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State of the Union
Interview With Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA); Biden Backtracks, Says He Would Comply With Senate Subpoena; Trump Vents His Frustration Over Delay Of Senate Trial; Remembering The Public Servants We Lost In 2019. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired December 29, 2019 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Hanukkah attack. Five people stabbed at a Hanukkah celebration outside New York City.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was scared for my life. I didn't know where to run.
TAPPER: After a string of attacks on Jews in the New York area, what are authorities doing to keep people safe?
And total coordination. A Republican senator objects after the Senate majority leader says he's working with the White House on the president's impeachment trial.
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): When I heard that, I was disturbed.
TAPPER: Will moderate senators change the way the trial is run?
I will speak exclusively to Republican Senator John Kennedy next.
Plus: waiting game. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's strategy of holding the articles of impeachment is bringing the president to a boil.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They didn't give us anything. Now they come to the Senate, and they want everything.
TAPPER: With the Senate trial indefinitely on hold, what is Pelosi's strategy, and is it working? Democratic Congressman Joe Kennedy joins me exclusively to discuss next.
TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is saddened and on edge.
Two people are in critical condition today, after a mass stabbing at a Hanukkah celebration last night outside New York City. Witnesses say a man walked into the home of an orthodox rabbi in Rockland County, New York, pulled out a knife, and stabbed five people. The house was full of worshipers who had gathered together to light the Hanukkah candles.
Police say a suspect, described as a tall African-American man, had been apprehended.
Governor Andrew Cuomo directed the state's Hate Crime Task Force to investigate. Just now, the governor called the attack an act of domestic terrorism.
The incident is the latest in a troubling spate of attacks against Jewish Americans in the greater New York area. There have been at least nine apparent anti-Semitic attacks in New York over the past week.
And, earlier this month, of course, two people shot and killed a police detective in Jersey City, before storming a Jewish market and killing three people, including two Jews, in an attack authorities said was fueled by anti-Semitic beliefs.
Joining me now, Oren Segal. He's the vice president of the Anti- Defamation League's Center on Extremism.
So, Governor Cuomo just spoke at the location there, calling this a hate crime, calling it domestic terrorism.
Do you think the authorities in New York state and New York City are doing enough?
OREN SEGAL, DIRECTOR, CENTER ON EXTREMISM: Listen, at this point, we are in an epidemic in New York City, of all places, for the Jewish community.
And so we know that the NYPD's Hate Crime Task Force is taking this seriously. But we expect that the Jewish community, the places where they worship, places where Jews gather, will be more protected by law enforcement and others.
We still have a long way to go, seeing the spate of anti-Semitism in the city.
TAPPER: You were with the families last night in Rockland County, New York, after this horrific act of domestic terrorism. How is the community doing?
SEGAL: Listen, I mean, we are still recovering as a community from what we saw in Jersey City.
My colleagues were out in Monsey at 11:00 yesterday, going to where this incident happens, as we have been in Brooklyn and elsewhere.
And the community is in shock. There's a lot of fear and anxiety. But that's why it's really important for organizations like ADL and the broader community to step up and be allies.
TAPPER: So, this horrific attack last night, it's the ninth apparent anti-Semitic attack in New York in just the last week. Obviously, there has been an increase in hate crimes against Jews in
New York and nationally. Why do you think this is happening, specifically the attacks in New York?
SEGAL: Yes, I mean, for New York City, we have seen a 17 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents from January through November of this year compared to last year.
So, we are indeed seeing a rise. And the answer of why is difficult. The mainstreaming of anti-Semitism in our public discussion, on our phones, I think, plays a part to it.
But this is why it's important to investigate every incident to identify, what is the motivation for what we're seeing?
TAPPER: And many of the attacks have been carried out against orthodox Jews, who dress in a way that makes them identifiably Jewish.
What steps do you recommend that they take to protect themselves?
SEGAL: Listen, at this point, we don't have a luxury in the Jewish community, whether you're visibly Jewish or otherwise, to take security as a lax thing.
And so being able to get the support from law enforcement and government in order to protect Jewish institutions, certainly until this spate of anti-Semitic incidents goes down, especially during the High Holidays, I think that will help make the Jewish community and, in particular, the orthodox community feel a little bit more safe and secure.
TAPPER: So, it appears that many, if not most of these attacks were allegedly carried out not by white supremacists, not by the alt-right, but by people of color.
What's your response when members of the orthodox community say -- and I have heard them say this, and I'm sure you have too -- that there would be more of an outrage if the attackers were white supremacists and thus fell more easily into a political narrative?
SEGAL: I mean, I think, again, this is where investigations, not only to bring those perpetrators to justice who are carrying out these incidents, but to identify their motivations, right?
In Jersey City, it was something beyond merely an African-American, right? It wasn't representative of that community. It was somebody who subscribed to real anti-Semitic ideology.
And so, when we're thinking about the communities, we have to come together. That's why, at ADL, we're bringing our No Place for Hate educational programs to Brooklyn, doubling the amount of students that we're reaching out to, because it starts at an early age for people to have an understanding, and then to be allies for each other. And so I don't think we need to overstep and try to overanalyze what
this means, but we have to get the data, and we have to understand the motivations before we jump to conclusions.
TAPPER: Oren Segal, I want to say happy Hanukkah, but it's not a happy Hanukkah. In fact, it's a very sad one.
Thank you for joining us today.
SEGAL: Thank you.
TAPPER: Switching to politics now, the president sent a holiday message calling for understanding and respect this week, and hours later, began to vent his rage at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is still refusing to turn over the articles of impeachment to the Senate.
There's been no apparent progress in the impeachment standoff, which centers on, in Pelosi's view, whether senators will agree to hear testimony from new witnesses.
But one crack appears to be forming, possibly, in the red wall of President Trump's GOP jurors in the Senate from Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, who objected to Leader Mitch McConnell saying that he is working in total coordination with the White House on the Senate trial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MURKOWSKI: In fairness, when I heard that, I was disturbed. We have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Joining me now is Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana. He's a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us. Merry Christmas, and happy new year.
Before we get to politics, I do want to start with this horrific anti- Semitic attack in New York last night. Governor Cuomo just said that he's going to push for a law in the state of New York to make these kinds of attacks domestic terrorism.
Would you support a law like that at a national level?
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): Well, I'd want to see the law that the governor's talking about.
You know, America is a big, wide-open, pluralistic country. I don't think any of us want to live in a police state. Freedom has risk.
Having said that, these are people who have hate in their heart. And I don't buy and never have bought the proposition that people who do these reprehensible things are sick, necessarily, or confused or mixed up. I think some of them are evil. And we have got to get them off the
And if I make it to heaven, that's the first thing I'm going to ask is, is, why is there evil in the world, and why do people think it's necessary to hate, instead of just disagree? I think it's -- I think all public officials can try to do a better job of setting an example by being respectful in their disagreement and showing that, well, you can disagree, but you don't have to hate.
I just think it's terrible. But all acts of violence are terrible, not just for what happened, as bad as it is, in New York. The killings on the streets in Chicago, the -- the anti-Semitic murders elsewhere, the racial murders elsewhere, the same-race killings, I mean, all that's horrible, Jake.
And if I had an answer, I'd go pass a bill. But you can't legislate hate away from people who have it in their heart.
TAPPER: All right, fair enough. Thanks, Senator Kennedy.
Let's turn to politics, if we can, now.
Obviously, the Senate trial is pending, although we don't know when.
You have said -- quote -- "My objective, first and foremost, is to be fair to both sides."
You heard Senator Lisa Murkowski there. Were you also bothered at all when Majority Leader McConnell said there would be no daylight between him and the White House?
JOHN KENNEDY: I think Senator McConnell is entitled to his opinion and his and his approach. So is Senator Murkowski. So is Senator Schumer. So is Senator Blumenthal.
If you look, Jake, at the Constitution, the standing rules of the Senate, the essays and analyses by the Congressional Research Service, if you look at the case law, Nixon v. U.S. -- not Richard Nixon, a federal judge named Nixon -- if you look at the case of Porteous v. Baron, what you will see is that, when it comes to impeachment, the rule is that there are virtually no substantive rules.
It's not a criminal trial. The Senate is not really a jury. It's both jury and judge. The chief justice is not the judge. He's the presiding officer. There are no standards of proof. There are no rules of evidence. And every senator, unless we pass a new rule by 51 votes in the Senate, is entitled to approach it his own way.
I think many positions by many senators are calcified. I can only speak for me. I'm going to keep an open mind. I want to be fair to both sides.
When -- I thought that the House proceedings were unnecessarily unfair. And when the American people walk away from the Senate trial, if we ever have one, I don't want them saying, well, we were just run over by the same truck twice.
JOHN KENNEDY: It was unfair in the House and it was unfair in the Senate.
I want people to think that it was a -- it was a level playing field.
TAPPER: So, you said earlier this month that, in the name of fairness, you would vote, theoretically, to allow Democrats, Republicans, anyone involved in this trial to -- quote -- "call any witness that they want" in a Senate trial.
Do you think that's the only fair way to do it, to allow Democrats, Republicans, those representing Trump, those House impeachment managers to call the witnesses they feel they need to bring?
JOHN KENNEDY: Well, the first issue that the Senate has got to decide is whether we hear evidence or hear the case, if you will, based on the record.
One point of view is that the House is sort of like a district court. And the Senate -- once again, not a perfect analogy, but the Senate is more like an appellate court. And we hear the record as put together by the House.
That is what happened, in part, in the Clinton proceedings. Originally, the Senate heard -- heard the prosecution and defense argue the case on the record from the House. Then they decided whether to dismiss. A motion to dismiss was defeated. And that's when the Senate decided to hear three additional witnesses.
I think that's a pretty sound approach for us to follow. We had a unanimity in the Senate with respect to Clinton, but -- with respect to Clinton procedure.
But, look, there are no rules here. It's -- for example, what's an impeachable offense? I think the precedent that shows that not all impeachable offenses are crimes, but it also shows that not all crimes are impeachable offenses.
TAPPER: Right. I hear what you're saying.
Do you think that, if there are no witnesses -- I mean, you expressed a concern earlier in this interview that, if the Senate trial is perceived as unfair as the House impeachment inquiry was, in your view, then the American people will feel like they have been hit by the same truck twice or something like that.
You said it better and more -- and more colorfully.
JOHN KENNEDY: Right.
TAPPER: Do you think that, if the Senate trial goes forward, and no witnesses are called, as Mitch McConnell wants to do it, the Senate majority leader, that will be the truck running over the American people a second time, that people will not feel like it was fair?
JOHN KENNEDY: I don't know yet. I will have to make that decision at the -- at that juncture.
I would start by giving each side a good amount of time to present their case. I would -- I would give the prosecution, say, 24 hours. I would give the defense, the president, 24 hours.
Then I would allow plenty of time, maybe 10 to 15 hours of time, for senators to ask questions.
Now, we can't ask questions. We submit them in writing. Either side, prosecution or defense, can object.
And, at that juncture, I think we should step back and say, OK, have we heard enough? Do we want to go further?
I suspect, at that juncture, somebody will make a motion to dismiss. That's what happened in President Clinton's impeachment. The motion to dismiss was defeated, and the Senate decided to hear three more witnesses.
It's also possible -- I'm not recommending it, but it's possible for the Senate, through the presiding officer, the chief justice, to appoint a committee to hear additional evidence, if the Senate thinks it's necessary.
All I know today, Jake, is, I don't know if we will ever get the case. I don't know if we will ever get the case.
JOHN KENNEDY: And I don't know why the speaker's doing this.
Maybe she's telling the truth that she wants to dictate the policy -- or the procedure, rather, to the Senate. If that's -- if she's sincere in that, I think it's unconstitutional.
Maybe it's a cynical political ploy. Maybe her actions demonstrate indecision.
I don't know.
TAPPER: Yes. So...
JOHN KENNEDY: But I think, in the meantime -- go ahead.
TAPPER: Well, I -- finish your thought.
JOHN KENNEDY: No, you go ahead.
TAPPER: Well, I just want to ask you, because one of the witnesses... JOHN KENNEDY: I was just going to say...
JOHN KENNEDY: OK.
I was just saying, in the meantime, I would get back to work.
JOHN KENNEDY: I think the Senate ought to take up the USMCA.
TAPPER: One the witnesses the Democrats want to hear from is from Trump aide Mike Duffey of the Office of Management and Budget.
JOHN KENNEDY: Right.
TAPPER: There are these FOIAed mails, e-mails that show -- that just came out -- that show that roughly 90 minutes after President Trump asked Ukrainian President Zelensky to give us a favor for the investigation into the Bidens and the other investigation, July 25, 90 minutes later, Duffey ordered a freeze on the U.S. security assistance for Ukraine.
Duffey, in that e-mail, acknowledged the -- quote -- "sensitive nature" of the request and asked the other officials to keep the information closely held.
Doesn't that make you, as a juror, want to hear from Mike Duffey?
JOHN KENNEDY: Well, two points.
Number one, executive privilege. Now, the president, as has just about every president going back to George Washington, asserted executive privilege in the House.
Speaker Pelosi decided not to take the normal route and get a decision by a third branch of government. That was her call.
In the Senate, if we tomorrow agreed with Senator Schumer, who I think is speaking for Speaker Pelosi, to call all of the witnesses that he wants, I fully expect the president to do two things, claim executive privilege, which is his right, and, number two, demand his own list of witnesses.
JOHN KENNEDY: Now, if the president does that, we could end up with a scenario where Chuck caught the car. The president's witnesses don't testify, if the Senate doesn't want to pursue it in court, but -- or the -- or Senator Schumer's witnesses don't testify, but the president's witnesses do.
I don't think Senator Schumer would think that's fair. TAPPER: Lastly, sir, I just want to ask you.
President Trump, just a few days ago, retweeted an unsubstantiated claim about the identity of the intelligence community whistle-blower. One of your colleagues in the senior members of your caucus, Senator Chuck Grassley, has been a champion of whistle-blowers for decades.
He has said in the past that it is -- quote -- "strictly up to the whistle-blower," this one, to reveal his or her identity, that the whistle-blower should be -- quote -- "heard out and protected."
You, on the other hand, have said that the whistle-blower should be publicly named. Why is Senator Grassley wrong? And do you think it's appropriate for the president to be identifying this whistle-blower -- I don't know if it's true or not, but identifying this individual?
JOHN KENNEDY: I don't know who the whistle-blower is.
Number two, I think we ought to follow the law. Number three, there have been some allegations in the press about the identity of the whistle-blower. If -- if those -- those statements are true, one of the thoughts I had was that, well, the whistle-blower could easily -- easily be called by the defense, not as the whistle-blower, but as a fact witness.
It wouldn't surprise me if the president's counsel, being the good lawyers that they are, if we move to additional evidence, wanted to call the whistle-blower, or the alleged whistle-blower, not as the whistle-blower, but as a fact witness.
Number four, with respect to what the president tweeted, look, I have enough trouble paddling my own canoe. But I do agree with Mrs. Trump that -- and I have suggested before to the White House that, if the president would tweet a little bit less, it wouldn't cause brain damage.
But the president does not have to take my advice, nor do I expect him to.
TAPPER: Senator John Kennedy of -- Kennedy of Louisiana, merry Christmas and happy new year to you, sir. Thank you so much.
JOHN KENNEDY: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: Former Vice President Joe Biden now backtracking, after saying he would not comply with a Senate subpoena to testify in President Trump's trial. Does he have any more of a right to do that than someone like the president's chief of staff?
We will talk to Democratic Congressman Joe Kennedy -- no relation to Senator Kennedy -- next.
Plus: the state of play in the Democratic primary just weeks before the Iowa caucus. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
House Democrats are defending Speaker Pelosi for sitting on President Trump's articles of impeachment for now, saying that they are in a holding pattern because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not doing his job.
But how long could this standoff last?
Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it. Happy new year.
REP. JOE KENNEDY (D-MA): Jake, thanks for having me. Happy new year to you.
TAPPER: So, House Democratic Deputy Whip Dan Kildee told CNN on Friday that House Speaker Pelosi might even need to wait until February to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate in order to get a fair trial.
Do you think that Speaker Pelosi should be willing to hold the articles until February or even longer?
JOE KENNEDY: I think the speaker should do what's necessary in order to make sure that there is, in fact, a fair proceeding that takes place in the United States Senate.
Look, this is about an impeachment proceeding for the president of the United States. This is -- literally nothing more consequential that Congress, both the House and Senate, can engage in.
And you have got a Senate majority leader that has already said, in Mr. McConnell, that they're working hand in glove with the White House to ensure that this process is essentially cooked.
I think the speaker is doing everything she can to ensure that there is as fair and open and transparent a process as there can be, particularly given the weight of the evidence that came out during the House investigation and the impeachment proceeding.
So, I think she should do everything we can to ensure that that process is as accurate and fair as can be.
TAPPER: What do you make of the argument from Republicans that Speaker Pelosi holding these articles indefinitely, that that undermines the Democrats' case that this impeachment was such a pressing matter of national security, it had to be voted on quickly, even before the courts were able to rule on whether or not to force witness testimony?
JOE KENNEDY: I think a couple of things, Jake.
One, look, I was a prosecutor. There was the old adage in the courtroom, when you had the facts, you argued the facts. When you had the law, you argued the law. And when you had nothing, you got loud.
You have seen Republicans get loud throughout this process over and over and over again. Yes, do I believe there's an urgency to do this? Absolutely, but understanding that there's a two-part process to this.
You don't go through the first part in the House, and then just tee this up for a Senate process where the guy that is going to be in charge of orchestrating the entire Senate trial has said that the whole thing is already baked and cooked, and there's nothing that anybody can do about it.
You don't go and do that. That makes a mockery of the entire system.
And so I would hope that Mr. McConnell would understand the weight of the responsibility that is coming down on his shoulders and the shoulders of the United States Senate.
You saw Senator Patrick Leahy, I think, pen an op-ed last week, saying, what is on trial here is not just the president, but it is, in fact, the United States Senate and the legitimacy of the United States Senate. I would hope that the Senate majority leader would understand that as well.
TAPPER: So Democrats are pushing to call Trump officials as witnesses in the Senate trial. That's one of the things that I think Pelosi wants.
But any agreement in the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, would mean, obviously, that they get to call their witnesses too.
Here's former Vice President Joe Biden yesterday clearing up his position whether or not he would be willing to testify.
JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would honor whatever the Congress, in fact, legitimately asked me to do.
I would, in fact, abide by the -- whatever was legally required of me. I always have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Do you think, if Biden gets subpoenaed, he should comply and testify?
JOE KENNEDY: Look, I think the vice president has indicated that he would abide by any lawful order that comes his way.
And I think that's -- that's probably the right thing to do. Now, let's also be clear, Jake. There is zero evidence at all that he
is a relevant factual witness to what is actually being alleged. This is, again, more smoke and mirrors from Republicans in the House and Senate that are trying to obfuscate and hide around it and misdirect the attention of the American public off of the actions of the president of the United States, who clearly abused his power.
And that's it. There's nothing else here. There's no -- been credible allegation that the vice president has done anything wrong put forward by anybody.
And, yet again, to the extent that you have got Republicans that are arguing that this was, in fact, about corruption, the very first readout of the call that was in question, the president, President Trump, never once indicated -- said the word corruption once.
And so, once again, these are -- it's Republicans getting loud, trying to hide the ball from what is a very serious abuse of power by President Trump.
TAPPER: You know, it's true that there's no evidence of any wrongdoing by Vice President Biden or that Hunter Biden broke any laws at all.
But, frankly, it does stink that Hunter Biden got this contract with no expertise in the energy sector, and that he likely -- he's already said, basically, he probably got that money, which was significant, because of his connection with his father, the vice president at the time, who was also in charge of Ukraine at the time.
Do you think that future presidents and vice presidents should say, my relatives cannot cash in any way on their connection to me?
JOE KENNEDY: Look, I think it is certainly -- I think it's certainly worth putting that out there and worth trying to make sure that there is not any sort of profit that is going to be earned by close relatives being in office.
I have had plenty of family members in office. I understand the responsibility that comes with holding a position of public responsibility and ensuring that there is a very clear delineation there, so that others aren't profiting off of it.
I do think, though, that if we, again, are going to get into this conversation, it's awfully hard for me to reconcile and to square those comments and that clarity put forth by Vice President Biden, by Hunter Biden, with the fact that you have got the current president's children running around on an international hotel chain that is being supported by U.S. military service members staying at their hotels across the world, that is -- where he tried to host the G7 at a struggling hotel in Florida, and where his daughter, who runs clothing lines and jewelry lines, just got patents from China in the midst of a trade war.
[09:30:13] So, look, some of those might be legitimate, some of them might not be. But let's be clear and make sure that everybody is being held to the same standard. And once again I just don't think that is the case here.
TAPPER: And you said earlier this month that if President Trump is not removed from office -- quote -- "I don't think anything stops him from thinking that he can't do it again" -- unquote.
Is there a possibility you think that the House could impeach President Trump again before the end of this term or even in his next term if there is another term?
KENNEDY: Jake, I -- I -- we talked about it before. I would hope that we would not have to impeach President Trump once. I would hope that -- obviously I voted for -- to remove the president from office because I believe he has abused his power. I hope we don't have to do that again.
But let's be clear, this is not the House of Representatives voting to impeachment Donald Trump. This is the House of Representatives standing up for our constitution and holding the president accountable for his own actions. Remember, the call in question that brought down the scrutiny about the president's actions vis-a-vis Ukraine happened the day after Director Mueller testified about electoral interference and the Trump administration's handling of Russian interference in our election, the next day, the day after Director Mueller was there when plenty of news reports said that it was clear that the president wasn't going to be held accountable for those actions the very next day he calls up the president of Ukraine and says, do us a favor though.
And the fact that you have got somebody that engaged in the behavior as outlined in that Mueller report, and I read every page of it, as atrocious and as I think disrespectful of the office and the country as it was, the fact that after he was clearly going to skate on that, the next day he engages in this behavior and then when called to account on this on he gets in front of news cameras and asked China to do the very same thing. At what point does this stop? At what point does this president actually abide by the laws, rules, regulations and national security concerns of this country? And at this point he hasn't and that is what this process is about.
And I did not run for office to try to impeach a president but if the president is going to keep abusing his office I'm not sure what else I can do.
TAPPER: Congressman Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts, thank you so much, sir. Merry Christmas and happy New Year to you and your whole family -- growing. Two kids --
KENNEDY: To you as well. Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: Bernie Sanders gave Hillary Clinton a run for her money in the last Democratic presidential primaries. Might he go all the way in 2020? Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would obey any subpoena that was sent to me. The only rational reason and you know this from the papers you've written that I could possibly be called in an impeachment trial was, can I shed any light on whether or not he committed the crime he's accused of? And there is no reason to believe I would have any notion about whether he committed that crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Former Vice President Joe Biden seemingly walking back his previous assertion that he would not comply with a Congressional subpoena to testify. And let's discuss.
Karen, let me start with you. Was it smart for -- Biden initially said that he wouldn't participate, he wouldn't testify. Now he is saying he would obviously comply. Smart to walk that back?
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Smart to clarify. I mean, what he said was that if there were -- if he could shed any light on what had happened whether -- because this is really about Trump's behavior. This is not about Joe Biden's behavior.
As much as the Republicans would like to create a show trial in the Senate which we know is what President Trump wants, there is no material reason to bring Joe Biden in to testify about the abuse of power by President Trump. He has no direct knowledge.
If the Republicans have a concern, I know you were speaking with Joe Kennedy about the deal -- the arrangement that Hunter Biden had with the company in Ukraine, then that's a separate investigation. That's a completely different question. That is not about what the president is doing here.
TAPPER: And Scott, Liz Mair (ph) on Twitter said that what Biden should have said -- she's a conservative who does not like Trump is -- and I have to paraphrase because she was a little bit salty in her language but something along the lines of I have the guts to testify, I'm happy to testify. I don't think President Trump has the guts to do so. He should testify too and then that would have put more of attention and onus on President Trump.
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I've always been dubious that the Bidens would show up here. I still doubt Joe Biden would show up. But the Biden I care more about is Hunter Biden.
If Joe Biden is nervous about showing up in the United States Senate, how do you think Hunter Biden and his lawyer feel about getting a subpoena to show up in the United States Senate? Their (ph) lawyer would never let him show up. So this is one of those moment where it's a be careful what you wish for. You want a trial, you want to have witnesses, well the Republicans will have ideas on that too which is why I think the ultimate thing that's going to happen is presentations from both sides and both parties in the Senate may decide we've heard enough, let's vote and move it.
TAPPER: Nayyera, I know the Democrats say and I'm not necessarily even disagreeing with it the idea that the Bidens is a side show to the questions about President Trump's misconduct but if there are witnesses it seems like that is what's going to happen. They're going to want to call the Bidens.
You heard Senator John Kennedy say that Schumer might be like the dog that catches the car. The president, he gets witnesses but President Trump asserts executive privilege and none of Trump's witnesses come and then all of the sudden Hunter Biden is before the Senate.
NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE SENIOR DIRECTOR: Right. We're expecting a type of normal from Joe Biden because he's the make America normal again candidate that we're not expecting from Donald Trump at this point, right? How many? Eight, nine subpoenas that he and his administration have ignored in the process of the impeachment and instead the conversation ends up being about Joe Biden as a father potentially helping his son get a job while he was in office. Like, well, if that is the case, if that's the story, there is no greater perpetrator for that than Donald Trump with Ivanka Trump having a White House position, with Jared Kushner having a White House position. Millions of dollars in contracts that they have received in the middle of massive foreign policy disagreement. So that -- if that is the conversation that you focus on Trump -- but the conversation ultimately is what the GOP wants to have in Senate is one that distracts from the actual case at hand and the two charges President Trump is facing.
TAPPER: What do you think Mitch McConnell should do? He has made it clear he wants it quick, he doesn't want witnesses. What do you think -- forget what's best for Trump or what's best for Republicans, what do you think would be best for the American people in getting some sort of sense of what actually happened here?
SARAH ISGUR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is where I think Nancy Pelosi is often underestimated as a political strategist. There's a lot of discussion of her holding back the articles before transmitting them to the Senate and that there is no leverage here.
It is not leverage over McConnell. It is the space in between Senator McConnell and the president. The president wants the circus. He has benefited from the circus in the last six to eight weeks in polling.
His polls were going down in September and October. It started going up once it turned into a zoo. McConnell wants it over fast because as I'm sure Scott can tell you his 2020 Senate candidates are going to do much better if we're not talking about this anymore. And so that is what I think Nancy Pelosi has really smartly driven a wedge into is McConnell's interest in moving very quickly and the president's interest in throw it all on the table and let's watch it blow up.
FINNEY: But I think you can underestimate -- so McConnell has -- it's already an illegitimate process but Mitch McConnell has said, I'm not taking this seriously. When I sign the oath -- I mean, there is a very specific oath in our constitution that deals with what you're supposed to do --
TAPPER: To be an impartial juror.
FINNEY: Absolutely. But it's separate. It's intentionally different than the one when you take your oath of office. That is very intentional in our constitution.
He's already said, I'm not going to do that. I'm coordinating with the president. I'm going to do what he wants. I'm not -- you know -- Lindsey Graham has said, I'm not impartial.
So, I think, Pelosi holding it back is also about saying, we're not going to let you get away with that. You cannot turn this -- you're going to take it seriously and do what the American people expect you to do. By the way, two-thirds of Republicans think that Trump ought to let his aides come forward and tell what they know. So if the Republicans are going to make it a show trial, the Democrats are not going to have it.
TAPPER: All right. Stick around. We've got more to talk about.
Speaker Pelosi clearly on the President Trump's mind during this holiday break is part of her stalling strategy paying off? We'll talk about that next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: The president and I want to wish each and every American a very merry Christmas.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We give thanks for the millions of Americans who come together to care for others with compassion and bring the warmth and bliss of this holy season to our families, our friends, our neighbors and to those in need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: A Christmas message from the president and first lady. The president also saying in a statement -- quote -- "Together, we must strive to foster a culture of deeper understanding and respect-traits that exemplify the teachings of Christ" -- unquote.
That sentiment lasted about eight hours. Then President Trump took to Twitter. Take a look at some of the tweets the president sent starting Christmas day. He called Democrats liars. Went after Speaker Pelosi quite a bit. He re-tweeted an unsubstantiated claim about the whistle-blower's identity.
I have to say the idea of the president saying that we need to strive to foster a culture of deeper understanding and respect was an interesting one, Sarah. It's not one that I think -- traits that exemplify the teaching of Christ, not necessarily the behavior of President Trump.
ISGUR: You know, those games that used to be played sort of in early 2017, did the president write the tweet or did some of his staff. And I think we sort of left that game behind. But I think when it comes to the Christmas message, I think, we can solidly say that that might have been drafted elsewhere in the White House.
TAPPER: So -- and, Nayyera, a lot of tweets attacking Nancy Pelosi, Speaker Pelosi a sign -- I think it is fair that she has irked him by withholding the impeachment documents and also by going forward with impeachment. Take a listen to what President Trump said about Pelosi Christmas eve of this year.
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DONALD TRUMP: She hates the Republican Party. She hates all of the people that voted for me and the Republican Party. And she's desperate to do -- look, she got thrown out of speaker once before.
I think it's going to happen again. She's doing a tremendous disservice to the country. She's not doing a good job and some people think that she's -- she doesn't know what she's doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FINNEY: Merry Christmas to all in the season of peace.
TAPPER: I think tiny Tim said something similar. Just a fact check there, she did not get thrown out of the speakership. Although the Democrats did lose the majority once before but she remained the leader of the Democratic Party.
He seems to -- she seems to have gotten under his skin.
HAQ: Absolutely gotten under his skin. And her response is very calm, cool and collected which is not something I think Donald Trump understands how to deal with. And also, of course, there's the feminine mystique about her that really seems to jar him. He also hasn't quite figured out a nickname for her yet which -- one that will stick other than potentially using crazy constantly.
But listen impeachment is done in the House but Pelosi is not done with impeachment. The danger, I think, of her holding onto it a little too long not only would it bleed into the caucuses and the primaries but also it goes against the idea of working a fair process. Potentially that she is now playing partisan games as well.
TAPPER: And, Scott Jennings, you have worked and you have a close relationship with Senate Majority Leader McConnell who is telegraphed that he's working closely with the White House on the Senate trial. Take a listen to the majority leader talking to FOX earlier this week explaining his position.
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SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, first on the impartiality, do you think Chuck Schumer is impartial? Do you think Elizabeth --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
MCCONNELL: -- Warren is impartial?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
MCCONNELL: Bernie Sanders is impartial?
So let's quit the charade. This is a political exercise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Is that -- I mean, that might be how he feels but is it smart to say that out loud as opposed to saying I'm going to run a fair trial?
JENNINGS: Is it smart to tell the truth out loud? I mean, these are pretrial opinions issued by every U.S. senator in both parties. They're going to go and take their oath that Karen alluded to earlier and they're going to run a trial just the way if McConnell gets his way they did in the Clinton impeachment before.
They had rules package that everybody agreed on. The Democrats by the way coordinated with the Clinton White House in putting on the Clinton defense. If you read the book by Peter Baker "The Breach", you'll see all about it. Chuck Schumer, by the way, 1998 -- you want to talk about impartiality and impeachment sold his vote. He ran around New York saying a vote for me is a vote against impeaching Bill Clinton.
And so I think telling the truth is a refreshing thing and McConnell said is true. These are all political actors and not one of them -- not one of them doesn't know how they're going to vote right now.
FINNEY: But there is a difference when you are -- because actually in the Clinton impeachment process Trent Lott and Tom Daschle made a -- Daschle made a point of not talking to the White House actually while he and Trent Lott -- hold on -- had a conversation --
TAPPER: He staffed it but he did not -- yes.
FINNEY: Correct. But however he and Trent Lott got together and said, OK, let's decide what the rules are. Let's make sure this isn't a show trial.
Instead you've got this ranker going on and Mitch McConnell has a different role in this proceeding than the other senators. He's supposed to be like the jury foreman. I mean, if I were on trial and I knew that the jury foreman was already against me -- I mean, how can you even say that that's a fair process --
JENNINGS: Why won't -- why won't Chuck Schumer accept the Clinton rules that McConnell has thrown out right now?
FINNEY: Because this process is different. We don't -- we didn't have -- we have the star report which had a lot of really fun details that nobody wanted to be talking about on television I can tell you having read it and lived through it.
So, I think, there's a -- there is a difference. We're talking about a president who essentially abused his power. People go to jail for what he did. So, it's just a very --
JENNINGS: Go to jail for what?
TAPPER: All right --
FINNEY: Bribery --
TAPPER: All right. We will continue --
FINNEY: -- and obstruction.
TAPPER: How about this? We'll continue this in 2020. We'll continue --
TAPPER: Merry Christmas and happy New Year to all of you. Thank you so much.
JENNINGS: Merry Christmas.
TAPPER: God bless us everyone.
Words of wisdom from this decade to help us as we head into the next one from some of the icons we lost next year. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back.
Politics lost some important voices in 2019. One year ago this month we were welcoming to this set the brand-new chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings. That son of sharecropper spoke truth to power. He treated even his opponents with dignity and respect. And Cummings died in October.
We also today mourn Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. A leader of the liberal wing of the court who wrote two opinions, one against Clinton and the other against Bush. Upholding the principle that presidents are not above the law. Bernice Sandler worked behind the scenes as the godmother of Title IX helping even the playing field for young women. And, of course, my former colleague Cokie Roberts known for award winning journalism and mentoring women reporters.
End of the year obituaries bring clarity as to the few of us who get remembered and what we get remembered for. William Ruckelshaus who died last month he was the first administrator of the EPA and acting director of the FBI but he was best known for resigning as deputy attorney general instead of carrying out President Nixon's corrupt order to fire independent Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox who was investigating Watergate.
Twelve-term Republican Congressman Walter Jones from North Carolina. He became a critic of President Bush's war in Iraq.
President Trump just days ago referenced someone else we lost this year, the late congressman John Dingell, the longest serving member of Congress who from his death bed urged the American people to elect leaders who respect the public trust.
President Trump didn't honor John Dingell, President Trump suggested that Dingell was in hell which aggravated the pain of his widow, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell.
We don't see many officials in the manner of Ruckelshaus or Walter Jones. These days voices of Republicans protesting that act against John Dingell were few. And that indignity, that indecency as we know is just the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps our friend the last Congressman Elijah Cummings said it the best.
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REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): When we're dancing with the angels the question will be asked, in 2019 what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact? Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: To those of you in public office who are on the sidelines saying nothing, what will the headlines for your obituaries read? Will you even be worth remembering?
"FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS" starts next.