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Trump Attacks Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) And Democrats Over Impeachment; Two Women File Sexual Assault Lawsuit Against Frontier. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired December 26, 2019 - 13:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: All right. We've got to go because Brianna is going to come over and take my phone away from me. Thank you so much for joining us on Inside Politics. Brianna Keilar starts Right Now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, one day after asking for holiday cheer and respect on Christmas, the president is tearing into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Twitter.

And Frontier Airlines facing a federal lawsuit after two women say they were ignored by flight attendants after reporting mid-flight sexual assaults.

And as Russia intends to meddle in the upcoming presidential election, the U.S. is reportedly considering information warfare to target the sensitive personal data Russians close to Vladimir Putin.

And it's feet of snow and several inches of rain, all the makings of a travel mess as millions head home from Christmas vacation this weekend.

Any of President Trump's goodwill towards men, or women for that matter, did not last long. President Trump is on a Twitter tirade, hitting the House speaker and Democrats for holding onto the articles of impeachment after months of claiming urgency in moving impeachment through the House. Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee disagrees.


REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): I think from the House standpoint, I think we can clearly defend the process that we used. We announced the process some time ago. We held a number of depositions, those led to public hearings and then ultimately the two articles that were put forward.

Would it have been better had the key individuals around the president been allowed to testify in the House process? Yes, it would have. But we felt like we had more than ample evidence to move forward with articles of impeachment.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: CNN White House Reporter Sarah Westwood is in West Palm Beach, Florida, where she is following all the president's movement in nearby Mara-a-Lago, which is where he's spending the holidays. Sarah, the president had quite a busy morning. Tell us about it.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Brianna. President Trump increasingly upset at the fact that there is no set trial date. He is eager to get his symbolic day in court and he's been railing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for withholding those articles of impeachment from the Senate, therefore, delaying any preparations for the start of the Senate trial.

Now, President Trump, as he's growing impatient, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is signaling that he is not anxious to get this started this week, saying that he's not eager to begin the trial and suggesting that Speaker Nancy Pelosi is not exercising leverage because she's withholding something from senators that they'd rather not deal with in the first place.

So, right now, President Trump is really caught in this standoff between Congressional Republicans and Congressional Democrats. He does want to be not just acquitted by the Senate but vindicated. And he believes that he deserves to have his side of the story told.

Although he has more or less walked away from his views about what trial should look like initially. He wanted something theatrical with live witnesses, something that in his eyes could exonerate him, McConnell has not budged off this idea that there should not be witnesses, there should not be a lengthy, drawn out trial.

Now, CNN has spotted President Trump on the golf course and sources say that he is agitated behind closed doors, Brianna, here in Mar-a- Lago about all the uncertainty still surrounding his Senate trial.

KEILAR: All right. Sarah, thank you so much, Sarah Westwood, we appreciate the report.

And right now, the impeachment process is at a standstill. First, it is the holidays, of course, but also the speaker has not handed over those articles of impeachment to the Senate. Why? Well, she's trying to highlight that the Senate process is unfair, in her view, as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are at an impasse on sorting ground rules for the trial that they would both agree on.

And in the midst of all of this, we're seeing a crack in the united front of the Republicans. Senator Lisa Murkowski, who is pivotal in shaping the Senate trial, says she was disturbed by Mitch McConnell's coordination with the White House over the impeachment process.

Let's bring in our Congressional Correspondent, Phil Mattingly, to discuss this. How significant is Lisa Murkowski saying this to the bigger picture?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So it's something, right? I don't -- I'm not trying to be glib when I highlight that. But when you talk to Republicans in the House, you never saw any cracks at all. When you talk to Republicans in the Senate, more the most part, people have either been lined up with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and that they believe the president will be acquitted rather easily or they haven't said anything at all.

And I think when you talk about somebody like Lisa Murkowski, she is known moderate. She broke the party on healthcare. She broke the party on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. And so everybody has always had their eyes on her.

The big question now, Brianna, is if you listen to the entirety of her interview, she also raised concerns about the process House Democrats put into place. And so is she just kind of laying out some concerns here or is she actually in play?


And when I say, in play, I think it's important to note, this isn't about whether or not they're going to have the votes to remove the president of the United States, right? Nobody thinks Democrats or Republicans think they're going to have 67 votes to be able to do that.

What this is about is the structure of the trial, the fight between Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell. Will there be witnesses right off the bat or will there something to deal with later? Keep in mind, I think this is the most important number here, 51 votes. A simple majority in an impeachment can essentially dictate how that trial will go. Will there be witnesses? Will there be documents subpoenaed? If Chuck Schumer can get four Republicans to come his way, he's in business in terms of controlling how the trial is going to go.

Now, the question is whether or not he can do that, and that's why Lisa Murkowski is saying anything at all about having concerns is important.

KEILAR: It seems like in the absence of knowing, they can get the votes they need. Democrats are trying to set up an argument for how this trial might just be rigged, right, that this is something that's kind of already a foregone conclusion, and that shouldn't be OK.

But as you're watching rank and file Democrats, is there anybody that you're really keeping an eye on?

MATTINGLY: Yes. I think there's just this natural substance that all 47 Democrats or senators that caucus with the Democrats are just automatically going to fall in line. I think the Democrats have cross-cut political issues that are going on here as well. You have Doug Jones in Alabama, who is facing by far the toughest re-election race in 2020.

You have Krysten Sinema in Arizona, who's really kept her powder dry but isn't considered a little bit stalwart by any means and nobody is really sure where she's going to go. And then you have Joe Manchin, who obviously is a fresh (INAUDIBLE) in six years since re-elected, but he's from West Virginia, and he doesn't really like dramatic change or dramatic movement in terms of the political sphere.

So I'm keeping an eye on those three in terms of whether or not they'll stick with the Democrats and, obviously, there is a whole list of Republicans we want to keep an eye on as well. I think the biggest thing right now is you have to keep your eye on McConnell and Schumer because they're suppose to figure out whether or not they can reach a bipartisan agreement, they are very clearly at an impasse.

I can tell you with certainty, there is not going to be an answer to this over the course of the next week or so. But when they come back, those will be the two to keep an eye on and then we can keep an eye on everybody else.

KEILAR: Everyone is taking a break except for us, Phil Mattingly, all right.

MATTINGLY: Yes. But we still come to work.

KEILAR: That's right. We still do. We care.

All right, Phil, thank you so much.

All right, let's talk about all of this now Democratic Congresswoman Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania. She serves on the Judiciary Committee. Thanks so much for joining us this holiday week, and a Happy Holidays to you, Congresswoman.

REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA): Happy Holidays to you. Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: Of course. And the president clearly bothered today, you can see his tweets this morning, that's the case, about this hold on the articles of impeachment that the speaker is doing. When you look at that, does that validate the speaker's strategy, in your eyes?

DEAN: Well, I don't really find a whole lot of credibility in the president's tweets and I haven't for some time, so that's not how I measure it. What I measure it by is the decision she made following the comments by Mitch McConnell that revealed he will not be fair, he will not be impartial, he will not abide by his oath in office and he will be in full coordination with the White House. I think the speaker made a very wise move not to hand over the

articles of impeachment for a false, sham trial.

KEILAR: And she does hold these articles. Do you think there is a limit politically on how long she can?

DEAN: I imagine there is, and I'll leave that to savvier people than I. But what I think it does is it tells Mitch McConnell and every senator that you do have an extraordinary obligation now as the sole judge and jurors of impeachment, as we have sent them over to them, and that please get your act together, show us the rules of the road, and then the articles will be coming to you. In terms of a timeline, that's beyond me.

KEILAR: The speaker wrote in her dear colleagues letter to you and others in your caucus that there are many people who want to be House managers for the impeachment trial. She said that's indicative of the strong case the Democrats have. We don't know exactly what she's looking for at this point, I'll say that. But, surely, there could be a role for a freshman member of Congress. You were a practicing attorney. Is that a job that you would consider taking if you were offered it?

DEAN: Well, you know, and I have to tell you, I have so enjoyed and felt honored to do the work that I've been able to do in this first year of the 116th Congress of this new majority, definitely honored to do the work of judiciary, as sad as much of it was in terms of impeachment. And so I've told the leadership that I'm here to be as useful as possible. I'd be honored to do that job, I'd be honored to support managers, whomever we send. There's a huge talent pool that the speakers has to choose from.

But, again, until we know what the Senate is going to do, are they actually going to hold a fair trial, it's hard to decide who among that talent should be chosen.

KEILAR: What do you think the speaker -- what do you think your caucus is looking for in managers? Because we've heard from Kevin McCarthy, he wants to pick a few people, he named him, including Jim Jordan, Doug Collins, these are Trump firebrands.


Should that impact how Democrats want to pick someone? What kind of person should Democrats pick, a firebrand or people who are more measured?

DEAN: I hope and I believe that the speaker and the leadership team will pick people who prize the truth, who prize upholding the Constitution. As I sat there, Brianna, and day-after-day, and then the hearings and then floor debate around impeachment, I kept thinking of the children. This was one of the most powerful, rare civics lessons that our children will ever learn.

And so I hope that the Republicans pick people who will uphold the Constitution, not put forward false notions, as they did in the House about what impeachment is and whose role and obligation it is. This is an important, great civics lesson to uphold our precious Constitution. We owe this generational duty.

And so rather than fire brands and those who are willing speak non- truths, who are willing to mislead our children about what the role of Congress is in impeachment, I hope they pick people with integrity, who care only about the facts and the law and the behavior of this president that he has so abused his power and put in jeopardy our national security and our own elections. So fire brand is nonsense.

KEILAR: OK. You saw Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski. She took aim, of course, at the House process. That's not really a surprise coming from a Republicans. But she said she was disturbed by Mitch McConnell saying he is coordinating with the White House. Is that a sign to you that Democrats may win over a Republican or a few, at least on some of the preliminary stuff about getting documents and witnesses?

KEILAR: Well, to me, it's a sign of somebody who's thoughtfully weighing her role in leadership. She wants to know about the facts, she wants to have a fair process that reveals good government and good governance, and it's somebody who is thinking about her own oath of office.

That's what's so baffling in the comments that you've heard from Senator McConnell, that some of them have decided already that they will not be impartial. They actually have to take an oath to say they will be impartial. How can they, in a public way -- go ahead.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about that, because you said taking an oath, being impartial, putting aside really everything but clearly the facts of the situation, and what do you say to Democrats? Because there are some of them, like Senator Doug Jones, who is clearly on the fence., he may vote against impeachment, and that would not surprise anyone. That is very much a possibility.

What do you say to Democrats who are weighing their political futures and also what their constituents are telling them and the fact that they're trying to represent their state or their district? And the fact that they may say, if I vote this way, I'm a goner, I'm going to lose my job. And maybe they're not as clear in their conscience, as, say, someone like you is about what the choice would be for them?

DEAN: Well, I don't want to be cynical, but maybe they should consider a different line of work. This is the very thing that we were sworn to do, was to uphold the Constitution above all else, above our political future.

So I feel for people who are in that position, but I can't imagine that you would want to do this job at a lesser level, at a level that calculates politics and your next primary over upholding the Constitution for future generations. I can't imagine that that should be the final arbiter of your vote.

KEILAR: Congresswoman, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it, Congresswoman Madeleine Dean.

DEAN: Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: Frontier Airlines is facing a federal lawsuit after two women say flight attendants ignored their reports of mid-flight sexual assaults.

And as Russia continues to meddle in U.S. elections, the U.S. military is reportedly considering information warfare to expose personal information of those close to Vladimir Putin.

And 2019 may be remembered as the year of impeachment, but that's just one part of this historic year in politics.


[13:15:00] KEILAR: Shocking new allegations against Frontier Airlines, two women are filing a federal lawsuit against the company alleging they were sexually assaulted during flights last year in two separate cases and that the airline personnel just ignored their requests for help.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov joins us now. And, Lucy, this lawsuit also accuses Frontier of failing to have or to follow policies and also to prevent and respond to sexual assault. What else do you know?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna. An assault on an airplane would be any passenger's worst nightmare. You're in these cramped quarters, you have very little control of your surroundings, you can't leave until the plane lands, and so you become completely dependent on airline staff for help if anything goes wrong.

And according to this lawsuit, Frontier Airlines not only failed to keep these two women safe but it also apparently doesn't have adequate policies for preventing or responding to in-flight sexual harrassment.

Now, one of plaintiffs is a U.S. Army veteran. She was resting in the back of a plane under red eye, the lights were low, she was trying to sleep when she felt the hands of a man seated behind her reach out and groped her. She says she immediately alerted a flight attendant who told her to return to her seat, refusing to allow her to switch seats to get away from the assailant.

In both cases, Brianna, the flight attendants apparently did not report the incident to anyone else. They did not ask, as under federal policy, that law enforcement be contacted to meet the plane upon landing.


And, according to complaint, the airline also failed to help women gather evidence afterwards, for example, not giving out the names of the potential witnesses or assailants.

Now, Frontier Airlines is commenting on the specifics of this lawsuit but they did issue a statement, and I'll quote it, they write, the safety of our passengers and crew members is our number one priority. We have strict policies in place to proactively and appropriately respond to reports of misconduct and alleged crimes. Brianna?

KEILAR: Well, that accusation is enough to make smoke come out of your ears. It's just crazy. And this is part of a bigger issue, right. Sexual assaults on flights have been this growing concern for law enforcement recently. And when you look at the numbers, it's just -- it's staggering.

KAFANOV: It is. It's a big enough issue that the FBI said last year that the number of sexual assaults reported during flights were increasing at a, quote, alarming rate. The agency's investigations into mid-air sexual assaults jumped to 66 percent from 2014 to 2017. The majority of these incidents do happen on overnight red eye flights that are three hours or longer, according to the FBI, where the lights might be low, the booze might be flowing. And so that might contribute to some of these incidents.

But the FBI itself points out that those kinds of crimes are notoriously underreported. There's no clearing house for statistics on this. So, unfortunately, this could be a much bigger problem than we realize, and that is why these two women in the case, in the two separate cases, are pushing for this to be class action lawsuit they alleged. This is a much more widespread problem than just the two experiences that they went through.

KEILAR: All right. Lucy, we know you will continue to follow this and we'll follow it along with you. Lucy Kafanov, we appreciate the report.

And up next, giving Russia a dose of its own medicine, we have details on the new cyber warfare strategy the U.S. is developing to tell Russia they'll pay dearly if they meddle in the 2020 election.

Plus, billionaires' buying blitz, two 2020 Democratic candidates showing out major bucks in advertisements. But will it be enough to make the competitive with the frontrunners?



KEILAR: U.S. Cyber Command has a plan to stop Russia from messing with the 2020 election. The Washington Post is reporting that the military could weaponize the web against Russian officials and oligarchs but that Vladimir Putin will likely be off limits.

Let's go to bring in CNN National Security Reporter Kylie Atwood to explain all of this to us. So what would it look like and what kind of information are they talking about messing with?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes. So what this report lays out is that there are tools being developed which would target senior officials, senior Russian officials and Russian oligarchs, those who are very powerful in the country, not necessarily a part of the government but seen as folks who are chummy with President Putin.

Now, the report says that this likely wouldn't be a tool that would be used against President Putin himself. That would be a little bit too provocative. But these tools are really interesting because they could be super precise. They can go after things like the emails or bank accounts of these oligarchs, and that could get really messy and it could really frustrate the Russian senior leadership.

Now, the Pentagon isn't giving us a comment on this. They don't get into the nitty-gritty on what they are developing in their cyber capabilities. But they are saying that, yes, CyberCom is working on efforts so that it can help the FBI and DHS, and it also said, when authorized, taking action to disrupt or degrade a malicious nation state cyber actors' ability to interfere in the U.S. election. So admitting that, yes, we are taking efforts to prevent the Russians and other actors from meddling in the 2016 -- 2020 elections. KEILAR: The statement was like, we don't talk about these things but we're not going to knock this story down, right?

ATWOOD: Right.

KEILAR: And the idea is, these oligarchs, they're very important to Vladimir Putin's power. So if something happened with them, that makes them uncomfortable, messes with their personal data, is the expectation that they would say to Vladimir Putin, we do not like this, this is not working out for us?

ATWOOD: Yes, it's something that could definitely get under President Putin's skin. But, of course, this move isn't necessarily all that shocking. It's really interesting, this is really interesting new reporting from The Washington Post. But in 2018, remember, President Trump signed a directive that essentially gave the Department of Defense, the Pentagon, the capability to make decisions in cyberspace that it was previously unable to make on its own.

So under the Obama administration, if they wanted to make any changes, carry out any cyber attacks, they had to go to the White House to get signoff. Now, they don't have to do that, so they can really develop these capabilities.

And it's also interesting, because Lavrov, the Foreign Minister of Russia, was just in Washington earlier this month. Pompeo stood next to him and said, if anyone meddles in 2020, we are going to act. This is proof that they will have that capability.

KEILAR: All right. Kylie, thank you so much for that report.