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Standoff Over Senate Trial Likely to Last Weeks; Could Trump Be Impeached Again?; Rudy Giuliani Unloads in Rambling New Interview; Warmer Christmas Forecast for Much of the U.S. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired December 24, 2019 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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.
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.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There are pressure points on both sides here to get something accomplished.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani spouting conspiracy theories in a bizarre interview.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What Giuliani is out there doing, trying to spin these false alternative narratives.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's baffling, and it certainly doesn't suggest someone who really understands the stakes.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, December 24, 6 a.m. here in New York. John Berman is off. John Avlon is with me. We have quite a show this morning.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST/ANCHOR: We do.
CAMEROTA: But first let's track Santa.
AVLON: That's the most important thing.
CAMEROTA: OK. So this --
AVLON: That is NORAD. That is Santa.
CAMEROTA: That looks authentic.
AVLON: Live pictures.
CAMEROTA: That looks like a very authentic satellite image. You know, Santa is already on the move.
AVLON: He is.
CAMEROTA: As we can see.
AVLON: And this is --
CAMEROTA: This is through NORAD. For a while it was frozen.
AVLON: This is -- this is not Google. This is officially NORAD. This is the official U.S. government Santa tracker. This is as real as it gets, people. Boys and girls around the country will be happy to see he is on the road/in the sky.
CAMEROTA: OK. I'm going to wish I could see a little bit more of his coordinates and where he is exactly.
AVLON: Well, there'll be time.
CAMEROTA: Thank you.
So who's been naughty and who's been nice this year? Well, in Washington, it depends on where you sit. As you know, there is a stalemate in Washington over impeachment and the Senate trial. Democratic leader Chuck Schumer is demanding documents and witnesses he says are necessary to carry out a fair trial, while Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says they're at an impasse until Speaker Nancy Pelosi sends impeachment articles to the Senate.
Meanwhile, the top lawyer in the House is raising the prospect of impeaching President Trump again if new evidence emerges that the president tried to obstruct justice.
AVLON: Also new this morning, President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, is unloading in a sprawling new interview after his trip to the Ukraine.
Giuliani claims, without proof, that the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was controlled by billionaire Democratic donor George Soros. And Giuliani says he's quote, "more of a Jew" than Soros, who is a Holocaust survivor. Rails against -- an expletive rant against prosecutors in New York who are investigating him.
So we're going to begin our coverage with CNN's Kristen Holmes, live in West Palm Beach, Florida, where the president is spending the holidays -- Kristen.
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.
Yes, that was quite the interview. And I do want to note that we've actually seen his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, here around West Palm Beach. He's been holding court, taking selfies.
And he's been spotted at Mar-a-Lago dancing the night away, mingling with guests. And if you weren't paying attention, you might not know that this man was at the center of an impeachment of a U.S. president.
Now, John, when it comes to that looming Senate trial, I would not expect any kind of Christmas miracle to break the impasse between Democrats and Republicans. While Congress is not in session, these lawmakers have not been quite spreading the holiday cheer, and instead attacking each other on what comes next.
HOLMES (voice-over): Top lawmakers digging in deeper in their standoff over how President Trump's impeachment trial will work.
SCHUMER: If you did nothing wrong, Mr. President, why do you seem so eager to avoid the truth?
HOLMES: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer intensifying his push for witnesses and documents, sending a letter to all senators saying he needs further information on the president's effort to pressure Ukraine into announcing investigations, the blocking of a White House meeting between President Trump and the Ukrainian president, and the freezing and eventual release of nearly $400 million in security aid to Ukraine.
Schumer also saying Democrats will press for a full Senate vote on each document and witness they request.
SCHUMER: Our request for documents is not a new demand. Nor would it create a time-consuming document production effort.
HOLMES: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he won't rule out witnesses but has no plan to discuss the possibility until the new year.
MCCONNELL: It's a difficult negotiation among the four principles in Congress and the president, everybody with their priorities.
HOLMES: McConnell adding that talks can only start after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi submits two articles of impeachment to the Senate.
MCCONNELL: Look, we're at an impasse. We can't do anything until the speaker sends the papers over, so everybody enjoy the holidays.
REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): I think what she's trying to do is to make sure that it's a fair trial. Senator McConnell immediately said that he had already made up his mind, not hearing the facts. That's not a fair trial.
HOLMES: Key Trump ally and Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham urging Republicans to, quote, "take matters into our own hands. We are in charge of the Senate, not Pelosi or Schumer."
One Democrat scoffing at Graham's suggestion the Senate will act.
REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): They can't do anything about impeachment until it's sent over. They're already holding 275 bills on the desk. I don't know what more they could do to kill legislation.
HOLMES: While Senate Democrats fight for witnesses, the House is also battling for former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify before the Judiciary Committee. The House's counsel leaving open the possibility of impeaching President Trump again if new evidence emerges that he tried to obstruct justice.
HOLMES: And the attorney for the House Judiciary Committee is also requesting McGahn's testimony to the grand jury in the Mueller investigation. They say that this could be used as evidence in this upcoming Senate trial. They also note that, just because they held that impeachment vote doesn't mean the investigation is over -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Kristen, thank you very much for all of that reporting.
So could President Trump be impeached all over again? We'll look at what the latest letter from the House Judiciary Committee means.
CAMEROTA: Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is ramping up his push for witnesses and documents, while Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not seem to need to hear from the people directly involved in the Ukraine scandal for this upcoming trial. And what about the idea that the House could impeach President Trump all over again?
Joining us now we have CNN political analyst Karoun Demirjian. She is a congressional reporter for "The Washington Post." Also with us, CNN justice correspondent and "EARLY START's" new co-anchor, Laura Jarrett.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, guys, appreciate that.
AVLON: Welcome, congrats.
CAMEROTA: Merry Christmas.
JARRETT: Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas to you.
CAMEROTA: OK. So let's talk about -- I think that, obviously, there's a stalemate about witnesses. Here is -- I think it's interesting to go back in time --
AVLON: I like the time machine.
CAMEROTA: Yes. AVLON: Good.
CAMEROTA: And look at what House Senator Mitch McConnell used to feel about witnesses at the trial when it involved Bill Clinton. So let's get in the time machine and watch today and then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: We haven't ruled out witnesses. We've said, let's handle this case just like we did with President Clinton. Fair is fair.
Every other impeachment has had witnesses. It's not unusual to have witnesses in a trial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: So we'll have witnesses, right?
CAMEROTA: Sounds like we'll have witnesses.
JARRETT: He seems to be appealing to the Clinton impeachment era in the hopes that, somehow, Democrats are going to see that as oh, yes, sure, let's go along with that.
But clearly, Schumer and Pelosi know better, and I think they have made a calculation that let's hold off on this a little bit longer and see how it plays out.
CAMEROTA: But Clinton did have -- they did have witnesses.
JARRETT: They did, but they just did it in a different order. And so, they did the impeachment managers first and then the witnesses after. And so I think he keeps doing that as a way to punt this down the line.
CAMEROTA: I see.
AVLON: And I will play my patented history nerd card for a second to compare the number of witnesses over the time. Got to go all the way back to Andrew Johnson: 41 witnesses, people. Bill Clinton, 3, and Donald Trump to be determined. But this is really one of the key questions.
You're covering Congress all the time. Democrats need to peel off four senators. And Chuck Schumer, take a listen to what he had to say in S-1 about the standard he wants to set with an open vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHUMER: 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. (END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: Is he right? And who are the four senators they're targeting to peel off in the GOP?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, they're looking at the usual list of suspects as far as the senators go. There's the Mitt Romneys, the Susan Collinses, the Lisa Murkowskis, and possibly, like, people like Lamar Alexander this time, who are the older statesmen there that might be persuaded by an argument like this.
But it's a potentially risky strategy to compel votes on each witness, because it seems like, if you're going to win people over, you're probably going to have to win them over on the fairness argument. What is the fairness argument? Some balance a witness from one person's list, a witness from the other person's list.
The president wants Hunter Biden and the whistle-blower. You could balance those out with Mick Mulvaney and John Bolton, but do you want to enter that circus atmosphere?
And so these are going to -- I mean, potentially.
So these are going to be the questions before all of them. And you know, Schumer's point about you want to have all of the evidence before you, more evidence is coming out that corroborates the evidence that they had put into that House impeachment inquiry into the report that the Intelligence Committee Committee put out.
So, you know, the report the Judiciary Committee put out. So you know, the question is does that become significant on top of what was there? Can you compel witnesses that didn't testify in that probe to come forward?
At this point it seems like, in short order, the answer is probably no, at least in large form, and so the GOP is saying, we have all the evidence we need.
And just to history nerd you back a little bit, sorry.
AVLON: Let's go.
DEMIRJIAN: Well, just because the Johnson impeachment probe is the one where there was no investigation. And I think that's relevant to put out there, just for the understanding it. It was like a three-day turnaround from when they decided to impeach to when they started going to that trial. They didn't have a special counsel. They didn't have a, you know, impeachment inquiry. And so that's what the GOP's argument is, basically, for why they don't need the extra witnesses, because they have stuff that's already on the table in documented form.
AVLON: I appreciate that pushback.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Wow.
AVLON: That's some high-quality, impressive --
CAMEROTA: That was impressive.
AVLON: But you didn't have a secretary of war locking himself in the office.
DEMIRJIAN: He did.
AVLON: That's for extra credit.
DEMIRJIAN: Dramatics were serious.
CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, as Karoun points out, new information comes out every week, and so just this week we saw these new e-mails that were quite relevant as a result of a FOIA request. And so here is a what the attorneys for the House Judiciary Committee say if they get new information courtesy of witnesses, including Don McGahn.
"If Don McGahn's testimony produces new evidence supporting the conclusion that President Trump committed impeachable offenses that are not covered by the articles approved by the House, the committee will proceed accordingly, including if necessary, by considering whether to recommend new articles of impeachment."
Well, I don't know if that would go over very well with the American public, but that's the attorneys. That's not -- you don't hear the actual Congress people saying that.
JARRETT: Right. So legally, that's not a crazy argument, because Doug Letter, who used to be at the Justice Department and is now working for Pelosi, he has to make the argument that this case is not moot. Because he wants to just keep it alive for right now.
Politically, that's going to be a hard case, considering that Democrats were not willing to impeach the president over the Russia investigation.
And so the McGahn testimony is about what happened with all of the obstruction of justice and all of his interactions with the president and all of that whole debate. And if they weren't willing to do it then, how are they going to be able to do it now?
But it's not -- it's not crazy that it at least keeps it alive. And the Justice Department agrees the McGahn testimony, that issue is not moot. They want to resolve it. They just don't start to resolve it expeditiously.
CAMEROTA: And we don't start to resolve it until January 3, right? Is that --
JARRETT: That's when -- that's when the court of appeals in D.C. will hear arguments on this.
AVLON: We look forward to it.
CAMEROTA: Ladies, thank you very much. AVLON: Thanks, guys.
OK, Rudy Giuliani has a message for people concerned about his legacy. "F" it. Giuliani's rambling new interview with Olivia Nuzzi, next.
AVLON: A bizarre interview with President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, in "New York" magazine that ranges from conspiracy theories about George Soros to Giuliani's ideas about how to go after potential witnesses at a Senate impeachment trial, including David Holmes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID HOLMES, COUNSELOR FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS, U.S. EMBASSY IN UKRAINE: Although the hold on the security assistance may have been lifted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: Asking U.S. Ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, about getting Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
CAMEROTA: So in this interview, Giuliani says, quote, "The guy that overheard the telephone call, anybody check if that guy has an ear piece? Maybe he didn't have it in. How old is he? How old is that guy?" end quote. "There was a possibility" -- oh, sorry, not end quote. Here is what he continued to say: " There was a possibility that he was deaf,' he said, 'and didn't know what he heard. How do we know he isn't a paranoid schizophrenia? How do we know he isn't an alcoholic?'"
Back with us, Karoun Demirjian and Laura Jarrett.
So Olivia Nuzzi, "New York" magazine, did this wide-ranging -- she spent a couple of hours with Rudy Giuliani, I think, on December 6 or 8, right when he had returned from his most recent trip to Ukraine.
And it's just this kind of stream-of-consciousness, freewheeling -- they bounce from one conspiracy theory to the next. And you know, I don't know. I mean, I have a lot of thoughts about this, as I know you do, but that one, in particular, sometimes he and President Trump act as if the information isn't out there.
We actually do know who David Holmes is. We saw him. We heard him testify. We know the answers to those things. So implying that there's all this mystery, maybe he's a paranoid schizophrenia. That's -- that's crazy stuff. And so it's very hard to know where Rudy Giuliani is coming from.
JARRETT: I mean, that -- those line of questioning, those are things that he said that he would use if he was trying to cross-examine David Holmes. If that's his cross-examination of David Holmes, the president is in a lot of trouble.
This is his personal attorney. This is the man who used to be the mayor of New York. I mean, the top prosecutor in the Southern District of New York is now railing against the Southern District of New York attorneys. I mean, this is sort of an amazing turnabout.
But I think to your point, he throws up a lot of conspiracy theories. He says he doesn't have any business interests in Ukraine and then talks about his business interests in Ukraine. So it's kind of a rambling diatribe diatribe.
But we've seen him do this before. He's done about a dozen of these interviews, and the president keeps him.
AVLON: Yes, and the president who -- you know, usually loyalty's a one-way street, has stood by Rudy Giuliani.
Look, you know, full disclosure I worked for Rudy Giuliani for many years. The judgment Rudy is showing in this article and other interviews is not consistent with the guy I worked for. And there's a certain poetic symmetry, I guess, dark, so that this article came out almost 18 years to the day after Rudy Giuliani was named "TIME"'s Man of the Year.
But this is a -- a really difficult thing for folks to confront, and Olivia Nuzzi, by the way, used to be a reporter when I was editor in chief at "The Daily Beast." Here you have a guy who was a revered Southern District U.S. attorney, attacking his former colleagues in, really, terms that don't indicate the respect he's traditionally had for the office.
He said quote, "If they're investigating me, they're a-holes, they're idiots. They really are a Trump-deranged bunch of silly New York liberals."
Karoun, how do you, as someone who covers Congress, see Rudy Giuliani, who was somebody who was deeply respected on both sides of the aisle a decade ago? What do you hear members of Congress saying, particularly Republicans about him behind closed doors and whether he's helping President Trump's cause?
DEMIRJIAN: I don't think that many Republicans think that he is helping at all. I think that they wish that he would stay off TV and stay away from most reporters.
He tends to, when he opens his mouth, just let a stream of consciousness that is not even streaming, really, but self- contradictory, come out.
And he is -- he -- in many people's estimation, creates problems for the president. And yet, as we pointed out, the president kind of sticks with him, because the president does not have your typical methodical way of approaching politics and seems to kind of like throwing things up in the air, as well. So they're almost, in a way, birds of a feather in that regard. I think that the challenge for the Senate GOP, at least right now, is
going to be that Lindsey Graham committed to listening to what Rudy Giuliani has to say, to hearing out the allegations of what he collected in Ukraine, the things against the Bidens. Whether that happens in some sort of a formal setting in which Giuliani is able to take that sort of self-contradicting rhetoric and put it in the formality of a Senate procedure, I don't know if we'll get to that. But they're already acknowledged that he will get some sort of audience, which seems to be a little bit more gravitas than he is approaching these conversations that he's having on these topics with reporters.
And so it's just a bit of a jumble. They have to deal with him, because he's connected with the president. They would rather not deal with him.
And of course, Democrats don't think that they can get any usable information from him, because he's so self-contradicting all the time. And yet they want to put him out there the way they want to put others out there who they feel like are one-man confession organizations for the president.
CAMEROTA: Laura, as we talked about, if you want to understand what's happened in the Ukraine scandal, follow the money. Follow the money. OK?
So President Trump had his own agenda of what he wanted Ukraine to do, and Rudy Giuliani had his own agenda. And as we know from some of the court filings with Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, they were on the take. OK? So they had -- they were being bankrolled by a Ukrainian oligarch who wanted the prosecutors who were trying to crack down on corruption out of the way, including Marie Yovanovitch, the ambassador, because they needed to do whatever money laundering and investing in U.S. political races that they wanted.
And Rudy Giuliani was going to be paid $500,000 by Lev Parnas. Maybe he was paid that, but that was the deal.
And so here's what Giuliani says about his business interests in Ukraine: "While attempting to argue that despite what has been written, quote, 'I have no business interests in Ukraine,' he told me about his business interests in Ukraine." Quote, "'I've done two business deals in Ukraine. I've sought four or five others,' he said."
Isn't this the heart of the matter? He wanted to make -- Rudy Giuliani kept going to Ukraine because the president --
JARRETT: I see John wincing already.
CAMEROTA: I mean, I think because President Trump wanted him to look for --
JARRETT: The dirt.
CAMEROTA: To dig up dirt, and he was making a lot of money, or stood to.
JARRETT: I think both of these things can be true at the same time. It could be the fact that the president gets something out of him at least throwing tidbits of chum out there in the water, feeding things to "The Washington Examiner" and the Hill and getting, like, sort of that out there in the ether.
While at the same time, I mean, we've seen reporting about he was pushing, you know, an ambassador for Qatar, because he's being paid on the side by these things. And so he has sort of this consulting business on the side that's pretty lucrative for him.
CAMEROTA: Very lucrative. Very lucrative.
JARRETT: At the same time, I keep coming back to the fact he's under investigation for some of these issues. We don't know the full scope of it. It could be, you know, a long time before we understand it. But for him to go out there and talk like this while under information is just -- it's a risky proposition.
DEMIRJIAN: It is, and I think the big question really is how much is this Giuliani -- especially for Republicans, how much is this Giuliani operating in ways that are potentially shady for his own bottom line, and how much of it is being done at the president's behest and on his behalf?
And I think that actually, probably there are a lot of members of both parties, particularly the Republican Party who, if Giuliani does get implicated in this investigation, and it sticks to him, would not be sorry to see him go away, because he is complicating their defense of the president.
And as -- the more unofficial Giuliani can get, the more distance from Trump, the easier it is for the GOP, frankly. But that's the big question, is how close is that connection?
AVLON: And in this interview, Rudy sounds at times very much like Donald Trump. There's a feedback loop of talking points you hear about George Soros and others that we'll get to later.
DEMIRJIAN: Which, frankly, is so surprising. I spent time in Russia, and they were obsessed with Soros there. The fact that that's trickled over here is always a little bit mind-blowing for me.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Karoun Demirjian, Laura Jarrett, thank you both very much.
AVLON: Thanks, guys.
CAMEROTA: All right. We're getting our first look at Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, and baby Archie's first Christmas card.
CAMEROTA: We'll show it to you right after the break. That's not it. That's just a little teaser.
AVLON: Oh, really?
AVLON: A few morning showers still lingering along the southeast. After that, much of the eastern U.S. should see a warmer Christmas. We've got CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar with your holiday forecast -- Allison.
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, we're taking a look. We've got a lot of roads underwater and even closed around the Charleston, South Carolina, area this morning.
And still, some of those heavy rain bands pushing in not just to Charleston but also Savannah, stretching down towards Jacksonville.
But this low-pressure system should finally begin to exit the area later on today.
Now, some of the other problems we have going on this morning: fog and, in some cases, freezing fog. We're talking at least half a dozen states here under some type of fog advisory or freezing fog advisory.
Folks, please give yourself extra time. We saw what happened on Sunday in Virginia when fog and freezing conditions led to that multicar pileup there. We don't need any more accidents today.
But these are going to be the locations of most concern. Most of these advisories expire at either 9 or 10 a.m. this morning.