Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Soon, Trump's Lawyers Present Case after Bolton's Bombshell; Schumer Press Conference on Bolton Book Leaks; What the Bolton Bombshell Means for the Overall Impeachment Case. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired January 27, 2020 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer, live in Washington, alongside jake tapper, Chris Cuomo. Dana Bash is up on Capitol Hill. This is CNN's special coverage of the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump.
We're also following the latest on the investigations into the tragic death of NBA great, Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash in California.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Here in Washington, the presidents' defense team takes the spotlight with their second day of opening arguments. But Sunday's one-day break brought bombshell revelations from former national security adviser, John Bolton.
The "New York Times" reporting the book Bolton is writing includes President Trump's admission to Bolton that Trump was holding up $391 million in strategic aid to Ukraine until Ukraine agreed to investigating Democrats such as the Biden family.
Dana Bash, sources tell CNN that senior officials and Republican Senators were blindsided by this leak -- these leaked details from the book.
DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, and frustrated, and making it clear to the White House that these -- I'm told by a source familiar with these conversations that Republican Senators are saying, why didn't we know about it.
And our understanding is that there are similar conversations going on inside the White House. Jim Acosta is hearing that as well as I am.
While we were coming on, Senator Susan Collins, who was a pivotal Republican Senator in the question of whether or not there will be votes, enough votes to call witnesses, in particular, John Bolton, she sent out a tweet and also spoke to our colleague in the hallway.
But there's an interesting part of her tweet and her statement I want to tell you about, in which she said, "The reports about John Bolton's book strengthens the case for witnesses. And have prompted a number of conversations among my colleagues." So she has said from the get-go that she's likely to support
witnesses, but the fact that she is saying there that she is having conversations with fellow Republicans is noteworthy.
Because, as our colleague, Phil Mattingly, keeps reminding us, if she is having conversations with her fellow Republicans, you can bet that Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is aware of those conversations or maybe even a part of those conversations.
Which means, if there's a decision on witnesses, it is hard to imagine if there's a groundswell of Republicans, big if, that he might change his tune just like he did at the very beginning, in a minor way, but it was significant that he showed that he can change course when he changed the number of days, for example, that each side got to present their argument.
So there's a lot of scrambling, a lot of conversations going on among Republican Senators, right now, based on this bombshell news that John Bolton -- what is in John Bolton's manuscript, transcript, of the book he has coming out saying explicitly he had conversations with the president.
BLITZER: Dana, stand by.
John King, let's talk about Mitch McConnell. Let's say he goes behind closed doors with his fellow Republicans in the next hour or two, what will be the message?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Number one, they'll ask him. There will be questions for him. This is a leader in the middle of something incredibly delicate who does not like to be blindsided.
So Mitch McConnell has questions for the White House. Did you know this, did the president's lead counsel, Mr. Cipollone, who is sitting right there, know this and did you not tell us, when I'm trying to keep the bottle -- the genie in the bottle on four votes.
We know Collins and Romney want witnesses. We know Murkowski came in inclined to have witnesses. She moved away from that.
I think the most important member in the Republican meeting today, besides McConnell -- he's the most important by far -- Lamar Alexander, who has a history back to the Watergate days, who is retiring, who is not a fan of how this president conducts himself, who is also not a fan of -- a former governor -- of being blindsided by information like this.
Do they move? Can McConnell keep them in place? And how can he keep them in place? How can he keep them in place?
Yes, they have a legitimate argument -- you can disagree at home if you're a Democrat -- that the House should have done this. The House should have gone to court. The House should have fought for John Bolton. That's a plausible argument.
[11:05:02] However, they are in the middle of a constitutional trial of the president of the United States and this has come forward. It is right in front of them. It's like the fire department showing up at your house and saying, that started on the night shift, we're not going to put it out. It is right there.
And what are they going to do? Are they going to walk away? This will be a stain on them if they don't explore this question.
Does that mean he has to testify, stop and have a Senate trial deposition? I don't know the answer to that. But you'll turn your back and walk away from this?
The president's lawyer said on the floor Saturday, not a single witness heard or saw the president connect the aid to the investigations. There's John Bolton, in a manuscript, that the White House has, there's your witness. How can you turn your back now?
TAPPER: And saying also, it is worth pointing out, that that was a lie --
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
TAPPER: -- because Mick Mulvaney came out in public and stated in front of cameras --
TAPPER: -- that the aid was tied, in part, to the push for the investigation into that conspiracy theory about Ukraine and the, whatever, kick starter --
KING: Their problem is -- forgive me --
KING: -- their problem is, if you read more of this --
KING: Their problem is, if you read this -- and John Bolton, as I know from covering the Bush White House, is a meticulous note keeper. He said he called Bill Barr. The Justice Department says he didn't. He says Mike Pompeo told him the president was operating under Rudy Giuliani's crackpot theories about Ambassador Yovanovitch.
So Bolton -- the challenge now for Republicans would be keep Bolton to a narrow focus. Because if you bring Bolton in, what he says -- and this is only what we have seen, this is only the little piece we have seen of this report of the "New York Times" -- they have a problem. The question is, what are they going to do about it.
TAPPER: Gloria, isn't the point here that Republicans are going to have to decide? Because all this information is going to come out when Bolton's book comes out.
TAPPER: Republican Senators need to decide which is more important, protecting President Trump, or finding out what actually happened.
BORGER: I would say you stated that accurately.
BORGER: And I think, at this point, when Republicans meet today, they're going to raise questions to the leader about, what did Cipollone know and when did he know it. Why are -- were these people lying to us on the floor of the Senate? What was kept from us?
We just have a report here that John Barrasso, Senator Barrasso, Republican, said the Bolton news, he said, is just an effort to sell books, there's nothing new here.
BORGER: The arguments are nothing new here, not true, effort to sell books.
I made myself a list here. And it is not important because the money was released. And, you know, you go on and on and on. It is not criminal, therefore, you can't impeach him over it. You can go through the other -- all of those arguments.
But the one thing they're not talking about is that all they have been saying is, as John pointed out, there is only hearsay. And here you have a conservative Republican, who served in the administration, say, directly and affirmatively, the president told me this.
BLITZER: Here is Chuck Schumer.
BORGER: How can they respond?
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Good morning, everybody.
I'm proud to be joined by two of my outstanding colleagues, the Senators from Maryland and Wisconsin.
You know, I could use a little water.
OK. Good morning, everybody.
Now, over a month ago, we said that hearing from witnesses and reviewing documents is the bare minimum for a fair trial. Since then, redacted e-mails were released that said there was clear direction from the president to hold the military assistance.
The GAO concluded that the president broke the law in doing so. And new information from Mr. Parnas revealed a plot to remove a U.S. ambassador. And now, according to the "New York Times," Ambassador Bolton wrote in
his book that he was ordered by the president to continue freezing assistance until Ukraine announced the political investigations the president was seeking, including the investigation into the Bidens.
This is stunning. It goes right to the heart of the charges against the president. Ambassador Bolton essentially confirms the president committed the offenses charged in the first article of impeachment.
It boils down to one thing, we have a witness with firsthand evidence of the president's actions for which he is on trial. He is ready and willing to testify.
How can Senate Republicans not vote to call that witness and request his documents? Anyone, anyone who says the House case lacks eyewitnesses and then votes to prevent eyewitnesses from testifying is talking out of both sides of their mouth.
Also, according to the report, several sections of Mr. Bolton's book further implicate Mr. Mulvaney. Previously, Mr. Mulvaney denied ever being on the phone when the president spoke to Rudy Giuliani.
Mr. Bolton writes that Mr. Mulvaney was on the phone with Rudy, and the president was discussing the removal of Ambassador Yovanovitch.
Mr. Bolton's book is further evidence that a large number of people were, quote, "in the loop on this scheme," as Ambassador Sondland said, and now they are all covering up.
So it seems like not only is there more evidence that the president held the aid off to get a political gain and investigation, but there seems to be a giant cover-up among so many of the leading people in the White House who knew about it and said nothing about it, let alone, tried to stop it.
If there was ever even a shred of logic left to not hear witnesses and review the documents, Mr. Bolton's book just erased it.
Ambassador Bolton's manuscript was sent to the White House over a month ago. The president ordered everyone with firsthand knowledge of his actions not to testify in the impeachment inquiry.
We're all staring a White House cover-up in the face. It is so clear what is going on here. I don't need to spell it out for you.
If Senate Republicans are not going to vote to call Mr. Bolton and Mr. Mulvaney and the other witnesses now, if they're not going to ask for notes and e-mails, they're going to be part of the cover-up too. Because we have this out in the open.
It is up to four Senate Republicans, just four Senate Republicans to ensure that John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, Mr. Blair and Mr. Duffey testify in the Senate trial. It is up to four Republicans to get the documents that surrounded their actions in those days. One final point. Of course, the president denied Ambassador Bolton's
account in a series of late-night tweets. Already, Republicans -- already, some Republicans are saying, this is just a "he said/he said" affair, just a matter of conflicting accounts.
I would remind everyone, between President Trump and Ambassador Bolton, only one of them is willing to testify in the Senate under oath. Only Mr. Bolton is willing to swear that he is telling the truth.
TAPPER: All right, that's the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, saying that the new information about John Bolton's manuscript, describing the president telling John Bolton in August that the aid to Ukraine, $391 million worth, was directly tied with Ukraine's -- his need for Ukraine to announce investigations into the Bidens.
It is a stunning allegation that John Bolton is being -- is making here. And the Democrats are seizing upon it, not surprisingly, to make the case, Nia, that Republicans, four Republicans need to join with the 47 Democrats in the Senate and say we need to hear from Bolton.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. And that's been the big question all along, as John and Gloria talked about. It seems like they have three at this point. A little unclear about what Lisa Murkowski wants to do. Lamar Alexander is a wild card, an institutionalist. He has a history with Mitch McConnell and we know what Mitch McConnell wants.
It seems like there's a grab bag of excuses any and all of these Republicans can take to not have witnesses, whether it is agreeing with what the president's lawyers have said and, essentially, said, listen, the call was perfect, what the president did was perfect. I imagine that some Republican Senators will take that tack.
Also this idea, well, this is protected by executive privilege. You heard that argument from some folks as well. We'll see. We just don't really know what is going to happen.
You have the president saying, listen, the House should have called John Bolton. They obviously did. They didn't subpoena John Bolton, because the White House essentially said they weren't going to allow any witnesses.
But, listen -- I think you talked about this before -- who -- what is the choice you're going to make, to call witnesses or protect this president. Protecting this president also often means protecting themselves. And protecting themselves means probably going along with this president, who doesn't want to have witnesses.
That is the story of this Republican Party. These Senators, who we have been looking at for many years now, to see in what ways they would break with this president, very few of them have, particularly, on major issues, right? This is the most major issue that this president has --
BLITZER: Everybody, stand by.
There's a lot more news we're following. How will executive privilege, for example, work if the president challenges Bolton's testimony? Chris Cuomo and the legal experts, they are standing by.
Much more right after this.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It's certainly a big headline that the president's former national security adviser, John Bolton, has juicy testimony that the president told him he wanted to block the aid to Ukraine so that he could get an investigation into the Bidens. But what does it mean if terms of the overall case?
Let's discuss with the better minds we have here.
Ross, you have an interesting take on this. Everyone is thinking Bolton comes in, Bolton doesn't come in, executive privilege. You think there's an end run.
ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There could be an end run. And there could also be a deal if the White House sees things going south on Republican Senators and Bolton testimony.
We're all talking about witness testimony. I say let's focus for now on the fact that there's a document that exists. The "New York Times" says it is dozens of pages of an account of Bolton's knowledge about the president and this Ukraine deal, and already exists, already been distributed.
CUOMO: So subpoena Bolton for the book.
GARBER: Subpoena Bolton for the book, or, again, if the White House sees things going south, they do a deal where they say, let's -- testimony will be a big fight, let's put that off for now, let's do a deal, we will authorize release of the draft book, and put off testimony.
This book is coming out anyway. And it is going to be much-more-dry than Bolton's testimony.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: The idea that Donald Trump will say, I know, let's go ahead and release John Bolton's book while I'm on trial. No way he's going to authorize it.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, actually, Jeff, it is not that absurd. The idea -- remember, the president last week was in Davos said, I don't want him testifying because we left on bad terms.
One way to really screw Bolton over in an upcoming book release is to say, here is the whole thing that the 12 -- anyone wants to read about your book anyway, here it is. By the way, if you do so, you kill two birds with one stone.
If I'm a GOP Senator who doesn't want to have witnesses, and I now have in front of me the documents that gives me the cracks of what your testimony will be, vetted through editors, everything is all there, then, am I inclined or less inclined to now have you as a live witness?
Some would say it would disincentivize having him testify, having it there and streamlining the entire thing. Now, it would take somebody who is really trying to be nefarious and underhanded, but is that so shocking with this?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You also have copyright issues here. Start releasing books that are not published.
TOOBIN: Yes, I just think we're overthinking this a little bit. Here is this guy, he has obviously relevant testimony to give. We know, in general at least, from the "Times" story what he's going to say. He's either going to be subpoenaed or not. And that's the choice that the Republican Senators have to make.
CUOMO: Right, but it starts with the Democrats. If the Democrats want Bolton, what happens when they subpoena him?
TOOBIN: Well, now, what happens is -- and this is -- I believe in the authorizing regulation about the trial -- is that he would give a private deposition first.
And given the fact that he had access to so much classified information, it might be in secret at first. But that would only be at first.
It was -- it would be a process that would extend the trial, I would think, at least one if not two weeks per minimum.
GARBER: What could happen is the White House goes to court, they file a lawsuit, they seek an injunction, then --
CUOMO: On what basis?
GARBER: On executive privilege. And --
(CROSSTALK) CUOMO: So to John Dean's point, it would be the first time that somebody used this as a sword, preemptively --
CUOMO: -- before a question came up?
GARBER: Yes. Executive privilege is very rarely litigated. And -- but the White House has threatened to do that. They go in and do that and then a judge says, all right, we want to set a scheduling order. The Senate will --
GARBER: -- will you hold off on taking this deposition so we can litigate that. I would be surprised if the United States Senate would deprive the White House of its day in court, and would deprive the courts the ability to adjudicate these --
TOOBIN: I think that's such an inconsiderably important point, Ross, that once you get this into the courts, you are talking about months of delay, potentially.
Even if the White House legal position is weak, which I think it is, I do think that most judges, when presented with any sort of legal issue, they say, I want to hear from both sides.
CUOMO: -- a quick fix.
DEAN: If you have Bolton, you've got to have Mulvaney. You've got to have Duffey. You've got to have Blair.
TOOBIN: That sounds like a long fix.
DEAN: And you have Barr and Giuliani. They're all opened up by his testimony.
CUOMO: But he says maybe the chief justice makes a ruling on it.
TOOBIN: You know, we are in very much unchartered territory. And the authority and the willingness of the chief justice is something that is not resolved.
As you were informing me earlier, in 1868, the chief justice, at first, took a more active role in the proceedings.
CUOMO: Several times.
TOOBIN: But then pulled back.
William Rehnquist, in 1999 --
CUOMO: Playing poker.
TOOBIN: -- did almost nothing. I mean, he --
DEAN: He threw all of the decisions on --
DEAN: -- onto the Senate.
TOOBIN: And John Roberts is William Rehnquist's law clerk, former law clerk. He is also a politically savvy person. I think he wants to stay away from any substantive role in this case.
So I think these decisions are going to be made by a majority of the United States Senate, not by John Roberts.
COATES: To the extent the court would be instructed for presidential value, remember, we're talking about Nixon. It was all about the cost benefit analysis, the idea of being able to withhold information against comparing it to how much the American public needed the information, how much Congress needed information.
That same kind of complex cost benefit analysis is here today, where you're talking about a Simon & Schuster book publishing deal, which, I think, weighs very low compared to a congressional need for information in an impeachment, compared to the idea of a protracted motion hearing scheduled.
COATES: I think they'll have that same dilemma at the end of the day.
COATES: And it comes in favor of, frankly, the truth.
CUOMO: Let's leave it -- let's leave it there right now so we can go to break.
One thing we have to -- this is brilliant legal analysis. And the practical analysis, you know, and the
CUOMO: No, look, this is smart things, taking place in quick time.
The big question is, I wonder if anybody would change their minds, not just in the Senate, but in America. If John Bolton said, the president told me this, this and this, the president denied it, people would probably think the president was lying, but would it really change where things stand?
Up next, we're going to speak live with a Senator who is a key vote in this fight.
The president is now responding to John Bolton's revelation.