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Interview With Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA); The Impeachment Trial of Donald J. Trump. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 23, 2020 - 15:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: By not acknowledging that even Hunter Biden has said that, in retrospect, he shouldn't have taken that job and that, in retrospect, he was only hired because his last name is Biden, by not acknowledging that there is something that a lot of people might not like about it, whether you call it swampy or distasteful, by not acknowledging that point, does that cost her any points in terms of the case she's making with the senators that she is trying to convince, the four Republican senators they need to vote to try to get more evidence?

And I think that's a question to throw to our panel. Would it have made her case stronger by saying, look, we all know this happens in Washington, D.C. and around the world? People trade on their last name. Certainly, there are people with the last name Trump that are benefiting from that, including the president, but also people related to the president.

But let's -- you know, we should acknowledge that Hunter Biden has even said these things publicly. That doesn't merit the president pushing Ukraine for an investigation.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. She could have done that, but once you open the door, once there's a sliver, you can drive a truck through.

TAPPER: To what, facts? The truth?

BORGER: No, because I think that Hunter Biden is -- what he did, being on the board, as we all seem to agree, was not wise. It's irrelevant to the case, so -- to the case at hand, and I think she was trying to stick to the case at hand.


BORGER: But I do agree with you that if there were some clever way to say, I know what you're thinking about Hunter Biden, and do it that way, and raise the --


TAPPER: Just quote what Hunter Biden said.

BORGER: But even raising the Trump kids would have been taken the wrong way by a lot of people in the Senate.


BORGER: So, I think it's a fine line. What I think she was so good at was rebutting the FOX News theory of impeachment.

And that's what she was doing, even using FOX News polls, which showed how Biden was running ahead of Donald Trump by a substantial amount at the same time that the president was doing this, and that he only did it because Joe Biden was suddenly a contender, and that he didn't really care about this until Joe Biden became a contender.

TAPPER: Right.

Let me reiterate that, just because there is no evidence that President Trump has been interested in ferreting out corruption anywhere --

BORGER: Exactly.

TAPPER: -- in the world, including in his own administration, not to mention all the people that he considers good allies, such as Sisi of Egypt, Erdogan of Turkey, MBS of Saudi Arabia, Putin of Russia.

There are plenty of word leaders whose administrations are rife with corruption.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, that is a clear understanding by the Democratic House managers who are there to prosecute President Trump that they wanted to spend some time defending Joe Biden before the president's team prosecutes Joe Biden.

They understand the president's argument is, the president's team argument is, he had every right to ask for this investigation because he believed -- this is how they say it -- you don't have to believe it. He believed it.

That's the president's argument. You don't have to believe and nobody believes this CrowdStrike crazy conspiracy theory anymore, except for Rudy Giuliani and President Trump, apparently, but their argument is, you don't have to believe the president, what the president believed. You just have to understand his mind-set.

So, the Democrats knew that was coming and they spent considerable time there on Joe Biden. Be interesting to ask Joe Biden whether he appreciates that or whether he doesn't like that.

The other thing that, I think, was clever was then getting to Rudy Giuliani by playing the clip of Tom Bossert, the president's former national security adviser, homeland security adviser, inside the White House, because we all know this.

We have talked about this many times. Republicans, what they're saying publicly is very different from what they say privately, and they are -- they are repelled, repulsed and worse by what Rudy Giuliani has done as the president's personal lawyer, not just in Ukraine, but around the world, selling his brand by linking himself to the president of the United States.

And so she's sort of dropping that in there, as the Democrats try to make the case, come on, we need witnesses. Come on, open your minds. That was poking them at one particular point that does get -- ask a Republican to publicly defend Rudy Giuliani. Good luck.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, and, overall, these presentations are much better, particularly than the earlier ones were yesterday, the use of videos, the use of slides.

I thought it was also clever that they used Republicans, right? They featured Lindsey Graham in one of the clips, him essentially saying that impeachment didn't require a crime, which, of course, we know is going to be one of the arguments from the Trump side.

So, I thought, overall..


TAPPER: Just to be clear, it was Clinton era Lindsey Graham.

HENDERSON: Exactly. Exactly.


TAPPER: When Clinton was being impeached.

HENDERSON: Throw back old-school Lindsey Graham, yes, yes. That's right.

So, yes, they used Jonathan Turley saying the same thing. Of course, he was on the Republican side in this side. I thought that was very clever.

It went much faster, and I also think, as you see the different impeachment managers going from day to day, they're getting better themselves, right? I thought Val Demings was fine the first day, better the second day, and the same thing with Sylvia Garcia.

They're clearly getting more comfortable with the presentation aspect of this, which on the one hand is for those senators there, particularly those four senators we keep talking about, but also the American public.


How can they put this information -- there's a saying down South, put it where the goats can get it.


HENDERSON: And I felt like, today, that is what we saw. This was very easy for folks to understand.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I want just Alan to weigh in.

Alan, you're the former Senate parliamentarian. From a Parliamentary perspective, what did you think?

ALAN FRUMIN, FORMER SENATE PARLIAMENTARIAN: Well, I think the Democrats are making a persuasive case.

I have learned over the years, however, that when Democrats make a persuasive case, the Republicans bring their A game to counter whatever it is the Democrats have done.

So, I sit there, I listen to the Democrats, I shake my head yes, and then the Republicans get their turn at bat, and I think to myself, hmm, maybe.

BORGER: Well, I think it was so smart of them -- I mean, obviously, they know what the what the Republican argument is going to be, and they were anticipating it.

And by using Tom Bossert, by using Chris Wray, two men who, one currently, one former, part of the administration who denied in the strongest terms these conspiracy theories was very important not only inside the Senate, but for viewers to see, for people to see.

Wait a minute, these are people who worked for Donald Trump who don't believe this. And I think Bossert, you know, even sort of made the case that sometimes the president gets carried away when he hears these things from --

TAPPER: He blamed it on Giuliani.

BORGER: Of course.


TAPPER: He blamed it on Giuliani for telling the president, because nothing is ever the president's fault. It's always the fault of the people around him, according to his defenders.


TAPPER: But, John King, one of the things I suspect we're going to hear from the president's defenders when they get their turn at bat is not about the -- OK, we have Jay Sekulow talking just moments ago.

Let's play that clip.



QUESTION: Are you going to be (OFF-MIKE) on Saturday?

SEKULOW: The Senate sets the rules on how we go, so we will see how it goes.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) use up all 24 hours of the time you have (OFF- MIKE)

SEKULOW: I said this yesterday. Here's the thing. We're going to use a sufficient amount of time to not only defend our case and point out the inconsistencies of their case.

We're going to do it in an appropriate manner. We're not going to try to run the clock out. We're going to do what we think, our legal team thinks is appropriate to present our case. We will make that determination. We're still in their process. We will make that determination after.


SEKULOW: I'm not going -- look, the White House would will use the -- and we will use appropriate documents that will be admissible for what this record is. That's the way we're going to do it. I'm not going to respond to anything --


QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) for the president's allies, some players in this trial, Lindsey Graham, Alan Dershowitz, even the attorney general have made statements to the effect of, abuse of power is impeachable?

SEKULOW: We have got something very different than what you're hearing up here.

You're hearing, you know, video clips of testimony. We have got lawyers that are going to be put forward when our side of the case goes that represent multiple schools of thought on what is and is not an impeachable offense.

But they have one thing in common, that the actions alleged and the actions of the president do not reach that level, no matter which school of thought you're on.

And we're not afraid to put out both of those schools of thought, because our position is, you still have to meet basic fundamental constitutional obligations, and they haven't.


BLITZER: All right, that was Jay Sekulow, one of the president's private attorneys who's part of his legal defense team, will be making the formal presentation, the arguments on behalf of the president once the Democratic House managers have concluded, presumably tomorrow.

But you were making an important point, John, that what the -- what Sylvia Garcia, Representative Sylvia Garcia, today did as far as talking all about the allegation that Ukraine interfered, as opposed to Russia, and about the Bidens, that was really a preemptive strike, anticipating what the Republican lawyers are going to do in the coming days.

KING: Right. And it's important to listen to Jay Sekulow, too, because I -- before

I started covering politics, in my old days, I used to cover trials a lot. And you sit there through the prosecution.

Alan was just making this point. You sit there through the prosecution, and you go, wow, wow. And then the defense gets up and you go, oh.

In a good trial, it goes back and forth. So, if you're watching at home, whatever you think today -- if you're open-minded about this, whatever you think today might get changed in the next few days, if not in the next few hours.

But to the point about her presentation, number one, she knows the president's lawyers are going to go after Joe Biden to try to make the case. You might disagree with it, Senator. You might disagree with it watching at home. The president believed he had a reason to ask these questions. That's what he thought he was doing.

But she also was cleverly getting at, again, what we know. It's not going to change votes or it's not going to change many votes, anyway.

On the big picture, on conviction, I don't think it's going to change any votes on witnesses. There are a lot of people in that chamber, Russia hawks in the Republican Party, who roll their eyes at the president and his conspiracy theories. And she was kind of poking them a little bit.


TAPPER: So, and if we could talk about that for one second, because that was the point we went -- cut in for Jay Sekulow.

And, Carrie Cordero, let me bring you on this.

So, what we heard was a very strong denunciation by Congresswoman Garcia of the conspiracy theory, which she referred to, accurately, as a debunked conspiracy theory, that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election.

The FBI director, the current one, has ascertained that Ukraine did not interfere in the 2016 election in any way in an interview clip that was just shown.

And if you look at the rough transcript, President Trump very clearly is talking about this debunked conspiracy theory with the server and CrowdStrike and all this nonsense, really, is what it is.

But when you listen to Trump administration officials talk about what President Trump was pushing for, they lie about it. They say President Trump was just looking for more information about what happened in 2016, as if it has something to do with U.S. attorney Durham's investigation or the inspector general at the FBI's investigation that we got the results of a month or so ago.

They misrepresent it to try to make it seem like something that is not this debunked conspiracy theory; it's something else. And that's -- I guess we will hear what their presentation is. But we have also -- we have already heard the president's attorneys lie and misrepresent things on the Senate floor.


Well, look, as a former government national security lawyer, one of the most damaging things that this whole process and the president's arguments is causing is the misrepresentation of intelligence information, the clouding of legitimate national security information and intelligence analysis, which every Trump administration national security official has said, it was Russia that interviewed in the 2016 election.

I mean, just hands down, if you go from former officials to current intelligence officials, they all are consistent about that. And none of them have ever said from an intelligence perspective that there is U.S. intelligence assessment that Ukraine did anything.

BORGER: Right.

CORDERO: It really is a conspiracy theory, and it's so damaging, from my perspective, every time the president or his political allies give credence to this theory.

BLITZER: Dana Bash is up on Capitol Hill with a special guest, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee -- Dana.


And, Senator, thank you so much for being here.

You, of course, have access to intelligence that none of us has. Given that, what was your takeaway from the -- the presentation that we heard, the lengthy presentation, trying to pick apart what she said and what you have said are conspiracy theories espoused by the president about what went on in Ukraine in 2016 and Joe Biden's role more currently.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): Well, I think Congresswoman Garcia was pretty effective.

But I also think she was making a case that, other than the president and maybe Mr. Giuliani, I hear rarely made by anyone else. There's no one from the intelligence community that's laid out any real case against Joe Biden.

I am interested in why the Russians were hacking Burisma, the company that his son was affiliated with.

BASH: More recently.

WARNER: More recently.

But the real issue about this notion that somehow Ukraine was behind the intervention in our 2016 elections, everyone who served this president, everyone who still serves, whether it's the secretary of state, or whether it's his national security adviser, CIA head, have basically said there's no there there.

As a matter of fact, you heard the comments from his former National Security Adviser Tom Bossert, who said this was a totally debunked theory.

I can't understand why the president keeps coming back to it.

So, what I'm anxious to hear from the president's lawyers, when they get a chance, are they going to try to rebut some of the facts? Are they going to re-float this theory? Are they simply going to say what the president did didn't rise to the level of an impeachable defense?

I'm anxious to hear that.

BASH: Well, it seems as though the House managers are pretty confident that the president's team is -- that they are going to talk about it, and this was kind of a prebuttal, if you will.

I just had a Republican senator walk by me and say to me, you see? Look how much airtime the Democrats are even giving to Joe Biden.

And, you know, what does this mean for the way the Democrats are fighting amongst each other for the nomination? And maybe that some of the candidates sitting in that chamber might not be very happy about it.


BASH: What's your sense? Put your political hat on, as well as your intel hat.

WARNER: Listen, I'm not -- I'm going to keep my juror-judge hat on.

You know, I think this is the first time Biden's been mentioned extensively at all. We're, what, two-and-a-half days in.

BASH: Was it appropriate? Were you happy she did it?

WARNER: Well, I think, if this is going to be something the president's lawyers are going to raise, I think trying to lay down a little bit of what she views are the facts was important firsthand, because the process here is a little weird, in that the House managers make their whole presentation, the president's lawyers make their whole presentation.


There's no rebuttal, other than the senators asking questions. So I think, you know, both sides need to put down their offense and defense probably before the other side presents.

But I'm very, very anxious, particularly thinking about yesterday, when I -- as somebody who's followed this closely, but I thought Schiff did a pretty remarkable job of laying out all of the facts in a way that was a lot clearer to me, and I think a lot of my Republican colleagues.

And I'm anxious to hear what the president's lawyers will say about that.

BASH: Well, you're going to have your chance --

WARNER: I will have my chance.

BASH: -- starting in a couple of days.

Thank you so much.

WARNER: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: Thank you, Senator -- Wolf and Jake, back to you.

TAPPER: All right, Dana Bash, thanks so much.

We're going to squeeze in a very quick break. Stay with us.

More of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump coming up after this.



BLITZER: Welcome back.

We have all been watching the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump. I'm Wolf Blitzer.

TAPPER: And I'm Jake Tapper.

Dana Bash is anchoring from Capitol Hill House.

House impeachment managers are in their second day of opening arguments. They're focusing on how the facts of the case relate to first article of impeachment, which is an allegation of abuse of power.

Let's get right to Phil Mattingly. He's on Capitol Hill -- Phil.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, I think one of the interesting elements that we have picked up in the presentations today was one specific instance where Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary chairman, actually cited one of the individuals sitting in the audience, one of the jurors, if you will.

And that was Senator Lindsey Graham, playing sound from when Lindsey Graham was in his position as a House manager in 1999, trying to make the point, to rebut the White House argument that, because they believe no crime was committed, the president cannot be impeached. And Nadler cued up a video clip of Lindsey Graham Lindsey Graham

saying exactly that on the floor in 1999. Now, my colleague Alex Rogers, who was in the chamber, said Graham was not there, had actually left for the Senate Cloakroom, but take a listen to this.


REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): In Attorney General Barr's view, as expressed about 18 months ago, presidents cannot be indicted or criminally investigated, but that's OK, because they can be impeached. That's the safeguard.

Here is what he had to say about impeachment for abuse of power.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, TRUMP IMPEACHMENT DEFENSE TEAM MEMBER: It certainly doesn't have to be a crime.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I think that's what they meant by high crimes, doesn't even have to be a crime. It's just when you start using your office and you're acting in a way that hurts people.


MATTINGLY: Now, guys, when that clip was played, a couple of Republican senators cracked some smiles, as they kind of understood what was going on there.

Senator John Barrasso, who sits next to Senator Lindsey Graham, patted the empty chair where Graham actually sits at his Senate desk.

And when Graham returned to the floor, a couple senators were seen whispering to him, I think informing him of what had occurred.

But I also think there's kind of a broader point here which is interesting.

And that is, you have heard several times Democrats, Democratic managers, cite Republican senators themselves, the same senators that are going to have to decide whether or not to allow for subpoenas of witnesses and documents, whether or not to vote to remove the president.

Obviously, Lindsey Graham, in this case, from when he was a House manager, but also as it relates to Ukraine, as it relates to their efforts to debunk the conspiracy theories or the president's assertions related to Joe Biden's role in Ukraine, citing several times senators likes Ron Johnson, Rob Portman, people who are working and have worked out on a bipartisan manner on Ukraine issues, in a way that very much, A, aligned with what Vice President Joe Biden was doing in his effort to oust Viktor Shokin, the Ukrainian special prosecutor, and also in efforts to ensure that the U.S. security assistance to Ukraine was released while it was being held by the administration.

So, keep an eye on that. They are playing to the audience. They are playing to the jury, and they are citing specific Republican senators at times to make their point, guys.

BLITZER: It's interesting.

Phil Mattingly, thank you very much.

It's interesting, John, how so many of these current characters involved in all of this have flipped, what they were saying 21 years ago -- on both sides -- and what they're saying today.

KING: Democrats were totally against witnesses in the Clinton trial. They thought the case had been established by Ken Starr in the House, there was no need to do anything more.

Republicans, including Lindsey Graham, very much wanted witnesses. We're in a different place now. Lindsey Graham was the prosecution then. The Lindsey Graham of then, a House member, and even in his early Senate days, and the Lindsey Graham from now, very close to President Donald Trump, there will be psychology classes and political science classes done on that for years.


TAPPER: How about Ken Starr? Ken Starr, who brought the case against Bill Clinton, is actually now making the exact opposite arguments he made before to Congress to defend President Trump.


KING: Notice that Starr here is going to face -- his argument, we are told by the Trump team, is to argue that this doesn't reach the historical bar for impeachment.

But one of the giant issues here that you're -- he's not -- let's see he argues the specifics of the obstruction count, because Ken Starr railed repeatedly, repeatedly against Bill Clinton denying access to things and trying to throw up roadblocks to things.

And Bill Clinton did some of those things. He did. Bill Clinton's lawyers would say they had every right to do them. But if we're talking about mountain and molehill, what President Trump has done compared to what the Clinton White House did, they're not in the same universe.

BORGER: And there's a real danger here for Jerry Nadler, because the president's lawyers, I'm not going to predict, but it's not a bad bet, that they would play this same game with Jerry Nadler, who said in the Clinton impeachment, if they wanted to play a little video that: "There must never be a narrowly voted impeachment or an impeachment substantially supported by one of our major political parties. Such an impeachment would lack legitimacy."



BORGER: So, if I'm one of their lawyers, I'm looking at that video right now.

TAPPER: Lawyers are -- it is not uncommon for somebody who was a defense attorney to become a prosecuting attorney and make the exact opposite arguments and vice versa. People in the district attorney's office become very highly paid defense attorneys and make opposite arguments.

But politics, such a -- I don't want to say hypocrisy necessarily. If you're a lawyer, it's a different thing, but, in politics, it's judged differently.


So, I have really been thinking about this particular issue a lot, thinking about the role of lawyers and the fact that lawyers do argue other sides of issues. This strikes me as something different.

This strikes me the lawyers who are making constitutional arguments as real intellectual dishonesty, because if you are presenting your view as an interpretation of the Constitution, particularly, for example, for Professor Dershowitz, who is going to argue as a constitutional law expert, once you put yourself out in the world as an expert on constitutional law, to take a different view of how you interpret it really is not the same as making a different argument on behalf of a client because you're in a litigation.

BLITZER: This session is about to resume.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Senators, I'm going to pick up where my colleague from Texas left off.

But I wanted to begin by underscoring a few of the points that she made, in listening to her presentation, that really leapt out at me in a way they hadn't leapt out at me before.

But first I wanted to address my colleagues shared a number of slides showing the polling strength of Joe Biden vis-a-vis the President is a demonstration of his motive. The fact that he went after these political investigations to undermine someone that he was deeply concerned about. This is an appropriate point for me to make the disclaimer, the House Managers take no position in the Democratic Primary for President.

I don't want to lose a single more vote than necessary. But, those polls do show a powerful motive that Donald Trump had. Motive that he didn't have the year before or the year before that. A motive that he didn't have when he allowed the aid to go to Ukraine without complaint or issue in 2017 or 2018. It was only when he had a growing concern with Joe Biden's candidacy that he took a sudden interest in Ukraine and Ukraine funding and the withholding of that aid.

But I also want to underscore what the President said in that July 25th call. When my colleague showed you again that transcript from July 25th where the President says I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine they say CrowdStrike.

Now my colleagues have explained what that theory is about that server, that CrowdStrike server. The crazy theory that it was Ukraine that hacked the Democratic server and that server whisked away to Ukraine and hidden there so that the investigations, the FBI couldn't look at this server. Okay, that's what Donald Trump was raising in that conversation with President Zelensky.

Now, I bring this up, this point up again, because you may hear from my colleagues, the President's Lawyers, as we heard during the testimony in the House that the concern was over Ukrainian interference in the election and why isn't it possible that both Russia and Ukraine interfered in the election.

No never mind that's contrary to all the evidence. But it's important to point out here that were not talking about generic interference. We're not talking about as we heard from some of my colleagues in the House a tweet from a Ukrainian here or an OpEd written by somebody there and equating it with the kind of systematic interference of the Russians.

What we're talking about here, what the President is talking about here is a very specific conspiracy theory going to the server itself. Meaning that it was Ukraine that hacked the Democratic server, not the Russians.

This theory was brought to you by the Kremlin, okay. So we're not talking about generic interference, we're talking about the server, we're talking about CrowdStrike, at least that's what Donald Trump wanted investigated or announced.