Return to Transcripts main page


The Impeachment Of Donald J. Trump; Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) Is Interviewed About Whether Senators Would Be Allowed To Consider New Witness Testimony; House Impeachment Managers Meet To Discuss Strategy; Schiff: Intel Community Withholding Docs Relevant To Trial; Senate Trial Disrupts Campaign Trail For 2020 Dems. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 19, 2020 - 20:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: A very good Sunday evening to you. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington and welcome to a CNN Special Report: The Impeachment Trial of Donald J. Trump.

In less than 48 hours, the U.S. Senate will gavel in to hear arguments for and against removing the 45th president from office. A Senate trial has only happened twice before in this country's history. And most indications are that the final result will be the same as with Bill Clinton in 1999 and Andrew Johnson back in 1868. The president's acquittal on the charges that led to his impeachment in the House. But one lesson of this story is that nothing is ironclad. Be prepared to be surprised.

There's plenty to get to in the next two hours. To the White House in a moment, but first these are the men and women who will square off in the Senate chambers when this trial begins. The seven so-called House managers. They are, in effect, the prosecution. They are on the left. On the right side, President Trump's legal team handpicked, of course, by the president himself.

We are told that Mr. Trump had one particular criteria for choosing the members of his legal team, that they are able to perform well on television. One of them is Alan Dershowitz. He's a late add and sources say a reluctant member of the team, but was persuaded, we are told, by the president over the course of several weeks. Dershowitz was on CNN this morning explaining exactly how he sees his role.


ALAN DERSHOWITZ, ATTORNEY ON PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LEGAL TEAM: I am not involved in the day-to-day issues. I was asked by the president's defense team to become of counsel on the specific issue of the criteria, the constitutional criteria for impeachment. That's a very important issue. I will be making that argument as an advocate, not as an expert witness.

I will be advocating against impeachment of this president based on the constitutional criteria in the Constitution.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCIUTTO: Something of a qualified description of his role there.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins, she is at the White House.

Kaitlan, let's get to Dershowitz in a moment. But first let's get to the White House response yesterday to the case in effect from House Democrats, the seven-page brief. What did it say exactly?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Theirs is a lot shorter than the one you saw from Democrats yesterday. But in it, the White House is making this argument that we were expecting them to make, saying that they believe this is as dangerous and, quote, unlawful effort to remove the president from office, to nullify his election victory.

And in this argument that they're making about what Democrats are doing, they say, they're not denying the core of the Democrats' case against them, about this military aid, the withhold of it, withholding that White House meeting for the Ukrainians and even, of course, that demand for the investigations into the Bidens. But what they are denying in this seven-page memo written by the president's top two attorneys that you're going to see on the Senate floor this week, they are saying that what he did is not worthy of impeachment.

Now, they go on to lay out this argument, talking about the Democrats here, and it's really notable because it's a very different argument than what you're seeing in the Democrats' filing yesterday that was about 40 pages long with an additional 60-page list of what they say are their facts against the president.

Well, they're laying out in detail exactly what you saw in those House hearings. The White House is just generally in this six-page or seven- page argument rejecting what the Democrats are saying. Now, this is notable also given what Alan Dershowitz is saying. This is one of the president's four attorneys that he personally wanted on his team. And you're seeing Alan Dershowitz starting on Friday when we first reported that they were going to be joining the team, of course along with Ken Starr and Robert Ray.

Alan Dershowitz is trying to distance himself from this, saying that that memo that came out, that legal briefing, saying he did not sign off on it and didn't even see it before it was filed, which was really notable given the fact that he is expected to be one of the attorneys presenting on the president's behalf on the Senate floor this week.

Now, yesterday was essentially just a taste of what's to come. You are going to see that fight play out this week, but we're expecting to get a lengthier more detailed legal briefing from the White House tomorrow. That's the deadline for them to file it, laying out exactly how they are going to argue against the president's impeachment this week.

SCIUTTO: Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thanks very much.

Let's go to Capitol Hill now. CNN's Athena Jones is there. Here it is after 8:00 on a Sunday night. But those House impeachment managers, in effect the prosecution team, they're still meeting as far as we know.

What are you hearing about their conversations now, preparing to lay out their case?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jim. Well, we've seen them coming and going from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office. No one has seen Speaker Pelosi so we just assumed they've been using that office as a convenient location. And we saw folks like House Intelligence chairman Adam Schiff, others, Jason Crow, Sylvia Garcia, begin to convene there shortly after noon. And we saw some of the lawyers that are working for the Democratic side. Daniel Goldman and others. Norm Eisen and Barry Burke were seen coming in and out with binders and coffee and bags of refreshment.

The bottom line here is that this has been a multi-hours-long process of preparation. Some of my colleagues were able to ask a few questions of Chairman Schiff and he didn't say much, except to say that we're making our preparations, they're going fine. He was pressed on this idea that's been emerging on the Republican side here when it comes to the rules of whether or not the House Democratic -- House impeachment managers, the people who are prosecuting the case against the president, will they just have two days, 12-hour sessions in order to make their case instead of stretching it over several days?


That of course would present some challenges, 12-hour sessions in the Senate. Adam Schiff wouldn't really comment on that. But it makes it very clear that one of the big questions that these impeachment managers are concerned about and worried about while they make these preparations is that they're doing this kind of in the dark. There is a lack of transparency that they argue coming from Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell because they have no idea still what the rules of this trial are going to be.

That's going to be one of the first things that's debated on Tuesday. But they just don't know when they'll find out those rules. And so they're kind of working blind in that situation -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Mitch McConnell is giving Nancy Pelosi a taste of her own medicine here, of course waiting to release those rules as she waited to hand over the articles.

Athena Jones, on the hill, thanks very much.

I'm joined now by a team of experts, reporters. We have Pamela Brown here, covers the White House, David Gergen of course worked with a number of presidents, just four, by my count. Carrie Cordero, CNN legal analyst, former federal prosecutor Gene Rossi, both with enormous legal experience here.

David, if I could go to you first. This is a remarkable moment in our country's history no matter which side of the aisle you're on. Do we know the outcome of this trial?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think pretty much so. Well, we know the legal outcome. What we don't know is the political outcome, and they're not the same. You know, and we know he's going to be acquitted before this is over. It would take -- we didn't see anybody on the House side, Republicans crack. Nobody went over to persuade it. In order to find and convict Donald Trump, 40 percent of the Republican caucus would have to change positions.

There is just no way in hell that's going to happen. However, it's still -- tomorrow will be one year to the day when the next president is sworn in. This could be the most important event between here and Election Day in determining who takes that oath on January 20th of next year.

SCIUTTO: And we'll know how voters view that in some 10 months. You cover, of course, the White House. Pamela Brown. Do we know what the rules of this trial are going to be at this point? You know, especially on the crucial question of witnesses.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Of witnesses, exactly. And as Athena laid out there, look, a lot of us are still in the dark, including the House managers who were trying to prepare tonight for this trial starting on Tuesday. And one of the most contentious issues and the big question mark remains witnesses. Democrats are trying to get one more elusive vote.

It appears that they have three Republicans on board, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Mitt Romney. They need one more vote to be able to commandeer the Senate floor and have the vote for the witnesses. Mitt Romney doesn't want that to happen. He has made it clear. He wants a quick acquittal. He doesn't want debate on the floor.

Democrat argue that look, a lot has changed since they held the hearings in the House. You have John Bolton who has come forward, the national security adviser with firsthand knowledge of Ukraine saying that he would be willing to testify during the Senate trial. Lev Parnas has been coming out doing interviews. He is the Giuliani associate. They've been releasing documents.

And they say, look, that Donald Trump has blocked their efforts, the Democrats' efforts to call certain witnesses like Mulvaney and others, and get documents, and so they want to be able to do it during the Senate trial. It doesn't appear it's going to happen.

GERGEN: Did you say Mitt Romney is not -- is against calling witnesses?

BROWN: No, that he appears to be for it. Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Mitt Romney appear to be -- are signaling they're for additional witnesses.

GERGEN: Those -- yes, those three, plus Lamar Alexander of Tennessee have been meeting together. Right?

SCIUTTO: And others, we've heard. We had Senator John Barrasso on our program early in the week. Another Republican who said he's at least open to question witnesses, although he mentioned, he qualified it by saying on both sides, right, you know? BROWN: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Provided perhaps we can call, you know, a Joe Biden or a Hunter Biden.

Gene Rossi and Carrie, I want to get your view as well. The president's defense is political in nature. You know, this is an attempt to overturn the 2016 election. But from a legal standpoint, when you look at the president's defense response to the House managers in effect, what is the strongest legal point in defense of the president?

GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: The best point they could make if I were the defense attorney for the president of the United States is unseemly conduct, inappropriate conduct, conduct that a president should not engage in, but it doesn't rise to the level of impeachment. It should be the same argument they made when Bill Clinton was impeached.

I was totally against that impeachment process. What he did was indefensible, but did it rise to a level of an abuse of power, abuse of his office that affected national security and the welfare of this country? Absolutely not. That's the best argument Trump's team could make. And Professor Gergen and I were talking about Ralph Waldo Emerson. Alan Dershowitz in August of '98 was taking the position that he's not taking now in a sense that you don't need a crime to remove a president from office.


GERGEN: Abuse of power. Abuse of power alone will do it.

ROSSI: Exactly. I hope I get the quote right. A foolish consistency is a hobgoblin of little minds.

SCIUTTO: Nicely done. This is all a civics lesson as we're going through this. But -- we have that Alan Dershowitz's sound. Let's play it in effect him then and him now. Have a listen. I want to get your reaction.


ALAN DERSHOWITZ, ATTORNEY ON TRUMP IMPEACHMENT DEFENSE TEAM: Without a crime, there can be no impeachment.

It certainly doesn't have to be a crime. If you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty, you don't need a technical crime.


SCIUTTO: Tell us, Carrie Cordero, what the facts are? You can play a parlor game, right, if you -- the switch in positions between Republicans and Democrats from '98, '99 to today. But constitutionally what's the truth on this question? CARRIE CORDERO, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think Alan

Dershowitz has usually been affiliated with the Democratic side of things so perhaps -- you know, what's interesting about Trump's legal team is there really isn't a conservative constitutional heavy weight that's on it. Ken Starr really to a great degree has been discredited over the years given his work on behalf of Jeffrey Epstein and his tenure at Baylor.

And so there really -- the late addition to this legal team kind of speak to the chaos that surrounds it. And the fact that no real constitutional conservative heavy hitter legal practitioners have been willing to be part of the president's defense team. But I agree with Gene that the most significant argument that the president's team could make is that the conduct doesn't rise up to the impeachable offenses. And of course what we saw --

SCIUTTO: That's a separate argument from what the consideration for senators, is it not? Because is it correct to say that you need a statutory crime? No.


SCIUTTO: I mean, it's up to the Senate to decide what is --


CORDERO: -- have not committed a crime.

ROSSI: Here's what we need to know.

CORDERO: You don't need a crime.


ROSSI: I'm sorry.

CORDERO: No, that's OK.

ROSSI: Here's what you need to know. When they passed the Constitution, we did not have offices of the United States attorney. We had a code, you know, Title 18 USC 201. That's the bribery statute. But you had the concept of bribery. You had the concept of abuse of power. And that's what we have here, and I got -- my handwriting is not the best, but I analyzed the counts, the two counts.

Count one, article one of the impeachment document, it's sort of this global umbrella of abuse of power. Below it is bribery, the federal election crime, and other obstruction of justice.

SCIUTTO: Well, we -- we don't even have to go back to the 18th century, right, for precedent here because the articles prepared for Nixon included abuse of power.

GERGEN: Yes. And for Clinton.

SCIUTTO: And for Clinton as well. GERGEN: There's abuse of power in the articles.

SCIUTTO: So by that simple precedent, does that undermine the core of the Dershowitz defense?



GERGEN: Alan is very inventive, and I'm sure he'll bring some innovative arguments to it but I didn't think it would dispose -- had disposed of the problem. If you go back and look, it's been precedent. Mitch McConnell said all along, I want the Clinton impeachment to serve as a model of how we do this. I just think it's hard to say abuse of power does not belong --

SCIUTTO: Right. It will --

CORDERO: Abuse of power but not only that it just doesn't belong. I mean, I would argue that abuse of power was really the central reason that the articles of impeachment were originally included in the Constitution because especially given in modern times the interpretation from the Justice Department that the president can't be indicted. So if he can't be held accountable for behavior through criminal legal process, then the only remedy for abuse of office is impeachment.

SCIUTTO: Is impeachment. And you go back to the history. They were concerned about creating another king in the presidency. So they explicitly and specifically gave power to the Congress to remove a president who went too far. Sorry, go ahead.

BROWN: Yes. No, I was just going to say it struck me in reading the president's lawyer's answer that came out last night, one of their central arguments was that the president -- that the articles don't show that the president violated the law. So they're pinning a lot on this argument that you have to commit a crime. And Carrie and I were actually talking about this before because there is a lot of debate about that.

And part of that I think is a public messaging, too. If they just put that out there that the president didn't commit a crime. He didn't violate the law. There is the P.R. aspect of it, too, from the president's lawyer's standpoint.

SCIUTTO: Ultimately, right, this is a political question, right? I mean, in that the framers gave elected politicians the right to decide what is impeachable behavior, right? At the end of the day.

GERGEN: Right, they did. And it's fundamental to the idea of checks and balances. And that there has to be some check upon imperial power in the White House. But the interesting thing is the Dershowitz's argument, and we hear this now from several Republicans, you know, we don't want the Congress to have too much power.

[20:15:02] You know, it would be wrong to -- our problem is not the Congress. Our problem is the presidency has gained more and more power over time. And the Congress has become, you know, just a mere shadow of what it once was. I think the real issue is how do we have an effective president, someone who can get things done, but doesn't step over lines and maintain some tradition and some mores and some information traditions that are really important to a society.

SCIUTTO: Well, that's the core, is it not, of the other article, which is obstruction of Congress. Right? Respecting Congress's right to demand witnesses and testimony, Carrie.

CORDERO: Exactly. And that's why -- that's why there are some members who think that it's the obstruction of Congress charge that is actually the one that Congress really needs to focus on and the senators need to focus on in particular. That's not just like a throw away charge. That is a central because that is what sets the president -- the precedent for future congresses and future presidents and whether --

SCIUTTO: Republican and Democrat.

CORDERO: - Republican or Democrat, and that's why it's so critical that senators really think about their oath and think about the historical precedent that they're setting for future Congresses and whether or not presidents will just be able to ignore subpoenas and other requests for --

SCIUTTO: Quick, before we go.

ROSSI: I remember a comment that Patrick Fitzgerald made when Scooter Libby was indicted. Congress is sort of an umpire, political umpire. But when they issue a subpoena and you put -- kick sand in the eyes of Congress and you take steps to interfere with their authority and duty to investigate, and you have taken away the power that Congress was given under the Constitution.

And I think Article II is almost as bad as Article I because the president is saying -- giving his middle finger to Congress saying, I'm not going to comply with any subpoena because I don't have to.


ROSSI: That is the consummate abuse of power.

SCIUTTO: All right, folks. We're going to be witnessing history. Thanks so much. I know we'll have more questions for you coming up.

Next, one of the senators who will sit in judgment of President Trump joins me live. Democrat Tina Smith says she has not made up her mind yet. We're going to get her take on potential witnesses and the president's legal team.

Plus, any moment now we are waiting for Senator Chuck Schumer, of course, the Democrat majority leader in the Senate, to update on the status of the impeachment trial. You are watching CNN's special coverage of THE IMPEACHMENT OF DONALD




SCIUTTO: Welcome back. The news is happening in this trial as we speak. Democratic minority leader, Senator Chuck Schumer, holding a news conference in New York on the status of the impeachment trial. Let's listen in.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): One saw on Thursday, the senators swore to do impartial justice in the impeachment trial of President Trump. In the coming days, Senate Republicans are going to face a choice. Will they take their cues from the White House, as leader McConnell clearly stated, and engage in a cover-up for President Trump? Or will they, in this most sacred of undertakings proscribed by the Constitution, vote for a fair trial, with witnesses and documents that allow all the facts to come out?

The charges are series. Let's make no mistake about it. If a president can interfere and get -- if a president can get a foreign power to interfere in our elections and determine the outcome, that is against the whole essence of what America is all about. The American people should determine who their president and senator and congressmen are, not a foreign power. And if that starts to happen, our democracy is in peril, the fundamental democracy which has blessed this country for over 200 years.

And second, can a president so stonewall that no information about serious charges comes out? Again, that's totally against what the founding fathers stated. It was up to Congress to impeach. It was up to Congress to determine documents. There is no executive privilege here. And, in fact, since the president has talked about everything that's happened, any claim of executive privilege is gone.

The president is afraid of the truth. Most Americans, my guess is even Republicans, know what the truth is and know he's hiding it. We Democrats aim to get the truth. And make no mistake about it, we will force votes on witnesses and documents, and it will be up to four Republicans to side with the Constitution, to side with our democracy, to side with rule of law, and not side in blind obeisance to President Trump and his desire to suppress the truth because, in my judgment, he probably thinks he's guilty.

Today I read the House manager's brief. I was in Washington today and I read the House manager's brief. It was smart, thoughtful, sharp, laid out a compelling case, and reflects the serious nature of the charges. Then I read the president's counsel's response to the summons. It read more like a transcript of one of his campaign rallies, or six pages of atrealDonaldTrump tweets rather than a legal defense.

Instead of a legal document, it seemed like a rant. I hope for the president's sake when their brief is released tomorrow, it's better than that. It's not just screaming and jumping up and down and pounding the table, but it actually answers some questions.

Now, as we know, since the president was impeached -- since the president was impeached in December, additional explosive information came out.


Michael Duffey in an e-mail 90 minutes after the presidential conversation said, hide it and keep it hush-hush. And in a later e- mail, he said that it was from direction from the president to withhold the aid. A "New York Times" story that detailed who were the four people who most knew exactly what happened, why the aid was withheld and who did it, they were the four witnesses we happen to request. And more recently we saw new documents released from Lev Parnas, someone totally around the whole operation who was certain the president knew --

SCIUTTO: Chuck Schumer there, the ranking Democrat, of course, in the Senate, laying out the case for why the Senate trial should consider both new witnesses and new evidence, saying that much has come to light since the House voted to impeach.

Coming up right after a short break, one of his Democratic colleagues, Tina Smith of Minnesota about what she is expecting in this impeachment trial and what she is demanding for the trial to be fair.

Plus, House impeachment managers are arguing that President Trump is a danger to national security if he remains in office. I'm going to speak to the former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, for his view on that claim.



SCIUTTO: We are as a country, 48 hours to the beginning of the impeachment trial of President Trump. But there are still several outstanding questions. One of the biggest, will evidence that has emerged since the House vote, be allowed to be considered? My next guest will serve as one of the jurors. With me now, Senator Tina Smith. She's a Democrat from the state of Minnesota. Senator, thank you for taking the time this Sunday night.

SEN. TINA SMITH (D-MN): Good morning, Jim, I mean, good morning --good evening, Jim. It's so great to be with you.

SCIUTTO: Might as well be morning at this hour on a Sunday. Key question, of course, is, will senators, including yourself, be allowed to consider new witness testimony, hear from witnesses, but also evidence that has emerged since the House vote here. Does -- are there enough GOP votes to vote along with Democrats to call for that new evidence and that new testimony?

SMITH: Well, I think that's really the question. And I think it's striking that it is about 48 hours before the beginning of this trial. And I'm a member of this jury as a United States -- in the United States Senate, and I still have no idea what the rules are. Whatever Mitch McConnell is cooking up, he hasn't shared with any of us. And in fact, I'm reading in Politico what the rumors are, about what the rules might be. So, this is going to be our first --

SCIUTTO: Is that deliberate?

SMITH: I mean, I've got to --

SCIUTTO: Do you think it's deliberate?

SMITH: I've got to believe that it is deliberate. And I think as he likes to say, we should be following the mode of what happened in the Clinton impeachment. But remember, in the Clinton impeachment, Trent Lott, who is the minority leader, worked together with Tom Daschle to come up with a set of rules that the senators at that time could agree on, all 100 of them. And we are very far away from that kind of a collaborative process right now in the United States Senate.

SCIUTTO: Are you concerned that when you hear that from McConnell or other Republicans, that they might intend to cherry-pick features of the Clinton model, for instance, the idea that you had a debate, you heard from both sides before there was a vote on next steps? That they might be satisfied hearing those arguments and saying, hey, you know, we're fine, we've heard all we need to hear?

SMITH: Well, I am concerned about that, and that is why the Democrats will be asking at the very beginning moments of this trial on Tuesday, for a response to the question of why we should have witnesses. I mean, you can't have a fair trial without witnesses. There have been, what, 19 impeachments in the United States senate, and every single one of them has had witnesses.

And it only makes sense that you would take that step. And I would think that my colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle would not be afraid of those facts. In fact, I was watching something that Lindsey Graham said in 1999, which he said that these trials should have the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Well, I agree with the 1999 Lindsey Graham.

SCIUTTO: Your -- one of your Democratic colleagues, Senator Sherrod Brown, he said today, in his words, it would be fine if Senate Republicans requested a witness such as Hunter Biden, almost in exchange for House Democrats' request for witnesses such as John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, et cetera. Would you be fine with that as well?

SMITH: Well, my question is, what do these witnesses have to bring, in terms of firsthand knowledge and experience and understanding of the questions that we are grappling with in this impeachment trial. You know, I don't see what Hunter Biden brings to that, and I think we ought to be focused on witnesses that can help us clarify what happened. And I would think that those would be the witnesses that the president would want to bring forward. These would presumably be witnesses that would be in a position to exonerate him if everything that he has done was so perfect.

SCIUTTO: As you know, the White House blocked many witnesses from testifying before the House during its consideration of impeachment, but also blocked documents, e-mails, et cetera.

SMITH: Right.

SCIUTTO: We heard from Adam Schiff today, of course, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is one of the House managers. He said that the Intelligence Community, he says, is beginning to withhold documents from Congress on the issue of Ukraine and saying that they appear to be succumbing to pressure from the administration. Are you concerned that the intelligence community, agencies that should be independent, in effect, on this question are following that same model, in effect, stonewalling Congress?

SMITH: Well, I saw those reports, too, and what Congressman Schiff said, and it is very alarming. Congress has a responsibility that is outlined in the constitution to provide oversight over the executive branch.


And how are we able to provide that oversight if the executive branch is essentially stonewalling us, and claiming some sort of privilege for responding to us in any way? So, this is exactly why what we are doing in the United States Senate right now is so important. And it's also why the second article of impeachment related to obstruction of Congress is so important for the overall functioning of our constitutional democracy, where you have three separate and independent branches of government.

SCIUTTO: Let me just ask you finally before we go, folks have a lot of things competing for the -- their attention now. You know that there's exhaustion with all that's going on in Washington, including among some Americans on the impeachment trial. As you are speaking to folks tonight, what would you say to them as this country prepares for only the third time in its history to have a trial of a sitting president, with the question of should he or she be removed from office?

How do you convince Americans this is important to them? What's the argument you would make to them tonight?

SMITH: Well, what I would say is that we have a great democracy, and democracies take work. Democracies don't just happen. They happen because we pay attention and we do the work. And we follow through. And that is what I raised my right hand to pledge in a solemn oath on the floor of the United States Senate on Thursday. But it's not just us in the United States Senate. It is all of us who have a solemn responsibility in this democracy.

And I think that that is the thing that people need to keep in mind as we go through what have been some pretty tough times in our country these last few years.

SCIUTTO: Senator Tina Smith, wise words. We wish you and your family the best and thanks so much for joining us tonight.

SMITH: Thank you so much. SCIUTTO: Still ahead this hour, we are live on the campaign trail as several 2020 candidates, they're going to be forced to come back to Washington for the trial and stay through the duration. You are watching CNN's special coverage of THE IMPEACHMENT OF DONALD TRUMP.




SCIUTTO: Welcome back. Tonight, the lead impeachment manager, as well as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, says that the Intelligence Community is now withholding documents that he believes could be relevant to the impeachment trial. With me now is CNN National Security analyst, James Clapper, of course, was the former director of National Intelligence. General Clapper, thank you for taking the time tonight.


SCIUTTO: I want to play to you what Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and House manager, said tonight about the intel community refusing a demand for documents and get your reaction. Have a listen.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The Intelligence Community is beginning to withhold documents from Congress on the issue of Ukraine. They appear to be succumbing to pressure from the administration. The NSA, in particular, is withholding what are potentially relevant documents to our oversight responsibilities on Ukraine, but also withholding documents potentially relevant that the senators might want to see during the trial.


SCIUTTO: Now, granted we don't know exactly what those documents are, but given your experience and your past role as the senior-most intelligence official in the country, what's your reaction to hearing that, that the intel community would hold back documents like this?

CLAPPER: Well, as you indicated, not knowing exactly what Chairman Schiff is talking about, but nevertheless, on its face, to me, this is very disturbing. And it's -- I think it's a real shame and very disturbing when apparently now the Intelligence Community is caught up in this political gun battle that we're in the midst of occasioned by impeachment.

So, if the Intelligence Community has been directed to withhold crucial intelligence from the Congress and specifically an Oversight Committee, that is very, very bothersome, I'll put it that way.

SCIUTTO: It's usually because it comes in conjunction with Schiff saying that intelligence agency officials, they don't want to testify in public during what is a normal annual testimony during the worldwide threat assessment. And it seems because past public comments by intelligence officials, they contradicted the president's sometimes unfounded opinions and statements, and it seems they may not want to face that again.

But what exactly are the agencies and these officials' obligations to elected officials in the House and the Senate?

CLAPPER: Well --

SCIUTTO: There is an obligation, is there not, to testify and provide information?

CLAPPER: There is, and I never understood it to be optional. You know, left to my own devices, I would have always preferred not to testify in public. But for lots of reasons, the main one is, the delicate position you can be placed in with -- by virtue of responding to questions. And you're always on the horns of a dilemma about whether you're risking compromising sources and methods which is kind of the holy grail for Intelligence.

That's compounded, though, it seems, by fear of laying out what the Intelligence Community's best judgment is about any issue for fear of being, not just contradicted, but personally attacked by the president. So, this is not a good situation at all. One of the reasons why --

SCIUTTO: Sorry, go ahead.

CLAPPER: One of the reasons why the intelligence does those open testimonies is, that's one of the few occasions where the public gets to see just who these intelligence leaders are and what they have to say about worldwide threats.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And here where their attention is focused understandably.


Some of the new information that has emerged since the completion of the House portion of this process, their impeachment investigation, are Lev Parnas' testimony, who has now been indicted. But in particular, that he was in communication with a top aide to Devin Nunes, who was the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee when Republicans were in charge. Now, he's the ranking Republican.

In addition to working with the president's, of course, personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, digging up dirt in Ukraine, I just wonder, you know, based on the way you know this country operates there, Lev Parnas' reputation, what kind of dangers does that pose? This is the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Community who has his staff in touch with Lev Parnas, in these off-the-books operations.

CLAPPER: Well, to me, it's just kind of incredible that the ranking member and the House Intelligence Committee, a crucial oversight position normally devoted to overseeing the executive branch, now is apparently an extension of the executive branch, acting as an agent for the White House. And I have to wonder to what degree Mr. Nunes or his staffer, Derek Harvey, vetted Parnas.

And through all this, I wonder about the dark hand of the Russians. And it seems to me they are the double winners here because they are continuing to drive a wedge between the Ukraine and the United States and, of course, they are continuing to exploit the political turmoil in this country. And I wonder about a Russian connection here, and as I say, the dark hand of Russian intelligence, which has heavily penetrated the Ukraine in the first place. So, to me, this is a very unhealthy situation. I'll put it that way.

SCIUTTO: Yes, easy way to plant bad information. Director Clapper, thanks very much.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next, former Vice President Joe Biden is speaking out on impeachment as he campaigns in South Carolina. We're going to take you there live, as several of his 2020 rivals prepare to head back here to Washington for the trial, to sit as jurors in the trial, in fact, of President Trump.




SCIUTTO: Former Vice President Joe Biden is on the campaign trail in South Carolina today, and some of his presidential rivals are wrapping up what could be their last weekend of campaigning for some time. Senators Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Michael Bennet have to step off the trail to sit as jurors in President Trump's impeachment trial.

CNN's Jessica Dean is with the Biden campaign in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Iowa caucuses just 15 days away. What does it mean for Biden that several competitors are going to be really off the playing field for what could be, at least, a couple of weeks, maybe longer?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Right, Jim. Well, it certainly gives him the advantage of continuing to get in front of voters, one-on-one. And campaign aides have told me that's where they really see Joe Biden at his best. That it is important for him to see people in person, something that his rivals, that you just mentioned, aren't going to be able to do as much because they're going to be in Washington, acting as jurors.

Now, as it -- when it comes to impeachment, for Vice President Biden, he has said, look, I'm going to leave it to Congress to take up impeachment. It is my job, he believes, that it is -- that it is his job to beat Donald Trump in 2020. So, to that end, I've been with him over the last several days at rallies like the one we had in South Carolina. Tonight, we are in Iowa. He's not talking specifically about impeachment on the stump, but he is talking about Donald Trump and the impact that he thinks Donald Trump has made on the country. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Donald Trump has made us say enough is enough is enough. No more! We can change this world because the country now knows what's really at stake. When I set out on the campaign trail this time around and decided to run, talking about the soul of America, I wasn't being nostalgic. I was being realistic. I was trying to take -- I'm not trying to take America back to some period that never existed. I'm trying to take America to places never, ever, ever been.


DEAN: And interesting there, Jim, to hear him talking about going forward, not going back to something that was before, kind of a swipe there, people who say that Biden just wants to take the country back to normalcy or where it was before. He's saying no. I want to move it forward. And these last couple of weeks leading up to the Iowa caucuses, Jim, these are the closing arguments. And this is -- this is the marrying time.


DEAN: This is when people finally pick their candidate. And it's no doubt there is an advantage to be in front of them day after day after day.

SCIUTTO: That's right. First votes could be counted before we know it. Jessica Dean, thanks very much.

DEAN: Yes.

SCIUTTO: The seven House impeachment managers working late tonight to finalize their case against President Trump. This, as he announces a made-for-T.V. legal team. We're going to be live at the White House, next. You are watching CNN's special coverage of THE IMPEACHMENT OF DONALD TRUMP.




SCIUTTO: Very good Sunday evening to you, Monday morning. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington. We want to welcome our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world to a CNN SPECIAL REPORT: THE IMPEACHMENT OF DONALD J. TRUMP. On this Sunday night, in Washington, D.C., an extraordinary extra hours' meeting of the House members, preparing to prosecute President Trump. His impeachment is already in the history books. And following the Constitution, he now gets a trial with 100 jurors. That is the entire United States Senate.