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Limbaugh Makes Offensive, Homophobic Remarks about Buttigieg; Is Congress Still a Co-Equal Branch of Government Post Impeachment; Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA) Discusses a Possibly Neutered Congress, Barr Intervening in Stone Case, Trump Flexing Post-Impeachment Muscles, GOP Inaction; Former Ambassador Yovanovitch Has Warning for State Department; Former U.S. Ambassador Ronald Neumann Discusses Yovanovitch's Warning to State Department; "The Windsors, Inside the Royal Dynasty" Airs at 10:00 p.m. on Sunday. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired February 13, 2020 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I want to bring in S.E. Cupp.
You have longtime been an advocate for gay rights, especially at a time when many conservatives weren't, S.E. So I want to get your reaction to Rush Limbaugh's comments.
S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL: Well, it's kind of a laughable argument that a five-time draft dodger germophobe is somehow more manly than a guy who served in Afghanistan. But, you know, you do you, Rush.
Look, a funny thing happened in 2016. Republicans, when they voted for Donald Trump and accepted his multiple infidelities, multiple accusations of sexual assault, his, "Grab them by the (EXPLETIVE DELETED)" remarks, whether they voted for him enthusiastically or through some sort of Faustian bargain, they really let go of any moral authority about what a guy does behind closed doors. In this case, Mayor Pete's private, monogamous gay marriage.
And that's who Rush is speaking to. He's speaking to Republicans, who I don't think we're going to vote for Pete Buttigieg anyway. But that's going to be a real interesting argument if Republicans try to make it against Buttigieg, given the guy they elected.
KEILAR: Well, and so to that point, because you have said in the past that you've warned this for years. You said that if Republicans -- you said, Republicans would become relics if they didn't move to accept gay marriage.
How does that fit into what you're seeing here, and whether you think the president actually would, if Pete Buttigieg, if he was up against him in a general election, what he would do with this topic of the former mayor's sexuality?
CUPP: Well, look, I think Rush sounds like a relic. Because there's been so much progress, and as you mentioned, I've been in the equality fight for nearly two decades, and there's been so much progress, even within Republican voters, a full 60 percent of moderate Republican voters support gay marriage now.
I just think this issue has moved so far and progressed so far that it's just not going to be a hindrance to Pete Buttigieg's electability.
As we saw with that one voter in Iowa who learned of his sexuality sort of on the spot, I'm not saying it won't be an issue for any voters, including some Democrats.
And we can assume she was a Democrat, voting in the Democratic caucus, but I don't think it's going to be a significant enough issue for Democrats.
And it certainly shouldn't be a significant enough issue for Republicans, who as I say, voted for a gay, who does a lot of truly terrible things in his private life. And has absolutely no claim to any kind of moral authority over that kind of stuff.
KEILAR: S.E., thanks so much. We always love getting your thoughts. Thank you for being on.
CUPP: My pleasure.
KEILAR: And check out S.E. Don't forget to catch her show, "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED," right here on CNN, every Saturday at 6:00 p.m.
Democrats condemning the president's unprecedented influence on the Justice Department. But what, if anything, are they planning to do to reign him in? I'll be asking one of them, next.
Plus, ousted Ukraine ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, in her first public comments since the impeachment inquiry warning that America's State Department is in trouble.
KEILAR: Four federal prosecutors have walked off the Roger Stone case. One of them resigning altogether. This is in response to Attorney General Bill Barr's involvement in downgrading Stone's initial seven to nine-year sentencing recommendation.
And now CNN has learned that more federal prosecutors could soon leave as well, in protest.
But as President Trump flexes his post-impeachment muscle and Republicans refuse to hold him accountable, it's raising a question: In practice, is Congress really still a co-equal branch of government?
Joining me now to discuss this is Pennsylvania Congresswoman, Madeleine Dean. She is a Democrat on the very pertinent House Judiciary Committee.
I wonder, Congresswoman, what you think of that. If the president, with some of the actions he's taken and the Justice Department clearly not being impartial here at the leadership, is something that kind of neuters Congress in its ability to do oversight when you look at how the administration has resisted any documents or witnesses or anything.
REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA): Well, the events of this week are important reminder that the Department of Justice must be an independent department. Attorney General Barr is supposed to be the top law enforcement officer. He's not the personal attorney of the president.
And the events of this week, with the president publicly proclaiming that he thought that the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone was too great, and then within hours, Attorney General Barr and his department reducing the sentencing recommendation, the four heroes who stood up -- think of it, career politicians who left their post in protest over this interference by the president.
It could be a more serious time. We need an independent judiciary. We need an independent Department of Justice to enforce the rule of law and the president is attempting to corrupt all of that.
KEILAR: We can hear, over and over, frustration from Democratic voters who don't understand why Congress isn't able to carry out oversight.
So when you're looking, especially at the impeachment inquiry and investigation as a model for how the Trump administration resists oversight, which is quite effectively, what can Congress really do?
DEAN: Well, we did do something that was effective. This president stands forever impeached. He's one of only three presidents in our history. He is forever impeached for his abuse of power and his obstruction of Congress. It's utter corruption. And it's unconstitutional.
So we in the House did our job. And he stands forever impeached. I was honored to be a part of that sober process.
What I think, the framers didn't anticipate and what it was hard for us to watch, frankly, was a complicit Republican Senate. Imagine these grown Senators gave up their own credibility in support of a corrupt president.
Think of the silly words now, when you think of Senator Susan Collins' words, oh, well, the president's learned his lesson. What the president learned was that he's not going to be held accountable by the Republican Party or by Republican Senators, sworn to do impartial justice.
So we in the House, we're going to continue to do our role of oversight. And it's for the people. If this president will never learn his lesson, the people need to know what's at stake: Our Constitution and the rule of law.
And then they'll go to the polls in November and cast their vote for either decency or corruption. I have faith in the American people.
KEILAR: What do you say to some observers who say of the impeachment process, look, we knew, right, we knew it was going to happen. I mean, it was clear that there was a very high likelihood that Republicans were not going to join with Democrats to impeach the president. It would be historically -- it's never happened. So they say, well, you kind of knew how this was going to turn out.
And even knowing that, post-impeachment, the president is so emboldened, they actually, some of them point a finger at Democrats and say, wow, you really got him to -- you really got to show him that actually, you can't do much to him, other than put a scarlet letter on him. What do you say to that?
DEAN: Well, we did. Forever he is impeached.
KEILAR: How does that stop him from what we've seen, witness retaliation this week and his Justice Department intervening in the Roger Stone sentencing?
DEAN: Clearly, it doesn't stop him. As Maya Angelou said, when someone reveals himself, believe him the first time.
And I would remind the Republican Senators, believe this president. He is going to continue his corrupt behaviors, now much more emboldened by their complicity.
But I say, the American people want Congress still doing its work.
KEILAR: Is it doing its work?
DEAN: We are doing our work. We're not only investigating. We are litigating. We're passing legislation. We hope to pass infrastructure.
But let me go back to one thing. I did hold out hope that, A, we would actually have a trial. We never had a trial in the Senate, as you know. Mitch McConnell blocked all witnesses, all evidence.
But what we did get was Mitt Romney. A Republican Senator voted eloquently to convict the president on the first article of impeachment. I thought that was a very courageous moment.
I thought it should have been matched by many, many other Republican Senators, but there were people of goodwill, Democrats who voted to convict, and a Republican who voted against this president. Recognizing the grievous wrongs he did.
The American people need us to keep showing that.
KEILAR: And really quickly, knowing that it's a month off, but I want to ask you before I let you go, Bill Barr going to appear before your committee. What do you want to ask him?
DEAN: I'm pleased that he's coming forward. It's about time. We tried to have him in last year. He had agreed to come and then didn't come. And it is his responsibility, actually, to report to the Congress every year.
We certainly want to ask about the -- what appears to be a very lack of independence of the department that he is running. He has poured away his credibility. We saw it at the time of the Mueller report. Now we see it as a result of these convictions and personal favors for this president.
So I want to know why is it that he appears also to be on a domestic political errand for the president instead of being the top law enforcement officer.
KEILAR: Congresswoman Dean, thank you so much --
DEAN: Thank you. Nice to be with you.
KEILAR: -- for coming into the studio.
DEAN: Thank you.
KEILAR: We appreciate it.
The State Department is in trouble -- that is the warning coming from former ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, in her first public comments since her ouster. What else she's saying about the state of American diplomacy, next.
Plus, the president versus his home state. Why the New York governor, who is a big critic of the president's, is meeting with him at the White House in what's become a bitter standoff.
KEILAR: Ousted ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, the highly respected career diplomat who became one of the central figures in Trump's impeachment, is doubling down on a message that she warned about during her testimony before the House.
She said that, "The State Department is in trouble." That is a quote. Something she said as she addressed a crowd at Georgetown University for the first time since her testimony back in November.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Right now, the State Department is in trouble. Senior leaders lack policy vision, moral clarity and leadership skills.
The policy process has been re replaced by decisions emanating from the top with little discussion. They can go unfilled and officers are increasingly wondering whether it is safe to express concerns about policy even behind closed doors.
It is not news the State Department is hollowed out from within at a competitive and complex time on the world stage. This is no time to undercut our diplomats.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: And joining us now to discuss is retired ambassador, Ronald Neumann. He is the former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan as well as Algeria.
Sir, thank you so much for being with us.
RONALD NEUMANN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN & ALGERIA: You're most welcome.
KEILAR: You know, you were actually -- you were there, so you were able to witness this address by the former ambassador. What did think about it overall?
NEUMANN: Overall, I think it was very serious until -- well, parts of it were lighter. She talked about how she came as a child, what her parents went through escaping from the Nazis and things like that. She had the pieces you picked up. I mean, she's very critical, but it was fairly low key. It wasn't stem winders (ph).
KEILAR: Did you think that it would kind of cause the splash that it has?
NEUMANN: I shouldn't say this, but I hadn't thought about it.
KEILAR: You hadn't thought about it. I appreciate your candor.
NEUMANN: It seemed like it was one more statement of the kind of statements many people have made, but it happened to pick up the right news moment, I suppose.
KEILAR: And a lot of people share her opinion in the diplomatic community.
I know you're watching the State Department. When you look at just this drain we've seen of expertise from the State Department, do you think that's the biggest issue that is facing the State Department?
NEUMANN: The drain of senior experience, I think that hurts. The biggest issue to my mind is the lack of career appointees in the senior positions.
I'm not saying they should all be career. But what the career brings to the discussion is they can tell you when an idea just won't work or, even if they don't like your idea, they can tell you how to make it work better.
When you take all the career people out, you just make it more likely that you'll screw something up. KEILAR: She also warned that the U.S. had adopted what she called an
amoral foreign policy that substitutes threats, fear, and confusion for trust. How do you -- how do you see that? Do you agree, and how do you -- how would you describe how allies view the president's foreign policy?
NEUMANN: I think the biggest problem we have is that we've become much more transactional. It's what can you do for me now and what can I do for you.
In some cases, that makes perfectly good sense. But, you know, in alliance relationships, you're built on trust.
And so, for instance, when you suddenly leave or almost left in Syria and you have British and French troops on the ground, and you didn't tell them that you were going, there's this feeling of, you know, looking around, where are my buddies? That is not so likely to make them hot in a hurry to join with you in the next operation.
And that's kind of a stark example, but that's the problem of alliance relationships that -- they're built on trust. If you damage trust, it's hard to have them for the next thing.
KEILAR: Ambassador Ronald Neumann, thank you so much. I really appreciate you coming in.
NEUMANN: Yes. My pleasure.
KEILAR: Forget campaign ads, Michael Bloomberg's campaign paying influencers on Instagram to build up his profile. We're going to speak with one.
Plus, a former wrestler testifies that Republican Congressman Jim Jordan begged him not to back up his brother's accounts of sexual abuse.
KEILAR: Any minute now the Senate will vote on the final passage of the Iran war powers resolution. This is a measure that is expected to pass with bipartisan support but not a veto-proof majority. And the president has threatened that he is going to veto this. So keep that in mind. We will be keeping an eye on this. We'll let you know how this plays out.
And this Sunday, CNN presents the story of the world's most famous royal family. This week's premier takes a look at Prince Edward and a choice that he faces, his mistress or his throne.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: King Edward has been on the throne for just nine months. Until now, he's managed to keep his two-year affair with Wallace secret from the British public. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The world knows all about this relationship, but
in Britain they're still in the dark.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His patrons in America are writing home to Britain saying, what is happening.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Finally, Edward has a meeting with the prime minister, Baldwin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Edward declares his hand. He says that he is determined marry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a bombshell.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The prime minister tells him that he has three options: He can give up his relationship with Mrs. Simpson, he can marry Mrs. Simpson against the express wishes of his ministers, who will then resign, or he can abdicate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: "THE WINDSORS, INSIDE THE ROYAL DYNASTY," premieres Sunday, at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.
That is it for me.
"NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.