, accusing her of trying to orchestrate a coup.

Mr. Trump told me in the Oval Office he takes, quote, "zero responsibility" for what will certainly go down as a stain on his legacy.

Here's more of what the president had to say here at the White House.

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

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I don't take any -- zero, to put it mildly. They took a perfect phone call that I had with the president of Ukraine -- an absolutely perfect call -- you know it, they all know it -- nothing was said wrong in that call. To impeach the President of the United States for that is a disgrace and it's a mark on our country.

ACOSTA: The president sounded hopeful that the Senate would hold a vote on his new trade deal with Canada and Mexico before an impeachment trial but that may be wishful thinking. If it's delayed the president likely won't take the blame for that either.

As for the letter, it comes across more like a campaign speech or a six-page tweet than a legal document coming from the White House. It's filled with his grievances against Democrats, accusing Pelosi of viewing democracy as an enemy -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right, Jim, thank you for that at the White House.

Here's more from the president's remarkable letter to the House speaker.

Mr. Trump writes, "There are not many people who could have taken the punishment inflicted during this period of time and yet done so much for the success of America and its citizens."

He goes on to tell Pelosi, "You apparently have so little respect for the American people that you expect them to believe that you are approaching this impeachment somberly, reservedly, and reluctantly. No intelligent person believes what you are saying."

Here's the speaker's response.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Any reactions to the president's letter?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): No reaction. It's ridiculous.

RAJU: You have no reaction? Why not?

PELOSI: No. I mean, I haven't really fully read it. We've been working. I've seen the essence of it, though, and it's really sick.


ROMANS: Just hours after the president released his letter to the speaker, she sent a letter of her own to her Democratic colleagues. She told them they would be derelict in their congressional duty if they don't vote for impeachment.

BRIGGS: Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer's call for witnesses at an expected impeachment trial shot down by majority leader Mitch McConnell. Schumer wants to hear from four witnesses, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton, but McConnell has other ideas.



SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The Senate is meant to act as judge and jury to hear a trial, not to rerun the entire fact-finding investigation because angry partisans rushed sloppily through it. SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): By announcing that he doesn't want to have witnesses, he doesn't want to have documents is not rising to the level that a senator should rise to. He's being a pure partisan.

All we need is four Republicans to vote with us to produce these witnesses, to produce the documents, and I expect that some will. I expect that some will.


BRIGGS: For McConnell's part it's a complete reversal. Here's what he said about Bill Clinton's impeachment trial in 1999.


MCCONNELL (JANUARY 28, 1999): Every other impeachment has had witnesses. It's not unusual to have witnesses in a trial.


BRIGGS: So why the about-face 20 years later? McConnell is not being coy about it.


MCCONNELL: I'm not an impartial juror. This is a political process. There's not anything judicial about it. Impeachment is a political decision. I'm not impartial about this at all.


BRIGGS: McConnell even predicting a partisan outcome with the president being acquitted.

ROMANS: Protesters in dozens of U.S. cities rallying against President Trump and for his impeachment.


ANTI-TRUMP DEMONSTRATORS: Tell me who's above the law. Nobody is above the law. Tell me who's above the law. Nobody is above the law. Tell me who's above the law.


ROMANS: Thousands of people taking to the streets in cities like New York, Nashville, Portland, Phoenix, Denver, and Atlanta, all of them echoing the same theme -- the president must be removed from office.


JEFF GILBERT, ANTI-TRUMP PROTESTER: And this represents an existential threat to this country. This is probably the biggest threat to our democracy, certainly in my lifetime.

TASHA HAMLETT, ANTI-TRUMP PROTESTER: This is crazy that we are going through this right now. Like, I can't imagine if Obama had done this where we would be. Like, he would be in jail right now.


ROMANS: Now, many of these rallies took place outside the offices of House lawmakers who will vote on impeachment today or outside the offices of senators who would serve as jurors in an impeachment trial.

BRIGGS: The debate on the president's impeachment and then the final vote in the House now just hours away. We'll talk to Zach Wolf about all of this and what to expect next.



BRIGGS: Five forty-one a.m. eastern time.

In just hours from now a historic day begins on Capitol Hill. For only the third time in U.S. history a president will be impeached -- this time, almost entirely along party lines. The president and his allies lashing out as Democrats push to end the Trump presidency.

ROMANS: Let's bring in "CNN POLITICS" senior writer Zach Wolf, live in Washington. Good morning, Zach.


BRIGGS: Good morning.

ROMANS: And there will be social studies classes and civics classes across the country this week and today, in particular, who will be zeroing in on this, showing kids, showing America that we are watching history here.

In your "Impeachment Watch" newsletter you make a really great point right off the top that the good news for Trump is that no impeached president has ever been removed from office. But then you lay out the bad news. Tell us.

WOLF: Yes. I think the bad news is that the party of no impeached president has ever won the next presidential election. No impeached president has been on the ballot. Andrew Johnson tried and failed to be the Democratic nominee after he was impeached.

But usually, this is a second-term play -- a second-term drama that unfolds. It was that case for Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon.

So this is going to be kind of a unique thing to have somebody who has been impeached -- assuming he's acquitted by the Senate, and I think that's a very safe assumption -- who is essentially up for reelection.

BRIGGS: Well, let me just ask you then, historically -- let's just talk Nixon and Clinton. Was -- though they were not on the ballot, was impeachment on the ballot?

WOLF: Yes, I think it certainly was and neither of those presidents' parties won. Al Gore famously lost to George W. Bush and Gerald Ford lost to -- lost to Jimmy Carter. So the party of the president has never won after impeachment.

And, of course, with Andrew Johnson, the Republicans -- although that's a totally different scenario -- after the Civil War and reconstruction the Republicans took back the White House after his impeachment as well.

ROMANS: It is such a rare move and it is such a stunning rebuke of a sitting president. I mean, I just think that bears repeating. That for 240 years -- Americans don't do this lightly and clearly.

This president is very concerned about the legacy, really, here -- the legacy for him and his presidency. This is something that will be written in one of the first sentences of his -- of his obituary someday, right, in the -- in the history books.

Let's talk about the process today, though. What are you expecting to see happen here? How is this going to play out?

WOLF: Basically, the House comes to order and they will -- you know, there are some of the general House business that occurs and then they'll essentially split up -- debate on this impeachment measure. And you'll see a lot of speechifying -- some short speeches from a lot of different Housemakers and -- I mean, House members.

And then by the end of the day, President Trump will essentially be impeached. They will have a -- have this historic vote and he will go into the history books for a reason he really does not want to go into the history books.

BRIGGS: One other thing going into the history books is this extraordinary six-page letter which makes it clear the president is taking this --


BRIGGS: -- very well, writing, in part, "You are the ones" -- speaking to Democrats -- "interfering in America's elections. You are the ones subverting America's democracy. You are the ones obstructing justice.

You are the ones bringing pain and suffering to our Republic for your own selfish personal, political, and partisan gain." Adding later, "More due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem witch trials."


Now, the president, of course, could testify, himself.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: He could have his chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton --

ROMANS: But he won't.

BRIGGS: -- and several others testifying. He will not.

What is the impact of this letter and what was the desired effect by the president, in your estimation?

WOLF: You know, it certainly took over, at least on the morning of this impeachment vote, the news. And a lot of people are talking about this letter and how he is unbowed by this historic rebuke coming his way.

I think it's interesting to note that Bill Clinton, when he was on the road to being impeached, was apologetic. Those are obviously different circumstances and he was accused of something else entirely, but he wasn't exactly putting on this fighting face like this.

I think it shows you exactly how Trump is going to act leading up to and after impeachment. This is going to be something that he completely uses, I guess -- I'm not going to say to his advantage --


WOLF: -- because ultimately, I'm not sure it's going to help him in the way that he says it will. But it is certainly going to be something that he talks about in a -- in a very unapologetic -- you know, he just will pretend he doesn't care.


WOLF: But clearly, he does.

ROMANS: We saw that yesterday, though -- the lack -- the complete lack of contrition. I mean, he was in the Oval Office and he was asked about this -- listen.


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

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


ROMANS: And that's our Jim Acosta asking that question of the president.

But when you look at that letter, though, it clearly -- it irks him. This whole process really irks him. It is getting under his skin.

WOLF: Yes, it's getting under his skin and he has a tendency to act more -- you know, even more erratic, I think, when those things happen. So who knows what he'll come up with next to sort of distract us from all of this immediately after impeachment? That's what I'll be interested to see.

ROMANS: Well, Rudy Giuliani is in Ukraine --

WOLF: Right.

ROMANS: -- or has been in Ukraine still trying to double down on the thing that's --

BRIGGS: Well --

ROMANS: -- led him to impeachment in the first place.

WOLF: Right.

BRIGGS: More immediately we'll find out because he'll rally tonight in Michigan -- extraordinary split-screen --


BRIGGS: -- with the vote going on and the president rallying his supporters. It's a historic day.

Zach Wolf, appreciate the insight.

ROMANS: Thanks, Zach.

WOLF: Thanks.

BRIGGS: CNN's special coverage of today's impeachment debate and vote begins at 8:00 a.m. eastern time. Join Wolf Blitzer and Jake Tapper right after "NEW DAY."

ROMANS: All right.

Amid all the impeachment drama, lawmakers got some work done on Capitol Hill, addressing gun violence among other things. We've got those details, next.



BRIGGS: Five fifty-one eastern time.

And the House has approved a nearly-$1.4 trillion spending bill for next year to avert a threatened government shutdown.

The huge package of bills includes a pay raise for military and civilian federal workers, money for election security and gun research, and a repeal of three health care taxes that help pay for Obamacare. The deal maintains the current $1.4 billion for a border wall, far less than the $8.6 billion the White House was seeking.

The measure still needs to clear the Senate and President Trump must sign it before federal funding expires on Friday.

ROMANS: For the first time in more than two decades, Congress is allocating money to address gun violence. The spending bill passed yesterday by the House includes $25 million to research the issue. Half of the money will go to the CDC, the other half earmarked for the National Institutes of Health.

Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey, of New York, led the charge for the funding. She says the best researchers in the country will work to identify ways to reduce deaths and injuries from firearms.

BRIGGS: Paid family and medical leave for 2.1 million federal workers passed by the Senate in a historic vote. The measure was backed by Ivanka Trump and the president has already said he will sign it. It provides paid leave for 12 weeks. The president's daughter says she will continue to advocate for making paid family leave a possibility for all American workers heading into the election year.

Former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates sentenced to 45 days in jail and three years probation. Gates flipped on the president in the Mueller investigation. The judge praised him for choosing to, quote, "share the truth under enormous political pressure," calling it an important public service.

Gate admits helping former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort conceal $75 million in foreign bank accounts during their years of Ukraine lobbying work. He told the judge he accepts responsibility for his actions.

ROMANS: Paul Manafort is in the hospital. Sources tell CNN he suffered a heart ailment in prison. The 70-year-old Manafort is serving a 7 1/2-year sentence in Pennsylvania.

His lawyer claims he and Manafort's family are being kept in the dark about his specific medical condition. The Federal Bureau of Prisons is not commenting, citing privacy and safety concerns for inmates.

BRIGGS: Tomorrow night's Democratic primary debate will go on as scheduled. A labor dispute between a California union and a catering provider that threatened to derail it has been tentatively resolved.

All seven Democratic presidential hopefuls participating in the debate declared their support for the union last week. They said they would not attend if they had to cross the union's picket line. That left top officials from the Democratic National Committee frantically searching for a solution.

Once a tentative deal was reached, Sen. Elizabeth Warren celebrated with union workers.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Congratulations, Unite Here. You have won.

All across this country, working families are faced with two options. They can back down or they can roll up their sleeves and get in the fight. The workers of Unite Here get in the fight and they win.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [05:55:08]

BRIGGS: Workers are expected to ratify the agreement next week.

ROMANS: According to his doctor, 2020 Democratic candidate Joe Biden is healthy and vigorous and fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency. Biden's campaign releasing a summary of his medical history yesterday.

Biden's doctor says he's being treated for an irregular heartbeat that is causing no symptoms. The former vice president also takes medication to lower cholesterol and to prevent blood clots, acid reflux, and seasonal allergies.

BRIGGS: To the weather now. Another shot of cold air from Canada bringing more chilly weather to the northeast and heavy snow to the Great lakes.

Here's meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.



Another quick-moving system here to bring with it some cold air. And, yes, lake-effect snow back again across portions of Michigan. In particular, the western area of Michigan on into the eastern Great Lakes getting some snow showers out of this and really, that's the most favorable spot here for some heavier snow totals. But even then, just talking about six to eight inches.

Notice how quickly it all exits here. Even by Thursday morning not much of it left in the forecast.

So, totals, you get right on the eastern shore getting the highest amounts -- a couple of inches. Areas indicated in purple, as much as six inches possible. And then into New England, limited amounts expected, and that is about it.

But the cold air is certainly going to linger for a couple of days. Winter officially arrives come Saturday and just in time we get a little bit of southerly surge here so the temperatures will want to moderate back out.

So as we kind of wrap up autumn we do so with extremely cold air. Marquette, only eight degrees. Chicago, a February-like 21-degree afternoon. New York City, the best you can do, about 36 degrees.

But you'll notice the forecast across much of the country, including areas around Atlanta, by the first week -- first full week of winter climb up into the 60s. And, New York City much the same as well. Temps there climbing up to the middle-40s -- guys.


ROMANS: All right, thanks, Pedram. That's your weather. Here's your business this morning. First, a look at markets around the world. European shares are mixed and Asian shares actually closing mixed on the day -- barely moving, really.

On Wall Street, also just a very narrow advance signaled here. Stocks notched all-time highs for the second day in a row. The Dow closed up 31 points. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also higher here.

There are only seven trading days left in the decade and it has been another tremendous year for investors. The S&P 500 is up 27 percent for the year. What are you thinking about that 10-year total return for the S&P 500, guys -- 245 percent.

Two of the world's leading carmakers have agreed to merge. Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot will combine to create the world's fourth-largest automaker with combined annual revenues of nearly $190 billion. The two firms say the merger will create an industry leader that will focus on sustainable mobility. The deal is expected to close in 12 to 15 months.

All right, are you still shopping for the holidays because the clock is ticking to get your gifts delivered by Christmas and the first night of Hanukkah? So, the U.S. Postal Service expects to deliver roughly 16 billion cards, letters, and packages this holiday season.

If you want to beat Santa to get those gifts under the tree, here are the deadlines that you need to know.

You have until Thursday to get your packages to the post office -- Thursday. FedEx has a Friday deadline for standard ground service. UPS is giving you until Monday -- next Monday, the 19th, but that's for three-day select.

Shopping on Amazon? Today is the last day to order your gifts for standard shipping. You need a little more time? Target is guaranteeing delivery by Christmas Eve if customers order by Friday.

BRIGGS: You're making me feel really stressed out right now.

ROMANS: You can do it. You can do it. Make a list, check it twice, and then --

BRIGGS: I can't, I won't.

ROMANS: -- go online.

BRIGGS: May this serve as an apology to all my loved ones. Everything will be late for me. I'm sorry.

ROMANS: All right.

BRIGGS: I haven't started.

ROMANS: Get moving.

BRIGGS: That'll do it for us. I'm Dave Briggs. ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. "NEW DAY" starts right now.


BRIGGS: Today, the House is set to vote to impeach President Trump.

ACOSTA: Do you take any responsibility for the fact that you're about to be impeached?

TRUMP: No, I don't take any -- zero.

ACOSTA: The president fired off an angry letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, accusing her of trying to orchestrate a coup.

PELOSI: No reaction. It's ridiculous. I've seen the essence of it, though, and it's really sick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are literally telling you that they are going to defy their oath and they're going to be the rubber stamp for Donald Trump.

MCCONNELL: I'm not an impartial juror. This is a political process. There's not anything judicial about it.

SCHUMER: Is not rising to the level that a senator should rise to. He's being a pure partisan.


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.

It's Wednesday, December 18th, 2019 -- the date that will go down in history as the day that Donald J. Trump was impeached. It will happen by tonight.

For just the third time ever, a president will be impeached. The votes are there. More votes, in fact, than most people anticipated just a few days ago.