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Standoff over Senate Trial; Giuliani on George Soros; Biden and Buttigieg in Iowa. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired December 24, 2019 - 07:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Boeing's 737 Max airplane was grounded before saying the problem boils down to a lack of confidence in Muilenburg's leadership.


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 all around the world.

This is NEW DAY. John Berman is off. John Avlon is with me.

Merry Christmas Eve.

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Merry Christmas Eve.

Jinx, buy me a Coke.


So Santa is on the move, John, as you can see in this very technical NORAD video.

AVLON: This is an official government projection from NORAD.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I can see that.

His magical journey around the world has begun. He's over -- you can't see this, but I know that he's over New Zealand right now.

AVLON: You've got -- that's -- that's the word that you're hearing in your ear.

CAMEROTA: That's --

AVLON: He's over New Zealand, folks. So he's making his way here.

CAMEROTA: It would help if I saw some coordinates or a land mass under him, but I guess we don't get that.

AVLON: You're -- you're tough. You're a tough one on the Santa cam this season.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I -- we will track his progress throughout the morning.

But the holiday spirit is not ending the stalemate in Washington over impeachment. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is demanding documents and witnesses that he says are necessary to carry out a fair trial, while Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says they're at an impasse until 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.

AVLON: Then there are the ramblings of Mr. Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, unloading in a new interview after his recent trip to Ukraine. Giuliani claims, without any proof, former U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine was controlled by billionaire Democratic donor George Soros. Giuliani says he's, quote, more of a Jew than Soros, who is a Holocaust survivor. Giuliani also uses expletives to describe prosecutors in New York who are investigating him.

Let's discuss now with CNN political commentator Joe Lockhart, he was President Clinton's press secretary, of course, CNN senior global affairs analyst, Bianna Golodryga, and CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash.


AVLON: A wealth of wisdom on this Christmas Eve morning.

Joe, I've got to start with you because I think you're uniquely positioned to illuminate one of the things we heard Mitch McConnell say yesterday. It's about using the Clinton standard going forward. Let's take a listen to what he said yesterday and how he sounded 20 years ago.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY) (December 23, 2019): We haven't ruled out witnesses. We've said, let's handle this case just like we did with President Clinton. Fair is fair.

MCCONNELL (January 28, 1999): Every other impeachment has had witnesses. It's not unusual to have witnesses in a trial.


AVLON: Just like we did under President Clinton. What does that mean? What's the standard he's citing?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first off, Mitch McConnell talking about fairness is like Merrick Garland talking about being a Supreme Court justice. You know, it's -- it's ridiculous.

But let's get to what -- the question you asked me.

He's wrong on two fronts. One is, these are completely different cases. In 1998 and 1999, everyone who needed to testify had testified under oath. All of the live witnesses, all of the people with firsthand information in the Starr grand jury. There were 2,600 pages of what they said. In this case, we haven't heard from any of the people who are very close to the president. So there's a need for witnesses.

The second thing, he keeps talking about how they decided, you know, we'll decide somewhere in the middle whether we're going to have witnesses. The agreement in 1999 was they would do it in two phases. First, they'd let the lawyers speak, and then they would decide not whether they'd have witnesses, but what witnesses. There was an agreement from the outset that there would be witnesses and they decided on three, Monica Lewinsky, Vernon Jordan and Sydney Blumenthal. So he's -- he's playing games with all of this. And it's clear that his position is, there's going to be no witnesses.

CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, Bianna, new information, new evidence comes out it seems every week.


CAMEROTA: This week we got this -- these new batch of e-mails thanks to a FOIA request. And so of course legally it makes sense if new information comes out, the House lawyer is saying, we may need to impeach the president again if we find new information. Politically, that will be a bitter pill for even Democrats, I think, to swallow. It's like, when -- when is -- when will we be done with this I think that people feel.


CAMEROTA: But how can you be done when they don't know -- haven't heard from direct witnesses and new evidence keeps coming out?

GOLODRYGA: And it sort of justifies, at least in the short-term, Nancy Pelosi's call for withholding these articles right now and not transmitting them to the Senate.

That being said, it is not politically advantageous for a lot of her caucus to continue moving forward with impeachment, right? They kept saying, we were reluctant to impeach the president over Russia and the Mueller investigation. There are many moderate Republicans -- Democrats who she's protecting as well who finally said they did not want to deal with impeachment, but given what happened with Ukraine, they agreed to.


Having this hang over them going forward up until the election is something that could hurt them as much as obviously it would hurt the president to have this hanging over them too.

BASH: Totally agree.

AVLON: Dana, let's you -- bring you in here, though, because it's unclear what leverage exactly Speaker Pelosi has. But what is clear is that Chuck Schumer needs four Republican votes if he's got a prayer of witnesses and new evidence.

Who are the four votes that Democrats think they can peel off?

BASH: Well, look, there are, what, half a dozen, maybe a handful of Republicans, so more than four, who are up for re-election in 2020, the very same year that this trial, if it happens, it will happen, you know, goes forward. And so those -- when I say up for re-election in purple states or in difficult campaigns. And, you know, it's hard, if not impossible, to believe that most, if not any of them, will vote yes on convicting the president and, you know, throwing him out of office.

What is a lot more reasonable, politically and in terms of fairness for them, is to vote yes on, you know, hearing witnesses. Yes, I want to know everything I can before I take this vote. It is my constitutional duty. And the pressure that Chuck Schumer is putting on these Republicans already and other Democrats are as well.

I will tell you, what I heard that was different yesterday from Chuck Schumer was -- maybe turn out to be really key, was, at the very minimum, he said, we will have votes on witnesses. He was opening the door there for witnesses to be -- to be dealt with in some way after they start the trial. And that way, according to the rules of the Senate, is to hold votes that only need a 51 -- 51 seat majority or a vote majority. And so that very well could be, you know, kind of the kicker for a lot of these witnesses, whether or not that -- even that would do the trick to compel a John Bolton to come forward, you know, TBD, but that could be kind of the drama in the Senate trial.

GOLODRYGA: But yet, remember, and I agree with Dana, there is pressure when it comes to fairness and for the American public to say, you know what, there should be witnesses. We haven't heard from these witnesses, especially if they are fact witnesses. There's more pressure on Republicans to say, you're right, and maybe we do have to vote on that.

The flipside is -- of that is the pressure that you'd see on Democrats --


GOLODRYGA: Because Republicans would then say, we want to hear from Hunter Biden. We want to hear from Joe Biden. And how many Democrats would actually vote for that knowing that that wouldn't benefit their party or Joe Biden or his son.

CAMEROTA: That's a good point.

All right, let's move on to Rudy Giuliani because he has given an eyebrow raising --

AVLON: I keep raising my eyebrows when you say that.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I know. I see that.

An interview with "New York Magazine" with Olivia Nuzzi. She spent a few hours with him. This was on December 8th. He had just returned from Ukraine. And he says a lot of stuff. Some of it is sort of stream of consciousness.

Here's something that's getting a lot of attention. This is what he says about George Soros, as well as the former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. So I'll read it to you.

He said, former Ambassador Yovanovitch, whom he calls Santa Maria Yovanovitch, is controlled by George Soros. Quote, he put all four ambassadors there, and he's employing the FBI agents, end quote. I told him he sounded crazy but he insisted he wasn't. Quote, don't tell me I'm anti-Semitic if I oppose him, he said. 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. He doesn't belong to a synagogue. He doesn't support Israel. He's an enemy of Israel.

So, Dana, just because you interact with Rudy and communicate with him, I'll just start with you. What did you think of this interview?

BASH: Well, on the Yovanovitch stuff, on, you know, the accusations that she is the corrupt one, that that's what he was trying to get in this particular last trip to Ukraine, yes, he has said that. He's said that to me. He's said that to many people. He did make the Soros connection as well.

What was new here is him defending himself on going after George Soros. And the way I read it, and I'm curious about what, John, what you think, is that there -- the -- there is widespread concern among, you know, many, the ADL and just, you know, humans about the George Soros attacks being anti-Semitic and based on a, you know, millennial old trope about Jews running the worlds and Jews running the banks and so forth.

And so by saying, well, he's not even a Jew, he's trying to say, my attacks on George Soros has nothing to do with him being Jewish.


It didn't come across that way, but my sense is that's what he was trying to do, to separate his attacks on George Soros politically from the notion that it's anti-Semitic. The problem is, it's very difficult to separate them because if you look at right wing media, if you look at, you know, how George Soros has been portrayed, that is exactly what it is.

AVLON: Yes. And, I mean, this is an anti-Semitic trope that has been pushed by trolls for years, rooted in millennia --

BASH: Yes.

AVLON: Of libelous slander against the Jewish people. And it's -- it's -- I don't think reflects who Rudy is, in my experience with him, but it reflects talking points that he's now --

CAMEROTA: Or maybe was. I mean how do you explain how -- AVLON: That's the -- that's the question.

CAMEROTA: Based on the Rudy that you worked with and knew --

AVLON: Yes, look, you know, I think folks know that I worked with -- for Rudy for many years when he was mayor of New York. Look, this is inconsistent. What we have seen is a -- an erosion of the judgment of the person I knew, the judgment that characterized him as a U.S. attorney and as mayor of New York is not present in this interview.

But I think, you know, what he's doing is he's repeating these talking points the president has repeated. They percolate among right wing trolls on social media about George Soros and that --

BASH: Exactly.

AVLON: The root of it. That -- that's what we're talking about here.

I want to move on, though, because this all begins on the Rudy side with a company classically known as Fraud Guarantee. That is the name of the company, Bianna. And Rudy talks about his one-time associates, Lev and Igor to Olivia Nuzzi in this article in "New York Magazine" and here's what he says. They look like Miami people. I knew a lot of Miami people that look like that, that are perfectly legitimate and act like them. None of them have ever been convicted of a crime, neither one, and generally that's my cutoff point because if you do it based on allegations and claims, you're not going to work with anybody, particularly in business.

Now --

CAMEROTA: They have been charged with crimes.

GOLODRYGA: Not convicted.

AVLON: They -- they --

CAMEROTA: Not convicted yet, but going through the court system.

AVLON: Not convicted. I'm not sure that's the bar -- I mean you -- you've covered business extensively in your career.

GOLODRYGA: I haven't covered Lev and Igor extensively.

AVLON: No, you have not, but -- that seems like probably the wrong standard to use for business.

GOLODRYGA: It also seems to me at least that Rudy is trying to defend them and speak highly of them in hopes that they don't talk negatively about him as well. We know that Lev and his attorney in particular have dangled that they have a lot of information that they would like to share.

And what's interesting about this relationship is it doesn't go back many years. I mean you know Rudy Giuliani, he stays loyal to friends and business associates who he's known for decades. He's only met these men a couple of years ago.


GOLODRYGA: And yet they continue to remain very close. They spent much time together in Ukraine. He, in past interviews as well, has sort of lamented about how difficult it was for him to go back to Ukraine without them. He had to reply on Google Translate as opposed to having Lev or Igor there with him.

BASH: That was an amazing detail.


GOLODRYGA: Wasn't it? And he even showed Olivia how Google Translate works. Remember, he's sort of the White House czar on all things cyber security.

AVLON: Cyber security czar, yes.

GOLODRYGA: So, to me, this read as Rudy Giuliani's attempt to once again defend, protect these two men in hopes that they would do the reciprocal in terms of him and potentially any damaging information that they could reveal.

LOCKHART: This is the cyber czar who, according to Olivia, left an unlocked phone in the backseat of the car with her.

GOLODRYGA: She found.


LOCKHART: That she found and had to return. So I -- it's -- it wasn't --

CAMEROTA: It doesn't inspire --

AVLON: You're saying that's not a best practice?

LOCKHART: I'm saying that's not a best practice.

CAMEROTA: Inspire confidence.

LOCKHART: I would -- can I -- can I go back to make one other point that -- that Dana was making on what the Democratic House lawyer is trying to do.

Democrats aren't going to impeach the president again. This is an -- this is a legal argument and a -- and they want Don McGahn because they think if they get Don McGahn, they then get John Bolton and maybe Mick Mulvaney. It is a stalking (ph) horse. And the White House said, well -- at first the White House said, you can't have witnesses because it isn't serious, you're not impeaching. Then the White House said, you can't have witnesses because now you are impeaching. And what the Democratic lawyers had to come back and say is, well, we may impeach again. This is like a schoolyard five-year-old fight going on between lawyers, but it's all about John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney. CAMEROTA: Shouldn't they subpoena John Bolton if they want John


LOCKHART: Well, they -- they don't need to because they see McGahn -- they see the McGahn case as a stalking horse.


LOCKHART: They win there and then they think they can --

CAMEROTA: Then they can.

GOLODRYGA: Which is why the Justice Department is intervening now and saying stay out of this.

LOCKHART: Exactly. Exactly.

CAMEROTA: Stay out.

AVLON: A constitutional crisis.

LOCKHART: Sorry, but --

CAMEROTA: That was good. That was really helpful.

LOCKHART: But I didn't mean -- I didn't mean to take attention away from the bloody Mary's, but I'm sorry I did --

AVLON: No, but, you know, but a comparison between a constitutional crisis involving the Department of Justice and the appeals court with a five-year-old sand lot fight --


AVLON: That does just enough for us.


CAMEROTA: Thank you, all.

AVLON: Thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: Great to talk to you.

GOLODRYGA: Thank you.

AVLON: All right, Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg both making a play for the moderate vote. The battle to win over Iowa's Democratic voters, that's next.



AVLON: Believe it or not, we are little more than a month away from the Iowa caucuses where former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg are trying to court centrist Democratic voters.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny spent time with both to see how their message is playing in a purple state like Iowa.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): When Pete Buttigieg came to town, Cheri Schieb was sitting right there in the front row listening intently and capturing the moment.

As he left, she gave him a high five.

CHERI SCHIEB: I want to high five you again, Cheri Schieb.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. All right, sounds good. Thanks so much for the support.

SCHIEB: Thank you, Pete.

ZELENY: And smiled with satisfaction.

ZELENY (on camera): So do you walk away from here committed or do you want to go see some of the others first?

SCHIEB: Well, Joe Biden is also in town tonight.


SCHIEB: And I'm going to go see what he has to say.

ZELENY (voice over): Two hours later, Schieb and her sister Nancy were there.

SCHIEB: Thank you for coming to Perry.

ZELENY: For an up close look at Joe Biden. She admires and values Biden's experience.

SCHIEB: He's been there, so I feel good about that. I'm really happy about that. I liked him.

ZELENY (on camera): But you loved Mayor Pete?

SCHIEB: I love Mayor Pete. What does a guy do? I don't know. I'm really kind of torn a little bit. I got to think about it and sleeping on it. I don't know yet.

ZELENY (voice over): Just before Christmas, Democrats are still shopping for presidential hopefuls in Iowa. Biden and Buttigieg are going after the same voters, literally, which brought both of them Sunday to the town of Perry, about 45 minutes outside Des Moines.


For Democrats searching for a more moderate candidate, the choice is stark, a 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, delivering an optimistic message.

BUTTIGIEG: Even in this dark and strange time, I have never been more filled with hope.

ZELENY: Or a former vice president twice his age, who offers a dark warning about the consequences of President Trump winning a second term.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But if we give him another four years, I believe he will permanently alter the character of the country, at least for several generations.

ZELENY: Pat McPherson is torn, applauding Buttigieg's intellect --

PAT MCPHERSON, IOWA DEMOCRAT: Well, I think he might be the one.

ZELENY: But later impressed by Biden's grasp on the world.

ZELENY (on camera): So just a couple of hours ago you told me that you were going to sign on the dotted line for Buttigieg.


ZELENY: Now you're -- you want to think about it a little longer.

MCPHERSON: I'm probably going to go with Mayor Pete, but -- but I just -- there's just so much to be said for being able to hit the ground running on day one, and -- and it's going to be a huge task.

ZELENY (voice over): While he's trailing Buttigieg in recent polls, Biden is showing that skills from a lifetime in politics also come in handy to people of all ages.

BIDEN: Say, hi. Go ahead.


BIDEN: That's it. You got it. OK.

That may be the most intelligent thing you hear all night.

ZELENY: Pat Mundy liked the charisma of Buttigieg and worried that Biden may be too old. But after seeing him up close, in this moment, she said she changed her mind.

PAT MUNDY, IOWA DEMOCRAT: And I made that comment he might be a little old before, but I'm a little old too, and I'm in pretty good shape, and he looks like he's in dynamic shape.

ZELENY (on camera): So you have quite a decision facing you now?

MUNDY: I have a terrific decision facing me, and it won't be made lightly.

ZELENY: For many voters looking for a moderate candidate, they're legitimately torn between Buttigieg's excitement and Biden's experience. The central question, electability. They have six weeks to weigh that.

Jeff Zeleny CNN, Perry, Iowa.


CAMEROTA: Our thanks to Jeff there.

So, another moderate candidate hoping it break out from the pack, Senator Amy Klobuchar. Is Iowa the make or break moment for her campaign. We look at that, next.



CAMEROTA: Are Iowa voters looking for a moderate? If so, who best fits that bill for them, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, how about Amy Klobuchar?

Joining us now with what Iowa voters want, or what we think they want, we have CNN political commentator Hilary Rosen and CNN commentator Bakari Sellers, he's a former Democratic state lawmaker in South Carolina. He endorsed Senator Kamala Harris before she dropped out of the race.

Great to see both of you this morning.


CAMEROTA: OK, so do Iowans, Hilary, want a moderate? And the reason I ask is because Donald Trump -- you know, it's often seen as a purple state, OK, but Donald Trump won by ten points. So what does that tell you about what they're looking for this time around?

ROSEN: Iowa's unique in so many ways. Every single Democrat in the country should move to Iowa at some point in their life to experience the presidential campaign in Iowa. As we just saw from Jeff's piece, it is so personal, these, you know, citizens get to spend more time with these candidates than in virtually any other state in the country.

But I think right now this race is sort of broken down in these -- you kind of have the top four where, you know, it's Sanders and Warren and Buttigieg and Biden and any one of them really could -- is positioned to potentially win this thing. Pete Buttigieg is spending the most money of all of the candidates in Iowa. He has the largest staff. He is spending the most on advertising.

But it's also important to remember the quirkiness of the Iowa voting system, which is that on caucus day any candidate that doesn't get 15 percent of the vote, you know, those -- their supporters can then revote a second time and go to their next best choice. And so there's a lot of shifting of the ground, which is why it's very common that people in the lead in the polls in Iowa end up not actually winning on caucus day.

CAMEROTA: Really interesting, and that's all good context for us.

So, Bakari, help us understand, are they going to go in the Warren/Sanders direction or the Biden/Buttigieg/Klobuchar direction?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, if anybody wants to sit here today and tell you they know what's going to happen on Iowa caucus night, they're probably lying.

But I do want to remind voters and watchers that even Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg today, they are more progressive and they're further to the left than even Barack Obama was in 2007 and 2008.

Also, about 16 years ago, in 2003, on Christmas Eve, John Kerry was running behind Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt. He went and took a $6 million loan out and came back to win that race. And so anything is possible right here.

But I do believe that any of the top four candidates have an awesome opportunity to win this race.

And if you're looking for -- I think it's going to break down to, if you're looking for a moderate, you're looking for a moderate who can win the primary. And I think that people are going to look for voters who can -- or candidates who can build a coalition.

Iowa voters are very, very smart. They want their vote to count. So they're going to elect someone they believe can actually go out and build the coalition necessary to win.

At the end of the day, I think they're going to kick the tires on almost all of them. But right now it appears that Joe Biden is probably in the best position to build that coalition. But, as I said earlier, I mean, you know, John Kerry came back and there are a lot of things that are possible. That's why you see people like Cory Booker still in the race, still working hard in Iowa, building up those endorsements and you see people still believe that even though they're not in the top four, they have a chance to win this primary.

CAMEROTA: And do you agree, Bakari, that Cory Booker does have a chance to win in Iowa?

SELLERS: I think everybody has a chance to win in Iowa. I mean I -- it's going to be very difficult.


I think this race, as Hilary said, is kind of -- I actually don't think it's four people. I think it's two people. I think it's a Bernie Sanders/Joe Biden race.