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AT THIS HOUR

Trump Rails against Impeachment after Holiday Call to Troops; Interview with Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY); Stocks Shatter more Records on Wall Street. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired December 24, 2019 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00]

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone, I am Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me AT THIS HOUR. It's become something of a holiday tradition. President Trump speaks with troops overseas to thank them for their service. And then, holds (INAUDIBLE) with reporters. Today, that means lashing out against impeachment and against Democrats. The president is weighing in on the standoff between Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offering up this vote of confidence in the Republican leader.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're on very good position. Ultimately, that decision is going to be made by Mitch McConnell and he will make it - he has the right to do whatever he wants. He's the head of the Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: All of this coming as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer warns the Democrats, they will force a vote on every witness and every document if he and Mitch McConnell cannot reach a deal over the procedures in the Senate impeachment trial. And over in the House, a top lawyer there is raising in a new court filing, the prospect of impeaching the president a second time. And just a reminder with all of this, the Senate trial does not seem to be going anywhere any time soon so standby to standby. We will all do that together.

And while we do, let's get to Florida. Kristen Holmes is there traveling with the president. So, Kirsten, what else did the president say this morning?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. Well, the president had quite a bit to say. And I do want to note that he did stay on message when he was talking to the troops. But again, it was that question and answer that really got him.

As he said, he went off on impeachment. He said that Nancy Pelosi hated Republicans and she also hated anyone who voted for President Trump. He also said that he the most unfairly treated person. He went off on the process.

Again, none of this was too shocking. I note something he said that wasn't about impeachment.

He started talking about that threat from North Korea, of course, we remember that North Korea said that they would send a Christmas "gift," obviously there in quotes, to the United States if they did not concede in negotiations. Here is what President Trump said about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We'll find out what the surprises and we'll deal with it very successfully. Let's see what happens. Everybody's got surprises for me. Let's see. Maybe it is a nice present. Maybe it is a present where he sends me a beautiful vase as opposed to a missile test, right? I make it in a vase. I make it a nice present for him. You don't know. You never know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: So, right there. I guess it could be a beautiful vase or a missile test. Let's hope it's the beautiful vase there. But, he also talked about his confidante. He talked about Mike Flynn. He talked about Roger Stone. He said he hadn't thought about whether or not he was going too hard in Roger Stone. He said that both Flynn and Stone had also been treated unfairly, that they have been abused by the system.

And Kate, perhaps one of the most shocking things that he said today was he had not yet bought his wife a Christmas present.

BOLDUAN: I will say, for all of us last minute shoppers, I do feel him on that.

Kristen, thank you so much. We really appreciate it.

So, while we wait for more on that in terms of North Korea, let's get back to the standoff over impeachment. Joining me right now is Harry Litman. He's a former deputy assistant attorney general. It is great to see you, Harry. Thanks for coming in.

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: You, too, Kate. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much. So, what do you make of the fact that there are - the attorneys for House Democrats in this new filing in court are putting out the possibility of another round of impeachment. I mean, what argument are they really trying to make here?

LITMAN: Yes, not a lot. This is really more of a legal insider's point. They were trying -- the court was asking is this still a live dispute. They were just making the obvious point. Nothing's really changed. We need them again testimony as much as we needed it three weeks ago and for the same reasons. We need it for another reason as well which is the articles of impeachment.

Talk about a continuing course of conduct so all the stuff with McGahn, with the obstruction from Trump telling McGahn to fire Mueller, telling him to lie about it is relevant to the articles of impeachment. But as a technical legal matter, it could happen and that just makes it still alive. So, in that sense, it is less of a bomb shell than it has been playing in the press. It is more an insider's argument for why the controversy still matters.

BOLDUAN: And what do you make of the fact that -- someone floated to me yesterday that when it comes to McGahn, when it comes to this argument, he's more of a stalking horse for John Bolton, getting his testimony to come in. What do you think of that?

LITMAN: Look, I agree. I mean, for now, for media purposes, they want certain testimony. They want certain documents. Bolton more than McGahn and that's the whole fight that's being made now. And McConnell is basically saying, trust me, just bring off those little articles and I will take care of it. And of course, you know Pelosi is not a fool and knows very well from Merrick Garland and others that wants McConnell has the gold of the articles. He will act ruthlessly.

[11:05:07]

So, that's where the impasse comes from. And for now, the majority of Americans are back and Pelosi. We'll see if they can kind of stem the tide of public opinion.

BOLDUAN: Yes, public opinion, we will - we know public opinion stands, you know, in terms of how divided public opinion is, in terms of the impeachment --

(CROSSTALK)

LITMAN: Yes. Although at its very issue whether to have witnesses -

BOLDUAN: Witnesses or not -

LITMAN: of public opinion is not going to be divided -

BOLDUAN: -- if you ask if public opinion is in favor of more witnesses.

So on that issue, so Senator Schumer has now laid out their -- not only four witnesses that they would like to have testify but also laying out really yesterday the breadth of the documents from the White House, the State Department and the Budget Office that they would like to see turned over as part of the Senate trial. So, for the purposes of this trial, which do you think is more important? Is it the documents or is it the witnesses?

LITMAN: You know as a prosecutor, I like the documents, they don't go south on you, who knows what Mulvaney or Bolton would try to say. When you build a case, what can the document that came out three days ago, the timing made it so clear, the little postscript don't tell anybody made it very clear, you need both. But really when you go to trial, you want sort of a binder with 10 or 15 killer documents that nobody could rebut. I think those are really key, even though of course the drama of a live witness is unsurpassed.

BOLDUAN: All right, standby to stand. I continue to have to say as we see how this twist and turns go.

LITMAN: Happy holidays.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Harry. Happy Holidays! Thank you so much.

LITMAN: Thanks very much.

BOLDUAN: Another figure at the center of the president's impeachment, giving what really only can be described as a bizarre new interview. President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, holding little back, it seems, when he sat down with Olivia Nuzzi of New York magazine earlier this month. In a piece that was just published, Giuliani insists he did nothing wrong on his pursuit of foreign dirt on the Bidens. He also hurled a series of insults at his former stomping grounds, the Southern District of New York, calling prosecutors there idiots and worse for investigating his connections to Ukraine and his finances.

Regarding his work in Ukraine, he said that he has no business interests in Ukraine, only to add this. "I've done two business deals in Ukraine. I've sought four or five others."

So try to square that one. But wait there is more.

Giuliani falsely claiming that the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, is controlled, his words, by George Soros, the billionaire Democratic political activist who is a target of many right wing conspiracy theory. He is also a Holocaust survivor.

Giuliani is saying this, "Don't tell me I'm anti-Semitic if I oppose him. Soros is hardly a Jew. I'm more of a Jew than Soros is. I probably know more about - he doesn't go to church, he doesn't go to religion - synagogue."

Joining me now, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash.

There's a lot in this interview but by and large, Dana, I mean Giuliani has become known in the past year for slightly unhinged interviews and keep free willing back and forth with reporters. Can you tell what he's trying to do here?

(CROSSTALK)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: (INAUDBLE) - to say that.

BOLDUAN: Yes, what is he trying to do here?

BASH: He's continuing to do what he has done increasingly, you know, for the past year but especially since he returned from Ukraine. He went dark as impeachment really started to heat up. But that changed when he headed to Ukraine and double, triple and quadruple down on what is the core of what - of what the impeachment process was all about which is the president of the United States, you know of course, asking a foreign leader to investigate a potential political opponent. That was born at Rudy Giuliani having conversations after conversations with the president and now it is to the point, Kate, where he, Rudy Giuliani, says I want to vindicate my client, let's get real, he also wants to vindicate himself. He also wants - even though he says in this interview that he does not care about his legacy. He says - but these actions don't support that. He wants to try to prove that all of these conspiracy theories are actually accurate and that's why he'll not let it go and he insists that he has the support of the president because their faiths are intertwined on this.

BOLDUAN: Well, that's the truth. And the gross attack on Soros. No matter what you think of his politics, he's a survival of the holocaust and attacking him over religion and perpetuating a long - one of your longest standing anti-Semitic throbs in doing so. Openly pushing right wing conspiracy theories, no matter how unhinged an interview is, this used to be the former mayor of New York City.

BASH: Right. And that was what he was trying to get at and Giuliani speak, which is how can you call me anti-Semitic, I was the mayor of New York City.

[11:10:05]

You know, I know a lot of Jews and I am welcomed in the Jews community. And that he was trying to say his attacks on George Soros had nothing to do with his religion. However, I was trying to figure out the best way to explain it. Luckily we have Jonathan Greenblatt who runs the A.D.L., the Anti-Defamation League.

And here is what he said. "Opposing Soros isn't what's anti-Semitic. Saying that he controls ambassadors ,employs FBI agents and isn't 'Jewish enough' to be demonized is. Our experts explain the anti- Semitism behind Soros conspiracies," and goes on to put a link there.

So, it is not you know kind of you know, a onetime deal. The point that the A.D.L. is making and anybody who's looked at this for more than five minutes knows is that a lot of the attacks on people like George Soros. She said at the beginning, kind of seize on throbs that are hundreds of years old. Even millennia and that they go back a long, long time that like Jews run the world. And that is where a lot of the attacks on Soros is coming from. He's trying to separate himself but it is not that easy.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And you mentioned his commentary about his legacy in this article. He's asked about his legacy. And Olivia says this is kind of where he gets emotional. And he's quoted in the saying, "In my attitude of my legacy is F---." I mean you've covered Giuliani a long time. I mean you don't think he believes that.

BASH: You know I think he has convinced himself that that is what his attitude is. But again, his actions, you know still another story.

BOLDUAN: Right.

BASH: That he is trying to you know to vindicate not just his client - his unpaid client, but himself as well. And - but things changed for him dramatically when he signed on to Donald Trump's campaign and was kind of sucked in to his orbit and the persona, the very large persona. I mean it is hard to imagine a bigger personality than Rudy Giuliani. He met his match with Donald Trump. And the two of them have gone back for you know for decades and decades and Giuliani decided to join the campaign in that critical moment after the "Access Hollywood" tape came out.

BOLDUAN: Right.

BASH: But nobody would go out on TV on his behalf except Giuliani. That's when his faith and his legacy changed.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Good to see you, Dana.

BASH: Thanks, you too.

BOLDUAN: See you soon.

Coming up, so who will blink first in the impeachment standoff on Capitol Hill? How long can Speaker Pelosi hold out - hold those articles of impeachment, refusing to send them over to the Senate. Democratic House member weighing in, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:17:03]

BOLDUAN: Welcome back to a special Christmas Eve edition of AT THIS HOUR, as Senate leader remained locked in the standoff about the logistics and the rules and procedure of an impeachment trial. President Trump is left in limbo and he does not seem to be happy about it, not surprising at all. The president is railing against House Democrats this morning just moments after taking part on a Christmas Eve video call with U.S. troops overseas. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: People remember they treated us very unfairly. They did not give us due process. They didn't give us a lawyer. They did not give us anything. Now they come to the Senate and they want everything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Joining me right now, Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth from Kentucky. Thank you for coming in, Congressman.

REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D-KY): Good morning, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Good morning. So, the president is saying once again that the House process was unfair, but now saying -- implying why then should Democrats expect a fair process in the Senate. What do you say to that?

YARMUTH: Well, first of all, he's totally lying about the process. He was invited to have lawyers present. He was invited to call witnesses. He chose not to. He did not participate in the proceedings at all, calling them a hoax and unjustified. That's his privilege to call it whatever he wants but to say that it was not fair because he decided not to make it fair is ridiculous.

And I think the argument is the same with whatever happens in the Senate. There will be at some point a need for votes in the Senate to decide whether to call witnesses or not. And I would hope that they are able to get 51 votes to do that.

I think Mitch McConnell is in a real bind here regardless of what President Trump says. I think Mitch is going to have -- face severe criticism and as the polling has showed not just from Democrats if he makes sure to strip of this whole proceeding. And yet if he calls witnesses - allow witnesses then I think the president's case is going to be severely damaged. So, I think he's really make the calculation right now at least that he's safer to have a basically a non-trial trial than to call witnesses which would underman -- man the president's arguments.

BOLDUAN: Potentially. Right now it remains a staring contest of sorts really between Speaker Pelosi and Schumer and Mitch McConnell. Something we'll have to give if there is going to be a trial which there still seems to be that there is going to be one at some point.

Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen, I had him on yesterday. He acknowledged to me that in the end, Pelosi is going to have to send the articles over. Let me play what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): I guess, politically, because the pressure will be there and Speaker Pelosi does not want this to go on for a long time.

I think she will want to get around with that. But at the same time, she's going to want to get some assurances there will be a fair trial.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So, when you say that you think McConnell is in a bind here. I mean, do you though agree that in the end, Pelosi is going to have to give?

[11:20:01]

YARMUTH: I agree with Steve. Steve is my best friend in Congress. I would never criticize Steve. But you know she's absolutely going to have to deliver the articles to the Senate. But I think right in demanding some knowledge of what the process is going to look like. For instance, there have been Republicans who have said they want to call Adam Schiff. If they're witnesses, they want to call Adam Schiff. Well, Adam Schiff is likely to be one of the managers of the Democrats case in the Senate. If he's going to be a witness, it would be hard for him to be the manager. So there are practical reasons why she is asking for this -

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: But are you in a place, Congressman, because I've heard people talking about - I mean would you support Speaker Pelosi in order to maintain leverage if you will since honestly --let's be honest this is what it is about. Who has leverage in holding the articles indefinitely until you get what you perceive as fair rules in the Senate trial.

YARMUTH: I think it was a practical matter and again Steve is right here that sometime by mid-January at the latest, she's going to have to deliver those articles. But in the meantime, we have all the leverage right now because we can continue to harp on the fact that the administration is withholding witnesses and asking the question what do they have to hide. If they had witnesses that would refute the case in the articles of impeachment, they would present them. The fact they are not is pretty much tantamount to admission that they're accurate.

So I think we have several weeks to keep making that point. Again, the American people are on our side at least according to polling about two-thirds of the American people think we ought to have witnesses. So I think she's holding a pretty strong hand here.

BOLDUAN: One thing I found fascinating this morning just knowing President Trump as we have watched him since taking office is that he said today that Mitch McConnell has the final say on the ultimate format of the Senate trial. This is from the same president who has said more than once that the only opinion that matters is his own.

Does that surprise you and what do you think it means that he said that?

YARMUTH: You know, I don't know. I've stopped a long time ago trying to guess what's in President Trump's head. I know he knows more about windmills now than everybody else does. But I don't think he knows a lot about impeachment trials because there have only been two. And as far as the Constitution goes, the Constitution is silent on the process. So I think that there are Senate rules about how they're supposed to be conducted, that's the 51 votes to actually change a process. And so, I'm really not interested to what the president says. He's liable to say something diametrically opposite an hour from now.

BOLDUAN: Well, that's not even an opinion. That is actually facts. That has definitely happened in the course of just my show. So, on that, I will give you one point for just that. Congressman, thank you for coming in, I appreciate it.

YARMUTH: Absolutely. Happy holidays. Merry Christmas to you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. You too, Happy Holidays.

Coming up, 2019 comes to a close with a booming economy. So, can President Trump ride that reelection next year and can Democrats do anything to stop it?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:27:55] BOLDUAN: So, the markets are about to close for the Christmas holiday. And it is looking like 2019 will close out as a big year for the economy. S&P 500 is on track right now for its best rate of return since 2013. The latest jobs report shows unemployment at its lowest level in nearly half a century. Trend we've seen throughout the year. And people also feel good abouth the economy. The latest CNN poll shows that 76 percent of Americans feel very or somewhat good about the economy. And that's the highest shares since February of 2001.

And a sign of consumer confidence, the so called, "Super Saturday" this last weekend, Holiday shoppers spent more than $34 billion, shattering a single day sales record. So what does the economy of 2019 tell us about the economy of 2020?

Joining me now, CNN global economic analyst Rana Foroohar. She's an associate editor at "Financial Times." It's good to see you. Thanks for being here.

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: Thank you for having me.

BOLDUAN: So a lot to -- I left out some - I mean just a few things that have happened with the economy but other elements impacting the economy, a trade war with China, we've talked about so much, the new NAFTA trade deal which has been so closely watched. How do you sum up where things are ending with the economy of the year?

FOROOHAR: So, look, there are two stories. The first one is obviously a good story. I mean we're going to have record returns this year again. You know after 10 years of a recovery and several years of bull market, you are seeing unemployment figures looking really good. You're seeing wages in the last couple of cycles began to tick up a little bit. And that was the thing we are looking for and consumers are now spending. They feel confident as you say.

But there are two stories here. So stocks are way up but gold is also up too. Now gold is what people hold when they think the sky is falling. So there is a short term story, and the question is how short is short term? Are we going to see this economy continue to be strong or stocks going to continue to be strong into say November 2020 and is that going to propel Trump to a victory? But when do we start to see that correction that we know is coming? There are cycles that market rises and falls and you know that there is going to be correction at some point.

BOLDUAN: And you raised such an -- something else that we have talked about throughout the year. There have been troubling times in the economy.

FOROOHAR: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Things that I had to lean on you because I did not understand these indicators.

(LAUGHTER)

FOROOHAR: It is all the acronyms.

BOLDUAN: Yes, that's where I am completely lost.

[11:30:00]