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THE SITUATION ROOM

Trump and Pelosi Trade Jabs over Impeachment; Interview with Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA); 2020 Democrats Resume Campaigning with just over Five Weeks until Iowa Caucuses; Source: White House Developing List of Potential Replacements for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; New Book Examines Cost of Chaos in the White House; Police Stepping Up Presence in Some Parts of New York After String of Suspected Anti-Semitic Hate Crimes. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 27, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:14]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Happening now, impeachment plan. As questions swirl about what President Trump's upcoming trial will look like, we're learning new details about the Democrats strategy. Increase pressure on Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and get under the president's skin. But is it working?

Leaked videos. Statements by members of a Navy S.E.A.L. team obtained by the "New York Times" shed light on an alleged war crimes case that drew the attention of Trump. A former Navy S.E.A.L. platoon leader was acquitted of murder. Will this change anything?

And back on the trail. The leading Democratic presidential candidates including Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are back on the campaign trail today. Are Democratic voters ready to put the holidays behind them and focus on picking a nominee?

And hate crimes probes. The New York Police just confirmed new anti- Semitic incidents across the city possibly raising the total to seven in just one week.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Both President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took to Twitter today to make cases for and against impeachment. Pelosi's tweet accused the president of abusing power for his own political gain and the president just complained Pelosi presided over the most unfair hearing in the history of Congress.

Sources tell CNN that the top two senate leaders, Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Chuck Schumer have not had any conversations about impeachment and are not likely to before January. We're told that Democrats want to keep pressuring McConnell while they try to get under the president's skin.

We have Democratic Congressman John Garamendi is standing by to take our questions and our correspondents and analysts have full coverage of the day's top stories.

Let's begin with CNN congressional reporter Lauren Fox. And Lauren, the impeachment debate is spilling over on Twitter with the president fuming. Is this part of what Speaker Pelosi was strategizing?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, you have to remember, lawmakers are on recess right now but a war of words over Twitter, Brianna. And here is what we're hearing from the speaker of the House.

She tweeted earlier today, quote, "The facts are clear and every witness told the same story, despite the president's attempts to cover it up. President Trump abused his power from his own personal gain."

And Trump tweeting, quote, "So interesting to see Nancy Pelosi demanding fairness from Senate Majority Leader McConnell when she presided over the most unfair hearing in the history of the United States."

And, Brianna, this all comes as there is a standoff. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, has not handed over those two articles of impeachment yet to the Senate majority leader. That is leaving some questions whether or not this trial will start the first week of January or perhaps even later.

Now Majority Leader McConnell is prepared to go to the floor and start the trial even if he can't get an agreement with Schumer. But he has to get those articles of impeachment first from Pelosi.

KEILAR: How much leverage does the speaker really have in holding these?

FOX: Well, essentially, Republicans have argued none, Brianna, because this is not something that they're anxious to get started on. You heard that from Majority Leader McConnell before he left for this two-week recess and I will tell you that Republicans feel like Nancy Pelosi is withholding these articles. They're accusing her of basically not having a strong enough case. Perhaps that is why she doesn't want this to go to the Senate. I will tell you a lot of things can change once lawmakers are back in Washington, have a chance to negotiate, have some discussions. I expect that this will start moving once they return in January.

KEILAR: She certainly is controlling the conversation a little bit saying that the process in the Senate is unfair but we'll see if that works, right? We'll see if it works. Lauren, thank you so much for that report.

We're also following new developments in the controversy over former Navy S.E.A.L. platoon leader named Eddie Gallagher. His case drew the attention of President Trump as he was tried and acquitted of murdering an ISIS fighter. Now videos obtained by "The New York Times" shed light on his fellow S.E.A.L.s accusations against him.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr reports. And we certainly need to warn you here that this report contains some disturbing images.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Members of S.E.A.L. Team Seven Alpha Platoon broke their own code of silence in 2018 with their opinions about retired special operations chief Eddie Gallagher, and some making accusations that the elite S.E.A.L. committed murder and potential war crimes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy got crazier and crazier.

STARR: These are portions of recorded Navy S.E.A.L. interviews published by "The New York Times" where team members tell investigators their views on the platoon leader.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy was toxic.

It's (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up.

STARR: Gallagher was acquitted of premeditated murder when a key prosecution witness changed his story and testified under immunity that he caused the prisoner's death, not Gallagher.

[17:05:06]

DEFENSE: Did you suffocate him?

SCOTT: Yes.

DEFENSE: How?

SCOTT: I held my thumb over his ET but, until he stopped breathing.

STARR: Scott described the killing as an act of mercy, because he was concerned the boy, a prisoner of Iraqi forces, would be tortured by them.

Gallagher was convicted on a charge of taking a photo with a dead ISIS fighter and was then demoted in rank.

A decision President Trump reversed allowing the S.E.A.L. to retire with honor even after Pentagon leaders urged the president not to interfere.

Speaking through his attorney, Gallagher told CNN, "My first reaction to seeing the videos was surprise and disgust that they would make up blatant lies about me, but I quickly realized that they were scared that the truth would come out of how cowardly they acted on deployment."

His defense attorney says the tapes were, quote, "a road map to acquittal because they showed there were conflicting stories about allegations of Gallagher killing civilians and other misconduct."

TIMOTHY PARLATORE, ATTORNEY FOR EDDIE GALLAGHER: Really you're only seeing one very small slice of the story, in a way that's, you know, not reflective of what the ultimate result was.

STARR: President Trump's determination to reverse the military's punishment of Gallagher against the advice of top Pentagon officials was so controversial maybe Secretary Richard Spencer was ousted.

The chairman of the joint chief of staff insists that discipline and adherence to the laws of war will not suffer.

GEN. MARK MILLEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: We do maintain and we will maintain good order and discipline.

We will not turn into a gang of raping, burning and pillaging.

STARR: But some say it is all led to festering bad feelings.

DAVID LAPAN, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY, DHS: So is this kind of divisiveness that the President's actions have introduced into the S.E.A.L. community I think that are the most damaging and will have long-term effects.

STARR: Gallagher met with Trump over the holidays at Mar-a-Lago and it is possible he will campaign for Trump if asked those who know him say.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: And with us now in THE SITUATION ROOM is CNN military and diplomatic analyst John Kirby. He is a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral and a former Pentagon press secretary. And I wonder, what is your reaction to the release of these leaked videos?

JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: There is a few of them. One is that the timing of this seems suspicious for the leak of these videos and interviews right after Gallagher was at Mar-a-Lago with President Trump and after he appeared at a fundraiser. It appears as if somebody has got a real agenda here to get this out, to embarrass Gallagher and embarrass the president.

And the other thing that struck me, Brianna, was when we talked about this code of silence with these guys but they also live by a code of honor and they felt it was important for them to tell their stories to investigators and to be honest and to not try to corroborate all the details between them but to just tell the truth as they saw it. There wasn't a lot of sophistication here. But it was honest. And I think that is commendable and it's representative of the kind of honor that these guys live by.

And then last thing was the complication that this is going to make for Rear Admiral Green as he tries to get his hands around conduct and ethical issues inside the S.E.A.L. community. This isn't going to make his job any easier.

KEILAR: No, it certainly isn't. Admiral Kirby, thank you so much for your insight there. And joining us now is Democratic Congressman John Garamendi of California. He's a member of the Armed Services Committee. Sir, thanks for joining us.

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA): Good to be with you, Brianna.

KEILAR: It is great to have you. And we learned from the Eddie Gallagher trial that some of his fellow Navy S.E.A.L.s had deep misgivings about his conduct. That is what led to there being a trial. What is your reaction to these leaked videos?

GARAMENDI: This entire incident is terribly sad and actually very troublesome for the military at large and certainly for the S.E.A.L.s. There are million - more than a million men and women -- actually 2 million men and women out there serving today all around the world honorably, doing the very best they can and this entire incident tends to deflect from them the honor that they deserve and the service that they're providing to this country. Where this situation goes, it is basically now become a political situation with the president using Mr. Gallagher - Chief Gallagher for political purposes and perhaps Gallagher is also doing the same for the president.

And so, it becomes a very sad and unfortunate incident in the entire military history. And will it have an impact going forward? I really believe that the command structure, leaving the president out of this for a moment, the command structure for the military has to and will continue to insist upon honor, upon dignity, upon the rule of military law, and discipline in all of its procedures.

[17:10:09]

KEILAR: I do want to talk to you as well about impeachment, the very pressing issue that you'll be facing when you come back to town.

GARAMENDI: Sure.

KEILAR: There is this impasse over the impeachment trial in the Senate as - this is something that Speaker Pelosi has been withholding the articles on sending to the Senate and it is really become this opportunity to get under President Trump's skin. Does the president's fuming, his sort of seething that we're seeing on Twitter, does that validate Nancy Pelosi's strategy?

GARAMENDI: Well, I don't think Nancy Pelosi's strategy had anything to do with getting under the president's skin but rather to provide whatever assurances were possible that there would actually be a fair trial in the Senate. And that fair trial is basically one in which testimony, written interrogatives available from witnesses that could collaborate or give additional facts to the charges that were laid out in the House impeachment.

So it is not about getting under the president's skin at all, it is about trying the very best we can, all 535 of us, with a very important responsibility here, that is the impeachment responsibility. We carried out that responsibility in the House. It is now up to the Senate to have an open trial in which testimony from key witnesses is available, documents made available. Keep in mind the president has laid down an absolute stonewall, refusing all subpoenas to the White House, to the Office of Management and Budget, to the State Department, as well as to the Department of Defense. That is just not tolerable. It is not at all part of what our Constitution requires that the president be forthcoming with the witnesses and the information so that there could be a real trial, not a sham.

KEILAR: But this strategy of hers withholding the articles when really it is possible she doesn't have leverage at all over Mitch McConnell other than to do something there in the public court of opinion, it looks political to many observers. Why hasn't that deterred the speaker?

GARAMENDI: Well, I don't think it is a political thing. It is a real -- a real issue that she has to take on and that is the House of Representatives is required to assign certain members of the House to present the indictment that is the impeachment, to the Senate. That is to manage the trial for the House of Representatives. She needs to know, will there be witnesses? If no witnesses, then that requires perhaps a different kind of presentation. So she has to line up the appropriate people that can best present the case.

Right now she has no idea, nor does the American public have any idea how this trial will be conducted. Will there be witnesses? Will there be information, emails, other data, and by the way where the full transcript, that is the actual voice transcript of the president's call to Mr. -- to the president of Ukraine? Where is it? Well, it is in a secret server, not in Ukraine. It's in the secret server in the White House. All of that information should be presented at the trial in the Senate.

So the speaker has a very important responsibility providing the appropriate most skilled members of the House to make the presentation to the Senate. Right now she doesn't know what to do.

KEILAR: So you're saying there is a recording of the call. Like a physical audio recording of the call that's being withheld? Am I understanding you right?

GARAMENDI: That is my guess.

KEILAR: Is that your guess or do you have a reason --

GARAMENDI: We know that there is a transcript.

KEILAR: There is a transcript. We know that's been moved to the more secure server. Do you have factual reason to believe that there is an actual audio recording of the phone call?

GARAMENDI: I do not have evidence of that. But that would be a question that I would think that the Senate would want to know. Is there an actual recording? Now the transcript -- partial transcript that was made available by the White House has many of the -- much of the conversation eliminated, deleted, and it is not an actual word-by- word of all of the conversation and that could be extremely important and might exonerate the president. Or maybe it would further provide information that he is indeed guilty of trying to bribe or extort Mr. Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, to engage in what is then illegal action that is interfering in the American -- foreign government interfering in the American election.

[17:15:04]

KEILAR: OK. Yes, I just wanted to make sure on the audio thing because that was the first time I've heard something of that. I wanted to know if there was a concrete reason to believe that. I want to talk about the --

GARAMENDI: I would think there would be.

KEILAR: We do not know. And it sounds like you're not sure that there is. I just want to be very clear with our viewers. It is a question.

GARAMENDI: You're one of the very first questions I would ask on the Senate floor. Send us the tape.

KEILAR: OK. Mitch McConnell has faced a lot of criticism for saying that he's working closely with the White House, saying that he's not an impartial juror in the Senate trial but Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said actually something that was pretty similar during the Clinton impeachment before the Senate vote.

Listen to what Schumer is saying now and listen to what he said in 1999.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): The Republican leader said, proudly, quote, "I'm not an impartial juror. I'm not impartial about this at all." This is an astonishing admission of partisanship.

LARRY KING, TELEVISION AND RADIO HOST: Anybody taking an oath tomorrow can have a pre-opinion. It's not a jury box.

SCHUMER: Many do.

This is not a criminal trial. But this is something that the Founding Fathers decided to put in a body that was susceptible to the whims of politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Why should voters take his complaint and he's really leading the charge with it about McConnell if 20 years ago he was making kind of a similar case that Mitch McConnell is making today. Why?

GARAMENDI: Well, I think the issue is not what these 100 senators bring to the floor of the Senate as they sit as jurors, but rather the information that is presented to them while they are sitting there during the trial. The information that has been compiled by the House is sufficient to bring charges. We need to have additional information brought forth in the trial. We need to have the testimony of McCabe, of Bolton, of Pompeo, of others that were said to be involved in this issue. All of that information should be available.

Would it change the preconceived views that people have coming into the trial is this quite possibly, maybe to the benefit of the president. It might very well be to the detriment of the president but that is what a fair trial would bring to this situation. It would give not only the Senate but the American public the opportunity to have more fully and completely, understand of what the president did, why it was illegal, why it was an abuse of his power to try to assist him in his re-election campaign.

All of that information should be part of the public trial that will take place in the Senate. And certainly Mr. -- Senator McConnell was explicitly clear he's bringing to that trial a clear prejudice. Now Schumer perhaps did that back in the Clinton period. But the senators need to hear all of the information, all of the witnesses, all of the tapes, if there is one, or at least the full transcript, which surely there must be, and they need to hear from these key people that were clearly involved in this entire Ukraine episode.

KEILAR: Sir, thank you so much. Congressman John Garamendi.

GARAMENDI: My pleasure. Thank you.

KEILAR: Still ahead -

GARAMENDI: Happy New Year.

KEILAR: Happy new year to you, sir. Still ahead, "Home Alone" with a grudge. President Trump browses about his scene being cut out of one of the "Home Alone" movies that's being shown on Canadian television.

And holiday over, the leading 2020 Democrats head back on to the campaign trail quoting voters as the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary are just weeks away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:23:14]

KEILAR: With just over five weeks to go until the Iowa caucuses, the Democratic presidential candidates are cutting short their holidays and they're heading back on the campaign trail and CNN's Leyla Santiago is doing really the same thing, keeping track of the action. Tell us more about what is going on.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You said it. Five weeks. That is how much we have to go. February 3rd, those Iowa caucus. And so what I'm seeing on the campaign trail, these candidates and campaigns are focused on connecting with voters, fundraising and those early voting states.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm feeling good in Iowa.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): With 38 days left of the Iowa caucuses and fresh from the holiday break, the Democratic presidential hopefuls are back on the trail today making their pitch to voters in these critical weeks before voting begins. And in Joe Biden's case, playing defense against the president's unsubstantiated claims that he acted corruptly in Ukraine while serving as vice president.

BIDEN: This is a technique he uses all the time. He's a chronic liar.

SANTIAGO: The president impeachment has become an issue for Biden on the campaign trail. The former vice president explaining to the Des Moines register editorial board why he wouldn't testify in the president's impeachment trial if called upon in the Senate.

BIDEN: It is all designed to deal with Trump doing what he's done his whole life, trying to take the focus off him. The issue is not what I did -- not a single person, not one with single person, even with Giuliani and his come patriots have said I did anything other than a job.

SANTIAGO: Meanwhile, Senator Amy Klobuchar is also returning to Iowa today, completing her tour of the state's 99 counties. Today, she made her final stop in Humboldt County.

Senator Bernie Sanders is spending his first day back from the holiday in New Hampshire.

[17:25:03]

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's a lot of people for a Friday afternoon. Thank you very much all for being here.

SANTIAGO: And holding rallies for union works in concord today, Sanders using the opportunity to remind voters of his success in the state four years ago.

SANDERS: The media establishment are saying those ideas are too radical, those ideas are too extreme. Those ideas are not going to be supported by the American people and guess what? We won here in New Hampshire by 20 points.

SANTIAGO: Sanders' candidacy appears to have strengthened since he suffered a heart attack earlier this year. He's picked up key endorsements including freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and he continues to poll in the top tier of candidates with a little more than one month until the first votes are cast.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANTIAGO: And also coming up on the campaign trail, Senator Elizabeth Warren will give a speech on New Year's Eve and that is a notable day for the campaign trail because it marks one year since she announced the exploratory committee for presidency.

KEILAR: All right. We'll be watching, Leyla. Thank you so much Leyla Santiago. And coming up, we have our panel standing by as the impasse over President Trump's upcoming trial drags on, sources say the Democrat strategy is to get under the president's skin. Well, is it working?

And the president wonders if Canada's prime minister is behind a decision to cut his scene out of one of the "Home Alone" movies that's playing on Canadian television.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:31:13]

KEILAR: All right, this just coming in to the SITUATION ROOM. Long- time radio talk show personality Don Imus has died. His "Imus in the Morning Show," which he hosted until March of 2018 was a must-stop for politicians and entertainers. He was 79.

A source tells CNN the White House is working on a list of potential replacements for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who, reportedly, is considering running for an open U.S. Senate seat in his home state of Kansas. So let's talk to our reporters and our analysts all about this.

And, Kylie, you're learning that they're developing this list. So who is on the list?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes. So there has been a flurry of conversations about what happens if Pompeo decides to vacate his spot right now as America's top diplomat and run for what will be this open Senate seat in Kansas, his home state.

And so, we've learned that the White House is, indeed, working on a list of potential folks who could come in and be Mike Pompeo's replacement.

Now, "The Washington Post" first reported on the fact that this was a conversation being had, and a source confirms to us that, yes, there are people's names being discussed at the White House.

They include Steve Biegun. He is the deputy right now to the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Also, Robert O'Brien. He's the national security adviser to President Trump. He's kind of new in that position, but he spends a lot of time with the President now because he is working out of the White House.

The third person is Steve Mnuchin, who is the Secretary of -- sorry, the Secretary of --

KEILAR: The Treasury.

ATWOOD: -- the Treasury, too. Thought it was Commerce (ph).

KEILAR: Yes. No, it's OK. We all have our Rick Perry moment (ph).

ATWOOD: And -- KEILAR: It's fine.

(LAUGHTER)

KEILAR: It's good. I know you know who he is.

ATWOOD: And Steve Mnuchin, however, is seen as someone who is close with Qatar. So that could be an issue because we know that Jared Kushner, who is a very influential player when it comes to President Trump picking people for influential posts, is close with the Saudis.

Now, the source basically warned me. This is a conversation and this is ongoing, but we know that President Trump often changes his mind and he's also influenced by outside perceptions, outside conversations.

He's down in Mar-a-Lago. He could be discussing this with folks on the golf course while he is there, so this is really an evolving list.

But it comes as Mike Pompeo has launched his own personal Twitter feed to kind of cast himself a softer light, kind of the all American who drinks beers and stands by the Christmas tree with his family. So it's a really interesting moment to be talking all about this (ph).

KEILAR: OK. And we have this because, to your point, I mean, Lauren, look at this thing. This doesn't scream Secretary of State.

(LAUGHTER)

KEILAR: This screams, at the most, Secretary of Agriculture because there's farmland right behind him there, right? It's rolling -- sort of rolling hills. His dog, he --

LAURA FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes.

KEILAR: It was his dog. Do you see? I mean, what an approachable guy with a dog. So what does that -- what does that sort of make you think?

FOX: Well, this certainly would make Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's Christmas, right?

KEILAR: Yes.

FOX: This is something that the Senate leader has been really pushing for, hoping for, that Pompeo would run for this race in Kansas.

And I will tell you that those conversations have been ongoing for many, many months, so this is something that would make the Majority Leader very happy this holiday season.

KEILAR: Toluse, is a Senate run a good move for Pompeo?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, it depends on what he wants to do next. If he wants to run for president as many say he wants to do in 2024, going to the Senate and showing that he has some policymaking chops may be good for him.

But you have to remember that everyone in President Trump's cabinet serves at his pleasure, and President Trump has gotten rid of a large number of cabinet members by kicking them out via tweet.

Pompeo seems to be one of the few people within President Trump's orbit that has a good relationship with him. He was the CIA Director. He moved on to be the Secretary of State.

[17:34:59]

It seems like he has carte blanche within the Trump administration to do what the -- whatever he wants within the administration. So if he decides to leave the administration and run for Senate, that would be sort of an unknown.

And it would be sort of a situation where he may not know exactly what's going to happen. If he stays with Trump, he is tying his fortunes to Trump.

But the fact that he has a good relationship with the President means that he is in a better position than many of the other cabinet officials who have found themselves on the wrong side of the President and who have been fired by tweet. That doesn't seem like it's going to happen to Pompeo.

But if he runs for Senate, he may end up working with Trump in a legislative position. Or if President Trump goes down in 2020, then Pompeo would have a future of his own, and he could run for president from there. So I think that's what he's considering as he decides what to do over the next few months.

KEILAR: Ron, let's talk about this impasse that's happening right now between Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Mitch McConnell has said he's not an impartial juror. He is coordinating with the White House when it comes to the impeachment trial. Schumer is taking issue with that. However, listen to what he said during the '90s during the Clinton impeachment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHUMER: The Republican leader said proudly, quote, I'm not an impartial juror. I'm not impartial about this at all. This is an astonishing admission of partisanship.

KING: Anybody taking an oath tomorrow can have a pre-opinion. It's not a jury box.

SCHUMER: Many do. This is not a criminal trial, but this is something that the founding fathers decided to put in a body that was susceptible to the whims of politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: He's also said that they're -- they're not a jury in that

people can call them up and lobby them, whoever that may be, constituents, et cetera. He said that at the time in the '90s. And so, in a way, he was saying, like, they're not exactly a jury.

What do you think about this and what this says -- I mean, he's defending himself on this and saying it's not apples-to-apples.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

KEILAR: But what do you think about those words from the '90s undercutting him now? Are they?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, first of all, it's great to see Larry -- first of all, it's great Larry King. So happy -- happy --

KEILAR: Oh, it is, yes.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWNSTEIN: Happy new year to him. Look, I don't think anybody expects senators to check their partisan identity at the door in a Senate trial.

I mean, it's not a coincidence that every Democratic senator in 1998 voted not to remove Bill Clinton from office. And for that matter, every Democratic senator in 1868 voted not to remove Andrew Johnson from office.

But there is a distance, I think, between saying that you're going to have a very high bar for voting against a president from our own party and going the next step that McConnell has done and basically saying I'm going to structure the trial in a way that is completely acceptable to the defendant.

I mean, it still seems amazing to me that we are contemplating something as momentous as removing a president from office, something we have never done, with the possibility that we will never hear testimony under oath from such central players as John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo, key officials at OMB.

The idea that Republicans in the Senate, just from an institutional precedent that they are setting, would be OK with the White House basically saying we're not going to let anybody testify, we're not going to release any documents, it's just remarkable to me.

There is going to be another Democratic president someday. There's going to be a Republican Congress that wants to hold oversight over them. And they are going to be looking back at the precedents they are establishing here and realizing they've left themselves in a very weakened positioned.

KEILAR: Toluse, you're in Florida. You're covering the President this holiday week, and the President has just been going after Speaker Pelosi on Twitter.

I wonder, do you think -- I mean, I've asked Democrats, they will not admit this. Well, some of them will, actually. Debbie Wasserman Schultz admitted this. Does his anger validate the strategy of Speaker Pelosi? What do you think?

OLORUNNIPA: Well, it's clear that the President is obsessed with this entire process and the fact that he does not have control over it.

Nancy Pelosi came into the speakership and showed from the very earliest moments during the shutdown last year that she was not going to play by President Trump's rules. And she had a certain amount of power within the system, and she's using that power right now.

And the fact that the President is tweeting about this constantly, talking about it even though he's, you know, supposed to be spending time with his family and friends -- he's surrounded by his acolytes in Florida -- he's not in a comfortable position.

And I think Nancy Pelosi knows that, and he is -- she's using that to sort of dangle this over him, realizing that, as long as this plays out, as long as the President is angered by the fact that he does not have control over this, that she has some level of leverage.

And she's going to try to use it to try to get something out of this trial in the Senate, whether it be witnesses, whether it be some sort of a fair process.

And I think she is realizing that President Trump is not going to keep his cards close to his vest. He's going to tweet out all of his emotions.

KEILAR: Toluse Olorunnipa, Ron Brownstein, Lauren Fox, Kylie Atwood, thank you so much to all of you.

The cost of chaos coming up in the Trump White House. A new book looks at the relationships between the President and the top generals who were once part of his administration and now are gone.

Plus, what's behind this week's string of suspected hate crimes targeting Jews in New York City?

[17:40:04]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: We have news just in. Defense officials say one U.S. civilian contractor was killed in a rocket attack in Iraq. Several U.S. and Iraqi service members were also wounded. This attack happened at a base near Kirkuk, Iraq where U.S. service members and civilian contractors are located.

And joining us is CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen. His latest book was just published. It's called "Trump and His Generals: The Cost of Chaos."

[17:45:02]

And we're going to speak about that in just a moment, but, right now, this attack that we're seeing, it's unclear who is behind it. There's been a string of attacks, though, against U.S. forces in Iraq by Iranian-backed militias. How big of a problem is Iran for the U.S. right now?

PETER BERGEN, AUTHOR, "TRUMP AND HIS GENERALS: THE COST OF CHAOS": Well, I would say Iran is also a big problem for Iraq. I mean, think about these protests, Brianna, that's been happening in Iraq. I mean, a lot of them are anti-Iranian in flavor, and you're really seeing kind of nationalist Iraqi protesters getting out in the streets.

Thousands have been killed protesting what they see as a pro-Iran government, which has caused the collapse -- you know, the Prime Minister has had to resign. The President has offered his resignation.

So, I mean, this is all part of a larger scene, which is there is a lot of unhappiness about Iranian influence in Iraq from Iraqis. This is not -- and then, of course, some of that is directed at the American troops who remain there.

But, you know, we are still in a war zone in Iraq, and we're still in a war zone in Afghanistan. We had an American serviceman killed in Afghanistan just in the last several days. These wars haven't gone away, but, of course, the casualty rate has really gone down considerably.

KEILAR: Right, and let's talk about your book named "Trump and His Generals." He likes to say, my generals, right?

So he had a bunch of generals who were in his administration. And it started off with this sort of fascination, sort of a fawning approach that he had with them. Then it changed. What happened?

BERGEN: Well, I think, you know, President Trump went to a military- style boarding school. He said it was like being in the military. It made a big influence on him. One of his favorite movies is "Patton." I mean, he had this very romantic view of the generals.

And, of course, the generals hadn't also signed this Never Trump letters. We go back to the Never Trump kind of movement. There were hundreds of people who signed these letters. Basically, they were not going to jobs.

So -- and so, this -- these generals -- you know, John Kelly, who became Chief of Staff, has said publicly that he would have served for Hillary Clinton. I think a lot of them signed up because of duty, and some of them signed up also because of unhappiness with President Obama.

Jim Mattis, who was the Secretary of Defense, essentially, was forced out of the office several months early by Obama. H.R. McMaster didn't like a number of things that Obama had done in terms of not responding to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, putting a withdrawal date on Afghanistan. So there was a combination of factors why they said yes.

KEILAR: You make the point, though, when it comes to foreign policy. President Trump actually has some things in common with President Obama, more than maybe you would think. What do you mean?

BERGEN: Well, you know, once you strip away the rhetoric, both of these guys come from outside the traditional kind of political apparatus. I mean, they're not machine candidates, and they both saw themselves as being elected to get out of America's endless wars.

And certainly, Obama did that in Iraq at the end of 2011. Certainly, he thought about it in Afghanistan. Here we have President Trump, again, sort of thinking about it. I mean, he's gone back and forth.

But at the end of the day, they're not sending big conventional armies into the Middle East as President W. Bush did in 2003. They're using special operations, special forces, drones, cyber warfare, and they're careful with the use of force.

KEILAR: And this is a pivotal moment that I know you will be watching. We'll be watching it along with you, Peter Bergen, as we watch what happens in Afghanistan.

BERGEN: Absolutely.

KEILAR: That's going to be the big question when it comes to President Trump and his foreign policy.

"Trump and His Generals," Peter Bergen, on shelves right now, "The Cost of Chaos." Thank you so much.

BERGEN: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: And coming up, an update on a string of suspected hate crimes across New York City with two more investigations started just today.

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KEILAR: We're getting new information about that crash of a tourist helicopter in Hawaii. Officials say that they have found the wreckage, and the crews are on the way to look for any possible survivors.

This helicopter was carrying six tourists as well as the pilot when it was last heard from yesterday. And there are two children among them.

Also tonight, police are stepping up their presence in New York City after new reports of suspected anti-Semitic hate crimes. CNN's Polo Sandoval has been watching this story. Tell us what's going on here, Polo.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, the numbers are certainly deeply disturbing here, seven reported anti-Semitic incidents in just a week here in New York City. Two of them actually happened just today.

In one, three women claimed that they were slapped by a woman in Brooklyn. Police say the female suspect told their detectives that she did it simply because they were Jewish.

And there's another incident that happened today. A man walking into the global headquarters of the religious movement, Chabad, in Brooklyn and allegedly threatened to shoot and kill people inside the center. Well, the NYPD, tonight, looking for that man at this hour.

Four other incidents took place on December 23rd and 24th. You're looking at surveillance video of one of those incidents that's been investigated by NYPD's hate crime task force. In this, you can see a man in religious attire that's highlighted in that video when he's suddenly attacked from behind in Brooklyn by multiple suspects.

Yesterday, also, in another case, a Jewish mother reported being verbally and physically assaulted with a bag while she was with her child.

So you look at all these different situations here, all these different incidents. So the regional director for the Anti-Defamation League weighing in told me a little while ago that he worries that people are simply becoming more numb to this kind of behavior because it's happening so much.

And precisely why the NYPD tonight, as we continue to celebrate Hanukkah, says that it is out in full force working with Jewish leaders to make sure that their communities feel safe and protected, Brianna.

Because if you remember, it was just over two weeks ago that that community was shaken by a deadly shooting right across the river in New Jersey at a kosher market. That attack driven by hatred towards police and towards Jewish communities.

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

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Coming up, more details about the Democrat strategy leading up to President Trump's impeachment trial.

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