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CNN RIGHT NOW
U.K. Formally Charges Diplomats Wife for Dangerous Driving in Death of Teen; Source: Trump Says Putin Told Him Ukraine Interfered in U.S. Election; Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA) Discusses Trump's Claim Ukraine Interfered in Election, Noah Feldman Saying Trump Not Impeached Until Articles Sent to Senate; McCarthy Says GOP Healthy But Older White Men GOP Defended Trump in Impeachment Debate; Lawmakers Goes from Democrat to "Undying" Love for Trump; Results of Investigation into Hand Gestures at Army/Navy Game. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired December 20, 2019 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RADD SEIGER, SPOKESMAN AND CLOSE FRIEND TO DUNN FAMILY: Those rules would apply to you, Brianna, if you moved over here. They apply to me as an American who lives here. No one is above the law. No one.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Can I ask you, because the Trump administration has stood by her, and it appears that the U.S. government is not poised, even as you view it, as the family's attorney views it, certainly that she should be extradited to the U.K.
But that said, what is your understanding about what that means for Anne Sacoolas? Because there are obviously a number of countries that do have extradition treaties with the U.K. Is your understanding, even if the U.S. protects her, she essentially has to stay in the U.S. and can't leave?
SEIGER: To us, it's very clear and simple. Yes, the extradition arrangements between the two countries are over 100 years old. The United States has never refused an application for extradition from the U.K.
If they're going to do that, they're going to have to follow the rule of law. This would have to be decided by an independent judge, presumably in a federal court somewhere in the United States who would just follow what the extradition treaty says.
Brianna, I've learned over the last three years to take what this administration says with a large pinch of salt.
From Harry's parent's point of view, they will leave this now to the U.K. authorities to engage through the diplomatic channels with the United States, and they simply would once again appeal for Anne to come back and do the right thing. Hopefully, after that, get on with her life.
This is not going to be dealt with by the whims of this administration.
KEILAR: Radd, thank you so much. Radd Seiger, a spokeswoman for the Dunn family.
SEIGER: Thank you.
KEILAR: We appreciate it.
Just ahead, it is one of the biggest falsehoods that was tackled during the impeachment hearings, that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election. Now a former top White House aide tells the "Washington Post" where the president got that idea. From Vladimir Putin himself.
Plus, the Trump campaign takes a congressman's comments grossly out of context and claims he called for the president's hanging. The lie is getting thousands of re-tweets. We're fact-checking what was really said, next.
KEILAR: Because Putin told me. That is the defense coming from the lips of the president when asked why he believed Ukraine was the real culprit behind the 2016 election interference. This is according to a former senior White House official.
In a new piece in the "Washington Post," former officials detail how the president quickly seized on this theory that Ukraine tried to thwart his Democratic victory.
We have Democratic Congresswoman Norma Torres with us. She sits on the House Foreign affairs Committee.
Thank you very much for coming on.
REP. NORMA TORRES (D-CA): Thank you, Brianna. It's great to be with you.
KEILAR: It's great to have you.
And I wonder how concerned you are that Putin was able to influence not just through sort of Russian meddling and trying to persuade voters or Americans, but actually to influence the president in a way that has him picking what Putin is saying over his own Intel Community.
TORRES: I think after the 2016 elections, the gloves were really off when it came to Vladimir Putin's influence with President Trump and the GOP. Because let's not forget, the GOP continues to parrot not only on the floor but also going onto FOX News, all of the things, the lies that Putin continues to spread, blaming and deflecting everyone else on his interference in our U.S. elections.
KEILAR: Why do you think the president was such an easy target for Putin here?
TORRES: I am afraid that Vladimir Putin may have something on the president. And it is the reason why the president has continued to play the
handmaid to Vladimir Putin, inviting him to the White House and opening the doors and not having any advisers present, taking the notes from the interpreter and continuing to talk to him and continuing to parrot everything that he tells him.
Russia is no friend of the U.S. They've never been a friend to us. They continue to compromise us internationally. They continue to attack our friends and our allies overseas.
So we have to be very careful and we have to keep a close eye on how this continues to evolve.
KEILAR: You said you think that Putin may have something, meaning compromising information, kompromat, as it's said in Russia, on President Trump. Do you have proof of that?
KEILAR: Is there something specific that you're thinking of when you say that?
TORRES: There's no other reason why President Trump continues to capitulate to what Putin is telling him.
He doesn't do that with anyone else. He doesn't do that with his advisers. He doesn't do that with his American ambassadors who are providing him, time and time and time again, national security advisers that tell him that this is nothing but Russia propaganda that he continues to not believe our own intelligence over Putin.
KEILAR: I know some of our analysts, a number of them say -- and our reporters who cover President Trump day in and day out, say he's obviously very sensitive to the idea that Russia meddled in the election, so his win may not be legitimate or that there are people who delegitimize it by asking questions about that.
Could that be a reason rather than compromising information that the president is so gullible when it comes to Putin suggesting it was Ukraine and not Russia that meddled?
TORRES: No, I think it was -- we are beyond 2016's election. I was present on January 20th to see President Trump take the oath of office. And I was there because I believe in the rule of law. Because I believe in a peaceful transfer of power. So we are beyond 2016.
The fact that this president of the United States continues to depend on Russia to win the next election that he has coming, asking not only Russia, but asking Ukraine and China openly on TV to investigate his political opponents who could be challenging him, and who absolutely has an opportunity to win this next election, I think is incomparable.
We have to work toward securing our elections. And not only has President Trump blocked us from securing our elections, Republicans in Congress have also done that.
KEILAR: I want to ask you about something we heard from one of the scholars that testified before the Judiciary Committee that Democrats called. Noah Feldman said the president is not officially impeached because the House has not sent impeachment articles to the Senate. In your view, has the president been impeached?
TORRES: Absolutely. You know, after the vote that we took on the floor and, you know, the majority of Congress voted to impeach the president, he has absolutely been impeached.
Now, why we elected Nancy Pelosi as our speaker of the House was because we have trust in her that she will negotiate every procedure moving forward with the Senate.
Let us not forget that Mitch McConnell has already said that he has been in negotiations with the White House, in negotiations with the president, and he will take whatever they tell him on moving this process forward. He is not going to give us a fair trial.
Imagine what a defendant will do -- it's not justice. If someone accused of a crime can correlate with a jury and can correlate with a judge on how a trial is going to move forward, that's unconscionable.
When we raise our hand and pledge allegiance to our nation, we say "with liberty and justice for all." It doesn't say except for the president of the United States.
KEILAR: Congresswoman, thank you. Congresswoman Norma Torres.
TORRES: Thank you, Brianna.
KEILAR: Just in, we are learning the results of the investigation into those hand gestures made at the Army-Navy football game after concerns they signaled white power. We'll have that next.
KEILAR: Support, defend and fight. Especially when it comes to protecting the president. A strategy many GOP lawmakers adopted in the fight to present Trump, which we saw during this week's historic impeachment.
When it comes to the Republican Party, let's listen to what House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, said about longevity and fresh perspective.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The thing about the Republican Party, we don't believe this should be your entire life. I watched Steny Hoyer, a dear friend of mine, he said in his speech
the other day he's been here 38 years. I don't think that's what our founders designed or thought of.
And with the Republican Party, we're healthy. We bring new, new blood in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: We bring new blood in. He said, we're healthy, we don't believe this should be your entire life. McCarthy's word.
It's long been true and, this week, especially unmissable that while the House debated on Trump's impeachment, the GOP defending Trump was mostly older white men.
So I want to bring in CNN political commentator, S.E. Cupp. to talk about this and the host of "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED."
S.E., you wrote an opinion piece on CNN.com titled "GOP Presented A Pale Male 1950s Face to Defend Trump." Tell us about this.
S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think in contrast to what Kevin McCarthy said, the GOP is not healthy. It's corroding and aging.
Watching impeachment over the past few weeks and months, you saw a bunch of old white guys, primarily. And that might be working for Trump. He certainly has been trying to reach out to the aggrieved older, forgotten man.
But once Trump is gone, I'm not sure whom the GOP will appeal to anymore. Especially not using the kind of 1950s language they've -- they have leaned into over the past few weeks. That's not my love language. That does not speak to voters like me, well educated women, you know, under 50, who came into conservatism because it was empowering to people like me.
Because it -- it reached out to women and minorities and Millennials and gay voters and made them feel like policies had appealed to them, that there was room for them in our movement and in the Republican Party. And I just don't see that same messaging today.
KEILAR: Not one Republican House member voted to support either articles impeachment. We saw Republicans very much together on this. This appears, and is this the case to you, that this is the party of Trump? And as you say, eventually, you know, Trump won't be president.
Where does the Republican Party go from there when it has become the party of Trump?
CUPP: I'm not sure, because you see the -- the sort of emasculation of the GOP by Donald Trump. The only thing that matters, the only oriented principle is Donald Trump. It's no longer conservative philosophy or even conservative politics and policy.
So once that figurehead is gone, that demagogue is, although longer orienting the orient point, I'm not sure who the GOP is, what they stand for anymore.
They'll really have to figure that out. Who they want to be after Trump? Keep going with the forgotten man? And what happens when the forgotten man is gone, too? You're left with voters like me making up the majority of the voting population.
You've -- that's a big cleanup job to do.
KEILAR: You saw President Trump formally announcing the Democratic Congressman Jeff Van Drew switched parties. I want to listen to this meeting yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP):
REP. JEFF VAN DREW (R-NJ): You have my undying support.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Thank you very much.
VAN DREW: And always.
TRUMP: And by the way, same way.
VAN DREW: Thank you.
TRUMP: I'm endorsing him. OK? We're endorsing him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: From Democrat to undying support for President Trump. What did you think of that?
CUPP: Well, lest you thought Donald Trump had only turned Republicans in craven and unprincipled politicians, here comes Jeff Van Drew to say, hold my beer. He made a political calculation because 28 percent in his re-election bid in his new jersey district.
Instead of saying, they're not into me anymore I'm going home to do something else with my life, he decided to do the most emasculating thing you can do in politics. Disavow your own party and principles and go to Washington and kiss the president's ass. That's what he's done.
In a perfect world, that would not be rewarded. Lose and left with nothing. I actually think today it might work for him.
KEILAR: Really? We'll be watching. S.E., it is very curious because normally it doesn't.
S.E., thank you so much.
And will check out your show -- CUPP: Thank you.
KEILAR: -- "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED." That's every Saturday night on CNN starting at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.
Just in, Nancy Pelosi sends an invitation to President Trump two days after impeaching him. Hear what it says.
Plus, just in, we're learning the results of the investigation into the hand gestures made at the Army/Navy football game after there were concerns they signaled white power. Did they? We'll have that next.
KEILAR: Just in to CNN, the United States Naval Academy and United States Military Academy say that the hand gestures made by midshipmen and cadets during a broadcast of the Army/Navy football game this past Saturday were part of a game known as the Circle Game. That they were not white power symbols.
We have CNN's Ryan Browne joining us now.
Ryan, tell us what we're learning.
RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Brianna, learning that these investigations, which were pretty thorough, involved the FBI and CIS background checks, have determined there was no racist intent behind the hand gestures that sparked controversy during the Army/Navy football game.
This is a chance for West Point, the Army Military Academy, and the Naval Academy to showcase heritage and traditions.
When the images appeared, folks speculated they were a part of a racist, white supremacist hand gesture. It turns out a much more innocuous explanation. The results of the investigation determining they were playing the Circle Game, a sophomoric game, as the Naval Academy describes it, where if you get someone to look at the gesture outside the field of vision, you get to punch them.
The Naval Academy issuing a statement saying, "We are confident the hand gestures used were not intended to be racist in any way, however, we are disappointed by the immature behavior of two fourth class midshipmen and their actions will be appropriately addressed."
What those actions are remain to be seen. This was a high-profile event. Playing this game so publicly. The Navy and Army pride themselves on discipline. There will be punishments there.