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Nancy Pelosi Tries to Increase Senate Democrats' Leverage on Impeachment Trial; Trump Goes on the Attack During Michigan Rally; Seven Democratic Candidates Set for Sixth and Final Debate of the Year; Vladimir Putin Expected to Address Trump's Impeachment During Annual News Conference. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired December 19, 2019 - 04:30   ET





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


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: An unprecedented move by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could delay President Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate.


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


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

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

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody, on a -- what is it, a Thursday?

ROMANS: It is Thursday.

BRIGGS: I'm losing track. Lucky Thursday, I guess.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 minutes past the hour here in New York. Good morning, everyone.

Breaking overnight, a twist, 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 of Representatives 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.


ROMANS: Pelosi says Democrats will make the 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.

BRIGGS: Phil Mattingly, thanks.


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.


BRIGGS: Republicans, of course, scoffing at the idea. A delay in sending over articles of impeachment, quote, "magically gives Democrats leverage in the Senate." 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."

ROMANS: All right, a dramatic split screen moment in history played out at 8:34 p.m. Eastern Time last night. 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 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. 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. The country is doing better than ever before. We did nothing wrong. We did nothing wrong. And we have tremendous support in the Republican Party like we've never had before.


ROMANS: But his most vicious attack was aimed at a 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.

BRIGGS: Boris Sanchez, thank you.

Congresswoman Dingell responding to Trump's attacks with an emotional tweet, "Mr. President, let's set politics aside. My husband earned all his accolades 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."

ROMANS: Also in that rally the president bringing up his son Barron by name 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.




ROMANS: Previously, Republicans including First Lady Melania Trump criticized a Stanford law professor during the impeachment hearing when she invoked Barron Trump during her testimony. At the time, Mrs. Trump tweeted this, "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."

BRIGGS: 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 didn't 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 one is adopted.


PELOSI: The question is on adoption of article two.


BRIGGS: And there was that glare. The cheering was not repeated when she announced the president had been impeached on the second article of obstructing Congress. Democrats repeatedly said they were sad Wednesday to be impeaching the president. Some even wearing black to emphasize the gravity on the moment.

ROMANS: Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard voting present on impeachment. In a statement afterwards, she said she could not in good conscience vote either yes or no. 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 a sitting president must not be the culmination of a partisan process fueled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country."

BRIGGS: What did you think of the glare from Pelosi?

ROMANS: I've given that glare to my children.

BRIGGS: Let's see.

ROMANS: Well, I can't do it unless I'm provoked.

BRIGGS: OK. Yes, it needs to be in the moment?

ROMANS: You have to provoke me.

BRIGGS: Grandma Pelosi. I always provoke you.

ROMANS: I thought that was --

BRIGGS: Just give me a minute.

ROMANS: That was a mom move, though. You say Grandma Pelosi. But that's -- that was a mom look if I've ever seen one.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, 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: Forty-seven minutes past the hour. Boeing will halt production on the 737 MAX next month. And that is bad news for the American economy. That jet is Boeing's best-selling plane. It has been grounded since March after two fatal accidents within five months. Since Boeing is one of America's biggest manufacturers and its number one exporter, the suspension of its biggest product could way on U.S. GDP next year.

Economists say the production shutdown could knock a half percentage point off of first quarter GDP. Bank of America now expects 1.2 percent growth for the quarter. The MAX crisis is also expected to keep dragging down manufacturing. The sector has contracted four months in a row. It is a recession in manufacturing in this country. The production cut is also bad news for G.E. G.E. makes the MAX 737's engines and will see an immediate hit to its cash flow.

BRIGGS: 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 to 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 this Congress is, quote, "leave no vacancy behind."

ROMANS: All right, 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.

BRIGGS: All right, as Kyung said there, the PBS News Hour-Politico Democratic presidential debate live from L.A. Watch it on CNN and your local PBS station starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

ROMANS: All right, trading cows with Wakanda? CNN Business has the details on what showed up on the USDA's tariff tracker, next.



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

BRIGGS: Russian president Vladimir Putin sure to be asked about President Trump's impeachment at his annual marathon news conference under way as we speak in Moscow. The year-end event usually runs for about four thrilling hours and generates dozens of news stories.

Joining us now, senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen who must be taking a lot of notes, comfortable shoes, comfortable chair and all.

How goes the marathon, Fred?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. A lot of popcorn. I can tell you one thing, Dave, it makes "Dances with Wolves" seem like a short film. So far Vladimir Putin has been asked mostly about domestic politics in Russia. He's also been asked about the environment and about climate change. We haven't gotten to that part where -- we're pretty sure he's going to be asked about impeachment, as well.

Of course one of the things that we know about Vladimir Putin and generally about the Russian government is that they have been firmly in the corner of President Trump on that issue and a variety of other issues, as well. It's quite interesting because there was a senior Russian senator who came out earlier today and pretty much mirrored Republican talking points on the issue of impeachment.

He said that he believed that the impeachment was not about removing President Trump from office but from preventing him from being re- elected. So some of the things that we're hearing President Trump say, as well. So we are going to see whether or not Vladimir Putin is going to be asked that. We're pretty sure that he will be. But again in this press conference, which, as we've noted, is

extremely long, the foreign policy questions usually do come a little bit later. There's probably going to be some questions about Ukraine. There's going to be some questions about Syria. But again, the one thing that we're looking for is whether or not and what he's going to say about the impeachment of President Trump -- Dave.

BRIGGS: International diplomacy, "Dances with Wolves" references, that's what you get with Fred Pleitgen.

Thank you, sir. Appreciate that. Topnotch.

ROMANS: Yes. Fred Pleitgen makes it funny from Moscow.

Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. Taking a look at global markets. Pretty much mixed here overall. And in fact we look at Wall Street for this Thursday morning. Only about six trading days left in the session or in the year rather. Up a little bit is what it's indicating here. Stocks finished mixed Wednesday. That broke a two-day run of record closing highs. The Dow closed 28, S&P fell a little, but the Nasdaq managed enough of a gain to hit a record high.

New rules to tell you about for Instagram influencers. Facebook said users will be banned from promoting branded content about vaping, tobacco and weapons. The influencer marketing industry has exploded on Instagram recently. Instagram doesn't take a cut of partnerships between influencers and brands but it does make money from branded content ads. Branded content promoting alcohol and diet supplements will require special restrictions. Instagram did not specify what those would be.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen gods fly. I've seen men build weapons --


ROMANS: "Black Panther" trading with the U.S.? Until Wednesday afternoon it looks like it. The fictional country Wakanda was listed on the USDA's tariff tracker as a free trade partner. The USDA told NBC it used Wakanda to test the system behind the tracker and then forgot to remove it. Listed as tariff-free imports from Wakanda cows and frozen Chinese water chestnuts.

BRIGGS: What do you mean fictional?

ROMANS: Oh, yes, I'm sorry.

BRIGGS: I thought it was real.

ROMANS: It's happening.


BRIGGS: What are you going to tell me as fake next? Really ruining my Thursday.

All right, ahead, thanks to our international viewers for joining us. Have a great rest of your day. For our U.S. viewers, EARLY START continues right now.


PELOSI: So far, we haven't seen anything that looks fair to us.


BRIGGS: An unprecedented move by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could delay President Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate.


TRUMP: We did nothing wrong. Nothing whatsoever. Debbie Dingell, that's a real beauty.


ROMANS: President Trump goes immediately on the attack, ripping Democrats and a deceased World War II Army veteran.

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

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It's Thursday.