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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) is Interviewed About Impeachment Inquiry; Joe Biden Angrily Confronts Voter Over Age, Ukraine Claims. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired December 05, 2019 - 16:30   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: In our politics lead today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi all but guaranteeing that President Donald Trump will become the third president of the United States to be impeached, announcing that members of the House Judiciary Committee are currently drafting articles of impeachment just one day after the committee held its first hearing.

Joining me now is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, Democrat of Texas.

Congresswoman, thanks for joining us.


TAPPER: You heard Republican witness Jonathan Turley warning in yesterday's hearing, quote, if you rush this impeachment, you're going to leave half the country behind.

We heard from Congressman Francis Rooney saying his mind was still open about impeachment but he didn't like how the process was being rushed.

Why not slow it down and at least and pursue the angle in the courts to try to get the -- all of the memos, and messages and e-mails you want, to try to get the Mick Mulvaneys and Mike Pompeos and John Boltons to testify?

ESCOBAR: Jake, we discussed that yesterday during our hearing with our experts and something that is very important for the American public to keep in mind. We are one month away from 2020, the year where one of our most important elections will be decided, the election for the president of the United States among a multitude of other federal, state and national elections. The issue with Ukraine and the urgency behind it and the reason, the very reason why our framers, our constitutional framers included impeachment in the Constitution is because if you have a corrupt executive who is willing to maintain power by corrupting our election, there's an urgency there. If we were to wait -- we have already seen that the president has done everything possible to prevent us from getting access to all of the documents, all of the witnesses that we need to.

The House Judiciary Committee, the Robert Mueller report, we are still fighting to gain access to some of those materials. If we wait for the courts, if we wait for an election to settle this, then we will have waited too long in my opinion, especially after what we heard yesterday about making sure that we have a check on a corrupt executive who is willing to corrupt an election.

TAPPER: So what is the check? If the House votes to impeach as we think it likely will and then there is a trial in the Senate and Republicans control the Senate, they have 53 seats to Democrats' 47, ultimately do you think the Senate is going to vote to convict? Are you confident in that?

ESCOBAR: I don't have a whole lot of hope in the Senate because of what we've seen over the last year with Senator Mitch McConnell and the shamelessness of basically standing in the way of the will of the American people.

TAPPER: So what's the check? That's my question. I'm sorry to interrupt.


TAPPER: But ultimately, if he's not going to be convicted in the Senate, what's the check?

ESCOBAR: Yes. So your question was if I had hope. Now, I will tell you, I do think that the American public still has the ability to influence their senators. This is about the sanctity of our elections, Jake, for me.

And if Americans want to make sure we maintain a strong democracy and that we do that through our elections, they need to pressure their senators, because -- who knows what's going to happen in the House? Who knows -- I don't want to get ahead of anything we are doing, but the American people have a say and they need to put pressure on their elected leaders about preserving and defending the Constitution and our republic. That really, truly is what's at stake here.

TAPPER: So, this probably will not come as a surprise to you, Congresswoman, but one of your Democratic colleagues, Congressman Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey. He's a Democrat. He represents a district that Trump won by I think something like five or six points.

He just came out and said he will vote against the articles of impeachment unless there is something new that he has not seen or heard before. That means impeachment would not be unanimous among Democrats, although voting against impeachment ultimately will be bipartisan.

ESCOBAR: Well, that's true. It will be bipartisan if Jeff holds true to what he said.

[16:35:01] But the bottom line is each one of us really has to search our hearts, and I'll tell you, when I was sworn in, that moment that I held up my hand and took that oath and actually from the moment that I was elected last November, I have felt a very profound sense of humility and responsibility. And that oath to that Constitution to up hold and defend that Constitution stays with me through everything that I do.

My hope is that my colleagues will do a lot of reflecting, will look at what is at stake in terms of Russia's influence over our country, our future, our elections, about the fact that we have seen lawlessness like we have never seen in our generation, and that when that moment comes that they will do the correct thing.

TAPPER: Are you worried at all, battleground state polls indicate that a majority of voters in those states oppose impeaching President Trump, a narrow majority oppose it. Nationally, it's different. Nationally, a narrow majority supports impeaching President Trump. But in the states you need to win back the White House, the states you need to maintain your House majority, the voters are not there. Are you worried that this is going to hurt Democrats?

ESCOBAR: I'm worried in general about 2020, Jake. I mean, I believe that we are on a precipice, a dangerous precipice of a country in so many ways, not just, you know, with impeachment but on everything that we've had to bear witness to, everything that we have been through as a country and what lies ahead.

But we can't let -- I can't let that fear or concern blind me -- and I can only speak for myself. I can't let that fear blind me from my obligation to my oath of office, and my obligation to try to make sure that we retain the republic that so many people fought and died for.

TAPPER: All right. Democratic Congresswoman Veronica Escobar of Texas, thank you.

ESCOBAR: Thanks.

TAPPER: If I don't talk to you, Merry Christmas.

ESCOBAR: Merry Christmas.

TAPPER: Thanks so much.

Presidential candidates are supposed to win over voters, not get into shouting matches with them necessarily. Apparently the former vice president did not get that memo. That's next.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: By the way, that's why I'm not sedentary. I don't like it up --




TAPPER: In our 2020 lead today, former Vice President Joe Biden firing back at a voter today after the retired farmer questioned the former vice president's age and fitness for the job and accused Biden of sending his son to work in Ukraine to sell access to President Obama. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you on the other hand sent your son over there and work for a gas company that he had no experience, there's nothing, in order to get access for the public for the president. So, you're -- you're selling access to the president just like he was.

BIDEN: You're a damn liar, man! That's not true. And no one has ever said that. No one has proved that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I seen it on the TV.

BIDEN: You've seen it on the TV.


BIDEN: No, I know you do. That's why I'm not sedentary. I don't like it up -- let him go. Let him go.

Look, the reason I'm running is because I've been running a long time and I know more than most people know. And I can get things done. That's why I'm running.

You want to check my shape, let's do pushups together, let's run, let's do whatever you want to do.


Number two, number two, no one has said my son has done anything wrong and I did not on any occasion, and no one has ever said it --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't say you were doing anything wrong.

BIDEN: You said I set up my son to work at an oil company. Isn't that what you said? Get your words straight, jack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what I hear on the -- on MSNBC all the time.

BIDEN: You don't hear it on MSNBC.


BIDEN: You didn't hear it at all. Look, I'm not going to get into an argument with you, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have an argument with you.

BIDEN: Yes, you do. But, look, here's the deal, here's the deal -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like you don't have any more backbone

than Trump does (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let the guy talk. Let him talk.

BIDEN: Any other questions?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not voting for you anyhow.

BIDEN: I knew you weren't. You think I'd thought you'd stand up and vote for me? You're too old to vote for me.


TAPPER: Well, that escalated quickly.

So, Jamal, this is -- this has been a good week for Biden. Beyond that, John Kerry is going to endorse him tomorrow. There's been a bunch of other good news for him. He is still high behind the polls.

Is that the right way to handle an accusation from a -- by the way, that guy was saying Trump is bad and you're not better. He was not a Trump supporter. I think he was according to "The New York Times", he's an Elizabeth Warren supporter.

Is that the right way to handle that?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Listen, I think passion is always important. Showing people that you take it seriously is important. The vice president almost wanting to get into fisticuffs with this guy in the back alley, I think --

TAPPER: That's the right word for it.

SIMMONS: Exactly. He got a little too hot.

But, you know, listen, they have -- the Bidens have a member of their family with real health problems, and I think the vice president as I understand really takes very personally what goes on in his family. I can imagine he is reacting very negatively --

TAPPER: Are you talking about hunter's struggle with addiction?



What do you think?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, there has to be a better interest though for once I want to see a voter take him up on one of these challenges.

[16:45:01] TAPPER: Are you talking about Hunter's struggle with addiction?



What do you think?

CARPENTER: Listen, there has to be a better answer, although, for once, I want to see a voter take him up on one of these challenges, because, like, to see what happens.



CARPENTER: Yes, let's actually go right now.

That put aside, there are questions about Hunter Biden. It obviously was bad judgment to accept a position the board of Burisma. You would have to be an idiot not to know they were trying to buy your influence.

And that's not the only one.

TAPPER: And there were people in the Obama administration making that argument, as we learned from the testimony.


CARPENTER: Yes. And so when Biden's defense is like, how dare you insult my family, that's not a good look.

And that's not the only board that he sat on. He was also sitting on the board of Amtrak. And you want to talk about how Joe Biden used his influence to help Amtrak and abuse all kinds of taxpayer dollars?

There's a lot of people that disagree with that kind of spending. So, like, let's get into that. I want a better answer.

VIVIAN SALAMA, REPORTER, WSJ: Joe Biden has a very fine line to walk right now, because if we remember, in 2016, there were a lot of Democratic voters who just didn't trust Hillary Clinton because of the fact that there was questions about her role in Watergate and her e- mails -- the use of the private server.


TAPPER: Whitewater, I think you meant.

SALAMA: Oh, Whitewater. What did I say?

TAPPER: Watergate.

SALAMA: Watergate. Goodness.


TAPPER: She did work on the committee, but that's not what she meant. Right.

SALAMA: I stand corrected.

TAPPER: But do you think Biden has the same trust issues, perception of corruption issues?

SALAMA: But that is the thing, is that he needs to go out there and defend himself when he believes and he says that there is no wrongdoing.

And it's been established by even the Ukrainians that there was no wrongdoing. And so he needs to defend himself, but at the same time in a way that he can still come off as credible to voters, so that they can feel comfortable when they're moving ahead to say this guy is trustworthy, and I want to give him my vote.

TAPPER: And, Nia-Malika, I want to play some sound from Joe Biden after that confrontation with the voter in which he was explaining why he reacted the way he did.


JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have overwhelming respect and love for my son. And I find myself occasionally getting frustrated that assertions would be made that are simply not accurate.

But as my son would say, dad, just keep your cool. Just don't let it get to you.


TAPPER: What do you think?

HENDERSON: You know, I do think -- and you make the Hillary Clinton comparison.

I do think men, particularly white men, who are seeking positions of power are often given much more leeway than women are. I think, in this instance, a lot of voters will see a tough guy. And they want Joe Biden to be tough.


TAPPER: And how would they react if Elizabeth Warren reacted that same way?

HENDERSON: I'm not sure that she would, right?

And Hillary Clinton has talked about this too, right, that she operated in a much more narrow area of behavior, because women are supposed to comport themselves publicly when they're seeking power in a very different way than men are. And we saw that in 2016. Donald Trump could do anything he wanted.

And it seemed not to redound to his doom or in any way have any negative effects on him.

So I think here -- I was at an event with Joe Biden in New Hampshire, and this was months ago. And someone -- this is a white man who was just yelling at Joe Biden, get in his face, get in his face, talking to Joe Biden about how he should engage with Donald Trump.

And I think people like this. Everybody -- when you talk about Joe Biden, oh, that's just Joe being Joe. And Joe being Joe could be anything, right? It could be Joe Biden crying. It could be Joe Biden being sensitive.


CARPENTER: He's emotional, let's say.

HENDERSON: Yes. And men can be emotional in a way that a woman can't be.


TAPPER: It's certainly true that there's a double standard of behavior. I think that's accurate.

The Trump administration making a move that could leave close to 700,000 Americans without access to food stamps.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead today: Nearly 700,000 Americans could lose access to food stamps, after the Trump administration tightened the rules, requiring more recipients to work.

The Trump administration says this move will energize non-working Americans to pursue and get jobs.

But, as CNN's Dianne Gallagher reports for us now, experts say this rule change may actually have the opposite effect.


TIMOTHY FREEMAN, FORMER FOOD STAMP RECIPIENT: It's very expensive being poor, very.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Timothy Freeman says food stamps helped him survive during tough periods of life. And he believes changes being made to government assistance will hurt, not help, his community on Atlanta's West Side.

(on camera): How many people do you know who receive some kind of or have received some kind of food assistance?

FREEMAN: Out of 10? Nine people out of 10 around here, men and women.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Wednesday, the Trump administration revealed a change that the USDA estimates could result in nearly 700,000 Americans losing their food stamps by requiring them to work 20 hours a week before receiving the benefits.

In his neighborhood, Freeman says it's not that easy. People are dealing with limitations, ranging from lack of transportation, to criminal records, and looking for a job while hungry doesn't help.

FREEMAN: It is just going to make things worse and worse and worse. Over here, we don't have much room for things to get any worse.

GALLAGHER: The new rule is set to take effect in April. Now, currently, the food stamp program requires only non-disabled working age adults without dependents to have jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we want to do is increase employment. We need these people in the work force.

GALLAGHER: But states can currently waive the work requirement for areas where unemployment is at least 10 percent or there are not enough open jobs available.

The new rules would limit states from doing that.



GALLAGHER: Now, the Trump administration has additional proposals it's working on that would change government assistance further.

One of those would alter the way it calculates the poverty threshold, which could mean more than three million people would lose their government benefits over time, including half-a-million children being kicked off free lunch.

The other one would alter how they receive those utility benefits, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Dianne Gallagher, thank you so much.

It wasn't too long ago that they were exchanging -- quote -- "beautiful letters," but now it's back to name-calling, as Kim Jong-un dusts off a nickname for President Trump.

Plus, don't miss our live CNN town hall this evening with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

We will be right back.