Return to Transcripts main page


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "People Have A Spring In Their Step" After Impeachment; Leaders Swap Barbs On Capitol Hill After Trump Impeachment; GOP Senator John Thune: We Need To Show Bipartisanship, Cooperation; Donald Trump Attacks Democrats As The House Votes To Impeach; Freedom Caucus Founder Representative Mark Meadows Will Not Seek Re-election. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 19, 2019 - 12:00   ET



DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That brings us to this moment in American political history. He has been driving those female voters away it's in every aspect of your polling when you look at the President standing. This is a huge, huge to do list item for them to get some of those female voters back. This does not help.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Yes. Dishwashers, that's how we ended today. That is really a remarkable thing. It's great to see you guys. Reminder, the PBS News Hour "POLITICO" Democratic Presidential Debate airs on CNN and your local PBS stations starting tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern. Thanks much for being here. "Inside Politics" starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Thank you, Kate, and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us. The President is impeached and now fight now shifts to the Senate. The Republican Majority Leader calls the House process rushed and unfair and say there's no way the President will be convicted and removed by the Senate. Plus, typos in his tweets and anger in his words, impeachment is forever a stain on the President's legacy and he's lashing out.

And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says House Democrats have a spring in their step this morning after those historic votes. What she does not have confidence in is the Senate's Top Republican.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We would hope there would be a fair process, just as we hope that they would honor the constitution. By the way, I saw some of them see it but I heard some of what Mitch McConnell said today, and it reminded me that our founders and when they wrote the constitution, they suspected that there could be a rogue President. I don't think they suspected that we would have a rogue President and a rogue Leader in the Senate at the same time.


KING: And we begin right there with a new chapter for the Trump Impeachment Debate and sharp new salvos from all the key players. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says House Democrats today are proud.


PELOSI: It seems like people have a spring in their step because the President was held accountable for his reckless behavior. No one is above the law, and the constitution is the framed law of the land. No one is above the law, and the President has been held accountable.


KING: But the Speaker is not ready yet to say when she will officially deliver the impeachment case to the Senate. President Trump quick to tweet, she must be afraid. These are his words. "Pelosi feels her phony impeachment hoax is so pathetic, she is afraid to present it to the Senate".

The morning after positioning is so intense because the stakes are so high. The Senate must now consider the two counts of impeachment at a trial and to stride whether to convict and remove the President. The trial rules will be the subject of negotiation still to come. But the Senate's Republican Leader, like the President, trying to get a head start on the politics suggesting the House Democrats' case is weak.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): That's all their rushed and rigged inquiry could generate. An act at the House does not even allege as criminal and a non-nonsensical claim that exercising a legitimate Presidential power is somehow an impeachable offense. Candidly, I don't think I'm the only person around here who realizes that. Even before the House voted yesterday, Democrats were started to signal uneasiness, uneasiness with its end product.


KING: Now Leader McConnell had barely set down his microphone when the top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, walked in to deliver his rebuttal. Schumer saying it's the President and McConnell who are afraid, unwilling, for example, to allow Trump insiders to testify at a Senate trial. And Schumer noted that not once in his long speech had McConnell defended the President's pressure campaign on Ukraine.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Leader McConnell's 30 minutes partisan stem winder contained hardly a single defense of the President of the United States on the merits. Almost none defended President Trump, because they can't.


KING: CNN's Manu Raju, live from Capitol Hill for us right now. Manu, a very important day after and you can see the tension.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No question about it and the questions emerging about how this will play out in the days to come? Right now Chuck Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader, is meeting behind closed doors with Nancy Pelosi. They're discussing their strategy. Then later today Chuck Schumer is going to meet with Mitch McConnell that will be the first time they'll really sit down and discuss whether or not they can come to any sort of agreement on the rules of the trial.

That's significant because what Pelosi is signaling this morning is that that rule needs to be cut. But in the Senate side before the Democrats decides to send over those articles of impeachment from the House. And once that is submitted from the House to the Senate that's when the trial could actually begin.

So what Pelosi had last night when I asked her about the press conference and the immediate after math of the vote to impeach the President, I asked, is it possible you'll never send over those articles? Is it possible you may wait weeks to send over those articles? She sidestepped those questions and seemed to leave out in the door that they may never send over those articles until they get what they consider a "Fair Trial".

She tried to turn down the temperature a bit this morning by suggesting this is essentially a process issue, that essentially the House Senate needs to make a move first, because in her view that they need to decide who the impeachment managers are in the House?


RAJU: the people who would actually prosecute the case in the House, and there is no way that she says that she can name those impeachment managers until they know what the rules are in the Senate, and once they name those managers, that's when the articles can be transmitted.

So she is making it sound like there's more of a process fight than a fight over getting exactly what they wanted in Senate trials, which are those live witnesses that Chuck Schumer wanted. So we'll see how the process and the rules play out, John, but today a big day one of the final days they can have these discussions as Congress wraps up for recess before the holidays, John.

KING: Yes, it's pretty clear from Leader McConnell, he does not want those witnesses. We'll see how that shakes out. Manu, come back to us during the hour if you get any updates on those meetings underway.

With me here in the studio here to share their reporting and their insights Seung Min Kin with "The Washington Post" Michael Shear with "The New York Times" Olivier Knox with "SiriusXM" and Melanie Zanona with "POLITICO."

Not to be lost in this is the significance of the fact that the President of United States was impeached last night on two counts abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The question now is the end result of the Senate is not in doubt, at least based on any evidence before us today. There were not enough Republican votes to convict and remove the President. The question is what will this look like? And I guess the question before that is how and when will they figure it out? MELANIE ZANONA, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": We're in impeachment purgatory right now. This was a bit of a surprise last night even though there have been whispers about Pelosi and Democrats holding this withholding the articles. But look, I think this is all about the Democrats not wanting to show their cards until they see what Republicans have.

Trump is still putting his defense team together. There is talk about bringing some of his House allies over. They haven't decided what the Senate trial is going to look like. Schumer and McConnell will sit down today, but it doesn't look good considering they've been on the floor giving these dueling speeches. Their relationship with peers they had an all-time low.

And so Pelosi has said we're not going to show you what we're going to do? We're not naming our impeachment managers until we see what this is going to look like?

KING: And so the - right now this is about will the Senate convict and remove the President of the United States? Nobody expects that to happen. Argument number two is this is about five or six or seven Republicans who might break from the Democrats on procedural issues. Who might break from Republican - on leadership issues and side with the Democrats saying we want witnesses or we want these procedures or we want these rules.

That is what this is about Schumer and McConnell and Pelosi weighing it trying to make the case to them. Leader McConnell just said this off camera. It's beyond me how the Speaker and the Democratic Leader in the Senate think withholding the articles of impeachment and not sending them over gives them leverage. Frankly, I'm not anxious to have the trial. If she thinks her case is so weak she doesn't want to send it over, throw me into that briar patch.

This is McConnell trying to convince Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, Mitt Romney anyone else who might break either because they're on the ballot next year or because they're not particularly a fan of the President of United States stick with me, let's get this over quickly, right?

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": And you've seen some of those swing Republican Senators kind of be turned off by the Democrats tactics so far. Look Susan Collins, we've asked her several times this week the questions about the witnesses, particularly when Leader Schumer announced those in a letter to Mitch McConnell earlier this week on Sunday night.

And while she had gentle criticism for Mitch McConnell when he went - when McConnell said last week that he was in very close coordination or complete coordination with the White House, she also had pretty strong words for Schumer, too, the fact that he didn't sit down with McConnell first and relay these offers privately instead of sent it in a letter that went out to the press.

I was talking to with John Thune yesterday and he said a lot of that tactic rubbed our members the wrong way. He is one of the top Republican Leaders so he has a messaging role here. But obviously what you're seeing out spill out on the Senate floor right now through comments to the press, it does not - clearly does not bode well for any sort of bipartisan negotiations between Chuck and Mitch at this point.

KING: Right. To your point about John Thune who obviously is the Deputy in the Republican leadership. He is respected among his colleagues. He says so something like this did really needs I think to move forward in a way that builds upon some sort of bipartisanship and some level of cooperation that suggests you know that it is not just chaos around here. Now the problem with that is he says build a pond, some sort of bipartisanship there is no such. There is nothing to build on.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": No. And look, that's what underscores the dramatic difference between what's playing out now, what played out for the last several months as impeachment marched forward, but then also what is playing out in the aftermath of yesterday's vote which is so different than how it played out even during Clinton which by the way wasn't a cake walk. There was politics and there was partisanship 21 years ago. But it wasn't the kind of sort of complete lack of ability for the two to get together.

In the Clinton years, the Senate trial was worked out. The procedures of the Senate trial were worked out on a bipartisanship - bipartisan basis I think almost by unanimous concern, right? I mean, and so there isn't a relationship. Everything is sort of upside down. You would normally think that the party of the accused would be the one saying, you know, we want fairness.

This is sort of upside down and it's all politics and it's all going to play out not in coordination with each other, not in cooperation with each other--

KING: It gets forgotten sometimes about the Clinton days. They did have a 100 to nothing agreement on the initial rules but they punted the question of witnesses until during the trial.


KING: And then that did become contentious during the trial and the compromise was video tape witnesses but the difference - we lived through that day, and the difference was the way the President kept the Democrats with him was through contrition. He said, I'm sorry what I did was horrible and wrong. I don't think it's worthy of impeachment. This President has a very different approach. He says I'm perfect Republicans are unified. Don't you dare, is essentially what you hear from the President.

OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, SIRIUS XM: And the most dangerous moment for Clinton was when he lashed out on national television after testifying to Starr as grand jury. A bunch of Democrats called up the White House at the time and said, what the bleep do you think you're doing? Shut up. Stick with the contrition.

I would point out to your point, the vote to release the Starr report the powerfully salacious Starr report was bipartisanship, which is kind of an incredible thing to think of 21 years later. I do think the politics of witness calling is interesting. The poll - the last poll I saw has much more support for calling witnesses and it did for impeach and remove.

And so I think part of the Democratic gamble and it is a gamble is that the public will tune this in and say, why aren't they calling people who know what went down? I just don't know that over the holidays--

KING: Of course we know why because John Bolton's Deputy said that he called this a drug deal, and he hasn't contested that. So John Bolton would testify that he thought the President's policy was a drug deal. Mick Mulvaney in the White House briefing room said it was a quid pro quo get over it. That's the way we do things around here. So we know why the question is can the Democrats create public opinion to get them to the point where they--

KNOX: And remember one the fights in 21 years ago were about live witnesses versus videotape. I wonder if one of the fights here is about can we show the Mulvaney briefing on the Senate floor. Can we pull everyone's attention back to him saying, get over it.

KING: That's an excellent point. And we'll continue to track that as we go. Before we go to break, this is a conversation obviously not just in Washington but around country voters in Boston last night weighing in on impeachment of the President.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that he actually should be impeached. Nobody is changing anyone's mind which is, like, really disheartening to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this is turning disappointing right now. They're not getting anything done. They've been after this guy for three years now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They might be really blowing their effort on an impeachment when in reality they need to be finding someone to win in 2020.




KING: The President is angry, using his tweets and his words to lash out at the House for impeaching him. He does see a silver lining in the Republican unity, noting in his tweets this morning that no House Republicans voted for impeachment and insisted his party is now more united than ever.

The "Do Nothing Democrats" and "Witch Hunt" are of course familiar labels to those of you who track the President's busy Twitter feed and it is more busy than usual. More than 50 tweets were re-tweets just this morning. That volume tells you he is raw at becoming just the third President in history to be impeached even more telling the President's mood at a Trump Rally last night, just as the impeachment votes were being cast.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It doesn't really feel to me I'm being impeached. The country is going better than ever before. We did nothing wrong. Crazy Nancy Pelosi's House Democrats have planted themselves with an eternal mark of shame. It really is it's a disgrace. Democrat lawmakers do not believe you have the right to select your own President. The Republican Party has never been so affronted but they've never been so united.


KING: It was interesting to watch, because no President - he can say he thinks this helps him politically, no President wants the stain of impeachment. You cannot remove it. It will forever be in the first sentence of his legacy. He started off with he doesn't feel like I'm being impeached almost like he was going to try to stay calm about it. But the more he talked the - he worked himself up and got really angry.

SHEAR: And look, I think part of the desire to counterprogram, to schedule a rally was because - I mean, it's not like they didn't know that this was going to happen, it was obvious. But I think they were trying to do what he always does, which is to give all of us and all of the country something else to talk about.

And they did succeed to some extent, because we're talking about his rally, we're talking about his reaction, we're talking about some of the sort of nasty things he said about people during the rally, and that is part of the effort to keep the country and the conversation in a place that he wants it to be rather than the sort of historic nature of what just happened.

KING: The challenge though going forward is again, the math today is in the President's favor in the Senate. That is not to defend the President's conduct, defend what the President did, but as of now, there is no evidence at all. If the Democrats voted to convict and remove, if they all did you would need 20 Republican there is just zero evidence or anywhere close to that happening.

We don't even if one or two are going to break here. But part of it is they're going to watch the President as this plays out over the next month or so. The Democrats are hoping that even for a voter out there who thinks they have the right to impeach, by next November they continue to see this erratic behavior and it all becomes part of the same, well we don't like this President, so okay. You mentioned his insults.

The President likes to insult when he's mad. John Dingell was the longest serving Democrat and longest serving member of Congress period of the House. He died and his wife is now in the seat to replace and the President was embattled quick Michigan the Dingell district is over outside of Detroit.


KING: But he talked about when John Dingell died, Debbie Dingell called asking the President to help. Get the flags at the White House to lower at half-staff. Do you either thinks to give the right tribute to President?


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 happened, thank you so much. John would be so thrilled. He's looking down. I said, it's okay, don't worry about it. Maybe he's looking up, I don't know. I don't know.


KING: The President thinks it's funny that a member of America's greatest generation buried at the Arlington National Cemetery may be looking up. You can connect the dots there what the President is saying, but this is trademark. We can go back in history to John McCain we can find other examples about this. When he's mad, he decides to callously insult others.

ZANONA: And nothing is off limits for this President. I was talking to Debbie Dingell yesterday and she and some of her colleagues were actually joking around and betting, who is Trump going to go after tonight at the rally. I don't think anyone expected him to go after her late husband who she just lost.

She mentioned in a tweet that you know this is her first holiday where she is going to be without him. It has brought me to new lows. She was watching the rally on her iPod actually last night, snippets of it, during the votes. So this is just you know another example of Trump going after his critics. Perhaps this is just another distraction that we were talking about.

KING: But it's the Rorschach test of Trump if you will that some people watch the rally and I'll show you another snippet of it and they see a President who is unhinged. His supporters watch it and they see a President they find entertaining.


TRUMP: They want to be so politically correct, so they don't grab her wrist lightly and get her out. They say, oh, will you please come? Will you please come with me? Then she gives the guy the finger. You got to get a little bit stronger than that, folks. I get a baron Trump to go into Central Park and he'd get a crowd that would be New Jersey.

Remember a dishwasher you would press it, there would be an explosion five minutes later, you open it up the steam pours out and the dishes. Now you press it 12 times. Women tell me, they give you four drops of water. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: In the middle of that he mentioned his son, saying his son could get a bigger crowd. The First Lady knows that the White House has bristled, understandably so, when anyone else in politics has brought a teenager, the child of a politician into the conversation. The President there not being best. What else?

KIM: I mean, there was a lot there, obviously, in the snippets, but this is what the President has done. When there is something going on, he puts a lot out there to distract. A lot of his staffs are doing it in a more of a measured fashion. When some of his top aides were on the Hill yesterday, they did talk about impeachment, when we asked about the reporters, but they kept emphasizing a lot of the domestic policy accomplishments that he's getting done.

Republicans tell us that even in private if they are concerned about the politics of impeachment they are looking forward to when there is a Democratic Presidential Candidate to have someone to contrast the President with. So I think there is a strategy here. The President just kind of takes it to his own level.

KNOC: If you look at the campaign, which is the more disciplined and more professional part of this messaging machine, they're making the same argument more cleanly than he did at the rally. The fundamental argument at the rally is us versus them. The campaign is doing the same thing. They've got a thing up on Instagram today, they're not coming for me, they're coming for you, I just happen to be in the way.

That's the core of this message. On a lighter note, what is wrong with the appliances and plumbing at the White House?


KNOX: Right. You have to flush 15 times you have got to press the button on the dishwasher 12 times something is terribly wrong on this.

KING: It's an older building, Olivier. You know you've been there many, many times over the years. Coming up for us, yet another House Republican heads for the exits but first the House Minority Leader responding just a short time ago after the President attacking the late John Dingell last night.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): John served this country very well, very proud. We may differ philosophically and sometimes in principles, but no, I considered him a friend.




KING: Word today of one of President Trump's most reliable allies in the House is ready to move on. Congressman Mark Meadows of North Carolina says he will not seek re-election in 2020. He also says it's quite possible he'll resign his seat earlier to take a job at the White House or with the Trump Reelection Campaign. Meadows now joining a list that speaks volumes about the turmoil of the Trump years even on the President's own party.

25 House Republicans have announced they will not seek reelection next year already. 41 Republicans left the House retire or run for office or resign in 2018. We talk all the time about the turmoil in our politics, these disruptive times. What do we make that so many members of the President's own party in the House want out?

ZANONA: It's no fun being in the minority, it's no secret. And I think with Meadows in particular, he was irrelevant in the minority. He was someone who used to have a lot of power. He loves the politics, loves the game. He was a little bit more irrelevant during in the impeachment fight of course, but now that it's almost over, I'm not surprised he's looking for his next step.

But I think with some of these other members. They don't have a lot of optimism of taking back the House. They just voted to impeach the president. They're constantly asked about this controversial tweet and this controversy and what do you think about the Dingell comments like we're talking about before.