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NEW DAY

Impeachment Trial in Limbo during Congress Recess; White House Officials Feared Putin Influenced Trump on Ukraine; 2020 Dems Debate Weeks before First Vote; Evangelical Publication Calls for Trump's Removal from Office. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired December 20, 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]

GOV. TERRY MCAULIFFE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You got to deliver for the constituents, the citizens of your state. And it doesn't matter your politics. So Joe Biden is right. We can never give up on working together to move our state and our nation forward and that's what's wrong with politics.

We got to work together and never give up on that.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Governor McAuliffe, Mayor Gillum, thanks so much for being with us.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, it's an impeachment standoff on Capitol Hill.

Who will blink first?

NEW DAY continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Our founders suspected that there could be a rogue president. I don't think they suspected that we'd have a rogue leader in the Senate at the same time.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I'm not sure what leverage there is in refraining from sending up something we do not want.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need courage from our Senate counterparts to have a fair hearing.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): They're denying him his day in court because they know their case sucks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Candidates squaring off in the final Democratic debate of the year.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Under Joe's plan we retain the status quo.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's not true.

SANDERS: It is exactly true.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), MAYOR OF SOUTH BEND, IND., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm literally the only person on this stage who's not a millionaire or a billionaire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Warren, you would be the oldest president ever inaugurated.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'd also be the youngest woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

CAMEROTA: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. You are watching NEW DAY.

So Congress has gone home for the holidays and President Trump heads to Mar-a-lago later today. But the cloud of impeachment has not dissipated. The Senate's two party leaders are not finding any common ground about how to proceed with the impeachment trial.

At this point, it's not even clear when a trial would start after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi decided to hold off on delivering the two articles of impeachment to the Senate. Pelosi says she is waiting to see if the trial would be fair and whether any witnesses will be called before she makes her next move.

BERMAN: President Trump is not happy with this. And that might be what Nancy Pelosi was after to begin with. He tweeted overnight that he wants an immediate trial. And new this morning, something that might make him angrier, a crack in his evangelical base.

An influential Christian magazine is calling the president "grossly immoral," saying he should be removed from office, writing, "The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president's moral deficiencies for all to see."

The impeachment drama is building as Democrats debated -- three of the seven candidates on stage will serve as jurors in the eventual trial, helping decide the fate of the president they hope to replace. New CNN polling out this morning. Much more on that in a moment.

CAMEROTA: Joining us now we have Elliot Williams, Susan Glasser and Margaret Talev.

Great to have all of you. Let's start with where we are on impeachment. Maybe you can help us understand what the status is of this Senate trial. As you know, we're in a standoff. Nancy Pelosi said she will not hand over articles of impeachment until she's convinced that the Senate trial will be fair, which she's not convinced right now because Mitch McConnell has said he is taking his cues from the White House and he is not an impartial juror.

Mitch McConnell has said that's fine. I don't have any interest in having a trial.

I keep asking a dumb question no one will dignify with a response.

Elliot, why can't we just stay here forever?

Why can't we just live in limbo land?

What if there's never a Senate trial?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think that opens up the Democrats to the idea it's all political. If they let it go away, that validates the concern that's been raised about them.

Here's the thing. What's fascinating is the political incentives for all the parties in this don't line up. Nancy Pelosi has an interest in seeing this move on; Mitch McConnell wants to see it go away.

And the POTUS' interests don't line up with Mitch McConnell's. And while we think of McConnell as allied here, they're not. Mitch McConnell's loyalty is to his caucus, what his loyalty is, to protecting the vulnerable senators that are up for re-election, not for protecting Donald Trump. He keeps his job regardless of whether Donald Trump is removed from office.

BERMAN: I think that's the key.

(CROSSTALK)

CAMEROTA: I do, too.

BERMAN: One of the things -- I brought up this analogy earlier in the show. It was so good.

What you have here is the world's best two poker players playing the highest stakes game of poker you can have in Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell. The problem is there's a joker in the deck. And that joker is President Trump. And we now know what he wants out of this because Lindsey Graham yesterday told us. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I just left President Trump.

[07:05:00]

GRAHAM: He's mad as hell that they would do this to him and now deny him his day in court. The reason they're denying him his day in court is because they know their case sucks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So what Nancy Pelosi has done, Margaret, is create this situation where witnesses, whether or not they'll call witnesses, it is in the news over the Christmas break how soon and under what terms the trial will start is in the news over the Christmas break.

And the president doesn't like it, so there's new pressure on senator McConnell.

How do you see it?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, I think the situation sort of evolved or happened organically which was to say there was a lot of frustration by some folks in the legal community as well by Democrats that they heard folks like McConnell and Graham saying they already made up their minds.

They can't be fair and impartial because they've already decided this is done with. They want to move it along quickly. Larry Tribe at Harvard said the articles don't say you have to transmit it immediately. Democrats became interested in that idea.

And all of a sudden Nancy Pelosi had an unexpected strategic situation on her hands. It now seems like there's no way that even the House managers will get decided immediately.

So this doesn't go to McConnell at least until that second week in January, when they get back and what's been frustrating for President Trump is he cannot control the timing of this situation.

In a best case scenario, McConnell can control what happens next. In a worst case scenario for the president, Nancy Pelosi is in control. And that puts her to some extent in control of the messaging although I think if this goes on for what's considered too long, it could backfire at Democrats.

She's trying to calibrate that. But, for now, precisely who will represent the House and how it will impact the president is something the president has very little control over. And that's why you've heard him test ideas, such as my friends at Bloomberg had an interesting piece, saying the president may argue impeachment hasn't actually happened yet because it hasn't gone to the Senate.

You may hear him say President Obama should have been impeached, anything to try to regain control of the narrative here.

CAMEROTA: Help us understand Lindsey Graham's point. He's saying that President Trump has been denied his day in court, which President Trump hasn't been participating.

Was he going to go to a Senate trial?

Does he look forward to testifying at a Senate trial?

I think that might change Nancy Pelosi's position.

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I imagine she'd be pretty interested in having him do that. Look. You know, the thing that's fascinating is that you do see this gulf between the interest of the Senate Republicans and Mitch McConnell and the interests of the president.

Although Trump in theory, he agreed to a plan for a relatively speedy trial in the Senate with no witnesses, because McConnell said that's the only way he could hold onto, you know, the 51 votes needed for the process. Trump never really went along with it.

We've seen this in every policy area. Trump agrees to something because it makes political sense. But he never really goes along with it. In this case he has a vision of himself, you know, in the Senate, being vindicated completely, totally exonerated.

He wants to have a spectacle. He wants Americans riveted to their televisions and himself in the Senate ring. That was never going to happen. Even if they were to have witnesses, Mitch McConnell told him that witnesses who were much more relevant to this are the witnesses that President Trump has blocked from testifying.

John Bolton, his former national security adviser. He's the one who said it was a drug deal.

What did he mean by that?

The idea that we're going to have an impeachment trial of the president of the United States without the main witnesses. Mick Mulvaney told the American people he linked $400 million in congressionally appropriated aid to the meeting and the meeting with Zelensky to these investigations.

These witnesses were never allowed to testify by President Trump. So McConnell understands there's an incredible political problem there. And it's fascinating that Pelosi kind of jumped into this at the last minute. I don't think this was a long-held plan by House Democrats. It was very opportunistic.

BERMAN: What's another major story overnight that caught my attention from "The Washington Post" is explaining what could be the genesis of President Trump's fixation on Ukraine and the false lie that he has been under that somehow it was Ukraine that hacked the DNC servers. It was Ukraine that attacked the 2016 election. When, in fact, it was Russia.

"The Washington Post" reports there are people from within the administration, former administration officials, who say it seems like it started from the meetings the president had with Vladimir Putin in the summer of 2017.

[07:10:00]

BERMAN: And there is one quote from a former senior administration official, let me read this here. One former senior White House official said Trump even stated so explicitly at one point, saying he knew Ukraine was the real culprit because, quote, "Putin told me."

Mic drop, Elliot.

WILLIAMS: Well, hot take.

Are you surprised?

At this point, we should not be surprised by the president's conduct. But also the lawyers around him. What we went through over the last several months was an exercise in the president's misconduct with respect to a foreign country. Here it's playing out.

The other thread through the story that I think is the most troubling is it's another example of senior administration officials, lawyers and foreign policy people, talking about how much the president's conduct concerns them but then not doing anything about it, staying along.

Obviously the government needs good people to, you know, stand up when the president and others behave in an inappropriate manner.

CAMEROTA: Will this is a former senior administration official so this person has left.

But aren't they speaking publicly with his or her name?

It would be important for the American people to understand why President Trump is so gullible --

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: At the time this individual was there and there were individuals there having these concerns and not saying anything about it. And 20 years from now what we'll look back on is how this conduct was enabled by people in the administration.

CAMEROTA: Margaret, this is a head slapper. It's just a head slapper that Putin told President Trump and that's why he's running with this theory that is a Russian talking point.

TALEV: It's not a head slapper that Vladimir Putin would try to convince an American president of that.

But look, this is both the danger and the opportunity in these one-on- one bilaterals or, you know, if you're not -- you know, if you're the president, one-on-one meetings with foreign leaders.

They try to convince you of their position and you, as the president, try to convince them of your position. There were also, as you recall, people with pro-Russian or pro-Putin ties within the campaign. Paul Manafort's influence has come back into question.

So to me, the issue here is, if you separate the question of impeachment and whether you think impeachment is the appropriate course, there are ongoing concerns from inside the administration about the judgment the president brings to his personal relationships with foreign leaders and how he applies things they tell him to the execution of foreign policy.

And assuming the Senate goes forward, receives this and acquits the president, there will still be at least one more year and perhaps four more years after that, where Trump is in a room with world leaders and emerges with a world view that affects policy.

BERMAN: Susan, one last word?

GLASSER: Look, let's be real. Not only has the president of the United States amplified this message that has been pushed by Russia since the 2016 campaign, his own government has found it to be completely false.

What's amazing to me is he's now found his defenders on Capitol Hill. Both House members and senators, who are willing to amplify this lie to the American public when a congressman said this in the well of the House and he was reproved by Jerry Nadler, he was shouting in outrage that he was, you know, being chided for repeating Russian propaganda on the floor of the United States House of Representatives.

This is going to be a moment in American politics people are going to look back on and say, are you kidding me?

CAMEROTA: Yes, the history books are going to be full in the future. Thank you, all, very much for the reporting and the perspective.

So there were fewer candidates but more fireworks last night at the Democratic debate. Chris Cillizza runs down his list of winners and losers next.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:15:00]

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BERMAN: It is the first morning after the last Democratic debate of 2019.

CAMEROTA: Of the year. I mean, you're going to have more soon.

BERMAN: But this is the close of a chapter of an important part of the presidential race.

(CROSSTALK)

CAMEROTA: All right. I feel the poignancy of this moment.

BERMAN: There will never be another debate for the 2019 year. Here to talk about how the candidates did, Chris Cillizza.

I want to set this up with the moment that might be getting the most play this morning which is the face-off between South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg and Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren over the issue of where the mayor has been holding his fundraisers. So listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARREN: The mayor just recently had a fundraiser that was held in a wine cave full of crystals and served $900 a bottle wine.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), MAYOR OF SOUTH BEND, IND., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator, your net worth is 100 times mine. Now supposing you went home, feeling the holiday spirit and went onto peteforamerica.com and give the maximum allowable by law, $2,800.

Would that pollute my campaign because it came from a wealthy person?

No, I would be glad to have that support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: And this went on and on for some time.

So with that as the prelude here, who do you see as the big winners and losers from the debate?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR AT LARGE: My policy in life is, if I'm ever invited to a wine cave, I go. No questions asked. Look, I think that Pete Buttigieg, as you saw there -- and it happened a couple other times including with Amy Klobuchar.

[07:20:00]

CILLIZZA: He came under much more fire than he has in the past, John, past debates, which isn't much. I think he handled that exchange pretty well. He was ready for it because Warren had been previewing it on the campaign trail for the last couple weeks. Buttigieg is now on the pole position in Iowa and maybe New Hampshire, too.

I kind of hedged of him because I couldn't totally decide. I think there was more good than bad for him, not by a ton but I put him in my winners and losers, which is a little bit of cheating but I made up the rules. I think slightly more good than bad for him.

The one that I thought honestly shone the brightest -- and it was a different debate because there were seven of them. I thought it makes a difference. I thought Amy Klobuchar was quite good, midwestern, talked about what she's gotten done. Hit Buttigieg on the fact he's ran (sic) for office twice and lost.

I didn't have a great answer for that. I just thought she came across as an alternative to what else was on that stage that people have already known about. They already kind of know about Warren and Sanders and Biden and maybe even Buttigieg at this point. I think not as many people know about her. I think she did a good job.

BERMAN: Let's play a moment between Klobuchar and Buttigieg.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think winning matters. I think a track record of getting things done matters.

BUTTIGIEG: You want to talk about the capacity to win?

Try putting together a coalition to bring you back to office with 80 percent of the vote as a gay dude in Mike Pence's Indiana.

KLOBUCHAR: If you had won in Indiana, that would be one thing. You tried and you lost. (END VIDEO CLIP)

commuter Ouch.

CILLIZZA: Yes. I mean, look. Buttigieg is not taken aback by attacks. Compared to Harris hitting Biden on busing in the first debate to this, where Buttigieg clearly ready for both the wine cave attack and this attack.

But I do think and Governor McAuliffe said this earlier on your guys' show today. Electability, I'm not sure it actually exists because Donald Trump is president and everybody told us he couldn't be.

But I do think there's an element of voters in the Democratic Party who want to nominate someone they do believe to be electable, they do believe is best suited to beat Donald Trump. And so I think that in that vein, Klobuchar's argument does work.

Buttigieg, you didn't win. Those are just facts. She hit on that again and again in the interviews afterward. Going to be a thing going forward.

Why is she attacking Buttigieg?

Because Amy Klobuchar needs to have a good showing in Iowa and he's in her way right now.

CAMEROTA: How do you think that former V.P. Biden did?

CILLIZZA: Better than he's done in any other debate, Alisyn, consistently pretty solid. I thought his answer on how he has more than anyone else to sort of be angry at Republicans for and yet he still believes in consensus was one of his strongest answers.

Again, Andrew Gillum was saying this earlier. I don't know if it resounds with Democratic primary voters, who I'm not sure want to work with Republicans. But that's Biden's message. He's locked in on that. He sold it and I thought he did a good job.

He also did pretty good on age. The question was essentially, Barack Obama said there were too many old white men in leadership.

What do you think of that?

Biden said, yes, I'm older. I also have more experience and a little bit more wisdom. If you don't like him, that's not going to convince you. But that's the best argument he can make on that question.

BERMAN: If you're way ahead in the national polls and nothing knocks you off the pedestal in the last debate of the year, you're leaving that debate pretty happy.

CILLIZZA: Look, I think Buttigieg was the center of the ,debate which was both a good thing and a bad thing for him. It's good in that nobody attacks people who don't matter. Right?

Always remember that. Nobody attacks you if they're not worried about you. But he did take more incoming.

Are you comfortable with how he raises money?

And how much does the idea of electability matter?

I think he handled those questions well. He thinks well on his feet. But you don't emerge from that debate unscarred.

CAMEROTA: Thank you for your take on this.

CILLIZZA: Have a great day.

CAMEROTA: You, too.

Coming up in our next hour, we will speak to senator Amy Klobuchar and senator Cory Booker, who did come up in the debate. He was not there but he was a presence.

[07:25:00]

BERMAN: There's a big story breaking overnight we haven't had a chance to talk about much. A prominent Christian magazine called President Trump "grossly immoral" and unfit for office in an editorial. This magazine said he should be removed from office. The person who wrote this editorial joins us next.

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BERMAN: A surprising development coming from one of the president's most important bases of support. The prominent evangelical magazine "Christianity Today" is calling for President Trump to be removed from office. It is part of this brand-new editorial that says in part, "Whether Mr. Trump should be removed by the Senate or by popular vote next election.

END