Return to Transcripts main page


Pelosi's Power Play on Impeachment Trial; Trump on the Attack; 2020 Democrats Debate Tonight; Heat Hand 76ers Their First Home Loss of the Season. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 19, 2019 - 05:00   ET


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


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

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. It's Thursday, December 19th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the east.

And, Dave, if you look at the papers today, waking up to impeached. Impeached. Impeached.

BRIGGS: Papers of history there, yes.

ROMANS: Yes, 12-19-19.

And breaking overnight, a twist to 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.


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

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): That would have been our intention. But we'll see what happens over there.

REPORTER: So, you may not --

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


ROMANS: Pelosi 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 the articles of impeachment to come. We know 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 would 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 hope 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. Hopefully, it will be fair. And when we see what that is, we'll send up our managers.

MATTINGLY: Guys, to give a little bit of behind-the-scenes explanation here, one thing you need to know is this is in part of 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 a 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 have 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 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 with Mitch McConnell.

Now, keep in mind, Mitch McConnell will speak in a couple of hours, laying out his view of the next steps forward. Pay close attention to that. And pay close attention to whether McConnell and Schumer meet. And, obviously, pay close attention as to when and whether the articles of impeachment are sent to the United States Senate -- guys. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: We certainly will, Phil.

Democratic lawmakers lining up to support Speaker Pelosi's vision.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Obviously, Senator McConnell by that declaration has said that he is, in effect, the foreman of the jury, is working with defendant's counsel, that's not fair. And we'll see what else -- that's certainly an indication of an unfair -- 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 whether or not he should appear.

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


BRIGGS: Republicans, not surprisingly, scoffing at the idea, delaying 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.

ROMANS: A dramatic split-screen moment in history played out at 8:34 p.m. Eastern last night. President Trump on-stage in 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.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.

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 often times 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 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 Congress member until his death.

Listen to what President Trump said.

TRUMP: They have this Dingell, Dingell. You know Dingell from Michigan? You know Dingell? You ever hear from 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." 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'll be 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. 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, thanks.

Congresswoman Dingell responding to Trump's attacks with an emotional tweet.

Mr. President, let's set politics aside. My husband earned all his accolades after 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: President Trump bringing up his son, Barron, by name during that rally while attacking presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren.


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


ROMANS: Previously, Republicans including First Lady Melania Trump criticized the Stanford law professor during the impeachment hearing for invoking Barron Trump during her testimony.

At the time, the first lady tweeted: A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics. Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your angry and biased public pandering and using a child to do it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi maintaining control of her caucus with a glance and a gesture alone at one point yesterday.


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


ROMANS: Pelosi has maintained that impeaching a president is a solemn exercise. Ahead of the votes, Democrats were reportedly instructed not to cheer. But as she announced approval of the first article, some Democrats began to clap in celebration. That didn't last long. Pelosi quickly waved her hand and shot them this withering glare.

Neither the cheering nor the glare were repeated after she announced the president had been impeached on the second article of obstructing Congress.

[05:10:01] BRIGGS: That is a "don't mess with me" look. I've seen that before.

ROMANS: I told you not to do it and you did it. I've given that look before.

BRIGGS: Yes, it trended all day on Twitter.

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


ROMANS: And 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 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 will be out of 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 separation, delineation from moderate and progressive candidates. Also expect Senator Elizabeth Warren to mention this -- 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. Thank you for that.

It's a crucial night for candidates still trying to get through, the PBS NewsHour Politico Democratic debate live from Los Angeles. You can watch it on CNN or your local PBS stations. Coverage begins tonight at 8:00 Eastern Time.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, New York's newest pitching star shows off proof of his childhood Yankee dream.

Coy Wire has that story in "The Bleacher Report."



ROMANS: On what might be the worst week of the Trump presidency, one of the 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's in this agreement.

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


ROMANS: USMCA is like the old NAFTA with some much-needed modernizations. It now requires 75 percent of the car's parts 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 American dairy farmers.

The agreement provides $600 million to address environmental problems in the region, and it removes controversial protections for biological drugs. And 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, Dave.

BRIGGS: OK, to sports. The Philadelphia 76ers faced defeat at home for the first time this season.

Coy Wire here with the "Bleacher Report".

Good morning, Coy.


Philly went into last night's game as the only unbeaten team at home in the NBA, 14-0. And that streak included a 27-point win over the Heat last month. Not this time. Tyler Herro with the alley-hoop to Derrick Jones Jr., puts Miami up 16 halfway through the fourth.

But the Sixers rally. Tobias Harris' three cuts the lead to two. But then in the closing seconds, Al Horford's go-ahead three just will not fall. The Heat escaping in a thriller in Philly, 108-104.

Now, Christmas came early in Oklahoma City. Every player on the Thunder roster came to the arena wearing a custom tailored suit thanks to Santa Paul, that's teammate Chris Paul. While they looked good in the tunnel. It was a different story in the court.

OKC went down by 24 points for the second-straight game, this time to the Grizzlies. But it ain't over until it's over, right? The Thunder were chipping away behind Dennis Schroeder's season-high 31 points, pulling offer an improbable 126-122 win. Oklahoma City, the second team in the last 25 seasons to win back-to-back games, in which they trail by 20 or more.

The two best teams in the NBA face off tonight on our sister channel TNT. LeBron and the Lakers taking on Giannis and the Bucks at 8:00 Eastern. And it's Rockets/Clippers at 8:30.

All right. Check this out, the Yankees introducing their new ace, Gerrit Cole yesterday. His nine-year $324 million contract makes him the highest paid pitcher in baseball.

And Cole surprised everyone by breaking out a poster he made when he was just a kid.


It says, Yankees fan today, tomorrow, forever.


GERRIT COLE, NEW YORK YANKEE PLAYER: I would just like to say, I've always been here.


BRIGGS: Really, really cool stuff there.

So is this -- the son of Dallas Cowboys legend and former Florida Gators great Emmitt Smith is pretty good running back himself. E.J. Smith has a slew of scholarship offers. But he's choosing to play his college football at Stanford.

But his proud dad wasn't going to let a certain hat go to waste.


EMMITT SMITH, DALLAS COWBOYS LEGEND: You know, I'm going to take this hat and wear this hat. But I can wear this hat. He doesn't have to wear this hat.

His daddy went here. It doesn't mean that my son has to go there. At the end of the day, my son has his own journey. It is his journey, not my journey.


WIRE: Really great message from Emmitt Smith there.


WIRE: Full disclosure, I went to Stanford. So, E.J. made a great choice. I went to a class with Chelsea Clinton. That was cool in my house. So, end up someday, you could be on CNN with Dave Briggs and Christine Romans. That's pretty cool too.

BRIGGS: Dare to dream, brother. He's going to be in the NFL someday. Great call to go to Stanford.

Coy, thank you, my friend.


ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Dave.

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, next.