Return to Transcripts main page


Nancy Pelosi Demands Fair Process in Senate Before Sending Articles; Trump Lashes at Michigan Rally Amid Impeachment; Democrats Gear Up for Last Debate of 2019. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired December 19, 2019 - 04:00   ET




REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): So far we haven't seen anything that looks fair to us.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: An unprecedented move by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could upend the timing of President Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we did nothing wrong, nothing whatsoever. Debbie Dingell, that's a real beauty.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump immediately on the attack, ripping Democrats and a deceased World War II Army veteran.

ROMANS: We're now just hours away from a seven-way primetime showdown as the Democratic candidates for president prepare for a live TV debate.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans. Good morning.

BRIGGS: Good morning. Good morning, everyone. I'm Dave Briggs. It is Thursday, December 19th, 4:00 a.m. in New York.

And breaking overnight, a stunning twist in the impeachment of President Trump. A Senate trial on removing the president now in limbo put there by a surprise power play from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. After the House vote yesterday, Pelosi refused to commit to sending the two articles of impeachment over to the Senate for trial.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you guarantee that the impeachment articles will be at some point be sent to the Senate? Can you guarantee that?

PELOSI: That would have been our intention. But we'll see what happens over there.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So, you may not send it --

PELOSI: That is not -- you're asking me, are we all going to go out and play in the snow? That has not been part of our conversation.


BRIGGS: Well, she says Democrats will make a decision as a group when to send the articles to the Senate.

Congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly with the latest from Capitol Hill.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine and Dave, for history, the United States House of Representatives has impeached Donald Trump. Two articles of impeachment, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, and Donald Trump became the third president in U.S. history to be impeached by the House. However, there's still one major question left. What happens next?

We know the Senate is the next place for those articles of impeachment to come. We know that a Senate trial will likely follow at some point after that. But when are those articles of impeachment being sent over? Well, according to the speaker, that's still an open question.


PELOSI: We have legislation approved by the Rules Committee that will enable us to decide how we will send over the articles of impeachment. We cannot name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side. And I would hope that that will be soon, as we did with our legislation, our Resolution 660, to describe what the process would be. So far, we haven't seen anything that looks fair to us so hopefully it will be fair and when we see what that is we'll send our managers.


MATTINGLY: Now, guys, to give a little bit of a behind-the-scenes explanation here, one thing you need to know is this is, in part, a leverage play. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has made clear he does not believe any witnesses should be brought forth in a trial. He's willing to have the first stage of the trial take place and if members still want witnesses to come, perhaps hold votes on whether or not to hear from those witnesses. But those votes will be on a simple majority threshold and Senate Republicans control 53 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate, which means if they stick together McConnell pretty much gets his way.

However, McConnell and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer still need to meet. They've had a long-scheduled sit-down to walk through what they believe the rules of the road will be. Schumer has already laid out his proposal, saying he wants witnesses. What Pelosi is doing, to some degree here, by holding back on the articles of impeachment, saying she won't send them over until she has an understanding of what the Senate process will be, of whether that process will be fair, is giving Chuck Schumer a little bit of leverage when he actually sits down and speaks with Mitch McConnell.

Now keep in mind, Mitch McConnell will speak in a couple of hours, laying out kind of his view of the next steps forward. So pay close attention to that, pay close attention to whether or not McConnell and Schumer meet. And obviously, pay close attention as to when and whether the articles of impeachment are ever actually sent to the United States Senate -- guys.

ROMANS: All right. Phil Mattingly, thanks so much for that.

Democratic lawmakers lining up after the impeachment vote to support Speaker Pelosi's position.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): And obviously, Senator McConnell, by that declaration, has said that he is so -- as, in effect, the foreman of the jury is working with the defendant's counsel. That's not fair. And we'll have to see what else. But that's certainly an indication of an unfair -- of an intention to have an unfair trial.

REP. EARL BLUMENAUER (D-OR): I think this tool can be extremely useful and the weeks ahead also give us an opportunity to get more information. There are court cases that deal with access to tax returns. Remember, Bolton wanted to have a court ruling about whether or not he should appear.


So there are many shoes that could fall. The record can continue to be built. We give nothing up.


ROMANS: Republicans, of course, scoffing at the idea. A delay in sending over articles of impeachment magically gives Democrats leverage in the Senate. Republican leader McConnell's former chief of staff Josh Holmes tweeting, "Folks, this might be the greatest compliment McConnell has ever received. They are seriously entertaining holding a grenade with the pin pulled rather than facing what happens when they send it over McConnell's wall."

BRIGGS: A dramatic split-screen moment in history played out at 8:34 Eastern Time last night as President Trump on stage at a rally in Michigan just as Speaker Pelosi presided over the House vote to impeach him. The president angrily mocked Democrats for wanting him out.


TRUMP: You're declaring open war on American democracy. You are the ones interfering in America's elections. You are the ones subverting America's democracy. We did nothing wrong, nothing whatsoever. You are the ones bringing pain and suffering to our republic.

By the way, it doesn't really feel like we're being impeached, you know? The country is doing better than ever before. We did nothing wrong.


TRUMP: We did nothing wrong. And we have tremendous support in the Republican Party like we've never had before.


BRIGGS: The president's most vicious attack was on to the World War II Army veteran and his widow.

CNN's Boris Sanchez explains.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, at over two hours, this is the longest speech of President Trump's presidency. Trump oftentimes rambling and scathing in his criticism of Democrats. He started off his speech by saying that it doesn't feel like we're being impeached, reveling in the adoration of his supporters.

The president soon turning his focus to Democrats, going after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer in a crude way, also attacking Hillary and Bill Clinton. But perhaps the most appalling comments made by President Trump tonight aimed at Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan over the death of her husband, former Congressman John Dingell, the longest serving member of Congress up until his death.

Listen to some of what President Trump said.


TRUMP: Then you have this Dingell. Dingell. You know Dingell from Michigan?


TRUMP: You know Dingell? You ever hear of her, Michigan? Debbie Dingell. That's a real beauty. 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. Nobody would ask, you know. I gave the A plus treatment. Take down the flags. Why are you taking them down? For ex-Congressman Dingell. Oh, OK. Do this. Do that. Do that. Rotunda, everything. I gave them everything. That's OK. I don't want anything for it. I don't need anything for anything.

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


TRUMP: I don't know. Maybe. Maybe.


SANCHEZ: The president taking Congresswoman Dingell's vote on impeachment and impeachment as a whole very personally. The president saying that Democrats should apologize for what they're doing to his family -- Dave and Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Boris Sanchez for us at the White House this morning.

Congresswoman Dingell responding to Trump's attacks with an emotional tweet, "Mr. President, let's set politics aside. My husband earned all his accolades over a lifetime of service. I'm preparing for the first holiday season without the man I love. You brought me down in a way you can never imagine. And your hurtful words just made my healing much harder."

BRIGGS: President Trump bringing up his son, Barron, by name, during that rally while attacking Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren.


TRUMP: Crazy Pocahontas goes to the middle of Central Park or whatever -- she's in Manhattan. You got me. And people, I mean, I could have -- I could have Barron Trump go into Central Park and he'd get a crowd that would be just as big.



BRIGGS: Previously, Republicans including First Lady Melania Trump criticized this Stanford law professor during the impeachment hearing for invoking Barron Trump during her testimony. At the time, Mrs. Trump, "A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics. Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering and using a child to do it."

ROMANS: All right. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi maintaining control of her caucus with a glance and a gesture alone at one point yesterday. She has always maintained impeachment a president is a solemn exercise.


Ahead of the vote, Democrats were reportedly instructed not to cheer, but as Pelosi announced President Trump had been impeached on the first article, abuse of power, some Democrats began to clap in celebration. That did not last long. Pelosi quickly waved her hand and shot them a withering glare. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: On this vote, the yeas are 230, the nays are 197. Present is one. Article 1 is adopted.


ROMANS: I have given that look before to my children. My unruly children. The cheering was not repeated when she announced the president had been impeached on the second article, obstructing Congress. Democrats repeatedly have said they were sad Wednesday to be impeaching the president. Some wore black to emphasize the gravity on the vote.

BRIGGS: Pelosi glare trending throughout the day.

Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard voting president on impeachment. In a statement afterwards, she said she could not in good conscience vote either yes or not. And she added that she could not oppose impeachment, quote, "because I believe President Trump is guilty of wrongdoing." But she said she couldn't support it because, quote, "removal of the sitting president must not be the culmination of a partisan process fueled by tribal animosities that have so greatly divided our country."

ROMANS: All right. The historic impeachment of President Trump sure to be a topic at tonight's crucial Democratic debate in Los Angeles. We're there with a preview, next.



ROMANS: On what might be the worst week of the Trump's presidency, one of his biggest triumphs, USMCA. The House is expected to pass Trump's North American trade deal today after Wednesday's historic impeachment vote.


PELOSI: We're declaring victory for the American worker and what is in this agreement.

TRUMP: The silver lining of impeachment and this witch hunt, that's the reason they approved USMCA. So, that's OK with me.


ROMANS: USMCA is lot like the old NAFTA with some much-needed modernization. It requires 75 percent of the car's part to be made in one of the three countries. It also requires more content to be made by workers earning at least $16 an hour. USMCA strengthens labor laws and there's more access to markets for dairy farmers.

The agreement provides $600 million to address environmental problems in the region and it removes controversial protections for biological drugs. While the deal is expected to pass the House, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has said the Senate won't vote until after the impeachment trial.

While all eyes were on the impeachment proceedings, Republican leader McConnell expedited the confirmation of 11 federal district judges through the Senate. The majority leader pressured Democrats into the deal following two procedural votes on nominees, bringing Wednesday's total 13. McConnell and President Trump have changed the landscape of the federal courts across the U.S. with a record 50 Circuit Court judges. McConnell says his motto for the remainder of the Congress is leave no vacancy behind.

Tonight, seven Democratic presidential candidates go head-to-head in Los Angeles for the sixth and final debate of the year. It's the smallest debate field yet, meaning the candidates will have more time to sell themselves. It's also the least diverse group of candidates so far. Only one minority candidate qualified.

CNN's Kyung Lah has more.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates attempt to turn the page from the impeachment of the president to politics. The sixth Democratic debate is taking place tonight. Seven of the candidates are here in Los Angeles preparing for this evening's debate.

Now, three of those candidates will be jurors in the upcoming Senate trial, Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, of course, at the center of the president's conduct that led to his impeachment.

Now, these candidates largely will be out of the public view. They are in debate prep. But we are seeing Senator Cory Booker. He is in campaigning in Las Vegas. Senator Booker and Julian Castro, both candidates, did not qualify for this evening's debate. They have been talking increasingly about how the debate stage, with the exception of Andrew Yang, will be all white. No black or Latino candidates qualified for this evening's debate.

So, what can you expect from this evening? Expect more separation, delineation from the moderate and progressive candidates. Also expect Senator Elizabeth Warren to mention this. The 200-plus former Obama administration and campaign workers have decided to publicly endorse her instead of the former vice president.

CNN will air the debate live this evening -- Christine, Dave.

ROMANS: All right, Kyung Lah, thank you so much.

That's right. The last presidential debate of the year will air here. It's a crucial night for candidates still trying to break through. The PBS News Hour-Politico Democratic presidential debate live from Los Angeles. Watch it on CNN and your local PBS station. Coverage begins at 8:00 p.m. Eastern tonight.

For the second time this year, a Chinese national has been arrested for trespassing at President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort. Details next.



BRIGGS: A Chinese woman arrested for trespassing at Mar-a-Lago, President Trump's private club in south Florida. The second time that's happened this year.


Palm Beach Police say 56-year-old Jing Lu was spotted on club grounds and asked to leave. They say she later returned and began taking photos at which point Jing was arrested for loitering and prowling. Officials say she is in the U.S. on an expired visa. President Trump was, of course, not at Mar-a-Lago yesterday. Earlier this year, another Chinese national, Yujing Zhang, was arrested for trespassing at the club. She was convicted and is awaiting deportation.

ROMANS: In Fresno, California, a police arrested a 17-year-old girl Wednesday. He's saying she tried to take a small plane on a joyride. Surveillance video shows the aircraft driving in a circle before crashing into a chain-link fence. Police say the suspect's motives are unknown but they see no link to domestic terrorism. It's still unclear how she started the aircraft which sustained some damage but was never airborne. No one was injured in the crash and no passenger planes were ever at risk.

BRIGGS: Good times. (INAUDIBLE). The historic impeachment of President Trump just took an unprecedented turn, setting the stage for a new power struggle between Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell. Details are next.