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Pelosi Suggests She'll Send Articles of Impeachment Tomorrow; White House Finalizing Impeachment Strategy; Sanders/Warren Feud Emerges Ahead of Tonight's Debate; Democratic Debate to Focus on Foreign Policy Following Soleimani Attack; State Department Officials Unaware of "Imminent" Embassy Threats. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired January 14, 2020 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.
The impeachment standoff is coming to a head today. The final debate before the first vote is happening tonight. In short, today is another day we are watching history play out.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, she just wrapped up a closed-door meeting with her Democratic caucus. Sources are telling CNN she he laid out next steps in the impeachment process.
Pelosi indicating she will send the articles of impeachment to the Senate tomorrow, finally answering the question that has been hanging over all of this and held up this historic chapter for almost a month.
As for the White House, it is getting ready for a fight, clearly, finalizing the strategy for a trial, including a key decision on who will be on the president's legal team in the Senate.
CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House.
Let's start with Manu.
Manu, what happened this morning?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She made it very clear they plan to move forward in the House and begin the process that will lead to the Senate trial to begin with in just a matter of days. Expect a vote on the floor on the House tomorrow to name those impeachment managers. The Democrats will actually prosecute the case on the behalf of the Democrats and argue the president should be removed from office.
And also, as part of that, those impeachment managers will go over to the Senate and would deliver the articles of impeachment, read aloud from the articles on the Senate floor. That will begin a process that will span over multiple days that will lead to the arguments that will occur in the Senate where the Democrats make their case and the president's defense team will make its case.
Now, the -- behind closed doors, Pelosi did not tell her members about who exactly will be on that team, impeachment team. We expect names to come out over the next day or so.
She also defended her decision to withhold the articles of impeachment, also criticized what she believes is unfair process that Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader, is detailing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): -- a fair trial. And she's worked very hard to establish the groundwork so that the American people will understand, see a transparent process that nobody is above the law.
RAJU: How does the speaker address the impeachment issue in there just now?
REP. ROSA DELAURO (D-CT): Well, she talked about what has not happened in the Senate, and which we all -- which we all know about what speaker -- what Leader McConnell hasn't done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: She also sharply criticized Mitch McConnell, apparently, I'm told, at one point, contending he might be a rogue Senate leader and suggested perhaps he may have Russian connections. She mused about that behind closed doors.
She also raised concerns about reports that Russia hacked into Burisma, the company that employed Hunter Biden, in what could be an apparent effort to find dirt about Joe Biden. She said that the Gang of Eight, the members that she is a part of, were not briefed on that hack and she raised concerns about what apparently may be another Russian effort to interfere in the U.S. election.
A lot of talk here about the next steps, but clearly this is moving rapidly. We had planned to go to the impeachment trial phase in the Senate and that could take place and wrap up potentially by early February, if not earlier -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: Let us see.
Thank you, Manu. Appreciate it.
Jeremy, what are you learning about the legal strategy that the president is coming up with?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Kate, the president's legal team has been preparing for weeks for this moment, for the House to send over the articles of impeachment, and for that Senate trial to begin soon thereafter.
We know the president has been frustrated by that delay, because, of course, he is hoping for vindication in this Senate trial, hoping that Senate Republicans stick together and provide him that vindication that he has been seeking.
But there are still questions about exactly who will be arguing the president's defense on the floor of the Senate. We know, of course, that the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, and the president's outside lawyer, Jay Sekulow, will be leading the arguments on the Senate floor.
There's a question about, who will be the additional voices we could see on the president's legal team.
Two sources are now telling us that Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, whose involvement with Ukraine is at the heart of this impeachment of -- the impeachment case against the president, he has been lobbying the president now to join that team, to be able to make the case on the Senate floor.
That is something that has deep opposition among people close to the president and on the president's legal team. But it is something, of course, that Giuliani has talked to Trump about, so that's something to keep in mind.
And then also this question about whether any of the president's fiery House Republican allies, like Congressman Mark Meadows or Jim Jordan, could potentially join the president's legal team as well on the Senate floor to make that case.
And this is really part of kind of that broader push and pull between what the president's legal team wants to do, which is really a legal defense that, you know, doesn't start a lot of fires, doesn't create a lot of chaos, versus what the president would like to see, which is more of a theatrical political defense. And that has been kind of a push and pull there.
A lot of people advising the president against bringing some of those House Republicans on, including Republicans in the Senate. But, again, remains to be seen.
And, again, the White House's legal team is keeping the option open of adding additional members of the president's legal team as this trial goes on, depending on how House Democrats make their case, who exactly those House managers are, and how many of them there are -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: Jeremy, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Manu, thanks as well.
When the House managers are decided, and are now announced, the first job, first and foremost, physically delivering the articles of impeachment to the other side of the capitol.
This is what that moment looked -- the most of history looked like in 1999, when the Clinton impeachment trial was about to begin 21 years ago. A moment when the House managers just walked them over from the House side to the Senate side.
So what is it all going to look like this time around?
Joining me now, Joe Lockhart, former White House press secretary during Clinton's impeachment, and CNN legal analyst and expert on impeachment, Ross Garber.
Good to see you. Thank you for being here.
Joe, Pelosi, just on the moment at hand, Pelosi keeping everyone in the dark maybe not on timing anymore, but now on the House managers, what is the point at this point, do you think?
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: A little bit of a cat-and- mouse game going, she announces the managers. That will give the White House some sense of strategy. She wants to hold out as long as she can.
I can tell you, though, that couple of things. One is the group going over to the Senate will not look that white and that male.
LOCKHART: And, secondly, the people who are the House managers, I think, have known they have been House managers for a while. You --
BOLDUAN: Are you telling me, when members of Congress have been evasive with no comment, when I asked them on air --
BOLDUAN: -- they really may have been -- may not have been telling me the truth?
LOCKHART: Well, let's -- let's put it this way. Those who said, I haven't talked to the speaker yet, they're not House managers. Those who said, I don't want to answer your question or speculate, they may be.
Because McConnell could start this thing Thursday or Friday. There has been tremendous preparation by the legal staff, by the staff, and by the people who knew they were going to be House managers, since the day the impeachment articles were passed.
BOLDUAN: Yes, so beyond, Ross, the Democratic House managers, there's -- Jeremy was getting at, there's kind of an internal Republican debate over who should be speaking on behalf of the president when the trial begins.
Senate leadership, they have been pushing for Trump to not include kind of the Republican House fire brands that have become known to speaking and speaking in defense of the president. Rudy Giuliani is also apparently now been lobbying the president to let him be included.
How important is that team?
ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, it is incredibly important for a couple of reasons. Remember, there are two separate and related, but separate interests at stake. One is the interests of the presidency.
Those interests are at stake in impeachment. It is really a clash between the legislative branch, the House, and the executive branch, the presidency.
So the interests of the presidency are very much at stake. And there we're going to see Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, take the lead.
And also personal interests, the interests of the individual who occupies the office, the president. There we have Jay Sekulow sort of taking the lead.
I agree, I don't think it makes any sense and I think it -- it is actually unbecoming this notion that House Republicans would come over and somehow represent the interests of either the presidency or the president individual. I think that's a conflict. I think that violates separation of powers.
But I think the individuals who actually do it could have a very big influence in defining the presidency and protecting the interests of Donald Trump, the individual.
BOLDUAN: So interesting.
And then so let's get to this. I've been itching to talk about this for a while now, the Clinton model. You got so much talk about it from so many members of Congress, especially Mitch McConnell. He said over and over, he wants to use the Clinton model. That is start the trial now. We'll talk about witnesses later. On the most basic level.
You were there 20 years ago, when he's -- is that a fair representation of the Clinton model? What Mitch McConnell is talking about?
LOCKHART: Yes, and no. Yes, that's the model they used. But no, in the most important sense, which was you can't compare the two.
During the Clinton impeachment, you already had the Starr investigation. Every witness that had anything to say, and I mean everyone, was in the grand jury and testified and that material was delivered to Congress.
You had hundreds of thousands of pages of documents that were handed over that everyone -- so you knew everything. All this was about was presenting the evidence.
And in this case, you don't have the evidence because the president blocked the witnesses and the documents.
So it is, in one sense, the Clinton model, but entirely misleading to say that Mitch McConnell wants it.
And let's remember, Mitch McConnell argued forcefully on television for witnesses in 1999. Even though he knew what everyone was going to say.
BOLDUAN: I mean, it is that kind of hypocrisy is maybe not surprising when we're looking at it.
BOLDUAN: But important to know the historical reference that they're talking about, nonetheless.
BOLDUAN: There's so much debate, Ross, over what a fair trial looks like here. You have dealt with multiple impeachment trials of public officials. What would an objectively fair procedure for this Senate trial be? Is there one?
GARBER: Well, so -- the question is always, fair to whom. Fair to the House managers, fair to the president, fair to the American public? I think, you know, and, you know, the answer depends on where you're sitting.
I think in terms of, you know, the American people, which you want to see, I think, is a trial that kind of plays out with evidence where people can see what the Senators are using as a basis for their decision and they think that that record is sufficient.
Now, the Clinton trial, as Joe said, that wasn't set up for that purpose. It was set up in a way to not have witnesses, to get to a very speedy result.
And I think there's -- actually an important part of the Clinton rules that I think nobody is focusing on, that I think, you know, maybe this president and future presidents might think is unfair.
And keep an eye on this part. It is right at the beginning of the rules, where it says that everything that the House collected, everything that they collected automatically becomes a part of the Senate record and the president has no opportunity to object to it.
Keep an eye on that provision, because the whole thing will -- was set up at that point to kind of get to a speedy result.
And so it will be interesting to see how it plays out. Whether there are witnesses and whether -- and who those witnesses are and whether that record from the House actually gets transmitted without the president having an opportunity to have a -- an objection to it.
BOLDUAN: First and foremost, the trial needs to begin, the articles need to be delivered. And we learn this morning, vote is likely to indicate -- that begins tomorrow.
Joe, Ross, thanks, guys. Really appreciate it.
Coming up for us, on the day of the final Democratic debate before the first voters weigh in, two long-time friends are feuding. How will the new rift between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren play out on the debate stage tonight?
And later, Speaker Pelosi said she wouldn't hand over the articles of impeachment until Mitch McConnell guaranteed a fair trial. And also until Mr. McConnell would lay out what the procedures were. Is that what she got? I'm going to talk to a Democratic Congressman who was at the closed-door meeting with the speaker this morning.
BOLDUAN: It's 20 days now to the Iowa caucuses. That means tonight is a critical moment for the Democratic candidates to begin making their closing arguments. They'll be taking the stage for the final debate before the first vote. A debate you can see only on CNN.
It is the smallest debate stage to date, with six candidates qualifying. And two of them taking to the stage with a new rift between them, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
It is over what Sanders said to Warren or didn't about whether a woman can win the White House. Warren says, in a 2018 conversation between the two, she says it went like this, quote, "I thought a woman could win, he disagreed."
Sanders pushing back forcefully, first calling early reports of the conversation ludicrous, then putting out his senior adviser, Jeff Weaver, last night to say more. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF WEAVER, BERNIE SANDERS' SENIOR ADVISOR: There's some wires crossed here, but clearly Bernie Sanders did not say a woman could not win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Joining me now, CNN's M.J. Lee, who first broke this story, and CNN's Ryan Nobles at the debate site in Des Moines.
M.J., what are you hearing about this, this morning?
M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, we're in a very different place than where we were yesterday when we first reported on this story because of the fact that Elizabeth Warren last night put out an on-the-record statement.
You know, it is one thing to have multiple people, including people that Warren spoke to at the time this meeting took place, versus the Senator herself saying on the record that she was told by Bernie Sanders in this meeting that a woman could not win.
Now, I thought what was interesting, from the statement, though, other than that key sentence of, "I thought a woman could win, he disagreed with me," is how much the other part of that statement really emphasizes the fact that they have worked together, the fact that they are allies and friends, the fact that they have a common vision.
Clearly, she wants to emphasize the fact that she and Bernie Sanders are very much aligned when it comes to sort of the progressive causes that they're fighting for.
And I think that is where she will want to keep the conversation if this is brought up at the CNN debate tonight.
BOLDUAN: Regardless, this is out there now.
Ryan, you've talked to the Sanders campaign. Any clue what this means for tonight's debate from them?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the first thing I would say is, to M.J.'s point, she's right, both campaigns would like to move on but this is sitting here and something we have to deal with tonight.
And other thing is the Sanders campaign is really upset over this overall because they feel that this is not the way that Bernie Sanders conducted himself in this interview. The Senator has been insistent on that.
The other point is how it relates to tonight, Kate. If the Sanders campaign views this as the next stage of the campaign for them, they are now considered to be among the frontrunners. As a result, they're going to be in the crosshairs of some of these other candidates.
I spoke at length yesterday with their campaign manager, Faiz Shakir. Listen to what he said about this new-found attention that Sanders will be getting tonight and going forward.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP):
FAIZ SHAKIR, CAMPAIGN MANAGER, BERNIE SANDERS 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Three weeks before the Iowa caucus, you have some anonymous sources out there who want to throw bombs and suggest that Bernie Sanders is someone he isn't. It is politics. You want to come at us, everyone is coming at us now.
Come at us. It is fine. Don't spread lies about Bernie Sanders. Never, ever would he ever suggest a woman can't be president of the United States. It is ridiculous. (END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: Now, we should point out that we had this interview with Faiz prior to Elizabeth Warren putting out that statement last night. And at that time, Shakir and the campaign were insistent they wanted to hear from Warren directly.
The broader point here, Kate, is that this campaign is now full on with just a little more than two weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses, and these campaigns recognize now that they can no longer play nice.
BOLDUAN: And the Sanders campaign is showing that. From Bernie Sanders on down, they're ready to go directly to each candidate, be it Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden.
This is first debate since the United States was on the brink of war with Iran, Ryan. Joe Biden we know is happy to turn the debate to foreign policy.
Are you hearing Bernie Sanders wants to make it about that, too, but for different reasons?
NOBLES: They absolutely do, Kate. For some time now, the Sanders campaign has been itching for a fight with Joe Biden when it comes to foreign policy. And they view that the situation in Iran, the global region in the Middle East in general, is the perfect opportunity to draw those very stark distinctions.
Yes, Joe Biden does have an impressive foreign policy portfolio, not just in the Senate, but as vice president. But they argue that some of his decision-making in those positions was not necessarily in the best interests of the United States.
And they're going to lean back on Sanders' lengthy record as being opposed to military interventions in regions like this across the world, going back to his entire career, chief among them being his opposition to the war in Iraq.
They want that conversation to take place here. They realize that both Biden and Sanders are in different places when it comes to this. And they hope that they can draw that distinction in a big way on this debate stage here tonight.
BOLDUAN: Ryan, thanks so much.
M.J., great reporting. Thank you.
Reminder, it is all happening tonight on CNN, the Democratic presidential debate hosted by CNN in partnership with the "Des Moines Register." That's 9:00 eastern. See you then.
Still ahead, President Trump now claims that Iran's top general posed an imminent threat to four U.S. embassies. Why does the State Department officials tell CNN they were, quote/unquote, "blindsided" by the president's claim?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, first of all, I think it has been totally consistent. But here's what's been consistent. We killed Soleimani, the number one terrorist in the world, by every account, bad person, killed a lot of Americans, killed a lot of people. We killed him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: President Trump saying there that what he sees as consistent.
What is not consistent is, still more than 10 days after the drone strike that killed Soleimani, is the intelligence that necessitated the attack.
Remember, initially, the strike was needed, according to the president, to, quote -- due to, quote, "imminent and sinister attacks being planned." The administration then did not lay out what the imminent threat was.
Then the president said Iran had been targeting four U.S. embassies. And then the defense secretary had to admit he had not seen that intelligence.
And today, adding to that inconsistency, State Department officials involved in embassy security are now telling CNN they were not aware of any imminent threat to four specific embassies.
CNN's national security reporter, Kylie Atwood, has this new reporting.
Kylie, this is important detail that you are picking up. What does this mean for everything that the president has been saying about why he had to move to take out Soleimani.
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, so our reporting further undermines what President Trump has been saying, which is that there were four U.S. embassies that he believes were under the threat of an imminent attack from Qasem Soleimani.
We heard over the weekend Secretary of Defense Mark Esper say he had not seen specific evidence that demonstrated that four embassies were facing an imminent threat.
Now we are learning that State Department officials involved in embassy security, the folks that should be aware of these threats, were also not made aware of any specific threat that President Trump has described.
Now what is important to note here is the State Department has been working around the clock. They have been in touch with their U.S. embassies worldwide. They sent a worldwide security warning, security threat warning. That was before the Qasem Soleimani strike.
And then they followed that up, and they made phone calls to U.S. embassies in the GCC, to the regional security officers there, telling them if they needed more security, they could call the State Department.