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Battle Lines Drawn Over Senate Trial After Trump Impeachment; Trump Insults And Bullies Dozens In Wake Of Impeachment Vote. Aired 1- 1:30p ET

Aired December 19, 2019 - 13:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: -- that's his call, I guess.


Thanks for joining us in Inside Politics. See you back here this time tomorrow. Don't go anywhere, a very busy news day. Brianna Keilar starts Right Now. Have a great afternoon.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN RIGHT NOW: I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, the man who once called the impeachment of a president an embarrassing horror show is now living and President Trump is unleashing his anger.

And now a standoff erupts between Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over whether the House will even give the Senate the impeachment articles.

Plus, the president's pattern of attacking veterans who have passed away along with their families escalates when he suggests that a late congressman is in hell.

And among the events, the Republicans are comparing this impeachment to Pearl Harbor, witch trials and the crucifixion of Jesus.

We begin with the headline closing out the decade, President Trump impeached. The news being viewed across the nation is one of two ways, either a party hell bent on impeaching a president they view as deplorable, or as the first female speaker of the House overseeing just the third impeachment in our nation's history. Either way, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made history and she's bringing President Trump's legacy with her.

As for what happens next, well, right now, it is unclear. What should happen is that the articles of impeachment would be sent to the Senate where a trial would take place and the president would either be convicted or acquitted. But Speaker Pelosi is refusing to commit to doing that.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): When we impeached the president immediately, everybody went on to the next thing. The next thing for us will be when we see the process that is set forth in the Senate. Then we'll know the number of managers that we may have to go forward.

Our founders, when they wrote the Constitution, they suspected that there could be a rogue president. I don't think they suspected that we could have a rogue president and a rogue leader in the Senate at the same time.


KEILAR: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Democrats are not really calculating here. Actually, they're scared.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): It looks like the prosecutors are getting cold feet in front of the entire country and second-guessing whether they even want to go to trial. They said impeachment was so urgent that it could not even wait for due process, but now they're content to sit on their hands.


KEILAR: CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill for us. And, Manu, you pushed Speaker Pelosi on her plan. Why do Democrats see withholding the articles of impeachment as being leverage for them?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Democrats believe that they can push the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, into agreeing to something that they would consider a fair trial. That's what they hope. But they acknowledged privately that that is almost certainly not going to happen. They're not going to get what they wanted, which is what Chuck Schumer initially laid out, which was to get four live witnesses coming before the Senate, including Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton, people who did not come before the House impeachment probe because the White House intervened.

But what the Democrats are also signaling is that it's probably only a matter of time now before they send over those articles of impeachment. There is a process that needs to play out, and it first starts with Chuck Schumer cutting a deal with Mitch McConnell over the rules of the Senate, and then the House can act and take the formal steps in sending over the articles of impeachment. So that could take some days to play out.

In talking to Democrats who are coming out of a caucus meeting this morning with Nancy Pelosi, they made clear they do expect eventually those impeachment articles to be turned over.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): I think it has to be sent in due course, and the speaker has to make that decision with input from other people.

REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): It can't drag on forever. And if this now starts some long process, that's not good.

So I want it to go over, but I think it's right to ask for the process and what it will actually look like when it hits the Senate.


RAJU: To that last congresswoman, significant because she's a freshman Democrat from a swing district, and she made it very clear she would give the speaker some time to work this out but doesn't want this to drag out indefinitely.

And the speaker suggested as much today in her press conference. I pushed her on that as well, whether or not she could -- what -- her requirement is demanding a fair trial. Is that still her demand turning over those articles? She did not go that far, saying she only hoped there would be a fair trial. Brianna?

KEILAR: Manu, thank you for that report.

And at the moment the president was being impeached, he was holding a Merry Christmas rally in Michigan, a state that he is going to need to win if he wants to be re-elected. The rally was one of his longest ever, and it was also one of his angriest.

This is a list of just about everyone and everything that he attacked during his two-hour speech.


It includes his usual targets, like Democrats and the media, but also event security for being too polite to a protester. And in an on-turn during what is arguably the most controversial moment of his president, the president criticized dishwashers.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: The dishwashers, the dishwasher, right? You press it. Remember the dishwasher, when you press it, there would be like an explosion. Five minutes later, you open it up, the steam pours out, the dishes -- now, you press it 12 times. Women tell me, again, they give you four drops of water. And there are places where there's so much more that they don't know what to do with it.


KEILAR: Women tell him, he says.

And joining me now from Capitol Hill is Oregon Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley.

I want to ask you not about what we heard the president say at his rally but about what's going on with impeachment. The House Speaker has not committed to sending these articles of impeachment over to the Senate. Do you think that she should?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): I think what she did was to draw attention to the fact that we have a very bizarre and unacceptable situation in the U.S. Senate. When we take an oath, not just our oath of office, but we have to take an oath before this trial, it is an oath to do impartial justice, do impartial justice. And we have a majority leader who has gotten up before the cameras and said, I will not be an impartial juror. If you cannot be an impartial juror, you cannot take the oath, and that's bizarre place we're at right now.

KEILAR: It does sound like the expectation is that eventually the articles head over to the Senate side, but do you think that it would be a possibility? Do you think it would be okay if the House held the articles indefinitely?

MERKLEY: I don't think the House has any chance of that happening. There is a rhythm to this. She is pausing, the speaker is pausing and saying, let's pay attention to the fact that there is not a commitment to a fair process for a trial, that that is a violation of our constitutional framework of checks and balances.

Never before have we seen a situation where the leader of the Senate says to the public, I am in partnership with the president who is accused of high crimes and misdemeanors. So you have a deep, challenging situation of a constitutional breakdown.

And for her to pause and say, pay attention and let's hope the Senate can fix this, this is very, very important. What's important here? Fairness, absolute fairness to the president as a defendant and to the process, full facts before the public.

What do we have at the moment? We have a president who is locking up the documents, locking up those who work in his administration who would testify, and then the majority leader.

KEILAR: So let me ask you about that, because part of that, Democrats want the Senate to have more witnesses, they want these administration witnesses. Should they have just waited for the courts to decide whether these Trump administration witnesses have to testify? Wouldn't that have dealt with this very issue Democrats are having?

MERKLEY: So my understanding of the House dialogue was that it might take up to a year to get the courts to be able to deliver the decision that would supply the witnesses. And that certainly is unacceptable. And so they had to make the decision, what do we have before us? Do we have sufficient information to make this judgment on an indictment? And they said, yes, and I think they were absolutely right in that evaluation.

But now we're talking about a trial. And we are talking about a trial where the Democrats and Republicans together should fight for fairness. We take an oath of impartiality. We try to set everything aside, listen to the exact charges that have come from the House and the exact evidence that bears on it. And we should, together, demand the full information, because only that is fair to the president.

The president thinks that he did nothing wrong. He should be volunteering to expedite the process of getting us the documents and the witnesses. If Senator McConnell thinks the president did nothing wrong, he should, in fact, be expediting the process of getting those witnesses and standing together as a U.S. Senate charged with a very important moment in our history, the judgment, the fair and full judgment of whether the president has committed high crimes and misdemeanors.

KEILAR: McConnell, like Speaker Pelosi in the House, holds the cards in the Senate. What do you see the role of Democratic senators to be in this?

MERKLEY: Well, certainly, we are going to stand for our constitutional responsibility of country before party. And every senator should be asking the question, what would I do if the same information, the same conduct was regarding a president of the other party?


What if this was a Democratic president who had solicited foreign intervention in 2020 elections? What if this was a Democratic president who had obstructed information that would be delivered to Congress? If we can't say we would act in the same way regardless of party, then we aren't being impartial.

So we need to -- we're trying to persuade our colleagues that they should uphold their oath to the Constitution and their oath to this trial, to be impartial jurors. We're going to fight for facts and fairness and our responsibility under the Constitution.

KEILAR: Do you think Democrats will be unified in the Senate?

MERKLEY: Well, I don't know the answer to that and I shouldn't know the answer to that. Because the very reasons that I'm laying out that each senator should come forward, look at the exact charge and the exact information brought to bear. We will then see.

So I just think that in our --

KEILAR: It sounds like it's a real possibility that you may lose at least a Democrat. And I wonder, in that vote, if you can't keep your caucus together, how do you convince the American people that they should see things your way?

MERKLEY: Well, at this moment, to convince the American people, they should see it our way, in my mind, is the exact partisanship we have to set aside. We have to come to this and say, we have a responsibility not to play 2020 politics, not what is the poll going to be after this is done, but to say what is the exact defense, what is the evidence and does it rise to the level to merit expulsion.

And so I, for one, and I think many of my colleagues share this feeling, is that we have to take off for whatever partisan consequences there might be and fulfill our constitutional responsibility.

KEILAR: Senator Merkley, thank you for coming on. We appreciate it.

MERKLEY: Thank you, Brianna. Good to be with you.

KEILAR: A disturbing attack against a late congressman and a veteran suggesting that John Dingell is in hell. His wife, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, responds.

Plus, the president once said impeachment would be a horror show and an embarrassment. As his past views take on new meaning, we'll look at the tape.

And despite the president, first lady and their allies saying invoking their teenage son in politics is off limits, President Trump invokes his teenage son in politics.

This is CNN special live coverage.



KEILAR: At the same time that President Trump was being impeached by the House of Representatives, he was holding a campaign rally in Michigan where he not only doubled down on his impeachment defense, he called out President Obama in an effort to shift the focus.


TRUMP: Remember Obama 28 times. 28 times you can have your doctor, you can have your plan. It didn't work out that way, did it? I think we should impeach him for that. Let's impeach him. For that, for the IRS scandal, for the guns, remember the guns he was giving to anybody that wanted them? He gave guns to the worst people in the world and then they didn't have them registered right, not too good. Impeach him. Why didn't the Republicans impeach him?


KEILAR: CNN's Chris Cillizza is joining us right now. And, Chris, it's worth pointing out that it really wasn't too long ago that President Trump had a very different opinion of impeaching Obama. He even called for a president in his own party to be removed from office at one time and he called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi an impressive person.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes. Donald Trump, breaking news, Bri, Donald Trump tends to say one thing when it suits him and something exactly the opposite form that when it no longer suits him, and this is a classic example. Luckily, or maybe unluckily for him, we have the receipts.

So to your point, let's start with Donald Trump praising Nancy Pelosi in talking about George W. Bush in impeachment. Let's play that./

TRUMP: And I'm very impressed by her. I think she's a very impressive person. I like her a lot.

But I was surprised that she didn't do more in terms of Bush and going after Bush. It was almost -- it just seemed like she was going to really look to impeach Bush and get him out of office, which personally I think would have been a wonderful thing.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Impeaching him?

TRUMP: For the war. For the war.

BLITZER: Because of the conduct he --

TRUMP: He lied. He got us into the war with lies.


CILLIZZA: Okay. That was 2008. By the way, a sign Wolf Blitzer never ages.

Let's go to 2018 during the Obama presidency. Donald Trump, private citizen, are you allowed to impeach a president -- obviously talking about Obama here -- for gross incompetence? And then we have him talking more about Barack Obama and impeachment and embarrassments here.


TRUMP: Do you think Obama seriously wants to be impeached and go through what Bill Clinton did? He would be a mess. He would be thinking about nothing but. But it would be a horror show for him.


It would be an absolute embarrassment. It would go down on his record permanently.


CILLIZZA: Oh, it will go down on his record permanently, except the him, we're talking about here now is Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. Brianna, back to you.

KEILAR: Yes. And you're right, Wolf Blitzer does not age.

CILLIZZA: It's unbelievable.

KEILAR: I rely on his glasses to tell me, you know, which year it is. That's the only way I can tell with that video.

CILLIZZA: He's the best.

KEILAR: All right. Chris, thank you so much. So are you.

A Congresswoman who lost her husband this year and now the president is suggesting that John Dingell is in hell. Hear how the GOP is responding.

Plus, Republicans compare the president's impeachment to everything from Jesus' crucifixion, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Salem witch trials. We'll discuss.



KEILAR: While the House was voting to impeach President Trump, he was holding a campaign rally in Michigan. In a more than two-hour ramble, he went from impeachment to investment, jobs to jabs, trade to dishwashers and dishwashers to Democrats. He attacked Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell and her late husband, John, who died earlier this year.


TRUMP: So she calls me up like eight months ago. Her husband was there a long time. But I didn't give him the B treatment. I didn't give him the C or the D. I could have.

She calls me up, it's the nicest thing that's ever happened. Thank you so much. John would be do thrilled. He's looking down. I said, that's okay, don't worry about it. Maybe he's looking up, I don't know.


KEILAR: And according to Debbie Dingell, actually, the president called her.

But just let this sink in. The person that President Trump is smearing is former Congressman John Dingell. He served 59 years in the House of Representatives. He was among the last two veterans of the Second World War who served in Congress, an icon in the halls of the Capitol and on the streets across Michigan.

This morning, Debbie Dingell responded.


REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): I was very grateful. By the way, I didn't call him, he called me to tell me he was lowering the flags, and that meant a lot. But John Dingell earned his burial in Arlington Cemetery because he's a World War II veteran, longest serving member in the Congress. He loved our country.

I think we should take a lesson from this and all respect each other, period, in the broader. We need more civility in this country. Some things should be off limits. And you know what, we're all human beings.

Michelle Obama said, when they go low, you go high. I don't want to politicize my husband. I don't want to politicize his death. It is still something that I'm really grieving over. This Thanksgiving was really hard and Christmas is harder, and I'm going to go back to doing my job and doing a good job for the people of my district.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: Joining me now to discuss is Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette. Welcome. Thank you for coming on.


KEILAR: You presided over yesterday's historic impeachment debate. I certainly have many questions about that. But, first, I just want to get your reaction to the president suggesting that John Dingell is now in hell.

DEGETTE: Well, I want to say John Dingell was my mentor. John Dingell was my friend. He's a large part of why I've been successful in Congress. He was a lion of the House. He passed most of the our environmental laws, the Clean Air Acts, the Drinking Water Act, he was author of the Affordable Care Act. And you know what? It just doesn't even -- it's just not even worth saying how low that was, what President Trump said. I'm not even going to dignify it with a response.

My prayers and love go out to Debbie and John's whole family in this holiday season. I'm close friends with Debbie, and it's hard for them. And for a president to go to your district and say something so low and demeaning, it's just not worth discussing. As Debbie said, they go low but we're going to go high.

KEILAR: I wonder what you think -- I understand you don't want to address what he said about the former congressman, but there was some insight, I think, into perhaps his thinking on how he approaches things when he does something for someone. Do you think, listening to him, that President Trump expected Debbie Dingell to vote against impeachment because he had lowered flags to honor her husband?

DEGETTE: I really don't -- I couldn't possibly begin to guess what's in the president's mind. But the fact that he would go there against somebody who was a World War II veteran, who was in the House, longest serving member of the House and somebody who was so successful legislatively in their own district, it's just wrong.


And, look, Donald Trump does this to lots of people. That's his default. And I just think we need to --