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CNN Special Report: The Impeachment Of Donald J. Trump; McConnell Wants To Follow Model Used In ClInton Impeachment Trial; Iowa Caucuses Could Collide With Senate Trial; Trump Administration Cannot Define Specific Threat To Iran. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired January 12, 2020 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: And I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington. Thanks so much for joining us for the CNN Special Report, "The Impeachment of Donald J. Trump."
The U.S. Senate will try the President for high crimes and misdemeanors, a power enshrined in the Constitution which only two previous U.S. Presidents have faced.
The House voted three weeks ago to impeach the President and this week is expected to take votes to send two Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. One for abuse of power, the other for obstruction of justice. That sets the stage for only the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history expected to be shed, those processes, those votes to begin sometime this week.
HARLOW: Yes, and while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not agreed to Speaker Pelosi's demands regarding witnesses or Senator Schumer's demands, Pelosi maintains the delay has been worthwhile. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We feel that it was very - it has reached a very positive result in terms of addition of e-mails and unredacted information that has come forward, that Bolton has said that he would testify if subpoenaed by the Senate, other information that has come forward now --
And more importantly, raising the profile of the fact that we need to have witnesses and documentation and if we don't, that is a cover up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: We start our special coverage this hour with CNN Congressional Correspondent, Phil Mattingly.
Phil, good to have you here. Lay out what is the most likely scenario, I suppose, because anything could happen. But what is the most likely scenario that people should expect this week?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the last three weeks have made clear things are pretty fluid right now. Look, here's what we need to watch.
On Tuesday morning, House Democrats will have their weekly closed door caucus meeting. That's kind of the trigger point. That's where the expectation is. The Speaker will lay out how this is going to move going forward.
And the expectation right now that we have is that they will vote on Wednesday to appoint the House Managers, essentially the Democrats, the Speaker will select to prosecute the case in the Senate.
Once that occurs, that essentially, is the green light. After that happens, the two Articles of Impeachment can be transmitted to the Senate and they will physically be walked from the House floor to the Senate floor by the House Managers and that will essentially start the trial.
Once they get over to the Senate by the next day at 1:00 p.m., the Senate trial based on the rules and precedents has to begin.
Now, the first couple of days of the Senate trial will largely be procedural. You'll see a little bit of debate on the initial rules that we expect. You'll see a swearing in of the Chief Justice and all 100 senators for the task that they're going to be faced with in the weeks that follow.
The real kind of meat and bones of things probably won't start until the next week as both sides work to submit their briefs before their opening statements and their opening arguments, but that's what we expect this week.
Clearly, things are moving and the Senate trial, guys, will start very quickly after that House vote.
SCIUTTO: So, I spoke to Senator Jeff Merkley in the last hour and asked him about the possibility of G.O.P. votes, enough of them to vote in favor of calling witnesses. He said if he is a betting man, he doubts there would be four Republicans to vote along with Democrats for that possibility, assuming all Democrats would vote yes.
I'm not going to ask -- you're not the whip. You're an avocado's whip, but based on your reporting and speaking to Republicans and hearing their public statements, is that still an open possibility or an unlikely one?
MATTINGLY: Yes, it's definitely an open possibility. Look, I think everybody can identify three, right? Senator Mitt Romney has made clear he wants to hear from Ambassador John Bolton. He wants witnesses. Senator Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, kind of the two moderates of the 53 member G.O.P. conference have made clear they are at least open to witnesses.
The real issue right now, guys is when you go through the roster of 53 Republicans, is finding who that fourth vote would be. You need four votes to get 51. Fifty one is the magic number in a Senate trial. With 51 votes, you can make that trial look however you want it to be, whether it's Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell or Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader.
And it's that fourth vote right now that people are having difficulty trying to identify. Look, you talk to Democrats, they believe that somebody will come up for air, or somebody is willing to join them, whether it's a retiring member or a member who's got some issues with the Majority Leader, whether it's somebody who has got a tough political battle in 2020.
But right now, that fourth member, that fourth senator in the Republican conference is not obvious to anybody else. I think that's what you're going to be paying attention to over the course the next couple weeks -- guys.
SCIUTTO: There have been surprises. We know that.
HARLOW: Yes. There have. It'll keep us all on our toes. Appreciate it, Phil.
The word tonight from the White House, quote, "We are prepared." That it's from an administration official anticipating that those Articles of Impeachment will arrive soon in the Senate.
SCIUTTO: CNN's Jeremy Diamond at the White House. So Jeremy, that official tonight going so far as to say they've been prepared since before Christmas. Of course, there's been a spin going on here. Tell us what we know about steps that have actually been taken to prepare the defense team and make other decisions.
SCIUTTO: I mean, there was even some talk of inviting some members of the House to come over and take part in that defense team. What do we know?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That is still one of the open questions. And again, while the White House official is saying that they have been prepared since before Christmas, I think that's largely a reflection of the frustrations that have existed at this White House as the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has withheld those Articles of Impeachment for nearly a month now.
And the President, of course, would like to see his trial start quickly in the Senate, would like to see that vindicative moment that he has been seeking.
Now, look, that's not to say that the White House has not used those weeks to actually continue preparing for this trial, to continue fine tuning the President's legal defense and one of those questions is still exactly who will be arguing for the President in his defense on the floor of the Senate. We know that the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone will be leading
that effort. The President's outside attorney, Jay Sekulow will be helping him out. But there's also the possibility for other members, either of the White House Counsel's Office or outside attorneys, like for example, Alan Dershowitz who could potentially join the President.
The big question, though, is who the House Managers will be. And that is something that the White House is waiting to see this week.
But once that happens, that could get the ball rolling here, not only because it helps the White House decide who exactly they will put forward as far as lawyers to argue the case here, but also because that's going to trigger the White House's and the President's first formal legal response to the President's impeachment last month.
That is because we will see the President answer a summons from the Senate to appear. The White House legal team is expected to argue there in that response that these charges do not meet the definition of high crimes and misdemeanors, and then of course, there's also going to be a Legal Brief from the President's legal team.
That's -- a source telling me that tonight, and that will actually lay out kind of the core portions of the President's legal defense here as he prepares for the Senate trial.
HARLOW: Okay, Jeremy, thanks very much for that reporting at the White House. Let's discuss all of this. Our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash is with us again. John Dean joins us, CNN contributor and former Nixon White House counsel; Ross Carper is also here, CNN legal analyst who has been through an impeachment or two, on the defense side.
Thank you guys for being here very much. Dana, let me just begin with you. Did the nearly four-week delay now, if this happens at some point this week, by Pelosi on sending over the Articles of Impeachment accomplish anything material for Democrats?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We're not going to know that answer until we're into the Senate trial and see if the number one goal that she had and other Democrats had, which is to have witnesses testify, whether she achieves that.
She is hoping and she made that clear in her appearance again this morning that they put pressure on the either the three Republicans that Phil was talking about: Susan Collins, Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski, who have said that they want witnesses publicly.
And perhaps pressure on other Republicans who are up for reelection in purple or even, you know, other swing states that they -- that it will be hard for them -- that's the Democrats' goal -- hard for them to vote no on a witness when and if that resolution comes before them in the middle of this trial, and say with a straight face, that they feel that they've heard everything that they need to hear to acquit the President.
SCIUTTO: Right. Ross, the fact is, no, Nancy Pelosi did not get McConnell to commit to witnesses, but new evidence has come into the public eye, I mean, through good journalism, frankly.
I mean, getting unredacted documents, e-mails, et cetera, which document a link between this decision to hold the aid and the White House and that that order came from the President, which is a link that House Republicans denied there was any evidence of during the House process.
Where does that evidence leave, in effect, the Republican argument going in here? But also where does it leave the Republican argument that you shouldn't then hear from witnesses with direct knowledge of the President's involvement, namely, John Bolton who is raising his hand?
I mean, how can they make a credible argument given what we have learned that you shouldn't hear from those people?
ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I think it can be a hard lift. I mean, you know, the notion of a motion to dismiss or a motion for summary judgment, that's not an unusual legal concept.
We see that in the law and courtrooms all the time. A motion to dismiss saying, you know, even if you assume everything in this case, in the Articles of Impeachment, even assuming it's all true, it still doesn't amount to an impeachable offense.
That seems like a tough lift motion, a motion for summary judgment, although here, it might be included in the motion to dismiss would be -- you know, even taking everything is true, there is no more evidence and nothing else that could help decide this case. That also seems to me to be a heavy lift and it is true.
The longer this has gone on, the more information has come out, the more pressure there might be to call witnesses.
But having said that, you still need the votes to do it, and that's the big question. Are they there? And then the second question is, who will the witnesses be?
GARBER: You know, we've been talking about John Bolton, Mulvaney. On the other side, you know, the President has been asking for the whistleblower. The President has been asking for Hunter Biden. It's a big question.
HARLOW: Right. And then if you get your witnesses that the Dems want, is it going to be worth it when the White House, you know, calls who they want there.
John Dean, I don't know if you saw that. Go ahead. Yes.
GARBER: Yes, I was just going to flag one other issue that we should keep an eye on. And that is, let's assume they can call witnesses. Let's assume they can subpoena witnesses. There are still two other steps, at least two other steps that they may have to go through.
One is the question of immunity. The President's lawyers saying your Mulvaney and Bolton, they're immune from testimony. The second is executive privilege. Objections based on executive privilege.
In the Supreme Court, the Nixon case suggested that in the case of national security and diplomacy and military issues, executive privilege is strong. That could be a hurdle, too, so keep an eye on that.
HARLOW: Well, that's where John Dean disagrees with you, don't you, sir?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I do. I think that what's going to happen here is if Bolton wants to testify, let's say that he is called, and I don't see it requiring four votes once the trial starts, because there's always the possibility of a tie vote.
You get three senators who agree, and then you have the tiebreaker. The Chief Justice. I think he would call for the witnesses to appear. It would just be his judicial good sense, it would do it.
So let's say you get Bolton, it's up to Bolton what he testifies about. There's no injunction that stops him. That's what the court or the President will have to do to stop him from testifying.
SCIUTTO: Yes, that's a -- and you make a good point. Sorry. Go ahead. Go ahead, Ross.
GARBER: Yes. Yes, just very quickly. As a practical matter, though, what's going to happen is the President's lawyers have the right to object, and then the senators are going to decide on the objection.
The Chief Justice can do it in the first instance, if he wants to, or he can give it to the senators. The senators can always overrule the Chief Justice, but the senators are going to decide whether executive privilege applies.
And even if Bolton I mean, think about a regular courtroom, a witness may want to say lots and lots of stuff. But if an objection is sustained, that witness doesn't get to testify about that subject matter.
SCIUTTO: Dana, first of all, I've learned something here that I didn't know that the tie vote not, Dana Bash, cast by the Vice President, which of course will be a vote for the President, but by the Chief Justice. Did you share John Dean's view?
Because a lot of questions have been, what would a Chief Justice Roberts who has made a lot of effort to try to tamp down at least on the court side of things, this partisanship that has so bubbled over in the country here, made a real effort to keep the institution one, insulated that to the extent that it can be.
You've been in Washington a lot. I know you don't cover the Supreme Court. But you know a thing or two about this this Chief Justice, how would he come down on questions like that?
BASH: Well, first of all, John Dean is right, of course, that the Vice President who is the official President of the Senate doesn't have a role in a trial. It is the Chief Justice who is there and the Vice President can't break any tie votes.
Whether or not the Chief Justice will be the one who will say, will be the tipping point, the tiebreaker to say John Bolton will testify or any of the other witnesses Democrats want to testify will come forward. That's going to be heavy lift for him for the reasons you just laid out, Jim, because he is so -- he has been so careful not to bring himself or any of the other eight justices into the political realm, but he might not have a choice.
Now there are, as we've just heard from, you know, our colleagues here, there are other ways where the Republicans could object and work around him. But -- and so, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Chief Justice try to find a workaround as opposed to being the guy to cast the tie breaking vote.
HARLOW: Fascinating. Thank you all very, very much for being here on a Sunday night. A big week ahead. We appreciate it. Thank you.
Still to come, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he is going to follow the Clinton model or try to for this impeachment process. What does that actually mean? Is it really apples to apples here? I want to talk to someone who worked in the Clinton White House during the Senate trial.
SCIUTTO: Plus, the Trump administration has insisted that Qasem Soleimani's death was justified, pointing to a specific and imminent threat against Americans in the Middle East. But what exactly was that threat? It's not clear, and when asked today, when pressed on it, there was no specificity.
HARLOW: So in the week since the House voted to impeach the President, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said repeatedly he wants his chamber to model this impeachment trial on the one that we saw for President Clinton back in the late 90s.
It's a point that has been echoed by other Republicans. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We've said let's handle this case, just like we did with President Clinton. Fair is fair.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): We would use the Clinton model.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Using the Clinton impeachment model.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Clinton proceedings is a good template. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Follow the precedent that was set during the
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): The approach to the Clinton trial worked well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do have the 51 votes necessary to move forward using the Clinton model for impeachment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: So what exactly was the Clinton model? What can we learn from it as the Senate is about to begin its trial potentially, this week.
Joe Lockhart is with me, former White House Press Secretary for President Bill Clinton. Good to have you here.
The issue with that argument is it's not apples to apples, right?
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
HARLOW: The witnesses and Clinton were already deposed. There's not a Ken Starr here.
LOCKHART: Yes, where it breaks down and where they don't -- what they don't want to say, you have to finish the sentence is that everyone involved in the Clinton affair had been in the grand jury, every document had been produced.
All of this was in a 2,500-page report by the independent counsel. So the facts were known to everyone. It was just a political question of whether it was worth removing the President from office for that.
This is very different. This is -- we don't -- we haven't seen the documents. The senators haven't heard from the witnesses. So on the face of it, it is not a fair comparison.
HARLOW: There has been some reporting that CNN has it that at least some Republicans in both chambers want to see this happen quickly, but want the President to be able to stand up there during the State of the Union on February 4th and say I've been acquitted, essentially.
Let's compare that potential, and how what we know the President could inform us about what he might say if he is acquitted with the contrition we heard from President Clinton after misleading, lying to the American people, right, and perjuring himself, but here's what he said back then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to say again, to the American people, how profoundly sorry I am for what I said and did to trigger these events and the great burden they have imposed on the Congress and on the American people. (END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Talk about that moment, because you were the guy behind his ear.
LOCKHART: Yes. I mean, the President had apologized multiple times. But that was probably the most profound moment because he talked about putting a burden on the country.
He recognized that even though he'd been acquitted politically, he had not only made a mistake, but he put the country through something.
Very, very different than how Trump has handled it up until now. We've never seen contrition from President Trump. You know, it would go a long way, I think with the American public, but, you know, everyone who knows him says don't hold your breath.
HARLOW: Do you believe that Speaker Pelosi overplayed her cards here, holding on to these Articles for as long as she has?
LOCKHART: No, I actually think she had a very weak hand and played it very well. And what she has done here is she has moved this away from a question of will he be convicted or acquitted to a question of whether this will be a fair trial or whether this will be a cover up as she said.
HARLOW: You hear other Democrats echoing that language today.
LOCKHART: Well, I mean, the bottom line is, it is a cover up. If they go through this process and documents aren't produced and witnesses aren't produced, then it's by definition a cover up.
HARLOW: But look, and I heard the same sentiment from Senator Van Hollen. But I would just say the pushback on that is the House could have done this. The House could have waited. The House could have pushed and pushed the courts for these witnesses and for these documents, and didn't.
LOCKHART: And because they didn't want this, the President could have run the clock out. The big difference in the Senate is, you have the Chief Justice sitting there, who if he in his wisdom decides he wants to compel this, he has the ability to and all you need is for Republicans to vote for.
So it is much --
HARLOW: Or three and he is the tiebreaker.
LOCKHART: Exactly, yes. Well, he can -- again that the Senate rules are a little untested here. But I think he can say from his position as the presiding judge that this is what we have to do here.
HARLOW: Before you go, quickly, let me ask you about some new CNN polling. This is specifically Iowa polling with the Des Moines Register ahead of our debate there on Tuesday night. But among Independents, when they are asked about removing the
President from office, there's a big divide, 51 percent of those Independents in the key state of Iowa, do not think the President should be removed. Only 34 do.
I know every Democrat says this isn't about politics, but it's a political -- I mean, this is political.
HARLOW: What do those numbers tell you?
LOCKHART: I assure you, you cannot separate from this -- this is a politician being tried by other politicians. It would be silly to think there aren't politics involved.
I think there's a sense out there among Independents and particularly -- and very much Republicans that the President did something wrong, but he shouldn't lose his job over it.
So what -- and this goes to Pelosi's strategy here. What it now is about, I think, for most of the public is, is he going to be held accountable? You know, being impeached by the House is a big deal.
Only three Presidents have been impeached. There is a stigma as the President tweeted today that comes with it.
LOCKHART: For a lot of people, I think that's enough. But I think the Republicans can overplay their hand in the Senate by doing a cover up or a sham trial, and those same Independents while they may not think the President should be removed are not likely to go out and vote for the President and vote for Republicans.
Joni Ernst does not want this to look like a show trial, because she has got to face these Independents.
HARLOW: Well, she would have a vote then.
HARLOW: For the witnesses if it gets to that. Thank you, Joe.
LOCKHART: Sure. Thank you.
HARLOW: Good to have you. As always. Jim?
SCIUTTO: Yes, a man with experience of impeachment. Still to come, President Trump tweeting a message of support to Iran in Farsi, this to anti-government protesters in Tehran. What impact might those words have after a week that saw the U.S. and Iran on the very brink of war?
[21:30:19] SCIUTTO: The timing of the impending impeachment trial is on a
collision course it appears with the Iowa caucuses, which is just 22 days away.
Just a reminder of how much this trial could affect the 2020 race. There are five sitting senators who are also running for President who will have to appear as jurors in that trial. And as they do, that means can't campaign during campaign crunch time.
And you can bet impeachment will continue to be a topic at the presidential debates including the next one. That takes place right here on CNN on Tuesday.
With me now from Des Moines, Iowa, CNN's Senior Washington Correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.
Jeff, what more are you hearing from voters there? I know you've been speaking to them, asking to them about impeachment. Do they care? What does this make them think about the candidates? Is it going to affect their decision?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jim, there's no question that voters care about impeachment. I mean, most of the voters we are talking to this weekend are attending Democratic campaign events.
So of course they are tuned in to impeachment, but it's really striking the difference in which impeachment is discussed here out in America versus in Washington.
Presidential candidates don't dwell on it at all. They may mention at a time or two. I just spent some time at a Pete Buttigieg rally. He just wrapped up just a short time ago, talking to several voters and they said, look, we really are focused on November of 2020, much less on impeachment.
But some fascinating new numbers out of our new Iowa poll about what voters are saying about that, Jim. Let's take a look at some of these numbers really to break it down.
And in terms of the overall sense, Republicans and Democrats, 43 percent approve of the impeachment; 45 percent disapprove. Of course, when you look at Democrats, 87 percent approve of the proceedings, eight disapprove. Republicans about the opposite, not surprising.
But look at those Independents, 39 percent approve, 48 percent disapprove. So it's not clear at all that impeachment is a winning issue politically speaking for voters.
But Jim, one other key number from our poll out just this morning here in Iowa, 34 percent, only 34 percent said they do want to see President Trump reelected. That is a pretty astonishing number given the fact that President Trump carried this state by nearly 10 points, about 9.5 points or so in 2016.
SCIUTTO: Wow. ZELENY: So impeachment is front and center, but as these voters are
looking at Democratic candidates, it's not all they're essentially dwelling on.
HARLOW: That is really telling especially given you know how much he took Iowa by last time around. You're right, Jeff.
What can we expect from the candidates when it comes to this topic of impeachment? I mean, because they often say to us, this is not what people talk to us about on the trail at all. So how are they going to handle it on the debate stage?
ZELENY: We'll see how much it comes up on the debate stage. I mean, the reality is, you know, a lot of senators who are involved in the impeachment, I've talked to several of them, they are not exactly sure how this is going to unfold.
Most people, you know, know the outcome, or we think we know the outcome, just given the partisan makeup of the Senate, but we don't know if there will be witnesses for sure.
So every one of these candidates, of course, you know, is siding with the Democratic point of view. There should be more witnesses. There should be a fuller proceeding.
But in terms of how it's actually going to come up on Tuesday night's debate stage, there are many other issues that are still distinguishing them.
Most of the Democratic presidential candidates agree or in unison on impeachment. They're much more divided on foreign policy, domestic issues like Medicare for All, et cetera.
How it impacts them most, the senators aren't going to be able to be campaigning here. If you're an Amy Klobuchar, you want to be sort of pressing your case to voters. You're going to be back in Washington. It helps Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden. They will be campaigning during the impeachment proceedings.
HARLOW: Yes. Jeff Zeleny. Thanks for being there. Braving the cold. Appreciate it.
Be sure to watch Tuesday night, the final Democratic presidential debate before the Iowa caucuses. CNN and the Des Moines Register host six candidates. It all begins 9:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.
And stay with us. Much more head in this CNN Special Report, "The Impeachment of Donald J Trump."
SCIUTTO: You're watching a CNN Special, "The Impeachment of Donald J. Trump" and the impeachment process looms while very significant events are happening overseas. Once again today, the Trump administration declining to provide a
specific, definitive reason for sending a drone to kill Iranian General, Qasem Soleimani. Here's Defense Secretary on Sunday morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Probably and could have been. That is -- that sounds more like an assessment than a specific tangible threat with a decisive piece of Intelligence.
MIKE ESPER, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, the President didn't say it was a tangible -- he didn't cite a specific piece of evidence. What he said is he probably, he believed --
QUESTION: Are you saying that there wasn't one?
ESPER: I didn't see one with regard to four embassies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: That's very different from how the administration described the Intelligence leading up to this strike.
Meanwhile, in Iran today, furious protests, Iranians demanding the Supreme Leader step down after the government admitted finally to shooting down a civilian airliner. Dozens of Iranians were on board. Many Canadians as well.
President Trump today, repeating his support for the protesters warning the Iranian government not to kill them. Let me bring in our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson.
Nic, you know this region. Tell us what these scenes in Tehran mean because we did see protests in support of Soleimani after he died, and now we're seeing folks targeting the regime.
I've been there many times. It's not a monolithic country. How significant is it though to see people out there challenging, openly challenging the Supreme Leader now?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Jim, it is very significant. And one of the reasons that's motivating people right now is quite simply this. That the best and the brightest of the country were aboard that aircraft.
These were young Iranians, the majority of people on board that aircraft were young Iranians making, you know, making new lives for themselves out in the rest of the world.
They were from the middle class. This has absolutely incensed the middle class that the leadership didn't take the opportunity to ground civilian airliners.
And what it tells protesters and what's motivating them is what they've always feared and always thought that the leadership does not respect them or care for them.
We're now into the second day of protests.
ROBERTSON (voice over): Chants of "Death to the Supreme Leader," angry blowback for the downing of Ukrainian passenger jet gathering momentum in Tehran.
Thousands protesting just hours after Iranian officials finally admitted mistakenly shooting it down.
"I will kill who killed my brother," someone shouts. The vast majority aboard Flight PS 752 were Iranian -- the best and the brightest.
Their death a spark igniting tinder dry middle class frustrations. Police toss teargas scatter the crowds. The anger quite simply, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei doesn't care about his people. He didn't pause civilian flights while attacking U.S. bases in Iraq.
The crowd telling him he no longer has a mandate to lead. Anger, too at powerful IRGC. Another big slap down for Iran's leadership.
Protesters avoid walking on American and Israeli flags painted on the ground some years ago by the regime out of disrespect.
Iran's leadership now facing growing external as well as internal pressure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: Iran's admission that its own Armed Forces unintentionally shot down Flight 752 is an important step towards providing answers for families.
But I noted that many more steps must be taken.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON (voice over): Demands the airplane investigation be international, open and transparent.
President Trump heaping on his pressure, too, tweeting, the world is watching the protests. "There cannot be another massacre of peaceful protesters" that's happened last year.
And in the midst of it all, the British Ambassador arrested at the protest held for several hours. The British Foreign Secretary calling it a flagrant violation of international law.
Fallout over the downed play now becoming a perfect storm for Iran in the global spotlight, with international investigators poking around as domestic protests grow, and sanctions increase, and Iran's recourse, the violence muted by fear of escalation, and still no real diplomatic off ramp in sight.
SCIUTTO: So, Nic, as the President referenced there were large protests last year to which the regime there responded with violence. Hundreds killed, estimates as high as 1,500 killed.
When you look at these protests now, how significant and what kind of response do we expect from the Iranian government?
ROBERTSON: So far, teargas being used by the police. Police also fired shots in the crowd tonight. This is the -- here in the Middle East, it is sort of second night now where protests have taken place.
And what we've seen is a spreading from Tehran to other cities in the country. So this is taking hold. But when protests take hold, as we saw last year, the regime turns to violence and force, and that does seem to be what they're doing at the moment, perhaps slightly calibrated.
Interesting, however, that the Commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has apologized to the nation, deep apologies, saying that he is deeply ashamed for what's happened here. You are getting some of the hardline newspapers even calling for accountability within the IRGC.
I think the message for the leadership here that they want the people to understand is there is some contrition here, but the reality is, Iran knows its credibility on the world stage is zero.
That it had no other option other than to face up to downing this aircraft and that it's real existential challenge in the region it believes in many of the population support the regime that the United States is that threat and therefore they must focus on that.
ROBERTSON: So they will put down these protests or do their best to do that, try to win international support and take on the United States and the region, i.e. continue what they've been doing for several decades.
SCIUTTO: Well, it's interesting, some of their own people, identifying the government as the bigger threat in effect. Nic Robertson, great to have you on the story.
HARLOW: All right, ahead for us, as Nancy Pelosi gets ready to transfer those Articles of Impeachment to the Senate perhaps this week, there's a surprising name offering her some advice. That would be George Conway, the husband of the President's counselor, Kellyanne Conway. Next.
HARLOW: New reporting tonight on what the White House is doing to prepare for the Senate impeachment trial. A source tells CNN the quote, "The meat on the bones of the
President's defense will come in the form of a trial brief. It will address the key legal arguments of the President's defense team and legal issues at stake."
SCIUTTO: Let's speak now to CNN Legal Commentator, James Schultz. He is former senior associate White House counsel for President Trump and CNN Legal Analyst, Jennifer Rodgers. She's a former Federal prosecutor. Thanks to both of you for taking time out of your Sunday night.
James Schultz, let me get with you. You hear from almost uniformly from Republican senators now that they want to follow the Clinton model for this impeachment. Is that something of a thin argument given that if you had followed the Clinton model, you know, witnesses and evidence, e-mails, documents would not have been blocked during the House impeachment or that wasn't contained in a very fulsome report, the Starr report.
And by the way, if you follow the Clinton model, you're going to have witnesses in the Senate trial. There were depositions in the Senate trial. Is that -- is that a fair argument or a thin one?
JAMES SCHULTZ, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: Well, here's the thing. And Poppy made the point earlier when -- on the prior segment. You know, the argument here is that the Democrats just led a sham investigation, if you will, because they actually just -- an unthorough investigation, if you will.
SCIUTTO: Well, because they were blocking the White House. All the witnesses all the seniors --
SCHULTZ: Well, it's not some of the -- they have --
SCIUTTO: The administration officials were blocked by the White House.
SCHULTZ: Yes, but admittedly, earlier, everyone talked about the idea that if they were serious about an investigation, and they wanted to proceed forward with investigation, they would have taken that to the courts, tried to get the witnesses in, gone through a process, the same thing that Ken Starr had to do way back when.
SCIUTTO: Republicans didn't have to that in the Clinton impeachment.
SCHULTZ: What do you mean they didn't have to --
SCIUTTO: They didn't have to go to court. The Clinton White House did not block every witness and document.
SCHULTZ: Right because there was a through investigation conducted and not this sham investigation that took place, you know, in the basement of the Capitol.
So, look, I just think -- I think the argument here is that the investigation was not thorough, and the reason why it wasn't thorough, the reason why they gave that it wasn't thorough, was because this was so urgent and they had to move now. Well, now you see a delay, more delay --
SCIUTTO: That's a different point. I was asking about the blocking of the -- I was asking about the blocking of the witnesses and testimony.
SCHULTZ: And even tonight, she is talking about -- it's the same -- it all feeds into the same thing, though. It all feeds into the same issue.
Because the blocking of the testimony if that's what you want to call it, or the House's failure to avail themselves of the rights that they have in the courts in order to get the testimony. I think that's the more appropriate way to couch it is very, very important to this issue.
So the fact that they're unprepared going into this, and hey, we should do it different than Clinton, because we didn't conduct a thorough investigation. It's just nonsense.
HARLOW: Jennifer, we're told that the President is not expected to appear in his own Senate trial. When you look at history, you look at Andrew Johnson not appearing in his Senate trial, Bill Clinton seen on videotape, right, from that grand jury testimony.
I mean, it's hard to bet that the President wouldn't be part of the trial in some way, at least at a minimum, via Twitter, weighing in in the middle of the proceedings.
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I'm willing to bet that he will weigh in on Twitter in the middle of the proceedings, but he certainly won't be a witness under oath.
You know, he has told us for years now that he wanted to testify. He wanted to speak to Mueller. You know, he wants to testify in the impeachment proceedings. He does not. And his lawyers will never let him because he would make a devastating witness against himself.
So he's never going to appear. But I agree with you, Poppy. There's no way in the world that he will be quiet and he hasn't been quiet yet.
I mean, every day, he has been on Twitter leading up to you know, today saying that this is all a hoax and they should move on.
So I think we'll hear from him. We just won't hear from him in any way that he will be under oath and therefore chargeable by it which is smart on his part, honestly.
SCIUTTO: Jennifer, you cover the courts. You've appeared as a prosecutor. John Roberts, the Chief Justice is going to preside over this and might be in a position to make some judgments, particularly if there's a tie vote among senators on this.
How do you see his hand playing in the Senate trial? What kind of role will he try to strike? RODGERS: It's really -- it's not entirely clear. And he is in
somewhat of a tough spot. You know, it's not a court, an Article 3 court, so he doesn't have the same kind of power.
We don't yet know whether the rules of evidence as written will apply. So it's not entirely clear what role he will play. And I think, because of his strong interest in the institutional credibility of the Supreme Court, he won't want everything to be on him.
He won't want to be casting any judgments that kind of push things in one direction or the other. So I think he is going to be walking a fine line.
I do hope that he will uphold the order of the proceedings. I do hope that he will exclude completely irrelevant evidence if you want to call it that or arguments like conspiracy theories of the sort that we saw peddled in the House hearings.
RODGERS: But as for making judgments that actually push things in one direction in the other, like demanding witnesses and requiring turning over documents, I think he is going to try not to do that and hope that the parties can reach agreement on that without his involvement.
HARLOW: All right, guys, we've got to leave it there. Sorry. We're out of time. We'll have you back a lot, especially in the next few weeks.
Jim, thank you. Jennifer, good to have you.
SCHULTZ: Thank you.
HARLOW: Thanks to all of you for joining us for our special coverage tonight. We'll see you right back here in the morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.
SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. CNN's Special Report, "All The President's Lies" will start after a quick break.