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Coordination with White House Impeachment; Queen Elizabeth Acknowledges Bumpy Year Iowa Caucus is 39 Days Away. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired December 26, 2019 - 08:30   ET



SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right behind me. I mean it is -- this is -- this is over.

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: A very nice bridge as well.

JENNINGS: It is a purely partisan exercise designed to affect the 2020 election.

AVLON: Well --

JENNINGS: Democrats want to put Republicans in a bad spot on votes. That's all this is about.

AVLON: All right, I think it's about a little bit more, though, but you guys are close observers of politics, you're fair-minded conservatives. I want to read a quote to you from your former colleague and still Republican Jeff Flake, former Senate, who wrote an op-ed in "The Washington Post" because the Republican line, of course, is that the president did nothing wrong.

He writes, as dogma demands, there are members of our party denying objective reality by repeating the line that the president did nothing wrong. My colleagues, he says writing to his former Senate colleagues, the danger of an untruthful president is compounded when the coequal branch follows that president off the cliff into the abyss of unreality and untruth.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: John, if I can say, I have a tremendous respect for Senator Flake. He's a man of great integrity.

But you also have to consider the fact that there are many Republicans who say that they have trouble with what the president said on this call. Some even say that --

AVLON: Who? Who in the Senate besides Mitt Romney?

STEWART: There have - there have been -- several of them have said that their -- there have been some that have said that they -- they don't like exactly what he said, but it does not rise to the level of impeachment. And I'm specifically also referring to the Republican appointed judicial expert who testified on the committee saying that it was inappropriate or problematic, but it does not rise to the level of --

AVLON: Jonathan Turley did say that.

STEWART: Exactly, it does not rise to the level of impeachment.

AVLON: What -- what Republican senators or House members have said that, though, Alice?

STEWART: So that -- that -- that is -- that is -- that is certainly what many people are -- are thinking behind the scenes.

AVLON: Behind the scenes.

STEWART: But in terms of -- but it does not rise to the level of impeachment. And that's exactly why they're standing firm on this issue.

I -- I applauded Senator Flake for speaking his mind, but you're seeing people in the Senate and the House on the GOP side who have looked at all of the facts and, at the end of the day, say there is no underlying crime. So, therefore, there is no reason to move forward with impeachment. And that is up and down the line with Republicans in the House and the Senate --

AVLON: And -- and -- and, by the way --

STEWART: Because that is exactly the information that they got and how they view it.

AVLON: That certainly would be the Clinton standard, Democrats, at the time, denouncing the president's actions, but saying it didn't rise to the level of impeachment. That's a reasonable debate.

The question is, and I'll -- I'll go to you with this, Scott, what Republicans have said publicly what Alice just said, which is the actions were wrong but it's not impeachable, what Republicans senators have said that in public?

JENNINGS: I don't know. Well, I've seen -- I've seen Republicans on television. I've certainly said that. And I think this is ultimately the greatest political problem that the Democrats have here. They came up with this situation on Ukraine, which they were mad about, and instead of saying, does this rise to the level of impeachment, they tried to force everybody into a binary choice. Either you fully support this or you want to throw the president out of office.

And I think you're going to have a wide variety of Republicans across the spectrum saying, you know, maybe I -- I don't think it's a big deal, a moderately big deal, I hate it, whatever, but all of it falling short of impeachment.

And what the Democrats have done is forced everybody into this binary choice and no one wants to throw the president out in the Republican Party. Look at the polling. You read it as well as I do.

AVLON: Sure. JENNINGS: And so if the only way you get people to express themselves

is throw the president out or not, and then you get angry when they don't want to throw the president out, maybe you set this up -- the debate up incorrectly in the first place. And I think the Democrats walked into this trap without really thinking it through. And it's one of the key reasons why I think they didn't get a single Republican vote in the House. The way they set up the process, the way they presented it, the way they rushed it. And I don't know why they would expect to get any Republican votes in the Senate after all that.

AVLON: Well, I think the question is, is really one of witnesses.

I want to close, though, because there is one Republican who's spoken out, I should say, which is Mitt Romney, who, in a tweet, said this about the underlying issue. He said, by all appearances, the president's brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.

STEWART: That -- that could be very well a sentiment shared by many. I certainly feel it was inappropriate but it does not rise to the level of impeachment.

And here's the -- the big issue here, John. The difference between Bill Clinton and Donald Trump is that Bill Clinton lied before a grand jury. That is a crime. And there is no other choice for members of the House and Senate to take --

AVLON: All right.

STEWART: Other than to seek impeachment. We do not have that in this case. That's why we're seeing people, the Republicans standing firm on their position, Democrats doing the same.

AVLON: All right, I want to -- we've got to leave it there. I want to thank you both for joining us on NEW DAY, as always.

STEWART: Thanks, John.

JENNINGS: Thanks a lot.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, John, from scandals to sibling rivalry, 2019 has been a rough one for the royal family. A look at the biggest stories coming out of Buckingham Palace, next.



CAMEROTA: In her annual Christmas message, Queen Elizabeth took the extraordinary step of acknowledging that 2019 has been quite bumpy for the royal family. Candid words from the queen, but they only scratch the surface.

CNN's Max Foster explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's been a tumultuous and unsettling year for the British royal family with three senior members stepping back from public life. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex did so voluntarily and only temporarily after a series of run-ins with the media.

In March, CNN revealed the palace staff had to beef up their social media operation amidst a rise in racist abuse targeting the duchess.

Then, in October, the couple revealed in a documentary with ITV how difficult they were finding life in the spotlight. I never thought that this would be easy, but I thought that it would be fair, the duchess said.


They also went on the offensive over what Harry described as a tabloid campaign against Meghan that mirrored the treatment meted out to his mother, Princess Diana. The duchess sued "The Mail on Sunday" alleging that it illegally published a private letter to her father. The Duke launched his own legal proceedings against "The Daily Mirror" and "The Sun" over alleged phone hacking. All the publications deny all the charges and have vowed to fight them vigorously.

The queen's second son, Prince Andrew, also retreated from public life at the end of the year, but this may be longer term. It followed an interview he did with the BBC and the media backlash that followed it in which he talked about his association with the convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein had allegedly trafficked Virginia Giuffre when she was 17 years old and forced her to have sex with the Duke of York and others. He said he had no recollection of ever meeting her, but failed to express sympathy for Epstein's victims in the interview or any regret for his relationship with a disgraced financier. He only did so in a follow-up statement in which he said, I continue to unequivocally regret my ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein. His suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and I deeply sympathize with everyone who's been affected and wants some form of closure.

CNN understands that Andrew decided to step back from his public roles after a meeting with his mother. The queen remains firmly in charge of the family we're told and has no intention of stepping back from public life herself, despite heading into her 94th year.

Max Foster, CNN, London.


CAMEROTA: Max is not kidding. That was a bumpy year.

All right, meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rushed off the stage at a campaign event last night after a rocket was fired from Gaza into southern Israel. This is almost identical to what happened just before the September election. Netanyahu is fighting to hold on to power in his third campaign in just 12 months. Despite being the first sitting prime minister to face charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, he is favored to win today's primary election.

AVLON: Meanwhile, the U.S. has recalled its ambassador to Zambia over comments criticizing the African nation's stance on gay rights. Ambassador Daniel Foote criticizing the jailing of a gay couple and spoke out on corruption. Zambia's president then wrote to the U.S. asking for his withdrawal, which the State Department considered a declaration that Foote was no longer welcome in the country.

CAMEROTA: With six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, retailers pulled out all the stops to drive sales. And it looks like it paid off. A report from MasterCard shows online sales hit a record high this holiday season, making up 14.6 of total retail sales.

Overall, holiday sales increased 3.4 percent this year. President Trump cheered the news in a Christmas tweet saying it was the biggest number in U.S. history. But a spokesperson for MasterCard told Reuters this year's sales growth was not the biggest ever, citing 2018's 5.1 percent growth. The White House did not comment on the error.

AVLON: All right, a little more than a month until the first votes in the 2020 Democratic primary. We're going to bring you some numbers on just how much money is being shelled out by the candidates.

That's next.



AVLON: All right, believe it or not, we are now just 39 days away from the Iowa caucuses. Which candidate has momentum in the Hawkeye state?

Well, joining us now are CNN political analysts Joshua Green, senior national correspondent for "Bloomberg Businessweek," and Jonathan Martin, J. Mart, is a national correspondent for "The New York Times."

It's good to see you both.

Let's talk Iowa. It's all about the Hawkeye state, particularly the money. I've never seen money like what "Politico" is reporting these two billionaires running are spending. Look at this, they are lapping the crowd.

But, J. Mart, my big question is, can money buy you love because you look at the national polls, Biden's creeping along with the money spend, but he's been pretty durable, almost Teflon, near the top of the field?

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this primary is testing a lot of varities (ph) about American politics.


MARTIN: And in terms of one of them is, the salience of money.

Look, John, as you know, we've seen a lot of candidates for the House, Senate and gov in the last 30 years in this country basically try to buy office. This is really the first time that we're seeing people of sort of Bloomberg-ian wealth try to effectively purchase a nomination through television ads. So it's a fascinating test in that sense.

Look, I think it's harder to discern in the case of Bloomberg because he's not competing in the first states. So we're not really going to have a great test of this until we see him come out of the, you know, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

But I will say this. Look, if Biden does surprise people and win or basically tie in Iowa, that's going to give him a huge bursting going into New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. And that could obviate the need for a Bloomberg candidacy.

I think that the Bloomberg candidacy is basically there as kind of a backstop for Biden so that if you do have uncertainty coming out of the first four states, then Bloomberg and all of his money on the air on Super Tuesday could be a factor. But we're not going to know for a while until we sort of see what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire.

AVLON: Interesting.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Josh, just to put a finer point on it for our friends who may be listening on the radio in their cars, what the latest CNN numbers show is that they both spent about $82 million, OK, on their ads. But that was from December 10th. So "Politico" is reporting that that is now up to, between them, $200 million. These two guys, Steyer and Bloomberg, have spent $200 million on TV ad spending.

And, you know, if you look at some of the polls, I mean Bloomberg has been able to leapfrog some of the other candidates like Cory Booker, like Amy Klobuchar or he's tied with Amy Klobuchar, I guess, who have put in a -- just a lot more time on the ground in Iowa.

JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, it's fascinating from --

MARTIN: Yes, being in Iowa.


GREEN: From a political science standpoint, I mean, we've never had a situation like this where two candidates are willing to so drastically outspend the rest of the field. What's interesting to me, though, is, what does that get you? I mean so far the answer has been, it gets to mid-single digits in both national and Iowa polls. I think the challenge for both of the candidates, though, is, you need to hit about a 15 percent threshold to begin amassing delegates. So what that says is they still need to do more. I mean money can buy you ads.

MARTIN: Right.

GREEN: It can buy you a big campaign staff. But, at the end of the day, any candidate, regardless of how much money they spend, has to be able to engender support and enthusiasm and volunteers and door knocking and all the particulars that you need to add up to a successful campaign.

What the poll numbers show me is that neither candidate is quite there yet. Neither one of them has managed to break into the top tier.

AVLON: But, J. Mart, is it fair --

MARTIN: But Steyer is not moving given the money he has spent --

AVLON: Yes, that's what I was going to say.

MARTIN: Especially in the early states. I think we have to sort of put him aside for a minute.

Bloomberg has crept up in some of these early states. I'm sorry, in some of the Super Tuesday states, rather, and obviously in national polls as well.

But as Josh points out, look, he can get 6 percent in a national poll. Unless he is hitting -- this is important for viewers to know. Unless Michael Bloomberg or any of the candidates is hitting 15 percent statewide or in a congressional district in a state, he is not going to get delegates. So, you know, his money, his ad buys on -- can get him maybe, you know, at 5 or 6 percent, but if he's not hitting 15, it's not getting him delegates.

But, again, the Bloomberg candidacy, guys, is premised on Biden not being a factor. Biden stumbling. So if Biden is more relevant coming out of the first four states, I'm not sure what happens to a Bloomberg candidacy going forward.


MARTIN: You know.

AVLON: And we -- we should say also that Bloomberg's running ads in all 50 states. It's a totally unprecedented model and I think that's a convincing point.

But to your point about the numbers, the 15 percent threshold, let's look at the most recent Iowa poll we've got. And this point is more than a month old. It's CBS/YOUGOV. It's showing basically top four candidates --

MARTIN: Yes, we need more polls.

AVLON: Clustered toward the top. Sanders, Biden, Buttigieg, Warren at 18, Klobuchar a pretty distant fifth. I mean that's -- that's the consideration set right now. You guys know the mechanics of these caucuses. What does that tell you against the backdrop of ad buys? We'll go to you, Mr. Green, with what's going on here.

GREEN: Well, it tells me that it hasn't -- they haven't been effective enough, at least not yet, for either of those candidates to be viable in Iowa. I mean what is going to happen is, in the caucuses, if the numbers stay the way they are in that poll, which, of course, they won't, but if there's something roughly similar to that, you know, in the first round, if neither candidate gets 15 percent, then their supporters break off and pick a secondary candidate. So it would -- it would suggest that neither of those two candidates comes out of Iowa with any delegates.

I think the other factor to think about here, though, John and Alisyn, is that, you know, we're looking at this from the standpoint of Iowans not having caucused yet. And as you all know, the minute we get through those -- that -- that first state, all the national numbers begin to scramble. Somebody wins. There's excitement and momentum around that candidate and all the numbers that we're seeing and parsing now begin to change. We don't know what that world is going to look like, so it's hard to draw any conclusions about who is going to be viable moving out into the future.

AVLON: All right, we're going to have to leave it here. Josh, J. Mart, great to see you both.

MARTIN: Thanks guys.

AVLON: Only 39 days away. Appreciate it.

All right, we've got "The Good Stuff," next.

But first, here's a preview of the new CNN film "Linda --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She came to Los Angeles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Linda Ronstadt.

LINDA RONSTADT, MUSICIAN (singing): Just one look --

RONSTADT (on camera): I was 18 years old and we formed a little band. We called ourselves The Stone Ponies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The L.A. scene was in gear and the whole damn thing broke loose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was rock music, folk music, co-mingling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How can we define what this is going to be?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Linda was the queen. She was like what Beyonce is now. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was the only female artist to have five platinum albums in a row.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "I Can't Help If I'm Still In Love with You" was a hit on the country charts. "You're No Good" was a hit on both the R&B chart and the pop chart. I became the first artist to have a hit on all three charts.

RONSTADT (singing): You're no good, you're no good, you're not good, baby, you're no good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was the first female rock 'n' roll star.

RONSTADT (singing): You're no good, you're no good, you're not good, baby, you're no good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Linda Ronstadt, The Sound of My Voice," New Year's Day on CNN.




CAMEROTA: OK, time now for "The Good Stuff."

A New Hampshire couple was expecting New Year's Eve to be their son's due date, but Mother Nature had other plans. Brooklyn Whitney and Jacob Pachner were rushing to the hospital on Christmas Eve, and then they had to pull over when the baby could not wait. Jacob called the police.


JACOB PACHNER, NEWBORN'S FATHER: It's like all happening so fast. I was kind of -- like it was a lot of just shock.

OFFICER RYAN NOLAN, BOSCAWEN POLICE DEPARTMENT: It was something. It was the craziest call I've ever been on.


CAMEROTA: Wow. Officer Ryan Nolan responded, along with reinforcements, to bring baby Dominik (ph) into the world just after midnight Christmas morning.


NOLAN: The story sounds familiar. You know, these -- somebody's born on Christmas Day, you know, three guys sitting on the side waiting to meet him. It's like -- seems fitting.



AVLON: Oh, welcome to the world.

CAMEROTA: That's a significant parallel he's drawing there.

AVLON: No pressure.

CAMEROTA: We'll see what baby Dominik goes on to do.


That would be -- that would be scary. I mean, having to rush to the hospital, a baby coming early. But we hear it happen all the time --

AVLON: Beautiful.

CAMEROTA: And that was beautiful.