Return to Transcripts main page


New Poll Shows Sanders Doubles Support in New Hampshire Amid Trump Trial; Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) Discusses Impeachment & House Managers' Case on Abuse of Power; Schiff Quotes Alexander Hamilton in Outlining Reason for Trump's Removal. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired January 23, 2020 - 11:30   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Four of the 2020 presidential candidates that are here in Washington to serve as jurors in the president's impeachment trial. They've been trying to stay engaged with voters through telephone town halls and surrogates, and it turns out, it may be working.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: A new poll from WBUR in New Hampshire finds Senator Bernie Sanders surging among likely Democratic voters in the Granite State.

David Chalian is here to talk about this -- David?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Jake, you know, this is a New Hampshire poll. As you said, Sanders is surging. We saw him gaining in our national poll. We saw him in the Iowa poll in December. Sanders is having a moment right now. There's no doubt about that.

And one of the things I find fascinating, all this talk about potential advantage to Buttigieg and Biden, because they're not tied down to the trial, they can be out campaigning in Iowa.

But the guy who may be benefiting most now is a guy locked up in the trial, Bernie Sanders. He's having this moment and surging in key states, and what have you.

But he's not dealing with the scrutiny that comes with that because of all of the coverage in the impeachment trial. It may be working to his benefit now.



BLITZER: I was going to say, take a look at the numbers, David. You see him right there. We'll put them up on the screen. The numbers now compared to a month ago.

CHALIAN: Yes, he's at 29 percent in the poll. He's 12 points ahead of his next closest competitor, Pete Buttigieg, in a group there with Biden at 14 and Warren at 13. But he has basically doubled his support since December.


CHALIAN: Again, all the caveats, this is one poll. We'll see where this continues to go as we get more information out of New Hampshire. We know how well he did there in 2016. This is the state next door. This should be a good state for Bernie Sanders.

But it is, you know, happening at the right time, right? We're now 11 days from the caucuses and then the primary.

TAPPER: And let's put those numbers back up. I want to point something out. First of all, we should note that Senator Elizabeth Warren is also from a neighboring state.


TAPPER: She has been steadily at fourth place.

There isn't really a ton of movement here. Biden was 17, at 14, within the margin of error.

The real issue it seems as though people who support candidates who are no longer running are going to Sanders or undecided voters are going to Sanders. This doesn't come at the expense of the top three that he's running against.

CHALIAN: Yes. I think your point about the undecideds is key. What we see in a lot of this information, Bernie Sanders is consolidating that liberal base now in a really important way.

And in our national poll this week, we had seen month after month battling it out with Warren. Now, he's got a pretty significant advantage.

And I think a lot of the undecided voters, as they're thinking about -- again, their number-one priority, they tell us all the time, on the trail, out there reporting, a Trump defeat. We want to find somebody who can beat Donald Trump.

And that's been a Joe Biden advantage and maybe now also becoming a Bernie Sanders advantage for the like-minded Democrats on that side of the party with Bernie.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Bernie Sanders has a lot of money.


BORGER: So he can -- he can --


BORGER: Right.

(CROSSTALK) TAPPER: A lot of small individual donors, yes.

BORGER: Nothing succeeds like success, as they say. And if people think you're the front-runner, they jump on board, and he's got -- he's here, in D.C., he has a lot of money.


LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He's got a fairly diverse coalition. You remember, last go around, he had trouble gaining support from African- Americans, support from Latinos as well. This time, he's doing much better. Young folks also like him.

So this looks look a candidate. He wasn't able to do it last go around. He's got much more of a broad coalition than he had before.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I was going to say, impeachment is Bernie Sanders' best friend. It is sucking the air out of everything. And if you have the momentum, and everything gets sucked up, the inertia carries you.

TAPPER: That's right.

SANTORUM: He's in a great place right now just to let things drift in his direction until next Tuesday.


TAPPER: It is not where the poll numbers are, it is where they're going.

BLITZER: Where they're heading, where they're heading.


BLITZER: That's an important point, indeed.

All right, just 90 minutes or so from now, House managers build their abuse of power case against the president.

Senator Kamala Harris, she is standing by live. She'll join us.



DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN's special coverage of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. I'm Dana Bash, on Capitol Hill.

I'm joined now by and with Senator Kamala Harris, Senator from California.

Thank you so much for joining me. I appreciate it.

(CROSSTALK) BASH: I've heard you talk about the fact that, while you're sitting there, what you're hearing is compelling evidence.


BASH: Which is maybe not surprising, given the fact that, going in, you -- even before you heard any of the arguments you felt that way.

Probably also not surprising to hear some of your Republican colleagues, a lot of them are saying things like very weak. That's Senator Cassidy. Senator Graham says it is an uphill battle that they're climbing to get Republicans on their side.

John Cornyn is saying that people are struggling to sort of pay attention because it is repetitive. Those are the kinds of things that we are hearing.

Do you think that that is what this is, an uphill battle and it is -- the cake is baked before going in, or do you talk to any of your Republican colleagues across the aisle and sense any movement? A possibility.

HARRIS: I think there's a disconnect between the words that they're speaking and, if they were speaking with a sincere voice, what they would be saying about the evidence, because it is compelling.

I think Adam Schiff, the whole team, they're doing an extraordinary job of showing us the math, of laying out the facts.

I heard that some of my Republican colleagues are saying there's nothing new here. Again, if they were speaking with any level of, I think, honesty and sincerity, they would agree that, how can you say there's nothing new here when there has been an outline of all kinds of information that would be new if there was not an obstacle to getting it, which is that the president has tried to cover up the evidence of his misconduct.

And the Senate, the United States Senate has in its power to bring that evidence forward.

So I think that it is, frankly, tragic, that when we're talking about the most serious matter that any member of the United States Senate can address, which is the impeachment of the president of the United States, that the comments are falling down party lines based on political allegiance, as opposed to allegiance to the Constitution of the United States.


BASH: Let me ask you to put your prosecutor's hat on because you know what it is like to try a case, which is that we're hearing from these managers.


BASH: I was listening to Ross Garber, who is one of our analysts at CNN, who has been a lawyer for many impeachment trials. And he was saying that there's too much focus on the facts and the evidence and not enough on the emotion and maybe even visual aids.

Sound bytes have been the most compelling. Maybe things like maps of Ukraine to really hit home what they're talking about when it comes to the dire consequences, potential consequences of what the president did.

What is your sense of that?

HARRIS: I think they did a good job of having handouts and videos. I think they integrated a lot of demonstrative evidence.

But there's no question that a trial requires that we focus on facts. That's just the nature of this. This is not a television show. And it shouldn't be thought of or judged based on the standard of what is entertaining television.

This is a trial. I mean, the impeachment of the president of the United States. And I think that if the process is going to have any legitimacy, it is because it has focused on facts.

Again, it may not capture everyone's attention for the length of time that is required. But the standard shouldn't be whether, you know, it is capturing my attention. Our attention should be focused on the most serious matter because of the nature of the matter.

BASH: I want to ask you about something that your Republican colleague, Lisa Murkowski, said. She is one of the potential Republican Senators who -- somebody who said she's open to voting for witnesses.

And she said yesterday that she is very concerned about the tone of the House managers, particularly Jerry Nadler, and she said she took it as -- she took it as very offensive that Jerry Nadler said that they are engaged in a cover-up.

Is that a bridge too far?


BASH: Are you worried about the Democrats taking it too far on the House managers side?

HARRIS: I go back to my previous point. We all -- if we are going to do our jobs and fulfill the oath that we each took, the primary focus, frankly, the only focus should be on the facts, the evidence and the application of the facts and evidence to the law.

And also adhering to a commitment to make sure that the process is fair, and that includes a commitment to receiving and requiring that all evidence be presented so that we can make an ultimate decision.

And I think the presentation --

(CROSSTALK) BASH: You think she should ignore the idea that she was told she --


BASH: -- she was potentially engaged in a cover up?

HARRIS: I think each one of us has to understand our role is to pay attention to the evidence, the facts and the law, period. There will be many distractions. Many will try to distract us. But our role here is, as jurors, to ask questions that are motivated by, what is the truth, what happened.

And here is the thing that I think is important about any legitimate trial process. We all should understand that it happened. And it is not right for any of us to try and manipulate the facts after they have occurred. It happened. So let us know what happened.

Do you understand what I'm saying? Bring all the facts so we can determine what happened. That is the issue before us.

And the issue is two things really, two things before us. Article I, which is that Donald Trump abused his powers as president by actively asking a foreign leader to investigate an American, who happens to be the former vice president of the United States. Two, Article II, the cover-up of article I. Those are the issues before us.

And we should have all facts in front of us. And we should take seriously the oath and the responsibility of the United States Senator, in this the only third time in our nation's history, to determine the impeachment of the president of the United States.

BASH: I bet the House managers are bummed you're a juror and can't be a manager --


BASH: -- and you can't say that on the floor of the Senate.

Thank you so much.

HARRIS: You're welcome.

BASH: Appreciate it.

Anderson, back to you.


In his opening arguments, leader of the House managers, Adam Schiff, laid out his case for why Senators should remove President Trump from office. During his presentation, Schiff quoted one of the founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, who wrote the framers' constitutional remedy for leaders committing nefarious acts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): "To take every opportunity of embarrassing the general government and bringing it under suspicion, to flatter and fall in with all the nonsense of the zealots of the day, it may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he might ride the storm and direct the whirlwind."

Those words were written by Alexander Hamilton.

Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States, has acting precisely as Hamilton and his contemporaries feared.



COOPER: We're back with our legal and political team.

Jeff Toobin, you were impressed by Schiff.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I was extremely impressed because it's really hard to talk for two and a half hours, and also to integrate the substance of what the accusations here are -- and he did sort of an introductory speech before the others followed the chronology.

But, first of all, we've heard a lot about Alexander Hamilton during this impeachment debate, largely because of Federalist number 65, which is his real explanation of what the impeachment power is all about.

That quote, which is unfamiliar to me, is from a letter he wrote to George Washington, which is pretty amazing in its contemporary relevance.


COOPER: I wish we actually had him read the top of the letter, because it talks about a man desperate in his -- well, I don't know how to say it.

TOOBIN: It's worth taking a look at because the contemporary relevance seems great to me.

And, you know, I think what the Democrats are doing, led by Schiff, and maybe it's poignant, but they are just putting their faith in facts. They are rolling out perhaps a tedious length all of the evidence that is out there, and it's a lot of evidence.

Because, you know, one of the defenses we've heard is, well, this is all just about one phone call. It's not just one phone call. And that's what the Democrats are showing.

Whether anyone cares, whether that's enough to get four votes from witnesses beats the hell out of me.

(CROSSTALK) COOPER: There are some things in the Republican argument, which I think the Republicans have a case to make and an argument to be had.

I find it a little intellectually dishonest when they keep continue to focus on things they know not to be true. The idea that it's just about the phone call.

Everybody who has looked at the facts knows it's about more around the phone call. This was a sustained campaign with Rudy Giuliani and Lev Parnas. Whatever you think of him, he was on the ground in Ukraine

working for Giuliani, doing the quid pro quo.

COATES: And Adam Schiff did a really great job of having those three days in July. The three days in July really being the middle of the story.

There was a concerted effort, the first day being Mueller's testimony on the 24th, the 25th being the telephone call, the 26th being that restaurant in Kyiv conversation between Gordon Sondland and the president of the United States about the president of Ukraine loving him for some reason. So you have all of this coming in as part of the story.

But the biggest fact here, I think, is the strongest one for the House impeachment managers is the number zero. Not a single document has been handed over. Not a single witness has been offered to testify from the White House.

And that shows you that, without any of the discussions about the chronology, the timeline, the three days in July, there has been an obstruction of Congress.

And it just baffles the mind for people looking at the Constitution, the founding fathers, the American voters, that separation of power really seems to mean nothing to the Republican members who are saying, you know what, it's OK for the executive branch to thumb their nose at a congressional subpoena.

The key word being "congressional." Not the House's subpoena, but a member of Congress said, we want to exercise oversight authority, and you said, no, I don't think so. That's a huge issue.

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Except on that issue, you know, the Republicans point out, correctly, that there were lots of subpoenas that weren't issued by the House. The House didn't issue a subpoena at all.


COATES: But the ones that were ignored.

GARBER: The ones that were, privileges and immunities were invoked and the House didn't go to court.

One of the things that's astounding here is how much information is actually out there. I mean -- (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Considering the no-documents vote.

GARBER: Yes. Think of all of the tweets, all of the public statements. I mean, we don't have to subpoena Rudy Giuliani to find out what he was up to. He went on TV and told us what he was up to.

And to your point about it not being about one phone call, I mean, one of the big focuses here is on Rudy Giuliani. It's hard to justify, it's hard for Rudy to justify, you know, what he was up to here. He was acting on behalf of the president personally. He had no official role.

I think that's one of the most difficult things for Republicans, which is one of the reasons why there's the focus on the phone call.



TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think it's going to be very important to push back, because the Democratic managers, the House managers have to anticipate some of what the president's legal team is going to say.

And one bit of misinformation that's out there, that this is a fight over policy, maladministration, you just don't agree with the president's policy, that's why you're trying to impeach him.

They have to remind Senators -- because a number of the Senators are real foreign policy experts -- that this isn't about a disagreement over policy. This is over whether he used the national security system for the president's own personal needs.

We can disagree on how you define "national interests," but American national security should never be used for personal interest.

That's a very important point they've got to drive home, because that is at the heart of the abuse of power.

COOPER: Just a short time from now, Democrats will build the abuse of power case against the president.

Our special coverage continues in just a moment.