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EARLY START

Democrats Won't Commit On Sending Impeachment To Senate; President Trump Goes After Enemies During Michigan Rally; Russian President Vladimir Putin Says Trump Impeached For Made-Up Reasons. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 19, 2019 - 05:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[05:31:10]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump goes 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 T.V. debate.

Good morning, everyone. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans -- morning.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs -- good morning. Good morning, everyone -- 5:31 eastern time on a Thursday.

We start with breaking news 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. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

PELOSI: I'm not going to --

REPORTER: Can you guarantee that?

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

REPORTER: So you may not send them?

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: 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.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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 far 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 state 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 play close attention to that and 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.

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[05:35:02]

ROMANS: All right, Phil, thanks for that.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): And obviously, Sen. McConnell, by that declaration, has said that he is so -- as, in effect, the foreman of the jury is working with the defendants' 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 in the weeks ahead and 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Republicans, not surprisingly, 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 this. "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. President Trump on a 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, we did nothing wrong. And we have tremendous support in the Republican Party like we've never had before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The president's most vicious attack suggesting a World War II veteran ended up in hell.

CNN's Boris Sanchez explains.

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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 the 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 and 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: Now you have this Dingell -- Dingell -- you know, Dingell from Michigan. 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 have -- you know -- I gave the A-plus treatment.

Take down the flags. Why you taking them down? For ex-congressman Dingell. Oh, OK.

Do this, do that, do that -- rotunda -- everything. I gave him everything. That's OK.

I don't 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. 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right, Boris. Thank you for that.

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

"Mr. President, let's set my 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."

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

[05:40:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Crazy Pocahontas goes to the middle of Central Park or whatever park -- 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BRIGGS: 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, Mrs. Trump tweeting, "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, so many questions this morning. What assurances does Nancy Pelosi want from the Senate before an impeachment trial? Does she gain any leverage at all by withholding the articles of impeachment? We discuss, next.

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[05:45:03]

ROMANS: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refusing to commit to sending the articles of impeachment over to the Senate for trial. Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer set to meet later this morning. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell set to speak in just a few hours.

BRIGGS: Joining us now live from Washington, CNN's Marshall Cohen. Good morning, sir.

ROMANS: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Good to see you.

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Good morning.

BRIGGS: We are all old enough to remember one Merrick Garland, so don't expect Mitch McConnell to blink here. Presumably, the play is you'll never be acquitted if we hang onto the articles of impeachment.

How much leverage do you feel Nancy Pelosi has in this one?

COHEN: You know, Dave, I think she's got very little leverage, to be honest. I mean, this is probably the very last card she can play and I don't think it's a very good card, you know.

Look at it from Mitch McConnell's perspective, right? He might be thinking look, Speaker Pelosi, if you don't want to send us these articles of impeachment, that's fine. We don't think he's guilty anyway so we're just going to move on and do the people's business.

Or he could flip the script and say you say whatever you want to say. I'm starting the trial on this day. We're going to acquit on this day and then we're going to move on.

So he's really got way more leverage than Speaker Pelosi, I think. But she is going to meet with Chuck Schumer, she is going to meet with her fellow Democratic lawmakers and see how they can sort of work this very last angle here before they do move it on. ROMANS: The power play, I think, is fascinating and trying to game out what happens next. But pausing for a moment -- I mean, this is a stain on the legacy of the 45th presidency of the United States. Only the third president to be impeached. It's the banner headline on every newspaper in America --

COHEN: Right.

ROMANS: -- this morning.

And last at 8:34 p.m. eastern time, exactly at the moment that the president was impeached by the House of Representatives, he was on a stage in aptly-named Battle Creek, Michigan basically saying, you know -- there's the split screen -- basically saying I don't feel like I'm being impeached.

And the country still is remarkably split here Marshall, isn't it -- the public?

COHEN: Right. I mean, if you listen closely to what he said he actually said I don't -- it doesn't feel like we're being impeached, does it?

ROMANS: The royal we.

BRIGGS: Does it?

COHEN: And that's part of the strategy, right, because what they -- the White House has been saying, what the Trump campaign has been saying is ladies and gentlemen, they're going against you, the voters -- the people that put me here. And, you know, for everybody out there that thinks that this is just in Washington, don't be so fooled. This is an attack against you -- the hardworking American, the forgotten American.

So it was very much a royal we in saying don't let them do this to us.

ROMANS: Yes.

COHEN: Let's give it to them next year at the polls.

ROMANS: Yesterday, in -- you know, I listened to all of that testimony or all of the -- all of the questioning yesterday or the statements yesterday and I lost count of how many times Republicans said duly-elected President of the United States or 63 million people who voted for him. You know, impeachment, of course, is the mechanism for a duly-elected president to be -- to be held to account, of course.

But you're absolutely right. The strategy from the Republicans really seems to be this is an attack on the president's supporters.

COHEN: Well, and speaking of the 63 million, the Democratic leader, Steny Hoyer from Maryland, very accurately pointed out, of course, that there were more people that voted against Donald Trump than for Donald Trump in 2016, right? There were, I think, 65 million that went for --

ROMANS: That's right.

COHEN: -- Hillary Clinton. So, you know, it's kind of weird to tout how many people voted for you when you actually finished second place in the popular vote, but that was a clear theme all day from the Republicans yesterday that you're trying to undo an election.

I was watching some old tapes from the Clinton years a couple of days ago and there were a lot of Democrats making that same case in the late nineties --

ROMANS: Really?

COHEN: -- that they were trying to undo the will of what the voters had done in 1996, putting Bill Clinton --

BRIGGS: Yes.

COHEN: -- in office.

BRIGGS: Yes, it's almost just flip the argument.

Speaking of 1999, Lindsey Graham at the center of all this, promising not to be an impartial juror. Let's listen to what he's saying now about witnesses being called in the Senate and what he said back then.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I am not going to support witnesses being called for by the president. I am not going to support witnesses being called for by Sen. Schumer. We're going to vote on the same product the House use.

GRAHAM (1999): America needs to hear about this case, before they vote, in some reasonable fashion. That's not too much to ask.

They're going to vote their courage -- have the courage to let the American people know not just from sound bites and spinmeisters what this case is about. They need to have the witness called or play what happened today. That needs to be done for everybody to understand what this case is about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Now, we don't have to ask you why the about-face. That goes without saying. But do you detect any strategy from Senate Republicans when this thing moves to the Senate?

[05:50:04]

Yesterday, we heard biblical references about the crucifixion of Jesus and comparing that to what the president is going through, and even a comparison to D-Day, 1941.

What's ahead for a defense there? COHEN: Yes. You know, will they continue with these grandiose comparisons? I guess we'll see.

But the -- I think the strongest strategy they have is stick together. You know, it worked in the House. There were no Republican defections last night.

And that's their strongest talking point, right, that this is a partisan process. It's a one-party process. So as long as they all stick together that is a self-fulfilling prophecy. They can keep claiming that it's only Democrats.

You know, the flip-flop there from Sen. Graham is pretty obvious. But he did mention, you know -- not only was -- with Clinton, there weren't witnesses actually called in before the Senate. They taped some depositions.

Could that be a potential option? Some sort of compromise as they move this thing to the next phase? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

BRIGGS: By the way, I think I said D-Day -- I meant Pearl Harbor.

And, Chuck Schumer, by the way, in 1999, he did not want witnesses in that trial but he did say they had provided grand jury testimony. So this is where we are.

ROMANS: Marshall Cohen, nice to see you. Thank you so much.

COHEN: Thanks, guys.

ROMANS: A very busy day for him.

BRIGGS: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right.

Russian President Vladimir Putin just spoke about the impeachment of President Trump. Breaking details, next.

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[05:55:55]

BRIGGS: Breaking news this morning. Russian President Vladimir Putin just spoke about the impeachment of President Trump. Let's get right to Fred Pleitgen, live in Moscow -- Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Dave.

Yes, and I would call what Vladimir Putin said pretty much unconditional support for President Trump. He said that he does not believe that President Trump will be removed from office. He said all this still has to go through the Senate. He also said that he believed that this impeachment is happening for what he called "made- up reasons." A lot of what Vladimir Putin said also seemingly mirroring talking

points from the Republicans. He said look, for years, they've been looking for reasons to impeach President Trump. He called it a continuation of a political battle in Washington, D.C.

He said Russian collusion did not work so now they're coming up with pressure on Ukraine. And in the end, he asked, well, where was that pressure supposed to be -- and then asked well, that may be up to the U.S. Congress to try and find out.

So essentially, what we're hearing from Vladimir Putin is pretty much unconditional support for President Trump and also really mirroring some of those talking points that we heard from Republicans in the debate about the impeachment last night, Dave.

BRIGGS: Very similar talking points.

Fred Pleitgen live for us in Moscow, thanks.

ROMANS: All right.

Tonight, seven Democratic presidential hopefuls go head-to-head in Los Angeles for the sixth and final debate of the year.

CNN's Kyung Lah has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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 Sen. Cory Booker. He is 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 Sen. 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: Indeed we will, Kyung. Watch the "PBS NEWSHOUR"-Politico Democratic presidential debate live from Los Angeles on CNN and your local PBS station. Coverage starts at 8:00 eastern time tonight.

ROMANS: Seven on the stage and that will be a little bit easier to hear what people have to say.

BRIGGS: Yes, it will be easier -- yes.

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us, everybody. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Some big news out of the Republican Party and a star in Congress may be stepping aside, right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The House has voted to make Donald Trump the third president to be impeached.

TRUMP: You're declaring open war on American democracy. We did nothing wrong -- nothing whatsoever.

PELOSI: We cannot name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side. We haven't seen anything that looks fair to us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This raises the possibility that this could just go on as a standoff between the House and the Senate.

TRUMP: Debbie Dingell, that's a real beauty. John is looking down. He'd be so thrilled. Maybe he's looking up, I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To attack a grieving widow, completely repulsive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, December 19th, 6:00 here in New York.

And, United States President Donald J. Trump has been impeached. It happened just before 9:00 p.m. eastern last night. And this morning, here are some of the headlines. They say it all.

END