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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

New CNN Poll: Support For Impeaching President Trump And Removing Him From Office At 45 Percent, Opposition At 47 Percent; Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) Is Interviewed About The Trump Impeachment Trial; Schumer Calls For Four Witnesses To Testify In The Impeachment Trial Including Mulvaney, Bolton; New CNN Poll: Nation Divided On How Impeachment Inquiry Could Affect President Trump's 2020 Chances; Freshmen Democrats In Swing Districts Face Critical Votes On President Trump Impeachment; Staffers Resign As Anti-Impeachment Democrat Rep. Jeff Van Drew Plans To Join The GOP; Black Women Reign At Five Top Beauty Pageants. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired December 16, 2019 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[20:00:13]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

This country has existed for all or part of five centuries, and for the third time ever, a president will be impeached in all likelihood this week, possibly Wednesday. That alone makes this week historic.

But so too do the decisions the Republicans and Democrats make along the way. These decisions are not just minor and territorial skirmishes, they are there possibly precedent-setting for future generations. But also for the minds of voters come next November.

And we have new and exclusive CNN polling that shows what those voters are thinking, and how some of their minds are changing. We'll show you how in just a moment.

The polls bookend a day that saw a back and forth over what witnesses might or might not appear at the Senate trial. Democrats want to hear from four witnesses, including John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney, who are prevented by the White House from testifying during the House investigation.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer made the case this afternoon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Trials have witnesses. That's what trials are all about. These people know better than anybody else the facts, there is no reason on god's green earth why they shouldn't be called and testify unless you're afraid of what they might say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has provided no details of his thinking, only that on everything he does, quote, I will be coordinating with the White House counsel. That's according to a Fox News interview he did last week.

Again, who is right and who is wrong is not something our leaders will decide. Rather, it's something that will be decided in less than 11 month at the polls by the voters.

Our Political Director, David Chalian joins me now with breaking news on voters' views of impeachment.

David, let's talk about this new CNN poll out tonight. What are we learning about support for impeachment and removal from office?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, in our latest numbers, Anderson, 45 percent of Americans in this poll support the impeachment and removal of office from President Trump, 47 percent do not. That compares to 50 percent is where we had it last month. We've seen a drop in support for impeachment and removal.

But I will note, in the last 24 hours, four polls out all ranging between 45 and 50 percent for support of impeachment and removal. Take a look over time here. You'll see 50 percent last month, 50 percent before, 47 percent when the Ukraine story first broke out.

So you can see that it has remained pretty steady. And, as I said, all the polls out there show it in that range of 45 to 50 percent. No small thing that nearly half the country wants to see the president removed from office. But it's obviously a very split and divided country.

COOPER: And what about among Democrats, where do they stand in the poll?

CHALIAN: That's actually, Anderson, where we see most of the movement in this poll, away from supporting impeachment.

Take a look. Democrats were at 90 percent in favor of impeachment and removal. Now they're down to 77 percent. Independents, roughly about the same and a little decline there for Republicans. But it is the Democrats that are driving much of that move away from impeachment that we're seeing.

COOPER: That's interesting. David Chalian, thank you very much.

I want to talk to David a bit more including how support for impeachment is tracking specifically in battleground states. Of course, that's where this election may be decided. White House is keeping tabs on polls like this new one, as well as trying to shape voter sentiment which may explain their response to Senate Democrats' request for more witness testimony.

Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is at the White House for us.

How do they respond to Senator Schumer or did they?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It was a pretty predictable response, Anderson. The White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said it was laughable, this request coming from the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, asking for officials like the former national security adviser John Bolton, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to testify. The White House going on to say that this is a sign that the Democrats don't have a case to convict and remove the president from office.

But one thing that the White House did not say is, yes, you can have your witnesses, which is why people like Chuck Schumer is saying what does the White House have to hide? And I will tell you, Anderson, talking to my source this is evening, there is a view inside the White House that what Chuck Schumer did earlier today was essentially respond to the president and other Republicans saying they want to see Hunter Biden, they want to see the whistle-blower testify as if Chuck Schumer is saying, listen, if you want to bring in your witnesses, we'll want to bring in our witnesses, which means it will be in the interest of both sides to have a speedier trial.

COOPER: And is there any sense that the president wants a longer, more drawn-out trial or a shorter one? Because, you know, we've heard conflicting things.

ACOSTA: Yes. Anderson, I think he pines for one. I think he would like to see one. I think he is starting to listen to advisers who are cautioning him and even allies like Lindsey Graham up on Capitol Hill, cautioning him that, you know, this would essentially open up Pandora's box and people like Rudy Giuliani walking around the grounds of the White House after a trip to Ukraine, he is sort of a walking, talking Pandora's box.

[20:05:07]

And that is something that some people inside the White House don't want to see.

So, at this point, there's a lot of time between now and a potential Senate trial for jockeying to go on. And essentially what you're hearing from the White House right now is when we talk to our sources is that they would prefer to see a shorter trial at this point. Perhaps, you know, they will reserve this right to have and ask for a longer trial if things start to get dicey and they feel that they want to exonerate the president.

A lot of this is going to be driven by the president, Anderson. And he has been wildly unpredictable over the last 48 to 72 hours, tweeting dozens of times, tweeting about Nancy Pelosi's teeth and so on. And so, just when people inside the White House think, OK, the president has settled on a shorter trial, they're also on the edge of their seat -- Anderson.

COOPER: It bears repeating. I know we all know this. But it's just kind of remarkable that there are still not any White House press briefings. Remember, those used to be a daily occurrence in most administrations, like American people get to hear and see their officials asking, answering questions from reporters of all stripes.

ACOSTA: It is astounding. And it raises the question whether or not the White House believes it has things to hide. If we had daily briefings or regular briefings inside the White House briefing room where officials would come in and take our questions, we would be able to get to the bottom of a lot of things.

There just isn't that kind of opportunity anymore. They've shut that down at the White House. The president occasionally will take questions. But he took questions today, he wasn't taking questions on impeachment. When he took a question about Rudy Giuliani, it was to say he was the greatest mayor ever and a proven crime fighter and they shushed all the White House reporters out of the cabinet room. This is not access at all whatsoever.

COOPER: Yes. And when Stephanie Grisham takes questions, it's over at the mother ship at "Fox & Friends" or Fox News.

ACOSTA: Without any of us waiting for her to talk to us after that interview is over, that's exactly right, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Jim Acosta, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

Just a few minutes ago, I spoke to Senator Bob Menendez in New Jersey about the fight ahead in the Senate as well as what voters are saying about whether impeachment and removal of President Trump is the appropriate course of action.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Senator, I want to talk to you about the Senate trial in just a moment. But, first, I want to get your reaction to the new CNN polling that public support for impeachment and removal is down overall since last month, even down among Democrats. I'm wondering, does that concern you?

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): Well, Anderson, I've seen other polls that have a majority who seek the president's impeachment and removal, but we don't do impeachment by poll. Only members of the United States Senate will cast a vote on guilt or innocence. And they will have to do so based upon their Constitution oath as well as the information that they'll have from the House managers.

And so, for me, it's not a question as to whether or not the poll suggests the president should or should not be impeached. The question is, what are the facts and abiding by your constitutional obligation. You know, when you take an oath to the Constitution, you don't say I take an oath of office to defend the Constitution of the United States only when it's politically convenient.

COOPER: Minority Leader Schumer is pushing for witnesses from the president's inner circle in the likely Senate trial. House Democrats couldn't get, obviously, those witnesses with a majority in the chamber in the House. Do you have any reason to think that they would have better luck in the Senate?

MENENDEZ: Well, I think that subpoenas under an impeachment trial from the Senate would be hard to ultimately avoid, which is why probably the majority leader is not going to allow it to happen because, you know, at the end of the day, you would think that those who know the most at the issues at hand, did the president use the power of his office and abuse it to help himself politically by inviting a foreign country to get involved in our elections? And did he ultimately obstruct the Congress of the United States by providing no witnesses and no documents? Well, those who know those answers the best are people like former Ambassador Bolton, former NSC director, you know, Mick Mulvaney and others.

So, you would think that if, in fact, the president has nothing to hide, that he'd them forthcoming you would think he would have them forget coming to make the case for him. Shouldn't even have to subpoena them at the end of the day.

The fact that you all hear is crickets from them, it tells you volumes about why they will not be coming forward because I think their information would be incriminating to the president.

COOPER: Do you think? I mean, obviously, McConnell, as you said, is not likely to do that. But do you think there's moderate Republicans who would back the idea of Senator Schumer's plan? Susan Collins, for example, said today that she thought Senator Schumer's letter was, quote, unfortunate. It surely doesn't sound like it bodes well for Democrats from her in terms of calling and referring the inner circle.

[20:10:07]

MENENDEZ: Well, look, I think that for all centers and certainly Senate Republicans, they have to make sure that this process doesn't seem like a sham, like a slam dunk as Senator McConnell has said that he is going to be in absolute sync with the White House counsel and with the president. That's not -- you know, that's like the defense attorney being in cahoots with the judge and the jury. I mean, that doesn't work. That's not going to have any credibility.

COOPER: Yes. To the point you just made with McConnell saying he's coordinating with the White House, do you think despite that, that there can be a fair trial?

MENENDEZ: Well, look, you know, if you listen to many of my colleagues and to the majority leader themselves, you know, the majority leader has declared there's no way that the Senate will convict the president. Well, he hasn't heard all the evidence. He doesn't know all of the facts, other than what we have publicly seen. He hasn't seen the presentation of those facts in a way that can make a powerful case for a verdict of guilt.

And so, the fact that he's already declared the outcome leaves it very -- there's no doubt that this won't be a fair process.

COOPER: You're on the -- lastly, you're on the foreign relations committee. There's a piece in "The New Yorker" tonight exploring among other things, Rudy Giuliani's Ukraine connections, the dirt he's been trying to dig up on the Bidens. Giuliani talks about ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, saying, quote, I believe that I needed Yovanovitch out of the way. She was going to make the investigation difficult for everybody. I wonder what your reaction is to that.

MENENDEZ: Well, this is another example of the hard truth staring us in the face. You know, the president didn't want to go after corruption in Ukraine. Rudy Giuliani didn't want to go after corruption in Ukraine. If you wanted to go after corruption, you wanted Marie Yovanovitch to ultimately be there, because her reputation is impeccable, particularly on the question of fighting corruption in Ukraine and other posts that she's had.

So, you didn't want a corruption fighter. You wanted someone to cover up the corruption you were pursuing, which was to try to get a foreign government and hold them hostage to ultimately get involved in our democratic elections. The reason this should matter to your viewers, to every American, if we invite foreign governments to get involved in our elections, when we cast the vote, we don't know that the sanctity of our vote that is begin cast is ultimately going to be realized and those that will get elected are going to be doing our bidding versus some foreign entity's bidding.

COOPER: Senator Menendez, appreciate your time. Thank you.

MENENDEZ: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Still to come, we're going to have more on the historic showdown between Senate Democrats and President Trump over key witnesses the White House has refused to let testify.

Also, digging into -- there's CNN poll numbers to get a sense of which direction voters in battleground states are headed. And the question of impeachment and the removal, is it playing big in battleground states? We'll take a look at that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:16:11]

COOPER: At the beginning of the program, our Jim Acosta reported the White House is not prepared to give any grounds to Senate Democrats who demanded key witnesses testify in the impeachment trial. This will be four witnesses, including Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton, who once did serve at the top reaches of the White House and were prevented by the White House from testifying during the House investigation.

I want to talk about it, former federal prosecutor and CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. Also "USA Today" columnist and CNN senior political analyst, Kirsten Powers. And former Nixon White House counsel and CNN contributor, John Dean, who knows a thing or two about congressional testimony.

Jeff, what do you make of Senator Menendez before the break saying that -- you know, do you believe Republican also get on board? He essentially said no. JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I think Senator Menendez has

got it exactly right. I mean, you know, the Republican position here is: we've got the votes. Screw you.

I mean, you know, they don't have 67 votes to remove the president. They -- on procedural votes like witnesses, the Republicans almost always stick together. And, look, this is a rubber stamp Senate for Donald Trump. I mean, if you look at the actual votes not the expression of concern that you used to hear from Senator Flake or Senator Corker or Senator Collins, they vote with the president all the time on every issue except a couple of them on Obamacare.

But that was a long time ago. It's one vote. He's got the vote, McConnell does. And he's going to do it again.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, John, Republicans are already saying that these witnesses should have been dealt with in the House and taken to court, the fact-finding is not for the Senate.

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that's just a mock point because they know that the House couldn't get them and that's one of the reasons they think they're important to fill in some gaps. Not that they couldn't prove their case on the Senate floor without those witnesses but the whole letter that Schumer sent is very reasonable. It's based on the 1999 arrangement in the Senate for the Clinton impeachment. The parsing of time is reasonable, and it's a speedy trial.

So, I'm surprised that the White House is treating it as laughable.

COOPER: But, Kirsten, it's not just the White House treating that way. I mean, you have Senator Susan Collins, Republican, sometimes considered moderate, you know, who said that essentially was unfortunate.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, look, I just -- I think that it's one thing, as Jeffrey was saying, sometimes you look to the moderates and think they'll behavior differently but in the end, they usually end up going with the president. And I think there's something different than a Mitt Romney or Susan Collins criticizing the president versus supporting removing him from office, right?

So, I think, you know, we can play this game where we all watch Susan Collins and things. But even -- let's say even Susan Collins and Mitt Romney did decide to do that, which they probably won't decide to do that, it's not really going to substantially change the trajectory of what's going to happen in the Senate.

TOOBIN: But it's not -- it's not that they usually support the president. They always support the president.

And, you know, if you actually -- look, these made-up arguments that the House should do the fact finding, they're having a trial. I mean, if you have a trial, you find facts. I mean, it's just -- they invent things to justify what they're going to do anyway, which is fine if they want to do it. But don't pretend there's some principled reason for it.

POWERS: Yes. I mean, the resolution that Schumer, you know, is basically putting forward is the resolution used with Clinton. It's something that passed unanimously in the Senate with some of the same people, including Mitch McConnell, who is now pretending like this is outrageous and he won't even consider.

TOOBIN: It's even the same number of witnesses. There were four witnesses with Clinton. They proposed four.

COOPER: John, I mean, would there be any upside either for Democrats or Republicans for having witnesses?

[20:20:04]

DEAN: I think there could be for both sides. The condition that Schumer put in his letter that they had to be relevant to the fact finding of the trial, which actually would exclude people like Hunter Biden, or Joe Biden. That sort of show trial is not what anyone wants, I would think.

But, you know, Anderson, the prior trials in the Senate, going back to Andrew Johnson, which I read the history of and was there to watch the Clinton was, as was Jeff and I suspect you were, too it was all very fair, well done and reasonable. So, why are we going on this whole different tact now is kind of surprising to the institutional nature of that body.

COOPER: Kirsten, the idea essentially that Senate Republicans are saying is that the case has already been -- everybody's opinion has been baked in. People saw what happened in the House and the trial is not going to be changing anybody's mind. That seems --

POWERS: Well, we don't know really that, first of all. I don't know that really matters because that's not what their -- they're not called to do a trial to change people's minds. They're called to try to get the best facts and make a determination about whether the president should be impeached. And I think having people who have first hand knowledge about what happened seems like a reasonable thing to want to have.

And to say -- to blame Democrats for not going to court to get these people is just kind of crazy making when they could just come and testify, you know, like other presidents have had their staff do when they've been in an impeachment process.

COOPER: It is -- Jeff, do you think that John Bolton not talking is just because he has a book that he's writing to sell and he if he gives it now then --

TOOBIN: It's hard to think of any other explanation when you consider his own staff members agreed to testify. So, there's not some principle that applies to him that not to his staff members. You know, there is the issue of he has direct communication with the president. So, he could claim a higher level of executive privilege. But it would be one thing if he was saying I'm never going to disclose

this. But if he's getting $2 million for a book, which a publisher is not going to play unless he's going to talk about his conversations with the president, then it's completely unprincipled and that's certainly how it seems to be.

COOPER: Yes. John Dean, thanks. Jeff Toobin, Kirsten Powers, are going to stick around.

Up next, more in our breaking news, new CNN polling on impeachment for the battleground states that could decide the 2020 election.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:27:16]

COOPER: More now on our breaking news. Again, support for impeachment of President Trump and removing him from office stands at 45 percent in a new CNN poll. It's down from 50 percent last month, and opposition for both is at 47 percent.

I want to get the breakdown from battleground states, of course, that could decide the 2020 race.

Our political director David Chalian is back with those numbers.

So, let's look at these battleground states. What are you learning about support for impeachment?

CHALIAN: Anderson, we've never done this before in CNN polling this cycle, but we wanted to look at the subset of like 15 states where each campaign is going to target voters, send the candidates to visit, the most engaged, get rid of the most liberal and conservative states that are mixed in nationally, and here is what we find. There's not much of a difference. In those battleground states, 46 percent say yes, impeach and remove the president from office, 45 percent say no.

So, the battleground state picture and I found this surprising, actually, it looks a lot like that national picture overall, Anderson.

COOPER: And what about the president's approval rating overall?

CHALIAN: Yes, you know that he has been sort of rock solid with his approval rating. It doesn't really move one way or the other. In this brand new CNN poll tonight, he's at 43 percent approval, 53 percent disapproval.

And take a look at that approval rating over the course of 2019. Last month, it was 42 percent, 41 percent. He operates in a very narrow band. Look at that. It's just remarkably consistent whether it was well before anybody knew about the Ukraine matter or right now on just the eve, if you will, of the president being impeached, the third in history to do so, and it just hasn't moved that approval rating.

We also look at his approval rating in that subset of the battleground states. In those 15 most competitive states, and guess what, it looks pretty similar. He's at 45 percent approval in the battleground, 42 percent disapprove. That's about the same as where he is nationally as well, Anderson.

COOPER: And any indication of how impeachment is playing out? I mean, we're obviously at the start of 2020 very shortly, how the inquiry will impact the president's chances for re-election?

CHALIAN: Yes, we asked folks in this poll, do you think this impeachment matter will help his reelection chances, it will hurt him or it wont make any difference?

Take a look at the numbers here. You see that he plurality, 37 percent, at the bottom there, saying no difference. Among those who say it is going to make a difference, more people think it's going to help the president's chances than hurt -- 32 percent say it will help, 25 percent say will hurt.

And I will note that Republicans think it will help more than Democrats think it will hurt, which I thought was pretty interesting as well.

COOPER: This poll hurts my head. I'm in the 1 percent of those people.

I mean, David, do you believe this poll. I don't know what to believe poll-wise in anymore (ph) --

(CROSSTALK)

[20:30:01]

CHALIAN: Yes, I believe these polls. I believe polls are always best read in the aggregate of everything that's out there and in the understanding that it is a snapshot in time. This isn't predictive of the future, but I certainly take a look at these numbers and see. They sort of match-up with a lot of the other numbers we're seeing out there. I think this is a very locked-in divided country on this issue of impeachment because we live in really polarized times.

COOPER: All right. David Chalian, thanks. Back with Jeff Toobin and Kirsten Powers. And joining us is former Republican Senator Rick Santorum.

Kirsten, are you surprised by these image? I mean, the idea that support for impeachment has gone down among Democrats --

POWERS: Yes, that is very surprising and it's a pretty big drop-off. I think it was from 90 percent in the last poll to 77 percent in this poll.

COOPER: Yes.

POWERS: And it doesn't -- that doesn't make sense, really. And my first reaction was like -- I was thinking the number one concern for Democrats right now, of course, is they don't want Donald Trump to get reelected, so I think maybe they thought this would somehow help him get reelected, but that doesn't show up in the numbers. 78 percent either said it will hurt him or make no difference.

So, it's -- yes, that doesn't make sense to me. I still would say that it's not a small number. Remember, Bill Clinton, it was about 30 percent of the country supported impeaching him. So if you have 45 percent supporting it, that's not a small number. And if you look an aggregate of all the polls that we've seen recently --

COOPER: Right.

POWERS: -- we're looking at, you know, 45 to 50 percent probably supported.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: I mean, the -- as my younger identical twin brother, David Chalian, said the -- polls don't change. The only time the polls have ever really change is after the Ukraine story broke, poll -- support for impeachment really did jump like over 10 percent. The Mueller report, it was it like in the 30s --

COOPER: Among Republicans you're talking?

TOOBIN: No, among everyone.

COOPER: OK, OK.

TOOBIN: But other -- and since then, though, it's stay the same. And his approval rating, it's not just the last year it's stay the same, it's stay the same his entire presidency. It's never happen before in the history of polling and, you know, it's just indicative of, you know, how -- what a polarizing figure he is and people made up their mind about him.

COOPER: Senator Santorum, I mean, A, what do you make of this poll? There's still a very significant amount of people who -- to Kirsten's point, who do want the President impeach and remove, which is certainly no small thing.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's a poll that sort of affirms what's going to happen here, that Republicans are overwhelmingly against impeachment and don't want him removed, that Democrats are overwhelmingly for impeachment and want him removed, so that's what you're going to see.

What happens in Washington is that, you know, many times -- I've said many times, there's a bunch of followers down here, not a whole bunch of leaders. And so, the public is squarely in two camps and vote -- and they're squarely in two camps here.

COOPER: Do you think -- Senator, do you think the Senate trial makes a difference one way or another in terms of how the country views this or, you know, based on how the trial goes if witnesses are called or is this just baked in and there won't be other blips based on what happens in the Senate trial?

SANTORUM: You know, this is a dicey thing. When I was in the Senate, when we were debating this issue, there were a lot of cross currents involved in how you conduct a trial. And, you know, Democrats -- I mean, you heard Chuck Schumer, you know, we want witnesses. But, you know, only witnesses that we think are relevant.

So, they don't control the process and usually, historically what we saw when we were there, we tried to find a bipartisan solution because the Senate was bigger than this particular situation.

I think the acrimony seems to be so bad in the Senate right now that that doesn't seem to be OK (ph). We were in a very contentious time in 1998 and 1999. I mean, there was not -- we were not, you know, holding hands and singing "Kumbaya," but we did rise above and decided we needed to do something and work together. That doesn't seem to be either side really working to do that.

TOOBIN: Rick, you were part of that have amazing scene in the old Senate chamber --

SANTORUM: Yes.

TOOBIN: -- when all 100 senators, they threw out all the staff. They didn't have any, you know, any rules of evidence, you know, usual parliamentary rules, and you decided on the rules. What was that like?

SANTORUM: Well, again, it goes back that we took the responsibility of setting precedent very, very seriously and we thought, you know, that the country at the time was very divided. There was a lot of rancor and that we felt that this was an opportunity to begin.

We knew the president wasn't going to be convicted, but at the same time we wanted to make sure that the trial was fair, that there was an opportunity to be heard, but that there was at least the beginning of a reconciliation, understanding that, again, that impeachment was going -- the conviction was going to fail. That's not the case here.

I mean, we've got an election coming up. And everyone has sort of keyed on how do we position ourselves for election. That wasn't the case in 1999. We just had an election. The President was in his last few years of a term and we were looking beyond President Clinton that's not here. Everybody is focused on what they can do to either help Trump or hurt him. That was not the case in '99.

[20:35:09]

COOPER: Everybody, hold on. I got to take a quick break. Up next, a Democratic congresswoman from a swing district makes her decision on impeachment. We'll dive into that when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin won as a freshman Democrat just last year in a Michigan district that went for President Trump by 7 percentage point. So like other Democrats in similar situation, she face a critical decision on whether to vote for the President's impeachment before the full House later this week. Now, at a sometimes ruckus town hall, here's what she told her constituents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): The thing that was different for me is this very, very basic idea that the President of the United States would reach out to a foreign power and ask for investigation for personal, political gain.

While we may not agree, I hope you believe me when I tell you that I made this decision out of principle and out of a duty to protect and defend the constitution. I feel that in my bones and I will stick to that regardless of what it does to me politically, because this is bigger than politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[20:40:14]

COOPER: Back now with our legal and political team.

TOOBIN: It's democracy in action. I love that.

COOPER: I mean, it's an interesting situation. There are, Kirsten, you know, several Democrats in very vulnerable districts who remain undecided on impeachment. And it will be interesting to see which way they'll go.

POWERS: Yes. I mean, look, a lot of these people are in districts that would be hard anyway, even if you didn't have impeachment in the picture. And so I think, you know, a lot of them have indicated they're going to vote their conscious and let things, you know, fall where they fall.

So I think, you know, I personally think in the end that if they focus on the issues that people are really most concern about, if you look at the polls, about the economy, or about the things that they're doing to get done for their constituents, which is by the way what they're doing, most of the people who are on the ground in this districts are saying impeachment is not even really coming up with the voters.

You know, I think that they can probably, you know, have a good chance of pulling it out. But we have to bear in mind like I said even if impeachment wasn't involved they would still be having a hard race because there's a very --

COOPER: And even -- no matter how they vote -- I mean, these Democrats, it's going to pass anyway. I mean, it's likely the President will be impeached in the House.

TOOBIN: That's right. And it is no coincidence that Nancy Pelosi is bringing up the fair trade deal with Mexico and Canada the next day so that those moderates can say, look, we're not just doing impeachment, we are giving this very serious, very important trade deal an affirmative vote, which actually the President supports, which I think, you know, is a very important talking point for these vulnerable Democrats.

COOPER: Senator Santorum, just before break we're talking about the Senate trial. As a former senator, do you think it's going to be a fair process? You know, many of the jurors, including Majority Leader McConnell, say they've made up their mind on impeachment or they know how it's going to go. Democrats hear that and think, well, that seems unfair. Obviously Republican will say, well, that's the way it was in the House, so.

SANTORUM: Well, I mean, if you go back to 1999, I mean, the Democrats were very, very clear. I mean, Tom Daschle stood up and say, you know, there's not a single vote over here to impeach -- to convict the President. I mean, that was -- when we went into the chamber that Jeffrey was talking about, it was very, very clear everyone had made up their mind on the other side.

And so -- and many of us were saying, well, we want to hear the evidence. And so the shoe was on the other foot. The reality is that the party of the President stands by their person and that's what happened, you know, 20 years ago and it's happening again now.

TOOBIN: But that's somewhat different. I mean, it's one thing to make up your own mind about how you're going to vote. It's another thing for the majority leader to say, I'm not going to do anything regarding how this trial unfolds without clearing it with the President first. That's a degree of toadying. It's different from just announcing your vote, don't you think?

SANTORUM: No, no way. Go back again to 1999 and I can guarantee you that Democrat -- Tom Daschle and the Democratic leaders were working hand in glove with the president and they did not want a trial at all. They just wanted -- I mean, Bob Bird moved just to shut this thing down and have a vote. So, and that's what the President wanted.

So, no, both sides carry the water for the President. I mean, that's -- I understand that you like to try to make, you know, the bad guys or Republicans are bad guy. They're doing things unprecedented, they're not. They're doing the same things that the Democrats did 20 years ago. And it's --

TOOBIN: No, it is not true. I mean, there was a trial in '99. There's not going to be a trial here. There were witnesses. There will -- they're not going to be witnesses here. I mean, those are actual differences.

SANTORUM: OK. We don't -- first of, those rules have not been decided.

TOOBIN: OK.

SANTORUM: And I can tell you with certainty that the Democrats wanted no witnesses and they wanted no trial. They didn't get that because we did, as you mentioned, come together and we agreed on a compromise.

But the comprise was I think four witnesses that were not -- did not come to the United States Senate. They were videotaped by House managers and all the excerpts were allowed to be use. So, it was -- let me assure you, they were squeezing every bit they could to try to abbreviate this trial and move it forward.

COOPER: Senator Santorum, Republicans have complaining that because of what's happening right. Impeachment will be weaponized by politicians in the future against presidents they don't like. What about just not electing someone who veers toward lies and misconduct?

SANTORUM: Yes. Look, there's one -- one of the two article really does bothers me on the weaponization font and that is that the second one on obstruction. Because every single president I'm familiar with has exerted -- has basically, you know, rebuffed subpoenas and said, you know, no to the Congress.

And if you're going to impeach someone because you don't want to wait to the time for our court to decide whether to enforce these subpoenas or not, that's a big problem. I mean, I think that's a very, very dangerous step that the Democrats have taken.

POWERS: But why -- I mean, Bill Clinton, you know, he allowed his staff to testify. Nixon allowed his staff to testify. Why should the Democrats have to go to court to get that?

[20:45:06]

SANTORUM: Again, what -- precedent aside, there always are opportunities for the Congress and the President to fight about what each demands from the other and the court is the one that decides that.

POWERS: But that doesn't answer my question. I mean, I don't understand why -- when in past presidents have done this, why won't Trump just let them come testify?

SANTORUM: Because the President in this case, he's not going to stick with the precedent. That's not the issue. The issue is, do you impeach someone because they don't comply with a subpoena? And if that's the standard, that is a very, very slippery slope, a very dangerous one.

COOPER: All right. Senator Santorum, thank you, Jeffrey Toobin, Kirsten Powers as well.

Coming up, still ahead, the congressman who plans to switch parties from Democrat to Republican. As you'd expect, President Trump is thrilled. What about voters in Congressman Jeff Van Drew's district? We'll hear what they have to say in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:50:08]

COOPER: Let's check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: How are you doing, Coop? You know, I was listening to the conversation with Rick and Rick talking about you know why the Senate is trying to do the right thing here.

Look, it's all political hypocrisy. The Democrats wanted to control witnesses when they were controlling the House, but they had a ton more. You know, you could count up to 24 if you put them all together, 23, 24. And the Senate is now in control and they don't want any. So the GOP cries in the House were Fugazy (ph) because they knew as soon as they had power, they play the same game.

The bigger question is what is fairness for you, for the rest of America, for the left and the right? I think they should all wind up in the same place in a Senate trial. I'll argue that tonight.

COOPER: I like that you use Fugazy.

CUOMO: Well, you know, one of the upsides of my ethnicity is, you know, I have somewhat of a special ownership of that word. It comes from Bill Fugazy.

COOPER: Does it?

CUOMO: Yes. Google it.

COOPER: I will. Chris, 9 Minutes from now, see you then.

It is all been official, New Jersey Democratic congressman will switch allegiances, become a Republican, all because he says he won't vote for impeachment. So what do his constituents think who voted for him? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:55:19]

COOPER: Freshman Democratic Congressman Jeff Van Drew is on the verge of officially abandoning his party to become a Republican. Sources are telling CNN the switch is all been set and that Van Drew's strong opposition to the pending House impeachment of President Trump is the reason. Van Drew South New Jersey district had held -- had been held by a Republican for 24 years before he won as a Democrat in 2019.

The question, of course, what do his constituents who voted for him as a Democrat in New Jersey think. Randi Kaye traveled there to find out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IRENE POPOVSKY, NEW JERSEY VOTER: Disappointed in him. That's the word for it, disappointed. Under the circumstances, knowing how things are, how could he switch?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To Democratic voters like Irene Popovsky, Congressman Jeff Van Drew is persona non grata.

MARYANN DOUGHERTY, NEW JERSEY VOTER: I voted for him as a Democrat. And he waited until -- after the election, all of a sudden he switch over to Republican. That upsets me. You know, I feel like I was betrayed.

KAYE: Betrayed and misled because she thought Van Drew shared her same values.

DOUGHERTY: Helping the middle class people instead of all the people who are very wealthy. The top Republicans do seem to support more of the wealthy people.

KAYE (on camera): Do you regret voting for him?

DOUGHERTY: At this point, yes.

KAYE (voice-over): Maryann Dougherty and her sister are both registered Democrats, both voted for Van Drew.

CATHY WILHELM, NEW JERSEY VOTER: I'm not a fan. I'm just not a fan anymore.

KAYE: Since speaking out against the impeachment inquiry, Congressman Van Drew has been steadily losing support among Democrats in his Southern New Jersey district.

(on camera) Did Van Drew lose your support when he came out and said he was against impeachment?

DARLENE BRYANT, NEW JERSEY VOTER: Yes, yes.

KAYE (voice-over): She had voted for Jeff Van Drew, but now --

BRYANT: I feel like he kind of sold out. He made a poor choose. Because the people in our city have stood by him, the people of New Jersey have stood by him and whatever decisions that he has made up until this point, and I do think it's wrong.

KAYE: Van Drew support among Democrats has dropped off so significantly, he's now at risk of losing his seat. His critics suggest the real reason behind the party ping-pong is to save his political career. Switching parties would help him avoid a Democratic primary challenge.

Meanwhile, this Republican who did not vote for Van Drew is ready to welcome him to the GOP.

(on camera) Would you support him as a Republican even though you didn't support him in the election?

FRANK ANGELO, NEW JERSEY VOTER: If he run as a Republican candidate, I would support him. I think he's a man of his convictions and he was pretty set on this impeachment thing, and he just isn't going to change his mind for the party or for anybody else.

KAYE: Do you think it's a smart move?

ANGELO: I think it's a smart move.

KAYE (voice-over): Try convincing the Democrats of that. (on camera) Are you going to still support him if he switches to the Republican Party?

POPOVSKY: Absolutely not, no, because he's let us down so why should I support him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Randi joins me now live from the congressman's district in New Jersey. How's the staff feeling about all of this?

KAYE: Anderson, they're not too thrilled of that. In fact, we know at least six staff members who have resigned as a result of Van Drew's plan to switch parties. They sent a group resignation letter to him and it sounded a whole lot like what we heard from his Democratic constituents here in his district today. They said that his decision to join the GOP does not align with their values. They said they are disappointed, those are words that we heard today.

We also got a statement from a sixth member of his staff, a staffer who resigned, her name CeCe Doherty (ph). She's the former director of constituency relations for the congressman and she told us this. "Defeating Trump has and always will be the main goal for me. It's the reason I got involved in politics. I could not, in good conscience, continue working in an office where mutual morals and values are no longer present."

So there you have it, the same reaction from not only his Democratic constituents here in his district, but also his staffers, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, fascinating. Randi, thanks very much.

A reminder, don't miss "Full Circle." It's our digital news show every day. Today, we focus on the historic year in the pageant world. For the time ever, in one year black women had been crowned Ms. USA, Ms. Teen USA, Ms. America, Ms. Universe, and now Ms. World over the weekend.

I spoke about it on "Full Circle" today with Zozi Tunzi who became the new Ms. Universe a little more than a week ago. She's 26 years old from South Africa. She's awesome, fascinating to talk to her. You can watch it on "Full Circle."

She encourages women to live -- love themselves as they are. With that mind, she wore her hair natural in a short style for the competition. She actually had ignored calls for her to wear a wig during her pageant career. Here's why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZOZIBINI TUNZI, MISS UNIVERSE 2019: These people are asking me to change my hair because they don't feel like my hair is beautiful, because that's what it said to me. And I thought if I did put on, you know, artificial hair, then that means I believe that I'm not beautiful, and I believe that women who look like me are not beautiful, which is why I thought I'm just going to go full on, you know, the way that I am because I see myself as beautiful as any other women.

COOPER: Yes.

TUNZI: And so that's why I went on this way. Thank you.

COOPER: I know it, I'm gay, but yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: She is awesome in so many ways. You can watch more of the interview on-demand at cnn.com/fullcircle. Catch the program there live, weekdays 5:00 p.m. Eastern. I want to hand things over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME."

Chris?