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Trump Complains About Defense Team's Slot; House Dems Will Present Their Case for Trump's Removal; Trump Attends "March for Life" Event Amid Impeachment Trial; House Managers Will Lay Out Obstruction of Congress Case Against Trump. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 24, 2020 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[12:30:04]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: In just a few minutes, Democrats are going to start their final day of opening arguments. They got more eight hours to make their case. Then tomorrow, President Trump's legal team will begin. They get their turn.

CNN's White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is live at the White House. So, what do we know about the defense strategy does far?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, it's clear the president is not happy that they are starting this on a Saturday to make their arguments, and then, of course, they will have Monday and Tuesday as well. But right now they're only expected to use two of those days, and tomorrow they're not even expected to go for very long based on conversations that they've had with members over on Capitol Hill.

So expect them to keep it short tomorrow and then come back on Saturday. But one thing that's -- or on Monday. One thing that's interesting, Anderson, that I've been hearing as we've speaking with sources talking about how they're prepping for this trial is they've been paying close attention, of course, to what the Democrats are saying, but something really unusual is happening. I've heard a lot of praise from some of the president's allies for Adam Schiff which of course is really unusual given the president's obvious disdain for him.

And while these people we've been speaking with do not think that Adam Schiff change their minds, they still have their criticisms of the California Democrat. They have said that they actually think he did a pretty good job of stitching together a compelling and polished narrative from the Senate floor. So that's something they're keeping in mind as they're preparing to rebut that, to make their own argument. And it's something really odd that you do not often hear from this side of the -- of Washington from the president's allies.

And so, that is something they're watching. And, of course, the question is going to turn after today to what their defense is going to look like. And Jay Sekulow and president's -- the president's White House counsel Pat Cipollone will be leading this. You've seen them every day on the Senate floor listening in and taking in what the Democrats are saying.

But something that's also interesting that we've picked up on, Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz are also still expected to present on the Senate floor on the president's behalf. They named them last week but they have not been seen by most people that I've spoken with in the White House or on Capitol Hill in recent days. And they haven't been part of any formal prep sessions. So it does make you wonder what the defense is going to look like, how they're going to stitch together their own narrative and what exactly they'll say to counter what you've seen Democrats as they've been going and essentially painting this picture with all these details that they've gathered from testimony.

So it'll be interesting to contrast the two and see how they compare to one another.

COOPER: And that begins tomorrow. Kaitlan Collins, thanks very much. Appreciate that.

Jeff, I mean, you know, Professor Dershowitz, you know, I've talked to him in a number of times on this, clearly is setting himself up as sort of independent from the rest of the attorneys that he's going to presenting the constitution's perspective on this.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's --

COOPER: That's what he says.

TOOBIN: That's what he says, although he seems to be migrating closer and closer to the defense team. He's talking about how Hunter Biden should be a witness. But, you know, the issue that Jerry Nadler talked about yesterday is really a profound one, and that's the one that Alan Dershowitz says he's going to talk about which is what is an impeachable offense. Is -- does it have to be an actual criminal offense in order to be an impeachable offense?

The broad consensus is no. Jerry Nadler made the argument no. Alan Dershowitz has made the argument that essentially yes, although he modifies it a little bit. But that constitutional issue about what constitutes an impeachable offense is at the core of what's going on here.

COOPER: And what is a high crime and misdemeanor?

TOOBIN: Exactly. I mean, that is the constitutional argument. The constitution says, you know, bribery, treason, or high crimes and misdemeanors are the basis for impeachment, but those mysterious phrases have been the subject of a lot of dispute over the years, and that's what Nadler talked about yesterday. That's what Dershowitz says he was going to talk about before the Senate.

COOPER: Right. The White House is saying it has to be actually a crime, Dershowitz says it has to be sort of criminal-like, whatever that exactly means.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think ultimately the -- what they're trying to say is that it cannot be a vague concept. It has to be something more than just an umbrella term. It can't be something that a future president would not be able to either guard against or not engage in. It has to be deterrent, Anderson.

And so, unless you're able to articulate a clear reason why this is the type of conduct you do not want to have happen, it ties in some way and correlates to some sort of societal ill we don't want to in any way facilitate. Then they're left without having the deterrent aspect of impeachment. Now they've got to make that argument, I got to tell you criminal-like is not going to get there.

COOPER: And (INAUDIBLE), you've made the argument that it has to be not just a crime but a -- or an abuse of power but a very important abuse of power. Significant not a minor abuse of power.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Well, whether it's an abuse of power or non- abuse of power, whether it's a crime or not a crime, the focus is on the gravity of it. It has to be incredibly grave offense that someone does in their official capacity that affects their ability to continue on office.

COOPER: We just saw the chief justice arriving. We are just minutes away from the start of the final day for Democrats to make their case.

[12:35:06]

We're going to hear what senators are doing when the cameras aren't on, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): But I do want to address one issue that the president's team has been pushing out not in the Senate chamber but evidently everywhere else. And that is their last refuge, the last refuge of the Republican -- not the Republican, of the president's team's effort to conceal the evidence from the American people. And that is this claim of executive privilege.

[12:40:18]

Now, we urged at the beginning of the trial that any witness issues be resolved at the beginning of the trial. The president's team wished to push that off, as did Senator McConnell, so that later in the process they could say, well, if we were to entertain those questions now, it would simply take too long. That's nonsense.

This is not a trial over a speeding ticket or shoplifting. This is an impeachment trial involving the president of the United States. These witnesses have important firsthand testimony to offer. The House wishes to call them in the name of the American people, and the American people overwhelmingly want to hear what they have to say.

Now, unlike in the House where the president could play rope-a-dope in the courts for years, that is not an option for the president's team here, and it gives no refuge to people who want to hide behind executive privilege to avoid the truth coming out. We have a very capable justice sitting in that Senate chamber empowered by the Senate rules to decide issues of evidence and privilege. And so if any of these witnesses have a colorable claim that they wish to make or the president on their behalf, we have a justice who is able to make those determinations and we trust that the chief justice can do so.

The Senate will always have the opportunity to overrule the justice, but what they fear -- what the president's team fears is that the justice will, in fact, apply executive privilege to that very narrow category where it may apply. And here that category may be nowhere at all because you cannot use executive privilege to hide wrongdoing or criminality or impeachable misconduct. And that is exactly --

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You cannot use executive privilege to hide impeachable misconduct. I guess we'll see. Lead impeachment manager Congressman Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California right there pushing back on the White House argument increasingly being adapted by Republicans against having any witnesses or new evidence because the president ultimately will claim executive privilege and block that from happening.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Let's go to our Congressional Correspondent Phil Mattingly. He's up on Capitol Hill. We're only moments away from this trial resuming. What are you seeing, what are you hearing?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, I want to underscore the importance of what you just heard from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff which was also what you heard from Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.

There is a recognition right now amongst Democrats that the executive privilege issues and concerns that were first race by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that they spoke about at a private lunch with former Attorney General Michael Mukasey earlier this week that many Republican senators started repeating as major concerns of their own throughout the day yesterday.

There is a recognition that they needed to push back. And they needed to push back hard because the result of Republicans starting to settle in on that is the concern on the side of the Democrats that there would be no chance that they could get four Republicans to come join them in their push to subpoena witnesses later on in this process.

So that's what you're seeing today, and I think it underscores, one, the effectiveness of what McConnell was attempting to do with this conference. But two, that this isn't a black and white area. There are significant gray areas when it comes to House subpoenas would work in an impeachment trial. Who would rule on them? Will they just go to Chief Justice Roberts or would they be elevated all the way to the Supreme Court? How long they would take?

All of these issues are currently fairly gray or at least there's kind of differing opinions on them right now. And Democrats, guys, clearly recognizing this is a potential problem for them both in the future and trying to address it and push back on it today.

TAPPER: All right, Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill, thank you so much. Today, in the midst of his impeachment trial, President Trump is making history as the first president to attend in person the annual March for Life. For 47 years, this annual protest has been held in opposition to the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion in this country. Past presidents such as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush had only addressed the rally via phone or satellite link.

CNN National Correspondent Kristen Holmes is there at that march. Kristen, the president just finished speaking. What did he say?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, he spoke for just a short amount of time, about 10, 12 minutes, and he really stayed on message. But we really want to note the context surrounding this. President Trump by speaking here today has really become the face of the anti-abortion movement. There is a reason that no other president in the last 47 years has come here, either the president or his advisers knowing how polarizing the issue of abortion was, were concerned that they would really alienate those moderate voters.

Clearly the Trump administration is not facing that same issue. And this is coming at a time when President Trump is trying to shore up his support among those evangelical voters.

[12:45:07]

I know it seems like it was an eternity ago but it was just last month that we saw that editorial that was published in an evangelical publication that called for President Trump's removal. And it really sent the White House into damage control mode.

This is now being part of that damage control. We saw leaders, big named evangelicals coming out supporting President Trump. And the one other thing that I want to know here separately is what you mentioned, this is all happened in the middle of this impeachment trial. And that, of course, is very obvious why President Trump would want to speak here today. There are tens of thousands of people chanting, four more years, standing in front of them giving this speech, saying nothing at all about impeachment at a time where something very different is happening on the Senate floor, something that we know President Trump has been watching very closely.

TAPPER: All right, Kristen Holmes at the annual March for Life, thank you so much.

BLITZER: Up next, the lighter side of the impeachment trial, you're going to hear what CNN spotted senators doing to make it through this marathon sessions including pacing the room and bringing in banned electronics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:50:50]

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to CNN's special coverage of the impeachment trial of President Trump. I'm Dana Bash on Capitol Hill. And I'm joined by two members of our intrepid team that covers Capitol Hill, particularly during this trial, and can bring you some of what the cameras are not allowed to show inside this trial. And that is namely the senators, the jurors and judges, how they are responding to it.

Alex Rogers and Michael Warren, thank you so much. Alex, I know you have been in your seat in the press gallery at the start of every trial. So tell us your impressions of how the senators are acting and reacting.

ALEX ROGERS, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: That's right. So I think that the senators have been very attentive, they've been very present. When there have been the clips shown, they've all turned and watched them. There have been a few exceptions, though. Yesterday, I was looking down and I saw Rand Paul of Kentucky drawing a little doodle of the Capitol with a blue pen on a white notepad.

BASH: Anyway, I saw some of it. He's a good artist.

ROGERS: It was great. Yes, really impressive.

BASH: Maybe not what he should be doing when he's watching a trial but, you know.

ROGERS: Yes. Maybe on the first 50 minutes. And then I looked a little bit over and I saw Senator Burr and he just took all of the stuff from his desk and put it inside and then took out a fidget spinner and just started playing with it. But for the most part, all 100 senators have been very interested in what the House managers have had to say this week.

BASH: So I was in there for some of the fidget spinner. Tom Cotton got of the fidget spinners, these are toys for people who don't have young children because they're the ones who normally buy these where you just go like this fidget with it. And I was in there for 35 minutes, Tom Cotton was using it the entire time.

Michael, what's your takeaway?

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: Yes. And there's a lot of fidgeting. I mean, think about it, you're in these seats for hours at a time, I was noticing sort of the end of the night, a lot of senators getting up, they're still paying attention but standing behind their chairs, leaning against the railings that are sort of in the back of the chamber. It just -- it sort of a marathon every single day.

The other thing that's interesting, of course, we know there are a lot of current presidential candidates in the chamber as well as recently former presidential candidates so some interesting little interactions. Elizabeth Warren walked by, this is sort of after a break, walked by Bernie Sanders, gave him a little wave. He didn't really react. But, of course, we know about that back and forth that they had last week about that conversation.

And, of course, this New York Times story where it's reported that Kamala Harris is considering endorsing Biden, Joe Biden for president. About 30 minutes after that story posted, I saw Kirsten Gillibrand, another former presidential candidate walked over and talked to Harris. We don't know what they talked about. But that's the kind of stuff that's happening sort of behind the scenes in these breaks when, you know, when the cameras aren't really following it all.

BASH: I actually had Senator Gillibrand on earlier, she would neither confirm nor deny that they talked about endorsing Joe Biden but I think you probably got it right.

Alex, Michael, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

WARREN: Thanks.

ROGERS: Thank you.

BASH: And our coverage of the impeachment trial of President Trump will continue after a short break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:58:35]

BLITZER: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Welcome to CNN's special live coverage of the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump.

TAPPER: And I'm Jake Tapper along with CNN's Dana Bash who is leading CNN's coverage on Capitol Hill. Thanks so much for joining us today.

We're about to see House impeachment managers finish their opening arguments to the 100 senators who are the judges and jurors in this case. The managers will wrap up their presentation on how President Trump in their view abused his power, and then they will use what is left of the seven hours and 53 minutes, a lot of them today, on the other article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress. The president's lawyers will then begin their arguments on Saturday, a time slot that President Trump described in a tweet as Death Valley TV.

BLITZER: They've already going, the Democratic House managers, Jake for almost eight hours, approximately eight hours. As you say, they have seven hours and 53 minutes left. Presumably they're going to try to use all that time over the next eight hours with a couple breaks in between. That's been the general procedure.

They'll wrap things up, we don't know what time. But we're now told that tomorrow, the White House lawyers, that whole team will begin to make their rebuttal, their case, and what we're hearing, it's going to be a shorter -- it's not going to be eight hours. They'll have three days, 24 hours, but supposedly it's going to be shorter tomorrow.

TAPPER: And the House impeachment managers said basically two audiences. The first, of course, is the 100 senators.

[13:00:00]

They are trying to convince four of the 53 Republican senators to vote with the Democrats in the Senate to try to subpoena more witnesses and get more evidence.