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Democrats Renew Calls for White House Officials to Testify; McConnell Holds News Conference; Trump Administration Says Court Shouldn't Weigh In On McGahn Testimony; McCarthy Says FBI Spied on Trump's Campaign and Covered It Up; Boeing CEO Resigns after Tumultuous Year; Pence Aide "Confident" Pelosi Will "Yield" on Sending Articles; Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) Discusses Standoff over Senate Impeachment Trial. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired December 23, 2019 - 11:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:00:17]

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining me.

Here's where things stand this morning. The president has been impeached, Congress has left town. And the next step is stuck in limbo as Democrats are renewing calls for White House officials to testify in the upcoming trial whenever it begins.

Here is why. The release of government e-mails that show exactly when the order to freeze aid to Ukraine was given. According to the timestamps, it was 90 minutes after the president's now-infamous July 25th phone call with the president of Ukraine where he made the ask for political investigation of his rivals.

In these e-mails, a political appointee from the White House budget office tells folks at the Pentagon told to hold the aid.

Michael Duffy also writing this, saying, quote, "Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held.

So what does this do to the stalemate over the Senate trial? Here's what majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said just this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We haven't ruled out witnesses. We've said let's handle this case just like we did with President Clinton. Fair is fair.

We're at an impasse. We can't do anything until the speaker sends the papers over. So everybody enjoy the holidays.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: And then some.

And at any moment, Mitch McConnell is expected to be holding a news conference in Louisville, Kentucky. We'll be monitoring that for you, bringing you news from that.

First of all, joining me now is congressional reporter, Lauren Fox. She's on the Hill.

When you heard from Mitch McConnell there and you see those e-mails that were released through a Freedom of Information Act, from Michael Duffy, Democrats are not letting this slide by. Lauren, what are you hearing?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, Kate, what we know is the Democrats are actually digging in on their requests for not only witnesses but also documents.

Senator Chuck Schumer said a letter to Senate colleagues a few moments ago, essentially arguing that this is just more evidence, these e- mails more evidence for why they need get those underlying documents from OMB, from the State Department, from the White House, and, of course, they want to hear from witnesses.

Here's what Schumer said yesterday afternoon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Witnesses are the most important part of the trial.

If there was ever an argument that we need Mr. Duffy to come testify, this is that information. This e-mail is explosive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOX: Of course, Kate, Democrats and Republicans still very dug in on whether or not to have those witnesses. Lawmakers might be gone, but there's still a tit for tat happening between McConnell and then Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House.

She tweeted after McConnell's appearance on FOX News arguing that they are not going to send over those articles of impeachment until she sees exactly how a Senate trial is going to be conducted -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Lauren, thank you so much for being there. One of the only people probably on the Hill right now. Thank you so much. Good to see you.

Interesting, at the same moment, there's an interesting court maneuver that happened while you were sleeping. Overnight, the Trump administration argued to a federal court to stay out of the ongoing fight between the House and former White House counsel, Don McGahn. The Justice Department arguing that the White House vote on impeachment means a quick resolution to McGahn's case is no longer necessary.

And remember, this is one of the, I would say, potentially most significant court cases impacted by impeachment.

Joining me now, CNN senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez, with much more on this.

What is McGahn's team -- what's the Justice Department really asking here?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, they're asking the court to stay out of this. They say that, at this point, because the House has already voted to impeach the president and the Senate is waiting to make a decision on whether or not to convict him, that the courts have no role in this.

And you know, we should note that this is sort of a different flavor of an argument that they've been making from the beginning, which is this is not something the court should get involved in. This is a fight between Congress and the White House.

Big question, as you pointed out, very important, can the president just say there are people close to him who essentially have no -- they have no responsibility to show up in Congress to answer a subpoena, that they have absolute immunity.

That's the question a judge has already decided is not so. They say that the judge in Washington ruled that the -- McGahn, the former White House counsel, does have to show up to provide some testimony, at least in answer to the subpoena.

I'll read a part of what the Justice Department in this brief said overnight. It said, "Indeed, if this court now were to resolve the merits question in this case, it would appear to be weighing in on a contested issue in any impeachment trial. That would be of questionable propriety whether or not such a judicial resolution proceeded or post-dated any impeachment trial."

[11:05:03]

Again, this is on Don McGahn. The House has been asking for months for him to provide testimony on whether or not the president was obstructing justice in the Mueller investigation.

The House has said essentially that we would like -- still have -- we would still like to have this testimony because it may have, you know, some kind of bearing on whether the president gets impeached or at least the Senate confirms the impeachment.

So we're waiting to see whether or not the appeals court will buy this argument that essentially you should stay out of it. So far, judges have not really taken that argument to heart.

BOLDUAN: Right. Right.

Evan, good to see you, thank you.

PEREZ: Thanks. BOLDUAN: Joining me, CNN political analyst and politics and White

House editor for "Axios," Margaret Talev, Jennifer Rodgers, a CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, and CNN political commentator and former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, Charlie Dent.

Thank you for being here.

Jennifer, let me ask you first about this McGahn case. At its core, this gets kind of back to where is the line for the -- where the House's ability is to get information from the administration and the course of their investigations.

And I wonder how significant you think this is because you have, on the one hand, the Trump administration here arguing that courts don't get involved because the trial is going on or will be going on, right. On the other hand, you have Republicans on Capitol Hill and some saying let the courts decide before impeachment takes place.

Everyone's talking out both sides of their mouth here.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's an outrageous position, Kate no question about it. You have the White House talking point saying, how could they possibly impeach the president on obstruction of Congress when they didn't spend six to eight months going through all the layers of appellate process at the courts. And then, yet, now, the administration is saying you can't go to the courts to resolve this.

You know, here is where we are -- if you have a dispute between the legislative branch and the executive branch where the executive branch is refusing to acknowledge the constitutionally mandated role of the legislative branch and they won't let the courts decide it, we are in a constitutional crisis. That is exactly where we are.

And so that's why I think the courts should not take the Department of Justice's position here. It's really -- the wrong position on the merits. It's an outrageous position to take considering some of their talking points. And I hope the court swiftly rejects it.

BOLDUAN: The court's already going to hear the case, oral arguments, January 3rd. House Judiciary has been trying to get McGahn to testify. Will it impact the trial?

RODGERS: I don't think so. Of course, if they lose, if the administration loses at this appellate level, they'll appeal to the Supreme Court. And they won't take the case up this term. You know, we're going to be in delay mode regardless.

And you know, this is a different issue. You know, yes, it's the same argument they've been making for the witnesses in the impeachment trial. But they subpoenaed McGahn to talk about obstruction of justice that came out of the revelations in the Mueller report.

So it doesn't really impact the Senate trial. We're not going to have an answer either way. BOLDUAN: So, Margaret, then you have this new string of e-mails that

were released only because it was requested through Freedom of Information Act, from top budget official, showing that he directed the hold on Ukraine aid immediately after this July 25th call. We don't know who directed him, of course.

A big question at the moment is, what does 90 minutes mean in the scope of this.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Kate, that's right. There are two details that have emerged from this latest batch of e-mails that have been released.

One is what is in those redacted sections where we see both Mike Duffy from the OMB and Secretary Esper himself. There's some passages that have been blacked out. It would be at least interesting and possibly informative to know what was said in the blacked-out sections.

The other is that it's obviously not a coincidence that the e-mail underscoring in writing both the hold and the sensitivity on the hold were sent right after the phone call.

The question is, how did it get from the phone call to the e-mail with those instructions? Did the president call his aides into the office after the call and say, look, this is what I want to happen? Did the president say --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Let me jump in, real quick.

We're going to jump to Kentucky. Mitch McConnell is taking questions on impeachment right now.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What are your thoughts about her holding onto this? Do you have concerns about those being sent over any time soon?

MCCONNELL: Yes. As I've said, repeatedly, we can't take up a matter we don't have. And so, hopefully, it will - it'll be on the way over at some point.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You mentioned a potential opponent, come the general election, but you've got four Republicans filed to primary you. Is that about the job you're doing, and are you concerned?

MCCONNELL: You get a report card in this business. I'll get two next year, one in the primary, one in the general.

BOLDUAN: Just listening to Mitch McConnell continue to take questions.

On the question, if there was a question this morning, if there's been movement in terms of the standoff getting the articles of impeachment to the Senate and, thus, starting the Senate trial, they're still at a stalemate. I think we knew that at the moment. But Mitch McConnell confirming things stands where they stand. Margaret, sorry I interrupted you.

[11:10:04]

Let me ask you, Congressman, really quick. When you were on the Appropriations Committee, you handled this very thing. Where money is -- where money is deemed to be going to, when it should, go and where -- where it should be going. You see these e-mails that have just come out, is this how the process works?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, Kate, actually. I have news for the White House and OMB. Look, appropriated money cannot be withheld, rescinded, or reprogrammed unilaterally by the White House. It has -- there must be Congressional consent or approval. Otherwise, it's likely to be a violation of the Empowerment and Control Act.

In fact, I think Senator Van Hollen was on a show earlier this morning where he basically has requested a ruling from the Government Accountability Office, the GAO, on this very subject.

They do not have the authority to rescind that money. If they did, that would be the -- that would have had the same effect as a line- item veto which the courts have -- have ruled against over the years.

This is a very big problem.

BOLDUAN: Margaret, do you think that -- that this issue, these e- mails, does it somehow give Democrats any leverage in terms of the desire to call witnesses? Mitch McConnell seems to be indicating he is no more inclined to do so than he was yesterday or the day before.

TALEV: Certainly, the broad strokes of this negotiation have not changed as a result of these e-mails.

There's a question about what Nancy Pelosi is really trying to get strategically from this. Is she trying to break loose for witnesses, or is there something else?

I think when you look at Chuck Schumer's letter of just a few moments ago -- so we're all still digesting it -- he emphasizes it's not just the witnesses but the documents.

There's perhaps some sort of intermediate goal that she's trying to achieve through these negotiations that hasn't become explicitly clear to all of us yet. There's something that she's trying to get.

And in addition, she is trying to make the president stew a little over the holidays and think about what all of this means for his future as he heads into re-election.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Congressman, let me play for you something that the top Republican in the House said this weekend. It deserves attention. It deserves, frankly, calling out because it gets back to the I.G. report that was -- looked into the origins of the Russia investigation. Listen to Kevin McCarthy here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): If we pause for a moment and read this I.G. report by Horowitz, here's the FBI, they broke into President Trump, at the time Candidate Trump's campaign, spied on him, and then they covered it up. It is a modern-day Watergate. And you've got Democrats who aren't willing to even look into that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So, Congressman, it's hard enough for people to follow the facts of this process in general. Then you have now, I mean, top elected leaders going on TV and just lying about the facts.

That is not what the I.G. found. There was no spying on the Trump campaign. They explicitly said that they did not see -- they did not put any spies into the campaign, in one regard. In another regard, they flat-out denied it.

What do you do with this then? That's Kevin McCarthy speaking on national television.

DENT: Well, look, I think we all know what the I.G. reported. That -- he reported that the origins of the Russia investigation were properly predicated, and it was done appropriately.

That said, you know, the way the FISAs were issued, there were problems with the way the FBI went about those FISA warrants. So that's -- that's what they said.

But overall, the -- the investigation was done appropriately, and there was a proper predicate for it.

Look, I -- I get this is a lot of spin. People are taking their sides and trying to take the --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: A lot of spin. A lot of spin.

You know, my whole point -- I think a lot of people would agree -- there's criticism to -- there's real criticism of the FISA warrant process, there's real criticism that is leveled in the I.G. report about how things went down -- how things were handled within the FBI investigation.

But this is not one of the things. This is just flat-out trying to spin people, lie to people, and confuse people.

DENT: Well, yes. I mean, it's clear, that's spin.

And I think as Republicans, we ought to be concerned about this. We have historically been the party of law enforcement. And the more that we condemn the FBI and the more we go after the FISA process -- by the way, which we always defended. I get it needs to be reformed again.

Heaven forbid there's another terror strike out there, we're going to make it harder to get FISA warrants going forward. Heaven forbid there's another terror attack.

I think as Republicans, we better be very careful about how we condemn the FBI in the way they handled this. We're going to rue the day going forward.

BOLDUAN: Guys, thanks for being here. Really appreciate it.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Coming up next for us, there's a big shakeup at Boeing after months of backlash following two horrific deadly crashes. The company's CEO is out. What was the final straw?

[11:15:04]

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: A big shakeup at Boeing. After nothing short of a disastrous year for the company, it released a statement saying, in part, this, quote, "The board of directors decided a change in leadership was necessary to restore confidence in the company moving forward."

What does that mean? That means CEO Dennis Muilenburg is fired. His resignation effective immediately.

The changes come a week after Boeing announced it's suspending production of the 737 MAX. The plane has been grounded since March following those two horrific fatal crashes that killed 346 people.

Joining me now, CNN business editor-at-large and host of "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS," Richard Quest.

[11:20:04]

It's good to see you, Richard.

So is this a surprise, Richard, or is it more a surprise to folks that it took so long?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR-AT-LARGE & CNN HOST, "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": No. The surprise is that they decided to do it two days before Christmas, which would have the cynics and the skeptics suggesting, well, how to lose bad news, do it just before a holiday season.

The fact that Dennis Muilenburg is going is not a surprise to anybody whatsoever. It was going to be a question of when, not if. We'd already seen, of course, Kevin McCallister, head of commercial, he was already let go. We've seen lots of movement around. But the name that everybody kept coming to was Muilenburg, Dennis

Muilenburg. When was Boeing going to let him go? They decided two days before Christmas, which seems a very odd time to do it.

Bearing in mind that they made a major announcement on the 737 MAX production only a week ago. Why not make the announcement then?

BOLDUAN: Great question.

And also then, you always want to look at where the stock price has been. The fact that it didn't rebound, or the fact that there was a question when you hear the board statement say to restore confidence going forward, how this move does restore any confidence.

QUEST: Well, it restores confidence only in the sense that the person who is at the helm has changed. The worrying aspect in some cases is that the man who's taking over, David Calhoun, has been on the board for 10 years.

That begs the question, well, if you've been on the board for 10 years, you were a board member when many of these systemic issues were under way.

I think, overall, though, no, the market is going to welcome the change that's taken place. It will just take some time for it to give a full reaction.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Good to see you, Richard. Thanks for coming in.

QUEST: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, man.

Coming up for us, dug in on Capitol Hill? Is it now a question of simply who will blink first in the standoff over when the Senate impeachment trial will begin and what it will look like? A top White House official makes his bet. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:26:47]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARC SHORT, CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: We're confident that this position's untenable, she's going to move it along. That minority leader Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell reach a deal on how it's going to proceed in the Senate.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: So you think that she'll eventually --

(CROSSTALK)

SHORT: She will yield. There's no way she can hold this position.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: That was the vice president's chief of staff yesterday, projecting confidence, as you see, that Speaker Pelosi will eventually give in, in the standoff between the House and Senate leaders over just getting the Senate trial started and what the process is.

Speaker Pelosi said she's not sending the articles of impeachment over until Senator McConnell reveals what the Senate trial is going to look like.

It's really created a strange deadlock in Washington. Everyone leaving town for the holiday, and an impeached president left in limbo. So now what?

Joining me now, Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania, Brendan Boyle.

Congressman, thanks for being here.

REP. BRENDAN BOYLE (D-PA): Thank you.

BOLDUAN: So what do you think of what the vice president's chief of staff is saying there? In the end, it's going to be the speaker that caves, not Mitch McConnell.

BOYLE: I think the people who bet against Speaker Pelosi throughout her career have ended up losing a lot of money. I certainly wouldn't bet against the speaker.

The main point is we want a fair trial. If you judge the two sides, our side wants simply a fair trial, something that resembles what we all know is a fair trial.

And we're concerned that the other side, especially led by Mitch McConnell, will do everything they can to shut it down, to make sure there are no witnesses, to do absolutely nothing to get it done in a week or two in their rush to exonerate the president.

And really it tells you about which side is more confident in the facts. The side that wants a fair trial and wants all the facts that come out, or the other side that simply doesn't want that and wants to shut it down.

BOLDUAN: Well, I mean, I heard your floor speech during impeachment, in the impeachment debate. And you talked about one -- one thing you said was the facts are indisputable.

So what do you do then with new facts that come out? The e-mail exchange from a top budget official placing a hold on the Ukraine aid, telling folks to keep it quiet, just 90 minutes after the president got off the phone with Ukraine. What do you do with new facts like that?

BOYLE: Yes. When I said the facts aren't disputed, I was talking about all of the witnesses who gave testimony, north of a dozen.

These were not people who were bipartisan Democrats, by the way. Career public servants and, in some cases, either Trump appointees or appointees that went back to the Reagan administration, all citing from different perspectives the same underlying narrative.

The new evidence that came out and that was released right before midnight a couple nights ago is truly explosive because what it shows is, almost immediately after the president's call with President Zelensky, you had the freezing of the aid.

It was immediately after that big ask from President Trump that President Zelensky either investigate former Vice President Biden or at least announce that there was going to be a sham investigation simply for politics, in order to help President Trump's re-election campaign.

[11:30:02]

New evidence like that or new testimony of those who didn't come forward during the House proceeding, I think that's incredibly relevant. We need to hear that during a Senate trial.