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Storms Hit Parts of U.S.; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell May Bring Proposed Rules for Impeachment Trial to Senate Floor without Democratic Participation; Battle for the 2020 Democratic Nomination. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired December 25, 2019 - 08:00   ET

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


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[08:00:18]

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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it is a special edition. Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your Christmas Day edition of NEW DAY. Merry Christmas, everyone.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Merry Christmas.

CAMEROTA: It is 8:00 a.m. now in New York, and we will talk about the latest on the impeachment inquiry, because what else is more Christmasy than that?

BERMAN: And I just want to reassure people, we are being fire safe here. We're not going to light on fire.

CAMEROTA: It is getting toasty, though. It feels nice.

BERMAN: And there's no screen on that fireplace there in case you're wondering.

Also, the 2020 race is heating up with the Iowa caucuses just five weeks away now. We're going to talk about building political bridges, also, and coming together during these often divisive times.

CAMEROTA: And this show would not be complete without talking about holiday returns. It is possible you will get something today that you don't want.

BERMAN: Slacks. No one wants slacks.

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

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik, and I want to give you a live look at the beautiful St. Louis this Christmas morning. Check out that sun rise. Mother Nature certainly knows how to draw a pretty one. This as most of us are waking up to a pretty comfortable and mild Christmas, but a brewing storm may snarl traffic after the holiday. CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera has your Christmas forecast. Good morning, Ivan, merry Christmas.

IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Alison, merry Christmas to you. There's always a brewing storm somewhere, right? And we'll find it here at the CNN Weather Center. But let's focus on where it is nice for this Christmas, and unusually mild. We're waking up, not just ending up but waking up on Christmas morning with temperatures in the 70s, 60s in Atlanta. Chicago at 57. These are some colder air to the west, but where it is snowing it's mainly because of higher terrain. I'll show you that in a second.

But this is an issue, as well. No big storms, and so the air in a way stagnant, so winds are calm, skies are clear, and that set up conditions for some dense fog in the areas you see there across the Midwest and portions of the southeast. But we do have some snow, and this developing system is going to head up into the Midwest. I don't think it'll be a huge deal as far as snowmaking, maybe one to three inches, but it's going to mix in with a little bit of rain and perhaps even some ice as well. So slippery roads there for you in parts of Minnesota.

Then we go to the four corners here. Some snow just north of Albuquerque. Good morning there. And mountains, of course, across the higher terrain, the highlands, even and southern Colorado getting in on that.

But this is the big story here as well. Look at San Francisco. Heavy rainfall right now. This is going to be an issue as this storm continues to wind up and then dives down to southern California. That's today with heavy rain for L.A. and eventually into San Diego, as well. And of course, big snow across the higher terrain there. Alison?

KOSIK: OK, Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera, thanks so much.

CABRERA: You bet.

KOSIK: President Trump attending Christmas Eve services after a holiday call with military personnel around the globe. The president also spoke to reporters, lashing out over impeachment. CNN's Kristen Holmes is traveling with the president, and she is live in West Palm Beach. Good morning, Kristen. I noticed on the old Twitter feed the president already awake, tweeting Merry Christmas about a half hour ago.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alison. That's true, and it clearly seems like the president is in a good, mood or at least he's starting out the day with a good mood, just saying merry Christmas, because what we've seen on Twitter for the last couple of days hasn't been quite so cheery. A lot of talk of impeachment, a lot of slamming of Nancy Pelosi and Democrats. And he really lit into the speaker of the House yesterday when he was talking to reporters, as well. He said that she hates Republicans, she hates anyone who voted for President Trump, and that she was doing a disservice to the country. But he did have some nice words, as well. Those words reserved for

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Essentially when asked about the Senate impasse right now, which is, of course, Democrats and Republicans not able to agree on what exactly an impeachment trial to look like, President Trump made it clear that he stands behind McConnell 100 percent. Take a listen.

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DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're in a very good position. Ultimately, that decision is going to be made by Mitch McConnell and he will make it. He has the right to do whatever he wants. He is the head of the Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: And we have learned that Mitch McConnell is willing to bring forward the ground rules to the floor without the support of any Democrats. That would be, of course, Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader. He doesn't want to do that. That's what sources say, that he would rather come to a bipartisan agreement, but he could do that, and it would only take about 51 votes. And he has that support in the Senate right now, or at least it appears that he does.

[08:05:01]

But Republicans also would like those articles of impeachment which Nancy Pelosi is holding on to, to be formally transmitted to the Senate, and that might be another cause for a stalemate, because in a letter to her colleagues Nancy Pelosi said this about impeachment. She said "It now remains for the Senate to present the rules under which we will proceed. We can then appoint managers. The vote on the floor was overwhelming and inspiring, and the number of people who want to be managers is indicative of our strong case. So clearly they're saying she is not going to transmit them over until she knows about what those Senate rules are going to look like, and seems like we might still be at an impasse here, Alison.

KOSIK: CNN's Kristen Holmes live for us from West Palm Beach, thank you.

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 senior 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 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 into a little more detail to give some people more fodder to talk. Elie, let me start with you, because we are 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. 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 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 the 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 the way 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: I think it's a one point of leverage, really, to force discussion of the remarkable kind of acquiescence of the Senate to the White House demands. They don't really have a lot -- as we have been discussing, 51 votes will set the Senate procedures. 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. 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 -- the leverage they have is what's happening right now. We're discussing it. We probably would not be discussing it as much if they 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. 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. The Senate's 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 to 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 is 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. One witness who Democratic lawmakers would like to get on the stand is former National Security Adviser 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 send?

BROWNSTEIN: Isn't that remarkable? The entire country -- we're talking about something of the magnitude of removing a president from office, something we have 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 an deserves to hear from John Bolton on what he knows and why he called this a drug deal, the pressure on the Ukrainian president.

[08:10:00]

And yet, he has gone through this elaborate dodge of going to the courts, really hiding behind the courts, while opining on other subjects, giving paid speeches, talking in interviews about North Korea. 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.

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 some day, and this precedent that the 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: I don't think so. It's unfortunate but we are living in an era when the parties are polarizing not only because of the leadership but because of the followership. 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 driving economic innovation, that are more diverse, more white collar, more secular. The Republican Party is 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 finds a way to bridge that, which is not easy to do, I think each side feels much more political incentive to mobilize their own 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 more optimistic on Christmas morning.

(LAUGHTER)

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

BROWNSTEIN: Happy Holidays.

HONIG: You, too, Alison.

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

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

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

CAMEROTA: And now they really are almost upon us. You were right.

BERMAN: All along.

CAMEROTA: Time does march on.

BERMAN: Christmas miracle.

CAMEROTA: All right, the 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 to you guys. Great to see you. OK. Answer that question.

BERMAN: Happy holidays.

CAMEROTA: What is going to happen in Iowa?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: 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.

[08:15:10]

I mean, the reason we have 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 to play 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.

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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: This is the scenario you have 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 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: Buttigieg, for instance.

PHILLIP: Pete Buttigieg, hypothetically. You could see Elizabeth Warren, a neighboring senator win New Hampshire, for example, or a Bernie Sanders even winning New Hampshire or you could see Joe Biden persisting in South Carolina and also even in Nevada when you get to the more 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's 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: 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 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 then there's the dynamic of who's winning and battling and what voters want. And I think there is an a tension between what's the future of the Democratic Party, what it should it be, you know, in the post-Obama years, and how do we beat Trump, which is what Democrats seem to be united on?

PHILLIP: There's 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 is being able to appeal to moderate voters once they get to the general election. I think we'll start to see answers to that as we get into the voting part. BERMAN: One of the things that matters is momentum, and momentum you

get from winning contests. So, any of those four benefit, and then money. It's momentum and money and diversity, which is just so different than Iowa and New Hampshire.

Well, first two states we have electing people, virtually no black people.

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

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

GREGORY: We'll see. Nobody has voted yet.

CAMEROTA: True.

GREGORY: That's the point. But I agree with you. I think there's more -- there has been a return to the middle. Maybe it's just, you know, a kind of a 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 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 a big factor in these -- in these early contests.

BERMAN: And, Abby, you have been in South Carolina and you've been reporting on all these campaigns so far. But 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, unshakable up until this point.

[08:20:05]

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 Nevada very important, for this reason, but a lot of these 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 risks to 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 is much harder to make the case to these voters that you are going to be right on their issues, so these candidates have to figure that out. There's 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 because of his strength with minority voters.

GREGORY: And durability and the recognizability. You know, Biden has not proven heretofore to be a great candidate. You know, he just hasn't. Elizabeth Warren is 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 are imperfect people and the idea of a purity test applied, the voters may have something different to say about that.

PHILLIP: Yet at the same time you see 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 open to a Warren and to a Bernie, but a lot of the most reliable black voters, we're talking about black women, older black women, middle aged and older black women, they are much more politically conservative 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. You have to their choice as well, otherwise, it's not going to work.

CAMEROTA: In 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: Just love slacks.

CAMEROTA: You give it to David Gregory. That's what you do. BERMAN: His are pleated.

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY: Come on. It's 2019.

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

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[08:26:28]

BERMAN: Good morning. 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.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and merry Christmas. I'm Alison Kosik.

Pope Francis delivering a message of hope this Christmas Day at the Vatican during his traditional Christmas Day blessing to tens of thousands in St. Peter Square. He acknowledged darkness and personal economic and geopolitical conflicts but told the crowd the light of Christ is greater. He also mentioned the plight of refugees and migrants and called for peace and stability in conflict zones.

Check your fridge. Hard boiled eggs and egg products are being recalled from stores nationwide including Trader Joe's and Walmart following a deadly listeria outbreak. Almark Foods based in Georgia voluntarily recalling almost 80 varieties sold by more than 30 brands.

Among the most popular items, 6 ounce containers of Trader Joe's egg salad and 20 ounce containers of Trader Joe's old fashioned potato salad with a use by date of December 27th. A full list of recalled products, you can see that at the FDA's website.

Another bizarre holiday video with -- from embattled actor Kevin Spacey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN SPACEY, ACTOR: The next time someone does something you don't like, you can go on the attack. But you can also hold your fire. And do the unexpected. You can kill them with kindness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: Spacey uses the voice of his "House of Cards" character Frank Underwood. He alludes to getting his health back. Keep in mind, he was killed off the show. In last year's video called "Let me be Frank", Spacey defended himself against sexual misconduct allegations.

Spacey has been out of the public eye since the allegations surfaced. A felony charge, a felony case against him was dropped in July.

The music world mourning the sudden death of Grammy-winning songwriter Allee Willis. Her name may not ring a bell for you, but I'm sure you have heard her music.

(MUSIC)

KOSIK: Willis is best known for writing the "Friends" theme song. The Grammy winner was inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame last year for pop hits including Earth, Wind and Fire's "Boogie Wonderland" and "September." Willis died yesterday of cardiac arrest. She was 72.

I'm Alison Kosik. Merry Christmas! Now back to John and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: It's the thought that counts. At least that's what they say.

Now, what if you got a gift you really can't stand and -- or maybe say something you already have, OK?

BERMAN: Slacks. Slacks.

CAMEROTA: Slacks, trousers, whatever.

Christine Romans joins us with tips the make returns easier.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I think sweaters are dangerous. I mean, I don't know this for sure but my anecdotal research is that the biggest returned things are sweaters.

CAMEROTA: What about slacks?

ROMANS: Slacks.

CAMEROTA: John is fixated on slacks.

ROMANS: Very difficult. I mean, how do you know exactly someone's waist?

CAMEROTA: No, John, no.

ROMANS: No trousers or sweaters unless you really know the person. If you're buying them a sweater, you probably don't know them.

Look, returns during the holiday can seem very daunting and some retailers have a no questions ask policy to return those --

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