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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Impeachment Trial Rules?; Trump's List of Grievances; Schumer Demands New Docs From Trump Admin for Senate Trial; Trump's Lawyer Gives Ranting Interview on Ukraine & Impeachment. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired December 24, 2019 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: All the president wants for Christmas is a speedy trial.
THE LEAD starts right now.
President Trump with some holiday jeers, going after so-called dirty cops and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as he says he will go along with whatever Mitch McConnell wants for the Senate impeachment trial.
Rudy Giuliani unplugged. The president's lawyer claims he knows how not to commit crimes and has a rather colorful message about his legacy.
Plus, a holiday health scare, travelers at multiple U.S. airports exposed to measles -- a warning from officials ahead.
Welcome to THE LEAD on this Christmas Eve. I'm Erica Hill, in today for Jake.
We begin with the politics lead.
President Trump more naughty than nice while speaking to reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort, Mr. Trump railing on impeachment, the FBI's role in the Russia investigation, going after House speaker Nancy Pelosi for withholding the articles of impeachment from the Senate, and, as CNN's Boris Sanchez reports, the president reiterating he trusts Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to do whatever he wants when it comes to the pending trial.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And merry Christmas.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Immediately after delivering a Christmas message thanking U.S. troops for their service, President Trump delivering a Christmas rant on impeachment.
TRUMP: They treated us very unfairly. They didn't give us due process. They didn't give us a lawyer. They didn't give us anything. Now they come to the Senate, and they want everything. SANCHEZ: As the process reaches a standstill, Trump voicing support
for Mitch McConnell, saying the Senate majority leader has the right to do whatever he wants with the impeachment trial.
TRUMP: We're in a 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.
SANCHEZ: And the president again lashing out at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
TRUMP: She hates the Republican Party. She hates all of the people that voted for me and the Republican Party. And she's desperate to do...
SANCHEZ: Even predicting impeachment will cost Democrats control the House in 2020.
TRUMP: She got thrown out as speaker once before. She lost like 63 seats, 61 or 63, tremendous, a record-setting number of seats. I think it's going to happen again.
SANCHEZ: Trump also using the moment to spread debunked conspiracy theories, repeating false claims about the FBI spying on his campaign and suggesting Attorney General William Barr is working to take them down.
TRUMP: Hopefully, it's going to be taken care of. The attorney general's working and everybody's working.
SANCHEZ: As the president spends the holiday consumed with political battles, the White House announcing the promotion of a key official who was on the line during Trump's famous July 25 call with President Zelensky of Ukraine, the new representative on international telecommunications policy, Robert Blair, a top aide to Mick Mulvaney who refused to testify before House impeachment investigators.
SANCHEZ: And, Erica, President Trump, while speaking with the troops today, told them that he mostly spends his time here at Mar-a-Lago working.
A short time later, our cameras captured him on the golf course for the second straight day, at least the second straight day. Of course, there's nothing wrong with President Trump spending some time off relaxing on the golf course.
We should remember, though, how critical he was of former President Obama when he would golf and how often President Trump complained of taxpayers having to foot the bill -- Erica.
HILL: Boris Sanchez with the latest for us from Florida, Boris, thank you.
As we unpack everything we're seeing on this Christmas Eve, Scott, I want to start with you.
If Senator McConnell does in fact on no -- insist, rather, on no witnesses in the Senate trial, do you think the president, who has said he'd like to hear from witnesses, he'd like a big trial, do you think he will be OK with that?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I do.
I think he trusts Senator McConnell. They have a good working relationship. You have heard him say publicly now many times that he trusts Senator McConnell to make the right decisions for the Senate.
And I also don't think he likes it, the president, I mean, that Nancy Pelosi is trying to run the Senate. I mean, this whole charade is about her trying to -- she runs the House. Now she wants to run the other chamber. I don't think the president likes that. And he's got a good, strong ally in Mitch McConnell.
So, look, whatever McConnell could come up with, I think the president will be fine with. McConnell's stated position is, let's have the same rules that we had in the Clinton impeachment, and the Democrats won't even go along with that.
So I think we're in uncharted waters here, but maybe we will know more in a couple of weeks.
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Can I just -- let let's just take a step back, though.
Essentially, Mitch McConnell, there's no reason to trust him at this point. And I think Nancy Pelosi is wisely trying to ensure some degree of fairness.
Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham have essentially said that, when they sign the oath, which is the procedure that happens in the Senate to say that they will be unbiased and consider all the evidence, that that will be a lie, because they have already said they have made up their minds, they're coordinating with President Trump, and they are not really interested in the evidence or the facts.
And I will tell you, a number of polls, including one released by Law Works just last week, a majority of Americans want to see all of the evidence laid out.
So this behavior on the part of the president and Mitch McConnell, Americans know what it is. It is about hiding the truth. And I think we saw a great example of that yesterday in the e-mails that were released where we saw that it was just 90 minutes after the president had that phone call where the OMB was already at work withholding the aid.
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's important to remember that the evidence and the information was laid out over in the House impeachment inquiry. And it has been laid out.
And at the end of the day, Karen, the American people are still split on this. We have what is virtually a Rorschach test. People are going to see what they want to see here. Those on the left, the Democrats, have always wanted to impeach the president. They will support that.
FINNEY: That's not true, but OK.
STEWART: And many on the right -- I have been open-minded on this. I think the call, some of it may have been inappropriate, but certainly not worthy of impeachment.
People on the right, the Republicans are looking at this and saying there's no there there. There is no underlying crime and we should not move forward with impeachment.
So the key is, the Senate -- this hopefully soon will be in the Senate's hand for them to continue what they need to do, and put this behind us.
I'm for Mitch McConnell's strategy here and let's get this ball, get this rolling and get this behind us, so we can focus on what the American people are concerned with. And that's not impeachment.
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's one of the largest issues we have, though.
I mean, I think that if we're starting from a point where people understand that something was wrong, that something in that call was inappropriate, we can't even get people to admit that.
The fact is, we have to have John Bolton testify. You have to have Mick Mulvaney testify. You have to have a full and thorough picture.
And so my friend, Scott Jennings, I love Scott. Merry Christmas to you and yours.
The fact is, this is nothing like the Bill Clinton impeachment. The central reason is this. Bill Clinton testified under oath. He lied under oath, but he testified under oath. The fact remains that Donald Trump refuses to. And there still are questions about whether or not the answers he submitted are actually honest and forthright.
So if he would like to testify under oath, I think then you have an apples-to-apples comparison.
SELLERS: And let me just also say this really quickly.
HILL: Really quickly, yes.
SELLERS: I think that Nancy Pelosi should hold the articles of impeachment until we can understand that there will be a full and fair trial. While there are United States senators, while Mitch McConnell, who is
nothing more -- let me remind viewers he's nothing more than a jury foreman in this. That's what he is. The person who presides is the chief justice.
Until people want to understand that we can get a full and fair trial, Nancy Pelosi needs to make sure and ensure that we get that.
HILL: Here's one thing that definitely has stood out.
One of the key witnesses could be perhaps former National Security Adviser John Bolton. He, of course, is on that short list that Chuck Schumer was asking for.
Here's what one of his former aides had to say on CNN this morning. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK GROOMBRIDGE, FORMER JOHN BOLTON AIDE: Nothing is stopping him from writing an op-ed, giving a speech or appearing on a program like this to explain his views.
Forgive me for being snarky and blunt, but he's stealing a page from Omarosa's playbook by arguing essentially that, I have got something really important to say, but you're going to have to wait to hear it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Erica, to that point, I mean, I just want to correct Scott and Alice here.
I mean, number one, this gentleman is exactly right. Bolton is one of the people we have not heard from, and there are a number of key witnesses that we didn't hear from in the House. And that's because the president is obstructing Congress.
So they're -- all the facts have not actually been laid out. Certainly, there is no reason, other than trying to sell books, that John Bolton -- he's been giving interviews, so he's clearly -- and speeches. So he's out and about.
Why not do your civic duty and come forward and tell the truth? I mean, we have people like Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, who at great risk to themselves and mockery by the president of a Purple Heart winner, just shameful mockery of someone who came forward to tell the truth.
Others, at their own risk, came forward to tell the truth. It should not be a hard thing for John Bolton to do that.
STEWART: Let me just say thank you, Karen, for pointing out what I see as a big problem here, is that the facts have not all been laid out. FINNEY: You just said they were, though, so you're contradicting
STEWART: You just said -- and all the more reason why those in the House should not have rushed forward with articles of impeachment.
And if they were so solid and so sure of what they had, they would be rushing it over to the Senate for them to begin their trial, but they're not certain and they're not confident in what they have.
HILL: Here's one thing that is certain. We are out of time for this segment, but we will continue to talk about it.
HILL: I'm going to have to stop you all there, but there is much more to come.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as we talk about all of this, could he have a trick up his sleeve, as he looks to get this impeachment trial started with or without Democrats?
Plus, the scary holiday health warning for travelers here in the U.S. is ahead.
HILL: Republican sources tell CNN today Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does want to cut a deal with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on the ground rules for the pending impeachment trial.
But -- and, yes, there is a but -- those sources also say he may want to do that, but McConnell is willing to go it alone.
Let's go straight to CNN's Lauren Fox.
So, Lauren, McConnell, of course, needs the support of 51 senators to approve the rules. That would not be too tough to get with a Republican majority.
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, that's exactly right, Erica.
And I will tell you that a lot of moderates that we have been talking to have really been coalescing around the idea that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been talking about for a couple weeks now.
Essentially, you would give the Democrats an opportunity to make their case from the House managers, then the White House would have an opportunity to respond and support the president. After that, there would be a vote, essentially, to have the articles of impeachment before them. Then you would vote on whether or not to remove the president.
And I will tell you that a lot of Republicans that we're talking to are saying they could come around to that idea. Meanwhile, you have Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, who is still holding on to those two articles of impeachment right now and Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, is arguing that he needs to have witnesses negotiated before this Senate trial begins.
That's where things stand. And I'll tell you, it might be the holidays but that impasse between McConnell and Schumer is going to be sticking around for a couple more days -- Erica.
ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Yes, it will be with us well into 2020. Lauren, thank you.
I want to bring in now, Elliot Williams who served as counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Good to have you with us.
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Thank you.
HILL: You worked alongside Chuck Schumer, of course. He's now demanding new documents in light of these emails that were released because of a FOIA request over the weekend. Specifically, the emails that showed 90 minutes passing between the president's July 25th call with Ukraine's President Zelensky and the hold on the aid being communicated to the Pentagon.
Here's the issue, though. As he's asking for witnesses, as he's asking for evidence here, we know, of course, that the administration never responded to -- I believe it was 71 subpoenas and requested for information. So, the question being, could these demands play out differently in a Senate trial?
WILLIAMS: Well, a little bit differently, Erica, because, look, in the Senate, the minority just has more power than the minority in the House of Representatives. And so, yes, Senator Schumer can push for votes on some of the controversial issues and it is in his incentive to do so because exactly as you were talking about in a prior segment, there are five vulnerable Republican senators who are up for re- election this year and, frankly, it's in Senator Schumer interest is to put them in a position of having to vote on this question of whether the president and his allies have obstructed this process.
And so, certainly, a vote could come up and far more easily than it could have in the House in the prior proceeding.
HILL: And as this does play out differently because it is a trial in the Senate with, of course, the Chief Justice John Roberts presiding over the trial. Could he compel witnesses to testify?
WILLIAMS: He really can't. You know, the chief justice has largely a ceremonial role over these proceedings as shown by the fact that 51 senators could actually overrule a ruling of the chief justice if we come to a Senate trial. So, look, going back to 1999, Chief Justice Rehnquist dressed up like a character from Gilbert and Sullivan, it's really -- he really did and put stripes on his rope. It is a ceremonial role and it is important role laid out in the Constitution, but he can't dictate the terms of this in the way that both Schumer and McConnell can.
HILL: We'll be watching to see if McConnell and Schumer could come up with any agreement first before we get to that next part.
Elliot, good to see you. Thank you. Happy holidays.
WILLIAMS: Of course. You too.
HILL: The president's lawyer certainly has a lot to say. Rudy Giuliani's blunt message for those who wonder about the legacy he's leaving.
HILL: Rudy Giuliani isn't exactly a guy who shies away from the spotlight. The president's personal attorney giving a wide-ranging, head-scratching interview recently, though, defending his ties to Ukraine while suggesting he'd cross-examine witnesses at a Senate impeachment trial. He also touted his legacy, all of this over Bloody Mary's in Manhattan.
And even for Rudy, it's somewhat revealing. As we take a closer look in this interview, in this piece, Giuliani also suggested he would love to represent President Trump in a Senate trial if there were witnesses saying, quote, I'm great at it. It is what I do best as a lawyer. That is what I would be good at. He went on to say I could rip, you know, I hate to sound like a ridiculously boastful lawyer, but cross-examining them would be, I don't know, I could have done it when I was a second year assistant U.S. attorney. They're a bunch of clowns.
Bakari, as an attorney, how do you think Rudy Giuliani would do, in fact, representing Donald Trump? Would you advise it?
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, no, I won't advise it first as a lawyer. Let me just state the truth.
But second, I think all of us would say we would pay good money to watch this. I mean, Rudy Giuliani is, you know, a step away from imprisoning himself. There is no one else out there who was talking more, trying to get themselves indicted than Rudy Giuliani.
I think he needs a lawyer himself other than trying to represent the president of the United States. In fact, I think it is also fair to say that Rudy Giuliani literally has walked this president to the doorstep of impeachment. I dare say we might not be here but for Rudy Giuliani and the way that he talks and cavorts around. But I also have to give props to Nuzzi on this piece. I mean, it was
an amazing piece. And the fact that he's so attention starved that he misses the days that he was the mayor of New York that he'll do anything to sit in front of someone and blabber on or sit in front of camera, I just feel -- I almost feel if he wasn't such a criminal, I would feel sorry for Rudy Giuliani.
It's -- he's doing a detriment to his client. I could honestly say that as an attorney, on my professional oath and when you look at Rudy Giuliani, there are a number of people who could do the president better service than him and he is fundamentally doing the president a disservice.
HILL: Scott, he talked about his appearance on television and he said people who think he, being the president, doesn't like me on television.
I don't know where they get that from. It is just the opposite.
Sources, though, have told CNN while the president hasn't dismissed Rudy, just everybody around Mr. Trump is saying he doesn't help.
Has he helped the president, Scott? Could he help him in a Senate trial?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, no, he has not helped the president at all. And agree with Bakari.
SELLERS: Me and Scott agree.
HILL: That is a Christmas miracle.
SELLERS: Feliz navidad. Let's go. I love it, I love it.
JENNINGS: Yes. His insertion is the single worst fact for the president. If you want to investigate somebody that you thought were corrupt, there are official U.S. government channels he could use to do that in an appropriate way. But when you send an un-appointed, unelected, you know, minister or ambassador at large who's functioning as your personal attorney, maybe on behalf of your campaign and certainly trying to coordinate with government officials, it muddies the waters and it creates bad facts.
As a P.R. person, by the way, let me just give some kids at home some advice, on the record, Bloody Mary's, never a good idea. Off the record Bloody Mary's. Off the record Bloody Mary's.
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I will second that advice. Day drinking with a reporter is never a good idea. Specifically -- and this just goes to show that, it is unfortunate, Rudy Giuliani in his day was a stellar cross exam -- could do some stellar cross- examination. He was a phenomenal mayor.
But, unfortunately, as a result of this piece and similar news stories, he's gone from virtually America's mayor to Dudley Moore in "Arthur" if you read this piece. And it is unfortunate. And no, he absolutely should not have anything to do with the impeachment proceedings. He should not be on the field. He shouldn't even be in the parking lot and I hope this article even further represents why that does not need to happen.
HILL: So, Karen, speaking of his legacy, this stood out as well in the piece. In talking about his legacy: He reads his own press and he sees his sources close to him are being weaponized by the conspirators, helping to paint a public portrait of a man unglued. The same concerned people have told him to be careful with his legacy.
And my attitude, he says, about my legacy is F it. We could figure out what the asterisks mean there.
But there is a serious question about what did happen to America's mayor, the man so many people outside of New York got to know in the wake of 9/11, and how does that square with the Rudy Giuliani we all see today?
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So can I just say, I actually worked for the New York City Board of Education under the tenure of Rudy Giuliani as mayor. He is a shifty guy. He is nasty. He does not play by the rules.
The stuff that I saw him doing was very corrupt, very inappropriate. And so -- and I'll tell you as a former New Yorker, part of this slide in terms of his reputation started when he decided he thought he deserved a third term as mayor and I'll tell you, New Yorkers said absolutely not. No way. Thanks for what you did. We're ready to move on.
So I agree with my colleagues here, so you got a four-peat here. And it is sad to see because actually he did do a great service to New York and our country around 9/11 and now he's just a joke.
HILL: Well, I would say that the four of you are doing a great service for the country today with your Christmas miracles. See, people can agree. There could be peace on earth even with people on the different side of the political spectrum.
We're not done with you yet, though. But let's hold on to the piece for just a moment.
Just ahead, two candidates fighting for an Iowa town that isn't big enough for the two of them. It is the battle between Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden in the final weeks before the first votes of 2020.