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Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Sets Stage For Dramatic And Decisive Impeachment Move; Six Democratic Candidates Face Off Tonight In Critical CNN Debate; Trump And First Lady Cheered By Crowd At LSU- Clemson Game. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired January 14, 2020 - 13:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN RIGHT NOW: I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, a live look at the CNN debate stage from Des Moines where tonight's six Democratic candidates will face off in the final debate before the first votes in the nation.

Moments from now, the candidates will arrive at the site. They're going to take a tour of stage. And first up, we'll see Joe Biden. He has been trading jabs with Senator Bernie Sanders over his Iraq War record. And speaking of Sanders, all eyes are also on the match-up between him Senator Elizabeth Warren after Warren claimed Sanders told her a year ago that a woman could not win the presidency.

Also tonight, two candidates, Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar who have a lot riding on these early states, they are looking to have a moment. We're going to take you there live.

But first, history unfolding before our eyes here in Washington, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be delivering the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate tomorrow prompting just the third presidential impeachment trial in American history. There are still plenty of unanswered questions. Who will the House choose to prosecute the case? What kind of defense will the president put up? And will Senate Republicans allow witnesses or documents?

Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. And the timeline that we've been asking about for weeks, Manu, is getting a little less murky today.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it, because tomorrow, they will cast a key vote in the House to name those impeachment managers, and then after that, the articles of impeachment will be transmitted to the Senate. This after, of course, on December 18th is when the House voted to impeach the president on two counts, abuse of Power and obstruction of Congress.

Those two articles will be delivered by those impeachment managers to the Senate. The managers will then read aloud the articles in the Senate chamber before the members there and then we'll deal with some ceremonial aspects of the trial before the actual trial actually begins in earnest, expected the Tuesday after Martin Luther King Day, so a week from today.

Now, behind closed doors, Nancy Pelosi tried to make the case to her members about why she withheld the articles. She argued that she has been pushing for a fair trial, in her view, in the Senate, and she's concerned, according to one of her colleagues, that she's not going to get a fair trial because of what Mitch McConnell -- how has been handling things so far.


REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI)L I think many things have come out since we passed it on December 18th, but what she wanted is the American people to understand that we needed to have a transparent process and that the trial must be fair. There were people in the Senate that were moving to dismiss it, to not even have the American people understand the issue, and I think you're going to see that there will be a fair process now.


RAJU: Now, she issued a statement shortly after announcing that Wednesday vote, and Nancy Pelosi said this. She said, the American people will fully understand the Senate's move to begin a trial without witnesses and documents as a pure political cover-up. She said, Leader McConnell and the president are afraid of more facts coming to light.

Now, Mitch McConnell, for his part, took to the floor and attacked the House case. He said if they wanted to pursue witnesses, they should have went to court. It's not the Senate's job to do a do-over of what the House has done. So expect that fight, Brianna, over witnesses or whether to call any to only intensify as the trial kicks off. Brianna?

KEILAR: Of course, that court process would have been so long and protracted. That's what Democrats will say.

Manu, thank you so much for that report from Capitol Hill.

Senate Republicans have the numbers to do pretty much whatever they want in the impeachment trial if -- and this is a big if -- if moderate Republicans don't peel off. Call witnesses, don't call witnesses, make this quick and dirty or slow and deliberate.

President Trump likes to tout the fact that no Republican House Members broke ranks to vote for the articles in the first place, but he may not be able to count on unanimous support in the Senate, at least when it comes to calling of witnesses.

Our Tom Foreman is here to break this down for us. Which Senate Republicans are you watching, Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are a few who have indicated that they could push back on what the White House clearly wants, complete exoneration and no more airing of dirty laundry. Let's start with Mitt Romney from Utah. He has said explicitly, I would like there to be witnesses. The pattern I think they want to go for here is that they would hear the case from the House, they would talk about it and then decide whom else they might want to call. So he's on more with that.

Lamar Alexander says that he's open to witnesses. He's not running for re-election later this year. He has nothing to fear, he can go forward in any way he wants to.


Lisa Murkowski from Alaska has said she was disturbed by the idea of Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, saying he will work hand in glove with the White House. She doesn't like that. She says, we're working for a process of have witnesses or documents come forward.

All of these folks have also stood up to Donald Trump at various times. And, of course, Susan Collins from up in Maine, she has often spoken out about Donald Trump and some of the concerns that she has against him. And she's from a very moderate position on this, I tend to like information. So she's pushing for a chance to call witnesses.

The biggest pushback on these four though that you have to do have to bear in mind is that there are people who are very much in Donald Trump's camp who are, in a sense, trying to say there is going to be a quid pro quo. If you call witnesses that could make the president look bad and make people look at this evidence again, then they're going to push to say, we want Joe Biden called, and we want Hunter Biden called, and we want a bunch of people drawn into this mess that we can say, well, look, they're guilty too, or they did something wrong too.

So that's the fight going on in the Republican Party right now, and it's tough, Brianna, because these Republicans do not want to be seen as just a rubber stamp even though some of them clearly kind of like to be that at this point.

KEILAR: V> very good point, Tom. I tend to like information. I think you tend to like information too, right?


KEILAR: A bit, all right. Tom Foreman, thank you for walking us through that.

And you're looking now at live pictures of tonight's debate stage. This is where former Vice President Biden has just arrived for his walkthrough in Des Moines. And, currently, Biden is locked in a four- person race in Iowa. He has just 20 days, as do all the other candidates, they have 20 days left until the first Democratic contests, so time is really running out to win over caucus-goers and voters.

Arlette Saenz is with us now from outside the CNN debate hall there at Drake University. And we also have National Political Reporter for The New York Times, Astead Herndon, with us. So, Arlette, there is a lot going on from the impeachment to the Iran crisis aside from 2020. Tell us what are we expecting tonight? How are all of these factors going to impact this debate?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Brianna, these candidates are certainly heading into crunch time here in Iowa with just 20 days to go until the caucuses here in February. And tonight, we're going to see six of the top Democratic contenders on that debate stage, trying to make their cases for why they should be the Democratic nominee.

And as you mentioned, there are quite a few topics that could coming up tonight. First and foremost is foreign policy. This campaign has really focused on domestic issues, but since the tensions with Iran began escalating, foreign policy has come front and center for these Democratic contenders. And that's something that why Joe Biden's campaign sees as a potential advantage to them.

Now, also tonight, there have been some clashes already brewing offstage. It's going to be interesting to see if they come on stage tonight, and that is between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The two of them have been duking it out over the past few days after reporting that Bernie Sanders had told Elizabeth Warren that he did not believe a woman could win the presidency. It's unclear whether or not they're going to engage on that tonight.

You're also going to have Pete Buttigieg, who has been slipping a little bit in the Iowa polls, trying to reclaim his lead here, and then Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer both looking for breakout moments as we're just 20 days out from the caucuses.

KEILAR: Astead, how do you think that Warren-Sanders kerfuffle, which we should say is rare. They've just kind of gotten into it here recently. How do you think we might see that playing out tonight?

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it is very rare. I mean, these two people are not only friends but long-time political allies there. Bases overlap on the progressive wing and they have kind of together been our story, called them the mom and dad of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. And so to have them kind of reach this moment is unique.

Now, let's remember, the candidates themselves haven't been the ones really adding fuel to this fire. Now, certainly, Bernie Sanders said that he did not say that remark that a woman could not win the presidency, but he just said that sexism was pervasive and that Donald Trump would try to use that against any nominee. Our reporting and what Senator Elizabeth Warren said last night was that he did say that a woman could not win.

But given in her statement then, she tried to downplay their differences. She emphasized the points of which they're together and she said it was just a punditry difference between them. She did not cast it as a moral comment from Sanders saying that -- talking about women's worth in politics. So they're already starting to de-escalate. But what we don't have is a de-escalation from their supporters. Many of Bernie Sanders supporters have lashed out at Senator Warren trying to say that she is using him for political gain, and that is creating a back and forth. And you wonder, will they be dragged into on the stage tonight.

KEILAR: I want to listen to something that Senator and former Presidential Candidate Cory Booker said, because all six candidates on the stage tonight are going to be white. And he addressed that lack of diversity.



SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): We have got to find a way as a party, as a nation, both parties, to understand that we are a diverse nation.

The Democratic Party which represents the true rainbow coalitions of America has got to do a better job of getting more candidates running on all levels, supporting a system that doesn't benefit big money but really big values.


KEILAR: I want to ask you both about this, Astead, to you first. What does this say? He talks about the party there. What does this say about the party and what does this say about Democratic voters or primary voters or people who are just interested in the primary?

HERNDON: Yes. this has been a question that's been brewing over the last months, and really crystallized in this debate, the first one in which every candidate will be white on the stage. Senator Booker and others have made a kind of clear argument that the electability question that has hung over this entire primary has caused voters and media and punditry to think about candidacies in terms of who can best appeal to the white working class voter, that voter that may have flipped from Obama to Trump in the Michigans, in Wisconsins and Ohios. And that that has led to a preference among voters for white candidates.

You also see the donor class plays a big role in this. Also Senator Harris and Senator Booker both left the race partly because they didn't have enough funds. How is their vision of electability really impacting this race?

But we also have to say that the candidates of color did not excite black and brown constituencies in this race. Black voters are overwhelmingly supporting Joe Biden, which is why he's in the lead. You have had Senator Bernie Sanders have significant Latino support, which has helped him in states like Nevada.

So it's not just an easy question of representation. It's one that has a structural answer, but also maybe these candidates and these voters just weren't looking for the same things. KEILAR: And, Arlette, I mean, Bernie Sanders has made some stride in appealing to voters of color. But it's worth noting that both Kamala Harris and Cory Booker really struggled to win over black voters who were in Joe Biden's column. Can you talk a little bit about that and why some of those voters were just so reticent to seek another candidate?

SAENZ: Well, I think you've certainly seen Joe Biden, really, the core base of his support throughout this campaign has been made up by those African-American voters. There was a poll released over the weekend that showed 48 percent of black voters, Democratic voters across the country, backed Joe Biden's candidacy.

And when I've talked to a lot of African-American voters when I'm down in states like South Carolina, they say that they feel that they know Joe Biden, that the fact President Obama selected him as his running mate, that that gives him some extra clout.

And you did have candidates like Kamala Harris and Cory Booker who were unable to potentially tap into that demographic of support that's going to be key going forward. And I think Biden, particularly, when you look at states beyond Iowa and New Hampshire and you get down to South Carolina and some of those Super Tuesday states that are a bit more demographically diverse, that he could potentially see a little bit more support down in those states.

KEILAR: All right, Arlette, thank you, Arlette Saenz and Astead Herndon, we really appreciate your insight there.

And many progressives are dreading the Sanders/Warren fight playing out on the debate stage. One is calling the feud stomach-churning. Might this feud actually end up helping Joe Biden?

Plus, the evolving claims by the Trump administration over the strike on Iran's top general evolved yet again.

And after the president and first lady are cheered at the LSU-Clemson game, their chat with Vince Vaughn earned the actor some backlash from liberals.



KEILAR: These are some live pictures that you're looking at there at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, because in only a matter of hours, there are six candidates who will be on stage, six now only, for this last debate before the first -- before the caucuses begin in Iowa, before votes are cast in New Hampshire.

And there is an escalating feud between two of the candidates who possibly could steal the show. And this revolves around a private conversation gone public between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

In a statement, Warren said that among the topics that came up was, what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate. I thought a woman could win. He, meaning Bernie Sanders, disagreed. And in an response statement to the initial story here that this was said in a conversation a year ago, Sanders had said, it's ludicrous to believe at the same meeting where Elizabeth Warren told me she was going to run for president I would tell her a woman couldn't win.

I want to bring Charles Chamberlain. He is the Chairman of Democracy for America. This is a progressive political action committee.

And, Charles, this has all spilled out in public after a Politico report over the weekend that the Sanders campaign has begun attacking Warren with a memo containing a script that tells volunteers to explain that Warren is only able to attract -- hold on one second -- I'm good now -- only able to attract highly educated, more affluent people and unable to grow the Democratic Party's base in a way to that is necessary to beat Trump.

I should add that Bernie Sanders is really trying to distance himself from that or that being a directive of the campaign. Why is this rift worrying you and other progressives so much?

CHARLES CHAMBERLAIN, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRACY FOR AMERICA: Well, I mean, I think that's a great question. And one of the things that's been really exciting about this primary from day one is the way in which these two candidates have worked together in solidarity, in message on fighting for Medicare-for-all, Green New Deal and fighting against the corporate wing of the Democratic Party so that they can win the nomination.


I think the reason why we're seeing it break apart right now in the short-term is, look, we're 20 days out, so supporters and even staffers are passionate, they're excited and they're way more likely to make mistakes.

But I think what we're going to see tonight is we're going to see this get put behind us all as the two candidates lead by example and show the progressive movement how critically important it is to continue to be on the same stage fighting the same fight together against the corporate wing so that the progressive becomes the nominee and we defeat Donald Trump in November.

KEILAR: You don't worry that there isn't room for Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in this race?

CHAMBERLAIN: I think there's absolutely room for both of them. In fact, what I'm excited to see is that as this race moves forward and we go from contest to contest, each one of them amassing delegates, and may the best person win. We've got a long time ahead of us before we ultimately have to decide between the two candidates.

The key right now is that the two of them need to defeat the corporate wing, need to defeat and win the nomination so that we can go ahead and defeat Donald Trump in November.

KEILAR: So I hear you. You are dismissing the idea that there will be anything other than a Kumbaya moment that kind of wraps this all up and puts it behind them. But what if that doesn't happen, right? What if this spills onto the stage tonight? Is that something that would benefit Joe Biden?

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, it definitely concerns me. It wasn't that long ago, 2004, when we saw Howard Dean and Dick Gephartd fighting it out together, and because these two liberal stalwarts were fighting it out, we saw the corporate establishment wing rise to the top. John Kerry ended up winning Iowa.

And I think it's really relevant to point out that John Kerry also then went forward and lost the general election. That's what I fear here. We need to make sure we have the kind of progressive nominee that's actually generating enthusiasm, support across the country. We're not seeing 20,000 people show up at a Joe Biden rally. There is not -- people aren't waiting 4.5 hours to have a selfie with the vice president. And that kind of lack of passion, that kind of a non- excitement from the Democratic base is a little bit frightening.

And a key reason why it's absolutely critical that we get a progressive nominee that can actually drive voters to the polls and make sure we win this in a big way in November.

KEILAR: All right. Charles Chamberlain, thank you, sir. I appreciate you coming on.

CHAMBERLAIN: You bet. Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: Be sure to tune in tonight. The CNN Democratic Debate hosted in partnership with the Des Moines Register will kick off at 9:00 Eastern only on CNN.

President Trump greeted with cheers at the college football championship, and his quick chat with actor Vince Vaughn is prompting quite a reaction.

Plus, just in, Senator Elizabeth Warren demanding an investigation into whether the president told friends at Mar-a-Lago about the Soleimani strike before it happened.



KEILAR: You are looking at live pictures from Drake University where -- ahead of the CNN debate tonight. You see Pete Buttigieg there, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and he's talking to their on our left, Sam Feist, he's our Washington D.C. Bureau Chief here at CNN, and Guy Pepper, who is our Chief Director.

You in the magenta, that is Liz Smith, Pete Buttigieg's senior adviser for communications, and they're just familiarizing themselves with all this.

I asked Sam Feist earlier, what are you talking about while you're up there on stage? And he said that they're familiarizing the candidates with the stage, because, as you know, each one is different here. They're pointing out where all the key cameras are.

They're talking about the timing process, where the clocks are, and they just want to make sure they know, which is important, you don't want to look lost if you're a candidate going on to the debate stage, where do they go on to the stage, where do they go off, and what the timing situation is for this debate, which is a minute, 15 to to answer questions and 45 seconds for a rebuttal and for a response.

So Pete Buttigieg there on stage now for this walkthrough of what is a key debate, the last one before the Iowa caucuses begin, before New Hampshire voters go to the polls.

And while the Democrats are sharing this debate stage in Des Moines tonight, President Trump is going to have the stage all to himself in Milwaukee, because he's doing his own counterprogramming with a political rally.

This comes one day after the president and the first lady went to another safe space, the college football national championship game in New Orleans where they were treated to cheers, lots of cheers and chants of USA, USA.

I want to bring in S.E. Cupp to talk about this. And, S.E., perhaps it's not surprising that the President Trump would do so well, he'd be so well received to the Clemson-LSU game, but it's really a reminder of just this intense support that he has among a sizeable chunk of the voting public.

S.E. CUPP, CNN HOST AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. And I could do the political analysis, reminding people why this president is popular.


It has to do with the economy.