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House To Vote On Sending Trump Impeachment Articles To Senate. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired January 15, 2020 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And pursuant by Clause 9 of Rule 20, this 15- minute rule on adoption of the resolution will be followed by a five- minute vote on agreeing to the speaker's approval of the journal, if ordered. This will be a 15-minute vote.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I am Brianna Keiler. And you are watching history in the making. The House of Representative now putting the final touches on the impeachment process. This is the vote on House impeachment managers.
This is the Impeachment Managers Resolution. These were folks chosen by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to prosecute the case against President Trump in the Senate. And then these managers will lay out the evidence against president on abuse of power for his own personal political benefit and for obstruction of Congress.
Then the articles of impeachment will formally be hand-carried to the Senate later today.
And then it's up to the Senate to act to put their rules in place, take the oath and the, we, America, are off and running with just the third ever presidential impeachment trial that we have had.
Our Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill, and the day is finally here, Manu.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it. It would set the ceremonial steps eventually to take place today, this after this vote that's going to happen, a vote that will be on party lines. We'll see if any Democrats ultimately defect.
We did see, of course, during the impeachment itself, two Democrats vote against the abuse of power impeachment article. One of those Democrats has now become a Republican. And we saw three Democrats vote against obstruction of Congress. That included the freshman Democrat from Maine.
We'll see if any of them decide to vote against this, which is more of a procedural vote, actually naming the impeachment managers. But, of course, this will come down along party lines and it will get approved. And when those seven impeachment managers are formally approved by the House, that's when those steps will take place. Later this afternoon, Nancy Pelosi will actually formally sign documents that are related to the transmission of those articles. The House clerk then will sign them as well. And then there will be a procession that will occur, those seven impeachment managers walking from steps away from where I am right now across the Capitol through the Capitol Rotunda to the -- and bring it to the doors of the Senate where they will actually have the articles of impeachment.
Now, I am told that the Senate will formally accept the articles. They do not plan to formally accept the articles. Instead the House -- the clerk will read a message saying they're ready to deliver the articles and Senate will send a message back to the House saying that they can deliver the articles tomorrow. So we can expect those articles to be formally accepted by the Senate tomorrow.
At that point, the House impeachment managers will read aloud from each article of impeachment and that will lead to the swearing in of the chief justice of the Supreme Court and the swearing in of all the senators who act as jurors in this trial and then the opening arguments won't begin until next week.
So the ceremonial steps happening today and tomorrow, and then behind closed doors, each side, Democrats and White House, will prepare their arguments, Democrats making their case of why the president should be removed, the White House pushing back, they'll write their briefs and make their arguments. But a historic moment right now as the House is essentially finishing its formal proceedings as they're planning (ph) to send the articles of impeachment to set up that historic trial in the Senate. Brianna?
KEILAR: All right. Manu, thank you so much for walking us through all of that. I mean, it's all incredibly simple, isn't it, folks, right?
I want to talk about this historic day now with Alan Frumin. He was in the Senate Parliamentarian's Office during the Clinton impeachment trial. We have CNN Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel with us, Sophia Nelson, former House GOP Investigative Counsel during Clinton impeachment and CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash with us.
Okay. So they're voting on the impeachment managers, seven of them. What did you think of the folks that the speaker chose?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first, I think, maybe to underscore what Manu just said, which is happening right now, which is this is the last official act of the House of Representatives when it comes to this major step that they took, which is to impeach a president of the United States. The seven managers you have just talked about, they are still going to have roles, big, big roles in the trial. But as it comes to the entire House, this is it that we're seeing right now.
And the managers -- I mean, I first went up to Capitol Hill 21 years ago to help out on reporting on the Clinton impeachment trial. And I remember the managers back then. And they didn't look like the managers that Nancy Pelosi, you know, that they're voting on right now. I mean, look, it was Republican white guys. And this is a diverse, not just with the ethnicity but also
geographically and in many other ways. But most importantly, these are members of Congress who have -- many of them have a lot of background and experience in prosecuting a case, which is the job that these managers have. They are going to prosecute the case.
KEILAR: Yes, it's quite a legal team. How long has it been since they practiced law? I guess we'll see.
BASH: That's a different question. Some of them not so long ago.
KEILAR: That's right, some of them not so long ago. You don't forget. And they have certainly a base level of knowledge that many members of Congress don't have.
So let's talk about this moment. And, again, we are watching the vote here, which we should point out, this is totally party line so far, 55 --56 yays, all Democrats, 39 nays, all Republicans, so we're going to watch that for the magic number. Dana Bash?
BASH: 216, I think, still. But the outcome is not in doubt.
KEILAR: That's right. We know what's going to happen. So this is -- and as Democrats know, Sophia, what is going to happen here, what do you think about what this symbolizes as a historic day?
SOPHIA NELSON, FORMER HOUSE GOP INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL: Well, it's an amazingly historic day and I think the symbolism for the public will get very real when they watch the managers walk over and they literally hand off to the secretary of the Senate. And then, as was stated by Manu, the secretary of the Senate then has to notify the House that they've received the articles and that they're ready to receive the managers. It's a process.
Now, the Constitution says and the rules say that you are supposed to start the trial immediately when the articles are received. But they're not going to do that. Apparently, I think, Tuesday Mitch McConnell is saying. That's my understanding.
BASH: They're going to start the ceremonial and they're going to swear them in.
NELSON: So they will do the ceremonial part but they won't start the trial immediately, which probably was something that they would have done back 100-plus years ago and just done it immediately and done their business.
So it's an amazing historic day for this country and it's also a sad day. The president is right now in the West Wing, I mean, in the White House and he is signing a deal with China, a trade deal, and we're impeaching him and sending articles -- already impeached him. But that's a real juxtaposition of where we are.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: He did mention it in the middle of the China deal. He did say, some of you congressmen may have to go vote, and what word that came up, the hoax. So it's getting under his skin. Even on a good day where he's having a very good day, an important announcement, he brought it up.
KEILAR: Alan, take us inside of the process which you are familiar with. We have heard Manu detail it. But just walk us through what it's like to be there for this.
ALAN FRUMIN, ASSISTANT SENATE PARLIAMENTARIAN OFFICE DURING CLINTON IMPEACHMENT: Well, whenever you talk about the Senate and you talk about Senate process, when you say the Senate always does or the Senate must do, you're going to find yourself in trouble. We know what the Senate is supposed to do, we know what the rules say it should do, we know what the Senate has done in the past. And, frequently, that's a poor guideline.
So let's go back to what usually happens when one House has a message for the other House. Messages are usually taken by messengers, clerks, not elected officials. The clerks carry messages between the two Houses and usually they are received in the other body by the clerk or
by the secretary of the Senate. It's not a big deal. Well, this is a big deal.
And we saw in the Clinton impeachment, when the Senate had adjourned for the year, that the House Managers marched over en masse and presented the articles of impeachment to the secretary of the Senate who was there. And, of course, the staff works all the time whether the House or the Senate is in session or not.
We were speculating that the managers who are being appointed right now, as we speak, will themselves actually physically carry the articles over to the Senate. That wouldn't surprise me. Why not? It's a photo-op. They will presumably be announced at the backdoor of the Senate either by the sergeant-at-arms or by secretary for the majority, announcing that the House of Representatives has adopted articles of impeachment against the president, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Now, under the Senate's impeachment rules, the secretary of the Senate shall quote immediately, immediately notify the House of Representatives that the Senate is ready to have the managers, quote, exhibit the articles, which means read them on the floor of the Senate, and the Senate will take proper notice thereof, words to that effect.
The word, immediate, in the rules means immediate notice to the House. It doesn't mean that the House will come back immediately. So there is some play there.
NELSON: Then the chief justice comes in, correct?
FRUMIN: Well, the chief justice enters after the managers have been invited back, whatever that time is. And once you're in an impeachment trial, every decision is within the power of the majority. So the Republican majority will determine exactly when the managers are invited to come back and exhibit or present the articles of impeachment, which means reading them.
After that happens, the Senate will appoint an escort committee to bring the chief justice into the Senate. The Senate, while this is going on, has probably formally notified or will formally notify the chief justice by messenger that he is invited to attend and preside over the impeachment trial.
FRUMIN: Invited, yes.
KEILAR: It means something different here in Washington.
FRUMIN: Well, yes. And it was fascinating to watch Chief Justice Rehnquist in the Clinton trial preparing his remarks with respect to his presence in the Senate. And the nature of his language changed from something along the lines to at your command to consistent with your request.
KEILAR: I wonder -- sorry. Go on, Sophia.
NELSON: No, I was just going to say Justice Rehnquist, if you recall, they took that oath several times then they did it individually, not just as a body.
Do you recall what I'm talking about? So it was pretty fascinating.
KEILAR: I wonder if this is really the position that the chief justice wants to be in.
NELSON: He doesn't have a choice.
KEILAR: I mean, he's being invited, but this may not be an invitation, quote, unquote, that one jumps at. I mean, certainly, with the gravity of the situation, and it is a sad day for the country that the chief justice has to do this.
GANGEL: I'm sure no chief justice wants to do this. But I think Chief Justice John Roberts has made it clear that he is going to follow Rehnquist's lead. He is not going to be interfering with the process. He is going to be presiding over the process.
And just to go back to sort of our guidance on what's going to happen today, I ran into Nancy Pelosi this morning. And what she said was that she believes the House managers will walk over, that it will happen at About 5:30 this evening. So that's the end of the day. And that then
they will be called back tomorrow for the swearing in, for them to read the articles.
What I thought was interesting was she gets to decide today, at 5:30, that they go over. Tomorrow, it's up to Mitch McConnell. The power changes over to him. NELSON: One quick point I think is worth noting for the public that once we're done with the process, 51 senators control what happens though. So I don't want people to get the misimpression that somehow Mitch McConnell is going to control this whole thing.
That's not really true. When it comes down to the questions and things that they have to vote on, 51 senators, just a simple majority, control that. Those four or five, six Republicans become critical in what will happen, whether it's witnesses, et cetera.
KEILAR: And can you speak to that tension that they have between -- especially ones who are in more moderate states, where their voters expect maybe something different from them. And they're in a bind between Mitch McConnell and them.
BASH: There's a reason why Democrats, since Nancy Pelosi started using the term, cover-up, on Sunday, had been saying it more and more and more, along with the term, fair trial. The reason is to put the squeeze on those Republicans. Because our colleague, Phil Mattingly, said it so well in a story this morning, which is, we know this is going to happen now. Even Democrats say they are pretty confident what's going to happen at the end, which his that the president is going to get acquitted.
But what happens between now and then is totally in flux. We don't know how this question of what witnesses, if any witnesses, are going to go down, and now that we have the information about Rudy Giuliani and so forth, whether or not these documents or any documents will be pushed on the Senate trial.
So those are really important questions. And as you said, Brianna, it's all senators but in particular the senators who publicly, three senators, Republican senators, have said they want witnesses, and the others have said, we're open it to. And with each question as the steps of the trial go along, there will be different dynamics that play into how it's going to go depending how those senators feel.
KEILAR: And as those senators come to a decision on whether there should be witnesses or documents, and when we would see that in this impeachment trial, that might give them relief in order to say, hey, I voted for there to be more information. But there's a bit of conundrum in that Democrats believe the more information that comes out, the harder it is to vote no on impeachment. So this is sort of the trap they're in.
NELSON: That's what I said during the break. And you told me I'm an optimist. I am. But I believe --
KEILAR: But let's remind, they have to get two-thirds, right, in order for a conviction to happen, and that's a high number, 20 Republicans.
NELSON: Yes, it's going to be a high bar for people like Susan Collins and not just Cory Gardner and others, how do you explain that all this stuff is happening or you flat out said no or voted for a hokie (ph) motion that you shouldn't have or you followed Mitch McConnell versus your conscience in your constituents. It's not going to be an easy walk for them. At least 10 of them are going to struggle with this.
GANGEL: It's also going to be interesting to see whether any more evidence comes in. A lawyer who has worked at the Justice Department and is familiar with the Southern District of New York has been saying to me for weeks, what is coming from the Southern District of New York? Could there be something with Rudy Giuliani? Could that evidence, something new, documents, emails, texts, end up that might --
NELSON: Make a move.
GANGEL: -- make your optimism count for something?
KEILAR: Dana, you have covered so many of these senators. Alan, you were there on the Hill in the Senate Parliamentarian's Office where you get a lot of casual access to senators. I wonder what your reflections are as you look at some of them struggling with their conscience or making political decisions. We know that some of them are.
FRUMIN: Well, I certainly won't name names. But I have to assume there is what I think of as a, quote, critical mass, a substantial number of senators who know the right thing but are constrained by the political realities against doing the right thing. And I think this must be enormously difficult for them.
One of the things I learned in my 35 years on the Hill is senators take their roles very seriously. The Constitution created the Senate as a different, quote, more mature body. And for the most part over the years, the senators understood that and took on these responsibilities, really taking a solemn oath.
And so it's my guess, and I've been gone for eight years and I don't talk to them, I don't want to bend their ear, my guess is there are a number of them who I know to be honorable men and women who, if they felt they could, they would do the right thing.
NELSON: Also, I think, quickly, to his point, in the Senate, you're not going to see the food fight that you saw in the House, the very nasty comments back and forth, one because, as you were pointing out, the senators have to be silent.
Again, I don't know what the public knows about this, but after this starts, they're jurors. They're sitting there. They can only submit questions in writing. So that's it.
GANGEL: Not only do they have to be silent, but I saw the note you sent --
KEILAR: No electronics.
GANGEL: By pain of imprisonment if they open their mouth. KEILAR: You said what the Senate should do and what the Senate does do is entirely different. What are you expecting?
FRUMIN: I don't really know. I am going to sit back and watch. I do know again that some of the senators have begun to talk more favorably about having witnesses. Every impeachment trial that the Senate has conducted has had some number of witnesses.
And I think the senators know that and I think they are being told that more and more. And so I think the pressure will be on a number of senators in the middle to form just the number of senators necessary for there to be some sentiment for witnesses.
KEILAR: If, Dana, Mitch McConnell had his way, what would this look like?
BASH: No witnesses. I mean, he's very open and honest about it.
KEILAR: So he feels that way. But I wonder what does he -- does he reflect on what that might mean as history shows there are witnesses? Is that a concern for him?
NELSON: 19 impeachments, all witnesses. 19, everyone of them have witnesses.
GANGEL: But at the end of the day, he wants this over with as quickly as possible. He had a meeting with the Republican Conference, one of the lunch meetings, and he said to them, this is going to be unpleasant, was the word he used, for the next couple of weeks. And I don't know about you, he said, but I'd like to get through unpleasant things as quickly as possible. What he's saying is no witnesses. He thinks he has the votes to acquit, and he wants to get there.
KEILAR: What's his objective?
BASH: Exactly what Jamie just said, his objective is --
KEILAR: He doesn't worry about how history will maybe judge this moment?
BASH: It's a hard question to answer. If you ask that question in a broader context, you probably should also look at what happened with Merrick Garland and people who are historians and, you know, even some Republicans will say, we don't remember there being an actual rule that you can't even hold a hearing for a Supreme Court nominee just because it's an election year. So that is part of Mitch McConnell's history. This will be part of Mitch McConnell's history.
But Mitch McConnell also wants to stay majority leader. He wants to stay in charge. He wants his fellow Republicans to have control of the Senate. And back to the discussion before about pressure points on several members of his conference, the Republicans who are up for re- election, it goes both ways, maybe not on the end game, on the acquittal, because you can already hear people like Susan Collins or Cory Gardner in Maine and in Colorado who have a tough re-election battles, going home and saying, you know what, I voted to acquit because who am I to take that power away from you or an election, which is also unprecedented.
The middle part and being able to go home and say, I did what I could to have justice and a fair trial, as the Constitution says, and I know it's right, that's a different question. That's the pressure point pushing against the tide that McConnell is trying to keep flowing and move fast.
KEILAR: That is such a good argument that they can say.