Return to Transcripts main page

Hala Gorani Tonight

Full House Impeachment Vote Expected Tomorrow; Indian Protests Violent On Second Day; Italian Football Anti-Racism Campaign Sparks Controversy; Trump Letter To Pelosi Protests Impeachment In "Strongest Terms"; Giuliani Claims To Uncover Fraud In Ukraine; U.S. Ambassador To Hungary Attracting Criticism. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired December 17, 2019 - 14:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone. Live from CNN London, I'm Hala Gorani.

Tonight, we should be less than 24 hours out from the impeachment debate, but the rules must be set and a divided House can't even agree on that.

Then, a moment of defiance in India goes viral around the world. CNN speaks to the woman caught here on camera, saving a protestor from a police

beating. Why she's had to go into hiding.

And an artistic -- quote-unquote -- effort to fight racism in football fails miserably. You can probably see why. We'll cover that story as


But we start with the latest on impeachment. By this time tomorrow, the U.S. House of Representatives should be debating whether Donald Trump will

be the third U.S. president in history to be impeached.

As we speak, lawmakers are trying to set rules over how to proceed, but that is a contentious debate of its own. If all goes to plan, the entire

House will vote tomorrow on the two articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

We're expecting the Democrat-led House -- the Democratic-led House -- to approve them both. Now, once that happens, the Senate will hold a trial to

decide whether to remove Mr. Trump from office.

President Trump, meanwhile, has been spending the day touting his achievements in office. Any moment now, he is expected to welcome

Guatemala's president to the White House, and we'll see if he answers questions on the impeachment proceedings. He's been tweeting about it,


Boris Sanchez is at the White House. Are we expecting to hear from the president? I mean, usually, in these Oval Office appearances, reporters

shout questions.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Right now, the president is preparing to welcome Jimmy Morales, the president of

Guatemala, here to the White House. Our cameras will be in the Oval Office for part of this meeting between the two leaders. We expect the topics of

immigration and Venezuela will come up, two major priorities for these two president.

The president, of course, will be asked about impeachment, and specifically what a Senate trial may look like. We'll bring you the comments once he

makes them.

Clearly, though, the president has been trying to counterprogram -- in the words of one of his top advisors, Kellyanne Conway. This morning, she

pointed out the success of the American economy, the trade deal with China, the USMCA between the United States, Mexico and Canada, echoing what the

president has been doing over the last several days as well, especially on Twitter, as you noted.

In the meantime, as far as a Senate trial is concerned, sources are indicating that the White House is warming up to the idea of a short trial.

You'll recall, in the last few weeks, we've been reporting this separation between Senate Republicans and the White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone, and

the president over what they wanted to see here.

With Senate Republicans insisting that they wanted a short trial, no live testimony, almost no witnesses. The president, though, wanted to use this

opportunity to bash Democrats, suggesting that a number of controversial witnesses be called including Adam Schiff and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Ultimately, though, it's up to Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans. We'll see how they respond -- Hala.

GORANI: All right. Boris Sanchez, thanks very much. And we'll get back to you once we hear from the president. Senate leaders -- and this is

going to be moving to the Senate -- are already battling for control of the impeachment trial.

Earlier, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected a Democratic request for four Trump administration witnesses at trial. The minority

leader, Chuck Schumer, says McConnell is prioritizing a speedy trial over a fair one.

Joining me now from Washington, David Swerdlick, CNN political commentator and assistant editor of "The Washington Post," and CNN political analyst

Margaret Talev, she's a politics and White House editor for Axios. Thanks very much.

Margaret, what do you think a Senate trial will look like? It appears as though the White House is starting to warm up, as Boris said, to the idea

of something pretty swift.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, Hala. Mitch McConnell -- he's the Senate majority leader -- and a couple of other key lawmakers,

including Senator Lindsey Graham, have made clear to the president both publicly and behind the scenes and through surrogates, working behind the

scenes, that it is just not in his interest to kind of poke the bear, as it were.

That he's going to be acquitted right now if he doesn't do anything to mess it up. And that these things sometimes go sideways when they are allowed

to become protracted bits of theater.

So while the president has been talking publicly, his public messaging has been that he wants a big show, he wants to turn the focus on the Bidens, it

doesn't appear that that's the way this is going to go. And it appears that the president is actually OK with that.


So once this moves to the Senate and actually gets under way sometime in January -- assuming that vote happens tomorrow the way it's supposed to --

this could actually move fairly quickly, within a couple of weeks.

GORANI: Because for the Clinton trial, David Swerdlick, it took longer than that. I mean, you -- obviously, Republicans have been signaling on

the Hill that they want to make this as short as possible so that the focus stays on the president in connection to this impeachment trial, as that

focus is as short as possible. Do you agree with Margaret?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I agree with Margaret that Senate leaders are more eager to have this over with and not get too

sideways versus the White House, which in some ways -- including the president -- would like to relitigate things like the Mueller report and

the 2016 election, not just the Zelensky call and what might or might not happen with 2020.

But in terms of comparing it to Clinton, let's remember there are two differences. One is that back then, 20 years ago, there was an independent

counsel who presented findings to the House. This time, the House investigated itself.

On the Senate side, what's different -- and I think Margaret will agree -- is that in Washington, there was some level of comity between Republicans

and Democrats in the Senate. They may not have agreed on impeachment, but they agreed to work together on rules. You barely have that spirit of

working together in either chamber at this point. And I think that's what we see going on.

On the House side, you've got arguing over how long the debate will be tomorrow. On the Senate side, the rules for the trial.

GORANI: And, Margaret, the president tweeted, impeachment poll numbers are dropping like a rock. They're not dropping like a rock, but support for

impeachment is receding in the United States, a few percentage points. Politically, as far as the Democrats are concerned, could this be a


TEXT: Donald J. Trump: Impeachment Poll numbers are starting to drop like a rock now that people are understanding better what this whole Democrat

Scam is all about!

TALEV: It's a risk and the Democrats know that, and that's why Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, of course, was reluctant to go down this road in

the first place. There's two things I'd point out.

We've looked at sort of the way the Republicans and Democrats have done the messaging and the fundraising off of this. And Democrats are sort of being

a little more narrow or strategic in terms of how they message this. For them, health care is actually a much more powerful message, much more in

terms of a majority of the public is with them in terms of their message on health care than -- than on an impeachment, which is kind of a divided


And so -- but look, part of the other thing to look at is that President Trump's -- the numbers in favor of impeachment and removal were so high a

couple of months ago --


TALEV: -- that, sure, they have subsided a little bit but there is no modern president, including Donald Trump, who will feel good about

essentially half the country saying that he should be forced to leave office a year early, even if the numbers have gotten a little bit better

over the last few weeks. It's not exactly, you know, a resounding embrace of his performance in (ph) all of this.

GORANI: No, it's not a resounding embrace. But these are the weeks in which the American public had, for the first time, the opportunity to hear

from the -- not necessarily the major players that the Democrats would have wanted to hear from, but from people who are career diplomats, who are

bureaucrats, who are very serious, reliable and, in some cases, have worked for Republican presidents.

And yet despite that, David, we're seeing that the support is declining. Is there fatigue? Is that part of the reason?

SWERDLICK: I think it's a couple of reasons. There is some fatigue, I think there is the sense that there wasn't one witness who was a

blockbuster. All of those diplomats and career officials that you mentioned were credible, and they sort of reinforced the points of view on

both sides, made Democrats more confident in their case, made Republicans more confident that they still should fight the case.

The country is so divided that I do think that even if you see a few shifts in percentage points one way or the other for impeachment, you've got 40 to

45 to 50 percent of people disagreeing with it, and 40 to 45 percent of people agreeing with moving forward with impeachment.

At any given time, it largely falls along partisan lines and how people feel about President Trump. And that applies to members of Congress as

well. That's why there will be an essentially party line vote tomorrow, and likely a party line vote in the Senate at trial, with maybe one or two

exceptions in each case.

GORANI: And, Margaret, 700 scholars published an open letter, urging the House to impeach Donald Trump, warning that the president could turn into

an elected monarch above the law if that doesn't happen. Does that have any impact in the United States on public opinion, that big-name

intellectuals come out in favor of something like impeachment?

TALEV: It really hasn't substantively so far. Since the beginning of President Trump administration, long before an impeachment trial became a

reality, there have been blocs of national security advisors or former law enforcement or Intelligence Committee officials who have sort of rallied

together to try to flag as warning signs things that made them concerned about behavior inside the Trump administration, and it has not

substantively changed any of his numbers.

It doesn't mean that people who are dedicated professionals or experts in the field shouldn't come together and say what they're -- what they think

is important --


TALEV: -- but there is really not any reason to believe that it would substantially move the needle at this point. It -- public opinion has

appeared to be baked in for some period of time. Democrats are now poised to take their vote and will leave a mark in history. But how it will shape

the 2020 election is just not yet abundantly clear.

GORANI: Right. Thank you, Margaret Talev and David Swerdlick. Really great having you on the program --

SWERDLICK: Thanks, Hala.

GORANI: -- and stay tuned later in the show for two CNN reports out of different corners of Europe. We're following Donald Trump insiders in

Ukraine, but also in Hungary: what the U.S. president's men are up to in Europe and why controversy is following them. Those reports a little bit

later in the program.

To India now, where anger over a controversial new citizenship law has again spiraled into violence. Protestors clashed with police in New Delhi,

Tuesday afternoon. Police fired tear gas into the crowd, and say protestors threw stones. Other demonstrations in the city were more


All of this began as a way to protest against a new law that fast-tracks citizenship for religious minorities from some of India's neighboring

countries. Now, religious minorities excluding Muslims. So people coming from other countries who are Muslim would not be fast-tracked in the same

way, say Christians or Hindus.

Neighboring Pakistan says India's law could lead to a refugee crisis in the region. Sam Kiley tells us that amid the ongoing protests, one Muslim

woman has become a symbol for the movement.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A small woman with a big heart comes between Indian police to protect a fellow

Muslim student from a beating. Ayesha Renna admonishes the officer. This video has gone viral. And for opponents of India's new citizenship law,

her stand against authority reflects widespread anger against a powerful state.

She's been in hiding since the incident last Sunday, when demonstrations were broken by police, who forced their way into her university library,

firing tear gas.

KILEY: Did you ever think that you would find yourself scolding a police officer?

AYESHA RENNA, STUDENT: No. At that moment, I wanted to save my brother. So I -- in order to do that, I wanted to make those people away. If we got

saved only because there were a lot of media people came around us. If the media people didn't came (ph), then they will be brutally having (ph) and

they will be killing my brother.

KILEY (voice-over): As for the man she saved --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to regroup and we are going to protest again.

KILEY (voice-over): Many parts of the country were and still are rocked by protests against the Citizen Amendment Act, passed into law by a government

led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, just over a week ago.

He has appealed for calm, and rejected claims that the new law discriminates against Muslims. It allows migrants from Bangladesh,

Afghanistan and Pakistan to seek Indian nationality, but not if they're Muslim.

It comes after Modi won a landslide election, campaigning on a Hindu nationalist platform. India's 200 million Muslims make up about 14 percent

of the population. They see the new legislation as part of a Hindu- dominated government plan to marginalize them amid fears that their own Indian identifies could be questioned soon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't want to give citizenship to the Muslims, so this is again the principles of nationalism (ph) justice (ph) and equality,

because you cannot discriminate on the basis of religion in this modern world.

KILEY: But it is an act of parliament that's been passed by a majority of people that have been democratically elected here in India.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, but the thing is, you cannot let your democracy go into the hand of majoritarian (ph) view.

KILEY (voice-over): India's supreme court has been asked to rule on whether the new law is unconstitutional. Its deliberations may take some


Meanwhile, at least five opposition-led state governments have said that they will ignore the Citizenship Act, setting the stage for more clashes

inside and outside the courts. Sam Kiley, CNN, Delhi.


GORANI: Sam, remarkable images there and as Sam was mentioning there, that video of those women, shielding the protestor who was being beaten by

police, went viral over the last 24 hours, and certainly putting a face on demonstrators, some of whom are extremely angry with this legislation, what

they call discriminatory. We'll continue to follow news out of India.


Still to come tonight, an own (ph) goal for Italian football. Top clubs are condemning the league's new anti-racism campaign for being racist.

And some lose transportation and even electricity as union workers in France stand their ground against changes to their pensions. We'll have

the latest from Paris.


GORANI: So picture this for a moment. You're tasked with finding a piece of inspirational eye-catching artwork that will be featured in a new

campaign to fight racism, a campaign that will be seen by the whole world. You think and think and this is what you come up with.

This artwork was commissioned by Italy's top football league. The artist tells CNN the monkey is a metaphor for human beings. This comes as Italian

soccer has been plagued by racist abuse. And monkey chants toward black players have been a big part of the problem.

Don Riddell of "WORLD SPORT" joins me now. What's been the reaction to this bizarre campaign?

DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Overwhelmingly negative, are you kidding me? Is kind of the reaction that we have seen from pretty much everywhere,

Hala. I mean, it is just extraordinary, isn't it?

This, of course, coming just two weeks after the headline in the Italian paper, "Corriere dello Sport," an article that was highlighting black

players in Italy in a positive way, and the headline they went with was, "Black Friday." Now that, we've got this. Let's just begin by hearing

from the streets of Rome. This is what the people there had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It is not as though people of color are like this. They are not monkeys. I do not think people of color

are monkeys, absolutely not. It is a very strong metaphor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): If it's explained, there's (ph) a conclusion behind it, it could be positive. But just put out in this

manner, I don't think anyone would understand it is something anti-racist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): in this moment, if you speak in this manner, if you express yourself in this manner, there is just no pity.


RIDDELL: Two of the top clubs in Serie A have reacted. This is what Roma had to say, "Very surprised to see what appears to be an anti-racist

campaign from Serie A." The comment went on, "We understand the league wants to tackle racism, but we don't believe this is the right way to do


And A.C. Milan wrote, "Art can be powerful, but we strongly disagree with the use of monkeys as images in the fight against racism, and were

surprised by the total lack of consultation."

And that, Hala, I think, is a key point, the lack of consultation. You have to wonder who actually saw this campaign and approved it before it went

live. Because if there were people involved in football who had experience with this kind of abuse -- black players, black administrators -- surely

they would have said something before it went live, and you have to assume that they weren't consulted.

GORANI: And will the campaign be pulled?

RIDDELL: I don't know about that. I mean, I will say, it's a credit to Serie A and Italian football that they are actually doing something about

it, there is no doubt that it has --


RIDDELL: -- backfired so spectacularly. And I would imagine -- or at least I would hope -- that they're listening to what the critics are

saying. So perhaps they'll pull the artwork. Honestly, we don't know. But hopefully, they'll at least keep on with the campaign because it is so

badly needed --

GORANI: Sure. Yes.

RIDDELL: I mean, there is racism in Italian football, on the rise right across the continent. We've seen it in the last few weeks and months in

England, Bulgaria, Ukraine, the Netherlands. But Italy is always cited as the worst offender, and we have seen those incidents this year, with Romelu

Lukaku being taunted by monkey chants, Mario Balotelli as well.

GORANI: Yes. And -- and I think --

RIDDELL: So Italy needs something.

GORANI: That's the issue, is that the black players are being targeted with racist abuse from fans who are using monkey chants. So obviously,

using that imagery in the campaign -- would this -- was this an outside advertising agency? And Serie A sort of picked that particular campaign?

How did it come about?

RIDDELL: Yes. Actually, the artwork was done several months ago for a campaign around the Italian Cup final.

Interesting to hear what the artist himself has said. And I think it would be unfair to criticize the artist because monkey art is what he does. He

was obviously hired by -- for this campaign by Serie A.

And I mean, I think he's really quite upset about the criticism. He said, look, you know, if you look at the artwork, it's a western monkey, white

with blue eyes. It's an Asia monkey with almond eyes. And it's, you know, a black monkey in the middle, at the center of everything. I mean, he

believes this is a really positive message.

But it's not his responsibility. He was hired to do the artwork. It's Serie A --


RIDDELL: -- and whatever ad agency that they -- P.R. agency that they used to do this, that has kind of misstepped so badly.

GORANI: Don Riddell, thanks very much.

Thousands of French transportation workers are taking to the streets again. They're rallying against these pension reforms. Now, these demonstrations

are on their 13th day, multiple union groups joined the protests that have sparked crippling transport strikes just ahead of the holiday travel


Jim Bittermann reports from the streets of Paris -- Jim.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hala, with meetings scheduled with the prime minister tomorrow, the unions wanted this

demonstration today to be the biggest in the last 13 days of strikes, to put more pressure on the government or at least as much pressure as


And to that end, they've invited other unionists to come out. There are in fact eight unions out here today, in this group. And the other thing that

they've done, is they've called on other sectors to join them. The teachers, for example, about 15 percent of the teachers were on strike

today, hospital workers and other sectors as well.

One of the most worrisome sectors for the government, however, is the electrical workers. In fact, several went out and -- several unions went

out in different parts of the country, and there were about 100,000 homes almost without electricity for a brief period today.

So if the government wants to overcome this strike, they're going to have to divide and conquer these unions. It looks to some extend that they're

successful at that, because at least one of the main unions here has decided it will negotiate with the government. The other unions say no, no

way, the government has to simply withdraw this pension plan that they've come up with -- Hala.

GORANI: All right, Jim, thanks very much.

Still to come tonight, grounded, now completely put on hold. The aviation giant Boeing suspends production of 737 Max planes. We'll bring you the

latest with Richard Quest.



GORANI: Starting next month, Boeing will suspend its 737 Max plane production. The aviation giant is unsure when federal regulators will

allow the planes to fly again. The popular model was grounded in March in the wake of two crashes that killed 346 people.

Richard Quest joins me now from New York. So why -- why this decision now? Is it just the uncertainty of when they'll be able to -- to sell them


RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I think it's putting them back in the air. They can still sell them, but it's a question of when

will they be allowed to fly. And Boeing had thought it might be -- get permission to do this by the end of the year. Well, it's going to be well

into 2020 before the FAA does recertify.

And the more planes they make, the more they're going to have to check and re-check when they go back in the air.

To put this into context, Hala, there are already 778 Max planes that will have to be re-inspected, 378 delivered before the grounding and 400 planes

sitting in storage and airports around the world. Boeing wants to concentrate on that so it's decided not to make any more planes, which

would make a bad situation worse.

GORANI: And what will the effect be on Boeing's bottom line?

QUEST: Bad in the sense that they won't -- well, they haven't delivered these planes --

GORANI: Can they quantify -- can they quantify it --


QUEST: Not yet, no. They haven't -- they won't have delivered them, so they won't have got the final payments on them anyway.

I think the real danger here is to the Boeing supply chain, which is highly sophisticated, as you'll be well aware. You know, suppliers provide goods

just in time, the supplies have kept on supplying. What Boeing is now saying is, well, don't bother supplying any more.

Many of these companies rely purely on the 737 Max program to stay in business, and it's -- once you break a supply chain, it's very difficult to

rebuild it with any degree of efficiency or speed.

GORANI: And this is really bad news for Boeing. And I wonder, does Airbus benefit from all of this? Are they picking up some of the business that

Boeing is losing here?

QUEST: Yes, yes. I mean, Airbus would be loath to have any Schadenfreude at Boeing's discomfort here. It is a case of there-but-for-the-grace-of-

God-go-I. But, yes, the 320 will have gained -- or neo (ph) has gained order that in the past might have gone to the 737.

The amount of -- the other problem, Hala, the amount of management and engineering time that's going into the Max, which can't go into the triple-

seven-X. So that's now behind, so therefore the 350 gains. You get the idea.

Boeing is a company in crisis. Airbus is smoothly moving along.

GORANI: Well, what happened to all those fixes they were promising? I mean, Boeing --

QUEST: They're there.

GORANI: -- sounded really confident -- they sounded really confident, that this was just a little software thing or they have to retrain some pilots,

maybe, but then they're good. What happened to that?

QUEST: That's the last part, is the -- the last part is the important part. The software fixes are there, they've been tested, they've been

workable. However, now the FAA wants to know how much extra training the pilots need to use the Max. They had thought --

GORANI: Right.

QUEST: -- Boeing had hoped it could be on an iPad. Now, they're saying, no, you might need simulator training. And anyway, what they're really

getting to, the nub of it, is can ordinary, everyday, run-of-the-mill pilots -- not flight aces -- can an ordinary airline pilot handle a crisis

when the Max and MCAS come into play? So far, the answer seems to have been no.

GORANI: Richard, thanks very much. We'll see you at the top of the hour for more on this --

QUEST: Thank you.

GORANI: -- story and the rest of the business news of the day.

Still to come, Donald Trump's personal attorney acknowledges why he wanted the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine removed from her post. Why Rudy Giuliani

says he needed Marie Yovanovitch out of the way.

Plus this.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What do you say to people who say that you're too friendly with Prime Minister Orban? What's

your response to that?

DAVID B. CORNSTEIN, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO HUNGARY: My response is the same as if you asked me about my relationship with my wife.



GORANI: Another Trump appointee is having to answer to criticism about his close personal relationship with Hungary's controversial leader. A CNN

special report is next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

GORANI: Less than 24 hours before the House holds its impeachment debate, President Trump has a message for the U.S. Speaker.

In a lengthy and strongly worded letter to Nancy Pelosi. Mr. Trump expresses his quote, strongest and most powerful protest against the

partisan impeachment crusade.

I have the letter here. It's very long. There is no way that I can read it before I get to Stephen Collinson in its entirety.

Stephen, you're with me from the Washington bureau. Dear Madame Speaker, I write to express my strongest and most powerful protest against the

partisan impeachment crusade by being pursued by the Democrats and House of Representatives. It goes on to say that there was no obstruction of

Congress, that there was no abuse of power going over again the call with President Zelensky of Ukraine that it is at the center of this impeachment

probe by the Democratic-led House.

Stephen Collinson joins me now. What is the -- what does the president hope to achieve with a letter like this?

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Hala, this is an extraordinary communication between the president and the speaker. Just

glancing it, as you were coming out to me there, it looks like almost a distillation of all the tweets that the president has put out, attacking

this impeachment saga. It doesn't really bring any counterevidence to the Democratic charges. It just throws off a full set of accusations by the


Clearly, what he's trying to do is shape the political conversation ahead of the expected vote by Democrats and the full House on Wednesday to

impeach him, to make him only the third U.S. president to have that historic stain on his record.

I mean, he accuses Nancy Pelosi of an unconstitutional abuse of power. The very charge with which the Democrats starts pursuing him in their first

article of impeachment. He accuses her of violating her oath of office by bringing up impeachment, abuses of power. He calls the charge against him

disingenuous, and all made up because the Democrats couldn't beat him in 2016.

So the president, I think, is trying to shape the conversation ahead of that vote. It's almost like a greatest hits, if you like, of all his

charges. What it shows us is that impeachment will not count the president in any way. There is no sense of --


GORANI: Stephen, we're hearing from Trump now in the Oval Office. He's hosting the Guatemalan president. Let's listen in.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- to witnesses. We're not entitled to anything in the House. It's a total sham. When you have a guy

like Shifty Schiff go out and make a statement that I made, she -- he said, this is what he said, but I never said it. He totally made it up.

In Guatemala, they handle things much more different -- much tougher than that. And because of immunity, as House immunity, because of immunity, he

can't be prosecuted. He took a statement and totally made it up. It was a lie, it was a fraud. And you just can't do those things.

So, you know, look, this has been a total sham from the beginning. Everybody knows -- I've never seen the Republican Party so united. We've

got, more or less, vote as you know, we've got 100 percent of the vote.

I believe the Senate is equally as well united. I watched Mitch McConnell. I watched numerous people last night, the senators. And I think we're

equally well united. They know it's a hoax, it's a witch-hunt. And it's just a continuation. It's been going on now for almost three years and it

probably started before even when the election based on what we're finding out with the insurance policy quotes and other things. So it's a disgrace.

Yes, Steve?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to let Senator McConnell decide on witnesses and all of that?

TRUMP: Yes, he can decide. And we'll also have to decide on when we're taking the vote for the USMCA. A very big -- a very important deal. A

very, very important deal with Mexico, Canada, ourselves. And we're going to have to decide, whether or not, that comes first or second.

To me, I'd let the Senate to decide on that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, Mr. President, do you take any responsibility for the fact that you're about to be impeached?

TRUMP: No. I don't take any -- zero, to put it mildly. They took a perfect phone call that I had with the President of Ukraine -- an

absolutely perfect call. You know it, they all know it. Nothing was said wrong on that call. To impeach the President of the United States for that

is a disgrace and it's a mark on our country.

And I'll tell you what. Other Presidents, in the future -- unless they do something about this, other Presidents are going to have to live with this.

And every time they do something that's a little bit unpopular or a little bit strong, even if they're 100 percent right, because I've done a great

job, when you look at the kind of jobs we've created, when you look at the economy that we've created, when you look at rebuilding the military,

taking care of the vets.

You just take a look at what we've done with Choice, Veterans Choice, with accountability and the vets, with what we've done to protect our Second

Amendment, and so many other things. Nobody has done as much as I've done in the first three years.

Thank you all very much.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, on Guatemala -- on Guatemala, are you planning to withhold aid if the new President-elect of Guatemala does not

implement your immigration agreement, Mr. President?

TRUMP: Guatemala is terrific.

GORANI: All right. The U.S. President, Donald Trump, hosting the Guatemalan president there in the Oval Office. You see the two First

Ladies, the First Lady of Guatemala and Melania Trump, sitting on the sofa there.

And predictively, reporters are asking questions not necessarily about the U.S.-Guatemalan relationship but about this impeachment probe which the

president once again called a total sham. He also said in Guatemala, they handle things much tougher than that.

They've gone on to say that he's never seen the Republican Party so united. He called the impeachment proceedings a, quote, hoax and witch-hunt, and

that the Democrats took a, quote, perfect phone call with Zelensky of Ukraine. And to impeach over that is a quote, disgrace.

We've heard all of this before from the president. Stephen Collinson is still with me. And this, of course, against the backdrop of that five-page

letter that the U.S. president sent to the -- to the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

And you said that the letter was a digest of all the tweets that he'd put out over the last several months. I'd say his comments in the White House

are kind of a digest of the letter where he goes over what he says are his administration's achievements, and that he's being treated unfairly, and

that this is a hoax, and that this was a perfect phone call with Zelensky.

So is there though any nervousness at all in the White House just a few hours from this big vote in the House?

COLLINSON: I don't think there's nervousness over the fact that the president will be impeached. We know that is almost certainly going to

happen. And the White House clearly understands political dynamics in the Senate in the New Year, the president will be acquitted. So he's not

endangered of losing his job.

It does seem that on a personal level, the president is very angry that he will go down in that club of three impeached presidents. And I think going

forward, that is going to inform the rest of his term. He's going to be exceedingly vindictive towards Democrats.


And I think what he's signaling here is he has no intention whatsoever of moderating his behavior. There's no contrition, there's no admission by

the president or other Republicans that perhaps what he did in that phone call was not wrong.

And you can read the transcript of the phone call yourself. The president asked President Zelensky to do us a favor. He goes on to asked him to

investigate a conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election and asked for an investigation into Joe Biden, his potential political


Now, by any conventional definition of presidential behavior, that is not perfect. But it shows how the president is using that phone call to try

and build the case, convince his followers and everybody else that he is being victimized and that he is the one that's suffering from an abuse of

power on behalf of the Democrats. It's a misinformation campaign, not based on facts. But that doesn't mean it won't be politically successful.

GORANI: Yes. And in the letter, there were some parts appeared to have been written with a lot of legal knowledge backing up some of the claims,

perhaps the president got some help from council on that.

But then there are other section where he uses the personal insults that he is coined against some of his rivals, the do-nothing Democrats and the rest

of it.

So this is unusual, right, in a presidential letter to have these types of -- I mean, you could call them childish insults directed at political


COLLINSON: That's for sure. Hala, it matches the gravity of the historic moment. You can almost imagine the president's in there with his black

Sharpie adding stuff into this communication.

It's often the case, actually, you get official White House communications sometimes, for example, from the press secretary and it's pretty clear that

the president either dictated all or part of it because it's such a recognizable vernacular. This is certainly the case here.

And I think it shows that inside the White House while there may be people of expertise of the law and who might think this is perhaps not the most

advisable step for the president to take, there's no one around him who can restrain the president and he's going to do and say exactly what he wants

to say.

GORANI: All right. One of the lines is, more due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem witch trials.

Thanks very much, Stephen Collison, live in Washington.

And we will be right back.


GORANI: We want to bring you two special reports on the next few minutes, both focused on people inside of Trump's inner circle operating in Eastern

European countries and creating a lot of controversy in the process.

We'll show you why the U.S. ambassador to Hungary, David Cornstein, is raising eyebrows. But first, let's get you off to speed on what another

high profile Trump insider is up to in Ukraine, his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.


And, in fact, Rudy Giuliani is not trying to hide what he's been doing. He made a startling admission in an interview with the New Yorker earlier this

week when he said he needed the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, out of the way.

Giuliani said Yovanovitch was frustrating his attempts to learn information about Mr. Trump's rival, Joe Biden, from Ukrainian sources.

Now, you'll remember, she was removed from her post in May. Fred Pleitgen has more on Giuliani's dirt-digging mission.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rudy Giuliani's continued efforts to dig up dirt on the Bidens in Ukraine are

disgusting some anticorruption groups in that country.

DARIA KALENIUK, ANTAC: It's not search for truth. It's actually continued spreading disinformation, in the best tradition of Kremlin.

PLEITGEN: And it's music to the ears of Putin-controlled TV in Russia, who are eager to paint themselves as innocent, despite the U.S. intelligence

community's conclusions about Russian election interference in 2016.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It turns out the State Department is wired to remove Trump's power and to stop the case of corrupt Biden from

being investigated, as Giuliani says.

PLEITGEN: Giuliani, who spoke with Trump last week after returning from a supposed fact-finding mission to Ukraine and other Eastern European

countries, tweeted this weekend a string of clips from pro- Trump right- wing media outlet OAN, claiming to lay out his findings, which he says prove fraud by the energy company, Burisma, which employed Joe Biden's son

Hunter and alleges that then Vice President Joe Biden had the Ukrainian prosecutor general investigating the case, Viktor Shokin, fired.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He will testify that he was investigating Biden's son. He will show you the documents that

prove he was investigating Biden's son.

PLEITGEN: There is no evidence that Biden did anything wrong. And Giuliani is also refusing to acknowledge the clamor by European and

American leaders alike at the time for Shokin to be fired due to his alleged corruption.

Ukraine's main anti-corruption action group, AntAC, which has also been in Giuliani's crosshairs, tells CNN there was broad consensus that Shokin was

ineffective, and provided us with documents apparently showing that he actually hindered large parts of the investigation into Burisma.

KALENIUK: Under his leadership, prosecution is not reforming. And, actually, he is blocking the attempts to do the reforms and to perform

proper investigations.

PLEITGEN: AntAC says the same goes for Ukraine's next prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, another one of Rudolph Giuliani's proclaimed witnesses.

Neither Shokin nor Lutsenko replied to CNN's efforts to contact them.

KALENIUK: Giuliani continues surrounding him with the most notorious, corrupt people in Ukraine with bad reputation, who are helping to feed this


PLEITGEN: And Kremlin-controlled media is clearly gobbling up the message, portraying America as weak and Ukraine in disarray, but President Trump as

the winner.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Moscow.


GORANI: Well, Giuliani hasn't stopped there. A few hours ago on Twitter, he kept up his attack on the former ambassador when he accused her of,

quote, denying visas to Ukrainians who wanted to come to the U.S. and explain Democratic corruption in Ukraine.

So he is not letting down. Rudy Giuliani also recently had dinner with another Trump associates during his travels, the U.S. ambassador to

Hungary, the business magnate, David Cornstein.

Chief International Correspondent, Clarissa Ward looks at the man building American ties with Hungry.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was an independence day to remember, hosted by one of President Trump's oldest

friends, the U.S. ambassador to Hungary, David Cornstein.

Like the president, Cornstein enjoys putting on a show.

Singer Paul Anka was flown in to serenade the guest of honor, Hungary's far-right authoritarian leader, Viktor Orban.

DAVID CORNSTEIN, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO HUNGARY: And it is my distinct pleasure and my great honor to introduce my partner and my friend, the

prime minister of Hungary, our guest of honor, Viktor Orban.

WARD: Four years ago, such a fawning display would have been unthinkable. But under President Trump, the U.S./Hungarian relationship is blossoming

once again.

And that's in no small part due to the appointment of Ambassador David Cornstein, an 81-year-old jewelry magnet from New York City with no

relevant political experience beyond a decade's old friendship with the president.


CORNSTEIN: I became a diplomat. Who the hell would have figured that? I became a diplomat. I know --

WARD: Political appointees on both sides of the aisle are often inexperienced and sometimes ineffective, but Cornstein has a direct line of

communication with the president. He was instrumental in arranging a White House visit for Orban despite protests from both parties.

TRUMP: Probably like me a little bit controversial, but that's OK. That's OK. You've done a good job.

WARD: One of Orban's many controversial moves has been to force the U.S. accredited graduate school, Central European University, founded and funded

by George Soros, out of Hungary.

CEU President, Michael Ignatieff, says that while Cornstein publicly vowed to help the university in its dispute, privately, he quickly capitulated to


WARD (on-camera): Why would he be unwilling to push for an issue that's so clearly in Americans interests?

MICHAEL IGNATIEFF, PRESIDENT, CENTRAL EUROPEAN UNIVERSITY (CEU): I don't understand, to tell you the truth. But somehow, I think Mr. Cornstein

began to think, huh, this is a liberal institution. I'm closer to a conservative like Orban than I am to the ideals of the institution. And

what's disturbing about that is that shouldn't be the issue.

WARD (voice-over): For the government here, his appointment has been a gift, bringing Hungary back into the U.S.' good books while appearing to

demand no real concessions.

ZOLTAN KOVACS, SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION AND RELATIONS: For the past two years, since the coming of the new ambassador,

we believe it's a new chapter we have opened.

The previous chapter was a necessary burden with the kind of ideological debates and pressure that was coming from the Democrats and was basically

derailing U.S.-Hungarian relationships.

WARD: Cornstein's office declined a CNN request for an interview, citing the ambassador's busy schedule. But when by chance we bumped into him at a

Budapest restaurant, he sat with us and let us ask a couple of questions on our cell phones.

WARD (on-camera): What do you say to people who say that you're too friendly with Prime Minister Orban? What's your response to that?

CORNSTEIN: My response is the same as if you asked me about my relationship with my wife. We're married 50 years, and we have a good

relationship, but we have our days where they're not so good and we disagree upon certain things. The same thing is true with the prime


WARD: But that's a close relationship then?

CORNSTEIN: It's a good relationship where we have established the trust with each other and where I can tell him where I think he's making a

mistake with what he's doing in a respectful manner.

WARD (voice-over): Ambassador Cornstein soon asked us to stop recording. But off camera, we asked him about his recent dinner here with Rudy


WARD (on-camera): He would only say that the men are close personal friends, and that he hadn't even asked Giuliani about the purpose of his

visit here.

Throughout the conversation, though, Cornstein seemed unfazed by criticism that has come his way. He told us simply, I report to one man only, and

that is the president of the United States. And so far, nobody has told me they don't like the results of what I'm doing.

WARD (voice-over): Privately, though, some feared that the ambassador's actions undermine American interests here and that Trump's disregard for

diplomatic norms could deal a blow that will last much longer than Cornstein's tenure and have repercussions far beyond Hungary.

Clarissa Ward, CNN, Budapest.


GORANI: A big shift in the Catholic Church backing victims of sexual abuse over the abusers. Pope Francis has done away with the practice of

pontifical secrecy when it comes to cases of abuse. Without that code of confidentiality, church officials will have to choice but to cooperate with

local authorities.

He also tightened the Vatican's' definition of child pornography which is a crime within the church. The changes have come after a call to action from

Catholic leaders earlier this year.

A lot more to come tonight, a family in Florida is calling it a Christmas miracle. What they say prompted their daughter with autism to speak for

the first time in her life. We'll be right back.



GORANI: One traveler wants to show the world that individuals can make a difference when it comes to climate change. Roger Tyer (ph) did that.

Well, you have to have a lot of time on your own. So that that has to be said.

He did that by traveling round trip from the U.K. to China entirely by train. The ethic journey across nine countries took him a month and cost

more than $2,500. But Tyer says it was all worth it. He estimates his trip produced almost 90 percent less in terms of emissions than flying.

He's not the only one acting on so-called flight shame. Thousands have pledged to stop flying including most famously, Greta Thunberg.

And a Florida family is calling what happened to their daughter a Christmas miracle. Marisabel Figueroa Lopez says a neighbor's stunning light display

helped her daughter with autism speaks for the first time.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We like to see these bright lights.


MARISABEL FIGUEROA LOPEZ, KAITLYN'S MOTHER: She jumped up and said, Santa's coming. Santa's coming.


GORANI: Well, Kaitlyn was diagnosed with autism when she was three. And doctor said she would never ever speak. But her mom says once she saw the

lights this year, something changed for her 13-year-old.


LOPEZ: For me, it's a Christmas miracle. To hear her speak, it just gives me hope. Like today, it's two to three words, tomorrow it could be a

sentence. A year from now, it could be a whole conversation.


GORANI: Yes, those are some bright lights. Lopez thanked her neighbor for giving them the best Christmas ever. And there's your feel good story of

the day. I'm Hala Gorani, "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is next.