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Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) is Interviewed on Trump's Personal Attack; Trump Impeached by House. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired December 19, 2019 - 07:00   ET

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


[07:00:00]

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The president is reacting, as we expected, emotionally, denigrating rivals, using abusive language.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY.

And this morning the president has been impeached. That's an extraordinary thing to say out loud. The president is now on the metaphorical Mount Rushmore of stained presidencies along with Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon, who resigned. You can tell it is big this morning by the papers that we know the president reads. This is "The Washington Post" right here, roughly a million point font in "The Washington Post," "Trump impeached." You can tell it's big by the president's cruel, small, and cowardly response at a rally last night as it was happening. We'll have much more on that in a moment.

But, first, the impeachment surprise. The Senate trial might be on pause.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

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

QUESTION: 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)

BERMAN: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi leaving open the possibility that she will not send the articles of impeachment, the approved articles of impeachment, to the Senate for a trial, which in theory could keep that trial from even starting.

Now, some Democrats believe this will put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to adopt trial procedures that they consider to be fair. We expect McConnell to address all of this for the first time a bit later this morning.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump reacting by saying hateful things about Democrats. He also insisted at a rally last night in Michigan that he did nothing wrong and that he is, quote, having a good time.

But he dealt a personal attack to Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, whose late husband, John Dingell, was the longest serving congressman in history.

And Congresswoman Debbie Dingell joins us now.

Good morning, Congresswoman. Nice to see you, as always.

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): Good morning, Alisyn. It's good to be with you.

CAMEROTA: As a human being, I am reluctant to replay what the president said last night because I -- I don't want to spread the toxicity. But, as a journalist, I feel it's important for the viewers to hear it. So here is his attack on you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 ever happened. Thank you so much. John would be so thrilled. He's looking down. He'd be so thrilled. I said, that's OK, don't worry about it. Maybe he's looking up, I don't know. I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Your reaction this morning, Congresswoman?

DINGELL: You know, I think it's time to put politics aside on these kind of shots. I try to be respectful of everybody. I've never taken a personal shot at this president. I think his family is off limits.

I was very grateful. By the way, he -- I didn't call him, he called me to tell me he was lowering the flags. And that meant a lot.

But John Dingell earned his burial at Arlington Cemetery because he's a World War II veteran. Longest serving member in the Congress. He loved our country. The president also said he was -- he arranged for the rotunda. John Dingell wasn't in the rotunda. I didn't want anything that was out of the ordinary or something where somebody would do something special. John Dingell loved this country. He believed in bringing everybody

together. He believed in our democracy.

And my family's still hurting. I have a brother -- John's brother, my brother-in-law, is in hospice, went into hospice at Thanksgiving and it -- these kinds of things -- we're a family grieving. So I think we should take a lesson from this and all respect each other, period. In the broader -- we need more civility in this country. Some things should be off limits. And, you know what? We're all human beings.

CAMEROTA: I mean, just to be clear, what I hear you saying beyond the appeal for humanity here is that what the president said wasn't true. He fabricated it. In some corners, that's called a lie. You didn't call him. That's the whole premise of what his attack on you last night. He was trying to pretend that you called him in this sort of desperate way. You didn't call him.

And your husband deserved all of the accolades that he got at his funeral.

[07:05:03]

It wasn't up to the president. And when the president says, I could have given him the "c" or the "d" treatment. What would that have looked like?

DINGELL: You know, I don't want to get into this tit for tat. That's going down to his level.

He did lower the flags. And I was grateful and I told him that.

And I think we just all need to really look at what's happening to the tone of rhetoric and the divisiveness in this country.

I was with Republican friends, very close friends, when this happened last night. They were all there for me. I've been with Kevin Brady already this morning. I am going back to work today, focused on working in a bipartisan way for the issues that matter to the people of my district, to the people of Michigan, and to Americans. And we need to all start remembering we're Americans first and work to protect this democracy.

CAMEROTA: I hear you, but you're the person taking the high road. I mean, who is your message for?

DINGELL: It's for America, to say that we need to demand that of our elected officials. And we all need to.

You know, there's a bigger lesson here. Social media may be this great thing that was supposed to conduct us, but instead it's allowing us to say things that are out of bounds. The rhetoric, the bullying, the viciousness isn't OK. And there are too many people across the country that are beginning to think it is OK.

So let's take a deep breath. It's the holidays. Many people celebrate different kinds of holidays. Let's start to remember that we need to respect each other. And what do we want this country to be and what do we want the tone of our civilization to be?

CAMEROTA: Well, this just in on social media, and I think that you'll appreciate this one. This is support coming your way from a Republican congressman Michigan -- fellow Michigander. This is from Fred Upton, Congressman Fred Upton. I've always looked up to John Dingell, my good friend and a great Michigan legend. There was no need to diss him in a crass political way. Most unfortunate and an apology is due.

DINGELL: I love Fred. He and I are a bipartisan team. We don't always vote the same way. But when John died, Fred was with me every step of the way. Drove to the house, flew with me to Washington, flew back with me the first time. And that's what people do. You can disagree agreeably.

CAMEROTA: Are you calling for an apology from the president?

DINGELL: I'm not going to get into any politics. You know, Michelle Obama said, when they go low, you go high. I don't want to politicize my husband. I don't want to politicize his death. It is still something that I'm really grieving over. This Thanksgiving was really hard and Christmas is harder. And I'm going to go back to doing my job and doing a good job for the people of my district.

CAMEROTA: We're sorry that you're having to deal with this and we hear your grief and we're sorry that you're just having to cope with this and you've said that it makes it that much harder.

On a larger note, or, I don't know, I mean I want to get your take on impeachment. Do you think that part of why the president did lash out last night is because he is having a stronger negative reaction to having been impeached than he lets on?

DINGELL: You know, I think it was a very sad day for our country, sad for our democracy, and sad for our Constitution. It is not something that I wanted to do because of the seriousness of it.

You know, last summer, Tom Steyer was buying ads against me and everybody was screaming for me to come out on impeachment. And I took a very measured approach. And I said to people -- you know, if you read the Mueller report, which I've now done four or five times, it talks about the division in this country and how Russia is trying to divide us and to stay -- in intelligence. Agencies from around the world are talking about Russia's and other countries are joining it, trying to destabilize our democracies. So I did not want to get to where I got.

But I took an oath of office to protect our Constitution and to protect our national security and our democracy. And when a whistleblower came forward and -- President Trump's inspector general made a finding that it was credible, urgent and of danger to our national security, that's what my job is. And the partisan fighting we've seen in the Congress this fall, that's a danger to our country, too, and to our democracy.

So I took my responsibility seriously. I was getting attacked at home by people who were angry that I wasn't coming out faster. I've tried to make sure my attacks are not personal. But, in the end, I was worried -- I believed -- wasn't worried. I am worried. I'm worried today that actions were taken that were a threat to our national security. And I think it's very clear that efforts were made to not respond to Congress where Congress was asking for information. There was congressional obstruction.

[07:10:05]

CAMEROTA: Meaning obstruction.

DINGELL: Yes.

CAMEROTA: And what about what Nancy Pelosi did last night in this surprise move where she did not hand over the articles of impeachment to the Senate and says that she doesn't plan to until they can guarantee her that it's going to be a fair trial. At some -- when do you think that they -- the Senate will get those articles, if ever?

DINGELL: I think that she was very careful last night to say, this is the next step that she's going to go to. She's going to talk to people. I mean what we're all supposed to do is to be -- look at the facts and look at the issues and think about them -- study them objectively. The Senate is a trial. Witnesses are supposed to be presented. You -- that is the jury. Jury poolers are eliminated or not accepted for a jury if they have an opinion before they even hear the evidence.

So I think she's just trying to make sure that our democracy is protected in what happens. And we will see what happens in the course of the next few days.

CAMEROTA: It has been suggested that President Trump has had his worst week. He became the third U.S. president to be impeached. And his best week with USMCA, which I know affects your state and Michigan so much. So is that how you see it?

DINGELL: I don't know how the president feels about impeachment, but I think it's one of the saddest weeks for this country that we've had to impeach a president. And I hope that we protected our national security and our democracy.

I think that getting a trade agreement that will probably pass in the House today, Nancy Pelosi worked very hard with Richie Neil and others to make improvements to it that would protect our workers. NAFTA 1.0 destroyed my state. I have empty plants in my district now where jobs went to Mexico.

And, by the way, this new deal is a beginning. It's not perfect. It's not -- I don't think it's going to bring jobs back to my state. It's not going to bring plants back to my state. But I'm hoping that it's going to stop jobs from leaving and continuing to leave and that it's going to protect our workers and give them worker rights.

I also think it's going to help workers in Mexico. And it shows that people can work together. And I respect Ambassador Lighthizer very much. I -- he worked so hard and understood these issues. I'm almost afraid to say that because Debbie Dingell liking a Trump administration person, I don't want to hurt him for saying that.

But we need more people working together. Compromise isn't a dirty word. We can continue to work together to continue to improve. That's how I feel about it. And it shows that people can work together. That they can respect each other. And our job is to work together for the people we represent to get solutions to things that are hurting them.

CAMEROTA: Well, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, we really appreciate you being on here and share what you're going through and we're thinking of you and your family during this Christmas season. And we feel for you.

Thank you very much.

DINGELL: I thank you. But I'm going to keep doing my job. And I'm going to -- if he thinks he's going to keep me from doing my job, I'm going to be right back at it when I leave here.

CAMEROTA: I hear you, sister. We got that message loud and clear.

Thank you, Congresswoman.

DINGELL: Thank you, and Merry Christmas to everybody.

BERMAN: I don't think anyone doubts that for a second.

And, again, we are thinking about the congresswoman. The holidays are hard. The holidays are hard.

CAMEROTA: I mean she's saying that her brother-in-law is also suffering. I mean --

BERMAN: In hospice.

CAMEROTA: Yes. It's -- that's a really tough experience.

BERMAN: And this is how the president has chosen to respond to being impeached. He is now just the third president ever to be impeached.

There's a new wrinkle in all of this. A delay possibly in the Senate impeachment trial. We'll explain all of it, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:18:32]

BERMAN: This morning, the president of the United States has been impeached. And the headlines in the nation's biggest papers are crystal clear and, frankly, they are huge.

CAMEROTA: OK. You're making me show it right now.

BERMAN: You've been holding off all morning.

CAMEROTA: Because I hope you guys can see that at home. It's -- you don't need your specs this morning to see how big the headlines are in all of the major papers.

BERMAN: And there are new developments, frankly, on all the next steps.

So joining us to talk about all this, Maggie Haberman, "New York Times" White House correspondent and CNN political analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, former federal prosecutor and CNN chief legal analyst, and David Gregory, CNN political analyst.

Maggie, I was joking the font on the headlines is a million point font. You corrected me, it's 800 point.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Right.

BERMAN: Which is huge.

HABERMAN: Yes, it's still pretty big. A big font.

BERMAN: And the president reads the newspapers?

HABERMAN: Yes. He's known to read the newspapers, although they've made a display of saying that they're not getting "The Times" and "The Washington Post" anymore. He still has them on an app on his phone. So I suspect he will read them.

I think he knows he was impeached and I think that he can guess the coverage and I think he's going to see the coverage there, here, and he's going to react to it over the course of the coming days.

BERMAN: It's quite a moment. I mean it's a -- it's a really unbelievable thing to say out loud, the president has been impeached.

HABERMAN: And it's something, John, that we have been -- I mean the point that the White House makes that I think is probably one of their strongest defenses is, look, Democrats have been talking -- not all Democrats, not House Democrats certainly, but some Democrats have been talking about impeaching him since before he was president. So that said, as you say, once it's finally here, it is striking.

The question now, I think, for all of us is, now what?

[07:20:00]

So we don't know what happens with the Senate trial. We don't know what this means for him politically. There's a lot of unchartered territory coming out of this vote last night.

CAMEROTA: And before we get to Nancy Pelosi's power play last night where she's holding the articles of impeachment, David, I just want to play for you, because we know that one of the things that President Trump does is practice this psychological term of projection. He often projects on others how he is feeling. We see it time and again. That six-page letter that he sent to Nancy Pelosi accused her of all the things that he's being accused of. He does this routinely.

And so I think it -- in terms of how he's feeling, he doesn't share or explain exactly how he's feeling. Last night he lashed out at this Michigan rally.

But in 2014, he talked about how he wanted to see President Obama impeached, because President Obama had signed an executive order keeping the parents of undocumented kids here in this country. And I just think that today it is interesting to hear what he was projecting onto resident Obama. Listen to this moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (2014): Do you think Obama seriously wants to be impeached and go through what Bill Clinton did? He would be a mess. He would be thinking about nothing but. It would be a horror show for him. It would be an absolute embarrassment. It would go down on his record permanently.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Gregory, it would be a horror show. It would be an absolute embarrassment. It would go down on his record permanently.

Your thoughts this morning.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's interesting, I spoke to a couple of senior advisers to the president last night, who acknowledged exactly that, that while the president can look at how this energizes his supporters where he's prepared to take the fight to Democrats, there's no taking the stain away. There's no taking the historical nature of this day away. That he would be a president who was impeached. And they acknowledge that, unfortunately, he brings a lot of this onto himself. The Mueller investigation by firing Jim Comey just one example.

So he knows this. He's thought of nothing else. We always talk about how he's up for a fight and that's kind of the oxygen that he breathes. But this is a dark day. This is someone who's struggled with whether he's a legitimate president not expecting to win, being surprised, and now having to face the legitimacy questions because of his own behavior as president. Not just personally, but as president and how he views the presidency, how he doesn't think of it as being larger than himself, how he doesn't adhere to limits and boundaries. So I think he feels the weight of that.

At the same time, I think he holds in his head that this is fuel. Fuel for a campaign and I think he feels that he's winning impeachment. We don't know if that's the case. We don't know what the long-term political implications are, but I think he does feels that energy.

BERMAN: I will note one thing you said, the White House admits the president brought this on himself. Impeachment by definition. When you are impeached, it is your actions that bring this upon you. So impeachment is something by definition you bring upon yourself.

Jeffrey Toobin, I want your big picture reaction. I want to give you a bite of this apple. But we will turn the corner to Nancy Pelosi's reaction right after that. So, big picture, what's your view? JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, my view is that, you know, I defer to Maggie and David about, you know, what Donald Trump is feeling. Beats the hell out of me. I'm -- that is a subject I have no idea.

What I know is that he got impeached because he deserved it. Because he did things that no other president had done. No other president has interacted with an ally the way he did with Ukraine. No president has refused to produce documents and witnesses to Congress in the -- in the extent, in the manner that Trump did. That -- that's what I know.

And as for what's going on in his head, no idea.

BERMAN: All right, let's turn to corner, legal counselor, to what Nancy Pelosi I think surprised a lot of us with after the impeachment vote, which is to suggest that perhaps she will delay transmitting the approved articles of impeachment to the Senate. She will not send the impeachment managers over yet either, or even name them.

What exactly is going on here, Jeffrey, and what are the implications?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, just -- as people who like to follow politics, to see a conflict between probably the two savviest people in Washington, Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi, just as a spectator sport, is really kind of -- you know, is pretty delicious.

The issue is, as a technical, legal matter, it appears, though certainly there's no precedent exactly on this, that Mitch McConnell cannot schedule a trial, cannot begin the final preparations for a trial until he actually gets the articles of impeachment and the names of the manager from Nancy Pelosi.

[07:25:02]

Nancy Pelosi is saying, I'm not going to give you those documents unless I feel like the trial is going to be something fairer than what I've heard so far.

Now, McConnell may say tomorrow -- I mean actually at 9:30 when he speaks today, he may say, I'm just going ahead and if Nancy Pelosi wants to delay this forever, that's on her.

But he also wants to get this over with. That's been a key principle of his. So that's the game that's going on.

Again, how it gets resolved, whether McConnell agrees to any sort of movement in the trial he's talked about, that's what we're going to see at 9:30, at least for starters.

CAMEROTA: Maggie, Professor Laurence Tribe of Harvard, constitutional scholar, had this in his column. He suggested this. And it's possible that this is where Nancy Pelosi got the idea because he spelled out how -- he likened her handing over the articles of impeachment or holding back these articles of impeachment to a prosecutor who wants to move ahead with convicting a witness but who has found out that the jury is in on it. That the jury's going to let that defendant off. Why proceed to trial?

HABERMAN: Right. And I think that that is the approach here. I think it's going to be pretty hard. I have a bit of a contrary view to what Jeffrey thinks, which is, I think Mitch McConnell is essentially going to laugh at that. I don't think Mitch McConnell is going to be afraid. I don't think he's going to negotiate about witnesses. He has made very clear he doesn't want witnesses. He thinks that they are a dangerous thing for the president. More facts are not helpful.

And while the president will have a desire to be acquitted, to actually be acquitted, to hear it said that nothing is going on in terms of this being validated in the Senate, yes, he will still be upset that this stain is on his record from the House. I think there are enough people who can convince him that it would be in his benefit if the House is forced to just hold these. So I understand the jujitsu move. It did surprise people.

The White House, I will say, had been hearing for at least a day that this might happen because I was hearing it from folks around the White House 24 hours before this took place. So I think they would be thrilled if that happened.

BERMAN: Well, because Mitch McConnell, his answer to Nancy Pelosi could just be, OK.

HABERMAN: Correct. It would be like, that's fine. Great. All yours. And they'll move on.

GREGORY: Right. Well, because it allows them to say, well, this is -- this was just purely politics.

HABERMAN: Exactly.

GREGORY: This was just a -- this was just a gesture. It was a statement. You said you wanted to impeach him from day one. You impeached him.

HABERMAN: And move fast. And move fast. It has to move fast.

GREGORY: And -- right, and --

HABERMAN: And if you don't move fast, then it's a problem.

GREGORY: Right. And so they -- now, you know, Nancy Pelosi could figure, look, the Republicans are doing well making these process arguments. You know, again, advisers to the president said the importance for us is to keep this on the political plane, to keep it at 35,000 feet and not to engage in the actual substance. Just keep decrying the process. Keep trashing the process. Maybe that's what Nancy Pelosi wants to do here.

But I'm with Maggie, I think that -- that McConnell looks at this and says, fine, if you don't want to bring it over here, then we'll just simply move on and you'll look completely craven and political and they'll be ready for that attack.

CAMEROTA: But can they move on without the articles of impeachment? Very quickly, Jeffrey?

TOOBIN: Well, they can't have a trial.

GREGORY: Right.

TOOBIN: But -- but, I mean, I think the point that Maggie is making is that McConnell will say, well, you know, I'm -- if you don't want to do your job, Nancy Pelosi --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

TOOBIN: And -- I can't force you. And we're going to go on about our business. I mean that's the risk she's taking by raising this subject instead of just doing this mechanically.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but I don't know if that's that big of a risk -- I don't know if that's that big of a risk to her. She's saying, if you don't want to do your job, Mitch McConnell, then we're not going to move ahead either.

HABERMAN: I know, but she's been arguing -- I just -- I think that we're getting into the territory where the Democrats have made a series of contrary arguments and one of them is, move fast, fast, fast, fast. No, actually, let's slow this down. Voters sometimes do have trouble holding these two ideas at once and I think that in this nuance free world we all live in now, that might be a dangerous play.

BERMAN: You know what the Constitution says about all this?

HABERMAN: That it's (INAUDIBLE).

CAMEROTA: Nota.

BERMAN: Nothing. Nothing.

TOOBIN: Nothing.

HABERMAN: Right.

TOOBIN: Yes, nothing.

BERMAN: It says nothing. And now we have, as Jeffrey points out, and, Maggie, you and I were talking about this yesterday, the two greatest political tacticians in Washington --

HABERMAN: Yes.

BERMAN: Duking it out right now, Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi. It will be fascinating to watch. Thank you all.

CAMEROTA: Those darned founding fathers, they didn't think of everything.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as we've said, is withholding these articles of impeachment, leaving the Senate trial in limbo. So what is she looking for? Does she have real leverage? We talk to a Senate Democrat about this unpredicted move, next.

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[07:30:00]