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McConnell's White House Coordination; Crack in GOP Defense of Trump; 2020 Election Gender Gap; Impeachment Impasse Impact on Election. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired December 26, 2019 - 07:00   ET

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


[07:00:00]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: NEW DAY continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): I heard what Leader McConnell had said. I was disturbed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lisa Murkowski has some problems with what Mitch McConnell said. Where she comes down on this may be the ultimate question.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Democrats are hoping that at least four Republicans senators will break ranks to compel witness testimony.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're in a very good position.

Ultimately, that decision is going to be made by Mitch McConnell.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the concern for Mitch McConnell. I think it portably will have an effect on how McConnell and the leadership moves forward.

TRUMP: They treated us very unfairly. They didn't give us anything. Now they want everything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

CAMEROTA: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. John Berman is off. John Avlon is here.

Happy day --

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello.

CAMEROTA: Merry day after Christmas.

AVLON: Happy Boxing Day.

CAMEROTA: Oh, yes, it is Boxing Day. Thank you for reminding me of that.

AVLON: You're welcome. One of my many services.

CAMEROTA: How was your Christmas?

AVLON: Fantastic. And Jack and Toula had an amazing time in South Carolina. A perfect place for Christmas.

CAMEROTA: That's fantastic.

AVLON: Great.

CAMEROTA: OK, meanwhile, we begin with the first possible crack in Republican ranks over the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump. Senator Lisa Murkowski, she is a potential swing vote. And she says she was, quote, disturbed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's statement that he is in total coordination with the White House and the president's defense team.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): In fairness, when I heard that, I was disturbed. To me it means that we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense. And so I -- I -- I heard what Leader McConnell had said. I happen to think that that has further confused the process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Murkowski also faulted House Democrats, saying they made a mistake in forging ahead with impeachment without pushing for testimony from key administration officials, like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney. Well, Democrats are pushing to get those witnesses at the trial, but they need four Republicans to agree.

AVLON: Now, it remains unclear when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will formally send the impeachment articles to the Senate. President Trump spending his holiday week airing his grievances about the process -- a little Festivus action there -- complaining that the Democrats have treated him unfairly and insisting that Republican leaders in the Senate should run a trial however they see fit.

Joining us now, CNN political commentator Joe Lockhart. He was President Clinton's former press secretary, of course. And CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip.

Great to have you both.

Abby, let's begin with you.

As you look at Murkowski, there are a lot of centrist or independent Republicans who have made noise about voting against President Trump in the past who don't actually follow through when the hard votes are taken. Does that seem like this to you or might this be the beginning of a break among the Republican firewall?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I do think that Murkowski actually has a track record of following through on her complaints. Brett Kavanaugh being one example where, you know, really against some really significant Republican, you know, opposition to trying to stop his nomination, Lisa Murkowski voted against him. She also has stood up in other areas, voting against Betsy DeVos for education secretary, one of the few Republicans to do that too. So I do think she has a track record of standing by her word.

The question is, based on the totality of what she said, do -- does it seem like she actually will follow through on this and say to Mitch McConnell, hey, I want the trial to look this way. I want it to have these characteristics. And it's not clear to me that she will.

I think she wants to make -- to say that she's concerned about that kind of rhetoric from McConnell, but I'm not hearing a sense from her that the underlying conduct is significant enough to her that she would vote to remove President Trump for office.

AVLON: Sure.

PHILLIP: And she is still a Republican. She still needs the Republican base. So like every other Republican in the Senate, it's a really steep mountain to climb to get them to vote to remove the president from office.

AVLON: Sure. That's right.

CAMEROTA: Joe, one of the things that you hear Leader Mitch McConnell say is, we want the same rules as applied to Bill Clinton. We want how it worked with the Bill Clinton impeachment. And, of course, you are our best guest who remembers how it worked with Bill Clinton. And what they're saying is that they had unanimity with Bill Clinton in terms of all 100 senators agreeing on the rules before they decided on witnesses.

Is that how you remember it?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, they had -- there was a 100-0 vote at the outset that Trent Lott and Tom Daschle, then the majority and minority leader, worked out, and that vote basically said we're going to move forward with the first phase of the trial, which was lawyers presenting their cases.

And then, in the -- there'd be a second vote on what witnesses. Not whether they'd have witnesses or not, but which witnesses. And in that vote, that was kind of split along party lines.

[07:05:03]

But there were enough Republicans -- excuse me, there were enough Democrats that said, yes, we should -- we ought to hear from Miss Lewinsky. We ought to hear from Vernon Jordan. So there were three witnesses.

So, you know, that's not what Mitch McConnell is talking about right now. So he's being a little disingenuous.

AVLON: Well, Abby, when you look at the senators who could be persuadable, it's really about the question of witnesses more than the highest bar that exists, which is removal, which none of the two previous presidents impeached got to.

What is the Republican argument at the end of the day against a Murkowski's concern saying that, look, we shouldn't have witnesses. Even though we think the president did nothing wrong, more witnesses would be bad for the pursuit of the truth.

PHILLIP: Well, they're saying that if in the House they felt that these witnesses were significant enough, House Democrats would have tried harder to get them to testify. But, of course, House Democrats didn't do that because they knew it would get dragged out in the courts. And unlike all of the previous other impeachments, we are up against a presidential election. That's what makes time of the essence in this situation because there is an election coming up and this issue, accord -- you know, the Democratic argument is, this issue needs to be resolved before that happens.

But, you know, I also think that it's clear that -- that there's an awareness among Republicans that these witnesses would be potentially damaging to the president's case. If there was exculpatory information that they had that Mick Mulvaney had, that some of these other witnesses had, they would probably want to come forward and put it on the table.

AVLON: Bring on the witnesses.

PHILLIP: But they're not doing that because I -- what they want to do is -- is just let the Democrats' case be what it is and say there's not enough evidence. They don't even want to put on a defense for President Trump because -- because doing so would mean that they would have to present their own case and they think the best, you know, scenario is to say, we just don't see enough here to remove the president. Let's just leave him in office and let the voters decide in November.

CAMEROTA: But, Joe, the other reason that time is of the essence, I mean not just that the election is almost upon us, but that Rudy Giuliani was back in Ukraine two weeks ago again trying to dig up dirt or fall for some story or dirt or whatever he's presented there by nefarious -- I should say dubious characters that are later charged with crimes.

So, it's still happening. I mean that's what Democrats would say of why they're trying to do this quickly.

LOCKHART: Well, listen, that's what moved Nancy Pelosi and -- and about half the Democratic caucus in the first place. And while I think we've sort of lost that in the shuffle a little bit, the idea that, you know, Russia and Bob Mueller happened in the past, but the fact that it's happening again puts the next election at risk. So that is a huge factor and I think it's -- I think it'll be a talking point on the floor of the Senate when this trial happens, whoever that happens. One -- one other point about Lisa Murkowski. She is a little bit different than most Republicans, which is why I think this is significant. She relies less on the Republican base in Alaska than most do. She's crossed Trump several times.

Remember, she wasn't on the ballot as a Republican when she first won. She was a write-in candidate. So she does have a streak.

And she mentioned McConnell by name here. She wasn't calling out the president. She was calling out her own majority leader and sending a signal that, hey, we're not going to just steam roll this. Hold on. There are other voices here.

Now, the real question is, will other people join her? And, you know, the answer to that is, you know, who the heck knows.

CAMEROTA: Thank you for that candor.

LOCKHART: Yes.

AVLON: That kind of analytical incisiveness is exactly why the Democratic Party chess --

CAMEROTA: Why you make the big bucks.

AVLON: Yes.

CAMEROTA: All right, should we move on to what's happening in the diplomatic field?

AVLON: Yes.

CAMEROTA: So "The Washington Post" has a really troubling article today about how much the diplomatic core has been degraded under President Trump. And -- and the first sentence -- well, the first two paragraphs, I think, is important to read.

AVLON: This is stunning.

CAMEROTA: The new Russia adviser at the White House, the third in just six months, has no meaningful background on the subject. The only expert on Ukraine has never spoken with President Trump, only been mocked by him publicly. The U.S. embassy in Kyiv will soon be without its highest ranking diplomat and for -- for the second time in a year, as another ambassador departs after being undermined by the U.S. president and his personal attorney.

I mean this -- this, Abby, is so interesting in "The Washington Post" because it talks about all of their own personal pain that these diplomats have suffered, having been attacked publicly by the president. I mean I didn't know that Marie Yovanovitch was getting sort of horrible, obscene calls to her home and still feeling unsafe, things like that, but also just that the entire concept of the diplomatic core has been degraded. If you're a Russia expert, if you have three in six months and one of them doesn't have meaningful background in it, then the whole system is falling apart. PHILLIP: Yes, there's absolutely no sense that if you're a diplomat in this administration, that you will have the confidence and the backing of the people who put you in your positions.

[07:10:07]

Just take Bill Taylor as an example. He testified in this impeachment probe and was put in his position by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He's leaving the job in January and is trying to get out of there as quickly as possible so that by the time Pompeo gets to Ukraine on a trip, Pompeo doesn't have to be photographed with him.

This is the kind of thing that, you know, if you are a diplomat, why would you sign up to do this kind of job? And these are people who were -- you know, Bill Taylor was begged to come back in to take over this position. So it's a long-term problem. There's a real morale issue that has really accelerated in the last several months, even after Mike Pompeo came in ostensively to restore morale in the agency. It's all of that has been eroded. And I think it's going to outlast Donald Trump and outlast this whole situation.

AVLON: Let me just stick with you for a second because you cover the White House.

Beyond morale, there's questions of competence. I want to know why the third Russia advisor in six months apparently has no discernable experience on the subject. How is that humanly possible?

PHILLIP: You know, it's a really good question because the thing is --

AVLON: That's a pretty good (INAUDIBLE) --

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, I think the thing is, they have gone down the list of potential people who could be in this position. Gone from people -- someone like Fiona Hill, who literally wrote the book on Vladimir Putin, to people who have virtually no tie to the subject matter, in part because this is something that triggers President Trump, that people who want to take a firmer stance on Russia are sidelined, are maligned by the president's allies on the outside. So it's a tough job to take. And they're now getting to really the bottom of the, you know, the bench here to try to find someone willing to take on that position.

AVLON: Trigger (ph) warning, gotcha.

CAMEROTA: Joe, just a few seconds. Do you have thoughts on this?

LOCKHART: Yes, listen, there's -- you know, there was a story just in the last couple of days that one of our ambassadors in Africa was recalled, which is un -- really, really unprecedented for speaking out for American values. I think the problem with Russia and Ukraine is simple, which is, American policy traditionally is not Donald Trump's policy. All of the experts understand the danger of Russia. Donald Trump wants to cozy up to Russia. That is a clash that can't be resolved.

CAMEROTA: Abby, Joe, thank you both very much.

AVLON: Thank you, guys.

All right, meanwhile, female voters could end up being the make or break factor in next year's election. So, where do things stand? We're going to break down the numbers in the gender gap, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:16:30]

AVLON: All right, the gender gap in the 2016 presidential election was historically large. Women overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton, while men broke for Donald Trump. So, how's it shaping up for the 2020 election?

Here to break down the numbers in a sweater that could break your TV --

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: There it is.

AVLON: CNN's senior political writer and analyst Harry Enten.

ENTEN: Whooo!

CAMEROTA: Why do only you have that sweater?

ENTEN: You know what, it's because I'm a beautiful person, both inside and out, so --

AVLON: Only -- only he can pull off that sweater.

CAMEROTA: I've never seen it anywhere else, but it says "NEW DAY" on it.

AVLON: It's awesome.

ENTEN: It says "NEW DAY" and I'm on NEW DAY. It works perfectly.

AVLON: I love it. I love it. I love it.

All right, my man, what we got?

ENTEN: All right, what do we have here?

So let's sort of set the stage, right, folks, and take a look at the 2016 election. And what we saw there was that women voted for Hillary Clinton by 14 percentage points. Men voted for Donald Trump for the GOP by 11. That makes for a gender gap of 25 percentage points.

And to give you an idea of how large that is historically speaking, take a look at this. This is presidential election gender gaps. If the line is to the left, women voted more Democratic than men. If the line is to the white -- right, women voted more Republican than men.

What do we see through the years? Down to 2016, a record gender gap. Huge.

AVLON: This is fascinating because women actually voted more Republican during the Eisenhower years, also when the GOP was more diverse and had significant African-American support back in 1956.

ENTEN: Yes, that's absolutely true. The gender gap is really a modern phenomenon that started around 1980 as the Republican Party moved to the right, especially on cultural issues.

CAMEROTA: But it's so fascinating, that -- that lightning bolt graphic that you have, because there's a boomerang effect. You know, it goes back and forth, obviously.

ENTEN: It does go back and forth. But the long term trend is certainly towards women becoming more Democratic versus men.

CAMEROTA: So what does 2020 look like?

ENTEN: So what does 2020 look like? So take a look here. I averaged our last two polls, CNN polls, October and December. And take a look at this. I'm specifically looking at the Biden and Trump to simplify things a little bit. And take a look here.

So women in our -- an average of our two polls, voting Democratic, voting for Joe Biden by 24 percentage points. Republicans voting for Trump by ten percentage points. That's a gender gap of 34 points. That is huge. I have never ever seen that in any polling ever heading into a presidential election.

AVLON: That's not a gap, that's a canyon. I mean that's unbelievable.

ENTEN: That -- that's a canyon. And I think, you know, a real question is, why is this gap widening? So take a look here. This is 2016 versus 2020. And what we see is women in 2016 voted for Hillary Clinton by 14 points. Men voted for Trump by 11 points.

Now, take a look at the Biden versus Trump polling. Men pretty much voting the same, 10 in 2020, 11 in 2016, both for the GOP. But women, that's where the gap, look at this. In our polling, a 24 point lead for Joe Biden in our polling among women versus just a 14 point victory for Hillary Clinton back in 2016.

CAMEROTA: So women either love Joe Biden or they have a problem voting for Donald Trump?

ENTEN: I think the answer here is Trump. And let me just point out, if this holds with women, it will be the biggest Democratic victory among women just absolutely since 1964. Even in that blowout election all the way back then.

AVLON: Fascinating.

CAMEROTA: I know it fluctuates with education.

ENTEN: It does fluctuate with education. So I broke this down among white voters with a college degree. And what do we see here? We see that Hillary -- that Joe Biden, excuse me, is winning in our polling among white women with a college degree by 28 points. Men with a college degree, slightly voting for Trump here by a percentage point. That's a gender gap. Again, huge here, 29 points. But, here, this is the big, huge group for Clinton -- for Biden, excuse me, white women with a college degree.

[07:20:00]

AVLON: But for even the men, I'm actually shocked that that's one point. That's very tight. That's fascinating.

ENTEN: Yes, and --

AVLON: All right.

ENTEN: Part of that may be -- no, here we go. We were talking among women without a college degree when we spoke on Tuesday. So I brought you the 2016 and 2020 vote. And what do we see here? Back in 2016 there was a 27-point gender gap. Republican white women without a college degree voted Republican by 23 points. White men without a college degree voted for them by 50 points.

Take a look at the 2020 polling. The gender gap has exploded in -- exploded. Gender gap, 39 percentage points. White women without a college degree, only a four point lead for Donald Trump. White men without a college degree, 43 point lead for Donald Trump.

AVLON: And I'll point out, this is all despite a red hot economy.

ENTEN: This is --

AVLON: That's actually one of the things that makes it so important.

CAMEROTA: I mean I did a recent voter panel of white women without, as you know, without a college degree and they -- we saw some erosion. I mean we saw some people who were struggling with their previous vote.

ENTEN: This is -- this is a huge erosion. It's a 19-point going towards the Democratic Party in terms of the margin among white women without a college degree.

CAMEROTA: How about in Wisconsin?

ENTEN: I just want to point this out. You know, if you're talking about the swing states, look at this, Wisconsin, a key swing state, a 32-point gender gap here. Democratic -- women are voting Democratic by 17 points, men voting GOP by 15 points. So we see it in the swing states as well.

AVLON: Fascinating. Fascinating.

CAMEROTA: OK, so you both are racing out to see one movie this weekend. What is it?

ENTEN: "Little Women." I saw it yesterday. Two thumbs up. I freaking loved this film. Unbelievable.

AVLON: How about that unexpected endorsement.

ENTEN: I loved it.

CAMEROTA: What's so great about it?

ENTEN: Best film I've seen all year.

CAMEROTA: What's -- what?

ENTEN: I just loved it. I love history. I love strong women. I love all of it.

AVLON: If you were to say like you being a strong Louisa May Alcott fan, I did not have on my bingo card.

CAMEROTA: I did.

ENTEN: I'm an interesting fella.

CAMEROTA: I did. No, you're complex.

ENTEN: You know me well.

AVLON: You're running --

CAMEROTA: I do and I know this, you are an evolved man, Harry Enten.

ENTEN: I try, with a beautiful NEW DAY sweater.

AVLON: (INAUDIBLE).

ENTEN: Let's get this in one last time.

AVLON: All right, incredible.

Thank you, Harry.

ENTEN: Thank you.

AVLON: And that does look awesome. (INAUDIBLE) see it.

ENTEN: Thank you.

AVLON: All right.

CAMEROTA: Me too.

The Senate impeachment trial is at a stalemate. Which party is going to win this one?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:25:59] CAMEROTA: We're just bringing you this beautiful shot. We just noticed this from our camera on top of our building. This is looking south down the island of Manhattan. And you can see One World Trade Center there appearing up above the clouds, but the rest of lower Manhattan seems to be shrouded in clouds this morning the day after Christmas. There we go.

No break yet in the stalemate over the Senate impeachment trial. Who's going to win this one?

Joining us now is former Republican Senator and CNN senior political commentator Rick Santorum, and CNN political commentator -- sorry, contributor and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen.

Great to see both of you.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Hey, Ali.

CAMEROTA: Post -- Merry Christmas to both of you.

ROSEN: Merry Christmas.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Merry Christmas, yes.

CAMEROTA: Senator Santorum, do you think that Leader Mitch McConnell should allow witnesses?

SANTORUM: I think they should go through the process that they went through last time. I think it's a reasonable thing.

Look, I was part of the negotiation that arrived at the 1999, you know, decision on proceedings. And what we said is, let's -- let's make the sides present their case. If we felt there were some things that needed to be clarified that would help people make the decision, then we could have witnesses. We voted on the witnesses.

As you know, we also voted on a motion to dismiss Senator Byrd. And I think all the Democrats, and even a few Republicans, voted to dismiss the proceedings after the initial presentation.

CAMEROTA: Right Yes.

SANTORUM: That could happen here again.

CAMEROTA: Sure. But you're --

SANTORUM: Everyone could say, you know what, we heard all the evidence. We're ready to make the decision.

CAMEROTA: Got it.

SANTORUM: So we'll see what happens.

CAMEROTA: But just so I'm clear, you -- it sounds like, if you want to follow that model, yes, you are for witnesses. SANTORUM: I think you have to be open to having witnesses called to

fill in where they -- where senators may feel they need more information.

CAMEROTA: Yes. But so -- I'm just going to stick with you for one more question, because Senator McConnell had signaled that he doesn't want any witnesses. So why is he saying that before we get there?

SANTORUM: Yes, I think what he's saying is, you know, we have all the -- he has all the information we need -- he needs and we don't need to go down that track. And I can tell you, Tom Daschle said the same thing, you know, 20 years ago. We have all the information we need. We -- you know, we don't need to have any witnesses. In fact, the Democrats and President Clinton were insistent on no witnesses and they -- they made the same case. So --

CAMEROTA: But they ultimately negotiated to have three witnesses.

SANTORUM: Ultimately. But, again, at the beginning of the proceedings, where we are right now, the Clinton camp was, no witnesses, no way. And, eventually, they conceded, you know, a handful -- I think it was three is what we ended up listening to.

CAMEROTA: Yes. OK.

Hilary, do you see the parallels applying here?

ROSEN: I think the American people actually see these issues as very different from the old impeachment.

But here -- here, I think, is the -- the key point. People are not going to focus in across the country as much on these sort of inter- party power plays and process issues. I think what the American people are going to focus on is what Senator Murkowski said this week, which is, they want to see Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans take this issue seriously. They want to know if there are facts that are not yet public. They want to know that Donald Trump has some sense of remorse about his behavior. They want to know that, you know, that Senate Republicans are not going to be like in cahoots with the White House, whereas, you know, you have essentially the jury of a trial coordinating with a defendant of a trial. That's, I think, what's going to be the big test is whether this perception that Republicans are taking this seriously, whether McConnell is allowing facts to be out there for senators, that's where people are going to be looking.

CAMEROTA: Hey, but before -- yes. But before you answer, let me just play the sound that Hilary is referring to from Lisa Murkowski. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): In fairness, when I heard that, I was disturbed.

To me, it means that we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense. And so I heard what Leader McConnell had said. [07:30:03]

END