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Interview With Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA); Congress Votes On Censuring Trump Over Racist Tweets; House Approves Resolution Condemning Trump's Comments, All Democrats Joined By Four Republicans, One Independent. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 16, 2019 - 18:00   ET




New efforts by Mr. Trump and his aides to defend his attack on four Democratic congresswomen spark new controversy, as Kellyanne Conway presses a reporter on his ethnicity and says four minority congresswomen represent -- and I'm quoting her now -- "a dark underbelly in this country."

Is the White House digging itself deeper into a racially charged quagmire?

No federal charges. The Justice Department declines to prosecute a New York City police officer accused of fatally choking Eric Garner in a disturbing encounter that was caught on camera. Why did Attorney General William Barr go against the recommendation of his own Civil Rights Division?

And alleged victims speak. More women come forward saying they were sexually abused by wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein, some when they were minors. And, tonight, there's new focus on Epstein's remote New Mexico ranch. Was it the scene of more misconduct?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, high tension in the House of Representatives, which is about to vote on a resolution condemning President Trump's racist Twitter attack on four Democratic congresswomen.

Fueling the tension, the president and his top aides continuing to defend his remarks, along with a growing number of top Republican lawmakers.

We will talk about the breaking news with Congressman Don Beyer of the Ways and Means Committee. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

We have CNN's Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill for us. But, first, let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim


Jim, Republicans are circling the wagons around the president, as the backlash against his racist tweets clearly is growing.


President Trump is not backing off of his racist tweets. He's claiming they were not racist, but that's not true. They indeed were.

Meanwhile, other top White House officials are jumping to the president's defense and digging a deeper hole in the process. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway took a shot at one reporter who had brought up the president's racist tweets. And she asked the question, what's your ethnicity?


ACOSTA (voice-over): After his racist tweets aimed at four Democratic women of color in Congress, telling them to go back where they came from, President Trump is offering no apologies.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's up to them. They can do what they want. They can leave. They can stay. But they should love our country. And they should work for the good of our country.

ACOSTA: The president appears to be relishing the racial firestorm he touched off, insisting those tweets were not racist: "I don't have a racist bone in my body."

And he added the lawmakers who make up the so-called Squad can get lost, tweeting: "Our country is free, beautiful and very successful. If you hate our country, or if you're not happy here, you can leave."

One squad member, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, fired back: "You're right, Mr. President, you don't have a racist bone in your body. You have a racist mind in your head and a racist heart and your chest."

Aides to the president are getting testy over the tweets, with White House counselor Kellyanne Conway asking one reporter for his ethnicity.

ANDREW FEINBERG, BREAKFAST MEDIA: To which countries was he referring?




FEINBERG: Why is that relevant?

CONWAY: Because I'm asking a question.

My ancestors are from Ireland and Italy.

He's tired.

He -- we -- a lot of us sick and tired in this country of America coming last to people who swore an oath of office, sick and tired of our military being denigrated, sick and tired of the Customs and Border Patrol people that -- protection people -- I was with, who are overwhelmingly Hispanic, by the way.

ACOSTA: Conway later tweeted: "This was meant with no disrespect. We are all from somewhere else originally."

But, earlier in the day, Conway took her own jabs at the Squad, describing the lawmakers as dark.

CONWAY: They represent dark underbelly in this country of people who are not respecting our troops, are not giving them the resources and the respect that they deserve. They voted against the military aid.

ACOSTA: At a Cabinet meeting, HUD Secretary Ben Carson praised the president as doing God's work.

BEN CARSON, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT SECRETARY: Would you rather have a non-politician, whose speech is unfiltered, who gets a lot of stuff done, or somebody with a silver tongue who gets nothing done? But as I told you before, I think God is using you.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

ACOSTA: Most Republican lawmakers don't seem troubled by the tweets.

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): I do not think they're racist. I have said that many times over the last 48 hours. They probably are divisive. I think if you broke down America on the tweets right now, the people that absolutely despise the president are offended by the tweets, and the people that support the president don't have a problem with the tweets.

ACOSTA: Democrats say it's another example of the GOP excusing Mr. Trump's offensive rhetoric.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If there's anything sadder than having a racist, bigoted president, it is seeing the collapse of the Republican Party.


ACOSTA: The president tried to make light of his battle with the Squad, joking, reporters can leave the country too.

TRUMP: If the press wants to say, you can. If you would like to leave, it's like I said the other day, I don't mind. You want to leave, that's your option. You can leave any time you want.


ACOSTA: The president also defended the administration's detention facilities down on the border, objecting to lawmakers who call them concentration camps.

Mr. Trump also went on to say the detention facilities are well-run.

But that's not the assessment in a recent report from the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general. That report quoted a senior official at one of those facilities who described the overcrowded conditions there as a ticking time bomb -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you.

Let's go to Capitol Hill right now, where a floor fight has broken out ahead of the House vote on condemning the president's racist tweets.

Our Congressional Correspondent, Phil Mattingly, has the latest for us.

Phil, we just saw some very heated moments.


In just moments, the House is supposed to vote on a resolution condemning President Trump for those tweets. But the drama isn't limited to just that vote. In fact, for more than two hours, the House floor came to a just a general standstill, as lawmakers went back and forth over whether to strike the words of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Now, at issue here are House rules, which say you can impugn the integrity or motives of any member of Congress or the president himself. The speaker appeared to counter that in her speech.

And the reaction to that, not just from the speaker, not just from Republicans, but also from a Democrat who sat in the chair and responded by slamming down the gavel, well, just take a look.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): These comments from the White House are disgraceful and disgusting, and the comments are racist.

How shameful to hear him continue to defend those offensive words, words that we have all heard him repeat not only about our members, but about countless others.

REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D-MO): We don't ever, ever want to pass up, it seems, an opportunity to escalate. And that's what this is.

Are there anybody to look at the footage and see if there was any unfairness? But unfairness is not enough, because we want to just fight. I abandon the chair.


MATTINGLY: Wolf, I have been up here for 11 years. I have never seen anybody abandon the chair.

I have been texting back and forth with people who've worked on the House floor for decades. They haven't either. And Emanuel Cleaver, the congressman you saw just there, wasn't the only individual to abandon the chair.

His colleague G.K. Butterfield did as well. The rationale, we're told from sources, is they didn't want to be the ones in the chair to rule Speaker Nancy Pelosi's comments out of order.

Now, the effort to strike those words pushed by Republicans based on those House rules ended up failing on a party-line vote. Speaker Pelosi was given her speaking privileges back.

But all of this back and forth, even before that dramatic roll call vote on the resolution itself, just underscores the tension here on Capitol Hill, the tension related to the tweets, the tension related to the president, and the partisan tensions that we have obviously seen now for years, but are clearly boiling over at this moment -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Phil, Republican leaders are trying to keep their members in line for this vote. How are they doing?

MATTINGLY: Well, what you have seen, basically, over the course of the last 24 hours or so is Republicans circling the wagons.

You saw scattered Republicans over the course of yesterday denounce the president tweets, ask him to take the tweets down. That has started to shift. And it shifted in large part because of House leadership.

Now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to call them things today, but he wasn't willing to call out the president. Neither were House Republican leaders. Take a listen.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): So, the president is not a racist. The president is not a racist.

And I think the tone of all of this is not good for the country.

QUESTION: Were the president's tweets that said go back racist?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): No. And I do not believe the speaker of the House was racist last week either when those individuals on her side of the aisle who are claiming the president's racist, when they claimed she was racist either. I do not believe that.

I believe this is about ideology. This is about socialism vs. freedom. And it's very clear what the debate is happening. I understand, when I listened to their press conference yesterday, they talked more about impeachment than anything else.


MATTINGLY: And, Wolf, the Republican leadership efforts, particularly in the House, to counter the attacks on the president or the effort to call out the president for those comments have extended beyond just their public statements.

Behind the scenes over the course of this today, they have been making clear to their rank-and-file members they want them to vote against the Democratic resolution condemning the president's tweets.

And I'm told, at least up to this point, they have been very effective in that effort. They do not expect to lose many Republicans at all. I'm told a handful at most at this point.

The reality is, on Capitol Hill, is everybody has gone to their respective corners, despite what the president says or what the president tweets or what it all means. Republicans are in Trump's party, and Republicans, at least for this moment, are staying behind Trump -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Phil, thank you, Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill.

Let's get some more on all of this.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Don Beyer of Virginia. He's a member of the Ways and Means Committee.


Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

As you know, the House is preparing to vote any moment now on a resolution condemning the president's comments.

Do you believe any Republicans will join you and the Democrats in supporting this vote?

REP. DON BEYER (D-VA): Wolf, I don't think they will now.

Over the weekend, we had a handful of Republicans decry the president's comments. But it's pretty much lined up right now by party.

However, it's described now as a partisan fight. And the fight over the rules certainly is. But the original rejection of the president's comments was a rejection of the president's comments, not the rejection of the Republican Party.

And we really would welcome as many Republicans as possible to say, look, telling four women of color to go back to their own countries was clearly not appropriate.

BLITZER: What are your Republican colleagues saying to you privately? BEYER: Well, the same -- I haven't had any conversations with them


But, Wolf, the big picture over the last two-and-a-half years is, even when they disagree with the president, he is so popular with the core of their base, that, if they come out and criticize him, they run the great risk of losing in a primary in 2020.

So they -- he's still the leader of their party. He's destroying their party, but it's the only party that they have right now.

BLITZER: I want to show our viewers, Congressman, how you reacted to President Trump's comments.

You posted this picture. And you wrote -- and I'm quoting you now -- "Only one of the members of Congress pictured below was born outside the United States. It's me. Also the only one who was not the subject of a racist tweet by the president today. All of us, including those like Ilhan Omar and me, were born elsewhere, are proud Americans."

Why did you decide, Congressman, to respond to the president that way?

BEYER: Well, it was just so ridiculous that he suggested that three of these women born in the United States go back to their S-blank-hole countries.

Yes, I was born in Trieste, Italy. My dad was a U.S. Army 1st lieutenant M.P. stationed there. But I read today there are 29 members of Congress that were born elsewhere. But every one of us is committed to our country.

And this notion that somehow it's socialism vs. freedom is garbage. Every one of even the Squad are deeply committed to making our country better and loving our country.

BLITZER: In the face of all the criticism, the president has only continued his attacks. Today, he said these women hate America and that they are pro-terrorists.

Does the president see a political advantage here?

BEYER: He may, but his words don't make any sense, once again, just not truthful.

There's no terrorism there at all. In fact, I wish my Republican friends were as outraged about what's happening at the border as they are with Nancy Pelosi's comments or Eric Swalwell's comments.

BLITZER: What does it tell you that some Republican leaders are defending the president's racist remarks?

BEYER: It's very disappointing, because I don't want this to be a bad president. He keeps saying outrageous, terrible things.

Even Nancy Pelosi, she -- she talked about his racist comments, avoiding the personal. But I wish we could come together again. This is the most divisive president the country's ever had. And we're seeing again what it's leading to, just more and more hurt feelings and tensions and things that do not make us a more perfect union.

BLITZER: Your colleague Democratic Congressman Al Green is introducing articles of impeachment over the president's racist comments. He might do it as early as tonight.

Do you support beginning impeachment proceedings in the House? Will you support Congressman Green's effort?

BEYER: No, I don't think I will be supporting Congressman Green's effort.

I have gone with the Nancy Pelosi approach, which is to, let's build the best case we possibly can. If we ever get to articles of impeachment, it's got to be because of high crimes and misdemeanors in the Constitution. His comments probably don't raise to that level.

BLITZER: Because, as you know, he is suggesting, Congressman Green, that it isn't obstruction of justice, it isn't collusion that's driving him; it's racism that's driving him. That's why he wants this resolution to go forward.

BEYER: Well, I'm not a constitutional lawyer, but I'm not sure that -- I think there are a lot of other things that you could build a successful impeachment inquiry on, successful, but probably not the racist comments, however odious they are.

BLITZER: Congressman Don Beyer, thanks so much for joining us.

BEYER: Yes, thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, let's dig deeper with our correspondents and our analysts.

Jackie Kucinich, the House is set to vote on this resolution condemning the president's words fairly soon, we're told.

Do you -- and these are live pictures you're seeing right now. The debate is going on.

Do you expect any Republicans to go along with the Democrats?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: As Phil Mattingly reported, not many, maybe a handful, someone like a Justin Amash, who voted with Democrats in terms of what happened with Pelosi's words.

But, listen, you have -- listening...

BLITZER: He's now an independent, by the way.

KUCINICH: Yes, he is an independent. Thank you. Thank you. He left.

BLITZER: Yes. Yes. KUCINICH: And there were several Republicans, people like Chip Roy,

Mike Turner from Ohio, who came out and said they didn't like the president's tweets or they were racist.


BLITZER: Will Hurd was here yesterday.

KUCINICH: Will Hurd.

BLITZER: Said exactly like that.

KUCINICH: But voting against the party is something entirely different.

And we will see if those members decide to take it that far.

BLITZER: What do you think, Dana?


I think that this is going to end up being very partisan. And just the way that it unfolded on the House floor during the debate, the way the Republicans tried to turn the whole notion of the word racist -- racist against Democrats was very telling, that they tried to stop this whole thing.

And they tried to stop the House speaker from saying what she said, calling the president a racist, saying that it is unbecoming. It is against the House rules because it's unbecoming of a member. You're not supposed to say personal things about somebody else, whereas what she was just trying to do is describe in the way that their resolution plays out what the president's words were.

So it's very hard.

KUCINICH: Though listening to some of these, particularly someone like Kevin McCarthy, decry the lack of decorum and throwing these rules...

BASH: But that's the point, exactly.


KUCINICH: Throwing the rules out, when they're defending someone who on a daily basis throws out norms.


BASH: Exactly. Well, there's that. That's a very good point.


BASH: But the other point is, is that she was trying to describe the terms and the words and the sentiment that the president used in his tweet, the very sentiment that they're trying to condemn on the House floor.

So what else is she supposed to do? Yes, the term racist is tough, but it's apt.

BLITZER: I want to bring in Cornell William Brooks, the former president of the NAACP. He's now a professor over at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Cornell, the president not only doubling down, tripling down, quadrupling down. Today, he called these four women -- he said, they hate our country. He said they were pro-terrorist.

I want your analysis of what we're seeing right now here in Washington.

CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, FORMER PRESIDENT, NAACP: What we're seeing is racism weaponized in order to ensure the president's reelection.

But let's be clear. The president has demonstrated through his policies, through his tweets, through his conduct, that he is an unapologetic, unreconstructed racist to his Machiavellian core.

He's willing to do anything to stay in office, particularly using race as a weapon, so where we have seen, going back to the campaign, hate crimes correlated with his appearance at rallies around the country, according to "The Washington Post."

We have seen him again and again divide and pit Americans one against the other. And so we are at this moment where the House is voting on a resolution to condemn the president's speech, speech that is weaponized and that has an impact on Americans across the country.

In fact, the House is simply putting on paper in polite terms what Americans know to be true, which is that the president of the United States is, in fact, a racist.

BLITZER: So have you seen anything like this before in all your years watching American presidents and the discussion of race and all of that? Have you ever seen anything like this before?


I mean, we have seen variations of the Southern strategy. We have seen racial code and using political speech to advance a partisan agenda using race.

We have not seen the vulgarization of race, race as an obscene weapon, in the way that this president has used race. And so his Twitter feed literally is an arsenal being deployed against this American democracy.

And, in fact, he is turning the 2020 presidential election into a referendum on hate, in which he wants Americans, on the basis of their animosity toward one another and animosity toward people who don't look like them or don't come from the countries that they think they come from, to vote for him. It is a referendum on hate. But I believe Americans have to vote

against hate, and, as a consequence, vote against him.

This is unusual. This is not commonplace. This is not anything that we have seen in a modern president in recent memory.

BLITZER: They're making closing statements right now, just before this vote on this resolution, David Swerdlick, that would condemn the president's words.

We're getting close -- closer and closer to the actual roll call. This is a dramatic moment that we're watching unfold here.


And I think that what's more dramatic, though, in my view, Wolf, is less the wrangling over the word racist, although I think that just sort of demonstrated, as Dana pointed out, sort of the absurdity of some of the arguments being made, particularly on the Republican side.


But, at the end of the day, whether this passes or not, whether the speaker is able to say the word racist on the floor or not, what's more stunning to me is that Republicans off of the House floor have not been able to come to terms with what the president said on Sunday morning.

Again, this referendum is not about whether the president himself is a racist, period, capital R. It's about whether those three tweets were racist.

And I just don't think there's a credible argument that those three tweets were not racist statements.

BLITZER: Jackie, the president's counselor, Kellyanne Conway, she doubled down on this earlier today.

And I want you to watch this exchange she had with a reporter at the White House.


FEINBERG: If the president was not telling these four congresswomen to return to their supposed countries of origin, to which countries was he referring?


CONWAY: What is your ethnicity?


FEINBERG: Why is that relevant?

CONWAY: Because I'm asking a question. My ancestors are from Ireland and Italy.

FEINBERG: Kellyanne, my own ancestry is not relevant to the question I'm asking.

CONWAY: We are tired, sick and tired of many people this country. Forget these four. They represent a dark underbelly in this country of people who are not respecting our troops, are not giving them the resources and the respect that they deserve.

They just represent a very dark element in this country that seems to be -- seems to not respect the military, not respect the veterans, not vote for humanitarian aid. Why is that?


BLITZER: At one point, she said these four Democratic lawmakers, these women of color, represent a dark element, another point, a dark underbelly. She asked this reporter about his ethnicity.

What do you think?

KUCINICH: I mean, trying to personalize it with the reporter wasn't appropriate, and good for them for pushing back.

But this -- the undertone is, they're not like us. They're different. They -- and it's the us against them that we saw, and the politics of division that we saw the president fuel in 2016. And we're seeing him try to start up the hearth again for 2020, because he thinks it's good politics, these politics of resentment.

BLITZER: Well, yes, they're about to vote, but go ahead, Dana.

BASH: No, I mean, I totally agree with Jackie.

And it seems as though he -- and my understanding is, this is not some grand campaign strategy. This is something that he came up with.


BASH: And you want to go to the House floor?

BLITZER: We're going to -- we're going to monitor it. They're going to vote soon.

BASH: OK. All right.

So it's something that he came up with when he woke up Sunday morning, for whatever reason, depending on what he was watching, or who we talked to that morning. He sent out the tweet. But it's not a grand strategy.

However, it is in keeping with a reality that he understands and his campaign understands it is going to be very hard to get independents back into the fold. They have a huge war chest and over $100 million. And they are going to spend it making sure that every single last Trump supporter gets out there, and hope that trumps, so to speak, the base on the Democratic side.

BLITZER: Let's go to Phil Mattingly. He's up on Capitol Hill monitoring this roll call that's about to begin for this resolution condemning the president's words.

Update our viewers where we stand right now, Phil.

MATTINGLY: Well, Wolf, you just saw the gavel come down. That means the vote is starting.

And what this will be is essentially a kind of the denouement of about three or four hours of House drama, again, just underscoring the tensions that have essentially boiled over.

It wasn't just Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Shortly after I spoke to you just a few minutes ago, Eric Swalwell, the Democratic congressman from California, also went on to the floor and read some of President Trump's remarks, called them racist.

Republicans raised the objection. Again, House rules say you cannot impugn another member of Congress, their integrity or their intentions, or the president of the United States. The rules were cited once again. They raised the objection once again.

Eric Swalwell, unlike Nancy Pelosi, rescinded those words. So they didn't have the long, drawn-out, prolonged fight that we had with Speaker Pelosi.

But it's just this back and forth that really defines kind of how this has gotten bigger than just the tweets. It has gotten bigger than just the public statements. It's gotten bigger than the president's attacks on four members of Congress.

It has turned very much into a partisan battle. And I think one of the interesting things, at least the developments over the course of the last 48 hours or so, is the difference from even yesterday to today, where you saw a handful of Republicans yesterday come out and make very clear they had problems with the president's tweets.

They believed the tweets should have been retracted. They believed that they were divisive, not the entire Republican Party, just a minority of the Republican Party. But that's where Republicans started to voice their opposition.

That has shifted today. It has turned into a very, very political back and forth, where Republican leaders have made clear that they are behind the president. They believe what Democrats are doing with this vote, with this resolution is an attack on the president, and they are sticking together.

Wolf, I will tell you, when you look at the screen right now, look at that second line and Republicans, how they vote on this resolution. Democrats wrote it in a tailored manner just about the tweets, not about anything else that they had problems with, because they thought that might draw Republicans that had issues with those tweets on to their side, draw them over to vote yes. [18:25:10]

Throughout the course of this day, in talking to Republicans and talking to Republican aides, it has been very clear that has not worked. Republican leadership made clear they wanted their members to stick behind the president to vote against this resolution.

And you can look at the screen right now, obviously, numbers just slowly starting to trickle in. You see zero Republicans in the yes column.

I'm told there will be a handful, maybe three, four, or five, six at most, but it is going to be a small number. And that just underscores what we have been talking about. This has turned into a partisan, everyone going into their corners, fight when it comes to this resolution specifically.

And you have seen Republicans circle the wagons. They are now firmly behind the president, whether it's this resolution, whether it's his tweets, something we have seen really over the course of his time in office. It's not changing today, despite the pushback, the blowback, the outrage of what the president tweeted on Sunday, doubled down on yesterday, tripled down later than that, and where his aides have been talking about the entirety.

It'll be interesting to see where this vote ends up. But that's the dynamic that's at play right now. And that's the dynamic you're going to see play out in front of you when you look at that vote tally, Wolf.

BLITZER: You mentioned that statement made by Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell.

Let me play that clip and watch the reaction.


REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): ... is racist. Saying a Mexican judge can't be fair because of his heritage is racist.

Saying immigrants from Mexico are rapists is racist. Saying there were good people on both sides in Charlottesville is racist.

Calling African countries shithole countries is racist.

And telling four members of this body to go home is racist.


SWALWELL: Do you think it's not racist? Do you think it's not racist?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentleman will suspend.


SWALWELL: Is what you're saying right now, Mr. Collins?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentlemen will suspend.

SWALWELL: Mr. Collins, is it not racist to say these things? Because you can say that right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentleman from California is out of order.

The gentleman from -- gentlemen -- gentleman from California shall suspend.

For what purpose does the gentleman from Georgia rise?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will make a point or order.

The gentleman's words are unparliamentary, and I request they be taken down.


BLITZER: All right, so, Phil Mattingly, we saw that with the speaker earlier in the day as well, Congressman Collins going and saying that her words were not part of the decorum of the House of Representatives.

We see the same thing involving Congressman Swalwell.

MATTINGLY: Yes, but even a little bit more aggressive from Congressman Swalwell, Wolf, as you see the back and forth.

The House is a body that is ruled by precedents. Everybody knows what the rules -- Democrats were warned this morning about the danger of going too far because of the House rules.

And Eric Swalwell making clear he did not care. He was willing to keep going further, and even challenged Doug Collins, the Republican who you didn't see who was challenging those words.

Again, just kind of all underscores the tension that's out there right now about people that are just frustrated on both sides that it's gotten to this point, and it doesn't seem like it's slowing, stopping or ebbing any time soon.

And, to be frank, I don't think it is at any time soon -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Stand by. I want you to stand by, because the voting is continuing.

You see right now strictly along party lines, 62 Democrats voting for the resolution, 52, now 63, 52. There's no split, at least not yet. We will see how many Republicans, if any, decide to go along with the Democrats. Cornell, if you read the resolution -- and I read the resolution --

it's three pages -- the House of Representatives, in these words, "strongly condemns President Donald Trump's racist comments that have legitimized the increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color."

And then it goes on to elaborate.

You have watched this very closely, and I want to get your analysis of what's going on.

BROOKS: I think what we have going on is a legislative body, the House, trying to, within the confines of its rules, speak to the rank racism of the president's tweets, bearing in mind that you can have members who can call that words be stricken from the record, that members act in accord with House rules, but also bearing in mind that the president's tweets and language cannot be stricken from the record or the memory of our children.

Can't be stricken from the conscience of our country, can't be stricken from the history, the contemporary history of our country. And so they are doing what they can do, in the context of the rules that they have.

So, this is a measured and thoughtful resolution that should enjoy bipartisan support, because there is in this country, among the citizenry, a bipartisan consensus that racism is wrong.

So, the resolution is worded well and is worded in a way that should allow and enable and empower Republicans to get onboard in terms of condemning that, which is manifestly obvious, that the President's Tweets coupled with his policy in his speech and conduct a racist.


BLITZER: You know, Dana, you covered Capitol Hill for a long time. Explain to our viewers what we're seeing right now.

BASH: What we're seeing is not a big debate, which is almost always partisan on policy, where people have philosophical differences. We are seeing something as raw and as partisan and as emotional as we have seen in such a long time. They are ad hominem attacks. You know, it is an ad hominem attack that the President of the United States used against these four elected members of Congress saying that they should go home.

Democrats are responding in kind, calling the President a word that, yes, historically speaking, is not supposed to be used on the House floor, but, historically speaking, some of those rules were put in place by people who had (INAUDIBLE). So you have to put it in context of where we are today, right?

And one other thing I just want to say to give you a little bit of context. As we're speaking, we are getting, and I'm sure you're getting this too, from the Republican arm of the committee that helped elect House Republicans, and it's cut and paste. They're saying member after member after member, democratic member who is in even a little bit of a danger seat is deranged. That's the headline. Kind is deranged. McBath is deranged, going on and on and on, because those Democrats voted to protect Nancy Pelosi to they allow her to say the word racist, that the President is a racist, on the House floor, saying this even about people of color. So this is going on as we speak. And I think it really crystallizes and illustrates just how political this is and the raw politics of that.

You know, of course, we've seen political fights before, but in this level, in this day and age, it's pretty deep.

BLITZER: You know, Jackie, Congressman Al Green, he wants to introduce a resolution going further, a resolution introducing articles of impeachment against the President not because of any conspiracy or collusion or obstruction of justice but citing racism.

KUCINICH: Yes. I mean, Al Green, I believe, this is the second time he's wanted to introduce resolutions of impeachment. Forgive me if it's been more than that. It doesn't seem like Democrats are there yet because they know, with word in the Senate (ph), but you heard the Congressman before we came on, talk about how they want to build up a case if, in fact, they do decide to go there.

And, you know, Nancy Pelosi, I doubt this will tip the scales because she knows the politics of impeachment are, if not -- I mean, you really can't compare how loaded and emotional they are -- this is but it will also create another problem for Democrats. But I want to step back and remind everyone where we were before the President inserted himself, Democrats fighting each other circular firing squad-style. And when the President inserted himself, we saw the debate shift back to this partisan warfare that we've all become too accustomed to.

BLITZER: It's interesting. If you look at the roll call, David Swerdlick, right now, we have it up on the screen, one Republican has decided to go with the Democrats. Now, that Republican -- I don't know who that Republican is, but that Republican can clearly change his or her mind, but one Republican is with the Democrats. Right now, it's 104 in favor of this resolution condemning the President's racist Tweets, 105 now to 93. It will be interesting to see if more Republicans join.

SWERDLICK: Right. And I don't know who that one Republican is. But whoever that one Republican is, if they're the only one who ultimately votes for this resolution, they're going to have a business night.

You had Congressman Hurd here on set last night, Wolf, and he had already called the President's comments racist, so I wonder if it's him. But, obviously, we don't know.

Can I just go back to the point Jackie was making for a second. Yes. One of the things that was so galling about what Kellyanne Conway today said in that gaggle was that she started out in that clip you played, Wolf, saying, so many of us are so tired of this, but it was the President himself who inserted racial Tweets into what was an intramural squabble among Democrats.

On Saturday, I was stalking to Congresswoman Pressley's press secretary and she was saying, I want to remind everybody that this goes back to a dispute about the budget supplemental for immigration and border enforcement funding. It did get a little personal. Democrats --

KUCINICH: On Friday, there was a Tweet for the House Democratic account citing (ph) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Chief of Staff. So this has gotten out of hand.

SWERDLICK: No, no. It got very personal among Democrats. They let it kind of get out of behind closed doors. But she was saying, look, we let -- this was about policy, we let it get a little personal, but we want to make it about policy.


Sunday morning comes and the President comes out. And as Dana pointed out, you know, staff didn't look at this as a strategy, although I sort of do think in the President's mind, it's a little bit of a strategy, and turned this into --

BASH: Oh, he definitely thought that. Right, for sure.

SWERDLICK: Yes, okay. Yes, yes, good, right. So we agree.

BASH: Yes.

SWERDLICK: And turned this into a racial thing.

BLITZER: You know -- and, Cornell, if you read the resolution that these members are voting on right now, if you take a look at the roll call, it's 125 Democrats in favor of the resolution condemning the President, 105, mostly Republicans, 107 now, one Republican joining the Democrats. We'll see if others decide to do so as well.

In addition to condemning the racism, they go on to condemn what the President says, and I'm quoting now from the resolution, about our fellow Americans who are immigrants and those who may look to the President like immigrants that they should, quote, go back other countries, referring to these immigrants, asylum seekers as invaders. They go on. These are painful words.

BROOKS: These are very painful words because the President invoked a trope, a racist trope of calling into question moral legitimacy and to certainly political legitimacy citizenship, one's right to be here, one's right to call this country your country.

So going back to 1857, when Dred Scott, a slave was told by the Supreme Court that his race disqualified him from being a citizen, to where we are in 2019, a president asserting to four congresswomen and a nation of immigrants that one's race, one's color, one's ethnicity can disqualify you from citizenship, can disqualify you from being able to assert that this country is, in fact, your country and our country, is, frankly, shocking. And so the resolution speaks to our history, it speaks to a racist trope, and it also speaks to the dangerous predicament we find ourselves in. Because when the President asserts these racist tropes, let's be clear about his, these are not merely offensive Tweets. They are Tweets that contribute to a climate that imperil people's lives. In other words, when the hate crime rate has gone up over the course of the last three years, and as I mentioned earlier with the President campaign, we saw the hate crime rate correlate with the 250-plus percent increase in hate, words have consequences. Words have effect.

And so the House resolution speaks to, yes, the racist tropes, speaks to this long legacy of calling into question one's right to be in this country, but also speaks certainly by invocation the danger he puts people in.

BLITZER: Cornell, I want to go back to Phil Mattingly. He's up on Capitol Hill. It looks like two Republicans now have joined the Democrats in this roll call. Phil, I understand you know at least the name one of those Republicans?

MATTINGLY: Yes, Wolf. I'm texting back and forth with somebody who is in the chamber, and one of those Republicans is Will Hurd, the independent, the other individual, not a Democrat, who is voting for this is Justin Amash. I think they both kind of fall into the same line as members of Congress who were very quick to push back to rebuke President Trump, Will Hurd not pulling any punches at all, saying the comments were racist, they were xenophobic, saying those comments on CNN.

Now, following up those comments with a vote in support of the democratic resolution, you see the numbers start to change. One Republican was voting, yes, pulled their vote off. That is not Will Hurd. And it underscores that this vote is open and people may change their votes throughout the day.

But I can tell you Will Hurd, the Republican, and Justin Amash, the independent, who right now is voting for the resolution were both expected to do so, a small number that were considered possibilities to vote for yes. But at least as it currently stands, those are the only two non-Democrats who are supporting the resolution to go against -- to rebuke President Trump for those Tweets on Sunday, Wolf.

BLITZER: And let me play a clip of what Will Hurd -- this is Will Hurd. And take a look now, by the way, before we play the clip, three Republicans now -- they could still change their mind -- but three Republicans now are voting with the Democrats, we believe one of them being Will Hurd there, the Republican Congressman from Texas. Here's what he said to us here in The Situation Room yesterday.


REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): I think when you say racist things often, then, yes, you become a racist. How many racist things you have to say to actually be racist? I don't know what that level is. What I do know is these statements, these Tweets from the other day, or I guess yesterday, were indeed racist and xenophobic. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And so we're watching this. Phil Mattingly, you're still there. It says, what, zero time remaining, but they always give them a little extra time to come and vote, right?

MATTINGLY: Yes. Well, it's a 15-minute vote. This was a vote that wasn't back-to-back, so they're going to take some time to actually get from their office and get there. But I think the other interesting element to keep an eye on, and, again, I've been covering this place for 12 years, I have a pretty good sense of the rhythms of things, what will be interesting is those Republicans who were weighing yes or no.


And they weren't a lot of them. Again, I was told very clearly earlier in the day that it was a small number of people, but a lot of times on votes like this, you'll have people sitting in the back of the chamber and maybe take their time as they come to the House floor before they decide to cast their vote.

As you see four Republicans right now, so I'm texting the folks to see exactly who those Republicans are. I'm not in the chamber.

Again, my understanding going into this vote was to expect somewhere between four, six, eight, at most, it would be a very high level. So we'll have to find out who those Republicans are.

The Republicans who were paying attention to were those who spoke out very forcefully against President Trump after the Tweets. There was a small number and those also are Republicans who come from swing House districts, Republicans who are certainly going to be challenged in 2020 and perhaps come from districts that are at least purple or maybe more blue than red. Those are the Republicans that are often the ones who are willing to step out in front and criticize the President, those would likely be the ones who would vote with Democrats on this resolution.

But, again, keep in mind the context here. Republican leaders made very clear to their members along with the President in a Tweet this morning that they should vote against this resolution, and that's why you're not seeing major the numbers, even though a lot of Republicans, some Republicans publicly, a lot of Republicans privately were uncomfortable with what the President Tweeted. You are not going to see them line up behind Democrats in a major way right now because this has very much become a your team/my team type of situation, so we'll see how much that number grows.

You still see there're a lot of votes that are out there. Again, it's a single vote, so members are taking their time coming from their offices. We'll have to see how that number grows over the course of the next couple of minutes, Wolf.

BLITZER: Right now, four Republicans joining Democrats. You know, Dana, the President earlier in the day, he warned these Republicans in a Tweet. He said, Republicans should not show weakness and fall into their trap. I can only imagine how he's going to react to the four or five or whatever the final number is of Republicans who vote to condemn his racist Tweets.

BASH: Look, probably not well. But as we were talking about, so much of this is raw politics. There aren't many moderate Republicans left because a lot of them were defeated by the Democrats when they came in and took over the majority, but there are some. Will Hurd, who you spoke to yesterday, who we now know voted yes is one. There are others from Michigan. There are a few left from Pennsylvania.

And it would not shock any of us if they were the ones who voted with the Democrats on this because I'm not saying that it's not something that they believe, that they might agree ideologically and philosophically and morally with the Democrats that the President's remarks on Twitter were racist, but it also is politically savvy for them if they want to continue to get independent voters because they're well known in their swing districts to say something like this, because independent voters, suburban voters, I'm guessing many of these Republicans -- and I shouldn't say, many, there aren't enough to say many, but the handful of Republicans so far who have voted with Democrats probably represent exactly that kind of voter.

BLITZER: Right now, four Republicans, Dana, you know the Hill well, and we're told. Will Hurd, the Republican from Texas, Fred Upton, the Republican from Michigan, Brian Fitzpatrick, Republican of Pennsylvania, Susan Brooks, the Republican of Indiana. At least as of now, we're told those are the four Republicans. Justin Amash, he used to be a Republican. He is now an independent. He's voting with the Democrats as well.

BASH: I mean, Brian Fitzpatrick is exactly the kind of Republican that I was just describing. There aren't very many left with them, as I said, because most of those swing districts that were held by moderate Republicans are now held by moderate Democrats. But Fitzpatrick is a classic suburban Philadelphia district, where they are -- you know, that the people there look at this kind of rhetoric from the President and say, are you kidding me, and expect their representatives to take the moral high ground in addition to voting on the policy issues and policy prescriptions that they support.

BLITZER: Two members, you know, Jackie, from Michigan, interesting, Justin Amash and Fred Upton.

KUCINICH: Well, right. And Michigan is one of those states that the President really wants to win again in 2020. But it will be interesting to see if the President decides to turn his eye to these members that voted against him, because this is not just a vote against the President. This is personal for him. He told them to vote against this, and it's about his words.

So will he -- we've seen him in the past back, an opponent to a Republican to the party's detriment just because he had a grudge on. Look at Mark Sanford, for example. So it's not unprecedented for him to do that.

As David said earlier, they're going to have a busy night if they decide to -- if the votes stay how they're currently are.

SWERDLICK: We're going to have a busy night but I suspect that all five of them are going to sleep well tonight, because, clearly, that's not a vote of convenience. Then, obviously, regardless of where you stand on this issue, none of them -- well, maybe Hurd because of the makeup of his district. The other four, I don't really think, had a political incentive to do this. This is a moral decision.

And, again, I think I agree with Dana 100 percent.


A lot of this has to do with whether you're in a moderate or a staunchly red district. But this is not, in some sense, a partisan issue. It's a moral issue.

BASH: It should be. Just one of the things -- Susan Brooks, you mentioned?


BASH: She's retiring. She's got nothing to lose politically. She's got everything to lose with regard to her morality and her conscience. She's --

BLITZER: Republican of Indiana.

BASH: She's free. She's got the political shackles gone and she's free to vote the way she wants.

SWERDLICK: She's free to vote the way she wants but it's still in some sense, it's an act of courage because you see Paul Ryan who is out of politics now, and I don't think will have a career in politics and is of major figure in the Republican Party, and hasn't said anything about this, which is, frankly, cowardly.

BLITZER: You know, Cornell -- you're the former head of the NAACP. When you hear the president say to these four Democratic women, these congresswomen, all of whom who are of color, if you -- you hear him tweet, if you hate our country or if you are not happy here, you can leave, what does that say to you?

BROOKS: Well, what it says is how long do you have to live in this country? How many lives have to be sacrificed in war for this country? How much do you have to contribute to the culture of this country in orders to be considered an American on an ongoing and morally permanent basis as opposed to being called -- your citizenship and your legitimacy being called into question? In terms of birtherism, in terms of the president's latest tweets, in terms of what he did to, you know, with the Central Park Five, I should say, being exonerated.

In other words, constantly and continually having your legitimacy called into question. So for the first act -- for America's first African-American president to have his legitimacy called into question before and after he was elected by now President Trump speaks to an old practice of literally calling people of color out of their names as in out of their citizenship. And so, the bigger issue here -- or not the bigger issue, but the issue here is for us to assert back.

You, sir, called into question the moral legitimacy of your citizenship. That is to say, when you look at Americans based upon what they contribute to this country, their right to be here under the Constitution and our conscience, you call into question the values that undergird American citizenship. So, in other words, all of this race-baiting, all of xenophobia, this hateful language that literally imperils not just the moral legitimacy of American citizens, but their physical well-being, just bear that in mind.

Look at the hate crime across this country. Look at children being -- look at children bullying one another and adults brutalizing one another based upon this hateful rhetoric.

So, yes, he's called it into question their citizenship. This is characteristic of the way he governs and the way he's campaigned. But he's called into question, in fact, his own moral legitimacy and standing as a president.

And all the Republicans who refuse to call this out who's been stricken with a form of moral laryngitis, they literally call into question their legacy. They call into question their moral legitimacy as members of Congress, as members of this representative body that's supposed to represent the whole of the country.

BLITZER: I want to go back to Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill.

Phil, you see the roll call vote there up on the screen. You see right now, the -- it obviously passed 237 in favor. All of them except four Democrats, one independent -- four Republicans voting in favor. One independent Justin Amash voting in favor, 185 nay votes.

There's no time left, but they still haven't hit that gavel. Tell us what's going on.

MATTINGLY: Yes, the vote is still open for this, at least this point in time. Look, this is a 15-minute vote, but to give a brief House explainer, when you have an individual vote, not a series of votes, back to back to back, members will, say 15-minute vote will often take their time coming from their offices. Their offices are a subway ride away and a walk as well.

And so, the vote doesn't necessarily have to immediately gavel in right at the 15-minute mark. So, you'll see all the zeroes at the bottom saying the vote should be closed, but it's not closed. It's not officially closed until the gavel drops from the Democrat who's currently residing in the chair.

That Democrat has not dropped the gavel up to this point, and you see there are six, seven, eight votes that are outstanding. Some members aren't here today. So, the gavel should be dropping soon.

Wolf, as you noted, they have more than 218 votes requisite to actually pass this resolution. You have four Republicans that have voted with Democrats, one independent that have voted with Democrats as well and I think Dana and others had laid out perfectly as to why they are.

I will quote note one quick thing. Susan Brooks, not only is she retiring, but the interesting element of that retirement is that it shocked Republicans.

[18:50:01] She was the NRCC's recruiting chair, the campaign arm of the House Republican Party. And her decision to retire I think really jolted the party to some degree when it actually happened, and now making clear that she's willing to split with the party on this issue. Fred Upton comes from a district where he received a very serious Democratic challenge. Brian Fitzpatrick as Dana noted coming from a very, very swing district and always target of Democrats as well, and Will Hurd kind of the same boat.

That's the definition of why they're voting how they were voting. Obviously, there are the morals issue as well. They all made clear they had issued with what the president said. If you want to into know why the Republicans and one independent are voting how they are voting, that's the basic explanation up to this point. And if you want to know why the rest of the Republicans are not, well, they've made clear they are standing with the president, whether they have issues with procedural grounds, whether they have issues of how the resolution was worded.

They definitely have issues with the president who told them not to vote for this and House Republican leadership who echoed the president throughout the course of the day, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We're taking a look at the numbers up there. Six no votes at least so for, all of them Republicans. We'll see if that changes over the next few minutes.

And, Dana, let's step back for a moment and see what the House of Representatives is doing right now. The House of Representatives in the words of in resolution is strongly condemning President Donald Trump's racist comments that have legitimized an increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color by saying that our fellow Americans who are immigrants and those who may look to the president like immigrants should go back to other countries.

BASH: Yes, it's very specific. And, David, you said it so well earlier. It -- although the president -- I mean, excuse me, the speaker used the word racist on the floor in describing those words that the president used in his tweet, it is not saying the president --

BLITZER: Hold on one moment. Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Laid on the table. House will be in order.

Members will take their conversations off the floor.

For what purpose does the gentleman from Texas rise. REP. AL GREEN (D-TX): Madam Speaker, pursuant to clause 2A1 of rule

9, I rise to give notice of my intention to raise a question of the privileges of the House.

The form of the resolution is as follows: impeaching Donald John Donald Trump, president of the United States of high misdemeanors, resolved that Donald John Trump, president of the United States, is unfit to be president, unfit to represent the American values of decency and morality, respectability and civility, honesty and propriety, reputability and integrity, is unfit to defend the ideals that have made America great, unfit to defend liberty and justice for all as extolled in the pledge of allegiance, is unfit to defend the American ideal of all persons being created equal as exalted in the Declaration of Independence, is unfit to ensure domestic tranquility, promote the general welfare and to ensure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity as lauded in the preamble of the United States Constitution, is unfit to protect government of the people, by the people, for the people as elucidated in the Gettysburg address.

And is impeached for high misdemeanors that the following article of impeachment be exhibited to the Senate. Article of impeachment exhibited by the House of Representatives of the United States, in the name of itself, of the people of the United States, against Donald John Trump, president of the United States. In maintenance and support of its impeachment against him for high misdemeanors committed as president, constituting harm to American society, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

[18:55:12] Article 1, the House of Representatives on July 16, 2019, strongly condemned President Donald Trump's racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color by saying that our fellow Americans who are the immigrants, and those who may look to the president like immigrants, should go back to other countries. By referring to immigrants and asylum seekers as invaders and by saying that members of Congress who are immigrants are those of our colleagues who are wrongly assumed to be immigrants do not belong in Congress, or in the United States of America --

BLITZER: All right. We're listening to Representative Al Green of Texas introducing a separate resolution -- resolution of impeachment.

Phil Mattingly, explain the process, what's going on following this other vote condemning the president's racist tweets, 240 in favor, 187 opposed, four Republicans voting in favor, one independent voting in favor.

MATTINGLY: Yes, you saw two things back-to-back both related to the president. Obviously, the resolution -- Democrat resolution to condemn the president's tweets has passed 240 yes votes, four Republicans.

Now, you're seeing Congressman Al Green introduced privileged articles of impeachment. Now, here's what that means. This is not launching an impeachment inquiry. This is not what 81 Democrats are signed onto, wanting to do up to this point. This is Al Green, congressman from Texas, who has done this before, has made clear he believes the president should be impeached. He's doing this on a privileged basis.

Now, what does that mean according to House rules? That means within two legislative days, the House is going to have to take up that resolution of impeachment. What are their options?

They can have an up and down vote on the impeachment of President Trump. They could try and table that impeachment -- those impeachment articles or they can try and refer them to the Judiciary Committee.

The bottom line is this: House Democratic leadership does not approve of what Al Green is doing right now. They want to go through their own process. Speaker Pelosi made clear she is not in favor of impeachment up to this point.

What they will attempt to do is either refer it to the Judiciary Committee or try and table the resolution. They have tabled past Al Green resolutions of impeachment. What I'm told right now is they are likely considering referring this to the Judiciary Committee.

However, they will at least be a vote on that. It will be procedural. It will be an not up or down vote on impeachment. It will be an up or down vote on what to do, whether to table it, or move to the Judiciary Committee.

So, again, this is not up or down vote on impeachment. What Al Green did right now is not what the Democratic parties or at least 80 members have been calling on him to do. It's an individual effort that Al Green has pursued before because he believes this is the pathway that the House needs to follow.

It's currently opposed by House leadership that wants to take a more step by step process to impeachment inquiry, a full judiciary committee hearing and investigation, if that's the route they decide to go. Speaker Pelosi has made clear she is not at that place yet.

So, that's what's happening now. No immediate vote on these things. But keep on this, Democratic leaders are going to have to figure out how they want to handle this in the next two days, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, Dana, the House of Representatives has just voted to strongly condemn President Donald Trump's, quote, racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear. This is a historic moment right now. It doesn't happen every day.

BASH: It is historic, and it would be the headline. And it will be a big headline.

But the fact that -- that vote was gaveled down in an unprecedented way and she didn't even put the gavel down before a member of the House Democratic Caucus brought up the I-word, a word and procedure that totally divides the Democratic Caucus is not great for the Democrats, on a day where they wanted this to be a unified message, a very clear message to the president and to the country. KUCINICH: And it gives Republicans something to talk about. They're

going to seize on the articles of impeachment introduction. I mean, that's what's going to happen and try to bypass the whole racism conversation at all.

SWERDLICK: Wolf, I just want to underscore one thing. All but four Republicans voted against a resolution condemning racist statements made not just about anybody but about four women of color members of the very body that was taking that vote.

BLITZER: The Al Green resolution, Jackie, is not going anywhere but it's symbolically significant.

KUCINICH: It is. It's the third time that he has introduced something that has to do with what the president has said about -- that's racially tinged.

BLITZER: All right. We are watching this closely. Once again, the final vote on the House of Representatives floor, 240 representatives voting in favor of condemning the president, 187 opposed. Four of those in favor were Republicans, including one independent.

Our special coverage will continue right now with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT".