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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

President Trump Writes Letter to Speaker Pelosi, Calls Dems "Deranged", "Spiteful" Day Before Likely Impeachment Vote; Interview with Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (D-MI). Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired December 17, 2019 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:27]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Thanks for joining us.

We are on the cusp of history. Tomorrow, the president of the United States is likely to be impeached. The House Rules Committee is arguing to decide the terms and debate before a final vote. The Senate also arguing about whether to allow witnesses.

Today, President Trump released a letter on White House stationery written to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The president says he's writing it for history to express his, quote, strongest and most powerful protest against the impeachment effort in the House.

It's certainly not the kind of letter anyone might think a president would write or sending. Some might kindly describe it as fiery, others would call it at times unhinged. In the letter, he describes Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats as, quote, deranged and spiteful, saying, quote, no intelligent person believes what you are saying. Quote: You are declaring open war on American democracy.

The president of the United States writing that not to an invading army or enemy who has hit us with an unprovoked attack, telling elected officials that people's representatives, they're declaring war on democracy. The president, who's not exactly known as a student of history, also writes: more due process was accorded to those in the Salem witch trails. He writes to Pelosi that at the end of the Mueller investigation, quote, you did not apologize, you did not recant, you did not ask to be forgiven, you showed no remorse, no capacity for self-reflection.

The president who never apologizes, never recants, dismayed that Nancy Pelosi has not done so with him.

One of the more curious phrases in the letter, which unlike some more legally worded sentences, does sound like President Trump, quote: You've cheapened the importance of the very ugly word "impeachment", which does beg the question how does one cheapen the importance of an already very ugly word?

Again, the president said this letter is written for the purposes of history. More likely, it's to capture today's news cycle before tomorrow's impeachment vote. History remembers many important words from our president. This is likely not to be some of them. The Gettysburg address, that was memorable.

Today, the president was asked if he takes any responsibility for the impeachment. This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I don't take any. Zero, to put it mildly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Zero responsibility. He was also asked back in January if the buck stopped with him and he replied the buck stops with everybody.

Keeping them honest, and there are a few things the president left out of his letter. There are a few things, namely his pursuit of a fictional election interference claim about a server in Ukraine, his pursuit of a favor from Ukraine's president, a favor that would target his main opponent and help him in the next election, his withholding from Ukraine of aid and to this date still a White House meeting. The lack of evidence that President Trump was concerned about corruption in Ukraine involving anyone whose last name wasn't Biden. Comments to the press about wanting Ukraine to investigate Biden. That's not talked about. Comments about wanting China to investigate as well and so on.

He also did not mention the key role his personal TV attorney and bagman Rudy Giuliani has played, which is curious as Giuliani has been quite vocal over the past 24 hours. In a range of interviews, he's been very open about his attempt to fuel the unproven allegations against the Biden, that started down this road in the first place. He told CNN that he and the president are, quote, on the same page and that Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, was aware of the push to oust the Ukrainian ambassador.

And the reason he wanted to do this, he tells CNN, because she had been blocking witnesses to come to the United States and she'd been doing it for a year. He told "The New Yorker", he needed her, quote, out of the way, unquote, because she was making the investigations difficult. Which means on the eve of the president's impeachment, Giuliani is admitting the very thing the president and his supporters in Congress have spent the past two months saying didn't happen. Investigate Joe Biden not on behalf of the United States as he and his supporters have been trying to spin but on behalf of his personal client, Donald Trump.

As we said, Speaker Pelosi responded to his letter just a short time ago. Here's what she told CNN's Manu Raju.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Your reaction to the president's letter?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): No reaction. It's ridiculous.

RAJU: You have no reaction? Why not?

PELOSI: Well, I mean, I haven't fully read it. We've been working. I've seen the essence of it, though, and it's really sick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta joins us now.

Jim, the letter -- talk to me about it. When was it written, how was it written? Who -- was it lawyers and the president or what?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we understand, Anderson, this was written over the last several days. This was not something that's been in the works for weeks or anything of that nature. We understand that Stephen Miller, one of the president's top speechwriters, as well as other top aides in the west wing were helping the president draft this speech.

We did pick up on some consternation inside the West Wing earlier this evening.

[20:05:03]

There are some officials who feel as though they were left out of the process of writing this letter. But I will tell you, Anderson, talking to a couple of officials within the last hour, the White House counsel's office did have some input into this letter according to these officials.

But these officials were saying, Anderson, listen, these are the president's own words. You can have Stephen Miller write some of these lines down and so on, but if you go through this letter to Nancy Pelosi, five or six pages long, it is essentially a summation of where the president has been over the last several months when it comes to impeachment.

And according to one official I spoke with earlier this evening, if you want to know and understand the president's state of mind tonight, read that letter.

COOPER: And do you -- is it known what the president is going to do tomorrow? I mean, is he going to be watching this as many people will be? Is he -- what's on his schedule?

ACOSTA: Yes, I was in the Oval Office with him earlier today and he said he's not going to be watching these proceedings, he's going to be working on other things over here at the White House. We understand the president is not going to give some sort of formal speech in response to his impeachment in the House tomorrow. That at least is the planning at this point.

He is going to have a rally tomorrow evening in Michigan where he expect him perhaps to expand upon where he's at right now in this letter.

But, Anderson, what we were picking up on in the Oval Office, and obviously what's written across all of these pages of this letter, is that this is a president, and he told me this earlier this afternoon, who is taking zero responsibility for the historic predicament that he finds himself in tonight. I expect him to have that tone moving forward, Anderson.

COOPER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

I want to bring in our political, legal team for their thoughts -- David Gergen, Jeff Toobin, Gloria Borger, Jen Psaki and Mike Shields.

David Gergen, the president's letter, does it make sense? I mean, is it just to capture, you know, the news cycle on this day that this is what's the headline going into the impeachment?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's not what he said. He said it's his bid for history. It's a paper that was going to live down the history, and I think right now, it's going to go down as a letter from a two-bit dictator in a banana republic. It has that kind of quality to it.

But you just, you know, think about our history and the people we've had who have penned letters who have been in that office.

You mentioned the Gettysburg address. Think about Donald Trump's letter, this letter and his other pronouncements going up against Jefferson, went up against Lincoln on the first and second inaugural or Gettysburg, up against Franklin Roosevelt and the Fireside chats, Jack Kennedy and his inaugural, Ronald Reagan at Pointe du Hoc, that's -- this is going to be in those annals as a representation of this president for a man who apparently we were told by his close folks that he cares mostly about his legacy these days? This is what he's contributing to his legacy?

COOPER: Yes, I mean, it is extraordinary, Jeffrey, you think, you know, Lincoln gives the Gettysburg address and talks about the civil war, which is -- you know, which would lead to the deaths of countless Americans. And there's not language like that in that.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: The -- you know, but this is -- it's perfect. I mean, this is exactly who he is. I mean, this is not -- you know, if you saw President Trump give something that sounded like the Gettysburg address, would you believe it at all? I mean, we know this man by now, and this narcissism, this lying, this, you know, self-obsession, this ignorance of history, this is all what's here.

And you know what? He got elected president of the United States behaving exactly this way, and he may get re-elected behaving exactly this way. But there's no mystery about who he is. This is who he is.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: This is -- this is like the longest tweet in American history.

(LAUGHTER)

BORGER: It's a tweet. It's just extended, shall we say.

And it shows you that this is a president who has no self-control whatsoever. I am sure there were people who said, maybe just a couple, are you sure you want to do this? Or are you sure you want to say this? Maybe a couple egged him on.

COOPER: Do you think there's somebody that actually said that still?

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: I don't know. Maybe --

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hope springs eternal.

BORGER: And you can tell the paragraphs that the lawyers put in actually because it's cut and paste. You can really see that.

But if I were a senator now and I were thinking, OK, I've got to now judge this man's fitness for office and this thing landed like a grenade today, I'd be raising a lot of questions about that.

COOPER: Mike? I mean, is this something that you would want to represent the president?

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, a few things. First of all, we talked before. The president is his own chief of staff, his own communications director. And so, he did not get to where he is by not standing up and fighting for himself his entire life.

And so, he's not -- he'll be damned he's not going to -- the night before he's going to be impeached in a political impeachment, not stand up for himself and say what he thinks and what he wants to do. So you're right, he did -- he did write this. I'm sure his lawyers added some things in because it's about impeachment. This is him.

And I think from a historical perspective, he represents this time.

[20:10:03]

He got elected by 63 million Americans who were angry and who are upset with people in D.C. and in New York and other places who don't like a guy like him. And what the Democrats are doing this week is really -- it's amazing how personal they make this and how much it's clear they don't like him, which is why impeachment is turning against them.

And so, yes, he's being himself. His voters and supporters are rallying behind him. That's the guy they want to see standing up. They didn't think Republicans stood up for themselves enough until this guy came along, and they love it.

PSAKI: I actually think -- I do agree with Mike that this is who he is. While it's alarming, it's not particularly surprising. I wouldn't expect Democrats to make the letter be the thing that they

are going to run against this week. I actually think what Senator Schumer was doing today, which is making this about preventing witnesses from coming, not providing documents, holding Republicans accountable for not asking for that.

I mean, part of the -- one of the articles is about obstructing Congress and you have Republicans in Congress who don't seem bothered by that.

TOOBIN: Really? Do you really think so? I mean, it's like -- I don't know if that -- that strikes me as the Democrats playing the Republicans process game. You know, it's whether this is a fair trial or not. How about going to a foreign leader and saying give me dirt on my political opponent? That's what this is about.

PSAKI: Of course that's what it's about. But do I think what Leader Schumer is also seeing is that in the ABC poll, 70 percent of the public, more than 60 percent of Republicans think that witnesses should come and testify, and he wants Republicans who are vulnerable to be held accountable for that.

So I don't think they're going to be pushing the letter as Speaker Pelosi just did. She said this is crazy, this is ridiculous. I think that's what Democrats will do, but they're going push hard on their own process.

BORGER: The president also wanted witnesses to testify until Mitch McConnell told him, no, that wouldn't be a bad -- that wouldn't be a good idea, because we want to get this over with. But it was the president who said, I want to hear from people who can clear my name and suddenly the Republicans are saying, oh, no. We're not --

SHIELDS: You know, on the obstruction thing, I think David might find this interesting or have a comment on it. It turns out during the Nixon impeachment, Hillary Clinton went and did some research on how many times presidents had been accused of obstructing Congress thinking this would be a rare occurrence, and I'm going to get to use this.

And as it turns out, every president from George Washington forward was accused because that's a balance of power issue. That's -- I'm a House guy. So, I tend to like the legislative branch, so I kind of get it.

But that's a balance of power issue that literally -- not in an impeachment trial. So she said let's not use this and it got published. You can look at the publication of the research from the Nixon -- and I don't know if you have any --

(CROSTALK)

GERGEN: Well, but the difference is that Nixon sent witnesses up to the Hill to testify. Nixon sent documents --

SHIELDS: But I'm talking about obstructing Congress as an impeachment issue.

GERGEN: But that was -- that's what the question --

SHIELDS: Oh, that's what he said, OK.

GERGEN: Yes, that was the question he faced of obstruction.

SHIELDS: Yes.

GERGEN: And he actually turned over the tapes when the court ruled. There was oversight, checks and balances.

SHIELDS: My point is that every president since Washington had been accused at some point of obstructing Congress because the legislative branch does that to the executive branch.

TOOBIN: Of course, of course, about an individual subpoena or an individual witness. What we have seen here and never before in American history is a complete refusal to produce any witnesses or any documents. That's why he's being impeached, not because they're having a fight about an individual subpoena.

SHIELDS: Yes, but this is a political issue. The American people are looking at this and this is why the impeachment has been going down like this in terms of people's interest.

TOOBIN: Oh, you know, you're making --

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: -- accusing him of obstruction of justice -- I'm agreeing with your original point. When you have an article of impeachment on obstruction of justice, the American people go, oh, that's just Congress fighting. I mean, it takes away from the thing that the Democrats --

(CROSSTALK)

PSAKI: I would say, Mike, on the polls just on that for a second because I know this is a favorite talking point of you and others. Almost 50 percent of the public thinks the president should be impeached and removed from office. That is a number that has gone up since last summer. It's gone up for independents. It's gone up and down, yes, but the numbers have moved.

And for Democrats, this is not as big of a political loser, I think, and we've seen that by how many of the moderates have come out and actually chosen to do what they think is right. But it is Democrats are united on this. And that's something that people are mindful of too.

SHIELDS: Suffolk/"USA Today" poll had Trump leading all of the Democrat rivals for president, just came out yesterday, while this is going on. In the battleground states, his numbers are getting better according to the Emerson poll. And you have members -- these moderate members who were saying things

like, I might lose my seat over there but I'm going to do it because I think it's the right thing to do. They're not saying that because they think this is political win.

PSAKI: No, it is a politically difficult thing for them to do, but at the same time, the Democrats in their districts also feel strongly.

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: Polls go either way. Biden is ahead by seven. Every Democrat is ahead by a margin over Trump in a different national poll that came out this week.

COOPER: Let's take a quick break. We've got new comments from Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer warning the president not to tangle with Speaker Pelosi.

And later, a Democratic congresswoman who represents a swing district joins me to discuss the support and pushback that she's received ever since declaring herself a yes for impeachment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:19:07]

COOPER: Democrats have been firing back at the letter that President Trump sent House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a day before his likely impeachment. You heard Speaker Pelosi's response basically blowing it off before the commercial break. A short time ago, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer weighed in, warning the president not to tangle with Speaker Pelosi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Well, he's obviously under a great deal of duress, but if he thinks he can bully Nancy Pelosi into backing off, he's with the wrong customer. The amazing thing about president Trump as president and before, the very things he does, he accuses others of doing. Bully -- this is the most bullying president we've ever had. Accusing people of things -- this president accuses people of things all the time, every day. So he ought to look into the mirror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Back with our team of political and legal analysts.

Mike, during the break you were saying you worked on the Hill with the Gingrich time. You see mistakes being repeated.

[20:20:01]

SHIELDS: Oh, yes.

COOPER: It's not by Democrats. SHIELDS: I mean, I highly recommend everyone watch the A&E special

"The Clinton Affair" that aired about a year ago. I got it on iTunes, and watch it while this is going on to compare. It's brilliant. It's really well done.

COOPER: You know you are a political nerd when you are going to iTunes to get --

SHIELDS: Yes, but I also lived it. And what I can tell you is I see Democrats making some of the very same -- many of the very same mistakes that we made in 1998.

COOPER: Like what?

SHIELDS: Well, first of all, the investigation shifted with Clinton from one thing to the next thing to the next thing and finally it was like we got him. And so, what that did was it told the American people, you were just trying to find him on something, this is political.

Secondly, Republicans hated Bill Clinton. I mean, viscerally hated him. And so, you just heard Chuck Schumer on there. We had Henry Hyde as the chairman of the Judiciary, and we kept trying to put Henry Hyde out there because he would very dryly talk about the law. There was eight counts of criminality in the Starr report, criminality. And so, we should talk about that, yet, we couldn't help ourselves.

And so, Chuck Schumer, he's a bully. You know, he's -- the things that he does, he lies all the time.

So, their messaging starts to drift into how much we just hate Bill Clinton -- hate Donald Trump as opposed to the actual thing we should be talking about.

TOOBIN: The only problem with that view is that he does lie all the time. And what are they supposed to do, ignore that? What are they supposed to do --

SHIELDS: Do you want to impeach him and have the country with you or call him a liar?

TOOBIN: How about both? What's the problem with both?

SHIELDS: Bill Clinton was a liar. We kept calling him a liar and the country said you're just trying to get him. I'm just saying the Democrats are making a lot of the same mistakes we made, a lot of the same mistakes.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Not to go back to what I spent two years of my life on, you have to remember what he lied about compared to going to a foreign country and jeopardizing national security.

SHIELDS: Bill Clinton had eight criminal referrals.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Criminal referrals. He was disbarred.

So, we kept saying, we've got -- we have an obligation to talk about this. This is my conscience. We have to impeach him. We don't have a choice. Our right wing forced it into us.

PSAKI: Bill Clinton lied about sex.

SHIELDS: That was their message, it was only about sex.

PSAKI: This is about the president of the United States going to a foreign power to get dirt on his --

(CROSSTALK)

PSAKI: There's one more political difference between now and Clinton. At the time, and David Gergen and Jeffrey Toobin will remember this and Gloria probably too. At the time support for impeachment was in the 20s and Bill Clinton's popularity was in the 70s.

BORGER: Exactly.

PSAKI: That is quite different from what we're looking at.

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: I actually agree with you on some of this. Listen, I think Nancy Pelosi has been terrific. You have to give her a lot of credit.

But the Democratic messaging on this has not worked well. It's been sort of -- you know, it's so many different things. I think the country has gotten tired of how repetitive the conversation has been over the last several weeks.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: One thing Chuck Schumer said in that Erin Burnett interview is why Donald Trump won. He looked in the camera -- Erin Burnett asked him, well, Mitch McConnell said he's not impartial person, are you impartial? Yes, I am.

That is exactly why Donald Trump won and why he'll probably win again because he was lying. We all know he's lying. He knows he's lying. Everyone watching knows he's lying.

Chuck Schumer is not impartial. But that's what politicians in D.C. do. And they look at Donald Trump and go, why would I hold him accountable --

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Mitch McConnell told the truth and said, I'm not partial. Yes, he told the truth, it's a rare thing in D.C.

BORGER: And Lindsey Graham came out and said, you know, I'm not an impartial juror.

SHIELDS: I'm saying this is why the voters elected Trump because they don't care about the fact checking when they see Chuck Schumer do stuff like that.

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: But you said you're a Hill guy. You must care at some point, at someplace in your psyche about whether we maintain the institution and the mores and the traditions that this guys running over dismissively, that McConnell is beginning to run over now. You must worry about the legacy of the Republican Party at this point.

SHIELDS: Of course -- look, I do. One of the things I worry about also is what the president outlined in his letter is when it becomes so partisan. And many people have warned about this. That we go all the way to impeachment for something like this as opposed to a censure vote or bringing it out to the public and say let the voters decide in an election.

And so, I care a lot about the institution and norms and I think they're being trampled by the Democrats in this case.

BORGER: But I think -- and I keep going back to Nancy Pelosi again on this because at first she said that impeachment wasn't worth it, that Trump wasn't worth it. And so, she wasn't for impeachment.

Then came the phone call with Ukraine, the withholding of the meeting and funds and the president not asking to investigate corruption but in fact asking for an announcement of an investigation of corruption. And when you put all of that together, her point of view was, and I think these moderate Democrats' point of view is how can we not pay attention to that? And if you just censure the president, what does that mean?

PSAKI: It doesn't protect us --

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: It says to the voters you're in charge of deciding who the president is, not politicians.

BORGER: What does that mean anyway?

TOOBIN: Censure also implies a certain acceptance of responsibility on the part of the person who engaged in the misconduct, not someone who says that the phone call was maybe flawed or maybe OK.

[20:25:08]

He says it was perfect.

What human being talks about their own behavior as perfect? I've never met anyone like that. But the president says that.

And so, how can you respond to that except by confronting it? PSAKI: Mike, I think if you look at the circumstance now, what the

Republican Party is doing is they are normalizing that any president, a Democrat or Republican, can go to a foreign power and seek political dirt on their opponent. That is what's happening right now. That's your Republican Party and that's what they're doing.

SHIELDS: The Democrats are normalizing using political attacks to impeach someone. If Joe Biden gets elected president, do you think Republicans will try to impeach him? Based on this, I think they probably will.

(CROSSTALK)

PSAKI: If Joe Biden goes to a foreign ally or adversary and seeks political dirt on Mitt Romney or some Republican, I would say he should be impeached.

SHIELDS: I'd say, if Joe Biden brags about how he got a foreign government to do something that related to his son, that's enough for an investigation for the House Republicans.

You can't make the normalization argument when you watch how Democrats are behaving. They are not above anything normalization. And secondly, the American people are sick are us wanting to normalize things when their lives aren't being made better.

COOPER: Your argument is about whether or not the Democrats should have gone forward, is do you agree -- do you believe the fundamental accusation by Democrats, which is that the president was asking for a favor for a foreign power to investigate his political rival?

SHIELDS: No, I don't. You and I have talked about this so I know you're not going to like my response.

But Joe Biden was the sitting vice president of the United States. It is legitimate for the United States to ask another country was our sitting vice president as the official duties of the vice president doing something corrupt. There's nothing wrong with that.

PSAKI: But also, there's absolutely no evidence of that. Joe Biden --

SHIELDS: Well, you have to have an investigation --

PSAKI: No, wait a second. We know. Joe Biden was representing the view and the position of the United States government, the European Union as well as the IMF. He was asking for the firing of somebody that the Ukrainian people were asking to be fired.

SHIELDS: And you don't think there's any conflict when his son is sitting on a company that was being investigated by the people he talked about.

PSAKI: The person he wanted to be fired was not investigating Burisma at the time.

SHIELDS: So no conflict?

PSAKI: No.

COOPER: The only thing I don't understand -- we've got to move on. The thing I don't understand about your argument, I hear your point of view on this, is that if he believes there was corruption and the Bidens were corrupt, there are levers within the United States to investigate the corruption by the vice president of the United States. There's email trails. Why go to a power which you claim is corrupt to launch an investigation which theoretically because they are corrupt would be corrupt? I mean, why not use the FBI or the Treasury Department or whomever? That makes no sense.

SHIELDS: I believe he was asking the new leader of the country to work with us on this and to announce that you're going to go and do something on that.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: He doesn't launch an investigation in the United States.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: There's no investigation in the United States, correct?

SHIELDS: The other reason why this thing falls apart is because the aid was never held up.

COOPER: That's just not true.

We've got to take a break. On the eve of the House vote on impeachment, rallies are under way in several cities here. You're looking at Portland, Oregon. Demonstrators calling for President Trump's removal from office. We'll talk over with a Democrat from a swing district who announced she will vote for impeachment. She had a town hall a few days ago facing criticism in the crowd for that decision. We'll talk to her ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:32:58]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: There's more breaking news tonight. Rallies supporting the impeachment of President Trump are under way tonight in several cities. A coalition of liberal groups organized the demonstrations across the United States. This comes on the eve of the historic vote on two articles of impeachment in the full House tomorrow. Some members of Congress are still deciding how they're going to vote.

First term Michigan Democrat Elissa Slotkin, who represents a swing district, says she will support impeachment. The White House is hitting back saying she "sold out her constituents." The congresswoman faced applause, some outrage when she explained her decision yesterday at a town hall meeting. Take a look. (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 an 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 the 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)

COOPER: Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin joins us now. That's a really hard thing to do and I respect any politician who is able to, you know, accept the protests, hear it, deliver what they want to say and yet still do it in a way that is respectful.

SLOTKIN: Yes. I mean that's the job, right? I mean, before I ran in 2017, I remember my representative wouldn't show up for town halls, and it was the big health care vote. And I remember saying like you don't get to just choose to ignore your constituents, so how could I go and do the same thing.

COOPER: You've said that this is the last thing you wanted to be doing in your first term as a congressperson.

SLOTKIN: Yes. Yes. I mean, you know, listen, I got into this because I wanted to work on issues that help people's lives. And for me, you know, it's one of the most serious things that you can do as a congressperson is to be involved in an impeachment. And I just -- that's not what I wanted to be spending my time on.

[20:35:00]

COOPER: Is it something that the voters in your district, supporters of the President or not supporters of the President, have been talking to you about through -- I mean, was the Mueller report something they were talking to you about? Is this something that's foremost on their minds or is it health care, prescription drug prices, all the rest?

SLOTKIN: It's honestly -- it's like the kitchen table issues. And I tell people, you know, a town hall attracts a crowd, that's for sure. But what I --

COOER: You're getting larger crowds now than before.

SLOTKIN: Yes, we're definitely getting larger crowds. But, you know, I'm a congresswoman so I shop at weird hours. And so if I'm going to a Target or Kroger at 9:30 at night and going shopping, there's very few people there. I cannot get through the grocery store without someone grabbing me by the arm and talking to me about the price of health care, that they can't afford their son's insulin, they couldn't send their daughter to summer camp because they couldn't afford four inhalers that were required by camp. I mean, these are the things that people are talking about. How they do better in their lives, not frankly impeachment, the Mueller report.

COOPER: So if, you know, earlier we had a panel on and people were saying, well, look, if -- you know, Jen Psaki was saying as soon as, you know, it's done, Democrats want to move back and talk about other stuff that the voters are caring about. If that is the case, then why go through this impeachment if it's taking away focus from things that voters care about?

SLOTKIN: I mean, listen, I'm a former CIA officer and I will tell you, you don't get to pick everything that you work on. Sometimes the world happens to you. And in this case, for me, you know, I resisted and did not want to be involved in impeachment for many, many months and then the facts changed.

And then in September, you know, this very, very simple idea really isn't complicated for me that when I heard the President and his lawyer acknowledge that they reached out to a foreign leader to ask for help in an American political system, in our system, that for me was different. And that for me was severe and all through the inquiry.

You know, when I went back and really looked at all the documents, they were supporting that same idea and that can't be normal.

COOPER: So to the people who were in your town hall who are supporting the President and don't like your decision, who say, well, why not let the voters decide, we have an election coming up.

SLOTKIN: Yes, yes. That's where I was for many months. I had colleague who sort of right out of the gate were supportive of impeachment in January of last year or this past year. I had colleagues who came out after the Mueller report. For me, I really kept saying, you know, I don't like the President's conduct, but let 2020 decide.

And then the President talked about bringing foreigners and getting them involved in the very election I was depending on to have a Democratic process. And this was prospective, not retrospective. We were now talking about a future election, not 2016, not what happened in the past.

And to me that is just fundamentally different. He asked a foreigner to help investigate a political rival. He used the power of his office. And not for the national security interests, which is totally normal, right?

I worked for President Bush, I worked for President Obama, it is totally normal for a president to wield their power, right? That's typical, for the national security interests of the country. We put the screws to countries all the time, but this is for personal gain. It was for him. And that's what a king does. That's not what a president does.

COOPER: Congresswoman Slotkin, appreciate your time. SLOTKIN: Thank you.

COOPER: Thank you very much. Up next, a group of Republicans who have no (INAUDIBLE) for President Trump are forming a group with a single purpose to ensure his defeat in next year's election. We'll be right back.

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[20:42:21]

COOPER: The Republicans who've never shied away from criticizing President Trump now in an op-ed published today in "The New York Times." They band together and go much further. In a piece headline, "We Are Republicans and We Want Trump Defeated." They said they formed a political action committee called the Lincoln Project and not only want to defeat the President but also what they call Trumpism.

"Congressional Republicans have embraced and copied Mr. Trump's cruelty and defended and even adopted his corruption." They say, "Mr. Trump and his enablers have abandoned conservatism, they say, and longstanding Republican principles and replaced it with Trumpism, an empty faith, they call it, led by a bogus prophet."

Among the authors is George Conway, the wife -- the husband of Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the President, and Rick Wilson, the author of "Everything Trump Touches Dies." Rick joins me now.

So, Rick, how does the Super PAC plan to defeat President Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, Anderson, one of the tools that we have at our disposal is about 120 years of collective political experience and knowledge and the ability to use a lot of the tools we built over time on behalf of the Republican Party in order to try to save the country from a President who is sort of hollowed out the old GOP like a parasite from the inside out.

And to apply some pressure onto the people that are his enablers and supporters and hopefully to be able to engage in enough commitments to go into the swing states where the race will be decided in 2020 and to make a meaningful difference.

Remember, Donald Trump won by about 77,000 votes in the three swing states in the upper Midwest. We believe that there are a number of folks out there who are not comfortable with Trump, who are clearly not happy with the direction he's taken this country, and that they're reachable.

And we're not trying to, you know, convince the hard-core red hat MAGA guys, but there's a huge swath of people, Republicans, soft Democrats, independents, who pulled the trigger for Donald Trump in 2016.

We believe they're gettable. We believe they can be moved and that's why we formed this project because we believe it's vital to put our country and the security and the stability of our country over the partisan instinct that we would -- ordinarily would have stuck with as Republicans.

COOPER: But given that elections so far in the U.S. are a binary choice, aren't you dependent on who the Democratic candidate is? And so, I mean, it's a hard sell until you know, especially who the Democratic candidate would be.

WILSON: Well, it's an easy sell that Donald Trump is a profoundly corrupt and profoundly unstable person. We know that part going in. The Democrats -- you know, we're not trying to make decisions for the Democratic Party. We're not trying to tell them who to pick as their nominee or how to run their messaging.

[20:45:08]

We are trying to make sure that we have a set of tools in the toolbox that puts Donald Trump in a position where he won't have an easy, open field, especially because there are a lot of people on our side who can in some ways, you know, punch harder and cut deeper than the Democratic nominee or the Democratic Party will be able to.

COOPER: So you're -- are you talking beyond, you know, trying to raise money to get ads in swing districts?

WILSON: We are.

COOPER: You're talking about getting Republicans out campaigning essentially, not campaigning against -- not campaigning for themselves, but just campaigning against President Trump?

WILSON: Well, Anderson, one of the things we want to do is put Trump's enablers on notice that there is a political and a moral cost to supporting a President who is engaged in behavior that is corrupt at best and corrosive almost every day to our norms and our democracy.

And so, we want to be able to go out into the swing states and say to people who are protecting Donald Trump. You know, there are some folks out here who are going to come and ring your bell and bring some effective messaging and some effective political targeting into this process.

And the group of us -- and it's an expanding group, by the way. You would be shocked how many people have reached out, you know, inside the Republican world that aren't, you know, hard Trumpers today to say let me help, get me involved.

So, we're certainly feeling like there's a lot of uplift to this thing and we feel like there's a prospect here to do some real good, as I said, to put the country before the political fortunes of Donald Trump.

COOPER: Rick Wilson, always good to have you on. Rick, thank you.

WILSON: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Still to come, the rules committee is wrapping up and we're starting to see what tomorrow's big day is going to look like. We've got a live update from Capitol Hill.

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[20:51:03]

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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right. We all know the President has his last chance today to reach out to Pelosi and he blew it. He doubled down on dumb and being deranged, and now he is going to wind up on doorstep's history in an ugly way, in one that he didn't imagine. We'll look at that.

I'm going to bring in Tom Reed, Republican from Western New York who defends the President. I have John Podesta on tonight to talk about what it was like during Clinton and how they handled things differently and why.

But then, we're also going to cover that murder on Morningside Heights, that Columbia University kid. I haven't seen a crime like that, Coop, since the Central Park Five. There is a problem in this country with crime, including homicide, and this is an ugly example of who is doing it. These are kids this time. We're taking a look. It matters.

COOPER: All right. Chris, thanks. See you then in about nine minutes from now. Just ahead, setting the stage for tomorrow's impeachment vote, what is happening tonight on Capitol Hill.

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[20:56:04]

COOPER: As we said at the top of the program before tomorrow's historic impeachment vote on the floor of the House, rules have to be in place to set the guidelines for the two articles approved by the judiciary committee. That debate has been going on pretty much all day, and now into the evening in the House Rules Committee. That's where CNN's Phil Mattingly has been watching and listening. He joins us now.

What's the status of the hearing now?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are almost done, which is saying a lot after about 10-plus hours over the course of the day. And the debate itself has been what you've seen over the course really, Anderson, of the last eight, nine, 10 weeks.

Republicans very certain in their decision to oppose the Democrats in this move, and Democrats making very clear, they believe they have a case, a solid case, and a case that leads them to believe that both of the articles of impeachment that they have proposed, abused of power and obstruction of Congress, are both merited and will likely have the votes tomorrow. I think it's important to note, Anderson, what this process was throughout the, course, of today is setting up the rules of the road for tomorrow. It's laying out how the debate is actually going to work. And we now have an idea of what Democrats are proposing, something they should vote on here in a couple of minutes depending on what other issues Republicans raise and that is this.

There will be six hours of debate on the two articles of impeachment. Those six hours will be divided evenly between the Republicans and the Democrats. Any members who want to speak can pretty much log their questions or at least log their effort to speak at the moment with their leaders and will likely get an opportunity to do just that tomorrow.

You're not going to see leaders speaking for an hour at a time or even more. You're likely going to see a number of members from both parties kind of break into two-minute increments as they talk about what they opposed or why they support these articles of impeachment.

Another key thing that they are laying out tonight is that after the vote on the final -- or on the two articles of impeachment, they will also have a vote on a resolution to appoint managers for impeachment when they this trial moves over or when they move over to the Senate for a trial.

Those are both crucial things to keep an eye on, kind of laying out the path forward. But now, Anderson, they don't have a final vote yet, but we at least know what the rules or the road they are going to be tomorrow when the House takes up this historic moment leading to this historic vote.

COOPER: So do you have a sense -- you said six hours of debate, and then they're going to vote on the managers, and then the actual impeachment.

MATTINGLY: Yes. So they'll do six hours of debate, then will have to vote on the two articles of impeachment. And they made the point of separating the two articles of impeachment. So there will be -- even though they were in the same nine-page resolution, each individual article will receive a Full House floor vote.

And that's important because, Anderson, we actually saw a Democratic member from a swing district say earlier today, Jared Golden from Maine, that he was going to vote yes on one article and no on another.

So you can split votes if you want to, although we don't expect that to happen often. You will see the individual votes, but over the course of the day there will be a debate and a vote on the actual rule, the rule that they're doing tonight.

After that, we'll start the six hours of debate. Then, you will have the vote on the two articles of impeachment. Then, you will have a vote on the managers for the future Senate trials.

Again, kind of underscoring, if you know you're going to have a vote on the managers, there's no doubt that these articles of impeachment are going to 3pass, now it's more a matter of when. And that maybe dictated, Anderson, more by what procedural hurdles Republicans throw up during this process or how long that goes throughout the course of the day.

But at least at this point in time, we know the rules of the road, six hours of debate spread evenly, then a vote on the two articles, then a vote on the manager. And obviously, here on Capitol Hill, Anderson, there's been quite pa parlor game on who Speaker Pelosi will pick to present this case to the United States Senate.

COOPER: Right.

MATTINGLY: We'll have an answer to that tomorrow as well.

COOPER: Just a couple other quick questions. I got to set my alarm clock. What time tomorrow does this start?

MATTINGLY: So you're going to want to be paying attention at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. That's when the House is expected to open up. There will be an hour of debate on the rule itself what they're working on tonight. Starting around 10:00, sometime after 10:00, they'll vote one the rule and that -- once they're done with that that will kick off the debate itself.

One interesting points, Speaker Pelosi tonight in the letter she sent to the entire caucus, I'm sure you guys have been talking about it tonight, talking about the stakes, talking about the moment for her caucus, why this is a somber issue but the most important kind of issue they have to vote on.

She made clear she wants all the members of her caucus to be on the House floor tomorrow when the House floor opens up. There will be votes early and they want everybody there to be a part of this underscoring how important this moment is, Anderson.

WILLIAMS: Yes. Phil Mattingly, you'll be there 9:00 a.m. tomorrow. I'll be covering it with Wolf and Jake Tapper and all the rest. News continues, I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?