Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
House Democrats Are in Final Day of Opening Arguments; Interview with Sen. Angus King (I-ME) on Schiff's Presentation Today; House Democrats Lay Out Obstruction of Congress Case Against Trump. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired January 24, 2020 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA) LEAD IMPEACHMENT MANAGER: -- associated with him. Every piece of evidence supports that terrible conclusion, that the President of the United States will abuse his power again. That he will continue to solicit foreign interference to help corruptly secure his reelection.
He has shown neither remorse nor acknowledgment of wrongdoing. If you can believe that July 25th was a perfect call, that asking for investigations of your political opponents and using the power of your office to make it so is perfectly fine, then there is nothing that would stop you from doing it again.
President Trump has abused the power of his office and must be removed from that office. Mr. McConnell, I yield back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The majority leader is recognized.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY) MAJORITY LEADER: Mr. Chief justice, I suggest a 15-minute recess.
JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES: Without objection, so ordered.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, so another two and a half, almost two and a half hours that we just heard from the House manager's very passionate statement once again from the lead House manager Adam Schiff. Earlier passionate statements from Hakeem Jeffries and Jason Crow.
They spoke for two and half hours. They have another, what, six, five and a half today. So this is going to continue. And Jake, this is wrapping up, except for the 16 hours of debate that will follow the White House lawyers, three days, potentially three days of presentations starting tomorrow, Saturday.
This will be effectively the last chance that these Democrats, the House managers have to convince four Republican Senators to join them in supporting witnesses and documents in this trial.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And what we largely heard the last two and a half hours had to do with national security and assertions that the Trump administration and specifically President Trump had put the national security of the United States at risk by his conduct.
There was a long presentation that had to do with whether by making this alleged threat to Ukraine, alleged extortion or bribe of Ukraine to conduct these investigations, the President was essentially boosting Russia's power in the region, and there was use -- I thought interestingly -- of a lot of Republicans and Trump administration officials in making that case.
Both in using an old clip of the late Senator John McCain talking about the threat of Russia in the region and also using a number of Trump administration officials including former Russia expert Tim Morrison, who was at the National Security Council who talked a great deal.
The other part of the argument had to do with at the very end there Mr. Schiff -- Congressman Schiff, trying to make the point to the Republicans, OK, forget for a moment that President Trump did this to force investigations of Joe Biden. What if he had done this to you? If he's not stopped now, then you might be next.
And I was thinking about that, because I've been thinking about the fact that when candidate Trump didn't have this power, he used other levers of power, other attempts to do this. First of all, obviously his calls to Russia. Russia, if you're listening, please hack Hillary Clinton's e-mails.
But before that, when he was pursuing the nomination, when he didn't have these relationships or even any outreach by the Russians to his campaign, he had American media, which is the publisher of the "National Enquirer" and other supermarket tabloids, and that organization did his bidding with fake news, with false information that they used against Trump's rival Ted Cruz.
There was story after story before Trump had secured the Republican nomination, story after story, smear after smear against Republican Senator Ted Cruz. So Ted Cruz doesn't need to imagine what this would be like because a much smaller version of this was already done to him by Trump allies, in this case David Pecker and the American Media empire.
And we know what Ted Cruz's response ultimately was after President Trump referred to the "National Enquirer" crack pot story about his father having been involved in the JFK assassination, just a completely deranged story that President Trump went on television and told people to look into, not to mention smears against Ted Cruz's wife.
And what we see today is Senator Ted Cruz is one of President Trump's biggest boosters in the U.S. Senate, all apparently has been forgiven. So they don't need to imagine what it would be like, one of their own, and to a much lesser degree Marco Rubio has been in their shoes.
And the reaction seems to be, well, I don't want that to happen, therefore I'm not going to do anything to get President Trump angry with me, John King.
BLITZER: I was going to say, they're scared, clearly these Republicans are scared of the President, and his enormous power right now.
TAPPER: Actually, let's go in to Jeffrey Toobin who's in New York. And Jeffrey your response to the presentation we've seen so far?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, there were two things that really jumped out at me about Adam Schiff's statement. The first was he really addressed the question of like, why should we care? Why should we care about Ukraine? Why does any of this matter?
And I thought, you know, that's where he very effectively used John McCain to remind the Republican dominated U.S. Senate that, you know, Ukraine is a bulwark against Russia, and to be doing Russia's bidding as the accusation is here, is to put American national security at risk.
And then the second part, which is what you were just discussing, is do you think Donald Trump would hesitate to throw any of you under the bus? And you know, that's a pretty effective argument when you look at the casualty rate within Trump world. I mean, if you look at the people he started with in the White House, who's left? I mean -- Kellyanne Conway and his daughter and son-in-law, and that's about it.
Everybody else has been cast aside, and you know, he's saying to those Senators, do you think he has any interest at heart except his own? Now, I don't think that's going to get Adam Schiff any votes, but he's certainly making a point that even people who will be voting against him cannot miss.
BLITZER: And you know, Gloria, the lead House manager Adam Schiff went one step further in saying Donald Trump, the President of the United States represents a threat to U.S. national security and as a result must be removed from office, in his words, before the next election.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, you know, he portrayed him as a cheater, and throughout the entire presentations this afternoon, that is the word. If you did a word cloud and you looked at the word that was used the most, it would be cheater, and this is how they're portraying him to the American public. He is a cheater who is still cheating.
He is somebody who would sacrifice national security, who provided a coup for the Russians in Helsinki. He's a cheater who got caught cheating, and that is why he lifted the hold on the aid to Ukraine, and as Congressman Hakeem Jeffries said, he is a man of no character.
He used the word character, and he kept coming back to it, and I think so in addition to sort of making the case about abuse of power, they made the case about the President as a man and as a person who cannot be trusted.
And instead of talking about, oh, he lies all the time and of all that because kind of that's been accepted, what they were talking about is, is this the kind of person who you want in the Oval Office? Because you know, as Schiff said, do you think if we do nothing it's going to stop now?
TAPPER: So Dana Bash on Capitol Hill right now, and she has with her one of the two independents in the U.S. Senate. This is Senator Angus King who caucuses with the Democrats. He's on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you so much, Jake, and thank you, Senator King for joining me today. First your thoughts on when a you heard this morning -- or this afternoon?
SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I thought Adam Schiff hit an important point at the end because I don't want to be too nerdy but in England under impeachment, you not only lost your job, you could be killed, you could put in jail, you've lost your land.
Our framers expressly didn't say that. It's only loss of office. Therefore, the question really is not did you do something bad you should be punished for, but is it likely you would do it again? In other words, it's not punishment. It's prevention, and the keyword here is remorse. The President hasn't expressed a scintilla of remorse if he did anything --
BASH: But would that matter?
KING: Well, it matters because that says the only way to prevent him doing it again is to remove him from office. Do you see what I mean?
ANGUS: Bill Clinton in his case stood before the American people and said I made a mistake. I did something that was wrong. This is a case where the President tried to -- it appears anyway, get a foreign country to interfere in our election, and he doesn't regret it. He doesn't understand that he did anything wrong, therefore there's some likelihood he'll do it again.
BASH: He'll do it again, and you're right, that was sort of the crux of what Adam Schiff was saying. What was your takeaway from the use of John McCain and the clip of what he was saying about how important Ukraine is, particularly given how Russia is trying to use Ukraine?
KING: Well, I thought it was really important. I mean, I was looking across at my colleagues, I'm on Armed Services as you know, and arguing for lethal aid to Ukraine --
BASH: Armed services, which he chaired?
KING: That's right. It was one of the blessings of my life to be on that committee when he was the chair but the Republican argument was, we've got to give more lethal aid to Ukraine, we've got to give lethal aid.
And by the way, Obama didn't, and I suspect you're going to hear a lot of attacks saying, well, Trump has given more lethal aid to Ukraine than Obama did, and that's true. But the question is what about the suspension, and why did he do it? And all of the bad ramifications that flow from that.
BASH: So the other Senator from Maine is Susan Collins. I'm not going to ask you about her because she's doing her own thing, you're doing your own thing, but you share constituents.
BASH: What are you hearing from the constituents back home in Maine about how they want you to vote and how they're reacting to what they're hearing on the Senate floor?
KING: I haven't checked today, but as of last night when I did check this week, something like over 90 percent of the calls that we've gotten in the office have been we want witnesses. We want evidence, we want to see the documents, and that's -- that's what I'm hearing.
Not so much let him go, or you know, acquit, or guilty or not guilty, it's right now the intensity of the calls is why aren't they going to call witnesses?
BASH: OK. Senator, thank you so much for coming out during the break. Appreciate it.
KING: Thank you.
BASH: Jake and Wolf back to you.
BLITZER: All right. Dana, thanks very much, John King, what did you think of the two-and-a-half-hour presentation by the House managers so far today?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They know it's their last chance, yes, they will get 16 hours of questioning pretty evenly split. So the Democrats will get a chance, they'll be in consultation with the managers. So after the President's presentation, they will use that time for rebuttal, you know, strategically ask questions to get their rebuttal in.
But they also know this is their last uninterrupted chance. I thought the way they way they came about it, will see its defective but that the way they went about it was creative, in the sense that you have Congressman Crow getting into the details, going through the case, the facts. What happened?
That Hakeem Jeffries gets up and gives more of a sermon, think about this, the character of our country. Look yourselves in the eye because the Democrats know -- and we've talked about this -- the Republicans privately don't like the way the President conducts himself, most of them, not all of them. Most of them.
Especially the group of six or seven you're looking at as the potential four votes, whether it's Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Lamar Alexander, a former Governor, a southern gentleman, Mitt Romney, former Governor, Presidential nominee, from a very different part of the party than Donald Trump.
Rob portman of Ohio, former White House staffer in the George H. W. Bush, and then budget director in the George W. Bush. They don't like this way the President conducts himself. They've said so to a degree publicly. They don't like the way -- they don't like what Rudy Giuliani did.
So they're trying to essentially just keep shaking these people to try to look in the mirror, give us witnesses. Because that's what it's about. As of today you would need 20 votes if all the Democrats stuck together to convict and remove. That math is not there. Not even close.
The only way to put that into play is to get witnesses and hope for some bomb shell testimony from a Mick Mulvaney, from a John Bolton, from new documents, and so they're trying to get the four. And know this is their last several hours. They've got what?
Five and a half hours left, and the way they're going back and forth, part of it is facts and then part of it is a conscious appeal to these four votes. Give us more time by giving us more witnesses.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I thought they were trying to make those Senators and the viewing public feel something, right? They flash back to the summit in Helsinki when Trump was standing next to Putin.
KING: That was stunning.
HENDERSON: It was stunning, and it never gets -- it's never not stunning right? And you heard Schiff there I think express some outrage, express some anger and sometimes express fear and just somberness at this idea that this is an American President who stood next to Putin and threw the intelligence agencies under the bus.
And I thought the sort of repetition of do you think this is going to stop now. If we do nothing, do you think it is going to stop now? It is not going to stop unless the Congress does something about it. That I thought was a very powerful way to end this emotional day of testimony.
TAPPER: All right. Everyone, stick around, we are waiting for the Senate to come back into session. We're going to squeeze in one quick break. Come back for more live CNN special coverage of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Let's listen in on the President's attorney Jay Sekulow.
JAY SEKULOW, OUTSIDE LEGAL COUNSEL FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: -- important rights to weigh our separation of power worked under our form of government. Next question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Sekulow, by bringing up the Steele dossier are you suggesting that another President was involved?
SEKULOW: Another President was involved?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not, right? So how is the Steele dossier --
SEKULOW: No, no, no, the Steele dossier was -- no, how did the Steele -- well, no the question is, there was all this discussion about why was the President so suspicious of some of his intelligence information, some of the leaders he was dealing within his own government.
Well, the number three at the Department of Justice, wife was working for a firm that was working on a dossier against the sitting President of the United States, so don't put words in my mouth. Let me be crystal clear.
Yes, we're concerned about it. That was the number three at the FBI who for the life of me I can't figure out, he's still there in some capacity, but think about that. She was also working on Ukraine, next question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you be (INAUDIBLE) to present your defense next week?
SEKULOW: Well, I mean, as far as how long we'll go? I can't make that determination yet. Look, here's what happened. The Senate asked for an accommodation. We were prepared to go as long as they wanted us to go tomorrow. They asked I think it was 10 to 1 was the final decision. We'll present from 10 to 1ish.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what was the Senate's decision?
SEKULOW: Yes. We were ready to go. It's the Senate's decision. We respect the Senate's process. I think members --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They gave you 24 hours, they said we don't want you to use all 24 hours?
SEKULOW: No, they said, can you proceed for three hours tomorrow and take the other time you need to present your case. We will make --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) by the President saying that --
SEKULOW: No. we'll be live on 10:00 tomorrow, I suspect.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But he --
SEKULOW: So, well, I mean, trust me there will be plenty to cover.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the defense team at all concerned about ABC's reporting this morning of a recording reportedly showing that (INAUDIBLE) take her out, about Ukrainian ambassador? SEKULOW: Was this the one where they said there was a conversation
that involved that, yes, yes -- no, I'm not concerned about at that at all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) you are a paid adviser to the President, right? You're a paid adviser, are (INAUDIBLE).
SEKULOW: I won't say paid adviser. I'm the President's retained counsel, and so I don't discuss my legal fees, but we are paid for our legal services. I am not getting into that. Let's go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) OK, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you talk about tomorrow, we're not going to see Ken Starr or anybody like?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
SEKULOW: No, I think you'll see a -- I guess we would call it a trailer, coming attractions, that would be the best way to say it. Obviously, we have three hours to put it out, so we will take whatever time is appropriate during that three hours kind of lay out how the case will look like. But no, next week is when you'll see the full presentation. There will plenty see. Senator Warren.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon.
BLITZER: Well, there you can have it. Jay Sekulow, one of the President's private attorneys speaking on behalf of the White House Counsel, clearly, the President isn't very happy that they'll do it in three hours tomorrow. He tweeted it early in the day, it looks like my lawyers will be forced to start on Saturday which is called Death Valley in TV.
Manu Raju is up on Capitol Hill, Manu, you had a chance to speak with Senator Lindsey Graham?
MANU RAJU, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and about this conversation that he had with the President. The President clearly has been watching these proceedings, and according to Lindsey Graham who spoke to him tonight before last, he said that the President is quote, bored by what he saw.
And he also said that the President doesn't like the way he is being talked about by the House Democrats and, Graham apparently said back to him, look, I understand what you are saying.
Then Graham apparently told the President that he thought that Adam Schiff did a, quote, pretty good job, and the President thought that Schiff did a bad job, and then Graham explained his comments by saying that, look, he thought that his presentation he did a good job in hist presentation.
And the President apparently, asked Graham, well, how did the President respond when you said that Schiff did a pretty good job, and he said, I guess so. And then Graham explained that it was just about the way he delivered this. And he said, like, yes.
So we'll see. Obviously, the President has not happy about this, he's asked his allies to come and out defend him forcefully and of course, we will see that tomorrow. But it's clear from this conversation at least the President is watching what is happening on the Senate floor very closely, guys.
TAPPER: All right. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much. Let's get a couple of thoughts. Abby Philip, what do you think of the presentation so far and the arguments made?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think one of the other elements of the argument all put together was about the President as his own sort of his threat to national security.
And I think that that's in part what the argument about the President standing next to Vladimir Putin and puppeting Russian talking points is, is that this is part of the Democrats' effort to show not only a pattern of going into the past, but a pattern that they believe will go into the future of the President disregarding American foreign policy interests in the interests of his own political well-being or what have you.
I think that in some cases, there was sort of a question mark about what exactly the motivation is for some of this, but I do think that that's a big part of the argument to the American people, that it is not just about what is being done allegedly to Joe Biden and to Joe Biden's family, but about the country, the interests of America on the world stage.
You also saw Hakeem Jeffries, the Congressman, talking about what is not known. And making a really direct plea to the Senators to say we don't know the answer to the question of why the transcript of the President's call with Ukraine was put into that secure server. We need to know the answer to that question. Here are all of these individuals who can give us those answers.
BLITZER: All right. Everybody, stick around. There is a lot more that we're covering, much more of the live CNN special coverage, the Senate impeachment trial of the President of the United States, right after a quick break.
TAPPER: Any moment, we expect the House impeachment managers to continue their final day of opening arguments. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington along with Wolf Blitzer. Right now the Senate is in a short break. The House impeachment managers will back pick up to begin their presentation on article two, impeachment article two which is obstruction of Congress.