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CNN RIGHT NOW
Trump Rails Against Impeachment And Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) On Christmas Eve; Democrats Try To Force Sen. Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) Hand On Impeachment; Trump Repeats Falsehood That FBI Spied On His Campaign. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired December 24, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MANU RAJU, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: -- to get impeachment done --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And move back to healthcare.
RAJU: Exactly, as she always. Okay, we've got to go. Thanks for joining us on this special edition of Inside Politics.
Brianna Keilar starts Right Now.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN RIGHT NOW: I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington headquarters. Welcome to this special holiday edition.
Underway right now, so much for holiday cheer, President Trump spending his Christmas Eve railing against impeachment, repeating debunked conspiracy theories and accusing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of hating Republican voters.
Maybe it's a missile test, maybe it's a vase. President Trump playing down North Korea's promised Christmas surprise.
And a California deputy on leave after disturbing video shows him violently pulling a man from his car, slamming his head into the doorjamb and tasing him. That man is now dead.
And military veterans working to support active duty troops and U.S. allies in some of the most dangerous hot spots around the globe. It's the spirit of America.
But, first, as families across the country gather to celebrate the holiday season, an impeached President Trump is spending his Christmas Eve on the attack. After his annual conference call with U.S. service members, President Trump railed against Democrats to reporters and he took aim at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
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DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: She hates the Republican Party. She hates all of the people that voted for me and the Republican Party. And she's desperate -- look, she got thrown out as speaker once before. She lost like 63 seats, 61 or 63, tremendous record-setting number of seats. I think it's going to happen again. She's doing a tremendous disservice to the country and she's not doing a good job.
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KEILAR: Boris Sanchez is in West Palm Beach near the president's Mar- a-Lago Resort. And the president has said, Boris, that the impeachment process in the House was rigged and that Democrats want Senate Republicans to do, quote, wonderful things for them. That was part of what he said today.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Brianna, the president arguing that Democrats calling witnesses in a Senate trial would be unfair to him. He also tried to argue that Democrats are scrambling for evidence because they don't have a strong enough case against him. Obviously, he was impeached in the House, so that is an open question as to whether or not that's true.
Moving forward though, the president is expressing frustration with the current state of things, with impeachment in a standstill. He did voice confidence in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell though, calling him a fair guy. He can do whatever he wants with the articles of impeachment. Listen to this.
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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. People remember 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.
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SANCHEZ: Brianna, the president also falsely claimed that spies infiltrated his campaign. He called them dirty cops and he said that his attorney general, William Barr, was working to take care of them. Brianna?
KEILAR: And, Boris, North Korea has really been factoring large this holiday season for promising a so-called Christmas gift to the U.S. Trump actually made light of that today. Tell us what he said.
SANCHEZ: Yes, sort of an ominous signal from North Korea. President Trump not really taking it very seriously, it seems. He made a sarcastic remark suggesting that nobody knows what Kim Jong-un is actually getting him for Christmas. Listen to more of what Trump said.
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REPORTER: Kim Jong-un is threatening a Christmas surprise for the world?
TRUMP: That's okay. We'll find out what the surprise is and we'll deal with it very successfully. Let's see what happens. Everybody has got surprises for me, but let's see what happens. I handle them as they come along.
Maybe it's a nice present. Maybe it's a present where he sends me a beautiful vase as opposed to a missile test. I may get a new vase. I may get a nice present from him. You don't know. You'll never know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Considering that North Korea, as recently as October, was testing a ballistic missile that was launched from a submarine. They've conducted all sorts of short-range missile tests since then. Highly unlikely that this gift is going to be a vase, Brianna.
KEILAR: Maybe a ballistic vase. Boris Sanchez in West Palm Beach, thank you so much.
While the president argues that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can do whatever he wants, Democrats are trying to keep up the pressure on impeachment. They're calling for more witnesses, they want more documents and more details.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D-WA): Remember, we are dealing with a president who has never said he did anything wrong. In fact, he said everything was perfect. And yet new evidence continues to come forward.
Are we supposed to ignore it?
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We, at the very minimum, will require votes from all the senators on each of the witnesses and about each of these sets of documents. And I don't think my colleagues, Democrat or Republican, are going to want to vote to withhold evidence in such an important trial.
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KEILAR: And now coming into play is the fight over this man, former White House Counsel Don McGahn. The Justice Department says the court should slow roll their work on deciding if he has to testify while House Democrats want to hear from him right now. They say that McGahn's testimonycould even lead to additional articles of impeachment.
Let's bring in CNN Congressional Reporter Lauren Fox. Lauren, tell us how this is playing out.
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, essentially Democrats are arguing in these new court documents that they need to hear from Don McGahn and they need to hear from him soon. Because they argue that, yes, this could have an impact on whether or not they want to introduce additional articles of impeachment. But I think that that is probably just a semantics argument. What they actually want, they argue, is to get him before the Judiciary Committee before the Senate trial.
Now, that, of course, the more pressing issue right now. We know that there is this impasse between Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer over the idea of whether or not there should be witnesses as part of the Senate trial. You heard last night Senator Schumer arguing he will force votes on witnesses. He will force McConnell and including some of those members who are up for re- election on the Republican side, like Susan Collins, like Cory Gardner, like Thom Tillis, to make a decision about some of the witnesses.
And I've been talking with sources who have been telling me, look, this is an option that Schumer could force these votes, but it's very unlikely that he would be able to get four Republicans to join him. That's where things stand right now, Brianna.
KEILAR: Lauren, thank you so much. Lauren Fox reporting from Washington.
Let's discuss all this now. We have Michael Gerhardt. He's one of the law professors who testified in the Judiciary Committee's impeachment hearings. Karoun Demirjian is with us. She's Congressional Reporter for The Washington Post. And we have CNN Political Analyst Sarah Isgur as well.
So the president had a lot to say this morning, Sarah, on impeachment. And one of the things he did yet again was spread this lie that the FBI spied on his campaign. We know that's not true, Sarah, but he keeps saying it and his allies keep saying it.
SARAH ISGUR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, part of this is the I.G. report was over 400 pages and he's counting on a lot of people not having read all 400 pages of it, and I think that's probably a fair bet. When we look at polling, his base is very much aligned with him. Polls show that Republicans probably care about impeachment even more than Democrats do at some points.
And so I think all of this, by the way, just leads us to 2020 being extra-partisan, extra-important for both sides. It's why Democrats put electability number one when they are look at their primaries, and Donald Trump's talking points haven't changed much over the last six weeks and it's been a good six weeks for him polling-wise.
KEILAR: Yes. Well, he's been impeached, right? It's fascinating.
Michael, I have to ask you about this because the president complained about the Judiciary Committee hearing, the one where you testified as constitutional law experts. You were one of three who testified at the behest of Democrats. And then there was one who Republicans had -- they selected.
And the president said, quote, they got three lawyers, meaning Democrats, we got one. Fortunately, our one lawyer was better than their three. I watched you.
I thought you were great. But I wonder what you would say to his argument there which is really about fairness.
MICHAEL GERHARDT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, his argument about fairness is completely ungrounded. The president after all was invited to be at that hearing or to send lawyers on his behalf at the hearing. When I testified in the Clinton impeachment hearings and no lawyer from the Clinton White House was present or able to ask questions but President Trump was able. But he turned it down. And that's consistent also with his order of a number of high level officials not to comply with subpoenas and not testify.
The evidence we're seeing that's trickling out at this point seems to really uphold the case the Democrats put forward in the House and puts more pressure, I think ultimately, on the Senate to call witnesses or otherwise risk the possibility that if they call no witnesses, revelations will come later about the fact that the president did ask a foreign leader to intervene on his behalf in the selection.
KEILAR: Because, Karoun, one of the -- this would put Republicans in the place of voting -- if Chuck Schumer can force these votes, they would actually be voting against hearing more information. They would be voting against getting the whole story and then voting to exonerate the president. And so Democrats want to pin them into this corner of just making it clear that they're not impartial, that they made up their minds even before they've heard testimony and seen documents.
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. That's the Democrats' objective here, is to say basically, look, if you're not going to let the witnesses come forward, the ones President Trump kept from the House when they were doing their impeachment inquiry, if you're not going to consider the new evidence that's come to light, such as the emails with the OMB, then you're not getting the full story and you're intentionally trying to turn a blind eye in order to protect the president.
The GOP's counterargument to that though is that there's a full record that the House considered to make their impeachment vote, which would be available for the Senate. Much of it was done in public. All of what was done behind closed doors has been released in transcripts. And there are several reports that have come from it.
And also the challenge is though that each side, so to speak, has its witness list. Chuck Schumer has a list of people he wants to hear from that includes John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney and Michael Duffey and all of those individuals. But as much as Mitch McConnell may not want to have witnesses, Republicans have their witnesses too.
The president has said before, they'd like to speak -- hear from the whistleblower, hear from Hunter Biden. And it's going to be difficult to get those senators who might be in the middle to vote for just the Democrats' witnesses if no Democrats are going to go along with the other side. And it does seem that the majority still of the GOP would rather not wade into that territory at all.
So it's interesting, the president frankly was saying that he thinks Mitch McConnell will be able to call the shots and do that well because that suggests maybe the president is not going to put his thumb on the scale the way people thought he might his use his Twitter feed to do in this interim period.
KEILAR: Sarah, it's a weird place that we're in where the Democrats --
ISGUR: You could just stop there.
KEILAR: I know, right? That could be the beginning sentence to every paragraph lately. But Democrats are trying to force the Senate, really, to do their job in a certain way, and they would argue to counter what Republicans said there that Karoun -- that she spelled out so well, they would argue, but, yes, but look at the Clinton impeachment and look at this one, and the White House has completely shut down any witnesses, documents, and so they were starting, really, at a deficit of information compared to other situations.
ISGUR: That's where I think there is some frustration on the left that they didn't let these court cases move forward because what you don't have a is court saying, yes, Don McGahn and others need to testify or no, they don't, and that probably won't be resolved until after the Senate trial. So perhaps what we're actually seeing is a setup, frankly, for a second impeachment, particularly if he wins re- election. Because we have the financial cases that have now gone to the Supreme Court, three of those combined, and I think we'll see these cases potentially get to the Supreme Court.
All presidents try to say that they have very broad immunity in Nixon and in Clinton. In both of those cases, the court basically said no. There will be some limits to that, but that's what will be tested in court and that's what I'm not sure we'll get to see in this Senate trial either way.
KEILAR: And, Michael, there is a lot of information that we know is out there aside from people who have testified, there's also folks who have spoken to the Special Counsel, to Robert Mueller's team, and everything they said has not been made public, it's grand jury material. You actually talked about this in your opening statement before Congress about the Mueller report and what it found on obstruction, how that's relevant to impeachment. Do you think House Democrats have a good shot at getting this information?
GERHARDT: I think they should have a good shot because there is every reason for them to get this information. There is a federal statute that allows them to get this information and there is no judicial precedent that goes the other way.
So impeachment authority is one of the most potent weapons that Congress has got. And the information that Special Counsel Mueller developed, I think, would be relevant for everybody to see. That's the real point. All of this evidence should be available ultimately for everyone to see.
But there is a serious question that everyone ought to be asking, which is why won't the people closest to the president testify? Do they know anything that, in fact, would be hurtful to the president? If so, that's going to support the idea that there is a cover-up.
KEILAR: Karoun, I need you to translate something for us as our Congressional correspondent here. Last night, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted about the House speaker, and he said, of her holding onto these articles of impeachment and not sending them over to the Senate, if she refuses, Senate Republicans should take matters into our own hands. We are in charge of the Senate, not Pelosi or Schumer. What do you think he means by, taking matters into our own hands?
DEMIRJIAN: I'm not a hundred percent sure, I have to say. I can't quite read between the lines fully on Lindsey Graham's tweet. The Senate can't just wrest the articles of impeachment away from the House. The House has to deliver them.
Lindsey Graham is on record saying he does not want to just make a motion to dismiss all of those articles when they come. He wants to do a short, sweet, no witnesses trial, but actually do the trial. So for him to say, we're going to take matters into our own hands, seems like it's just a bit of a power move to back up Mitch McConnell in this regard.
The Senate will be able to take matters into its own hands so long as somebody has 51 votes for what those matters are supposed to end up as, and the main question being what are they going to do about the witnesses.
And there are enough Republicans who are in swing districts, swing states, rather, that they can't just say, oh, well, thank you very much for that, now we're going to throw it in the trash can. They have to consider it to some extent when those articles come over, because as much as the two sides do not agree as to what a fair trial should look like in the Senate, there is some sort of understanding that they have to do something whether (ph) they can consider it as part of the normal course even if they don't do it for months on and with every witness the Democrats would like to see come forward.
So it appears that Lindsey Graham is just throwing his cards behind Mitch McConnell's plans here, and, of course, Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi are very well-matched opponents, they're very good at leading their caucuses, they are very good at counting votes too.
And I think that that's -- something has to break between the two of them probably at the beginning of the New Year for us to see these articles come over. But it seems like, at some point, they just have to. Otherwise, it's not clear how the House defends its entire impeachment process to this point and how the Senate defends its own ability to say -- going into the 2020 elections and saying, well, look, we did our jobs here, which there will be a debate about whether they did.
KEILAR: Karoun Demirjian, thank you so much, Sarah Isgur, Michael Gerhardt, I appreciate the discussion. The president is still pushing conspiracy theories. We discussed that. And he's getting some high-profile help this time from elected Republican officials.
Plus, a man is dead after police mistook him for a carjacker, violently pulling him from his own vehicle, slamming his head against the doorjamb of his car, putting him in a stranglehold and tasing him twice.
And the spirit of America, how veterans are filling in the gaps left by the Pentagon to ensure that American troops and allies have the tools they need around the world.
KEILAR: President Trump is once again pushing a debunked conspiracy theory against his own Intelligence Community. In a lie (ph) to reporters today, the president accused the FBI of spying on his campaign during the election, and he called them, quote, dirty cops, even though the inspector general's report found no evidence to support Trump's claim.
Let's talk about this now with former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent. And, Congressman, the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, has also perpetuated this lie. The president won't let it go. There is this other investigation, actually, right now into the origins of the Mueller report, the Durham investigation orchestrated by Attorney General Bill Barr. It is still ongoing.
Does this suggest to you that that investigation may disagree with this I.G. report and that it actually could conclude the opposite of the I.G. report that the Trump campaign was spied on?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Brianna, I don't want to speculate on what the Durham report will find. All I can speak to is what the I.G. report, the Horowitz report, found, and that was that the Russia investigation was properly predicated, it was justified, they found no political bias, but they certainly found that the FISA warrants and the applications were not in order and there were serious problems. So that's what we found.
I can't tell you what Durham is going to find, but I think it would be better if Republicans would cease and desist from groundless attacks on law enforcement, as the party of law enforcement, I don't think this is helping us and our brand, and, frankly, we may rue the day that we've done this.
KEILAR: You know, it seems likely that many of the president's allies know that this is not even true, right, even as they're arguing it is. Is that your assessment, and what do you say to your former colleagues who may be saying something, defending the president, saying something they don't even believe in?
DENT: Well, I would say to them, look, if you're going to throw all in with the president to protect yourself from a rear guard action or some kind of a primary action, understand the flip side of that. It is costing this party enormously with independent and swing voters. Just look at what's happened in the suburbs around the country where Republicans have just been getting wiped out. I mean, there is a cost here, a political cost. It's also a cost to your soul, I guess, but just look at the politics of this.
I'm more familiar with members who came from these swing districts and there are fewer and fewer of them. So what's left in the party are people who are more inclined to just to kind of go all in on the Trump agenda, and that is where their political safety is. But this is not a way to become a governing party, at least a governing party in the House of Representatives.
KEILAR: I wonder if you share a similar assessment to your former colleague and Congressman Dave Trott, who said to The New York Times, quote, Trump is emotionally, intellectually and psychologically unfit for office, and I'm sure a lot of Republicans feel the same way. But if they say that, the social media barrage will be overwhelming.
I guess my question, if you agree with him,, is do you think that Republicans are defending Trump out of fear, as he says, or is it loyalty? Because you say there are a lot of Republicans who do want to follow what their constituents are saying, and they do want to throw all in with Trump.
DENT: Well, yes. By the way, I was in the meeting with Dave Trott when he made some critical statements to the president during the time of the healthcare debate and the president's leadership on that subject. But I think Dave Trott is correct, that many members do question the president's fitness all the time. This is nothing new.
And the fact that more aren't willing to say it publicly, I do think, is problematic. Because what most of them do is they just -- they remain silent about it.
They try to avoid the camera's questions. I can tell you, Brianna, how uncomfortable it was for most members.
I remember one time a reporter coming up to me, shoving a microphone in my face, saying, hey, what do you think about the president's comments on Miss Venezuela being too heavy, too fat? Do you agree with the president's comments? Well, this is just one day. That's like every day, there is a comment like that and these members have become so numb they just avoid talking about it as best they can. But they know deep in their guts that this is not normal, this is not okay.
Just listen to the former members of the administration who are out there, some of whom have been talking. And I think others will speak about just the general dysfunction and the daily drama that is really, I think, harming this nation.
KEILAR: Thank you so much, Charlie, former Congressman Charlie Dent, lending his perspective. We appreciate it.
DENT: Thanks, Brianna. Great to be with you.
KEILAR: And happy holidays to you.
And next, new disturbing video of a deadly confrontation between California deputies and a man believed to be a carjacker -- that someone they believe to be a carjacker, but then it turned out the man was actually the carjacking victim.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give me your hand. Give me your other hand. Get out of the car.