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New Emails: Aid Freeze Began 90 Mins After Trump-Ukraine Call; Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) is Interviewed About the Coming Senate Impeachment Trial; House Attorneys Say They Want to Hear Testimony from Former White House Counsel Don McGahn; House Dems Say They Still Need McGahn To Testify; House Attorneys Say They Want To Hear Testimony From Former White House Counsel McGahn; Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) Discusses About The House Could Recommend New Articles Of Impeachment. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired December 23, 2019 - 20:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: 'Tis the night before the night before and there is still plenty stirring.

The president's personal lawyer for one. Rudy Giuliani's latest revelations have people talking, especially his comments about a prominent Jewish American, a Holocaust survivor.

There is also the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and what he is saying, debunked allegations about the FBI spying on the president's campaign. We're keeping them honest on that tonight.

Speaking of the president. He is talking, too. And his words are really hitting the fan.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I never understood wind. You know I know windmills very much. I've studied it better than anybody. It's very expensive.

You know what they don't tell you about windmills? After ten years, they start to get tired, old, you got to replace them.


HILL: Yes, windmills are also a thing tonight and there's more.

I'm Erica Hill, in for Anderson. Thanks, for joining us.

We begin with newly released e-mails and a fight over whether to have witnesses at the impeachment trial. The two coming together tonight with the word of a White House budget official named Michael Duffey, someone Senate Democrats want to hear from.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): If there was ever an argument that we need Mr. Duffy to come testify, this is that information. This e-mail is explosive.


HILL: This e-mail, the one in question, was actually obtained by court order. In it, Mr. Duffey, from the White House Budget Office, ordered the Pentagon to freeze military aid to Kiev.

Now, the timing of the email also a major focus. It was sent 90 minutes after the controversial July 25th phone call with Ukraine's president. The call, of course, that is at the heart of the entire impeachment question.

Duffey writes, quote, based on guidance I have received and in light of the administration's plan to review assistance to Ukraine, please hold off on any additional DOD obligations of these funds.

Now, the line raises a number of questions including who ordered the aid held up. But it is not the only line to stands out. Quoting again here: Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held.

Why would it need to be closely held?

Mr. Duffey is one of four witnesses Senate Democrats want to hear from.

CNN's Jim Acosta joins us now with more on the larger impeachment standoff.

So, Jim, the president is, of course, in Mar-a-Lago, still weighing in, though, on impeachment. What is he saying?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he has been posting tweets that the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is saying she's delaying things because she doesn't have a good case. Pelosi will say, no, that's because we want a fair process in the Senate.

The president has been retweeting Lindsey Graham, one of his top allies over in the Senate who has been tweeting this evening that if Democrats don't send over those articles of impeachment, perhaps they should take matters into their own hands. It's not exactly clear what Lindsey Graham is talking about. But I can tell you, all of these delays, they are giving heartburn to the president's legal team and his political team inside the White House. They know the longer this process drags out, the more surprises you could have like those e- mails you just were talking about.

HILL: Well, in terms of those e-mails, what is the White House response to those emails? Beyond concerns of heartburn, of course?

ACOSTA: Yes, right. Erica, what they're saying at this point is there was an OMB official over the weekend who put out a statement saying it is not fair to tie these e-mails to the president's phone call, because they had an inner agency phone call one week before the president had that phone call with the leader of Ukraine, basically, explaining that a hold was going to be put on this Ukraine military money.

But there is no mistaking, just how amazing the coincidence would be that 90 minutes after the president has this phone call with the leader of Ukraine, that Michael Duffey, a top official at OMB, is sending a directive to the Department of Defense saying we are freezing this money now. I mean, you just have to suspend some disbelief to think the two things aren't connected at this point.

But, Marc Short, the vice president's chief of staff was saying over the weekend, listen, the money was released to the Ukrainian. So, ultimately, they got the aid. That seems to be the go-to defense they keep going back to it.

HILL: It is only over and over again, but as you point out, the timing is interesting in terms of that e-mail. Robert Blair, meantime, one of the four witnesses Democrats want to call to testify, is actually getting a new position.

What more you can tell us about that?

ACOSTA: Yes, this was announced earlier this evening, during the holiday week. So, that's always interesting when you see that sort of timing. But the White House is saying Robert Blair, who is a senior adviser to the acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is going to be taking on a new role at the administration, overseeing telecommunications strategy and looking at this turn to 5G technology.

I will tell you, it is interesting because, you know, if you contrast what is happening with Robert Blair, with some other administration officials, who did testify, he is certainly getting, you know, the gold star treatment during this holiday season.


And what is most interesting about Robert Blair, of course, is that he is one of four witnesses that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer would like to see testify during a Senate trial. At this point, it does raise the question, is the administration, you know, perhaps handing over a little goody to Robert Blair to entice him to remain quiet and not testify during a Senate trial? Obviously, the White House and administration would say no to that, but when you look at these things and how they play out, obviously the administration officials who go up to Capitol Hill, they don't exactly receive the same type of treatment that Robert Blair is receiving this week right before Christmas -- Erica.

HILL: Interesting to see.

Jim Acosta, appreciate it as always. Thank you.

ACOSTA: You bet.

HILL: Joining us, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams, and CNN senior political analyst, David Bergen -- David Gergen.

Sorry, David.

As we look at all of this -- Dana, do you have any sense that this impeachment standoff, I mean, I don't think nobody is holding their breath that anything is going to happen. With that being said, is there a chance it will work itself out sometime soon even in the early days of January?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there is a sense that it will work itself out. How it will work itself out, that's, you know, to be determined. The reason is because it's in the Democrat's interests to try to find a way to start this trial for many, many reasons, because if you listen to Mitch McConnell, his argument is why are they holding it because if they think that by holding it it's going to make me negotiate and give something away that I don't want to give away or maybe agree to witnesses that I don't want to agree to, that's not going to happen because no skin off my back. If we don't start a Senate trial, we'll move on to other things. Confirm more Trump judicial nominees, for example.

Having said that, that is his argument and there's a lot to be said for that. There are also Republicans who are running for reelection, and if they don't win, he will not be Senate majority leader anymore, and they need to answer to their constituents about whether and why there is a fair trial. So, there are pressure points on both sides here to get something accomplished when it comes to this process.

HILL: For Democrats, fair trial equates to more witnesses, it equates to evidence.

David, you've heard Democrats say the trial is not a fact finding operation. That they are going to render judgment on a case that was passed on to them from the House. What do you make of that?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think we've gotten into such a mess it's hard to get this all untangled, isn't it? I agree with Dana that we're ultimately going to get I think a settlement. I don't think it's on the interest of either side to let this play out too long. And for the Democrats, in particular, it starts to look too cute after a while.

But I think with these documents, two things become apparent. One is here's a single memo that has been held back and came through a different channel, it became public. And, you know, it's a story. It's a piece of the puzzle we didn't have.

What the document and story is all about is what's missing from the case. The things that the Democrats couldn't get because of the stone wall. The documents they couldn't get. The witnesses they couldn't get.

And, you know, I think it strengthens their case that this is not entirely on the up and up in terms of how the Republicans are playing hard ball. I think that's pretty important. The second thing is the facts are important. To have a trial that doesn't turn all the facts is bizarre.

HILL: There are a number of them that agree. As you know, most of them Democrats.

As we look at this, though, Elliot, you were counsel, of course, to the Senate Judiciary under Schumer. Now, we saw the letter from him today. He also came out later today and said he could and would push for a vote. How much leverage does he actually have right now?

ELLIOTT: Yes. So the minority actually has a tremendous amount of leverage in the Senate. And so, he certainly does have some leverage.

This gets back to Dana's point. What this all comes down to is how much pain can Senator Schumer and the Democrats cause for those four or five or six Senate Republicans who are in tough races, because in some extent, this gets into Mitch McConnell's interests as well, his goal is to protect the Senate. It's not to protect the president of the United States. He keeps his job regardless of whether Donald Trump is president.

And so, what Senator Schumer can do is force difficult votes and put the Cory Gardners of the world, and Susan Collinses of the world, these are senators out for re-election in bluish or purple states and force them to take a vote on this Michael Duffey question.


This individual who wrote this email but it's actually quite damning if you just read what's on the public record, make them go on the record and say they don't want this individual to testify. Senator Schumer can push it.

HILL: Dana, when you spoke with Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin on "STATE OF THE UNION" yesterday, he made it clear nobody should say how they want to vote. That ship has sailed. And at this point, aside from a small handful of senators, there he is a pretty good sense of where everyone stands.

BASH: There is. That's why what Elliot was talking about is so key. Yes, with Senator Durbin who, by the way, was there 21 years ago and a voting senator and back then this is when I started covering the Hill, there were many, many more senators. The vast majority of the senators said we're impartial jurors. We're not going there. It has changed dramatically which is the point he has made.

But when it comes to the trial, once they are in the trial, assuming Senator Schumer doesn't get what he wants, which is an agreement to have the witnesses before they start, it's hard to imagine that happening. But let's just assume that is the case. You are going to see really, really important votes if the Democrats are able to put up a vote for bringing Michael Duffey to testify. That is a 51-vote threshold.

So, it's hard to see Republicans who are on the bubble for any tough races saying, no, we don't want to hear from someone who can shed more light on what's happening. It is possible but it is a tough vote as opposed to the final vote which is whether or not to throw the president out of office or acquit him. That's an easier argument for them to make back home which is I don't think what he did is right but I don't have enough facts. There's nothing I can do. It's up to the voters to decide in November.

HILL: David, go ahead. Do you want to say something?

GERGEN: Yes, I want to say a couple of things. I think a lot is going to depend on what the various senators hear back home. This next two weeks is going to be pivotal. And there is -- you know, coming out of the impeachment process there was a widespread view, especially in the press., that the winds were blowing.

There was a new poll out in the last 24 hours that the wind is shifting slightly in their direction. The president's poll numbers are down. People who want to see the president not only impeached but removed is up slightly. That's important as we go forward here because the dynamics are going to be important.

I want to make one other point, and that is if the Democrats are able to get those handful of senators on the Republican side to vote to bring witnesses like Duffey, there is going to be pressure from Republicans to bring witnesses like the whistle-blower. That's going to turn it into a circus.

WILLIAMS: If you notice one thing you're hearing Democrats use is, all we need is four votes for a fair trial. You heard that. I heard Brian Schatz from Hawaii making that point the other day. And they're going to keep hitting that point. They regard that they if they can get -- with ultimately four votes gets them 51.

HILL: Right.

WILLIAMS: That's the Senate majority that would allow them to start calling some of these witnesses. But David is absolutely right. You start getting into questions of then do Republicans start asking for Hunter Biden to come testify, and do just we end up with the same kind of circus that the House of Representatives so commonly is.

HILL: We will be watching and waiting to see.

Elliot Williams, David Gergen, thank you.

Dana, stick around. There is some Rudy Giuliani news, of course, to talk about. That coming up later in the hour. A remarkable interview he gave recently.

Up next, one of the impeachment jurors, Senator Chris Van Hollen, on what kind of trial he wants to see and just how far he thinks his fellow Democrats should go to get it.

Also tonight, is the president blowing smoke about wind power and does he know more about the subject than anyone? Listen and decide for yourself tonight on 360.


HILL: We're talking tonight about the fight over impeachment witnesses and what a trial in the Senate will look like. Senators, as you know, will swear an oath to be impartial jurors. As you likely also know, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said and these are his own words, quote, I'm not partial about this at all.

Well, he was asked about it this morning on Fox News.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Do you think Chuck Schumer's impartial?


MCCONNELL: Do you think Elizabeth Warren is impartial?


MCCONNELL: Bernie Sanders is impartial?

So, let's quit the charade. This is a political exercise.


HILL: For Mitch McConnell, it's a political exercise. Other Senate Republicans also said as much, Lindsey Graham most notedly.

Shortly before air time, I spoke with another senator, Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen.


HILL: Senator Van Hollen, I want to ask you first about what we just heard from Senator McConnell. Are your fellow Democratic senators, are you fully impartial heading into a Senate trial?

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Erica, yes, I am, because I'm willing to listen to all the evidence before rendering a final verdict in this case. Do I think that the House has made an overwhelming case for impeachment as of this point in time? Yes, I do, but I also have heard the president say that he wants to have a big trial and he wants to have witnesses talking about how he's not guilty of the offenses he's been charged with and I'm absolutely willing to listen.

At the same time, that's why it's so important that we have witnesses that apparently the president or the president's team and Mitch McConnell don't want to call. Everybody should be able to make their case in a true trial that's fair in the Senate.

HILL: Well, in terms of having those witnesses, Senate Leader McConnell said, quote, we haven't ruled out witnesses. We said, let's handle this case just like we did with President Clinton. Fair is fair.

What are your thoughts on that? Are you OK with handling this in the exact same manner that it was held for President Clinton?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, every trial is different. You know that. I think the American public knows that.

And I think it's very reasonable to seek some assurances right up front that there will be witnesses. There were witnesses in the Clinton trial. There were three deposition witnesses.


There were lots of witnesses in the previous trial for President Andrew Johnson.

And so, there's no reason why Senator Mitch McConnell can't tell us up front that he's going to agree to call these very important fact witnesses from the White House who have direct knowledge of the impeachment charges that are being made against the president.

HILL: As you know, some of the witnesses the president has referred to, including former Vice President Biden, Hunter Biden. If Mitch McConnell does acquiesce, and he does say yes for going to have witnesses, if there is a push for the Bidens, are they fair game?

VAN HOLLEN: So, as you know, the Biden issue is a total red herring. It's been well-documented that there is no truth to the allegations and I haven't heard any Republican senators talk about calling Hunter Biden or Vice President Biden.

Look, if Senator McConnell wants to put that in the mix, that's obviously his choice. But he hasn't done that. And we have said that we want witnesses. We've named four fact witnesses that are not, you know, some, you know, wild goose chase that has already been disproven.

We're talking about witnesses in the White House, including Michael Duffey and we just learned over the last few days that Michael Duffey within 90 minutes of President Trump's phone call with President Zelensky sent that information with the U.S. military assistance to Ukraine and at the same time asking them to keep it quiet, hush, hush. So, clearly, they understood that this was inappropriate and Michael Duffey's exactly the witness that we need to hear from along with the documents and the original transcript of the phone call, rather than the memo form.

HILL: And as opposed, as you put it, the rough transcript that the White House released.

In terms of those emails that are released because of this FOIA lawsuit, those were referenced by Senator Schumer today in his letter to his fellow Senate colleagues where he called for evidence to be admitted. He also then later today said he could and would push for a vote.

Do you know of any of your Republican colleagues who would get behind that vote and potentially join Democrats for certain witnesses and evidence? VAN HOLLEN: Well, I think it's going to be awfully hard for them to

explain to their constituents why they're voting against calling fact witnesses and trying to get documents, right? If you were going to have a fair trial, every American understands that means that everybody gets to put on their case. That means you get to call witnesses.

So, in voting against witnesses, if they choose to vote against witnesses, it's pretty clear that they're afraid of the truth. That's been the question all along. If the White House and President Trump had nothing to hide, why are they so scared about presenting those documents and those witnesses?

HILL: Senator Chris Van Hollen, appreciate you joining us. Thank you.

VAN HOLLEN: Good to be with you. Thank you.


HILL: A lot more ahead on the Christmas Eve eve, including the House saying it still needs to hear from former White House counsel Don McGahn, while raising the possibility of additional articles of impeachment.



HILL: The House of Representatives believes it still needs to hear from the White House counsel, former White House counsel Don McGahn, saying his information could be relevant to possibly additional articles of impeachment. In a court filing today, House lawyers said the impeachment investigations didn't end with last week's votes. It's the latest turn in a drawn out legal battle over McGahn's possible testimony.

CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez joins us now.

So, Evan, lawyers for the Judiciary Committee are saying a second impeachment could be necessary?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Could you imagine the tweets from the president given his reaction already from the current impeachment debate if he were to be the first president to be impeached a second time? That's certainly what the Democrats are raising here in this court filing.

Nobody really thinks the Democrats are going to pursue this, but what they are saying is simply because just because they barely mentioned the Mueller investigation and the information from Don McGahn in the current articles of impeachment that are pending before the Senate or will be pending before the Senate doesn't mean that this is all over. They say they're going to keep investigating this.

And what's at stake here, Erica, is simply this. The White House says that the president has the right to give absolute immunity to his close aides, including people like Don McGahn. The House and, by the way, a judge has already said that that's not so. He has and his aides have to respond and he has to respond to a House subpoena.

So, we'll see where the courts are going to land on this in the coming weeks. Again, this is a fight, as you've said, is going on for about eight months.

HILL: You mentioned the timing. Give us a better sense in terms of the timing here for a final decision about whether Don McGahn is actually going to testify? What are we looking at?

PEREZ: Right. Well, yes. So, we expect that there's going to be some arguments in the coming weeks in January. But, again, we don't know when the appeals court will make a final ruling. As you point out, it's beyond Don McGahn, right?

We're talking about other people like John Bolton who the president says he is protected by absolute immunity. So I think there's a big, big question that the Supreme Court will eventually get to hear about these important witnesses and whether they get to just say, forget about Congress. We don't have to respond to their subpoenas.

HILL: So much riding on that as we wait and watch.

Evan Perez, Appreciate it. Thank you.

PEREZ: Thank you.

HILL: Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer says the House should take its time before transmitting the two articles of impeachment to the Senate, saying at minimum, there should be agreement on rules of the game and access to witnesses.

He joins me now from Portland.

Congressman, good to have you with us tonight.


HILL: Sir, give us a sense. The notion here that the House, as I was just talking about with Evan based on the filings, could recommend new articles of impeachment. How real a possibility is that?

BLUMENAUER: Well, we are, as we keep saying, in unchartered waters with this president, his reckless behavior, his denial of the norms that everybody else has adhered to, challenges to the court.

We don't actually know what he's going to do next. But the fact is that the House of Representatives continues to control the two articles, has not yet submitted them.


Speaker Pelosi is trying to find out what the rules of the game are going to be, but this doesn't stop what the House Judiciary Committee and other committees can do going forward.

There's nothing to stop supplementing the record. I think there may well be court decisions that come down. We may see at some point there are tax returns that are made public. And overall, one of the things that's fascinating about the public opinion, even people who aren't yet convinced that Donald Trump should be removed through impeachment, overwhelmingly support the notion that this should be a fair process.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: In terms of that process, before the actual impeachment vote, you tweeted, "Rather than allow for a sham trial in the Senate, we should keep gathering information and let the process ripen." Based on that statement, based on what we just heard for you, do you think the House rushed at all to vote on these two articles of impeachment? Should they have waited and collected more evidence?

BLUMENAUER: No, I think it was clear on the two articles, there was overwhelming evidence to support them. And candidly, if you watch what the Republicans did, in response, they didn't dispute the facts. They were just playing process. One of their arguments is that there's too much hearsay evidence. But ironically, it's the Republican administration that refuses to make the witnesses available who could confirm this. They can't have it both ways.

HILL: You said they can't have it both ways. As we're waiting to see what happens, obviously, in the Senate, you have made it clear, as you've said, you support Speaker Pelosi waiting to hand over those articles until she sees how things will play out in the Senate. How much leverage though do Democrats have? How long do you think this can go on?

BLUMENAUER: Well, I mean, part of it is it's like every day that goes by there's new information. What we just found out that the coordination with the White House, the telephone call made within 90 minutes of the President's conversation with the Ukrainian president telling people to be quiet, that it's not supposed to be made public. This is, I think, suspicious at the least.

There is going to be more information that trickles out. And frankly, this President is just acting unhinged. Look at what he did last week in Michigan with a two-hour rant, insulting the memory of a revered public official, John Dingell.

This is a person who doesn't take any pressure well and I think that Speaker plays it right. She has her obligations to the House and to the process. She takes it seriously. And frankly, Donald Trump actually doesn't match up very well against Nancy Pelosi, doesn't deal with strong women and no stronger woman in America than Nancy Pelosi and clearly he can't handle her.

HILL: Well, we will watch it as this continues to play out. I do want to get one more take, you brought up these emails which, of course, were released over the weekend. They were referenced by Senator Schumer today in his push for evidence for witnesses. Is it your sense that those emails will have an impact on Republicans in the Senate? BLUMENAUER: I don't know, but I think there is a sense that they're

picking up from people at home that they want this process to be fair. And when we have new evidence come out, raising questions, I think it argues for being able to get that on the table, to take the time to do it right and to have a process that respects getting the facts out.

I think that this is something that Republicans would do well to heed because the majority of public as I said, overwhelming majority of the public, favors this process being fair. And when you have the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, the leader for Republicans in the Senate saying they've already made up their mind, they don't care about the process, they don't want to hear any more, that is troubling, I think, for any independent minded American.

HILL: Congressman Blumenauer, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

BLUMENAUER: Thank you.

HILL: Up next, why the House Minority Leader insists the FBI spied on President Trump's election campaign back in 2016 and what the facts are.




HILL: As we noted at the top of the program tonight, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is repeating the widely debunked claim that the FBI spied on President Trump's election campaign in 2016. Here's what he said Fox News yesterday.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Well, we pause for one moment and you read this IG report by Horowitz, here's the FBI, they broke into President Trump at the time candidate Trump's campaign, spied on him, and then they covered it up. It is a modern day Watergate. They broke into his campaign by bringing people into it. They have been trying to cover it up for the whole time.


HILL: McCarthy then tweeted out that video clip which has generated more than 35,000 retweets and here's what really matters, we have to point this out, what he says isn't true. If in fact you did read that report, you would know the Department of Justice Inspector General said the exact opposite. That there was no political bias involved in the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign and that the FBI did not try to recruit either confidential informants nor did it attempt to send any informants in Trump campaign headquarters or Trump campaign spaces.

Let's get some perspective now from two republicans, former Pennsylvania Congressman Charlie Dent and Scott Jennings, a former aide to President George Bush. Both are CNN Political Commentators. And good to have both of you with us tonight.


Scott, as you hear those comments from Kevin McCarthy, what do you think? Is it possible that he actually believes the words that are coming out of his mouth or is he trying to get a message to the President that he is loyal?

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I think a lot of Republicans after reading the Horowitz report and after seeing the review that the FISA court issued to the FBI in the wake of the Horowitz report, a lot of Republicans are concerned about the way the issues regarding the Trump campaign investigation were handled.

I mean, the investigation by any fair reading of these documents was riddled with errors, all of the things that happened and that were uncovered by the Horowitz report cut against the Trump campaign. It wasn't like it was a system that was making errors going one way or the other. They're all cutting against the Trump campaign.

And Chris Wray, the FBI Director in the wake of all of this has said, well, I've got 40 fixes I have to implement. If something requires 40 fixes, it's not working right. And so I think what McCarthy is talking about is just the general belief by Republicans that there was a system in place here and even though there may have been good reasons to look into some things, but there was a system in place that cut against the Trump campaign time and time again, and that's the message he's trying to say.

HILL: But that is totally different than saying the report itself found. I mean, he says if you read the report you'll see that it says the FBI spied on the Trump campaign. That's not what the report said. Yes, it did say there were errors made and yes, there were definitely problems that need to be addressed. But it didn't say those things, Scott, do you think he really believes it?

JENNINGS: Well, look, I think it's semantics. I mean, they were clearly looking at the Trump campaign. They were clearly looking at people affiliated with the campaign, even if they weren't directly on the payroll. So you can call it investigating. He's going to call it spying. And to me, it's all semantics.

The fact is the FBI was looking at people and they did it in a way that the Horowitz report and now the FISA court have said was not appropriate and that's what Republicans are so angry about.

HILL: Semantics are really coming up a lot these days. Congressman, when you look at all of this, it is remarkable. Things are always going to be spun in a certain way based on where you fall in the political spectrum. That's been true since the dawn of time.

It's a little bit different in this day and age. When you listen to what we're hearing from Kevin McCarthy and you couple that with this reporting in The New York Times over the weekend about the difference that we're seeing among Republicans, and specifically, Republicans in Congress to the President, I just want to read part of that to get your take on it.

They write in this piece, "If he does not enjoy the broad admiration Republicans afforded Ronald Reagan," he being the President, "he is more feared by his party's lawmakers than any occupant of the Oval Office since at least Lyndon Johnson." When you hear comments like that from Kevin McCarthy from others, what do you make of them?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's pretty clear to me that many Republicans, particularly Republican leaders, they've gone full in with Donald Trump. They see it to their advantage to be closely embracing him. And now, I think by so fully embracing Trumpism, they're creating problems though for their own members, particularly in the suburbs.

Trumpism is not playing well in the suburbs and Republicans have been getting wiped out in the suburbs. So I think the real debate that Republicans are going to need to have someday is what is this party going to look like after Donald Trump? Is Trumpism going to die when Donald Trump leaves office? This whole notion of nativism, isolationism and protectionism loyalty to a man, I mean, is the party going to get serious about halting this demographic death march that it's on right now.

I mean, we got to become a party that's more inclusive, that's more socially tolerant, that embraces free markets, and that is more constructively engaged internationally. And I think we have to get our heads right on this by fully embracing Donald Trump as so many have, I think that they're ignoring and ignoring the real political problems that we faced in the elections of 2017, '18 and '19.

HILL: Scott, do you see any Republicans addressing those issues that Charlie just brought up?

JENNINGS: Look, I think that the way Republicans are viewing this presidential campaign is you have two parties, one is run by Donald Trump and one is run by largely the left wing, I think fringe of the House Democratic conference. And they're going to have a nominee soon, who's going to have to adhere to a lot of their principles.

And these two people, these two parties are heading in vastly different directions. So if you're a Republican out there, what you're being asked to do by a lot of folks out in the political sphere these days is to rebuke your party, rebuke your president and just give over to a direction, a vision, a leftward lurks that you don't agree with in any way.

Now, does that mean you agree with everything Donald Trump is doing or any Republican is doing all of the time? No. Of course, no human being that's a politician is going to satisfy any individual 100 percent of the time. But when you look at the two broad visions, the vision that Trump and the Republicans are putting out, and the vision that the Democrats are putting out right now through their presidential aspirants and through their leaders in the House and in the Senate, there's no choice.


That doesn't mean you are a hundred percent in love with everybody in the Republican leadership, but it certainly means you like that direction and that vision far more than the other side. So I don't think you're going to see any republicans peeling away from the President or from their candidates, because they know the alternative would take the country in a direction they just can't support.

HILL: Scott Jennings, Congressman Charlie Dent, I appreciate it. Thank you.

DENT: Thanks, Erica.

JENNINGS: Thank you.

HILL: Up next, the case of Donald J. Trump versus the windmill.



HILL: President Trump is continuing his war against wind power, namely wind turbines. Although the president calls them windmills, and it's not a new thing either. In fact, you could add them to the list of comments about light bulbs, dishwashers, toilets, here's what the President said over the weekend while talking to a conservative student group.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll have an economy based on wind. I never understood wind. You know I know windmills very much. I've studied it better than anybody. I know it's very expensive. But you know we have a world, right, so the world is tiny compared to the universe.


So tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything. You talk about the carbon footprint, fumes are spilling into the air.

They're noisy. They kill the birds. You want to see a bird graveyard? You just go. Take a look. A bird graveyard. Go under a windmill someday.


HILL: So apparently that's where you find a bird graveyard. Now, listen, it's true that turbines do kill birds, hundreds of thousands of them. But while we're talking about facts, because they're important, more birds are killed by cats, almost a million and a half a year or actually by other energy sources such as coal, oil and power lines. Scientific studies have also found no health risks linked to wind

turbines and studies also show that wind power actually has the smallest carbon footprint compared to other energy sources. The President's hatred for wind turbines seems to be tied to his battle over them near his golf course in Scotland. And as for his claims that he studied the topic 'better than anybody' ...


TRUMP: I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.

I know more about courts than any human being on earth.

Nobody knows more about trade than me.

I know more about steel workers than anybody that's ever run for office.

Nobody knows more about construction than I do.

I know more about drones than anybody.

I know more about golf than he does.

I know more about offense and defense than they will ever understand.

I can tell you more about Caterpillar tractors than the people that work there.

I know more about debt than practically anybody. I loved debt.


HILL: He knows just ask him. Let's check it out with Chris to see what he's working on for CUOMO PRIME TIME at the top of the hour. Hello, my friend. Nice to see you.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: How are you? The best for the holidays for you and the family.

HILL: And to yours.

CUOMO: Thank you for everything you do, more importantly the way you do it. I'm trying to get you a little bit of background on this, other than just a personality mix about the President saying things that he can't back up. So Luddite, OK, we know that word.

Luddite is someone who's incompetent when using new technology, came into Vogue 2050 [00:02:05] in the 1800s. The back story that may or may not be true, perfect for the time we're living through right now, is a young man named Ned Ludd who might have broken an expensive knitting machine in England because he didn't like that machines were taken over.

That is what the President tries to channel. It's almost like being about flat Earth. But as you said, we're about facts and we have a new timeline to layout that makes the situation painfully clear with Ukraine.

HILL: We are looking forward to that. Chris, thank you. See you in a few minutes and all the best to your family as well. Still to come on 360, what Rudy Giuliani is saying and why so many people are now talking about it.



HILL: President Trump's TV attorney Rudy Giuliani taking a break from his global travels and his claims of butt dialing to sit down with a reporter in person recently. Olivia Nuzzi from New York Magazine who wrote about it in a piece titled A Conversation With Rudy Giuliani Over Bloody Marys at the Mark Hotel.

Well, over those Bloody Marys, they covered many different topics, including as we'll discuss whether a prominent liberal, a holocaust survivor is truly Jewish. They also spoke about the Senate impeachment trial. She writes this of Giuliani, "Visions of cross- examining congressional Democrats and witnesses made famous during the hearings, something he hasn't done since the '90s, satisfied his desire for revenge. 'I'm great at it. It's what I do best as a lawyer. That's what I would be good at,' he said. 'Oh, I would love it. I could rip - you know, I hate to sound like a ridiculously boastful lawyer, but cross-examining them would be, I don't know, I could've done it when I was a second-year assistant U.S. Attorney. They're a bunch of clowns.'"

Back with us is CNN's Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash who has had her own unique conversations with Rudy Giuliani over the last few months. I know you spoke with him recently. The idea that Rudy Giuliani would come back and lay low, I don't think anybody was really expecting it. But do you have any sense that there is some sort of a plan, dare I say, strategy for the conversations that he's having and the people he's choosing to have them with?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No. The only thing that I know or the only thing that he has said about that is that he has one, but there's no evidence of that yet. Laying low, of course you're right, that's not his MO at all. He wanted everybody to know that he went Ukraine. He wanted everybody to know that he claimed that he unearthed a lot of things that we don't know.

But when it comes to, well, what is it, it's in a safe, it's in a vault, I'm not going to tell you yet. We're working on it.

HILL: We'll just have to wait and see.

BASH: Yes.

HILL: He made some of these comments talking about liberal billionaire George Soros saying, "He's hardly a Jew. I'm more of a Jew than Soros is." He then went on to say, "My attitude about my legacy is eff it," although we can all fill in the blank for the F. So as we're seeing the public Rudy Giuliani and getting a sense of who

he is in these conversations, it's certainly in sharp contrast to America's mayor and the man that many people saw, of course, in the wake of 9/11. Has he really changed, Dana, or is it just that more of the Rudy Giuliani that perhaps people didn't see, but was always there is coming out?

BASH: Maybe it's the latter. Look, we have seen this Rudy Giuliani since the Trump campaign. Remember after the Access Hollywood tape came out, nobody from the President's - the then candidate's inner circle would go on television except for Rudy Giuliani.

And unlike George Soros thing, what I found really interesting is that what he was trying to do is separate himself from the notion that saying something bad about George Soros is anti-Semitic.

HILL: Yes.

BASH: That's why he said, "Oh, I'm more of a Jew than he is," which certainly didn't come across, I don't think, the way he intended. Because if you look at George Soros and the attacks on him across the internet, across conservative, media and right wing groups, it is reminiscent of the anti-Semitic attacks that have been going on for millennia about world domination and things like that. So I think that's what he was trying to do, separate himself.

HILL: It'll be interesting to see. Apparently, as long as he's got the backing of the President, we know that he will keep talking.

BASH: He says he does.

HILL: He says he's got it for now. We'll wait and watch and your phone may be ringing again soon. Dana, thank you. Good to see you.

BASH: Thanks, Erica, you too.

HILL: The news continues. So I will hand it over to Chris for CUOMO PRIME TIME. Have a great night. Chris it's all yours.


CUOMO: All right. Erica, thank you very much. And, again, Merry Christmas.

I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.