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House of Representative Votes to Impeach President Trump; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Holding Articles of Impeachment from Senate Until Senate Rules for Impeachment Trial Decided; President Trump Appears to Insult Late Representative John Dingell During Rally; Trump Attacks Dingell, Implies Late Husband is "Looking Up" from Hell. Aired 8- 8:30a ET

Aired December 19, 2019 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Jonathan Martin, Josh Green, thanks so much for being with us. A lot to watch for tonight.

And thank you to our viewers for watching. For you, CNN News with Max Foster is next. For our U.S. viewers, the president has been impeached, but there's a new twist in the process. NEW DAY continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You are declaring open war on American democracy. We did nothing wrong, nothing whatsoever.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) HOUSE SPEAKER: 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, if he's looking down, he's been suffering. Maybe he's looking up, I don't know.

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your New Day. It is Thursday, December 19th, 8:00 in the east. And this morning, Donald J. Trump has become the third U.S. president ever to be impeached. Here are just some of the headlines that he and the country are waking up to. The House approved two articles of impeachment spelling out how Mr. Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress. But then, in a surprise twist, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi withheld those two articles of impeachment from the Senate, throwing the timing of the Senate timing into limbo. Speaker Pelosi says Democrats will hold the articles until it becomes clear to them that the Senate trial will be fair.

A source tells CNN she will meet with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer to strategize on how to move forward. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has already said he will not be an impartial juror and that he's working with the White House, how will he respond to speaker Pelosi on the Senate floor? He speaks in little more than an hour from now.

BERMAN: One of the ways you can judge the bigness of this moment, the fact that the president has been impeached, is by the smallness of his response on the day when the House of Representatives voted that the president is not fit to serve. He demeaned the office by hurling insults at the late Congressman John Dingell, standing in Dingell's home state of Michigan, the state that Dingell's widow how represents in Congress, the president of the United States suggested that John Dingell is in hell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The president of the United States. And we'll talk about that in just a second.

First, though, the impeachment. The president has been impeached. Joining me now is Democratic Congressman and House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina. Congressman, thanks so much for being with us. You were there last night for that moment in history. Donald J. Trump, just the third president ever to be impeached. Tell me what it was like to be in the hall at that moment.

JAMES CLYBURN, (D-SC) HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP: Well, first of all, thank you very much for having me. It was a very somber moment. The atmosphere was a little bit uneasy. I've been through one of these before. Never one where the president was obviously trying to subvert the process. And so I sat there thinking what it must be like to have just really come from a visit to the battlefield of the Battle of the Bulge and knowing what those men and women went through in order to preserve the integrity of this great nation and to see this under threat. I knew that we were being called upon to protect the Constitution of the United States. And so I felt relieved that we were doing our duty as members of Congress to try to bring this man into check.

BERMAN: The president had more House members vote to impeach him than any president in history. To an extent the outcome was predetermined. We knew it after the president was impeached, a bit of a surprise to many people, when the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that she might wait to transmit the approved articles of impeachment to the Senate, which could possibly delay the Senate trial. I want you to listen to what she said last night, delay transmitting the articles of impeachment and also sending over the House managers. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[08:05:00]

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) HOUSE SPEAKER: We cannot name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side. And I would hope that that will be soon, as we did with our legislation, our resolution 660, to describe what the process would be. So far we haven't seen anything that looks fair to us. So hopefully it will be fair, and when we see what that is, we'll send our managers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Why the delay, Congressman?

CLYBURN: Well, the delay is made necessary because the majority leader of the Senate has made it very clear that he's not going to be impartial. He's not going to be fair. He will collude, if you please, with the White House, at least the White House's attorneys, to decide how he will go forward. Why would the speaker of the House step into that without trying to determine exactly what the majority leader plans to do?

So I applaud her for this. In fact, I was one of the ones arguing that this ought to be the case. And until we can get some assurances from the majority leader that he is going to allow for a fair and impartial trial to take place, we would be crazy to walk in there knowing he set up a kangaroo court.

BERMAN: How long are you willing to wait?

CLYBURN: As long as it takes. Even if he doesn't come around to committing to a fair trial, keep those articles here. So keep it as long as it takes. If you know and he's told you what he's going to do, let's give him a fair trial and hang him. It's the reverse of that.

BERMAN: As long as it takes -- are you willing to hold the articles indefinitely if Mitch McConnell doesn't concede the points that you're asking him to? Are you suggesting it's possible you will never transmit the articles of impeachment?

CLYBURN: If it were me, yes, that's what I'm saying. I have no idea what the speaker will do. But if you have a preordained outcome that's negative to your actions, why walk into it? I'd much rather not take that chance.

BERMAN: Is that what the Constitution intended? Is that what the founders intended, do you believe, when they created the impeachment process? There's nothing in the Constitution about transmitting the articles of impeachment. It gives the House the right and the duty to impeach the president. It gives the Senate the right and the duty to try the president, but there's nothing about that middle process. So do you feel this is counter to their intentions?

CLYBURN: So, no. I think the speaker is free to fill in that process because the Constitution is silent on it. But I'll tell you what the Constitution is not silent on. It's not silent on the oath that we take to uphold the Constitution of the United States. It's not silent on the fact that the Senate is -- the senators will stand and take an oath to be impartial jurors, yet the foreman of that jury, and that's what the Senate will be in this case, has already told you he is not going to be impartial. That's what violates the Constitution.

BERMAN: Preet Bharara, Preet Bharara, who is one of our legal consultants, former U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, suggested from a political standpoint this may be a tough argument for Democrats to make, because you've been suggesting there's an urgency to impeach the president because he's a threat, you say, to the democracy. So it was urgent to get this done. It was very important to get this done, but yet now you're saying you're willing to suspend it indefinitely. What's your response to that?

CLYBURN: I think that we have to ensure that the Senate will come to the table, work out a process through which we can have a fair and impartial trial. That's what I think. And since the Constitution is silent on how and when to transmit, then I think the speaker is within her rights and her duties to fill that void with good common sense.

BERMAN: Congressman --

CLYBURN: I don't think it's good common sense to walk --

BERMAN: Congressman, sorry. I don't necessarily want to interrupt you. I don't know if you heard the comments the president made at that rally in Michigan last night about the late Congressman John Dingell. I don't want to play them again. Did you hear them?

CLYBURN: Yes, I did. And I thought it was --

BERMAN: Go ahead.

CLYBURN: And I thought it was one of the most unseemly things I've ever heard from a public official. I've said over and over again, this president is trying to bring this office down to him rather than rising, as most elected people do, to the office that they hold. This guy is making everything about him.

[08:10:05] John Dingell was a great public servant. He deserved all the accolades he got, and he earned them. I would wish that this president would do as much to earn similar accolades when he is no longer active in politics, but it seems to me that he's doing just the opposite. And I think that's why he was impeached, because he's trying to make the presidency about himself rather than about the country.

BERMAN: Congressman Jim Clyburn, we appreciate you being with us this morning. Thanks very much.

CLYBURN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: The White House this morning, as you know, John, is talking about the president's attack on late Congressman John Dingell. The president is not apologizing, though at least one Republican has come forward and said he should. All that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:15:08]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Minutes after Donald Trump became the third president ever to be impeached, he attacked a dead congressman and his family. Debbie Dingell serves in Congress now. Her late husband was John Dingell, the longest serving congressman, I believe, ever.

President Trump suggested last night in a rally that John Dingell is in hell. Moments ago, the White House responded to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He was at a political rally. He has been under attack and under impeachment attack for the last few months and then just under attack politically for the last 2 1/2 years. I think that as we all know, the president is a counterpuncher. He was a very, very supportive and wild crowd, and he was just riffing on some of the things that had been happening the past few days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: I will note, there is no physical or moral way to counterpunch against someone who is dead. NEW DAY asked for a White House guest on this day. They said no. The White House would not send a representative on the show this morning.

Joining us now, David Gregory, CNN political analyst, Kaitlan Collins, CNN White House correspondent, and John Avlon, CNN senior political analyst.

John, the president's a counterpuncher. That is the weakest response you can have to a statement like that, particularly when John Dingell didn't throw a punch. JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. Look, this

is what the White House trots out when they don't have anything. It excuses all manner of sins.

Whatever the president says, no matter how far he crosses a line about basic decency, they say the president is a counterpuncher because his base says, well, he might have been attacked. But, obviously, Dingell is the longest serving member of Congress, and deeply respected his district and his swing state of Michigan. For the president to go there, in the longest rally of his presidency, by the way -- which was rambling in many, many ways. That crosses a line.

And you can tell the White House press secretary a little bit uncomfortable where he went. But they got to excuse it because the Trump rules are Roy Cohn's rules. You never apologize. You always attack.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: How can you tell Stephanie Grisham is uncomfortable?

AVLON: You know, because she -- normally, I think frankly, she would be a little more trolly about defending the president. She was trying to explain it without contradicting the boss.

CAMEROTA: One thing that was interesting this morning on our program, Kaitlan, was that Joe Lockhart said everything to the president is a quid pro quo. And so, I mean, that's what has brought us to impeachment, obviously. And he -- that's what he saw last night in this. He lowered the flags for John Dingell. Therefore, the president believes Debbie Dingell owed him a no vote in impeachment. That's how he sees everything.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and Debbie Dingell actually on our air said earlier it was the president who called her, offered to lower the flag. Of course, that is really not the point of all of this.

I don't think it's surprising to see that the Trump impeachment is going like we've seen the Trump presidency go before where these kind of attacks are very characteristic of the president's style. And so, when George Stephanopoulos asked Stephanie Grisham, why did the president make that remark, she left it up essentially to what most of the spokespeople around the president would. And she said, you'd have to ask the president that, though, of course, she's the one speaking for the president.

She should be able to be the one to answer that. But that's something you see time and time again where those around the president do not want to defend moments like that. Some of those moments they view as his worst moments when he makes comments like that.

So, I don't think it's entirely surprising to see she's not considering it. But as far as what she about the crowd being supportive, we should note that when you look at the clip and you see just the president head on, you do see some cheers behind him when the president makes that remark. Maybe he's looking up. But if you look at other camera shots going around the audience of

that rally in Michigan last night, there were also some groans and some grimaces as well, which is not something you typically see at the president's rally in this big arena that's filled with his supporters. But saying that comment in Michigan where, obviously, the Dingells are from. He was the longest serving congressman when he died in February, you really see what the crowd thought of that remark.

And it's often pretty reflective of what you hear from voters. They like what the president does, they do not like when he makes comments like that.

BERMAN: But I don't even think you need to bring up politics. It doesn't need to be a question of politics or transactive politics. It's just a matter of humanity. The president said something incredibly cruel about someone who's passed away. He said a human being was in hell.

CAMEROTA: And, by the way, recently passed away. I mean, his wife is grieving, currently grieving.

BERMAN: And that's my point, when Debbie Dingell was on with you and had that, it was a really lovely discussion. Debbie Dingell responded as a human being. So, let's hear from her, the widow of John Dingell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): I don't want to politicize his death. It's still something I'm really grieving over. This thanksgiving was really hard. And Christmas is harder. And I am going to go back to doing my job and doing a good job for the people of my district.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[08:20:00]

BERMAN: David Gregory, how do you see it?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what I like about Congresswoman Dingell's response, I think, you know, in the Trump era, I think there have been a lot of critics who say we have to fight just like he does. And I don't think that's the response. I mean, I don't think you lower yourself to where he goes at political rallies or on Twitter or even in the White House. I just don't think you do that, and I think Debbie Dingell represents that.

I think there's a lot of Americans whether they support the president or not who do not support when he says things that are this hurtful and this over the line. And those who work with him in the White House -- I mean, I don't know what Stephanie Grisham does. I don't know if she has a real job. She's certainly not a press secretary.

(LAUGHTER)

GREGORY: But there are people who certainly look at that and say, geez, he makes it really difficult for himself when he does that. But they're not in control of what he does.

BERMAN: I do want to move on to the other big news overnight. We just got a little add on to that big news is Nancy Pelosi suggesting she's going to wait to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate, now send them on the manners which could have the effect of delaying that trial.

CAMEROTA: Is this the big news --

BERMAN: Also the big news the president was impeached, 800-point font, Maggie Haberman tells us.

But, John, Jim Clyburn, the House majority whip, I was asking him how long will you be willing to wait? He said, personally, he'd be willing to wait forever.

AVLON: Yes, that was a fascinating interview you just did with Clyburn. Here you are, you know, congressional leadership. And he did not say that, you know, well, we haven't really made up our minds about this. He indicated there have been conversations and he'd wait it out on the Senate.

Now, there's a real question about whether that increases their leverage with Mitch McConnell to get the witnesses they want and more fair hearing or whether it lets the president and the Senate and the Republicans off the hook. This is a jump ball moment as the strategy is being decided. By Clyburn indicating he's very much open to letting it roll.

BERMAN: I don't know if that means -- I don't know if Nancy Pelosi is on the same page or not. He's number three in the House. So it's not nothing.

AVLON: Yes, that's my point. There have been conversations among leadership about this, and it's clearly not a fly-by. This is not a pure trial balloon. This is something they're considering actively.

GREGORY: The difficulty for Democrats is if they're trying to build any more momentum for impeachment, I just don't know that the public is movable at this point. Yes, they would certainly like to have witnesses. Perhaps expand the nature of the investigation and the fact finding in a Senate trial and they could look at what the Republicans have done attacking the process and say, great, let's attack their process in the Senate and their dereliction of duty and maybe they build some momentum.

They've put a premium on moving quickly through this process and now they want to slow that down. That leaves them open for more process and political criticism from the right.

CAMEROTA: Maybe. But I guess the point is, with no witnesses, why not just pause this? There's no witnesses. Mitch McConnell has said there won't -- he doesn't want any new witnesses. He's working hand in glove, he says, with the White House.

Why not pause it? I mean, Kaitlan, do you think that there's any -- what's the political harm to Democrats who say we've accomplished what we wanted. We're done.

COLLINS: Well, I think the harm could be that it hurts their messaging that this is something that's urgent. They need to get this done. You've seen Democrats go back and forth on that. They need to do it urgently or that there's no rush.

Of course, there were questions that Republicans in the White House raised after Chuck Schumer sent that letter calling on there to be witnesses in the Senate trial and they essentially asked, well, doesn't that go against what the House just said that we wanted these witnesses but it wasn't worth waiting to get them before impeachment moving on to this trial.

So the White House sees this as leverage for them. They think they can capitalize on what Nancy Pelosi said last night, depending on how long this goes and we don't really know this is going to go. But the White House has a pretty good feeling that Mitch McConnell has got a good grasp on this, that he has pretty broad power here, and they don't think that this is going to afford the House speaker a lot of leverage.

BERMAN: John, David, Kaitlan, thank you all for being here and walking us through this moment in history.

AVLON: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right. So, House Republicans threw out a lot of arguments against impeachment, including comparisons to Pearl Harbor and Christ's crucifixion. Will GOP senators stick to the same tactics moving forward? Are those good analogies?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:28:47]

CAMEROTA: This morning, the president is touting his support from his GOP party. Here was one of the interesting arguments that one Republican made on the house floor last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BARRY LOUDERMILK (R-GA): When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers. During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this president in this process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: OK. Let's bring in Jennifer Psaki. She's the former White House communications director under President Obama, and CNN political commentator, and Rick Santorum, former Republican senator from Pennsylvania and CNN's senior political commentator.

Great to see both of you.

Rick, I'll start with you. Christ's crucifixion --

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, don't go there. Yes, don't go there.

CAMEROTA: -- is that the right analogy?

SANTORUM: No.

CAMEROTA: And did Christ have more due process than Donald Trump?

SANTORUM: Don't go there. I watched that live, and I said, OK, well, I'm going to see this repeatedly throughout the next few days.

No, look, there were a few analogies made, mostly on the Republican side. Jackie Speier, you know, it was a veiled reference comparing Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. I mean, those comparisons, look, I've done it. Every politician has done it. Just don't go there.

There's certain places you don't go, and Hitler, Jesus Christ, those are -- you just don't do that.

END