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INSIDE POLITICS

A Gloomy Nickname Maybe The One Thing Senator Mitch McConnell And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Can Actually Agree On This Holiday; A Fallen Soldier Comes Home After Making The Ultimate Sacrifice In Combat. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 25, 2019 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00]

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: ... raising more than $165 million, nearly $100 million in this year alone.

BRAD PARSCALE, TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN MANAGER: It's much more efficient two years out to try to find a possible voter or possible donor. It's just a considerable advantage that the other side won't have because you just can't replace time.

BASH (voice over): Control of those big coffers, not only his reelection campaign, but the Republican Party has contributed to the President's firm grip on the G.O.P., which in various ways became even more clearly a party of Donald Trump in 2019.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We take back our democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: The Democrats 2020 presidential field took shape early in the year as the most diverse ever. More women and candidates of color running for a single party than ever before.

The first openly gay candidates, a major contender.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: The top 12 Democratic presidential candidates are at their positions ...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: It was also the biggest. CNN's October debate was the most crowded stage in the history of presidential primaries.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KLOBUCHAR: I want to give a reality check here to Elizabeth because no one on this stage wants to protect billionaires, not even the billionaire wants to protect billionaires. We just have different approaches. Your idea is not the only idea.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think as Democrats, we are going to succeed when we dream big and fight hard, not when we dream small and quit before we get started.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: That shrunk to seven in December, thanks to the party's increasing fundraising and polling thresholds.

No question defined the Democratic primary fight this year more than this?

Do voters want an ideological revolution or a candidate focused on relief from Donald Trump?

At the top of the field, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the revolutionaries promising sweeping change. While former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar say incremental change is more realistic.

Nowhere was this more on display than healthcare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Build on Obamacare, add a public option.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Seventy one percent of Democrats support Medicare-for-All.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Stay tuned for the answer in 2020.

2019 started with a historic new class of House Democrats. A record number of women sworn in and many more firsts. The first Muslim- American women, the first Native-American women, and the first female House Speaker in history reclaimed the gavel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I'm particularly proud to be a woman Speaker of the House of this Congress, which marks the 100th year of women having the right to vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Speaking of Nancy Pelosi, going head to head with President Trump is one of the 2019 storylines. Starting with the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: Federal workers will not be receiving their paychecks. The President seems to be insensitive to that. He thinks maybe they could just ask their father for more money, but they can't.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The State of the Union speech has been canceled by Nancy Pelosi because she doesn't want to hear the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: In October, a clash over the President deciding to pull troops out of Syria and in a Pelosi walkout. The President tweeted a photo of Pelosi having what he called an unhinged meltdown. She owned the image, making it her social media cover photo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: Article One is adopted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: The year ended with the Speaker reluctantly leading the house and making Trump only the third President in history to be impeached.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: I pray for the President all the time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: After nearly two years, Robert Mueller concluded his Russia investigation with a 448-page report. On the key question of collusion, Mueller's probe did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in the election interference activities.

It noted 10 instances where the President may have obstructed justice, writing, "While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

Much to the outrage of Democrats, Attorney General William Barr tried to play it as exoneration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The evidence developed by the Special Counsel is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction of justice offense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Democrats were hoping Muller would clear it up. But his nearly seven-hour testimony slow moving and drama free, did not.

Then a whistleblower complaint that Trump urged the Ukrainian President to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter in exchange for nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: That call was perfect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Moderate vulnerable House Democrats who had resisted impeachment before change their minds and called for an inquiry.

An equally reluctant House Speaker announced the House would do just that.

[12:35:04]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: The actions taken to date by the President has seriously violated the Constitution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: A day later, the White House released a rough transcript of that July conversation. In it was what Democrats would focus their Impeachment Inquiry on, an apparent quid pro quo.

The Impeachment Inquiry would make its way through the House Intelligence Committee with closed-door witness testimonies, followed by several days of notable public testimony.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: Was there a quid pro quo? As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Former Trump Russia adviser, Fiona Hill called out some of the President's team for carrying out a quote, "domestic political errand" and sent a warning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FIONA HILL, FORMER TRUMP RUSSIA ADVISER: Russia's security services and their proxies have geared up to repeat their interference in the 2020 election. We're running out of time to stop them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Republicans attacked the process, generally sidestepping the facts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): You can't make your case against the President because nothing happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: Democrats drafted two Articles of Impeachment: Abuse of power

and obstruction of Congress, which passed the committee and later the full House on party line votes.

The year ending with Donald J. Trump, the third President in history to be impeached.

So how does it all end? You're going to have to wait until 2020.

Dana Bash, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Up next for us. If you turn on a television in Iowa, which Democrat will you see the most? We'll be right back.

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[12:41:08]

RAJU: Topping our political radar today, President Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani coming under fire for a notation on his Facebook page. It listed him as a former Attorney General of the United States, a job he never held.

He did, however, serve as Associate Attorney General under President Reagan in the 80s. The Facebook page has now been corrected.

Christmas Day has come and gone in North Korea, with no sign of a threatened, quote, "Christmas gift" for President Trump. Experts and allies speculated that the gift could be some sort of missile launch, but a source familiar with the leadership's current mindset told CNN the gift may actually be a new hardline policy toward the U.S. that involves taking denuclearization off the table amid perceptions that President Trump is politically vulnerable.

And a new story in POLITICO highlights both billionaires Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer spending more than twice as much as all the other 2020 Democratic candidates combined.

The Battle of the Billionaires has led to unprecedented level of spending, an incredible $212 million of TV and digital ads before a single vote has been cast.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This guy spends his time tweeting. This guy gets things done. As New York Mayor, he guided a shaken city in the wake of 9/11 improving services, revitalizing old industrial sites, supporting small businesses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To take out a bully like Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone needs to stand up to him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And beat him where he thinks he is strong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Beat him on the economy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Beat him on the economy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to beat him on the economy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the plan for Tom Steyer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Any indication that these ads from Steyer and Bloomberg are getting any traction in this race so far?

ASMA KHALID, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NPR: I think the biggest indication that they are making a difference is when you look at polling and you look at name recognition, and you can track as Michael Bloomberg has spent more and more money on advertising, his name recognition has gone up in the polls.

And you know, look, money can buy you name recognition and in such a crowded field -- that matters.

I mean, I think that beyond ads though Bloomberg has kind of an institutional baked in you know, support system being that he worked with a lot of mayors all around the country, and so we are seeing, you know, mayors and key cities across the country coming out for him again, though, you know, he is not campaigning in any of the early first voting states.

RAJU: As for Bloomberg, can he sustain after maybe someone -- one candidate gets ahead of steam out of the four states again to Super Tuesday. People will see that, but many have moved on. So we'll see.

Up next, a gloomy nickname maybe the one thing Senator Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can actually agree on, on this Holiday.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:47:53]

RAJU: The Holidays are often a time of reflection, and if you look at Speaker Nancy Pelosi's annual letter to Democratic colleagues, she is feeling pretty good about 2019, despite Senator Mitch McConnell's roadblocks, she writes, "We have passed more than 400 bills of which 275 are bipartisan, which the Senate refuses to bring to the floor."

"When we return in the New Year, House Democrats will continue to accelerate a drumbeat to make our legislation 'too hot to handle' until Senator McConnell, the Grim Reaper takes up our bills."

Of course, that nickname, "The Grim Reaper," maybe the one thing that Pelosi and McConnell actually agree on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): If I am still the Majority Leader of the Senate after next year, none of those are going to pass the Senate.

They want it to be voted on. So think of me as the Grim Reaper.

PELOSI: We have Mitch McConnell, who in his fundraising pitches has described himself as the Grim Reaper.

Leader McConnell seems to take great pride in calling himself the Grim Reaper.

MCCONNELL: For the first time in my memory, I agree with Nancy Pelosi. I am indeed, the Grim Reaper.

PELOSI: Imagine describing yourself as a Grim Reaper.

The Grim Reaper says all we're doing is impeachment. No, we have 275 bipartisan bills on your desk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: So that is one thing they agree on. Michael Shear, let me ask you about how this plays in during a campaign for control of Congress. Democrats making the case, they passed bills that are sitting on McConnell's desk. Is that enough for them to keep control of the House, to argue to voters they did what they could, but the Republicans wouldn't take it up?

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I mean, look, it's -- I think this is a reflection of what we were talking about earlier about the deep polarization in the country where the two basis of the parties are sort of locked -- you know, locked in in a way that even we haven't seen in the past.

And so, you know, for the Republican base, they want Mitch McConnell to be the Grim Reaper. They don't want the Democrats to be able to pass any of their legislation and so that's good for Republican candidates to go home to their districts and be able to say they blocked all of these liberal activists and liberal policies that the Democrats are trying to push.

[12:50:06]

SHEAR: And on the Democratic side, the Democratic base, you know, wants to see -- you know, wants to see the Democrats trying and are fired up by the fact that the Republicans are stopping it all.

I think the big question will be, what happens in the middle? Are there in those purple districts where there are a lot of independents that are going to make up the decision, you know, how does that play?

And I think, as we've seen, independents are split right now. And I think all the Democrats can do is try to keep passing the legislation and making the case that if it weren't for the Republican majorities, they'd have a better -- they'd have a better outcome.

RAJU: Now, the question is whether or not that is enough for Republicans to keep control of the Senate. The Senate has been a place where there's been virtually no legislating.

Mitch McConnell has made the case that he has pushed after judge after judge. He has the case publicly privately that has gotten confirmed -- all of these Trump judges confirmed, but they have not passed legislation.

Is that going to be enough for say, Cory Gardner to go back home and campaign or Thom Tillis in North Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, Martha McSally in Arizona -- the most vulnerable Republican senators, can they campaign on confirming Trump judges and that alone?

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS U.S. CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, you know, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell loves to campaign on confirming Trump judges. When I've been in Kentucky, it's like one of the lead lines that gets the crowd really energized.

It's different in places like Colorado, places like Arizona, places like North Carolina and I will tell you that it's been a concern for some Republican members who not just feel like this is a bad campaign strategy, but who feel like I came to the Senate to do things. I want to pass a prescription drug bill. I want to pass legislation.

RAJU: And you mentioned prescription drug bill. Chuck Grassley had made some concerns. There were headlines of not getting a drug pricing bill passed because he says -- saying that McConnell essentially undercut what they're trying to do. They need to get something done.

Some of these members are pushing for these bills to get through. The White House wants it through, but Mitch McConnell may not?

TAMARA KEITH, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Well, because Mitch McConnell has a pretty single minded focus on these judges and one in four circuit judges in America now our Trump judges. In three years, they've been able to put more of these judges into place than President Obama was able to do in eight years.

It is a remarkable record that he has been able to do and like President Trump likes to claim credit, but this is Mitch McConnell's baby and he feels that he is shaping American policy for a generation.

RAJU: That are long outlast any of their time in office.

KEITH: Yes.

RAJU: There is no question about it. Coming up, though. A fallen soldier comes home after making the ultimate sacrifice in combat. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:57:18]

RAJU: A somber moment today as the country honors a soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice just days before Christmas. Today, Sergeant First Class Michael Goble of New Jersey returns home,

he died Monday after being wounded during a combat operation in Afghanistan.

This morning, his dignified transfer took place at Dover Air Force Base. Sergeant Goble was the 20th American service member killed by hostile fire this year in Afghanistan.

Yesterday, President Trump made his annual Christmas call to troops stationed around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because of your brave and selfless service, Americans can celebrate Christmas in safety and in peace. You crushed ISIS from the air, kept the Taliban running scared and conducted countless lethal air strikes against the enemies of freedom.

What happened with ISIS was incredible. You know, we took over a hundred percent of the Caliphate and destroyed them. That doesn't mean they don't come back in smaller sections and we will handle them as they come back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: CNN's national security reporter, Kylie Atwood joins me now for this discussion.

Kylie, more Americans have died fighting this year, fighting the Taliban and other insurgent groups this year, since any year compared to since 2014, and that's when they announced the end of combat operations in Afghanistan.

And at the same time, they're trying to cut a deal, the U.S. is with the Taliban and a peace accord. I mean, how do you think this is going to impact things as we head into 2020?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, so given the fact that the Taliban has been continually carrying out bloody attacks in Afghanistan, yet we still continue to go back to the table with the Taliban over the last few months.

What that indicates is that this is not going to be something that is necessarily going to signal the end of those talks.

Now, President Trump said that the talks were dead in September. He then revived those talks later this winter. But the question here is how can the U.S. really get into a place where it is safe for American soldiers to be there because as you said, there are more than 20 Americans who have died in Afghanistan this year.

And who is Sergeant Goble? Let's look at what his friends and family are saying about him. He is someone who represents the best of American soldiers. That's what folks are saying. He was fearless. He was devoted to what he was doing. He is also a father. He had a young daughter and he was finishing up

his final tour. He was just weeks away from that, which is a devastating reality because today on Christmas Day, we watched this solemn ceremony of him returning to Dover Air Force Base.

RAJU: Yes. And just weeks before his own birthday himself. Heartbreaking story, ultimate sacrifice. Kylie, thank you for that.

And thank you for joining us on this Special Holiday Edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Brianna Keilar starts right now.

[13:00:10]