'This Week' Transcript 12-22-19:​ Sen. Ron Johnson, Sen. Doug Jones

This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, December 22.

ByABC News
December 22, 2019, 9:11 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, December 22, 2019 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.

ANNOUNCER: "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" starts right now.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Article one is adopted.


MARTHA RADDATZ, THIS WEEK CO-ANCHOR: And with that, Donald Trump becomes only the third president in American history to be impeached.


REP. JOHN LEWIS (D-GA): We have a mission and a mandate to be on the right side of history.


RADDATZ: But that deeply partisan vote only fueled the division and rancor on Capitol Hill.


REP. CHRIS STEWART (R-UT): They want to take away my vote and throw it in the trash.


RADDATZ: Now Speaker Pelosi and Democrats are pushing for witness testimony in the upcoming Senate trial, but is a quick acquittal a foregone conclusion?

This morning, we will talk live with Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Democratic Senator Doug Jones of Alabama.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It doesn't really feel like we're being impeached.


RADDATZ: Do Americans buy that? Will impeachment change anything in the 2020 race?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If there's wrongdoing that's going on, and something has happened, that they're held accountable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will it help him? It will just solidify his base.


RADDATZ: We were on the road talking to the people who will ultimately decide, voters in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Plus, the powerhouse roundtable breaks down that raucous Democratic debate, with the first votes of 2020 just six weeks away.

ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."

Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.

RADDATZ: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."

An all-but-certain outcome now on hold four days after the historic impeachment vote in the House of Representatives, the road map for the trial of President Trump still in question.

As Congress was leaving for its holiday recess, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is taking an unexpected gamble, delaying sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, thereby preventing the triggering of the Senate trial, an attempt to shape the process and gain leverage in the Senate.

The Democrats are demanding that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell call key witnesses, including White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former National Security Adviser John Bolton, to testify.

McConnell declaring on Thursday, "We remain at an impasse."

What we do know, when a trial finally happens, two-thirds, or 67 votes, are needed to convict the president, an unlikely outcome in a Republican-majority Senate.

For more on this, we're joined by senators on each side of the aisle who will determine the president's fate.

And we'll start with Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

Good morning, Senator.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): Good morning, Martha. Merry Christmas.

RADDATZ: Thanks, very much. Same to you.

You said earlier this month that you think the consensus in the Senate would be to let the House make its case, the White House make its case, and then put forward a motion to vote without witnesses. Is that still what you see happening?

JOHNSON: Yes, I think so. That’s, you know, just general discussion within the conference. The case is pretty gruel from my standpoint.

So, I want (ph) both sides have a fair chance to making their case and we should take a vote.

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS HOST: So, you believe there are 51 votes in the Senate for the quick trial with no witnesses. Is that something moderate Republicans will support?

JOHNSON: Again, I can’t speak for anybody else, but I’m just saying the scuttlebutt by the inside of the conference would seem to support that I would think.

RADDATZ: And you have criticized Speaker Pelosi for not immediately transmitting articles of impeachment to the Senate and try to get leverage with the Senate to agree to hear from key witnesses like Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton. But why shouldn’t you be willing to call witnesses?

JOHNSON: Again, I’m not sure I’ve criticized. This thing is kind of bizarre. They had to rush to this impeachment vote and then, all of a sudden, she’s sitting on it. I don’t think the Senate should be making the case that the House should have made in their presentation. My guess is they weren’t able to make the case.

As I said, the charges are pretty thin gruel. I don’t see anything impeachable in that. So, it’s not -- it’s not the job of the Senate to make the case that the House should have made in their impeachment clause, or in their impeachment -- articles of impeachment.

RADDATZ: Senator, our new “Washington Post” poll from this week shows 71 percent of the country believes the president should allow his top aides to testify, including 64 percent of Republicans. This is something President Trump himself advocated for just a few weeks ago. Let’s listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When it’s fair, and it will be fair in the senate, I would love to have Mick Pompeo, I would love to have Mick, I would love to have Rick Perry, and many other people testify, but I don't want them to testify when this is a total fix.


RADDATZ: And he's talking about the senate.

So if it is really what the president wants, if it is what a large majority of Republicans want, why not do it?

JOHNSON: Well, again, I have said repeatedly that I will support the president in the type of trial he wants, and the types of witnesses he wants to bring. But again, I also think it would be totally appropriate to have the House put on their case, the president put on his case, and then decide what we're going to do after that point.

RADDATZ: And why do you think it would be messy and unproductive to have witnesses, or change anything? That's something you have also said.

JOHNSON: Well, first of all, I have been conducting oversight into related matters since literally March, 2015. My committee's work started with the Hillary Clinton email scandal, the FBI's investigation of that. That in many respects morphed into the whole Russian collusion with the Trump campaign hoax.

We just held a hearing with Michael Horowitz last week. There's an awful lot of troubling problems with what happened inside those investigations. A lot of damage being done to our democracy right now, Martha, is what we're now talking about.

So we can obsess on this impeachment. We can obsess on the trial, but what I'm trying to do is I'm trying to get the American people the truth of what all happens.

Something very strange is happening. You have got 40 percent, 45 percent of the American public that completely supports the president, that support is strengthening. And 40 percent, 45 percent

that really don't -- obviously, he's not their cup of tea, let's put it that way. 10 to 25 percent of the American people in the middle are just asking, what is pulling off? I'm trying to answer those questions.

RADDATZ: Well, let's go to some new questions. There are new emails released by the Pentagon on Friday after the Center for Public Integrity FOIA'd them. Those shows that it was about 90 minutes after President Trump held that phone call on July 25 with the president of Ukraine that White House budget office ordered the Pentagon to suspend all military aid that had already been allocated to Ukraine, and that a budget official told the Pentagon to keep quiet, because it was a very

sensitive matter. Does that concern you?

JOHNSON: As I have said repeatedly, the president has been very consistent in the explanation he gave to me in terms of why he had reservations about Ukraine. The generalized and endemic corruption, which, you know, obviously President Zelensky won on an anti-corruption platform, and

then the fact that Europe just doesn't do as much as the president thinks they should do to help out Ukraine, a country in its own backyard.

RADDATZ: Senator, I know you have said this before, but these are new emails.

JOHNSON: Those are legitimate concerns, and the new emails don't shed any new light on

that. The president was concerned about whether or not Americans' hard earned taxpayer dollars should be spent into a country where there have been proven cases of corruption.

RADDATZ: You know, Russian President Vladimir Putin -- speaking of Russia -- dismissed the case against President Trump, accusing Democrats of using absolutely invented reasons to try to remove him. And this comes on the heels of a Washington Post story that says, many of Trump's advisers think Putin put himself -- Putin himself helped spur the idea that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election, saying after meeting privately in July 2017 with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Trump grew more insistent that Ukraine worked to defeat him, according to multiple former officials familiar with his assertions. One former senior White House official said Trump even stated so explicitly at one point, saying he knew Ukraine was the real culprit, because Putin told me.

What is your reaction to that? Do you have concerns that Putin is influencing President Trump's opinion on Ukraine?

JOHNSON: I have no doubt that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. My committee held hearings two years before that about Russians' interference in the European elections. They basically tried to foment a coup in Montenegro. So, this is what Russia does.

We need to anticipate it. We need to do everything we can to guard against it, but what I've also said is...

RADDATZ: Is President Trump guarding against that?

JOHNSON: ...after 2016 -- listen, after 2016, we're doing Putin's work for him. Democrats and the media, you're carrying the water for this false Russian hoax. Look at the disruption, look at how distracted we all are based on a completely false narrative of Trump campaign's collusion with Russia.

There are some real serious questions about what happened during the FBI’s investigation into that. There are serious questions about particular -- some actors with the DNC working with people in Ukraine. There are many unanswered questions. They are legitimate questions.

I’m trying to get to the bottom of those things so the American public knows. If there was wrongdoing they need to know that. If there was no wrongdoing we need to know that as well so we can move beyond -- we have serious issues based in this nation.

RADDATZ: OK. We thank you for joining us this morning Senator Johnson.

JOHNSON: And have a merry Christmas.

RADDATZ: Thank you.

And we turn now to Democratic Senator Doug Jones of Alabama.

Good morning, Senator Jones.

SEN. DOUG JONES (D-AL): Good morning, Martha. Thanks for having me.

RADDATZ: Thank you for joining us.

You heard what Senator Johnson just said. He said it's a thin case going to the Senate, thin gruel. He dismissed those new emails.

What's your reaction to that?

JONES: Well, I think -- I think Senator Johnson is my friend and next door neighbor in the Hart Building. And he just made the case of why we should have witnesses.

If he really believes it's thin, it's thin because the president of the United States ordered his top people who were in the room who know -- have first hand knowledge not to testify. He ordered documents not to be turned over.

And so, I think that what the American people deserve, regardless of what they believe, of how the House proceedings went forward, the American people and the United States Senate deserve to have a full, fair, and complete trial.

And that means witnesses. It means documents. It means getting the information out now, and this very, very serious matter, and not over the course of the next few months in Senator Johnson's committee or Senator Graham’s committee, or next year in John Bolton's book.

We need to have the information now, full, fair and complete, so the American public and members of the United States can do this.


RADDATZ: Let's talk about that question -- Senator, let's talk about the question of now. Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer has said that he supports Speaker Pelosi's holding back of the articles of impeachment to try to build leverage with Senate Republicans on securing witnesses in a trial. Do you support that tactic?

JONES: Well, I certainly don't think it's unfair for her to do that. Let’s put it in the context of history.

You know that the Clinton articles of impeachment were voted on around December 17th. They didn't come over to the United States Senate until around January the 6th or 7th, some three weeks later. There was a change in Congress.

So, there's nothing magic about moving these articles immediately.

I think what the speaker is doing is to say, what are the rules going to be when I send House managers over there? What kind of playing field are we going to have? What is the timing of this?

How -- I don't think that that's unreasonable to try to just simply ask that the Senate majority leader and minority leader sit down, establish those rules going forward before she sends the articles over.

She's not going to hold these forever, Martha. We're going to see these relatively soon, but I don't think it's unfair to ask, what are the rules that we're playing by, when we go and we get this over here?

RADDATZ: Unfair or not, this is very different than President Clinton's impeachment. House Democrats have called the president a clear and present danger to this country and our upcoming elections.

If he's so dangerous, why are House Democrats suddenly slowing down? Aside from your reasons, they are holding up these articles.

JONES: Well, I don't think that they're slowing anything down. We're not going to be back for awhile. I don't think they're slowing anything down.

I think, you know, Senator Graham when he was a member of the House, and one of the House managers, he all but said that President Clinton was a clear and present danger.

Any time we’ve got an impeachment article, it's very, very significant. I think what we're trying to do is just get the rules, whatever those rules may be. I think it's full, fair, complete trial that Democrats are looking for. I think the American people are looking for that. I think that members of the Republican caucus are looking for that as well.

The well the last thing they want is to be able to vote on this in sometime in January and have new and different facts come out that may have changed their vote down the line. I don't think we're in a -- in a rush, but everyone wants to get this thing moving, get it over with, but do it in the fair, full and complete way.

RADDATZ: Let's talk about the vote. The majority leader has said that he believes that at least one or two Democrats in the Senate could defect and vote to acquit the president. Is he talking about you?

JONES: I have no idea what Mitch McConnell's talking about these days. He talks about being an impartial juror, but at the same time, he's going to take an oath to be a partial juror. I have yet to figure out what he's talking about.

I’ve seen him criticize the House Democrats for the way he's done things, but at the same time, he's trying to rush to judgment and trying to push forward things that's not going to be a full and fair trial. You know, I think that are people in the Democrat --


RADDATZ: I know, sir, you say you're going to be an impartial juror. Given everything we have already seen in the House and that phone call, what is it that you need to know more about? What reason could there be to make you not vote to convict the president?

JONES: Well, first -- first of all, Martha, let me -- let me say this. I -- I think these are really serious allegations. If a president of the United States is using his office and the power of the presidency against a country that is dependent upon the United States of America, and he's doing that to withhold aide that is there to battle Russians, you know, those javelins are made in Alabama that the president of Ukraine was talking about. They're there on the front lines against Russian aggression. If he's doing that just to get a political advantage for his own personal campaign, that is a serious, serious matter.

What I'm trying to do because, quite frankly, I didn't sit in front of the TV set the entire time the last two or three months. I've been trying to read this. I'm trying to see if the dots get connected. If that is the case, then I think it's a serious matter. I think it's an impeachable matter.

But if those dots aren't connected and there are other explanations that I think are consistent with innocence, I will go that way too. I have got to make sure that I -- what I really want to see, though, is to -- to fill in the gaps. There are gaps.

Now, people can make up their mind with gaps in testimony, but I would like to see a full and complete picture. And we don't have that because the president has refused to have his people come and testify and deliver documents. He says the Senate's going to give him a fair trial and he wants these folks the testify. Well, let him tell Senator McConnell to let him come testify and get this -- let's get this going as soon as we get back.

RADDATZ: And -- and -- and, Senator, I -- I want, if you could -- if you could very quickly, and sorry to rush you here. I know you voted against the Kavanaugh nomination and still managed to win your Senate seat, but there are Republican strategists who say if you vote to impeach President Trump, in your deeply red state, he basically signs his death warrant.

Is that what you're doing there? Do you -- are you worried about that? Quickly, if you can.

JONES: Absolutely -- no -- you know, Martha, let me tell you. My -- my -- my -- I have a -- I have a -- I took an oath as a U.S. senator. I'm going to take another oath. And that's where I -- my -- my duty is.

I think the problem that we've got in America today, and the problem we have sometimes, with all due respect, in the media, everyone wants to talk about this in the political terms, in the political consequences term. This is a much more serious matter than that. This has to do with the future of the presidency, and how we want our presidents to conduct themselves. It has the -- all to do with the future of this Senate and how a Senate should handle impeachment, articles of impeachment that come over. That's how I'm looking at this.

If I did everything based on a pure and political argument, all I'd -- you'd need is a computer to mash a button. It's just not what this -- this country's about, it's not what the founders intended, it's not what I intend to do.

RADDATZ: OK, thank you so much for joining us this morning, Senator Jones.

JONES: Thank you.

RADDATZ: And, coming up, I traveled to the rust belt to see how voters are reacting to impeachment.

Plus, the powerhouse roundtable on the impact of the 2020 race.

We'll be right back.



MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- change my policies. I feel very strongly I have the wherewithal to run a campaign without having any conflicts, so we’re not going to take money from anybody else.

When people -- some of these candidates criticized me for spending a lot of money -- I think, do you want me to spend less to get rid of Donald Trump? I don't think so.


MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS HOST: Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg this week defending his strategy of pouring millions of his own fortune into television ads for the 2020 race.

Fellow billionaire Tom Steyer has followed a similar strategy to gain a foothold in the Democratic primaries.

But can a television ad campaign turn into a winning campaign at the ballot box in 2020?

We asked FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver: Do you buy that?


NATE SILVER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: So, this is all a little bit of a science experiment. Nobody has spent this much this fast in a presidential campaign before. And the numbers we’re talking about are truly gargantuan.

Michael Bloomberg has already spent more than $76 million on TV ads -- all of it in just four weeks. That's as much the rest of the Democrats combined, all cycle long.

Tom Steyer, meanwhile, has spent $57 million on TV, mostly in the early states. By comparison, Bernie Sanders, who’s raised more than any other Democrat from small donors, has spent only $4.6 million on TV.

But can money buy you votes? Well, the initial returns are pretty mixed.

Steyer is polling anywhere between 3 percent and 6 percent in the early states. That's better than his 1 or 2 percent of the vote nationally. But it doesn't put him on track to win any delegates, let alone any states.

Bloomberg, meanwhile -- who's advertising all over the country -- is at 4.8 percent in our national polling average. That's good for fifth place. But his return on investment isn't great. He's only picked up 2 measly points since joining the campaign.

The key concept here is what economists call diminishing returns.

The first time you see a Steyer or a Bloomberg ad, it might move the needle; but the 15th ad probably won't. You've hit the point of oversaturation.

Nor is paid media usually a good substitute for attention that comes more organically, like say during a debate.

Bloomberg hasn't qualified for the debates at all. And Steyer received the lowest marks of any of the seven candidates in our poll of Democratic voters after Thursday night's debate.

One more thing: For highly engaged, attentive informed voters, no amount of ad spending will peel them away from their favorite candidates, whether its Bernie or Joe Biden or someone else. And in fact, polls show that Bloomberg is getting most of his support from people who aren't paying much attention to the campaign.

Look, obviously, money can have a lot of influence in politics, but I don't buy that you can win a presidential nomination on the basis of advertising alone.


RADDATZ: Our thanks to Nate.

Up next, my report from three battleground states, and the roundtable debates the latest in the 2020 race.

We will be right back.


RADDATZ: It was a historic week in Washington on impeachment, but how did it play in the states that could decide the 2020 election?

My conversation with voters in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania when we come back.



TRUMP: So we had 198, 229, 198. We didn't lose one Republican vote, and three Democrats voted for us.

The Republican Party has never been so affronted, but they have never been so united as they are right now, ever. Never.


RADDATZ: There have been a lot of Trump rallies, but this week's was historic. The same moment the House of Representatives voted to impeach the president, he was on stage as if nothing had changed.

And judging from the support in the arena that night, his base doesn't think so either. But they won't be the only ones deciding whether he gets a second term. So we drove back to Washington

from that Michigan rally covering about 700 miles to talk to voters in three key states, starting in the frigid cold of Battle Creek, Michigan.


RADDATZ: It was about 10 degrees outside the Trump rally, but the faithful lined up nevertheless, and the impending impeachment...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, it's shameful. It's terrible.

RADDATZ: And why is it shameful?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because it's all made up. You know, they just want him out. They hate him. They have Trump derangement syndrome.

RADDATZ: And once inside, they heard everything they wanted to hear.

TRUMP: Crazy Nancy Pelosi's house Democrats have branded themselves with an eternal mark of shame, and it really is, it's a disgrace.

The Democrats took the people Michigan for granted, but with us, you will never be forgotten again.

RADDATZ: Trump won this state in 2016 by only 11,000 votes, and it is a must-win again in 2020.

RADDATZ: What do you think about the impeachment?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: II think he's getting railroaded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's a terrible idea. It's obviously -- it's biased, and I think it's political, and 50 years from now I think people are really going to look down upon it.

RADDATZ: And Clara's on the River Restaurant (ph), there are already worries that impeachment just might give Michigan to Trump once again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think this is going to help the Democratic Party. I really don't. In fact, I have great fear that the opposite is going to happen, but I don't think you have a choice when you look at the rules, you look at the constitution.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it gives us a little bit more confidence in our government because, you know, if there's wrongdoing that's going on, and something has happened, that they're held accountable.

RADDATZ: Do you think impeachment will change the race?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He will twist it to his advantage any way he can. It will help him, it'll just solidify his base.

TRUMP: It doesn't really feel like we're being impeached.

RADDATZ: And nearly half the country would agree, or more to the point, don't care.

Do you think it hurts the president?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the long run, no, this is just something he's just going to have to get through, and he will.

RADDATZ (voice over): Our latest ABC News/"Washington Post" poll shows the divide over impeachment - 49 percent of Americans believe Trump should be impeached and removed from office, 46 percent don't believe Trump should be impeached.

But while Trump tries to solidify his own base, Democrats are trying to do the same.

The morning after the rally, in Detroit, Taylor Harrell (ph) is working to bring black voters back to the polls after turnout fell 14 percent from 2012 to 2016.

TAYLOR HARRELL (ph): What we have found is a lot of people didn't feel like their vote was going to count after the Obama era. They weren't sold on Hillary and they definitely weren't voting for Trump.

RADDATZ: Harrell is the political director of Mothering Justice, a group focusing on registering women of color

RADDATZ (on camera): How do you get the people who didn't vote last time or -- or found reasons not to vote excited about 2020?

HARRELL: I'm -- I'm a firm believer in just meeting people where they are.

RADDATZ: So you're going door to door? You're knocking on doors? You're calling people?

HARRELL: Uh-huh. Yes, we're hosting town halls, civic engagement forums. We're talking about issues that women really care about because our -- our organizing particularly focuses on women -- mamas of color.

RADDATZ (voice over): Southeast of battleground Michigan is bellwether Ohio, a state Trump carried by eight points in 2016.

We stopped in the district of Congressman Jim Jordan, one of the president's most vocal defenders. At an exercise class in Fremont, some residents are so frustrated with politics, they avoid it all together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Half of my family and friends are for him and the other half are not. So we rarely talk about politics among our groups. We are happier that way.

RADDATZ (on camera): And have you followed the impeachment proceedings?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Parts of it. I don't think that -- that the two sides, whether you're a Republican or Democrat, are doing what they should.

RADDATZ (voice over): Down the road, at the Presidential Library of Rutherford B. Hayes, Trump supporter Chuck Keller (ph) laughed off the hearings with echoes of Donald Trump's own words.

RADDATZ (on camera): On the impeachment, did you watch?

CHUCK KELLER (ph): I watched quite a bit of it.

RADDATZ: What did you think of it?

KELLER: I thought it was a joke.

RADDATZ: You think Ohio will go fully Trump again?

KELLER: Well, Ohio's almost a purple. If you get -- look at Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton, those are Democratic strongholds. But the rest of the heartland, the open areas, the rural that I'm -- I'm around, a lot of that is 100 percent Trump area.

RADDATZ (voice over): The next morning, we hit the suburbs of Pittsburgh in neighboring Pennsylvania, which showed that same purple tint. As Ohio's major cities, a balance of Trump supporters, Democrats and independents who could determine Trump's fate in November.

Outside Lincoln Bakery, we meet college student Jimmy Entz (ph).

RADDATZ (on camera): You are 19 years old. So this will be your first presidential election.

JIMMY ENTZ (ph): Correct. Yes.

RADDATZ: Who are you looking at?

ENTZ: Trump. I'm a -- I'm a Republican. I've always grown up Republican.

RADDATZ: And what policies do you like?

ENTZ: I like his -- the way he works with the economy and how he produces jobs, keep his taxes low for the middle class, which is what my family is.

RADDATZ: Jamie Mazzie (ph) backed Hillary Clinton in 2016, but is disheartened by the debate over impeachment.

JAMIE MAZZIE (ph): I just think we need to come together and we're so divided that it's sad.

RADDATZ (voice over): Three critical states, all three reflecting the deep political division as we head into 2020.


RADDATZ: And we'll be talking more about that. The powerhouse roundtable is up next.

We'll be right back.



SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The mayor just recently had a fund-raiser that was held in a wine cave full of crystals and served $900 a bottle wine.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am literally the only person on this stage who’s not a millionaire or a billionaire. So if --


This is important. This is problem with issuing purity tests you cannot yourself pass.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, while you can dismiss committee hearings, I think this experience works and I have not denigrated your experience as a local official. I have been one.

BUTTIGIEG: You actually did denigrate my experience, Senator, and it was before the break and I was going to let it go because we’ve got bigger fish to fry here. But you implied that my --

KLOBUCHAR: Oh, I don’t think we have bigger fish to fry than picking a president of the United States.


MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS HOST: Mayor Pete Buttigieg getting the front-runner treatment at this week's final Democratic debate of 2019.

So let's bring in the powerhouse round table: ABC senior national correspondent Terry Moran, NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe, ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd, and "Washington Post" political columnist Karen Tumulty.

Great to see you all on this pre-holiday weekend.

But, Terry, I want to start with you, and I want to -- I want to go back to that Senate trial. You heard what Senator Jones said, with Senator Johnson -- they’re still at an impasse clearly. So, we’re going to ask you to read the tea leaves. You’ve been through an impeachment proceeding before.

So, what do you see? How do you see this trial proceeding?

TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Mitch McConnell calls the shots. At the end of the day, the Senate has the sole power to try impeachment. He’s in control of the Senate.

I think he will -- because he is an institutionalist so some degree, he'll try to work with Democrats. But at the end of the day, the rules of this trial will be laid down by Mitch McConnell.

I cannot figure out what the strategy Nancy Pelosi has. The Constitution says the House has the power, the sole power to bring an impeachment. The Senate has the sole power the try an impeachment.

I don't get what her leverage is here. And I think at the end of the day, the Democrats are going to come up short because they don't have the votes in the Senate and that's what controls the process.

RADDATZ: And is there an argument? I know Noah Feldman, who testified in the House impeachment proceedings, said, he actually hasn't been impeached yet because those articles aren't sent up, which will probably be moot pretty soon?

MORAN: Yes, it’s -- interestingly (ph) it will be moot because eventually they'll get it, and he says that the House must transfer the actual articles to the Senate for the impeachment to happen. It looks to me like they impeached him. They voted on a bill with two articles, that's an impeachment.

RADDATZ: A distraction for awhile.

And, Karen, let me read what you wrote this week in your "Washington Post" column. If things play out as they usually do in the Trump era, all of this will soon be subsumed in the next thermonuclear blast of chaos generated by a president who cannot be chastened or shamed. Once again, the House has made a notch in history. What's different this time, however, is that no one really believes anything will change as a result.

So, is there anything the Democrats can do?

KAREN TUMULTY, WASHINGTON POST POLITICAL COLUMNIST: I think everything is frozen in place right now until Congress gets back.

But I do -- I agree with Terry. The chances of getting any kind of concessions out of Mitch McConnell are very small, and the risks of delaying this are quite high for two reasons. One is that it undercuts the House's argument that they had to move quickly on impeachment because it was so urgent. And the second is that it is -- it is depriving their presidential candidates of any oxygen.

And the fact is, if Donald Trump is going to be removed from office, it is going to happen next November.

RADDATZ: And, Ayesha, I suspect you will agree with Terry and Karen, but the Democrats really don't have much leverage here.

AYESHA RASCOE, NPR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: They don't have much leverage. I think that what they may be doing is -- this is a holiday week right now. I don't know that it really matters if they didn't transmit the articles immediately.

But it does satisfy a part of Pelosi's base who were kind of calling out to like maybe try to use this and get some leverage, and it makes President Trump twist a bit. I mean, talking to people at the White House, they were saying that the very same things that people are bringing up now, how -- how does this work for Nancy Pelosi? If this is so urgent, why isn't she sending them over? This is politics.

But then you have President Trump going out and tweeting: I want my trial immediately.

And so you may be getting that. You're making him twist a bit. And he wants it to go to the Senate immediately. He wants to get what he views as his vindication.

So, I don't know that you're losing that much by delaying it. Now, if they delayed it for months or for a very long time, that's a whole different thing.

RADDATZ: I can't imagine that's going to happen.

And, Matt, let's look at the latest ABC News/"Washington Post" poll out this week on impeachment; 71 percent of voters said the president should let his aides testify in the Senate trial, including the majority of all Democrats, Republicans, independents.

Will that really make a difference when you look at the Hill?

MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first, as they say back in Texas, merry Christmas, you all, and happy holidays.

RADDATZ: Merry Christmas, you all. I have always wanted to say that. So, there we go. Thank you.


DOWD: OK, perfect. We got it now down.

First, I want to say something about -- I don't underestimate Nancy Pelosi's ability anymore in this process and what she's able to do. She's proven it over 20 years. She's like the Bill Belichick of the House chamber. She knows what she's doing.

I agree we're in suspended animation for two weeks. There's no real delay. They're going to come back on January 7. She under -- I think she understands she's going to have to send the articles over.

The question only becomes is, there four Republican senators that are willing to vote to make it go to a trial and have witnesses, a real trial? I think that's doubtful, because what they would then be voting is, we'd -- they'd be voting to make it harder for them to then make the -- take the next vote, because more evidence would be gathered in this.

I think the public has a consensus in part on some of this, and they're split on another part of this. They have a consensus is, the broad public thinks the president did something wrong. The broad public thinks the president needs to be held accountable. And the broad public thinks that the president -- the Senate should hold a real trial with witnesses.

Where they're divided is what the results should be, should the president be removed from office, where it's fundamentally split, and it shows the polarized divide in our country.

But there is a sense in the country that the president did something wrong, and in some way he should be held accountable.

RADDATZ: And, Terry, this is the second impeachment trial you have covered -- or not trial -- proceedings. You were -- President Clinton back then.

As Matt pointed out, as we all know, all along partisan lines, this one.

So, just give us some thoughts on the difference between the two and what it says about where the country is now.

MORAN: The most striking thing in that poll is that, while this is a historic moment, it doesn't feel momentous.

And that poll said that only 62 percent of Americans say they are following these developments closely, whereas, in the Clinton administration, 82 percent. Two-fifths of the country can't be bothered.

And part of that is exhaustion with the constant drumbeat of outrage and bitterness and rancor.

RADDATZ: Post-Mueller.

MORAN: All that stuff.

And I think that people are just tuning it out a little bit. It just doesn't feel as much -- and without getting the country, A, interested, much less actually behind the process -- we are split on that -- it really feels like a nothing burger to some extent.

And, Karen, you have also -- I think you have been in the chamber for both of those.


RADDATZ: Is it a combination of that? And, also, it's Donald Trump, and he's telling people it doesn't matter, doesn't feel like we have been impeached.

The people I talked to out on the road, they just want it over with as well.


As much as -- I was in the chamber in '98, and I was in the chamber this week as well. And it felt -- it did feel momentous and historic in '98. And everyone said it was historic Wednesday.

But the fact is, it just felt like another Wednesday on Capitol Hill of the two sides just sort of talking past each other. Unlike in '98, none of the president's own party was actually saying there was anything wrong with anything that he had done.

And, finally, there was nobody looking beyond this and saying, we have got sort of heal as a country. We have got to figure out some way to bring together, as Dick Gephardt in '98, the Democratic leader, argued so passionately.

The assumption here was, we're at war with each other, and we're just going to stay at war with each other.

DOWD: And I think there is a -- there also is another fundamental difference between '98 and now, which I think is problematic for the president.

And then -- everybody likes to compare the two and what happened with Bill Clinton. On the day Bill Clinton was impeached, he had a 73 percent job approval rating. On the day Donald Trump was impeached, he had a 43 percent job approval rating. That is 30 points lower in the midst of this.

And so I think that's a fundamental difference as we head into an election year into 2020 and what's going to happen in this.

But I agree, it's almost as if the assumption now is, everybody is political. So it doesn't matter what the substance is. It doesn't matter what's really going on. We're all going to make political calculations.

And I think, if anybody wants an answer about why Donald Trump got elected president, is because we have ended up in this sort of political gamesmanship and reality TV, where nobody pauses and to say -- stops and says, quit making political calculations. What's the substance and depth of this issue?

RADDATZ: And, Ayesha, let's turn to Donald Trump himself on this. You saw that scathing letter to Nancy Pelosi. We saw him at that rally making horrible comments about John Dingell, saying maybe he was looking up from hell. What does it say about where his head is in this? I mean, this is a permanent stain on his record. He has impeached next to his name now.

RASCOE: And I think while there may be the sense in the general public that this is just Donald Trump, this is another thing that he's going through, I think that this really matters to Donald Trump, and this really matters to President Trump, because he's always concerned about his legacy. He wants to be the best president there ever has been and now he's an impeached president. And so that is

something that will follow him.

And I think that you saw that in that six-page letter this week that was deeply personal against Nancy Pelosi. I mean, the third paragraph is talking about, you say you're praying for me. You know that's not true, and you're going to have to live with that. I mean, that's what he was bringing out this week.

And some of it is just anger when he's talking about John Dingell and all of this, like he is upping -- ratcheting up his rhetoric and he's been doing that for months.

So I think that even though this may be something where the general public, and everyone feels like this is just business as usual, I think this matters to President Trump, and it matters to his behavior in what happens that.

RADDATZ: And Terry, I want to turn to something else that happened to President Trump this week, and that is in an editorial in Christianity Today, calling Trump grossly immoral and saying he should be removed from office. That drew a strong reaction from President Trump as well.

But he has largely been embraced by evangelicals. Does that change? What does it say about the evangelical community if they move on from this too?

MORAN: Well, it says they are rock solid behind President Trump, and that they see him for all of his flaws as a man, a warrior for their cause. Many evangelicals feel under pressure from a secular so and a changing America that actually threatens, many of them believe, their way of life. And this implacable, brutish force that is in the White House, is their guy. And I don't think an editorial

in Christianity Today is going to change that, although I do think that the voice of the Christian progressive left is one that needs to be heard more. It's out there, but I don't see it budging evangelical support at all.

DOWD: It's amazing, if a person of faith -- if anybody ought to read this editorial, because they basically took -- if you take the quotes that they wrote of the editorial about Bill Clinton, about we need a president of morality, we need a president of character, all of which everybody that supports President Trump celebrated Brother Stan when they made that stand. And keep in mi nd, Christian Today is not some liberal progressive magazine, it's fairly conservative. They're very vehemently anti-choice, they're very vehemently pro-marriage, and anti-sexual union. And so I think people should read that.

And I think people at some point in time -- and we have to make a distinction, it's not evangelicals, it's white evangelicals, because there's a large segment of evangelical population that's

black or Latino or some other that is vehemently opposed the president, it's white evangelicals.

RADDATZ: OK, I want to move to the 2020 race. And Karen, what you saw in the debate on Thursday night, we saw that just a few minutes ago, target Pete Buttigieg. What does that tell you about where the race is right now?

TUMULTY: Yeah, it was, you know, sort of his welcome to the NFL moment. It was an, you know, everyone acknowledging that he has earned his front-runner status. He's the most surprising story I think of this entire election season. But I was struck that he was ready for it, you know? I think he probably got the better of Elizabeth Warren in that exchange over wine caves and Swarovski crystals.

RADDATZ: After we all looked up what a wine cave was.

TUMULTY: We have a beer cave in my kitchen, we call it the refrigerator, but yes.

You know, somehow this idea that he's some sort of an elite candidate...

RADDATZ: Coming back with the thing that he was the only one who wasn't a millionaire on stage.

TUMULTY: Right, exactly.

RADDATZ: And what about Vice President Biden? Ayesha, he, analyst say, had a really strong performance?

ROSCOE: He did. I mean, he was sharp. He was able to -- he was answering the questions, and he didn't have any really big gaffes, which is a big issue for him. I think the thing with former

Vice President Biden is that he's not necessarily consistent, right?

The reason why this debate was good for him was because he showed that he can get through a debate and not make any big mistakes, but it's hit or miss with him because other debates, you don't know which Joe Biden is going to show up.

MORAN: He's running for president.

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC CO-ANCHOR: Terry, does -- yes, does it -- does it matter? Do you think these debates really change people's minds? I mean if you think back a few debates ago, what happened then, are people thinking about that, or is it every debate matters? It's the most recent and that's all they'll remember.

MORAN: I think people -- I think people are getting to know the candidate. And -- and Biden's ability to get through the debate is one thing they'll put on the scale. I'm a -- I'm a Chicago Bears fan. Our quarterback, Mitch Trubisky, has been terrible and --

RADDATZ: Which we all know.

MORAN: Every time he throws a pass, you kind of -- is he going to make it through? You don't want to be that guy running for president.

And in -- in this case, I think what -- what people are looking for is solidity. All though one thing that Biden has shown is his polls are sticky high. People are also not as far left as Twitter Democrats or -- or the base. I mean, obviously, Bernie Sanders and -- and Elizabeth Warren are very, very strong. But here's a candidate flawed, has had trouble, he remains sticky high in the polls.

MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: And the -- the question though becomes for him, and I do degree, I think debates matter. They -- one doesn't matter. You can get a rise out of one. But if you don't have something that can -- to move on from it and keep going -- Kamala Harris had a great debate. She rose and then she didn't seem to have something to stick with it.

Pete Buttigieg -- the reason why Pete Buttigieg is part of the conversation is debate performances primarily, his debate performances.

I think this race -- Joe Biden has a very solid 30 percent of the vote across the country. The question becomes, is if Joe Biden loses Iowa and loses New Hampshire, how sticky is that number when he heads to Nevada and he heads to South Carolina, because that's the real question mark.

Keep in mind, in 2004, John Dean -- I mean Howard Dean was ahead in the polls right now.

RADDATZ: What made you think of John Dean?

DOWD: As we move from impeachment.

Howard Dean was ahead and John Kerry was seventh -- in seventh, who ended up winning the nomination. The same was true in 1976. Nobody heard of Jimmy Carter in 1976 in December of 1975. He ends up being the Democratic nominee.

A lot can still change, but Joe Biden has a problem in New Hampshire and Iowa right now.

KAREN TUMULTY, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": And one more place where a debate has mattered is to Elizabeth Warren, who got dinged for not being able to make the numbers on her health care plan, add up in one debate, and I think she's still trying to recover from that.

RADDATZ: And -- and how about Amy Klobuchar? I mean she -- she has had some very strong debates, yet still doesn't seem to break out of that pack.

RASCOE: I -- I mean I think that for Amy Klobuchar, I think that debate night was -- this was a great night for her. And it was a great night for her to set herself apart. And she is a bit on the rise. I mean she still has a ways to go, but this is the point when you want to start making your mark. She's kind of hitting her mark at a point where it could matter, and it could make a difference.

DOWD: Yes, she's the goldilocks candidate, I think. She's the goldilocks candidate.

TUMULTY: I think she has potential to surprise.

RADDATZ: Terry, we've got about 15 seconds.

Do issues matter?


RADDATZ: I heard people talk about issues and it was health care.

MORAN: Yes. Absolutely. The Democrats' issue in a good economy is going to be health care, if it -- if that's what they run on.

And the biggest issue, though, for Democrats is they want to defeat Donald Trump. They'll look at who can sell the American public on -- on the ability to make a difference in their lives on health care is going to be their issue.

RADDATZ: Heard a lot of that on the road as well.

Thanks for all of you for being here. Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah to everybody.

That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us.

Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT," and have a great day.

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