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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Donald Trump Defense Team Delivers First Day Of Opening Argument; Trump Lawyers To Senate: This Is Not An Impeachable Offense; Donald Trump Defense Begins By Accusing Democrats Of Interfering In Election; Senator Chuck Schumer Speaks After Trump Lawyers Lay Out Defense; House Managers Respond To Trump Team's Opening Argument. Aired 12-1p ET
Aired January 25, 2020 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAT CIPOLLONE, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: That's all we have done today. Ask yourself given the facts that you've heard today, that they didn't tell you who doesn't want to talk about the facts? Who doesn't want to talk about the facts?
The American people paid a lot of money for those facts. They've paid a lot of money for this investigation. And they didn't bother to tell you. Ask yourself why? If they don't want to be fair to the President, at least out of respect for all of you they should be fair to you. They should tell you these things. And when they don't tell you these things, it means something.
So think about that. Impeachment shouldn't be a shell game. They should give you the facts. That's all we have for today. We ask you out of respect to think about, think about whether what you've heard would really suggest to anybody anything other than would be completely irresponsible abuse of power to do what they're asking you to do?
To stop an election to interfere in an election and to remove the President of the United States from the ballot, let the people decide for themselves. That's what the founders wanted, that's what we should all want, and with that, I thank you for your attention and I look forward to seeing you on Monday.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): The Majority Leader is recognized.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Mr. Chief Justice, I ask unanimous consent that trial adjourn until 1:00 pm Monday January 27th, and that this order also constitute the adjournment of the Senate.
NADLER: Without objection, so ordered. The Senate is adjourned.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And so there it is. The first two hours of the White House lawyers' rebuttal to what we heard from the Democrats, the House Managers. They spent about 21 hours or so, maybe 22, close to 22 hours making their case why the President of the United States should not only be impeached but should be convicted and removed from office?
We heard a very, very different side of the story from these four White House lawyers today. Pat Cipollone, Jay Sekulow, Mike Purpura and Pat Philbin some more powerful than the others in trying to raise questions about credibility of House Managers, especially the Lead House Manager, Adam Schiff.
Jeffrey Toobin has been watching all of this very, very closely. I suspect, Jeffrey, that if you're one of the wavering GOP Senators on the fence right now, what they heard from these White House lawyers probably helped them if they're going to come around to the decision to avoid any additional witnesses or evidence.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Right. I'm not sure there are many wavering Republican Senators at this point, but certainly there was information put forth today that would allow Republicans to vote against witnesses and to vote for an acquittal. That's what defense lawyers do.
It was not spell binding. I thought Mr. Purpura, who was I believe the second person to argue, did a very good job of talking about one rather narrow issue, which is whether when the Ukrainians knew that the aid was cut off. I thought that he was persuasive on that point.
But after that I thought it deteriorated. I was very surprised that Jay Sekulow who I think is a very fine lawyer I've seen him argue in the Supreme Court several times sort of wandered in the wasteland of the Mueller report that didn't seem very relevant.
Mr. Philbin who is not a spell binding performer went on about how it was legitimate in their view not to respond to any subpoenas, not to provide to provide any witnesses by the Trump Administration. I thought that was a particularly weak performance.
But, you know, if you are inclined to the defense point of view, there were facts and arguments that you could certainly find to justify your position this morning.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Preet, I'm wondering what you thought about?
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I generally to agree what Mr. Toobin had to say. What I think is interesting looking back a day, in the final closing argument that Chairman Adam Schiff made, he did it we call a prebuttal, doesn't have an opportunity to come back at the end of what the President's lawyers say.
COOPER: Well, certain preempt what they were going to say?
BHARARA: Right. And I think I didn't tick them all off. I didn't have a chart or an excel spread sheet, but I think pretty much everything that was raised today in some way was anticipated by Adam Schiff yesterday. So if you're the type of juror who has paid attention and you care about listening to facts and arguments and you remembered what Adam Schiff said yesterday, you had some response to things that were said today? [12:05:00]
BHARARA: But overall I don't think any major change. I think in the contrary of what some people have seen saying on social media, that it was a smart thing to not take too much time. I don't know if that's a function of wanting to be respectful of Senators' times or because the President has said we're in the death valley of ratings. He was pleased to be here on the Death Valley Ratings out today. But generally speaking, if you take less time and you make your points more crisply, that's probably better.
TOOBIN: And also if you're winning, shut up. That's I think the guiding principle of what they're doing.
COOPER: Let's get some other takes from Jennifer.
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, one thing I was surprised about, we didn't hear about the Bidens very much. We did hear all the Hunter Biden, Hunter Biden that we thought or we cite we might hear today. Instead, we got this kind of legal argument here, Trump's the victim argument there, little bit scattered shopped, but it wasn't as affirmative, offensive an argument as I expected. We may see more of that Monday but I felt we get more of that it is a little bit of a surprise.
COOPER: And Ross?
ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I think the notion was go into the weekend and sort of hit key points of the House Managers' case. Normally the person who defines the issue wins, so I was a little bit surprised that the President's team sort of didn't kind of make their own case, their own points.
But I think the reason for that, is that they knew we were going into the weekend, they know about the Sunday talk shows, they're trying to hit the House Managers' point, and then the appeal to the kind of general public that this is about elections, this is about kind of disrupting the results of the 2016 election and potentially disrupting the 2020 election. That's sort of the appeal to the general public.
COOPER: It seems to me though if I mean, Sunday talk shows seem to be important to President Trump. He certainly seems to have watched them, liked to have his people on them. I would have thought going into those shows they would have made more of an argument on whether it is the Bidens or whatever argument they want to push.
TOOBIN: I love make some Jake Tapper, but are the Sunday shows really that important?
COOPER: --President Trump.
TOOBIN: It is sort of mystifying to me that he is so concerned about them. Again, I just think the Republicans are winning here. The President is winning here. And as long as they don't completely fall on their faces, which they're all competent lawyers, they're not going to do that, I think that's fine for them.
BHARARA: Look who was elected to speak today? You know the fact that the President of United States picked people like Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr and others who are somewhat flamboyant, Ken Starr, known for flamboyant but controversial because he is known for the prior big case that he presided over, those guys weren't up on the Senate floor today.
And it may be that this is in coordination with the President, it may be that we'll hear reports later today that the President was really angry about this because he cares about the Sunday shows, and he wanted more pep and he wanted more fire and brimstone and he wanted more Biden. We don't know.
We see it all the time. He is watching sometimes on mute, sometimes he is watching with sound, and he will have a reaction and then we'll see. Maybe we'll see all those things, that Jennifer was right to say were surprisingly missing today on Monday.
COOPER: I mean, oath of beginning, off the top, they do try to put the transcript kind of at the center which is--
TOOBIN: And they did make one good point about that I thought, which was you know the President did talk about burden sharing in that phone call, and the House Managers didn't focus on that or even mention it. Fair is fair. I think that is--
COOPER: Which is something he has talked about in other places.
TOOBIN: He has talked about before. That was I thought a very legitimate good point made by the defense. Whether that's enough to overcome what else is in the transcript is a separate question, but I believe that was Cipollone who raised that, I'm trying to remember which lawyer it was, but this is what good lawyers do. You point to evidence that favors your case, whether it is the dispositive piece of evidence is of course a different question, but good for them.
RODGERS: They can't help themselves from making stupid mistakes. They're talking about the transcript and Purpura actually says it is the real transcript, you see actual transcript. It is not a transcript, it says so right on the front page of it. Why are they mischaracterizing things when they don't have to?
COOPER: What's this that President Trump said about the transcript?
RODGERS: But that's the point. These are his lawyers; they're supposed to be more careful. Why are you going to misrepresent what it is, when all you have to say is we have the read out from the call and let's look at that and see what it says? It just seems like a mistake to me.
GARBER: I think he sort of talks in terms of the transcript and I think they wanted to make sure but he knew what they were talking about? It was the read out which everybody refers to as a transcript. In contrast to the whistleblowers--
COOPER: They did try to point out or early on, what they were referring to were sort of the Democratic facts, the Democrats' facts, that the things that they pre-approved in the underground bunker, which is again just not a completely accurate way to describe it.
BHARARA: It is not a bunker. By the way Michael Purpura, who I've great respect for and former colleague of mine and Jennifer's, served in the military, he knows it is not a bunker, and skiff doesn't have windows, does matter if it is in the basement or in the penthouse of those of you know that sort of parroting some of the words that Trump and his political allies like to put forward.
Dog whistles against the folks. They don't get to the facts. Sometimes it did do get referred. So for example, repeatedly, you see this in regular trials, too, they said you know what you didn't hear from the prosecution or we didn't hear from the House Manager, you didn't hear this fact or that fact.
I think they over did that, they did that too much. And sometimes it behooves the people presenting the case in anticipation like Adam Schiff did with something yesterday, but not everything to say you know what? These are some facts they are not good for us, let me explain to you why they actually don't hurt our case. And so they did come back at them and said these things didn't happen.
COOPER: Is that one of the reasons you think that the Democrats focused on the Bidens to the extent that they did, that it takes away from the prosecution effort from the defense saying well, you know what they didn't tell you about, they didn't want to talk about the Bidens, here's why?
BHARARA: Yes. I mean, that's what you do. You know you pull the sting in any direct examination of a witness who has got a problem. You want to make sure that you as the prosecutor bring that out first so it pulls the sting so when the other side raises it, it is not as harmful. They're 95 things that they could have done that where they probably did to with respect to a majority of them but they picked out all the things that they didn't.
TOOBIN: But you made a good point, Jennifer, I mean that we didn't hear I didn't know if Biden was mentioned today, if he was, it was very briefly. And I said I thought you know today was the trial of Joe Biden didn't happen. I expect that will be saved for better ratings of a weekday because there's no way the Trump lawyers are going to try this case without going after Joe Biden in a very big way.
COOPER: What we did expect, which came to pass for us, Giuliani wasn't even mentioned as far as I--
GARBER: I didn't hear his name at all.
RODGERS: And we won't.
GARBER: Yes, which is not a surprise? What the President's lawyers did is they stuck very closely to what the President said and people who talked to the President and stayed away from all of the Giuliani stuff. One of the other things I think was notable, which who did the arguments today?
It was mostly the President's official lawyers, these are White House lawyers, and these are government employees as opposed to the President's personal lawyers. Jay Sekulow was the only personal lawyer who spoke today. That to me was pretty striking.
TOOBIN: White House and white people. You know, this is a lesson in the diversity of the two parties. You look at the House Managers, it was almost evenly divided between men and women, it was you had two African-Americans, you had a Hispanic, I mean, and it was all white men today. There are two white women allegedly on the team, we'll see if they're allowed to argue.
But I mean, I think in a visual medium when you have one side that has a very diverse team and the other side that's all white men, that says something in and of it.
COOPER: The focus on the transcript, it is interesting that they sort of did their interpretation of the transcript, but it is also not the whole story. It is again one of the larger talking points of the Trump Administration which is they're trying to impeach him over a phone call. It is something that has been going on a lot longer than that phone call.
RODGERS: You know it's not. And it is an interesting thing about the way that this was proceedings because in a trial, the prosecutors would get a rebuttal. So one of the first things they would do is stand up and say they missed all of this stuff, I want to remind you about all of this evidence that the defense lawyers didn't tell you about.
They're not getting a chance to do that here. There will be questions and you have to hope that the Senators will put the lawyers to the task and ask them questions about things that they missed, but no one is going to be able to stand up and say they wanted to talk only about the transcript, they don't want to talk about all of the other testimony about what was going on at the time this shows that this was a quid pro quo.
COOPER: When it gets to the questions, how that is done, is it written in.
GARBER: Yes. The way it works, the Senators write the questions or have their staffs write them for them, submit them, and then the Chief Justice actually puts the questions to the lawyers and the lawyers answer.
One of the things that I am looking to see is which lawyers are actually present for the Q&A. You know it was Alan Dershowitz going to be there for questions and answers Ken Starr is going to be there for the questions and answers. My hunch is probably not. But that segment will be quite something to see.
BHARARA: How does follow-up work? As any good lawyer knows, it is not the initial question that elicits the proper response, it is the second, third or fourth question. I don't know that Justice Roberts is going to be following up. He won't be.
GARBER: That's right. It will be up to the Senators to submit additional questions.
TOOBIN: Who knows that - utterly nonresponsive answer that goes beyond the scope or is a distraction, that's it and we're done.
COOPER: I'm trying to remember. I was there. I don't think Rehnquist read the questions. Did he? I apologize for not knowing that.
TOOBIN: I think he did. Even we can't remember - I'm told that he did.
GARBER: He did read the questions? Okay.
COOPER: We'll double check on that. Wolf, let's go to you.
BLITZER: He did read the questions, Alan Fruman, the Senate Parliamentarian of Emeritus who is here with us, just reminded us that he did in fact read the questions, so presumably John Roberts the Chief Justice of the United States will read questions, 16 hours of questions scheduled for next week after the White House lawyers, Anderson, finish their presentation.
They took two hours so far today. They have 22 hours to go if they want to use it all, by all accounts, they won't. Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut is joining us right now. Senator, what do you think?
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): I thought the President's lawyers did as effective job as possible in presenting their client's case, that their tone was good, it was respectful. I hope it continues into Monday and Tuesday.
They spent a lot of time talking about whether or not the Ukrainians knew that that the funding was on hold throughout the summer. I'm not sure the utility of spending so much time making that point because the evidence is pretty overwhelming that first the White House used the meeting to try to leverage these negotiations, and then after that they turned to the aid.
And so there's not really a question of whether or not we were trying to use our security aid in order to get these political investigations, it is just a matter of when that began, so I don't think it is a really persuasive case. But I was at least glad that they didn't today engage in some of the personal attacks and the political sideshows that many of us are worried about.
BLITZER: Were you surprised, there was really no substantive mention of the Bidens?
MURPHY: I would be surprised if it doesn't show up Monday and Tuesday, given what Republican Senators have been saying off line and comments that the President's Counsel have been making to reporters throughout the House Managers' testimony, but I will take today's testimony and just say that I was glad that we didn't get into these Fox News conspiracy theories in the two hours that the House presented today.
BLITZER: Did you hear any actual factual errors by these four White House lawyers that were uttered today?
MURPHY: Well, you know they continue to make these claims about secret hearings in the House of Representatives that continue to be untrue. There were 100 members of the House that were able to be part of those hearings. They make these claims that subpoenas weren't valid because there was no impeachment resolution at the beginning of the inquiry.
That's not true. The House always has the legal ability to subpoena records from the administration, and they continue to make this claim that Ukraine felt no pressure and that's just nonsense. I as you know Wolf has been working on U.S./Ukraine policy for the better part of the last decade.
I was hearing in the spring from my contacts who were visiting Ukraine that they were feeling pressure. The minute that Rudy Giuliani showed up and started demanding these investigations into the Bidens and of course it would stand - reason that the Ukrainians were feeling pressure when the President is telling them the one thing I care about is doing investigations into my political opponents.
BLITZER: I just point out, when they had those initial hearings behind closed doors in what's called that skiff, the secure room down at the House of Representatives, there were Republicans there, there were Democrats there, they all had equal time and all of that, but there was no White House Representative allowed to cross examine during that first initial encounter, that's right.
MURPHY: That is right, but of course that's in line with precedent as the House lawyers pointed out several times over the course of their testimony. And that's a precedent set by Republicans when they were in charge of the House didn't allow for agency lawyers to come in and represent individuals.
Of course all of the individuals who testified before the House were allowed to have personal counsel, and I think many, if not all of them, took advantage of that.
BLITZER: That's an important point, too. One of the things that Pat Cipollone, the Lead White House Attorney, the White House Counsel made that this is all politics on your part, on the part of the Democrats, that you're simply there to try to undo the election of 2016 and undermine the President, he says the American people need to decide election results.
We have one in nine months, he said. What you're doing is undermining the U.S. constitution, history, and the sacred trust of the American people by even going forward with this impeachment process. What's your reaction to Cipollone?
MURPHY: Well, none of us want to be here. I am generally an opponent of the President's policies, but I have no interest in impeaching the President. The problem is that this is a President who is attempting to rig an election he was attempting to get a foreign country to try to interfere so as to take away the choice from my constituents.
I have an obligation as a steward of the constitution to stop that from happening. And of course the idea that all Democrats have cared about is impeaching the President is ridiculous on its face because for the majority of the time that the Democrats controlled the House of Representatives since 2018, all they have been doing is passing legislation, passing 300 pieces of legislation, they're all sitting on the Senate desk.
And so it wasn't until this crisis occurred in which we found out that the President was trying to rig an election that we had to step in. I take no joy in it. I think it was absolutely necessary.
BLITZER: Very quickly, last question. You have got four Republican Senators who are going to join you and vote in favor of witnesses and other evidence, documents.
MURPHY: The President's lawyers made a compelling case for witnesses today. They said well you haven't heard anybody testify that the President told them other than Gordon Sondland to engage in this corruption. That's because the White House isn't allowing people that the President talks to on a regular basis like Mick Mulvaney and John Bolton to testify.
And so I thought the President's lawyers made a pretty compelling argument to Republicans to bring witnesses in, and I don't know that they will listen but I hope they will.
BLITZER: We'll find out next week. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut thanks so much for joining us.
BLITZER: All right, so that's it. Two hours of opening arguments by the White House lawyers. They still have 22 hours to go, although by all accounts, they're not going to use all 22 hours Monday and Tuesday much more of our special coverage right after this.
BLITZER: There's the Democratic Leader, Chuck Schumer.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Good afternoon folks. Now, the first point that I would like to make is that the President's Counsel did something that they did not intend. They made a really compelling case for why the Senate should call witnesses and documents.
They kept saying there are no eyewitness accounts, but there are people who have eyewitness accounts. The very four witnesses and the very four sets of documents that we have asked for they made the argument that no one really knows what the President intended his speculation what the President intended when he cut off aid, but there are people who do know, Mick Mulvaney knows, in all likelihood Mr. Blair knows. Mr. Bolton may know.
Why shouldn't we have witnesses and documents here? I thought, and one other point about witnesses and documents, they make the argument, the President's Counsel, that the President couldn't participate in the House process because they believe, I don't believe it is right, but because they, the President couldn't participate in the House process because it didn't go by the rules of the constitution and what was required.
Here in the Senate we're doing it exactly as the constitution requires. Will they participate or will they find some other excuse? So the President's Counsel is criticizing the case against the President for lack of sources close to the President while at the same time blocking testimony from witnesses close to the President. It makes no sense.
And even if you're on the Republican side, I don't think the House Managers I don't think the President's Counsel did a very good job. There are gaping holes in their testimony. They spent 30 minutes refuting something that the House never said, that in July and August, the quid pro quo was for military assistance. It wasn't, it was for a meeting.
But I'll leave that the House Managers are coming in here and I'll leave that to them to refute point by point. But they have a very good website where they do refute this. But the bottom line is that even if you're Republican, even if you think they made a good case as I hear some of the Republicans saying, no one denies that the House made a good case.
Even Republicans say the House Managers made a good case. So if you're a Republican and you think that the case that was made today was strong, then why not have witnesses and documents if you think both sides made their case? That's what a trial would do?
To just quote one of my colleagues, Senator Gillibrand to my colleagues, don't bury your head in the sand and then complain about it being dark. There's real evidence, there's real facts, and another thing, Mr. Philbin talked about the judicial right of cross examination and how it was so sacred in western jurisprudence? What does cross examination involve? Witnesses, so the bottom line is very simple.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to continue to monitor Senator Schumer, he is wrapping up over there. We'll continue to monitor what he is saying. But Gloria Borger, it looks like the House Managers there are about to have another formal news conference themselves, they'll respond to what we just heard from White House lawyers, and I assume that will go point by point to what we just heard over the past two hours?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And I think that Adam Schiff has already started doing that on Twitter. And I think what we saw today is attack Adam Schiff today and attack his credibility, which they did. Cipollone started by using that parody that Adam Schiff unwisely gave before his committee to sort of say, well, this is not a credible man and they attacked him. They will do Joe Biden, no doubt about it, next week.
But I think in a large case, couple of things, number one is they totally bought in to the President did absolutely nothing wrong, which is what the President wanted to hear, as Kaitlan knows better than any of us. And also trying to make the case that Donald J. Trump is a victim in all of this.
Jay Sekulow came out and said, look at what he had to put up with Bob Mueller, showing volume one, I believe it was, of the Mueller report. Not volume two, but volume one of the Mueller report, saying that this is a president who had to put up with these abuses. So if the President was paranoid, he had a right to be paranoid.
So they went back to the Mueller case and said, look, this is a guy who's been attacked unfairly. The Democrats are just doing more of this, because they want to get him out of office. And then Jay Sekulow went there on the conspiracy theories. He went there and raised the possibility that Ukraine interfered in the last election and that is something that I wonder how the senators are going to react to that.
Because, again, that is something that 17 intelligence agencies have said that did not occur. The President's own FBI Director Chris Wray said that did not occur and Jay Sekulow went there again.
One more fact I just want to point out which is they said the Ukrainians just did not know about any of this. But they're forgetting the testimony of Jennifer Williams. And Jennifer Williams testified that the Ukrainians were asking what happened to the aid on July 25th. And that was the day, of course, we know that the President had his kind of questionable phone call with the President Zelensky.
So there are a bunch of things, I'm sure, that these House managers are going to go back at in their presser.
BLITZER: Nia Malika, what do you think?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: No, I think that's right. I mean, this was very much sort of the greatest hits. I mean, there were hits obviously on Adam Schiff as you talk about hits on the FBI, hits on the process in the House kind of going over that. The last person he was a bit dry, as we've noted, very much into the process and really making the argument somehow that the process in the House had gone correctly that somehow that the White House would have turned over all of these documents when --
BORGER: And witnesses.
HENDERSON: -- and witnesses, right. So, of course, I mean and that's where you see Schumer essentially making the argument. Well, maybe they'll have documents and witnesses in this one. But I thought the central part of this and I think Donald Trump watching this is going to be happy about this.
The central argument is that A, the call was perfect and that Donald Trump is really, really, really concerned about corruption. That he is this crusader going around the world trying to root out corruption wherever he finds it.
I mean, the evidence of that call, the evidence of the Trump's record shows that he is singularly focused on corruption when it has to do with Ukraine, whether it's this debunked conspiracy theory around this server that doesn't even really exist or the Bidens. So I think they're laying the predicate that all of this makes sense and then I think you'll see going forward, really hammering on the Bidens, both Hunter and Joe Biden and making the argument that this President had every right to go after the Bidens in the way that he did.
BLITZER: Yes. The President has somebody who's interviewed him before he became president, going back some 20 years. He never liked foreign aid to begin with.
BLITZER: He doesn't like U.S. money going overseas. He wants to keep that money here in the United States. Why don't the Europeans pay for NATO? Why don't the Japanese pay for those troops in Japan or the South Koreans?
BORGER: The chairman, yes.
BLITZER: He never liked that and I suspect his opposition to all of this us money going abroad wasn't the result of corruption. It was because he wanted to keep that money here. He never understood why it was America's national security interest to be spending all of that money and you cover him on a day-to-day basis.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right about the aid, but the other thing that they did focus on they said, they talked about how corrupt Ukraine is and how pervasive the corruption has been among the highest levels of their government, which is true. But the question is, is that the President's concern and when you read the July 25th transcript of the call, which they really focused on, that word is not mentioned in the transcript of that call by President Trump at all. It's not mentioned.
It's also not mentioned in the April call that the President had, even though readout they gave us at the time said they did talk about corruption.
When we later got the transcript of that call, it also did not mention corruption. The President didn't bring it up. So that's the question about that argument.
I think they did two things there today that the President wanted. They criticized and attacked Adam Schiff, which we knew was coming. That video clip of Adam Schiff reading the parody of the President's call, we could have essentially guaranteed they were going to do that.
BLITZER: That was their lead basically.
(CROSSTALK) COLLINS: It was within the first few minutes.
BLITZER: Yes. Yes.
COLLINS: I think it was the first video.
COLLINS: And then, of course, they focused on the transcript, which is really interesting because I think their main argument there was that we have been or Democrats and been misreading the transcript and then they're not actually knowing the President intentions. But of course, the transcript is out there, everyone can read it.
And when you look at the transcript and you go through it, you can see what the President's concern is. It's not burden sharing. That's not the President's main concern. Though that was their main defense as it came out of it today, which was a really interesting argument and attack that they took, which we hadn't exactly expected.
BLITZER: The other argument -
BORGER: (Inaudible) --
BLITZER: -- I was going to say the argument and I'm sure the President was very happy to see this, all of the clips of when Adam Schiff, early on, was talking about collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. And then they played all those clips and then, of course, the quote from the Mueller report saying --
COLLINS: Essentially arguing that the President has a right to doubt the Intelligence community. That's why Jay Sekulow brought up that in the first place.
BLITZER: They were trying to undermine Adam Schiff's credibility in the point.
BORGER: Well, they did that on the question of the whistleblower testifying as well and they made the point, well, why was he for the whistleblower coming in at first and then he was against it. And, of course, that change was because of the death threats that had come in against the whistleblower after the President said that he or she was guilty of treason and then sort of backed off of that, but they didn't talk about that at all. And the question is whether that's relevant, either.
BLITZER: Alan Frumin, you're the Senate Parliamentarian Emeritus right now from the parliamentary perspective. These two hours, we just heard that the White House lawyers make the case for the President. What did you think?
ALAN FRUMIN, SENATE PARLIAMENTARIAN EMERITUS: Well, I'm less focused on the merits of the arguments. I'm willing to stipulate now at the end of 24 hours on the part of the President's counsel if that they use it all, in total of 48 hours from the parties, I'm willing to stipulate to a rhetorical draw at that point. What I'm interested in seeing is what happens during the 16 hours of
questions from senators. I think things could get interesting there. As I said before, it's possible that the Chief Justice could become involved in having to mediate arguments and objections at that point. I note that Chief Justice - on the part of brevity, Chief Justice Rehnquist unilaterally imposed a five-minute limit on responses to questions.
He said they could be fairly and honestly answered within five minutes or less.
FRUMIN: And more or less (ph) -
BLITZER: And so basically during those 16 hours, which is probably two days next week, there will be written questions from the senators. They're not allowed to speak. They will be given to the Chief Justice John Roberts. He will then read those questions and let both sides, the House managers and the White House lawyers respond.
FRUMIN: Well, the questions are directed to one party or the other. And so it will be up to the party to whom the question is addressed to respond. I don't believe there was any leeway for the other side to respond to a question that was not directed at.
BLITZER: All right.
BORGER: So you can't go back, is there room for a follow up, for example?
FRUMIN: Well, that's up to the senators.
BLITZER: If somebody writes a question, there's a follow up --
BORGER: If somebody writes a follow up but --
FRUMIN: They have to be quick.
BORGER: -- they have to be quick about it, right?
BORGER: Because you got to get it in there.
BLITZER: All right. We're expecting the House managers, Adam Schiff and company, to be holding a news conference momentarily, we'll get their response to what we heard from the White House lawyers. Much more of our special coverage right after this.
[12:43:01] COOPER: President Trump's outside counsel, Jay Sekulow, presented a
case that this impeachment process was started all because of a disagreement between the White House and the Intelligence community. Take a close look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY SEKULOW, OUTSIDE LEGAL COUNSEL FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: In his summation on Thursday night, Manager Schiff complained that the President chose not to go with the determination of his intelligence agencies regarding foreign interference and instead decided that he would listen to people that he trusted and he would inquire about the Ukraine issue himself. Mr. Schiff did not like the fact that the President did not apparently blindly trust some of the advice he was being given by the intelligence agencies.
First of all, let me be clear, disagreeing with the President's decision on foreign policy matters or who's advice he's going to take is in no way an impeachable offense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It was Jay Sekulow. Jennifer, I mean, the way he's phrasing it, the idea that they're trying to impeach him because he disagreed with his Intelligence community, what do you make of that argument?
RODGERS: Yes. Well, he's acting as if he chose to believe one set of official of United States' employee advisors over another set of U.S. employee advisor experts. Instead, he's actually talking to Rudy Giuliani and now we know Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman.
He is not taking advice from the people who keep us safe, our Intelligence community. He's taking advice from people outside of that, so it's a false argument.
TOOBIN: Well, but Jay Sekulow was right that the President is allowed to listen to whoever he wants and disregard whatever he wants. I mean, that is a legitimate point. What's not legitimate is that that's somehow part of the accusation here.
The accusation is not that he listened to the wrong people and therefore he needs to be impeached. The accusation is that he engaged in a corrupt deal with the Ukrainian President.
That's the accusation. I mean, he can listen to whoever he wants. I mean it's just a straw man argument.
GARBER: Except over and over at the House managers emphasized sort of that this is the opinion of official career staff, the State Department. This is the opinion of the Intelligence community. And I think Trump's lawyers were smart to address that point. And I think we're going to hear it over and over again, that it's the President they're going to say who is responsible for diplomacy. It's the President who's in charge of implementing a foreign policy. And, as noted, it's the President who can listen to whomever he wants.
COOPER: It looks like the House managers are speaking. Let's listen.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Good afternoon. We want to take this opportunity to respond to a number of the representations or misrepresentations that you heard during the President's presentation this morning. And I'm going to make a few remarks. I'll let my colleague, Mr. Nadler, address some of the procedural arguments that counsel made and then we'll be happy to respond to a couple of questions.
First of all, what was most striking to me about the President's presentation today is they don't contest the basic architecture of the scheme. They do not contest that the President solicited a foreign nation to interfere in our election to help him cheat. I think they acknowledge by not even contesting this, that the facts are overwhelming.
The President invited Ukraine to get involved in our election to help him cheat against Joe Biden. That is uncontested in our presentation and uncontested in theirs.
What they do argue is the following: First, they argue that the July 25 transcript doesn't show the two leaders making an explicit reference to a corrupt this for that quid pro quo or bribery scheme. As if you would expect the two leaders on the phone to say, OK, this is how the bribery is going to work. This is how the shakedown is going to work. You're not going to get this unless I get that.
And, of course, that's not what you generally see in a shakedown scheme, even if it were done by organized crime. But what you do see is the following, they make the argument. There's no mention of security assistance or military support during this call.
But, of course, one of the first things that Zelensky brings up on that call is how grateful they are for the military defense support and how they are ready to buy more javelins. Now, the President's team acknowledges just how important those javelins are, what a great weapon those javelins are against tanks.
But what they don't really want you to pay attention to is immediately, as in the very next sentence, immediately after President Zelensky brings up this desire to get what the President's team acknowledges among the most important weapons they get from United States, where does Trump go? "But I want you to do us a favor, though."
So he goes right to the favor, they would argue there's no link between military support, because he didn't say I'm extorting you, but instead move right to the favor he wanted right after Zelensky brings up the javelins. The most important military aid, I think they acknowledged today.
They also say, well, there's no explicit quid pro quo mentioned into the head of state call on the White House meeting. But, of course, they're prepped, Zelensky was prepped for this call and the President was prepped by Rudy Giuliani for this call. And so what do you see? You see the Ukrainian leader being asked to do this investigations by the President and repeatedly committing to do the investigations.
And at the end of the call, you literally see the Ukrainian leaders say, we're going to do these investigations. And then he says, on the other hand, I'm really looking forward to that White House meeting. It doesn't need to be more explicit than that.
Now, we are meant to, I guess, believe from the presentation today that that call was all about burden sharing, because he makes a mention of how Angela Merkel and others in Europe aren't doing enough as if that was really the thrust of the call. If that was really the thrust of the call, you wouldn't have heard the President asking the Ukrainian leader to get in touch with Rudy Giuliani so much. You would have him saying call Angela. Instead, of course, it's call Giuliani.
But if you had any question about this, about whether this was really about burden sharing or it was about these two investigations that he specifically goes into.
Any doubt would have been removed the following day when he gets on the phone to his own Ambassador to Europe, Gordon Sondland. If the issue is really Europe and burden sharing, he has the perfect opportunity to raise that the very next day following the call. So what does he ask Gordon Sondland? Does he ask him, "Hey, Gordon, how's that effort to get the Europeans to do more coming?" "Hey, Gordon, have you talked to Angela yet?"
No. He has only one question for Gordon Sondland, is he going to do the investigations. And the answer is, "Yes, he'll do anything you want. He loves your ass." OK. Does that sound like burden sharing to you? Of course not.
Now, they also argue that President Zelensky has not said publicly that he feels pressured. He hasn't said public that there was a quid pro quo that he was being shaken, as if a country wholly dependent on us is going to admit to being shaken down, which would not only irreparably break any relationship that he has with the President, but also it would reflect adversely on him with his own people.
And yes, you could apply a little common sense, you don't have to be a mind reader to see why that would be so deeply damaged into Ukraine. They don't want to admit it publicly, but they have said it privately. They've said, as you heard testimony, that there was deep concern that Zelensky did not want to be used as a pawn in a U.S. domestic politics. So they said it privately, even if they can't say it publicly.
Now, they also make the argument that the Ukrainians didn't know the security systems was withheld. OK. That's just not true. One of the things they didn't talk about today was the fact that the Ukrainian foreign minister, Deputy Foreign Minister, now the former Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister admitted publicly that they found out about the hold within days of that call, by the end of July. They received a cable from the Ukrainian embassy about the freeze on
military assistance. But she was instructed, the Foreign Ministry was instructed by a top aide to Zelensky not to bring it up, not to discuss it, to keep it quiet. She was planning to come to Washington and she was told not to go to Washington because they wanted to keep this quiet.
And, of course, they ignore the testimony of Gordon Sondland himself, who said that he told the Ukrainians about the freeze. He told the Ukrainians about the freeze. Now, are we supposed to believe? Do we have to be mind readers to know that when Gordon Sondland in Warsaw tells his Ukrainian counterpart that they're not going to get the money essentially until they do these investigations, that they're not going to feel pressured about that, they're not going to feel pressured to do the investigation. That's absurd.
We all heard other witness testimony that they didn't play for you today, but we played earlier in the trial of Catherine Croft, one of the career public officials who testified that she was really impressed with Ukrainian tradecraft and how quickly they found out about the freeze on aid. It is impressive because the Ukrainians found out about the freeze on aid before most members of Congress did.
And this is the other key point, which is if this was so aboveboard, if this was really about Donald Trump fighting corruption, why did they hide it from Congress? Why didn't they tell Congress and the American people what they were doing? And the reason that they didn't tell the American people what they're doing is because it was a corrupt shakedown to get Ukraine to help them cheat in the election.
Now, next, they argue that the security assistance flowed on September 11lth and they got the meeting on September 25th. It's the we got caught, no harm, no foul.
But as we've discussed during the trial, there was enormous harm to the U.S. Ukraine relationship. There was enormous harm even with the pause in Russia learning that this President could be so easily manipulated into withholding aid from our ally.
There was damage to the confidence our allies around the world have in us because they would learn that we would do such a thing. There was damage because without an act of Congress, they didn't mentioned this today, without an act of Congress, it literally took an act of Congress, Ukraine wouldn't have gotten $35 million of that aid because of the President's actions.
He was caught, yes, and he was forced to release the aid. That does not mitigate his wrongdoing nor does it lead us to have any confidence he wouldn't do it again.
Now, they also say the meeting took place in the European Union and the - I'm sorry, at the United Nations and the House team didn't tell you about that. Well, of course, we did tell you about that. In fact, we showed you video from that meeting and what was said in that video we showed you of that meeting. Zelensky saying I still like that meeting in the Oval Office.
If we're to believe that a meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. is just as good as an Oval Office meeting between two heads of state, it certainly doesn't seem that way to President Zelensky who was still even as they were meeting saying I still really want that meeting in the Oval Office.
They also make the argument that the President strengthened U.S. support for Ukraine. Really? This is how he did it, by being unwilling to meet with the President of Ukraine in the Oval Office, by withholding hundreds of millions of military aid requiring Congress to step in, by violating the law, by violating The Impoundment Control Act, by keeping it a secret for Congress. This is how he shows support for an ally with support like that our allies should hope they get a lot less support.
This was deeply destructive of the relationship. And, of course, President Zelensky still can't get in the door of the Oval Office, but the Russian Foreign Minister can get in. President is more than willing to meet with Putin at anytime but not with our ally, apparently.
Now, one of the most extraordinary arguments, though, and this really takes your breath away. And this also, I think, underscores the real danger to this country by this President's continued occupancy of the Oval Office is the argument that Jay Sekulow made, essentially that the President has good reason not to trust his own intelligence agencies and the corollary of that is he has good reason to trust Vladimir Putin more.
OK. That is hard to wrap your head around. But that is the argument of the President's lawyer. He has every right to disbelieve his own intelligence agencies and thereby accept the opinion of our adversary Vladimir Putin. Everything is perfect, including the President's performance in Helsinki, apparently.
Now, they say that it's a false choice to say, well, if Russia intervened in the election, why couldn't Ukraine have intervened. Never mind that that contradicts what our own intelligence agencies, what our own FBI Director, what our own bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee found, what the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee found, what the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee sometimes admit and sometimes not, never mind all of that.
They say, "Why couldn't both countries have intervened?" Well, first, they didn't. OK. There was only one systemic interference in our election and that was by Russia. But second, what they're talking about here, what the President is talking about here is the server, is the server.
Well, unless we're to believe that both Russia and Ukraine hack the same server and were responsible for the same hacking and dumping campaign, then we are talking about one country's interference and that is Russia. And that the President continues to this day through his lawyer to say that they should trust the opinion of Vladimir Putin and Russian intelligence propaganda over their own intelligence agencies about this whole CrowdStrike cookie crazy conspiracy theory ought to alarm every American.
They also, and this is the overarching argument, continue to maintain the President did nothing wrong. This may be the most dangerous point they make. Because that means basically, you can seek as President of the United States to get a foreign nation to help you cheat in an election and you can do it through any means you like.
That is so deeply destructive of our national security and integrity of our elections. It's hard to overstate the matter.
One last thing that really stood out to me, and that was something that wasn't said. It was a name that, in fact, was never mentioned and that is Mick Mulvaney. There was no mention of the President's Chief of Staff.
Now, they say no Democratic witnesses said the security assistance was conditioned. Well, I don't know what they consider democratic witnesses. Of course, that statement is wrong too. There were any number of Democratic witnesses who testified exactly the opposite, that the security assistance was conditioned.
It was simple and as clear as two plus two equals four. They put it in writing. They testified about it.