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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
The Trump Impeachment Vote. Aired 9:30-10a ET
Aired December 18, 2019 - 09:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Chamber oftentimes he will certainly be waiting for sort of the cavalry of Republicans to vociferously defend him today.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, and he expects fealty.
TAPPER: He expects complete fealty.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Total. Total fealty. He's been leading the messaging. And the messaging leaves members of Congress with no daylight because if you look at the six-page screen from yesterday, the president said any member of Congress who votes in support of impeachment is showing how deeply they revile voters and how truly they detest America's constitutional order.
This doesn't leave any room for what you were talking about with the Bill Clinton impeachment. Yes, what he did was inappropriate and wrong but maybe doesn't rise to the level of impeachment. You cannot say inappropriate and have the president believe you are defending him because he believes, and this screed shows it, that what he did was perfect. So there is no way that any Republican on the floor of the House can step up and say, well, you know, I'm not going to vote -- they're now -- they're now all in on this. There is no other way for them to go.
And I'm -- I'm reminded, I was just rereading some stuff a historian Ron Chernow, as we all know, wrote "Hamilton," had said something that really applies here. And he said, without the facts, we cannot have an honest disagreement. And I think that is what is going on here.
TAPPER: Even Jonathan Turley, who was the Republicans' legal expert during that House Judiciary Committee hearing on the constitutionality of impeachment, even Jonathan Turley criticized the call and said it was not perfect. But House Republicans are so -- I don't know what -- how you would describe it, they're so in fear of President Trump, they're so enthralled with President Trump. But whatever the reason, they refuse to just acknowledge that the sun is in the sky.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a combination of those two things. And Dana's interview with Leader McCarthy was just a textbook case of it where, yes, Democrats have said some things that are controversial. Yes, Hunter Biden's conduct might actually be an issue. But there are 365 days in a year, 366 next year in the election year because our elections are held -- presidential elections in leap years. They have plenty of time to talk about these things.
Today, the president of the United States is being impeached. Ani think d a test for the Republicans is, how many stand up and defend his conduct because the facts are really not in dispute here. Republicans want to ignore them, but they're not in dispute. If the president wanted to dispute them, he could send in John Bolton, he could send in Mick Mulvaney, he could send in the other aides who were closest to him and dispute the facts. But he has not.
So what do we have? The public record of all of these witnesses who said the president withheld a White House meeting, that is still being withheld -- the president of Ukraine has never had a White House meeting -- and temporarily withheld military aid to this country because -- and Rudy Giuliani said it again in "The New Yorker" -- because they wanted these investigations.
Rudy Giuliani also said he forced out the ambassador because she was getting in the way of investigations important to the president. Not important to national security. Not important to the country. He's a whistleblower in plain sight if you read his words. And the Republicans don't want to talk about that.
So this is a very important day, an historic day. By the end of it, these two things will be true (ph).
TAPPER: And what's remarkable is, you talk about Rudy Giuliani. It's not as though he has gone softly into that good night.
TAPPER: He is out there. He just got back from Ukraine where he did this special with this far right fringe cable channel, interviewing two Ukrainian, former prosecutors, who Trump administration officials testified were corrupt or not credible.
TAPPER: Rudy Giuliani then bringing back all this dirt of questionable credibility and then meeting with President Trump, presenting it to President Trump. I said this before, but this is as if during the Clinton impeachment if Bill Clinton, during the impeachment, was out on the town dating.
BORGER: Right, or --
TAPPER: Like it is just -- just the complete arrogance of it.
KING: It is because they know that these Republicans will not stand up to him. We may see something different in the Senate where a lot of Republicans say, I don't like this, it was wrong. Some -- we know what they believe. They talk to us privately. They believe it was reprehensible. They believe what Rudy Giuliani is doing is just way out -- is beyond outside the norms, and the president condoned it, and they believe that.
But they -- but you talked about the fealty and the fear. At the end of this day, the president of the United States is going to be impeached. These two things will be crystal clear. The president likes to say Nancy Pelosi doesn't run the House Democratic Party. It's AOC plus three. That is bogus. The most powerful woman in American politics is going to prove her authority over the Democratic Party today, and they're going to make a statement.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And it's --
KING: And the Trump takeover of the Republican Party, if you didn't believe -- if you don't believe it, if you still think there's wiggle room, the Trump takeover of the Republican Party will be capital -- all caps --
BORGER: In the House.
KING: All bold, underscored, by the end of this day.
BLITZER: By the end of this day, also, Nia, the president of the United States is heading out to Michigan, to Battle Creek, Michigan, for another huge political rally. And you know what he's going to say.
HENDERSON: Yes, he's going to talk about impeachment. I imagine he's going to use some of the talking points from this letter that we have been talking about. Michigan, an important swing state. A state he won by 10,000 or 11,000 votes in 2016. He wants to frame this issue for his base. And he's been able to do that so far.
He hasn't necessarily been able to grow his base. He hasn't necessarily been able to bring any Democrats, for instance, on board in terms of defending him. I think two might vote with him. One is going to switch parties at some point to be a Republican. And we'll see this president do this over and over again. We talk about sort of the comparison between Clinton. Clinton privately fuming behind the scenes as this was going on, but publicly very much about the business of the people, right? That this was something that wasn't going to distract him, wasn't going to distract him from getting stuff done. This president clearly distracted and Republicans are energized (ph).
BORGER: And he apologized.
KING: Right. But to that point, though, the Clinton's fuming -- Clinton's fuming in private, but contrition in public was to keep the Democrats in line. He knew he needed to do that. The president's rage is to keep Republicans in line.
TAPPER: Let's listen in. This is Congresswoman Diane DeGette of Colorado. She's going to preside today for the entire debate as speaker pro tem.
REP. DIANE DEGETTE (D-CO): For what purpose does the gentleman from California seek recognition? REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Madam speaker, I rise to a question of the
privilege of the House and sent to the desk a privileged resolution.
DEGETTE: The clerk will report the resolution.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whereas Chairman Schiff and Chairman Nadler willfully and intentionally violated the rules of the House of Representatives by abusing and exceeding their powers as chairmen of committees, whereas on September 9th, 2019 without consultation of the ranking minority member in violated of rule 9 of the (inaudible) select committee on intelligence Chairman Schiff in coordination with committees on oversight and reform and foreign affairs announced a wide ranging investigation into the Trump Giuliani Ukraine scheme.
Whereas on September 26th, 2019 in an unprecedented action Chairman Schiff unilaterally released a redacted version of the August 2019 whistleblower complaint. Whereas on September 26th, 2019, in his opening statement in a public hearing, Chairman Schiff engaged in a false retelling of the July 25th, 2019 telephone conversation between President Trump and President Zelensky.
Whereas on November 20, 2019, Chairman Schiff violated clause 2G3 of rule 11 of the rules of the House of Representatives which states, the chair of a committee shall announce the date, place and subject matter of a committee meeting, which may not commence earlier than the third calendar day on which --
TAPPER: We're going to break out of this for a second. This is another attempt by the Republicans to gum up the works with procedural motions, as is the right of the minority in the House of Representatives. Nobody on the floor of the House thinks that this motion is going to pass, complaining about the Democratic chairman and the way in which they conducted the impeachment inquiry.
There are 233 Democratic votes. You only need 216 to pass a resolution. Republicans don't have the votes, but they are going to continue throughout the day to do, and this is not unusual. This is what the minority does, whether it's Democrats or Republicans. They're going to continue to try in prolong this.
BLITZER: Yes, let's go to Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.
Manu, potentially the Republicans could delay the final votes on these two articles of impeachment by hours.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and that -- we're expecting the final vote actually to not occur until late in the evening, potentially in the evening, in the 8:00 hour, could spill into the 9:00 hour in the East. That's later than initially was anticipated from 5:30 to 6:30, and that's because of these very procedural motions that could delay the proceedings. And we're seeing this already take place. We don't expect an endless parade of motions, but we do expect some as we've seen to start the day here.
Now also the Democrats are making their own messages to their members. The speaker, I'm told, told her members through various ways, don't gloat. That was a message that Nancy Pelosi gave to her members. They don't want to be seen as cheering the proceedings, rooting on exactly what's happening or expressing any emotion in a positive way in any way. They want to be -- have the tone that this is somber, this is serious, that they are doing this only because they have to. They don't want to come and look like they are overjoyed by the prospects that they are impeaching the president on two counts today.
So I'm told that behind the scenes she has told this to her members, no gloating, show unity on the floor and don't go over the top in any way. This has come across in e-mails that were sent to members offices over the last day or so. So that is the message how that Democrats are planning on pursuing the course of today's debate. And we're seeing how the Republicans are doing voicing objections in the process, trying to delay the proceedings and making it clear they don't -- they don't agree with the -- the way that this is going, while ultimately there's nothing they can do to stop the ultimate outcome, which is, the president will be impeached by the end of the day today.
BLITZER: Yes, they can't -- they can certainly delay, but they can't do much more than that since they're in the minority. The Democrats are the majority.
You know, this whole notion, Gloria, of the advice from the speaker to the Democrats, don't gloat. I think that's significant on a very, very somber day.
BORGER: Well, it is significant because this is a moment, as she says, that nobody was really looking forward to. You have a country that is bitterly divided on this. And gloating would be the wrong thing. As she says, she always uses the phrase that she prays for the president, even though the president's letter yesterday said that he didn't believe her, that she prayed for him. But, personally, she said she does pray for him and she wants her Democrats to behave in an appropriate manner.
They are going to do something today that cannot be undone. This is it. Normally you pass legislation. It can be overridden in the next administration. This is history. Final. This is an impeachment that you can't go back and un-impeach a president.
BORGER: And I think she clearly understands that having been there for the Clinton impeachment. And I think her members have to take their lead from her. She doesn't -- sometimes when you pass legislation on the floor, people erupt and they cheer and they're excited. This is not going to be the case today.
BLITZER: You know, a big difference, John, and you and I covered the Bill Clinton impeachment, was that Bill Clinton was impeached in his second term. He couldn't run for a third term. This president is about to be impeached in his first term. He's up for re-election in a few months. KING: And that's one of the reasons, to Gloria's point about the
speaker telling Democrats, be serious, be somber, do not treat this as a celebration, even though many of you, you know, are looking -- many Democrats, liberal Democrats, safe Democrats, are looking forward to casting this vote. They're looking forward to impeaching President Trump.
Speaker Pelosi's point is that while this is an indelible mark, President Trump can never take this away.
In terms of the political impact, that's an empty canvas. We don't know what is going to happen there. And she lived through that one. I said this a bit earlier, she was a junior member of the House then and in the middle of the seniority ranks. But Newt Gingrich, the Republican speaker, the prosecuting party were the Republicans -- Bill Clinton, a Democratic president -- lost his job. Bob Livingston was the heir apparent, lost his job because they made Bill Clinton's sexual behavior a public issue, their own behavior became an issue.
The Republicans lost five seats in that midterm election year. It was -- that election happened just before impeachment played out. Newt Gingrich told the party to run as linking people to Bill Clinton's behavior. It backfired.
Now, so in the short term, the Republicans lost. And yet, if Al Gore were here today, he would say he was not president of the United States because George W. Bush ran in 2000, even though he lost the popular vote, won the presidency by saying he wanted to restore honor and integrity to the White House.
So, we don't know. we have no idea how this will play out 11 months from now.
We do know today that Nancy Pelosi has the votes. She wants to make today very somber and then we will fight this out for the next 11 months.
TAPPER: And don't forget the other point in this, which is, in terms of you can't predict impeachment politics. So you talked about Gingrich having to step down, Livingston having to step down, and then Republicans ultimately appointed the man that would serve as the longest serving Republican House speaker in history, who a judge recently referred to as a serial child molester, Dennis Hastert. So let he who is without sin cast the first stone, I suppose.
But, Nia-Malika, back to today's impeachment.
The House Republicans, after the Clinton impeachment, lost some seats. And that is a concern among Democrats that they might lose some seats.
HENDERSON: That's right. And you heard from Elissa Slotkin out of Michigan who is very aware of that, that this could be a vote that costs her, her job. But she also sounded very confident in terms of how she would frame this, how she went about thinking about this, essentially her sort of national security background leads her to believe that this is something that is wrong and also impeachable. So she will cast this vote today.
All of these Democrats, in particular, and Republicans as well, this is a vote that is going to follow them. This is a vote that will be of interest and a topic in 2020. Again, we don't know how it's going to play out. But certainly you're going to see both sides make an issue of this.
And I think for the president, the president knows this too, right? The president likes to spin. The president likes to call things fake news. He can't do that with this, right? This is a scarlet letter that is on his record now, and this is why we see him being so upset about it. The letter, the most, I think, obvious example of how he's feeling about this.
TAPPER: Yes, and while we tend to look at things through the lens of the next election, November 2020, the people who are voting today should be thinking about their eventual obituary.
HENDERSON: Well, I think that's right.
TAPPER: Because for some of them --
TAPPER: It will be in the headline of their obituary, how they voted, whether they bucked their party, whether they did not buck their party.
BLITZER: All right, there's another procedural delay going on, on the House floor.
Our special live coverage of the impeachment of President Trump will continue right after this.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back on this historic day. There's a procedural motion taking place right now, so we're going to check in with our Dana Bash, who is at Capitol Hill.
Dana, I know you've been taking to a lot of people this morning. What -- what have you been hearing?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's -- it's really all the same particularly, obviously, when you're -- when we're talking to Democrats. And I'm just going to say that we're still waiting for the House speaker to come through here on her way to the House floor. And that could happen at any moment.
But -- but she really is leading the charge on the tone here. She is leading the charge on the tone. You heard Manu talk about the fact that she and her -- and her aides and her lieutenants are reminding people to show unity, but to show unity in how they comport themselves. She's not asking them to show unity on the vote. And that a very important distinction.
Steny Hoyer, the leader, was just out talking to me a few minutes ago and he said, we're not whipping this. So, in English, that means, we're not twisting arms. We're not telling Democrats that you need to vote for either of these articles because it is a vote of conscience. And that's -- that's not spin, that's not rhetoric, that's real. It's a real thing.
And the -- one other just little piece of color that I can tell you about is, I was just talking to a Democratic congresswoman who's wearing a dark dress and said that she and some of her colleagues, who are not men, because they tend to wear dark clothes anyway, talked about wearing a sort of dark dress today to show the somber nature of the day, the gravity of the day. Not everybody is, but that kind of just goes to show how much so many members have thought through what this day means visually, what it means in terms of the narrative of this Congress of this president and of the country, Anderson.
COOPER: Dana Bash.
Dana, thanks very much.
Back now with our team here in D.C.
Jeffrey Engel, you were talking a little while ago, during the break, about George Washington and what he said about impeachment because it's interesting to hear sort of the founding fathers and sort of the historical precedents here because so many Republicans are saying that this is out of the norm, that this is a misuse of -- of impeachment.
JEFFREY ENGEL, CO-AUTHOR, "IMPEACHMENT AN AMERICAN HISTORY": You know, we oftentimes have asked ourselves, what did the founders actually mean? Not this time. I mean this one's extraordinarily clear.
George Washington, who, of course, was president of the Constitutional Convention, and became first president, was very explicit in 1796 (ph) when in dealing with criticism of the J. Treaty and dealing with congressional queries about the J. Treaty, that he had the executive privilege not to show his diplomatic documents because he needed diplomacy to be secret, but he also said subsequently, in the same message to Congress, but that doesn't apply to impeachments.
In fact, I wrote it down if you don't -- if you don't mind.
ENGEL: Just give the -- I want to quote -- Washington accurately. It does not occur that the inspection of the papers asked for can be relative to any purpose under the cognizance of the House of Representatives, except that of an impeachment. Basically he's arguing and making the point that no person, no president, can be judged over what is or is not something that is impeachable. COOPER: So that's interesting. I mean Washington is saying that these
documents are too sensitive for Congress to -- or representatives to look at in the normal course of times, but impeachment, which is an extraordinary procedure, they would have access to those documents?
ENGEL: Yes, because you really can't have the president have the authority, and this is Washington in a sense, of determining what is or is not available to Congress for an impeachment hearing.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Unless -- unless the president simply refuses to produce them, then you have to go to court. And once you go to court, you're in the legal system, which takes months to unfold.
You know, I mean that -- I mean I -- I have -- I am not, under any circumstances, quarreling with George Washington.
ENGEL: Please don't.
TOOBIN: But the fact that he said Congress has broader powers to obtain information from the executive branch during impeachment is probably true. But under our system, it's only true if the courts say it's true.
ENGEL: Well, that's --
TOOBIN: And what the president and his lawyers bet on was that even if you have a lousy legal position, the fact that it takes months to repudiate that position works tremendously to your advantage.
COOPER: Why does it take months? I mean I know, obviously, look, systems are backlogged, blah, blah, blah, but, I mean, this is a pretty big deal.
TOOBIN: You know, judge have life tenure. And Judge Leon (ph), who is on the Federal District Court in -- here in Washington, who is dealing with the Cuperman (ph) case, who was the deputy to --
TOOBIN: Judge Bolton, the national security adviser, you know, a month -- it took a month even to schedule a hearing about the case, which was so outrageous.
COOPER: Why does it take a month to schedule a hearing?
TOOBIN: Because the judge either is lazy or is helping the president or is oblivious to what's going on in the world. But, you know, there is no real enforcement mechanism for the federal judiciary, except the rest of the federal judiciary, and they are not in the business of telling each other how fast to work.
I mean it's frustrating. But that's just sort of how it goes. JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: But, Jeffrey, to your point,
you -- I looked back at reporting at the end of September/early October, where Republicans were saying to me, this is bad, they were worried, they were talking about actually maybe voting for articles of impeachment. And the one thing we've heard over and over is, why didn't the Democrats enforce the subpoenas?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
GANGEL: That's what they wanted. The Republicans admitted they wanted political cover. They didn't just want a smoking gun. They wanted to see him fire the gun.
So, to your point about the courts, though, Bush v Gore, 37 days to get to the Supreme Court. They can do it when they want to do it.
TOOBIN: You know, that case was anomalous in so many ways. And not to get too deep into the weeds --
TOOBIN: That case did not come up through the federal judiciary. It came up through the state courts of Florida. So there was no intervening federal district court and the circuit court of appeals.
COOPER: We've just got to get a break in.
We're going to take a short break.
Our coverage continues in just a moment.