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GOP Senators Defend Donald Trump's Conduct After Democrat Presentation; GOP Senator Tom Tillis: I've Already Made Up Mind On Impeachment; Soon: Democrats Lay Out Abuse Of Power Case Against Donald Trump; Soon: House Managers Present Abuse Of Power Case; GOP's Kennedy: My Colleagues Haven't Read Up On Trump Case. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired January 23, 2020 - 12:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer live in Washington alongside Jake Tapper, Anderson Cooper and Dana Bash. She's up on Capitol Hill. This is CNN's Special Coverage of the Impeachment Trial of President Donald J. Trump.

In just about one hour, House Managers kick off their second day of presentations in the case, presentations aimed at the 100 Senators seated in chambers and aimed at the millions of Americans watching at home.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: They will have one more day, tomorrow, to make their case before seating the floor to the President's defense team. Today Lead Manager Adam Schiff says that they will focus on the first article of impeachment, abuse of power.

Among the charges, the withholding of congressionally appropriated security aid to Ukraine and an Oval Office visit for President Zelensky while pressuring President Zelensky to announce an investigation into Former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter and the company that Hunter worked for the Burisma. The aid was eventually released but that White House meeting still has not happened.

Our Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. Manu, what do you're hearing from the Senators with whom you've spoken this morning about what they're expecting today?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I had spoken to a number of Republican Senators after yesterday's presentation I talked to a lot of them this morning.

The theme from Republican Senators is defense of the President, and very few are willing to criticize the President despite the House Managers laying out a meticulous detail the President's conduct, what led to the President's impeachment, he asked for the investigation into the Bidens and the President asking Ukraine to launch that investigation thinking it could help him politically, the holding up of the military aid, the delay of that meeting.

None of which has prompted much concern. You're hearing from Republicans essentially it is like Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin told me those were legitimate questions in his view that the President was asking. Senator James Langford of Oklahoma I just caught up with as well.

So the President was frustrated about what he was dealing with back at home. He said it was perfectly appropriate for him to ask for those investigations. He raised no issues about that as well, and Senator Tom Tillis, who is up for reelection in 2020 in North Carolina, he's a vulnerable Republican, but someone who also of course needs the President's support.

Just moments ago I asked him if anything in the President's conduct alarmed him, and he said, well, what's more concerning to me is that Adam Schiff needs more information to make his case. He said, that meaning, of course, Adam Schiff has called for subpoenas of documents and witnesses that have been blocked by the White House.

So that is also the big question today. Will this convince enough Republicans to vote for subpoenas for witnesses and for documents, and at the moment it looks uncertain. It's not likely that the Democrats would get enough support to move in that direction. There are some handful of swing votes that we're talking to as well, including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska who just told reporters that what the Democrats presented yesterday was thorough, but she did not tip her hand one way or the other as to how she ultimately might vote?

So there is going to be a lot of focus on those handfuls of Senators, whether they will break ranks? Whether they will actually feel the pressure to break with their party, but the confidence of the Republican leadership is that they believe they can hold their confidence in line and they believe they can wrap up this trial within just under two weeks, guys.

BLITZER: And just remind us, Manu, with the schedule today and tomorrow what lies ahead?

RAJU: Today we'll hear the second day of arguments from the House Democratic Impeachment Managers. They are expected to make the case for why they charged the President with abuse of power. They have the legal argument for that case. Tomorrow we expect them to make that case on the obstruction of Congress, the second article of impeachment that the President faced.

They'll have about eight hours or so on both days. We'll see if they use up all of their time to make their argument. Then the White House the President's defense team will begin making its argument on Saturday, and that will be - we'll see how long that goes on Saturday?

And then Monday they'll return and finish - continue with their arguments. They have up to 24 hours as well, up to three days. We'll see if they use all three days. After that Senators will have 16 hours of questioning to written questions that will be submitted to each side, and then the question will be whether or not they vote to actually have witnesses?

So the big vote that we'll all be looking at that will be probably the middle of next week. Probably Wednesday, perhaps, maybe earlier depending on how time goes and that is going to be the big question. If there are no witnesses and there are no documents, then we could see an acquittal vote for the President potentially by the end of next week, guys.

BLITZER: Yes, all right.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju, thank you so much. Let's talk about this. Senator Santorum, let me ask you a question. You heard from Senator Tom Tillis from North Carolina the idea what bothers him is the House Impeachment Manager, Adam Schiff, the Congressman from California, saying I need more time to make my case.

And indeed, it is a contradictory message from the Democrats, the idea that you need to remove this guy from office and we need more evidence. I understand that.


TAPPER: Now, the counter-argument from the Democrats is that it would have taken a long, long time, months and months and months, maybe even past the election, and President Trump was, in their characterization, trying to cheat in that very election.

So how do you reconcile that idea? Because there really is no remedy for the House of Representatives to go to Chief Justice Roberts and say, we need this expedited? We can't have this go through the normal lazy manner that judges take cases or slow manner, to be more generous, the judges take cases. This is of utmost important and we need courts to hear this today, next week and next month not in the next summer.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If the argument is we had to do this because he's going to cheat in the next election and we have to stop him from cheating, the only way to stop him from cheating is to remove him. They knew that if they bypassed the courts, didn't get a more robust case against the President, they had no chance of removing.

So the argument that we need to do this because we need to remove him because he's a threat, the action they took guaranteed he wasn't going to be removed. Because they didn't have - they don't have - it's obvious, they don't have a strong enough case. They never got the majority of the American public, certainly overwhelming and certainly the bipartisan of the American public to be forward, so they want - that they knew was going to fail to get rid of the problem, which is him cheating. So he wins next week. How have they accomplished their goal?

TAPPER: I hear what you're saying. First of all, just as a point of fact, I mean the polling that we have indicates that the majority of the American people slam but still a majority wants the President impeached and removed. SANTORUM: Standard was overwhelming bipartisan.

TAPPER: Okay, beyond that, what is the answer to the fact that Adam Schiff and others correctly point out that such a legal battle would take months and months, perhaps even past November 2020? That's not made up, that's accurate.

SANTORUM: I would make the argument that the Democrats have a stronger case to make to go to the courts, fight it out. The issue is still a live issue. The investigation is still a live investigation. It is - it may not be resolved by the election, but you don't have an acquittal by the election. So, politically, I never understood the politics behind what Nancy Pelosi - I think Nancy Pelosi had it right for the longest time, and she got it wrong because she got pressure, and she went with a short circuit route.

Get an impeachment. You have now have given the President his vindication. He's going to be acquitted. The issue is now done and over. Instead of having an open issue fought in the courts where you actually might get some testimony through between now and November.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: But Adam Schiff made the point, and I think it's a good point, which is, you cannot let the courts and a judge supplant the role of the Congress in terms of precedent--

SANTORUM: Oh, my goodness, really? You're going to make those arguments? Please.

BORGER: Wait a minute let me finish. In terms of Presidential impeachment this is the role of the House.

SANTORUM: They do with everything else.

BORGER: Wait a minute, well, wait a minute nine witnesses were blocked. They haven't gotten a single document from the Executive Branch, and let me compare this to the Mueller investigation where the White House was open with documents, didn't claim privilege, and they believed, well, we're never going to do that again, so now you have a complete 180 by the White House in terms of this impeachment, and Schiff and Democrats said, you know, we've got an election coming up, and we've got to resolve this, and if we handed it to the courts, we would be abdicating our responsibility as the Congress of the United States.

TAPPER: John, one other thing is you and I have talked about this before. In my view the last truly Independent Attorney General this country had was Janet Reno and Janet Reno who was appointed by President Clinton who then spent the next eight years regretting that he appointed her to that job and she appointed an Independent Counsel who then was investigating the Clintons.

This Attorney General was given this case, this Justice Department and he said there is nothing wrong. They didn't do anything wrong. This could have been solved a different way. Everybody is talking about, why is Adam Schiff trying to get evidence? Why is Adam Schiff trying to get witnesses? It's because the Department of Justice arguably did not do its job because they did not do this investigation.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR, INSIDE POLITICS: This would be a different conversation if we did not live in the times in which we live. And you're adding the Barr Attorney General even before Mr. Barr was on the job, we lived in this highly partisan, highly polarized town. But Bill Barr is no Jeff Sessions in the sense that Jeff Sessions recused himself. Right thing, the Mueller report based on what he said I know a lot of Republicans would have done that.

The President says he shouldn't have done that, but based on his role in the Trump Campaign, it was very logical what they would tell you in law school to do. This is where we are, but this conversation; remember how reluctant Speaker Pelosi was up to this point?


KING: The question I can't answer is if she had carried the day and convinced her party, we're not going to go to the nuclear option, because Senator Santorum is right, they didn't have the votes to convict and remove, they were never going to have the votes to convict and remove. There just aren't. They're not going to get 20 votes. They're not going to hold all there and get 20 votes in the United States Senate in an election year--

TAPPER: It might not even hold of Democrats.

KING: Yes, right. In an election year when the Senate Majority is at play in addition to the President's reelection it's just not going to happen. So what she wanted was, let's do aggressive, consistent oversight. Wouldn't we have gotten the testimony the whistleblower report would have been filed.

Would we have gotten the testimony from Ambassador Taylor, from Fiona Hill, from others if it were not impeachment? If we were having oversight hearings in the Intelligence Committee or the Judiciary Committee or the Foreign Affairs Committee not an impeachment hearing would those witnesses have come forward?

TAPPER: Probably not.

KING: Right, because they defied the President to do so because they said it was a constitutional test of impeachment. This is where the quid or would or should that we'll never answer. We are where we are and the Democrats are making their case now. They will not get the 20 votes. The question still is can they get four to prolong it?

BLITZER: The Senators are arriving right now getting ready for this day of the House Managers the second day they will try to make their case that the President of the United States should be not only impeached but convicted and removed from office. Dana Bash is up on Capitol Hill with a special guest.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Wolf, I am with the top Democrat of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez from the great state of New Jersey. Thank you so much for coming on. SEN. BOB MENENDEZ, (D-NJ): We're reclaimed today.

BASH: You do and I'm proudly claiming myself. Republicans over and over this morning, they have been ironically repetitive in saying that what they're hearing on the floor from House Managers is repetitive. Basically saying enough already, they've made their case. Republicans seem to have, for the most part made up their mind. Do you see any cracks in that at all as you talk privately to your GOP colleagues?

MENENDEZ: Well, first of all, that's - their attitude is the embodiment of a jury that's determined to deliver a verdict before they've heard all of the testimony. This is pretty much following on what they said even before the House Managers began their case.

So they were ready to deliver a verdict of not guilty before they had the testimony, number one. Number two, is they could have found a lot more things had they simply voted to permit witnesses and documents, and I think the House Managers have made a compelling case as to why there is a series of witnesses?

Ambassador Bolton, Mick Mulvaney and others that would shed even more new light that would be very helpful in making the determination on the President's guilt or innocence. And lastly, you know, instead of, you know, closing their ears, they should open their eyes, because even as someone who has followed this pretty continuously, the way the House Managers laid out the narrative and the dates and the chronology makes, I think, a very compelling case as it relates to the President's actions here.

BASH: The Republicans are making the point, and they have a point, and you tell me what you think, about the fact that they need more evidence, that they need these witnesses to come forward, that the White House is blocking? The House Democrats could have taken it to court. Yes, it would have taken a long time, but they could have taken it to court, and they didn't. Why is it up to the Senate the juror/judges to remedy that?

MENENDEZ: If Barack Obama did what Donald trump has done in stonewalling the Congress, not only on the questions of witnesses and documents as it relates to impeachment, but about just oversight of Congress. I personally see it as a Ranking Democrat as it relates to the State Department not giving us critical documents. I would be peeling them off the Capitol ceiling.

The reality is that to have a couple of years of litigation, which is where we're headed - I think the House Managers made the case that is already nearly a year this coming in about a month or so where--

BASH: With the Don McGahn case.

MENENDEZ: They had the Don McGahn case, the Former White House Counsel. So then by that the election is over. The allegations that the President is inviting foreign powers, foreign governments to get involved in our democracy, only Americans should decide American elections. Well, that nefarious influence would have been over already. The election would have taken place. So I see the compelling reason why they came forward.

BASH: One last question. You're already hearing and seeing that the President is planning on using the fact that he is acquitted, assuming there is no dismissal which it doesn't look like it's going there, as you see, I told you so, and as a weapon, a political weapon in this campaign because it's so unprecedented that this is happening in an election year. Put your political hat on any concern about that?

MENENDEZ: Well, look the reality is when you when you pledge to take an oath to uphold the constitution it doesn't say what is politically convenient or not.


MENENDEZ: It's compelling to take that oath and to take it seriously. As far as the President you know claiming victory. I think a whitewash, a judgment before a presentation of the facts, is not a true acquittal at the end of the day. And so I think the President will face the consequences of claiming victory even though I think the American people see that this was a railroad and a whitewash.

BASH: Senator, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

MENENDEZ: Thank you.

BASH: We're going to take a quick break. The coverage on CNN of the Impeachment Trial of President Donald Trump will be coming back right after this. Don't go away.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Day three of the Senate Impeachment Trial. Today you can expect to hear House Democrats argue their case for the first article of impeachment, abuse of power, keep peace of that attempting to prove the President Trump himself explicitly ordered the freezing of the aid.


COOPER: House Managers are leaning heavily on the idea that this was a scheme from the start.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D-CA): This scheme was undertaken for a simple but corrupt reason, to help him win reelection in 2020. No other American could use the vast powers and leavers of his government to conduct a corrupt scheme to benefit themselves.

REP. JERRY NADLER, (D-NY): Rudy Giuliani told Kurt Volker the Special Representative for Ukrainian negotiations who had a prominent role in the scheme that he also knew the attacks on Joe Biden were a lie.

REP. SYLVIA GARCIA, (D-TX): The quid pro quo scheme was taking shape.

REP. VAL DEMINGS, (D-FL): The President was the center of this scheme. REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES, (D-NY): President Trump sought a political favor. That's why. It was part of a scheme.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN, (D-CA): This is risk exposing the scheme that you've heard so much about today.


COOPER: Back with our team here in New York. Jeff Toobin, you know we've heard from now a number of Republicans who said, look, we're hearing the same things over and over. We know this already. And the more they talk, the more hardened the opposition to the Democrats gets?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I think that's total nonsense. The number of votes that are actually up for grabs is so small. The idea that Ted Cruz is going to change his mind if there was really good oratory or really - a less repetition or more repetition, I think that's just silly.

The Democrats are doing what they can. They are putting forward facts. If the Republicans, A, are not persuaded by the facts, or B, don't think more facts are justified, okay. But I don't think there is something wrong with the presentation here that would yield a different result if they were nicer, if they didn't say the word cover-up. I just think - the lines are already drawn and if they want to manufacture reasons to be offended or not to like the argument, that's fine, but the issue is the substance here, not the quality of the argument which is certainly fine.

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think that you also have to show respect for Senators. Historically, Senators don't like to be lectured by members of the House of Representatives. So it's still important that the - the substance is important, but so, too, is the presentation to those four or five people that you may, that you hope might vote for additional information next week.

You're right most of the Senators have already made up their minds shame on them. They're not supposed to, but let's not be naive. But there are a few who have already signaled that they're looking for a reason to say yes to more information.

TOOBIN: I don't even think it's a problem if you've made up your mind. We have all this talk of jurors and judges. The framers could have picked, as the jury in a Presidential impeachment, ordinary jurors who really are not supposed to make up their mind.

But they chose Senators instead, and Senators are politicians. And, of course, they're going to have preexisting views about the President in office. So I don't have a problem making up your mind, the problem I have is pretending when you've already made up your mind that some other argument would be more convincing.

NAFTALI: I think they should be able to change their minds. And what this is the key, okay. There is a difference between having preexisting assumptions. Everybody does and being open to changing your mind. We've seen that in previous impeachment crises, and that's what makes the constitution stronger.

If you go into one of these trials saying, I'm not going to allow myself to change my mind, I'm not going to listen to anything, I'm not going to read anything then you are not doing your constitutional duty.

COOPER: Well, go ahead, I'm sorry.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I have a problem with you making up your mind if it's done for political reasons that are contrary to separation of powers and democracy and keeping somebody in office who is engaging in behavior that is soliciting foreign interference. That's a problem.

COOPER: These are politicians.

COATES: They are politicians.

COOPER: They are - this is what they live and breathe. They are beholden to their parties they're beholden to their President if the President is in power.

COATES: They are beholden to their oath of office as well, though. This is what shocks me. They're supposed to be co-equal branches of government. They're supposed to be beholden to making sure that their branch of government is and remains as strong as executives. So if they're telling the President of the United States, whatever you want to do is fine with us, we'll follow your lead, then you have literally put him above the law.

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: But here's the difficult thing. The House Democrats brought a case that they knew for sure 100 percent guaranteed they were going to lose.


GARBER: Prosecutors sometimes bring very difficult cases. Here the House Democrats have put themselves in this position where they brought a case that they know they're not going to get a conviction on, so really, what's happening now is they know that they're speaking to the American people.

Because they know that after the President is acquitted, he is going to proclaim that acquittal and he is going to criticize the prosecution as being personally motivated. What's happening now is that the House Democrats are trying to put on their case to show why they brought the case not because they can - they think they're going to get a conviction. Not because they're playing to the Senators but to justify to the American people.

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. We have new details on what President Trump is doing behind the scenes during the trial? And what his allies are telling Senators. That's ahead.