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Some Dem Senators Say Pelosi Should Send Over Impeachment Articles; Sources: U.S. Increasingly Believes Iran Mistakenly Shot Down Ukrainian Airliner; New NH Poll: Four Candidates in Top Tier; Pelosi: Not Guaranteeing "Fair" Impeachment Trial. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 9, 2020 - 12:30   ET

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


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[12:34:37]

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Some fracture and frustration today among Democrats over the impeachment articles. The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi telling reporters earlier this morning, she will continue to hold them for now.

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REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): At some point, we would hope that we would see from them what the terms of engagement will be. I'll send them over when I'm ready. And that will probably be soon. I think we should move smartly and strategically.

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[12:35:03]

KING: That was a bit of grumbling. But Pelosi still has a tight grip on her House Democratic members. But that control does not carry over to the Senate where more and more Democrats are saying Pelosi's strategy has outlived its usefulness. Listen to this from fellow Californian, Dianne Feinstein. She told POLITICO last night, so if it's serious and urgent, send them over. If it isn't, don't send it over.

Laura Barron-Lopez with POLITICO joins our conversation, fellow Californian, fellow San Franciscan, saying, Nancy Pelosi is really from Baltimore. We saw more Baltimore than San Francisco today at that press conference. But what is -- how significant is it that you have more and more Democrats saying, OK, come on, let's go.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it definitely applies more pressure to Pelosi to try to send them over sooner rather than later. But rather than saying that that's what she's going to do. She said that she doesn't answer to McConnell and that she wants to hold them and see more details, citing that McConnell went to the White House yesterday and talked to the President about the impeachment proceedings. And yet the House still hasn't seen those details. Privately, a number of House Democrats will grumble and say to us that, you know, they are frustrated, they want this to get a move on. But you don't see them stepping out of line. Today, we saw the armed services chairman step out of line. And he walked it back a few hours later.

KING: Well, let's go through that because it's instructive. We often talk about how Republicans are afraid to the President, even Republicans who privately say things about us, damning of the President or damning at the White House or damning of how do things, critical of the policy. They don't like to say it publicly. That happens, guess what, on the Democratic side, so here is Adam Smith, you mentioned, he's the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. He was on CNN this morning and he was pretty clear.

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JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Is it time, chairman?

REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA): I think it is. I think it was perfectly advisable for the speaker to try to leverage that, get a better deal. At this point, it doesn't look like that's going to happen. And yes, I think it is time to send the impeachment to the Senate and let Mitch McConnell be responsible for the fairness of the trial.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Then it quickly became evident as Laura noted that Adam Smith likes being chairman. He tweeted short time later, I misspoke this morning, I do believe we should do everything we can to force the Senate to have a fair trial. If the Speaker believes that holding on to the articles for a longer time will help force a fair trial in the Senate, then I wholeheartedly support the decision.

PAUL KANE, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Nancy Pelosi has the implicit trust of her entire caucus from the far left to the far right. They just trust her. And her and Chuck Schumer are talking every day, I'm told, about strategy. But Chuck Schumer just doesn't quite have the same grip on his own caucus.

So Chris Murphy, Dianne Feinstein, Angus King, Joe Manchin, all the corners of their caucus basically are saying, I think it's time to do this. And Chuck Schumer just can't tamp them down the way Nancy Pelosi can in her caucus.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Some of it is a difference between the Senate of the House but not all of it. I mean there's not been a Republican speaker who's been able to control his members at all over the last several speakers that we've covered.

But Speaker Pelosi without question is, yes, they trust her. And people are afraid of her. But the reality is, you can sense that this is coming soon, as she said, it was coming soon.

One thing I heard over and over this week when I've been spending some time on Capitol Hill is that they were looking at the date of February 4th. That is the date the President is coming over to give the State of the Union. Speaker Pelosi apparently has told several people that she would like the trial to still be underway. So he would not be cleared of this at that point when he is the House of Representatives. So perhaps that timing is interesting.

Now, that's about three weeks or so away.

KING: Right.

ZELENY: It's hard to control exactly the timing of this. But that is one thing that was mentioned to me several times. Who knows? We know what's happening soon. She can't wait forever, and she said that. But she controls the cards and no one knows but her.

KING: No one knows but her. She did say, soon, today. So we'll def --

ZELENY: Right.

KING: It depends on your definition of soon, I guess. One of the other questions here, she -- we don't know who the House managers will be. She says, she's waiting to know the Senate rules. Does one get to talk? Does two get to talk? Does three get to talk? Fair point. We'll see how that one goes. The other thing is what will the President do in his defense. And there are a lot of questions. You know, Pat Cipollone, the White House Counsel, will be his lead attorney.

This from "The Washington Post" today, House GOP leaders in recent weeks have advocated for Trump's most aggressive defenders, Republican Representatives Jim Jordan, John Ratcliffe, and Doug Collins, to cross the Rotunda and help White House counsel, Pat Cipollone rebut the two charges that the President abused his power and obstructed Congress.

Mitch McConnell has gone to the President and said, please, please keep the House guys on the House side. We don't want that. How is the President going to come down on this, is the big question.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY DC: And it's not just Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham has also side that he thinks the President needs to pick someone to argue the case outside of Pat Cipollone in addition to Pat Cipollone who is not seen as a partisan, because you have to remember Chief Justice John Roberts of the Supreme Court will be up there, and just generally senators.

They don't want to hear it from them. They've already had their chance they feel like in the House. They don't want it to turn into a partisan exercise. Graham advised him to pick someone who is not seen as political but has argued in front of the Supreme Court before. And my sources are telling me that they have not heard anything about some of these House folks that we're talking about being on the team or the President's personal lawyer that right now it's Pat Cipollone who is running the show.

[12:40:16] KING: We shall see who they fill on the team. But I guess maybe they know the rules that Nancy Pelosi doesn't. Maybe Mitch McConnell told them how many of them get to speak as we go. We will see.

Coming up on CNN, we'll have fresh reaction from Iran about that Ukrainian airline and now believed to potentially have been shot down by accident. We'll be right back.

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KING: New information now on a dramatic breaking news story this hour. U.S. intelligence agencies increasingly believe Iran may have shot down accidentally that Ukrainian airline flight. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live for us in Tehran with the first reaction from Iranian officials. Fred, what are you learning?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. Yes, I promised you at the beginning of the show that we try to reach out again to the head of the Iranian Civil Authority and ask him directly, confront him directly with these allegations that were put forward by U.S. Intelligence Services. And he did not flat out deny that a missile strike could have taken place.

However, he did say that he strongly questions whether one took place. He says that the plane took off and was flying for several minutes, that then something happened and the plane tried to return to the airport. He said that if the plane would have been hit by a missile, it would have immediately gone into a free-fall.

He then says, how can a plane be hit by a rocket or missile and then the pilot tried to turn back to the airport? So the head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Iran which is in charge of the investigation is not flat out denying that some sort of incident could have taken place, some accidental shootdown could have taken place. But they do strongly question that.

Now, there are other Iranian media outlets and there's been one investigator, I think, on the ground who said or who claimed the Iranians did not find any missile debris at the crash site.

[12:45:03]

Of course, it's impossible for us to independently verify that but the Iranians continue to say that they are going to conduct what they call a transparent investigation. They have said that Ukrainian investigators are on the ground here, and they also say that they are capable of reading the information that's on the black boxes. They say one of the black boxes has been damaged but they also say they're giving the information on the black boxes to the Ukrainian investigators tomorrow, John.

KING: Fred Pleitgen, live for us in Tehran. We'll stay on top of the story, and we're grateful to have you there to take the lead.

Up next for us here on INSIDE POLITICS, a new snapshot from a very close race in the New Hampshire Democratic primary. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Twenty-five days until Iowa casts the first ballots in the 2020 presidential election, New Hampshire comes a little more than a week later in 33 days from now. New evidence this hour, the New Hampshire Democratic primary is a jump ball. Take a look at some numbers here.

A Monmouth University poll, Pete Buttigieg on top, if you want to call it that, 20 percent. Joe Biden at 19 percent, Bernie Sanders at 18 percent, Elizabeth Warren at 15 percent. So a top tier that is packed close tight in this race. Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard, Tom Steyer, and Andrew Yang round out those who received more than one percent of the vote.

Here's what's interesting when you look at this, again as we wait to see are there trends as people get ready to vote. Back in September, Pete Buttigieg was only at 10 percent in the Monmouth poll, so a big jump for him over a few months. Joe Biden down a bit, Bernie Sanders up a bit. Something else to keep an eye on in the Democratic race. Sanders is going up at the moment. Elizabeth Warren dropping significantly in the state. Both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are neighbors.

[12:50:00]

What do we make of this? Here we go.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, on the Sanders run, I think he's routinely underestimated. I mean, he's been very resilient throughout this race, coming back after a heart attack. But also the impact that the impeachment trial will have on potentially those numbers especially for people like Sanders and Warren. It will not help them that they cannot be in Iowa in the days leading up to the caucus.

ZELENY: It is still very, you know, strong news for Pete Buttigieg without question. He -- and we believe he is as strong in Iowa as well. He has been. We'll find out our new poll Friday evening is when it's going to be released on that.

But I think the question is Elizabeth Warren. Is she able to, in the next three weeks or so, able to regain her argument, regain her steam? She's changed how she's campaigning pretty dramatically in terms of going on television much more, in terms of, you know, engaging more.

But that's why that debate next week here on CNN is going to be so important because you have Bernie Sanders going after Joe Biden directly in a way he hasn't. But without question, Elizabeth Warren is looking for some oxygen here. It's -- time is running out for that.

KING: It's interesting to watch because she was sluggish early in the campaign then she owned the summer. Elizabeth Warren just owned the summer and swept up. You're right, now she is trying to deal with a little bit of -- I call it the, you know, everything strategy. She's on the Sunday shows, which is rare, she's doing other television. Here is a little piece where she's making a selfie pitch to millennials from "Elle".

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SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You're too good for him. If he wants to go silent, let him go. He is not the one for you.

We need to cancel student loan debt. This makes no sense at all. We're crushing an entire generation.

Forget about yourself. Think about the person who's taking the selfie with you and how much fun they're having or what it is that's behind you, or the funny thing you want to show off. Stop thinking about yourself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: When I -- this is where I need help. When I started doing this for a living, people would say, you can't do that in running for president. But we live in a whole new world now. Is that the way to do it?

CHAMBERS: You got to do what you got to do, but I'm with you, on the Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren point, look, he beat Hillary Clinton on that state by 22 points. It was more than 50,000 votes. Even if all of those don't go to him, let's say Elizabeth Warren gets some of those voters. They're definitely two people that you want to keep watching in New Hampshire, especially after those debates, as you noted.

KING: And maybe he breaks out or even if it stays in a close pack, remember, he may be, you know --

CHAMBERS: If his voters' turnout though.

KING: He has support everywhere and he has proven he can raise the money and keep it going.

KANE: You also covered the campaign where Bill Clinton brought out the saxophone on Arsenio Hall.

KING: Yes I did.

KANE: So there are just different ways to communicate. And if you're going to be stuck in the Senate floor --

ZELENY: As long as it's authentic. And the question is at this moment of the campaign, was that authentic or not? We'll see what the voters say.

KANE: Yes.

KING: Change is good, most of the time.

Up next, a crash course in Nancy Pelosi's iron grip on her caucus.

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[12:57:24]

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PELOSI: We want to see what they're willing to do and the manner in which they will do it. But we will not let them say, oh, this is just like Clinton, fair is fair. It's not. Documents, documentation, witnesses, facts, truth. That's what they're afraid of.

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KING: The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier today continuing her standoff with her Republican counterpart in the Senate, the majority leader Mitch McConnell. Pelosi says he will get the articles of impeachment soon, but she won't say how soon. It's a gamble, Time magazine says that out of the cover, a great piece by Molly Ball, you should read it, about the speaker's gamble here.

The question is, when does the clock run out on this gamble of hers, and will she get what she's looking for?

KANE: The answer on will she get what she's looking for is no. Mitch McConnell just isn't going to budge. And when Mitch McConnell gets into a process fight, the thing he loves best is when he can grab a Democratic precedent, so he's calling it the Clinton precedent. This is how the Clinton trial unfolded so we're going to do that. He did this with Merrick Garland and Scalia on the Supreme Court and he just said we're going by the Biden way.

KING: So he says they're going to use the Clinton rules. But the Clinton rules were adapted 100 to nothing. He does not give any indication that he's going to get the Democrats on board for the vote.

BARRON-LOPEZ: And they also say that they may change the Clinton rules a little bit, not that they'll be going with them a hundred percent. And so that is also why Pelosi is saying, what are those changes going to be, how is this going to look? And, you know, even though she may not get what she wants, Pelosi very much has the backing of her caucus and she enjoys getting in these fights with McConnell.

ZELENY: And McConnell has the backing of his, as you said. Every Republican you talk to in the Hill says the Clinton rule, the Clinton rule. Every -- so he has everyone locked up. They're not getting any both --

CHAMBERS: But the White House as well. The White House is also pushing that same line. They are in lockstep with Mitch McConnell on this. And to the point of Nancy Pelosi saying that we're going to see what else we can get from Mitch McConnell, Mitch McConnell and the White House making it clear, you're not going to get anything else and so, now (INAUDIBLE).

ZELENY: She's got (INAUDIBLE) we should point that out but I think that's probably all she's going to get. KING: Yes, her point is that they've got some questions about the fairness. John Bolton has raised his hand. Will that happen as we go forward? But it's interesting, it's about the impeachment of a president. Should he be convicted and removed from office now is the question. Discipline is not often a word attached to the president.

You have Pelosi and McConnell, probably two of the most disciplined politicians in Washington.

CHAMBERS: But the question -- I was going to say, but the question about John Bolton though is whether or not they could vote for witnesses beforehand or if it's after they decide the rules and the procedures and then take a second look at potential witnesses.

KING: The Clinton vote came after the testimony after the prosecution and the defense then the witness. That's how it was then. We shall see.

See you back here this time tomorrow. Thanks for joining us in the INSIDE POLITICS. Don't go anywhere. Busy day. Brianna Keilar starts --