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Brewing Storm May Snarl Post-Christmas Travel; Trump Exchanges Holiday Greetings with Troops, Lashes Out at Pelosi; Battle for the 2020 Democratic Nomination. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired December 25, 2019 - 06:00   ET

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


ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

[06:00:25]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is a special holiday edition of NEW DAY. Merry Christmas, everyone.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Merry Christmas. And just what everyone wants for Christmas. We're going to talk about the latest on impeachment this morning and what we can expect moving forward.

Also, the 2020 race for the White House. Where do the Democratic primary candidates stand ahead of the Iowa caucuses, now just five weeks away?

We'll also talk about building political bridges and coming together during these often divisive times. Good luck with that.

CAMEROTA: You're right. That is festive.

BERMAN: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Thank you for that gift.

BERMAN: It's a Christmas miracle, is what it is.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

This show would not be complete without talking about holiday returns. You'll probably get something today that you just hate.

BERMAN: Slacks. No one likes slacks.

CAMEROTA: Trousers.

BERMAN: Yes.

CAMEROTA: We have some tips to help you navigate the post-Christmas rush. So all that and much more ahead. But let's get your check of the news headlines at the news desk.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Good morning and merry Christmas. I'm Alison Kosik, and most of us are waking up to a pretty comfortable and mild Christmas, but a brewing snow- and rainstorm may snarl traffic after the holiday. CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera has your Christmas forecast.

Good morning, Ivan.

IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Alison. Good to see you and merry Christmas.

I'll tell you what. You're absolutely right. I think even today California is going to have some issues with rain coming in. And it's going to be quite heavy in L.A.

But let me start you here with the weather across the U.S. Pretty quiet weather, as you mentioned, across the Eastern Seaboard. We do have a couple of boundaries that have allowed for some calm winds and also some moisture overrunning. And so we're looking at dense fog advisories. You can't see ahead of you.

Thankfully, Santa has already delivered all presents across the continental U.S., so no issues there. But look at Atlanta. Portions of the Ohio Valley, as well.

Then we have winter weather advisories that continue across the Four Corners there, for a system that is now lifting to the north and east. And it will bring anywhere from one to three inches, I think, today for portions of Minnesota and into Iowa, as well.

Now, the next system will be getting a brewing in Los Angeles. I'll show you that in a second. But this one here again, again, not anything potent or anything that we have to worry about. Maybe a little shovel of snow. But that would be about it.

Now, this is a problem. L.A. getting in on the rain. San Francisco, as well. Look at that spin there, with that area of low pressure. That's going to come in with wind, as well. And with significant snow. And of course, what comes in through California have to eventually head up to the north and east of that area. And so we'll continue to see that.

But as far as the temperatures, I mean, where is -- where is winter here? Highs in the 40s. We'll take that; 70s, Southeast, and 50s across the West. So I think the worst spot today, in California with that heavy rain coming.

KOSIK: All right. We will be ready for what comes our way. Ivan Cabrera, thanks so much.

CABRERA: You bet.

KOSIK: And President Trump spending the holidays at Mar-a-Lago. He attended Christmas Eve services after a holiday call with military personnel stationed around the globe.

The president also spoke to reporters, lashing out at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over impeachment. CNN's Kristin Holmes is traveling with the president. And she is live

for us in West Palm Beach.

Good morning and merry Christmas to you. What more did he say about Nancy Pelosi and impeachment?

KRISTIN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alison, and merry Christmas to you, as well.

Well, President Trump, even though we haven't seen much of him today -- he has no public events on his schedule. That's really how he spent a lot of the holiday. But while he's been behind closed doors, what little we have seen about -- seen of him, it's been very clear what's on his mind. And that, of course, is impeachment.

As you said, when talking to reporters, he lashed out at Nancy Pelosi. He said that she hated Republicans. He said that she hated any single person who voted for President Trump. That also, she was doing an enormous disservice to this country.

Now, the one person he did have a lot of positive things to say about as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and we think we know why. We have learned that McConnell is willing to bring the Senate procedures to the floor for a vote, even if he doesn't have the support of Senator Schumer.

So remember where we are right now. Nancy Pelosi holding onto those articles of impeachment. She has refused to transmit them to the Senate until she has any kind of confidence of what a fair trial would look like. Democrats and Republicans obviously have a very different idea of what a fair trial would look like. So they are at an impasse.

However, as I said, now we are learning McConnell might bring those -- set those -- try to bring those to the floor, try to set those rules for the trial without any Democratic support, because he only needs 51 votes, the majority there, to get that done.

Now, we have heard that he does want a bipartisan deal, but that's not going to stop them if he can't get it. Something President Trump realizes. Take a listen to what he said about Mitch McConnell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[06:05:08]

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're in a very good position. Ultimately, that decision's 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: And on top of that, if you want to note a couple of other things he said to reporters there, he talked about that threat of a Christmas gift from North Korea. He said that he was ready for anything, that he would handle it. And then he said that maybe it would be a good gift. It could be a beautiful vase and not a missile test, Alison.

KOSIK: I wonder if he's going to actually get that vase. That would be interesting to see. CNN's Kristin Holmes, live from West Palm Beach. Thanks.

And here to discuss more about impeachment and everything else on the table, Ron Brownstein. He's a senior editor at "The Atlantic" and a CNN political analyst. And Elie Honig, he's a former federal and state prosecutor and a CNN legal analyst.

Thanks so much for coming in on Christmas. Something tells me --

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.

KOSIK: Good morning to you. Something tells me that impeachment is going to be a hot topic at the Christmas dinner table, to say the least, which is why we're going to go into a little more detail, maybe give some people more fodder to talk.

Elie, let me start with you, because you know, we're hearing from some legal scholars who are arguing that, if the House doesn't send articles of impeachment to the Senate, then President Trump hasn't been impeached. But you say that's nonsense.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Yes, Alison. So sometimes the answer is just right there on the face of the Constitution and contained within our common sense.

The Constitution gives the House the sole power to impeach, the Senate the sole power to try impeachments. That's it. There's nothing in the Constitution about there must be a formal transmission or anything along those lines.

So when was the president impeached? We all saw it. It's common sense. We saw the House get together last week. We saw them vote. We saw the majority vote for both articles. We saw Nancy Pelosi bring down her gavel and say the articles have passed. When that happens, he's impeached.

Law scholars are getting creative here. I get it. Maybe it makes for an interesting law review article. But that's not how the real world works. In the real world, when you have the answer on the face of the Constitution, that's your answer.

KOSIK: Ron, what is Speaker Pelosi's strategy here? Do you think it's working?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think it's their -- it's their one point of leverage, really, to force discussion of the, you know, remarkable kind of acquiescence of the Senate to the White House demands.

I mean, you know, they don't really have a lot of -- you know, as we've been discussing, 51 votes will set the Senate procedures. They don't -- Democrats don't really have a lot of leverage to kind of pressure the Republican majority into the kind of trial they want to see. The one source of leverage they do have is the ability to focus

discussion on the terms of the trial by withholding the articles of impeachment. Now, obviously, they have to send them sooner or later, because they want the Senate to have a trial. But this interregnum period really allows them to, you know -- the leverage they have is what's happening right now. We're discussing it. We probably would not be discussing it as much if we had simply sent them over.

KOSIK: True. Very good point.

Elie, so if the Trump administration and Senate Majority Leader McConnell are unwilling to work with congressional Democrats, what legal recourse or leverage do you think Democrats have?

HONIG: Legally, Alison, there's almost nothing the Democrats can do. You can't -- they can't go to court and try to force the Senate to do it a certain way. That will never fly. No court would hear that. Look, the Senate is a political body, and majority rules.

But beyond that, I think as Ron said, Nancy Pelosi is trying to exercise whatever leverage she has to try to either "A," work out a negotiated agreement with the Republicans where they'll have some witnesses and evidence. Or "B," flip for Republicans. There's 53-47 right now. If they can get four to come over, they will have a majority for the procedures.

But as we said right off the top, President Trump is doing his best to try to keep everyone, all the Republicans in line, and keep that 53- vote majority. So really, it's going to come down to a question of political leverage more than legal leverage.

KOSIK: And of course, Ron, there is a push to get, obviously, documents and witnesses.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

KOSIK: One witness who Democratic lawmakers would like to get on the stand is former national security advisor John Bolton. Ambassador Bolton sat down with Axios earlier this week, bashing the Trump administration's stance on North Korea. What message do you think that sends?

BROWNSTEIN: Isn't that remarkable? I mean, you know, the entire country -- we're talking about something of the magnitude of removing a president from office. Something we've never done in our history.

John Bolton, by the testimony of his subordinates, was deeply troubled by what was happening in Ukraine. Really, the entire country wants and deserves to hear from John Bolton on what he knows, what he saw, why he called this a drug deal, you know, the pressure on the Ukrainian president.

And yet, he has gone through this kind of elaborate dodge of going to the courts, you know, really hiding behind the courts while opining on other subjects. Giving paid speeches, talking in interviews about North Korea. [06:10:15]

I mean, if he feels sufficiently liberated to give his opinion about the Trump administration policy in North Korea, it's really kind of astounding, given the stakes, that he has decided that he will not share what he knows about Ukraine and that the Senate would be OK with that. You know?

Real quick, part of the -- in some ways, the most remarkable thing about this entire episode, to me, is Republicans in Congress accepting the idea that the White House would simply stonewall to this extent on both documents and witnesses. There will be another Democratic president someday, and this precedent that this president is setting is going to come back and haunt a future Republican majority.

KOSIK: And that is often what happens here.

Let's wrap up with this, because I want to take a step back. It is Christmas. Ron, is there any chance that Democrats and Republicans will be able to come together in the new year?

BROWNSTEIN: You know, I don't think so. I mean, I -- it's unfortunate, but, you know, we are living in an era when the parties are polarizing not only because of the leadership but because of the followship. They are fundamentally representing different Americas at this point.

The Democratic Party is now dominant in the metro areas, really, all across the country, the big metros that are kind of driving economic innovations, that are more diverse, more white-collar, more secular. Republican Party is really consolidating its hold on non-metro America. Older, blue-collar, evangelical, white America.

There is a trench between these two parties. And until we can find leadership that is -- finds a way to kind of bridge that, which is not easy to do, I think each side feels much more political incentive to kind of mobilize their own, you know, kind of tribe against the other than to really make concessions across that very bitter divide.

KOSIK: So much for a holiday spirit carrying through to the new year.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, sorry. Sorry I can't be -- sorry I can't be more optimistic on Christmas morning.

KOSIK: Ron Brownstein, Elie Honig, thanks so much for your time today. Happy holidays.

BROWNSTEIN: Happy holidays.

HONIG: You, too, Alisyn.

KOSIK: All right. December 25, yes, it's a big day on the calendar. But most of the Democrats running for president have had their eyes on February 3 for a really long time. We're going to break down the 2020 race and the run-up to the Iowa caucuses next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: The Ohio caucuses are a little more than five and a half weeks away.

[06:15:02]

BERMAN: I told you they were coming. You haven't believed me.

CAMEROTA: And now they really are almost upon us.

BERMAN: Yes.

CAMEROTA: You were right.

BERMAN: All along.

CAMEROTA: Time does march on.

BERMAN: Christmas miracle.

CAMEROTA: All right. 2020 race is heating up, big-time. Will a clear frontrunner emerge after these first contests?

Joining us now, CNN political analyst David Gregory and CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip. Merry Christmas, you guys.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Merry Christmas.

CAMEROTA: Great to see you.

BERMAN: Happy holidays, David.

CAMEROTA: OK. Answer that question. What's going to happen in Iowa?

GREGORY: You know, I mean, what I think is so intriguing about -- as we look at the actual beginning of the voting, when voters actually show up and not just us talking about it, is how scattered the Democratic race may be. I mean, the reason why we have these contests. And they have unique flavors to them, is that we could have different results as we play out.

And this could be a Democratic race that plays out over time. I mean, you know, you look at kind of that electability question versus who progressives really like. I think we could be in for something that goes beyond the typical first three.

BERMAN: You know what every political reporter wants for Christmas? Something that she or he has never seen before. And what could happen here is, if you -- put up the first four contests here. February 3, Iowa. February 11, New Hampshire. February 22, Nevada. And February 29, South Carolina.

CAMEROTA: This is the scenario you've been pulling for for weeks.

BERMAN: That's a Christmas miracle. Which would be that three different winners, Abby, not impossible, in the first four contests. ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But very much likely. I

mean, I think it is a real possibility, given how this -- the dynamic of this race keeps shifting over time, that you could see someone win Iowa.

BERMAN: Pete Buttigieg, for instance.

PHILLIP: Pete Buttigieg, hypothetically. You could see an Elizabeth Warren, neighboring state senator, win a New Hampshire, for example. Or a Bernie Sanders even winning a New Hampshire. Or you could see Joe Biden persisting in South Carolina and also even in Nevada, when you get to the more diverse -- diverse states.

So this is a real possibility that I hear a lot from Democrats. And many of them think that what it, effectively, does is just prolong this nominating process. Some of them are somewhat nervous about that, frankly. They don't want a contested convention. They don't want this to go on any longer than it needs to.

But these candidates, you could have three or four people duking it out all the way through Super Tuesday states. And just getting almost to the end of this process, not knowing who is going to get enough delegates. Because ultimately, the delegates is what decides who is going to be the nominee for the Democrats.

CAMEROTA: So just play that out for us. So then, if that scenario happens, then it's a foot race to the convention?

GREGORY: Well, then you get into the influence of money and television, with bigger contests. No?

BERMAN: You know whose zone that is.

GREGORY: Yes. Well, it could be -- it could be Mike Bloomberg's, if he gains some traction. But you know, the initial contests are more retail affairs, because these candidates have been spending so much time there. They also have particular characteristics. You know, Iowa tends to be whiter, more progressive. New Hampshire can benefit people who are more on home turf. More African-Americans, which are about a third of the Democratic electorate anyway, show up in South Carolina.

And then you go into bigger states and towards Super Tuesday. A lot of Hispanics out in Nevada. So yes.

Then -- but there's also the dynamic of who starts to win and who starts to battle each other and what voters really want. And I think there's this tension between what's the future of the Democratic Party, what should it be, you know, in the post-Obama years? And how do we beat Trump, which is what Democrats really seem to be united with.

PHILLIP: There also seems to be a divide between what voters are talking about on a regular basis and what people in Washington are talking about. And there are some questions, really, that I think we'll start to see

some answers to once the voting starts about whether voters are actually as ideological as some of the party leaders might be.

You might have people who are as progressive as Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, but who are just as interested in a more moderate candidate, because their priorities are a little bit different. Maybe they're much more concerned about defeating Donald Trump. Maybe they're much more concerned about whoever the nominee being -- is being able to appeal to moderate voters once they get to the general election. I think we'll start to see some answers to that as we get into the voting part of the primary.

BERMAN: I'm only smiling, because it's not impossible, again, that you emerge from the first four contests with a complete split, where you have Buttigieg winning in Iowa, Biden winning in South Carolina, so the moderates win two. But you have Warren in New Hampshire and Bernie Sanders in Nevada. So it would be 2-2.

And then you go to Super Tuesday or you move to the contest which takes more money. One of the things that matters is momentum. And momentum you get from winning contests. So any of those four would benefit. And then money. It's momentum and money. And diversity, which is just so different than Iowa and New Hampshire.

GREGORY: Well --

BERMAN: And those two states that we have electing people, virtually no black people.

GREGORY: Right. And by the -- Abby's point that goes along with that is this question of who is the Democratic voter? Are they as ideological as some of the leaders, as some of the progressive candidates? You have a lot -- in Warren and Sanders, you have this purity test. Buttigieg is tying into that, as well. Where they have to --

[06:20:10]

CAMEROTA: But hasn't the durability of Joe Biden already debunked that? The durability of Joe Biden, hasn't that proven --

GREGORY: Well, see, nobody's voted yet. I mean, that's the point. But I agree with you. I think there has been more -- there has been a return to the middle. Maybe it's just, you know, a kind of return to something that's normal.

CAMEROTA: Familiar.

GREGORY: Yes. Familiar, normal. Name recognition. All of that.

I agree with that. I think there's a lot of voters who look at a Sanders/Warren philosophy and ideology and say, too extreme. Not just because it can't beat Trump, but because it's probably too extreme for the country anyway. And we'll get to that more in a general election. But I think that becomes -- that becomes a big factor in these -- in these early contests.

BERMAN: Abby, you've been in South Carolina, and you've been reporting on all these campaigns so far. One of the things that will change as the calendar progresses is the African-American voter will start to become an issue. And Joe Biden has shown incredible resilience among African-American voters.

PHILLIP: Yes.

BERMAN: Unshakable up until this point. Is there something that could budge that?

PHILLIP: And it gives him a huge structural advantage over these other candidates. Not only is South Carolina and then later New -- Nevada very important for this reason, but a lot of the states that come after these first four contests are more diverse by nature.

And some of it has to do with familiarity. These voters are much more familiar with Joe Biden. They don't want to take any risks on those people that they don't know.

And when you're a new candidate like a Pete Buttigieg, for example, you don't have a track record either in Washington or just, in general, on the national stage to point to. It's much harder to make the case to these voters how you are going to be right on their issues.

So these candidates have to figure that out. There is no way to win the Democratic nomination without figuring that out. Because it is not just South Carolina. It's also a lot of these southern states that come afterward. It's California. A lot of the states that come later on in the process require you to appeal to black and Hispanic voters.

And for that reason alone, even if Joe Biden loses in Iowa and loses in New Hampshire, the delegate count is what matters. And he has a major advantage --

GREGORY: Right.

PHILLIP: -- because of his strength with minority voters.

GREGORY: And -- and the durability and the recognizability. You know, Joe Biden has not proven heretofore to be a great candidate. You know, he just hasn't. Elizabeth Warren has been much better as a political practitioner.

BERMAN: Certainly not a great debater, among other things.

GREGORY: He's not a great debater, and he seems slow in some respects and older. But you know what? You know, we're imperfect people. And the idea that there is this purity test that's being applied, the voters may have something different to say about that, given their temperament this year.

And I think the other piece that you're alluding to, we've seen, particularly in the South, African-American voters, many of them tend to be very pragmatic. You know, they weren't -- the polls didn't show Barack Obama doing that well in South Carolina until he won Iowa and he could prove that he could win white voters. And then -- and then African-American voters came home for him in South Carolina.

BERMAN: Also, African-American voters, much more moderate than people often assume --

PHILLIP: Yes.

BERMAN: -- when you talk about views, actual political views. They're in the middle of the party. They're not at the extreme left.

PHILLIP: And yet at the same time, you've seen people like Bernie Sanders making inroads.

BERMAN: Yes.

PHILLIP: It took him quite a long time. I mean, we're talking four years now of Bernie Sanders being a household name for him to start making those inroads.

So there are younger African-American voters who are more progressive, who are more open to a Warren and to a Bernie. But a lot of the most reliable black voters -- we're talking about black women and older black women, middle-aged and older black women -- they are much more politically conservative than -- than, frankly, the rest of the Democratic Party.

And so that's why the moderates -- if you want to be a moderate candidate in this race and win, you have to be moderate not just for the white people but also for the black and Hispanic people, as well.

BERMAN: Yes.

PHILLIP: You have to be their choice, as well. Otherwise, it's not going to work.

CAMEROTA: In a few weeks, I'll be doing a voter panel on this very thing. The generational divide among black voters, as well as ideological.

Thank you, both, very much. Merry Christmas to you.

All right. You opened it; you don't want it.

BERMAN: Slacks.

CAMEROTA: Now what do you do?

GREGORY: Who doesn't love slacks?

CAMEROTA: You give it to David Gregory. That's what you do.

BERMAN: His are pleated. All pleated. All his --

GREGORY: Flat front, come on, man. It's 2019.

CAMEROTA: All right. If you don't want to give it to David Gregory, we have suggestions for you, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:28:30]

BERMAN: Good morning and welcome back to this special Christmas edition of NEW DAY. We have a lot to get to this half hour, including a discussion of faith and healing during these divisive times.

CAMEROTA: Also, how a group of young survivors turned into activists and inspired change all over the country.

BERMAN: And many happy returns. We'll help you navigate the post- Christmas rush. But first, let's get a check of the headlines at the news desk.

KOSIK: Good morning and merry Christmas. I'm Alisyn Kosik.

Christmas Day at the Vatican. Pope Francis addressing the crowds in St. Peter's Square and delivering his traditional Christmas-Day blessing to the city and the world. In his message, the pope prayed for comfort to the beloved Syrian people and mentioned conflicts in Iraq, Yemen, Ukraine, Venezuela, and several African countries.

A Christmas break for firefighters in Australia battling dozens of brushfires that are burning across New South Wales. The state's premier paying a visit to the firefighters, serving them breakfast and thanking them for their efforts.

Crews are trying to get the upper hand on more than 70 wildfires. And it's not going to get any easier. Weather conditions expected to worsen this weekend.

Check your fridge. Hard-boiled eggs and egg products are being recalled from stores nationwide, including Trader Joe's and Wal-Mart following a deadly listeria outbreak. Almark Foods, based in Gainesville, Georgia, voluntarily recalling almost 80 varieties sold by more than 30 brands. Among the most popular items? Six-ounce containers of Trader Joe's egg salad and 20-ounce containers of Trader Joe's old-fashioned --

[06:30:00]