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Senators Sworn in for Impeachment Trial of Trump; Restrictions on Senators During Senate Trial. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired January 16, 2020 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE: The majority leader is recognized.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Any Senator who is not in the Senate chamber at the time the oath was administered to the other Senators will make that fact known to the chair so that the oath may be administered as soon as possible.
ROBERTS: The sergeant-at-arms will make the proclamation.
MICHAEL STENGER, SENATE SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye. All persons are commanded to keep silent on pain of imprisonment while the House of Representatives is exhibiting to the Senate of the United States articles of impeachment against Donald John Trump, president of the United States.
ROBERTS: The majority leader is recognized.
MCCONNELL: Mr. Chief Justice, for the information of the Senate, on my behalf and that of the distinguished Democratic leader, I'm about to propound several unanimous consent requests that will assist with the organization of the next steps of these proceedings. They deal largely with necessary paperwork incident to the trial.
Therefore, I ask you now to consent that the summons be issued in the usual form president provided that the president may have until January 18, 2020, to file his answer with the secretary of the Senate, which will be spread upon the journal.
And the House of Representatives have until 12 noon on Monday January 20, 2020, to file its replication with the secretary of the Senate.
Finally, I ask consent that the secretary of the Senate be authorized to prep as a Senate document those documents filed by the parties together to be available to all parties.
ROBERTS: Is there objection?
Without objection, so ordered.
MCCONNELL: I ask unanimous consent if the House of Representatives wishes to file a trial brief it be filed with the secretary of the Senate by 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, January the 18th, 2020.
Further, that if the president wishes to file a trial brief it be filed with the secretary of the Senate by 12:00 noon on Monday January 20, 2020.
Further, that if the House wishes to file a rebuttal brief, it be filed with the secretary of the Senate by 12:00 noon on Tuesday January 21, 2020.
Finally, I ask consent that the secretary of the Senate be authorized to print as a Senate document all documents filed by the parties together to be available for all parties.
ROBERTS: Is there objection?
Without objection so ordered.
MCCONNELL: I ask unanimous consent that, in recognition of the unique requirements raised by the impeachment trial of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, the sergeant-at-arms shall install appropriate equipment and furniture in the Senate chamber during all times that the Senate is sitting for trial with the chief justice of the United States presiding.
The appropriate equipment, furniture, and computer equipment in accordance with the allocations and provisions announced into the desk and ask that they be printed in the record.
ROBERTS: Is there objection?
Without objection, so ordered.
MCCONNELL: I ask unanimous consent that the Senate sitting at the court of impeachment adjourn until Tuesday, January the 21st, 2020, at 1:00 p.m.
ROBERTS: Is there objection?
Without objection, so ordered.
The Senate sitting as court of impeachment is adjourned until Tuesday, January 21st at 1:00 p.m.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: So there you have it, the United States Senate adjourned until 1:00 p.m.
We thought, originally, Jake, it was going to be 12:00 noon when they would formally begin the arguments, the prosecution, the House managers making their arguments, but now it's 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, when the formal trial will begin. All 100 Senators have now been sworn in.
The chief justice of the United States, he's presiding. And they're going to have basically over the weekend to get ready for this third ever trial of a president of the United States who's already been impeached by the House of Representatives. [14:35:07]
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We should just note, take another moment just to note the gravity of the situation and how serious this is. It's possible that we'll never see another impeachment or impeachment trial of a president ever again. Some fear that it actually will become the norm.
But it's very rare. It's only happened three times. President Trump is the 45th president of the United States, and it's only happened three times.
Andrew Johnson in 1868, Bill Clinton in 1999. And today, even though certainly there have been ugly periods in American politics, this is about as tough as it gets.
One body of the House of Representatives saying this individual, the president of the United States, we no longer think he should be president of the United States. And now the Senate gets to make the ultimate decision.
Joining us now is CNN presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley.
Professor Brinkley, put this in historic terms for us. This is a very significant day.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, yes, Jake. And, yes, I think you used the right word, the gravity of the day.
I've been watching, and you can feel how solemn it is. The fact that as you guys recently said, it's a time to kind of show up and shut up. And so we've been able to watch the choreography going on today, and it's been impressive. And it reminds you that we are in for quite a ride coming up.
When this was happening in Congress, the impeachment of Donald Trump, it made sense to be talking about Alexander Hamilton and the Federalist papers and Andrew Johnson.
But I think right now we need to home in for at least the weekend to think about William Jefferson Clinton. The fact that Bill Clinton delivered that famous State of the Union address like he did in the middle of impeachment and was able to give him a bounce. But Clinton did it in a magnanimous way.
Donald Trump will be giving a State of the Union on February 4th that's almost an act of war against Democrats, and also, as you've been commenting, William Rehnquist did an above average, maybe even an excellent job presiding over the Bill Clinton trial.
So I believe Roberts is a student of Rehnquist, and we're going to see him make sure that this doesn't get showy or weird, that the Republicans respect Roberts and the Democrats do too.
But the big difference is about the Starr report, and you know, with the Starr report did a lot of the homework for the Clinton impeachment trial. There were a few witnesses on video, as has been mentioned on your show.
But by and large, you know, there was never going to be a Monica Lewinsky showing up. Clinton was already sort of -- we already knew the outcome.
In this case, we pretty much know there are not going to be 67 Senators that are going to try to, you know, get Trump out of office, but we don't know if four or five Republicans, led by the Mitt Romney gang, are going to demand that we have --
BLITZER: Hold on a second, Doug. Hold on one moment.
I want to hear what Senator Bernie Sanders is saying.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a Constitution. We have a rule of law. It is absolutely imperative that no president can be above the law no matter who you are. And if we allow this president to be above the law, it sets a terrible precedent for future presidents and for the future of this country.
So I would hope that Senator McConnell allows us to have a full and fair trial. When you have a trial, you hear from witnesses. That's what we do in the United States. And I hope McConnell will allow those witnesses to testify and give us their version of what happened.
But while we go forward with this impeachment trial, I hope the American people understand that we have not forgotten that, in this country, outside of Washington, D.C., today, there are millions of people who are struggling economically, millions of people who cannot afford their prescription drugs or their health care.
And what the Congress of the United States has got to do is chew bubble gum and walk at the same time. We've got to deal with this impeachment trial, but we cannot forget the very serious problems facing the American people.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you concerned about how this will affect your campaign?
BLITZER: I want to make the point that, as we made before. There are four U.S. Senators who are also running for president who have to suspend their campaign, like Bernie Sanders, and sit in the Senate chamber over the next several days.
Doug Brinkley, we interrupted you, but go ahead. You were making an important point.
BRINKLEY: Well, I was just trying to make that comparison, differences between what happened to Bill Clinton and what's happening to Donald Trump here.
Bernie Sanders immediately took the microphone right now, and that's a big difference. We are running a 2020 presidential campaign. And Bill Clinton was at the end of his second term [14:40:10]
And it affected politics in the sense that Bill Clinton got -- once he wore the "I," Al Gore tried to avoid being seen with Bill Clinton a lot. Most scholars feel that was a mistake, that Gore should have wrapped his arms around the Clinton economy.
Impeachment during Clinton it stigmatized the president. We'll have to see whether Donald Trump gets stigmatized to what happens here. Whether in the summer people are going to look at Donald Trump or in the fall as an impeached president running for re-election, or are they going to say this is just a lot of politics as usual.
And my final point would be that I never thought I'd say that I miss Tom Daschle and Trent Lott. They had comedy and civility and were able to kind of work through the Clinton impeachment.
I don't know what we're going to encounter here, but Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer do not seem to be on the same page in any way, shape, and form. And that's because the king daddy battle is for these witnesses. And it's going to be happening quick and fast.
And at all costs, the Democrats need to get to hear from Parnas and Giuliani and the rest and maybe the whistleblower will come and talk in private quarters. Maybe Hunter Biden will show up. We're going to have to see.
I doubt that the Democrats are going to put witnesses like that forward.
TAPPER: They won't put them forward, but it might not be up to them ultimately if there's a ruling on witnesses.
Professor Brinkley, we were discussing earlier in the broadcast, 21 years ago, in one day, the very first objection made by Democratic Senator Tom Harkin. He objected to the idea that the Republican House impeachment managers during the Clinton impeachment referred to the Senate as jurors.
And one of the reasons he objected was because, obviously, they're more than jurors. They get to decide what evidence they see, what evidence they don't see with majority votes.
But beyond that, Harkin's point was this is not just like a jury makes a decision about the fate of one man. This jury or 100 judges, if you will, will decide what standards are acceptable for the behavior of a U.S. president as they did with Bill Clinton.
If ultimately what happens is that President Trump is not removed from office from the Senate trial, which is pretty much what every expects, since it's a tall order to get 67 Senators, what does that mean for future U.S. presidents and their handling of foreign policy and they're asking other countries to look into whatever they want?
BRINKLEY: It means that the country has a president who operates as an outlaw. And you know, we always are trying to compare presidents to each other, but we haven't had an outlaw president before. And that's what you have with Donald Trump.
And incidentally, outlaws in American history get their fans, Billy the Kid and Al Capone. Donald Trump may be in that swirl. He's going to be seen as acting in a demagogic way and acting in a dictatorial way, trying to smash the establishment, diss our intelligence gatherers, operate in a whole new precedent that we couldn't have imagined.
It's very important that Donald Trump was held accountable. He has been, as Nancy Pelosi said, he is wearing the "I" in history. He has been punished.
But I'm afraid, if no witnesses come forward after what we've heard about what transpired in the Ukraine and stalking of an ambassador, and none of this gets heard, I feel it's going to make a lot of people think our democracy is broken and that the American presidency, the executive branch is trying to run shotgun over both the judicial branch and certainly over the legislative branch.
TAPPER: All right, Professor Douglas Brinkley, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
BLITZER: Very important.
Our special coverage will continue. We'll talk about the rules of the Senate trial, what we can all expect.
Much more of our special coverage right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN special coverage, as the Senate prepares for just the third impeachment trial ever of a U.S. president.
And this may be one of the toughest rules Senators must follow during the trial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye. All persons are commanded to keep silent on pain of imprisonment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Keep silent, that's tough. And that's, of course, a clip from the 1999 impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton.
What other restrictions will hang over the 100 Senators during the proceeding? Have the rules been updated in the last 21 years?
Let's bring in CNN's Tom Foreman.
Tom, so they have to be quiet. What other rules must Senators follow?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the rules can change with the majority vote, so there could be changes in rules all along.
Here's where we're starting. There's a ban on smartphones and electronics. They can't bring them into the chamber. They have to leave them on the way in.
Does that mean they have no access to this? Probably not because pages can still come and go. So if the president's tweeting or they want a proxy to tweet for them, they could probably do it. That can't have it at their own desk.
They're required to sit at their desks and no talking to neighbors. That may sound like something that works in second grade.
You know why it's a problem here? Remember, Senators choose their desks like choosing neighborhoods. They want to be next to other power players for different reasons. This is basically saying you cannot take advantage of that. You can't chatter with the people next to you about the evidence or anything else.
There's a ban on reading materials not associated with the testimony. Not associated with the testimony is the real loophole here because, again, if you had a page bring in a bunch of tweets from the president, you could say that has nothing to do with the testimony or everything to do with the testimony. So that's another thing they can't do.
And they must be in attendance at all times. They have to sit there and always be at their desk as this goes forward.
The real key here, though, I must say to all of you, really is the word "guidelines" up here, because I have the feeling that all of these rules by all of the Senators at some point may very well be broken simply because, remember, these are a lot of people who are in a position where they usually tell people what to do more than be told.
And they're sitting over a president who doesn't seem to think anyone can tell him what to do.
It's hard to imagine they're all going to read these and say this is what I will do. But this is the starting area. And it's a difficult thing for a lot of these Senators.
BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thank you very much.
Jeffrey Toobin is joining us.
Jeffrey, we learned that the trial actually will begin 1:00 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday.
We know that the House managers, they'll present the case why the president of the United States should be removed from office. That will take a few days. Then the president's attorneys, they'll come forward and say why the president shouldn't be removed from office. Only then will the Senate decide on witnesses.
Is that right?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: That's right, but there's still so much we don't know about how the rules will work.
Let me just give you one, Parnas, associate of Rudy Giuliani, gave that sensational interview to Anderson Cooper. He has relevant evidence.
Even if he doesn't testify, even if he is not allowed to testify, will the Democrats be allowed to refer to him during their testimony -- during the House managers' presentation?
Will they be able to introduce some of the text messages, the handwritten note, which talks about how they need to persuade Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, to announce an investigation of the Bidens? You know, what are the rules of evidence.
This is not a trial in a strict criminal sense where there are specific rules of evidence. How much the House managers are allowed to talk about things that are not in the record of the impeachment process in the House of Representatives still an open question.
And you know, that -- how that presentation will work with the seven House Democratic managers, you know, will be fascinating to watch because we don't know how they will divide up the responsibilities and how -- and how much they will be able to present.
TAPPER: Jeffrey, Republicans have been saying, including President Trump, that any new witnesses, any new evidence, this is business that should have been taken care of by the House impeachment managers. It's not the Senate's job to do the House's job for them.
What's your -- what are your thoughts on that?
TOOBIN: That's just a completely made up argument. There's nothing in the Constitution that says all the evidence has to come out in the -- in the House of Representatives.
In fact, the Senate has an even more solemn responsibility than the House of Representatives because it's the Senate deciding whether the president stays or goes. Why would the Senate ever deny itself relevant evidence to that question? There's no prohibition on that, as we've been discussing.
There were three witnesses who testified in the Clinton trial in the Senate. Historically, the Senate has felt free to look into the evidence again.
It strikes me as a complete, you know, make-weight inventive argument designed to shut down the process. But it is certainly not anything mandated by the Constitution or history.
TAPPER: All right, Jeffrey Toobin, thanks so much.
BLITZER: And, everyone, stand by.
The -- as the impeachment trial is set to get underway on Tuesday, what role will this new evidence play?
The indicted Rudy Giuliani associate directly implicating the president in the Ukraine scheme, Lev Parnas we're talking about. You're going to hear his accusations just ahead.
BLITZER: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer, in Washington, along with Jake Tapper.
You're watching CNN's live special coverage of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Thanks very much for joining us.
Only moments ago, on the floor of the United States Senate, two events played out that will forever change the Trump presidency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Senators, I attend the Senate in conformity with your notice for the purpose of joining with you for the trial of the president of the United States.
I am now prepared to take the oath.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA): Will you place your left hand on the Bible and raise your right hand?
Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws so help you God?