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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
White House Declares 'War' With Democrats; New Lawyer Hired By The White House To Advise On Impeachment; The White House In Crisis: The Impeachment Inquiry; White House Claims That Dem Impeachment Inquiry 'Violates' Constitution, Trump's Rights; Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) Is Interviewed About Democrat's Impeachment Inquiry; Trey Gowdy Expected To Work With White House On Impeachment Inquiry. Aired 11p- 12a ET
Aired October 8, 2019 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Laura, what do you have in store?
LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Well, we're going to actually answer some of the questions that people are wanting to know about. What does all of this mean, where are we today, and a lot of the why not, Don, like why can't you have somebody testify in front of the Hill today?
Why was the person not allowed to do so? Why can't there be a full vote? I mean, I think people want to understand what this all means and where we are in this really important moment in history. I'm going to do that tonight.
LEMON: Well, I think it's good. Because and I love what you guys are doing. You break it down. You had Jeffrey on last night and you guys were just sort of breaking down what happens.
But I mean, it seems, Laura, every single day there's something new. There are many more new things. And it's sometimes difficult for the public to understand. But it comes at us like a fire hose, like, you know, drinking news from a fire House.
COATES: You will have whiplash. And by the time we get to 11 p.m. tonight we have this. The idea of all the developments during the day, Don. What happened at 5 p.m. versus six, versus seven and on. So much changes over the course of a minute. And if you look away for a second you might history in the making.
We were here twice before in American history in modern times. And here we are again in 2019. And we've got to understand what's going on even though yes, a little bit whiplash is happening to people today.
LEMON: All right. Break it down for us, Laura. Take it away.
COATES: Well, thanks. Let's get straight to the news.
This is the CNN special hour, the White House in Crisis: The Impeachment Inquiry. I'm Laura Coates.
And tonight, I'm going to take you through the top headlines and late breaking news on the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump.
Our headlines the White House sending letters to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, refusing now to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. That was fast. Democrats fighting back with subpoenas for Ambassador Gordon Sondland, a millionaire Trump donor to turn over documents on the Ukraine call by Monday. And to appear in person by Wednesday.
And now a source telling CNN the Ukraine whistleblower wrote a memo describing the reaction of a White House official who actually listened to that now infamous call. That official calling the conversation, quote, "crazy and frightening."
We'll get into all of it tonight with CNN Legal Analyst, Michael Gerhardt, CNN Political Analyst, Ryan Lizza, former DNI James Clapper, and Congressman Ro Khanna who is on the oversight committee.
But first, CNN Alex Marquardt takes us through tonight's big developments. Alex, we got a lot of fast-moving developments tonight. Tell us how are Democrats responding to this really scathing letter from the White House?
ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Laura, like you said, so much going on throughout the course of the day. The battle lines quickly being drawn in this impeachment inquiry.
The White House for its part tonight making it clear they have no intention of playing nice of making it easy for those Democrats in Congress. And one of the first examples of that that we saw earlier today was when the White House shut down and blocked testimony by a key player at the center of the Ukraine scandal.
Tonight, the White House declaring war with congressional Democrats over impeachment. A letter from the Trump administration to congressional leadership accusing them of a proceeding that violates the Constitution, the rule of law and every past precedent. Seeking to overturn the results of the 2016 election.
The president's lawyer writing, "Your unprecedented actions have left the president with no choice. President Trump and his administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under the circumstances."
The letter coming at the end of a dramatic day that saw the White House blocking the testimony of one of the president's point men on Ukraine. U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.
House Democrats firing back with the subpoena demanding Sondland's presence and documents.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): By preventing us from hearing from this witness and obtaining these documents the president and secretary of state are taking actions that prevent us from getting the facts needed to protect the nation's security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: Sondland was supposed to be deposed this morning about what he knows about the president's request that Ukraine investigate Joe Biden and his son. But just after midnight, the State Department after consulting with the White House sent word to Sondland's lawyer he wasn't allowed to go to the Hill.
Three House committees had planned to grill Sondland, zeroing in on text messages in which Sondland clearly understood that the president wanted Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: Not only is the Congress being deprived of his testimony the American people deprived of his testimony today. But we are also aware that the ambassador has text messages or e-mails on a personal device which have been provided to the State Department.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: Sondland's lawyer said the E.U. ambassador was profoundly disappointed to not be allowed to appear and stands ready to testify on short notice. The president's allies in Congress pounced.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY): This whole thing is a fairytale. Adam Schiff is misleading you. And you are playing along with it. many of you are. And the American public is then getting deceived.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: Tonight, sources tell CNN that before the president agreed to meet with his new Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky. He told his top Ukraine aides including Sondland and Energy Secretary Rick Perry they would have to convince his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who is Trump's man on the conspiracy theory against the Bidens.
"If they can satisfy Rudy. They can satisfy the president." A person familiar with the meeting set an indication of how intertwined U.S. policy towards Ukraine was with Trump's personal agenda and a clear circumvention of official channels.
That meeting was on May 23. Two months before Trump's call with President Zelensky made clear that the president wanted Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
CNN has also learned that after the president's phone call with Ukraine president in July, officials scrambled at least one national security official alerting White House lawyers who put the transcript of the call into a highly classified and restricted server.
That call a source tells CNN was so disturbing to a White House official, that they called it crazy and frightening to the whistleblower who reported it. Adding, the White House aid was shaken.
Now, despite the White House insisting they will not cooperate with the impeachment inquiry, they are in fact gearing up for it. Sources telling CNN tonight that the White House is hiring the former South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy as a lawyer.
Now he's not expected to join the administration officially but will be advising from the outside after the White House reach out to him and he met with the chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Laura?
COATES: Trey Gowdy, huh? Well, Alex Marquardt, thank you. I want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst, Michael Gerhardt, and CNN Senior Political Analyst, Ryan Lizza to talk about all of this crazy and frightening and now Trey Gowdy has made an entrance here.
Ryan, this letter makes it really clear, the President's strategy, remember that little reprieve we had when they handed over a transcript and they handed over whistleblower complaint and everyone said, stonewalling is done, full stop. That seems to be over. Is that going to stop the bleeding now?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don't think so. I mean, I think they're, you know, they're trying to do two things. One to prevent the Democrats from having any additional facts because they do realize, as you point out, Laura, that the facts that they did release the read out of the phone call, it's not a full transcript. And the whistleblower complaint really did open up -- I think they thought that that might stop impeachment from going forward.
Of course, quite the opposite happened. New people came forward, an enormous amount of facts were available for the Democrats to investigate.
And, you know, this letter tonight which I have read as many smart legal commentators as I could find on it. It does not seem like a legally sound letter to argue that the House doesn't have, you know, somehow unconstitutional to go forward with this inquiry.
And I assume this is headed towards the Supreme Court. In the meantime, I don't think it's going to stop the Democrats in any way from going forward with the investigation although it makes it a whole lot more difficult without any cooperation whatsoever.
COATES: I mean, Michael, it didn't all of a sudden become a legal document when they use the word Constitution 50 times. You're the expert on impeachment. The White House claims right now that House Democrats are actually the ones who are abusing power. They are violating the Constitution. They're violating the rule of law. And every past precedent of impeachment. Did you find any legal basis for any of that?
MICHAEL GERHARDT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No. In fact, it's just the opposite. No. This is easy. I think the letter is what I would describe as fake law. It's a very weak document. It makes mostly political points. But the legal points it makes are actually crazy and frightening. Just to quote from somebody earlier. The letter is the president can dictate how impeachment is done. He
can dictate the procedures. He can decide what information he shares and doesn't share with anyone. He's not accountable to the law and the criminal process. That pretty much sounds like the president is saying he's above the law. And that's inconsistent with the Constitution in American law.
COATES: I mean, we went from fake news, Michael, to now, to fake law. But for the American people who aren't as intimately aware of what impeachment actually looks like and behind the scenes, I mean, what's next?
Are we in stalemate here? I mean, how should the impeachment inquiry actually work. It can't be just use a spout out fake law, and that's it.
GERHARDT: No, you're absolutely right. The ball is in the House's court, so to speak. And so, the House will proceed as you have been seeing it. You're kind of seeing the process unfold in front of you. And so, the House will continue to try and investigate and get facts.
Keep in mind that the president's direction that nobody shares information that all his aides of former aides defy subpoenas and even he himself is defying a subpoena. That can all be construed, perhaps quite credibly as obstruction of justice or an attempt to undermine the impeachment process. That's an attack on the House.
The Constitution says the House has the sole power to impeach. It doesn't say the president gets a say over it. This is up to the House what procedure and how it moves.
COATES: Well, sounds like prerogative at work here. I'll get back to both of you, so please stay with me. I want to hear from you, Ryan, as well.
Because coming up, why shouldn't the House have a formal vote on the impeachment inquiry? Why shouldn't the White House let Ambassador Sondland testify? And why not let Rudy Giuliani testify? I'll make the case next.
COATES: So, the White House now in a total standoff with House Democrats over the impeachment inquiry. Remember that phrase constitutional crisis. Well, it's swirling yet again.
In my case tonight I want to look at both sides of some of the key arguments in this really rapidly developing story. Now both parties have now retreated to their corners of the ring. And to quote Mike Tyson, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.
Now after today, both parties have a black eye. A key witness refused to appear for congressional hearings and the White House is fighting really for some legal leg to stand on in its letter to Congress. So, what's their plan now?
Let's break it down by asking and hen answering the right questions. Now, we already know the why. Why is there an impeachment inquiry? Well, because of the potential of abuse of power related to that Ukrainian call. Why doesn't Trump want it impeachment inquiry? Because he wants to stay president of the United States. We got that.
So, the better question is why not? Three key questions for tonight. First, first, why doesn't Pelosi just ask for a full vote on whether to have an impeachment inquiry? I mean, after all they did just that before the impeachment proceedings of Nixon and of Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: First of all, there's no requirement that there be a full vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Well, hope we're not back on the are we in the impeachment or not discussion. The so called what are we. But to be fair, look, Congress has held a full vote before beginning impeachment inquiries. They did it before Nixon. Did it before Clinton. Now Democrats they don't want to have a vote for political and practical reasons.
First of all, Nancy Pelosi is right. According to the Constitution they don't have to. So, in their minds why subject representatives to more votes than necessary especially if you're a congressman who is politically vulnerable.
Now, second, the precedent of Nixon and Clinton, well, that happened but not really instructive here. Because the House rules have changed since both of those inquiries. Before, they needed to get a vote in order to get subpoena power. But now with the new rules the majority already has it. That's the Democrats.
Now the Republican minority they want that power. But the Democrats don't have to give it to them. And why don't they want to? Well, there's a very real chance that the Republicans might just try to use the subpoena power to investigate the tangential issue of the Bidens. Or even just use that authority to call witnesses that may make a mockery of the proceedings rather than to constructively counter any of the arguments.
And speaking of witnesses, question number two. Why not let Ambassador Sondland testify? Especially if your refusal to do so could just give Democrats more ammunition to say you are obstructing Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: The failure to produce this witness, the failure to produce these documents, we consider yet additional strong evidence of obstruction of the constitutional functions of Congress. A coequal branch of government. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Didn't lessons of Nixon in an article of impeachment tell you that? There's a risk here. But if your Congress you want to hear what Sondland knew about the president's motive for withholding congressional aid to Ukraine.
You want to know why Sondland wanted communications to be off text messages. Call me, he said. And why did he call the president before responding to his fellow diplomat about that old quid pro quo?
Now if you're the president, you want a muzzle on anyone who can potentially implicate you and try to explain your intentions. But one of the president's chief defenders says look, there's no need for anyone to testify at all particularly Sondland.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): There's no wrongdoing. Ambassador Volker was clear. Remember, Ambassador Volker is -- why not release the transcript so you can all see what Ambassador Volker told us. There is no wrongdoing. He was completely as clear as could be no quid no quo whatsoever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Well, I mean, if that's the case, then why not just let Sondland testify? Say that very thing and prove your case.
And finally, today, Senate judiciary committee chairman Lindsey Graham invited the president's personal lawyer and one man show Rudy Giuliani to say his piece before his Senate judiciary committee. Which by the way, brings me to my final why not. Why not let Giuliani testify?
OK. Let me pause for a second and say that question was actually not meant to be rhetorical. Although trust me, we all know what a Giuliani hearing might just look like.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: You don't know what happened. I know what happened.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: How do you know when I don't know?
GIULIANI: You are just repeating -- you are repeating spin. The prosecutor --
CUOMO: But you don't.
GIULIANI: -- the prosecutor -- and you want to cover some ridiculous charge that I urge the Ukrainian government to investigate corruption. Well, I did. And I'm proud of it.
CUOMO: It's not a ridiculous allegation. You just admitted it.
GIULIANI: All I can tell you is if what is reported is true, it doesn't make a damn. It doesn't make any difference. If the president of the United States said to the president of Ukraine, investigate the corruption in your country that has a bearing on our 2016 election. Isn't that what he's supposed to do?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: So, it wasn't rhetorical. But if you're a Democrat, Giuliani could turn the proceedings into a circus. Or what he did there. And the conspiracy theory he's been peddling about Joe Biden and he could try to make them all stick against the wall.
Here's the thing, if you're the president here, Giuliani could also implicate you with reckless admissions. Now the letter also by the way introduces a third-party interest. Not often talked about here. Future presidents.
If Giuliani testifies, he potentially risks the court of law setting pretty harsh parameters on the attorney client privilege protection. I mean, he says he's the president's attorney, right? And also, perhaps for the first time, the court could definitely rule on the limits of executive privilege.
Well, the bell for the next rounds is about to sound and both sides better be ready for this fight. Because you know what? We'll be watching.
Back again right now with Michael Gerhardt and Ryan Lizza. Ryan, I want to bring you in here. Because you've heard my why nots here. So tell me what do you see as a downside for Speaker Pelosi in holding the vote on this impeachment inquiry?
LIZZA: Well, I think you nailed it. Giving -- it's really about giving the minority in the House the right to issue subpoenas. And I assume that the Democrats in the House don't want the minority on the three main committees to sort of turn it into a circus with peripheral witnesses.
Now, my understanding is the way it would work is the committees would actually vote on the subpoenas anyway. So, they would actually in the end at the end of the say be able with a, if there a majority held to vote down any kind of frivolous subpoenas or things that they felt were outside of the, you know, the investigation.
But I think that's the main issue. And I think now it's also a matter of principle that the White House does not get to dictate how the House of Representatives, you know, goes about its business of an impeachment inquiry. Right? The president it's not -- it's just not his role. And I don't think they -- they think that there's any -- if they do a
full vote, I think there's a sense that Trump is not he's going -- he is just going to move the goal post after that. And so, they won't actually have any benefit. But --
COATES: You know, that's a great point about moving the goal post here. I want to turn to you, Michael, here. Because, is this fair? I mean, on the flip side doesn't holding a formal vote actually strengthen Democrats hand when it comes to trying to get documents and testimony? And it also by the way takes away what Ryan is talking about that talking point that impeachment is illegitimate.
GERHARDT: I don't think so. I thought your description of the issues is really quite excellent. I agree with Ryan on everything he said. You pointed out earlier that in fact the rules have changed in the House. And that is a difference.
We also have a statute now which allows which gives power to chairs to issue subpoenas. So, the rules and procedures are different now than they were previously. The House is following them. And so, there's nothing illegitimate about what the House is doing.
I also think that the focus of the White House letter on process is intended in part to sort of shift our attention from what really might be more embarrassing for the president. And that's the facts.
Notice that anybody who is in possession of the facts the president tries to keep them from testifying or appearing. And that just raises suspicion further. Which is why you see the polling and interesting at least having an inquiry increase.
COATES: The old OK-doke. Well, Ryan and Michael, thank you. Obviously, you're both Mike Tyson fans --
LIZZA: Thanks, Laura.
COATES: -- which is why you love my commentary about it. Thank you so much.
So, CNN is learning tonight that a White House official who listened to that infamous Ukraine call says it was crazy and frightening. What from former DNI James Clapper has to say about it. Well, that's up next.
COATES: So now we're learning more about the time line of events in the immediate aftermath of President Trump's call with Ukrainian President Zelensky. So, let's walk through it.
So, the call it took place on July 25the. And according to "The New York Times," the whistleblower at the center of this wrote a memo about their conversation with the White House official the very next day.
CNN is reporting that the whistleblower wrote that the White House official appeared to be shaken and even described the call between Trump and Zelensky as "crazy" and "frightening." CNN is also reporting that in the hours and days after the call, word began to spread among the National Security aides about what was discussed on the call.
In fact, three sources are now telling CNN that at least one official on the National Security Council alerted the White House's national security lawyers about their concerns. Those same lawyers would then go on to order that the transcript of the call be moved to that highly classified code word level server to keep it hush-hush.
We're also learning about what happened in that almost five-hour gap between senior diplomat Bill Taylor's text questioning, what he perceived as withholding security assistance for help with a political campaign, and Ambassador Sondland's actual answer.
And a source is telling CNN that Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the E.U. and million-dollar Trump donor, actually spoke to the president about the situation. That led to Sondland's reply of, Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump's intentions. The president has been crystal clear no quid pro quos of any kind.
There's a lot to discuss here. We know we got the perfect man for the job. James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence, joins me now. I can't think of a better person than you, Director Clapper, to join us on this segment. You know, when you hear, Director Clapper, that the White House official that helped inform the whistleblower's report was shaken and that he described the call as "crazy" and "frightening," what's your gut reaction?
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Laura, I couldn't help but hark back to the memos of phone calls that President Obama engaged with, which I would -- I never sat in on any calls that the president made live, but I did get summaries as the other cabinet law officials who were relevant of these calls, you know, would come to me some weeks later. I found them uniformly boring.
I mean, it was good to know what, you know, the policy calls were and all that sort of thing. But for me as the intelligence guy, it wasn't at all that important to me.
And now when I'm just trying to imagine what it would be like to be privy to a phone call involving the president of the United States where there is -- which is certainly inappropriate, if not illegality, and what a shock that had to be so that had to have created a stir among staffers in the White House and specifically the National Security Council, of course this would add further corroboration and at least in my mind to the original whistleblower complaint.
I mean, there seems to be a consistent pattern here and --
CLAPPER: Your last segment and your case, you know, it seems to me that Democrats already have a lot of facts already: the whistleblower complaint, the memorandum of the phone call itself which surprised me that the White House would issue that. And now we're seeing more and more corroboration, and then of course the curious sequence of events involving the ambassador to the European Union.
You know, one might ask, why is he involved? Well, rhetorical question. Obviously, he's a political appointee ambassador as opposed to Taylor, who is a professional Foreign Service officer.
COATES: Not to mention that the European Union ambassador having ties to Ukraine, which last I checked, Director Clapper, not a part of the E.U., first of all.
COATES: So you wonder about that. But, you know, one source told CNN that it was possible that John Eisenberg, who is the top lawyer on the National Security Council, ordered the transcript to be placed in that code word server to what they say "preserve the record" since it could become a legal issue. What do you make of that? Was there an adult in the room or trying to hide it?
CLAPPER: Well, I think that was just an effort to hoister the record of this phone call.
CLAPPER: I can't read it any other way. In other words, to make some attempt at restricting access and exposure.
COATES: So, is it a misuse of the classified system that you would have been using as well?
CLAPPER: Well, you know, some have said that. I suppose technically, you could make that case, but storing items of lesser classification on a system that's capable of accommodating higher classification is fairly common practice.
So, the important thing is -- what was the motive for doing that? And that to me is what's really critical, not so much to say technical violation of the rules on use of a computer storage system.
COATES: That is important, the motive. Director Clapper, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate you as always.
CLAPPER: Thanks, Laura.
COATES: Well, Speaker Pelosi is warning the president that he will be held accountable. I'll speak with Congressman Ro Khanna of the Oversight Committee about how Democrats are planning to fight the administration's effort to stonewall. Anything?
COATES: The White House is declaring war on Democrats' impeachment inquiry, refusing to cooperate and claiming in a letter tonight that Democrats "have denied the president the right to cross-examine witnesses, to call witnesses, receive transcripts of testimony, to have access to evidence, to have counsel present, and many other basic rights guaranteed to all Americans"
Joining me now is Congressman Ro Khanna, who is a member of the House Oversight Committee. Glad to have you with us today, congressman. You know, the White House is saying that they will not cooperate, as you know. So, I got to ask the question, what are Democrats going to do about it?
REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): We're going to move forward. And Lindsey Graham's clip in the Clinton impeachment hearing is worth watching. He stood up and he said that in Nixon's case, one of the articles of impeachment was the White House refusing to cooperate with Congress, that that was uncalled for, it was unconstitutional.
And so where is the outrage from people like Lindsey Graham today? But we are going to move forward. The Judiciary Committee is going to move forward. As Speaker Pelosi has said, the president is doing himself no favors by this kind of obstruction.
COATES: So what does it mean you're going to move forward? Is there a time line you have in place in mind? Are there witnesses you're looking to hear from even more subpoenas have already been issued?
KHANNA: We're going to try to get to the bottom of this by interviewing the ambassadors who were involved in the president's abuse of office and trying to get Ukraine to investigate Vice President Biden. We're going to continue to ask who at the State Department knew.
But ultimately this is going to go to the Judiciary Committee. Jerry Nadler is going to draw up articles. The majority of the country now favors impeachment. And I expect that the House before the end of the year will have a vote on impeachment.
COATES: Are you limiting it to the Ukrainian call or you're talking about this could be more expansive as the evidence comes in?
KHANNA: It will be more expansive. We already -- a lot of the committees have documented obstruction of justice and other abuses of this administration. But I think what has tipped the scale of what has been the final straw is the president admitting on national television that he is asking foreign leaders to investigate his political rivals.
And people are asking, we don't do something now, are we setting a precedent that any politician can ask foreign leaders to intervene and to dig up dirt against their rivals?
COATES: Speaking of the precedent that was set, the president did fight the Mueller investigation every step of the way. And he saw the outcome in his mind as a win. He even said that he was exonerated to use his own words. Have you learned any lessons from the president handling of that?
KHANNA: He hasn't learned any lessons because the whole Mueller investigation was about interference and now we know that he's continuing to try to get foreign countries to interfere. I guess the lesson we have learned is that we have to act as a House. We tried every way, bending over backwards to have the White House cooperate. They haven't.
I now expect that the Judiciary Committee will act on articles of impeachment. It's not a positive thing for this country. Impeachment is a process that is very, very divisive. But he has left the Judiciary Committee and the speaker with really no choice.
COATES: One of the choices that she seems to be exercising right now, Speaker Pelosi, is not to exercise and hold a full House vote on the impeachment inquiry. She's telling the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Friday that if we want to do it, we'll do it. If we don't, we don't. But we're certainly not going to do it because of the president.
So, tell me, congressman, what is the downside? Why not just hold the vote and take away one of the president's newest excuses for stonewalling you?
KHANNA: The president would just have a different excuse. It has nothing to do with whether we have a vote or not. This president has been obstinate and not cooperating with Congress, his entire administration. He hasn't allowed people to cooperate with subpoenas.
KHANNA: The reality is the president is very clear in the House. The Judiciary chair has the power along with the speaker to open an impeachment inquiry. They have done that in the case of judges and numerous other instances.
And when it comes to actual impeachment, we are going to have a vote. I think the speaker wants us to have that vote once we have made the whole case. So then members can cast that vote after we've had a chance to make the case to the public.
COATES: Well, it's one of the draw backs or the reasons the House is not holding a vote because it might open up the opportunity for Republicans to have subpoena power. Is that part of the calculation for anyone here?
KHANNA: It really isn't. That is not the calculation. The calculation is the speaker wants members to go on the record once after a full case has been made, after we have collected whatever evidence we can. And I think that's very reasonable.
I mean, members of Congress will go on the record when the articles are referred. That's what the speaker is saying. But we're not going to do it prematurely and we're not going to do it on the president's time line, especially when the House rules are very clear that the chair of the Judiciary can start this inquiry.
COATES: Congressman, thank you for your time.
KHANNA: Thank you for having me.
COATES: President Trump potentially getting help in his impeachment battle from a familiar face. How former Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy may be getting involved in his defense, next.
COATES: So, President Trump is getting some outside help in his impeachment battle, former congressman and current Fox News contributor Trey Gowdy. Now, he is going to work with the White House expectedly as outside counsel.
Here to discuss, Alice Stewart and Keith Boykin. Glad to have both of you here. Alice, let me start with you. Trey Gowdy oversaw the House's multiple Benghazi investigations, which we know lasted over two and a half years and ended in conviction. In fact, back in 2015, here is Gowdy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TREY GOWDY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA REPRESENTATIVE: Our country is strong enough to handle the truth, and our fellow citizens expect us to pursue the truth wherever the facts take us.
So this committee is going to do what we pledged to do and what should have been done, frankly, a long time ago, which is interview all relevant witnesses, examine all relevant evidence, and access all relevant documents.
And we're going to pursue the truth in a manner worthy of the memory of the four people who lost their lives and worthy of the respect of our fellow citizens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: So, Alice, it's hard to hear that and say he's going to be the guy who helps the White House potentially stonewall Congress?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I expect him to come in and do exactly what he talked about there, pursuing the truth, pursuing the letter of the law, and making sure we get to the answer. And, Laura, you being an attorney and an expert on law, let me submit to you for my argument here is that I do think that what the president has done here in this case is inappropriate. I do think it's ill- advised.
COATES: Which aspect of it? The stonewalling or the -- which part are you saying is ill-advised, Alice?
STEWART: I'm talking about the conversation he had with the president of Ukraine in which he talked about doing a favor with regard to past election interference.
STEWART: And that is something that I do think does need to be investigated and looked into. But that being said, let's do it the right process. Let's go about it the right way. If you want to do an impeachment inquiry, put it on the floor. Let's have a vote, and let's make sure and do this the right way.
One thing that Trey Gowdy did also say in the Benghazi hearings was there is no statute of limitations on the truth, and that should be held here. There's no rush here. There's no reason to try this in the court of public opinion. Let's do it the right way.
KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Alice --
STEWART: This has nothing to do with Democrats having fear that Republicans are going to gain subpoena power and get a leg up here. This has everything to do with Democrats --
BOYKIN: Alice --
STEWART: -- do not want to go on the line and vote for something --
BOYKIN: Alice --
STEWART: -- that will not result in impeachment ultimately.
COATES: Keith, I want to hear you.
BOYKIN: Alice, I mean, realistically, what you said is illogical in the fact that first you didn't really address the Trey Gowdy issue, the hypocrisy of Trey Gowdy, who was the main leader, the architect of the Benghazi hearings for two and a half years, $8 million, hearing after hearing in which the Obama administration fully cooperated.
Hillary Clinton testified for 11 hours, and now he is helping the White House not to cooperate but to stonewall the investigation. The president of the United States today announced, through his attorneys, that he will not be cooperating with a lawful impeachment inquiry that is taking place under the Constitution because he thinks it's unconstitutional.
He's declared war on the Constitution. How else is the president supposed to be investigated if the Congress does not have the oversight powers to do so? And Trey Gowdy, of all people, knows that. That's the inconsistency of it.
It also shows you the hypocrisy of the Republicans going way back even before Donald Trump became in office. They were never apparently concerned about good government. They were only concerned about getting back at Democrats and allowing Republicans like Donald Trump to run over the Constitution without any regard for how -- for the respect that it's due.
COATES: I hear you, Keith. I hear you, Alice. You know what? I'm not going to give either of you the last word. I'm going to give Congress the last word because they're going to have it tomorrow as this investigation continues. We'll wait and see what happens next. Fine points on both sides. We will see what actually happens. Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.