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Trump's Lawyers Present Impeachment Defense Amid Bolton Bombshell. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 27, 2020 - 15:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If that is true, that is corruption of the highest order. And they want you to ignore it.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The Justice Department takes issue --



KING: Pushing back.


TAPPER: Takes issue with it.

BORGER: Right.

Well, another point that -- Sekulow said, we deal only with transcript evidence. This was the nod to Bolton. But, of course, they have criticized the transcript evidence as being full of hearsay.

So, now they are saying, OK, we are not going to pay attention to John Bolton, who actually is delivering evidence where he spoke with the president face to face. Instead, we're going to rely on the evidence we have criticized up until now, and we're going to say, OK, because it's publicly available, and it obviously meets their evidentiary standards, as he says.

So you can't have it both ways. I mean, suddenly, what Taylor says is right, but what John Bolton says is wrong?

So, I think, if I'm sitting there in the United States Senate, I'm scratching my head a little bit about this, first of all, how it was not even mentioned more than in passing, and maybe they will.

And also, to get back to Ken Starr, if I might for a moment, it was ironic, shall we say, beyond, beyond irony, if there is such a thing, about Ken Starr talking down, I think, to the United States Senate about how it's so sad that we now live in the age of impeachment, and there have been too many impeachments.

Here is the definition of the imperfect messenger, shall we say?


BORGER: I rest my case.

HENDERSON: one question is whether or not the folks in that body, the Republicans in particular who have at times expressed being insulted by whether it was Jerry Nadler, whether it was Adam Schiff from some of their testimonies, essentially saying, you're coming into our body and kind of insulting us and talking down to us and talking in disparaging ways.

In some ways, I mean, if you think about them, just ignoring, as you call it, the big boulder in the center of the chamber, that's quite insulting, right? I mean, that is literally asking them to ignore everything that's before them, ignore what they're reading in the newspapers.

We keep focusing on these three to four people. The question is, is it even -- will it ever get any broader than that, right? We sort of already kind of dismissed Lamar Alexander, because he seems to be somebody who will likely side with Mitch McConnell.

But are there any others at this idea that maybe they should bring on witnesses, people like Ben Sasse, people like Joni Ernst? So far, there hasn't been any indication that they could be open to witnesses.

But this, I think, was very insulting, basically asking those very -- the people who consider themselves part of the greatest deliberative body, right, to not really deliberate, not really pay attention to this -- this evidence that's coming out from John Bolton.

TAPPER: Alan Frumin, former Senate parliamentarian, the president's defenders, the White House counsel legal team and others are acting as though senators don't read the newspaper, senators don't watch the news.

Maybe there is a news channel where this John Bolton revelation isn't being mentioned, even if he's a former employee. I don't know.

But is there anything in the Senate rules saying, you can only make your decision based on these documents that the House impeachment managers handed over; you have to ignore any other stories in "The New York Times" or "The Washington Post" or on CNN about John Bolton directly contradicting the case that the president's team is making?


The rules do not limit the parties to relevant speeches. They're pretty much free to wander as far as they want during this phase of the trial.

It's possible, during question and answer, that the chief justice might police some responses to questions. But, at this stage, there's really very little to constrain either the president's counsel now or the House managers before to sticking to the record. WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And it's an important point, because the House managers, they referred to Lev Parnas, statements that he's been making since the House impeached the president of the United States. They were not bound by that rule. That's an important point.

All right, there's a lot more we need to digest. This is another historic day here in the United States.

We will be right back.



TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's live coverage of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump.

I want to go to two legal experts we have right now, if I can, Jeffrey Toobin and Laura Coates.

Jeffrey, let me -- let me start with you.

Obviously, the president's defenders made the decision to not acknowledge the existence in any direct way of the biggest story of the last 24 hours, that the president's former National Security Adviser John Bolton is alleging in a book that President Trump in August directly tied, as a quid pro quo, the security assistance to Ukraine to these investigations into the Bidens that he wanted them to carry out.

There are no rules of evidence saying they can only consider the documentary record that the House impeachment managers introduced. Was this a mistake?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, yes, I do think it was a mistake.

I mean, to both presentations, I had the reaction of, are you kidding? I mean, I think John King did a wonderful job of pointing out that to say that the evidence shows the only reason that the president was concerned about giving aid to Ukraine was he was worried about burden- sharing and corruption, and -- first of all, that's contradictory to the evidence as it already exists.


But, putting that aside, the idea that you could make that argument on the same day that all 100 people in that jury, those judges and jurors in the Senate, are thinking about "The New York Times"' story and John Bolton's book, it's just ridiculous. I mean, it's just not good advocacy.

And Ken Starr talking about, gosh, we use too much impeachment in this country, and, gosh, it's like, we need to be nicer to each other, and stop impeaching presidents, if you were to rank all 330 million people in the United States about who should be making that argument least, I think Ken Starr would be either at the top or the bottom, depending on whatever superlative I just used.

I mean, the idea that Ken Starr of all people thinks that we should be doing less impeachment, when he was the architect of the last one, which failed miserably, I mean, was mind-boggling.

TAPPER: And, Laura Coates, your thoughts on the same question, the idea that they didn't even acknowledge this giant white mustache in the room of John Bolton?


TAPPER: Was that wise?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it was a miscalculation on their parts about just how important the matter of calling a witness would actually be.

They assumed that everyone was as dismissive as the 12 pages or so of Bolton's book may actually be. They overestimated, I think, the idea that the senators that they believe are in their pockets would not value this information, if only to save face for the American people.

And this idea of being so nearsighted carried over not only what Jeffrey is talking about, about the idea of Ken Starr lamenting the age of impeachment, but also the nearsightedness, not only Bolton, but thinking themselves about the notion that the pressure campaign -- we spent 24 hours of the House impeachment managers' case alone going outside of the context of simply a July 25 transcript.

They talked about these three days in July being a part of the story about an ongoing pressure campaign that bookended that phone call and carried into the time we had a whistle-blower complaint.

But choosing instead to be myopic in their strategy and hoping, if everyone confines themselves to simply the July 25 transcript and the comment about a favor, all is forgotten, totally belies a greater strategy of saying, listen, the bell has been rung. The toothpaste is out of the tube.

The American public and the voters and the senators right there in that room are far more aware of all of the facts. There may have been, at the beginning of this whole thing, as they said, some senators, as Senator Kennedy said, did not listen to everything, may not know, and the 10th out of 10th one who says they did is lying.

Well, now all the information is before them, and they instead choose to be nearsighted? It's odd, it's wrong, and I think it will hurt them in the end.

TAPPER: Laura Coates, thanks so much.

And just a reminder. It was on November 8 that John Bolton's lawyer wrote to the House, in which he talked about the fact that Bolton was -- quote -- "involved in many of the events, meetings and conversations about what you have already received testimony, as well as many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed in the testimonies thus far."

Now we know at least one of those meetings, according to Bolton, was between President Trump and himself.

BLITZER: And we just discovered that over the past 24 hours or so.


BLITZER: Dana, you're -- Dana Bash is up on Capitol Hill.

All right, so, Dana, I know you're getting some immediate reaction from members on both sides. What are you hearing?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, the -- the -- what we heard on the floor from the president's team, particularly Ken Starr, there is a lot of head-shaking.

But, more importantly, big picture, there's also some concern I have heard privately from some Republicans about the way in which some are going after John Bolton.

And it is a very Trumpian thing to go after and to kind of attack the attacker, and that's how he sees John Bolton, clearly. But for somebody like Bolton, who is a very well-known, for decades, a leader -- maybe he's in a specific wing, in the neocon wing, historically, of the Republican Party, but he is a tried-and-true Republican.

People are starting to feel uncomfortable about that, even some privately who I have talked to who are very much supporters of the president. So you're seeing that undercurrent going on right now.

And maybe that will backfire against the president's broader allies who are starting to make that argument, because, again, the audience that we're looking at right now are four key Republican senators.

And I don't think that they are going to be swayed or persuaded by the president's team, and just to be told that he's a disgruntled employee, or that what he says doesn't matter, or that it's hearsay, which doesn't make any sense, given the fact that, according to the manuscript, he was talking to the president.


That's, by definition, not hearsay. So there's that kind of churning here, as the senators are taking break -- their first break, and as they're kind of still trying to digest and figure out what to do and how to move forward with this information.

TAPPER: All right, Dana Bash on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

We're going to squeeze in one more quick break.

We will be right back with more coverage of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump.

Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): -- 6:00 for dinner, and we'll plow right through until 6:00.


The president's counsel can continue with their case.


Mr. Chief Justice, members of the Senate, House managers, there has been a lot of talk in both the briefs and in the discussions over the last week about one of our colleagues, former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani.

Mayor Giuliani served as one of the leaders of the president's defense team during the Mueller investigation. He's mentioned 531 times, 20 in the brief and about 511, give or take, in the arguments, including the motion day.

We had a robust team that worked on the president's defense during the Mueller probe, consisted of Mayor Giuliani, Andrew Ekonomou, Stuart Roth, Jordan Sekulow, Ben Sisney and Mark Goldfeder. Mayor Giuliani, of course, and Marty Raskin, as well as Jane Raskin. Jane Serene Raskin was one of the leading attorneys on the Mueller Investigation for the defense of the president.

The issue of Mayor Giuliani has come up here in this chamber a lot. We thought it would be appropriate now to turn to that issue. The role of the president's lawyer, his private counsel, in this proceeding.

I would like to yield my time, Mr. Chief Justice, to Jane Serene Raskin.

JANE RASKINAT, FORMER ATTORNEY OF PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Mr. Chief Justice, Majority Leader McConnell, members of the Senate, I expect you have heard American poet Carl Sandburg's summary of the trial lawyer's delima.

If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the facts and the law are against you, pound the table and yell like hell. Well, we've heard the House Managers do some table pounding and a little yelling.


But in the main, they've used a different tactic here. A tactic familiar to trial lawyers, though not mentioned by Mr. Sandburg.

If both the law and the facts are against you, present a distraction. Emphasis a sensational fact, or perhaps a colorful and controversial public figure who appears on the scene, then distort certain facts, ignore others, even when they're the most probative, make conclusory statements and insinuate the shiny object is far more important than the actual facts allowed. In short, divert attention from the holes in your case.

Rudy Giuliani is the House Managers colorful distraction. He's a household name, legendary federal prosecutor who took down the mafia, corrupt public officials, Wall Street racketeers, crime busting mayor who cleaned up New York and turned it around. A national hero, America's mayor, after 9/11. And after that, an internationally recognized expert on fighting corruption.

To be sure, Mr. Giuliani has always been somewhat of a controversial figure for his hard-hitting take no prisoner approach. But it's no stretch to say that he was respected by friend and foe alike, for his intellect, his tenacity, his accomplishments and his fierce loyalty to his causes and his country.

And then, the unthinkable, he publicly supported the candidacy of President Trump, the one who was not supposed to win. And then, in the spring of 2018, he stood up to defend the president, successfully it turns out, against what we all now know as the real debunked conspiracy, that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 campaign.

The House Managers would have you believe that Mr. Giuliani is at the center of this controversy. They've anointed him the proxy villain of the tale. The leader of a rogue operation.

Their presentations were filled with adhominem attacks and name calling, cold blooded political operative, political bagman. But I suggest to you that he's front and center in their narrative for one reason and one reason alone, to distract from the fact that the evidence does not support their claims.

So, what's the first tell that Mr. Giuliani's role in this may not be all that's cracked up to be? The didn't subpoena him to testify. In fact, Mr. Schiff and his committee never even invited him to testify.

They took a stab at subpoenaing his documents back in September, and when his lawyer responded with legal defenses to the production, the House walked away. But if Rudy Giuliani is everything they say he is, don't you think they would have subponaed and pursued his testimony? Ask yourselves, why didn't they?

In fact, it appears the House committee wasn't particularly interested in presented you with any direct evidence of what Mayor Giuliani did or why he did it. Instead, they ask you to rely on hearsa, speculation and assumption, evidence that would be inadmissible in any court.

For example, the House Managers suggest that Mr. Giuliani at the president's direction demanded that Ukraine announce an investigation of the Bidens and Burisma before agreeing to a White House visit.

They based that on a statement to that effect by Ambassador Sondland, but what the House Managers don't tell you was that Sondland admitted he was speculating about that. He presumed that Mr. Giuliani's requests were intended as a condition for a White House visit.

Even worse, his assumption was on third-hand information. As he put it, the most he could do is repeat what he heard through Ambassador Volker from Giuliani, whom he presumed spoke to the president on the issue.

And by the way, as Mr. Purpura has explained, the person who was actually speaking to Mr. Giuliani -- Ambassador Volker -- testified clearly that there was no linkage between the meeting between President Zelensky and Ukrainian investigations.


The House Managers also make much of a May 23 White House meeting, during which the president suggested to his Ukraine working group, including Ambassadors Volker and Sondland, that they should talk to Rudy.

The managers told you that President Trump gave a directive and a demand that the group needed to work with Giuliani if they wanted him to agree with the Ukraine policy they were proposing, but those words directive and demand are misleading. They misrepresent what the witnesses actually said.

Ambassador Volker testified that he understood, based on the meeting, that Giuliani was only one of several sources of information for the president and the president simply wanted officials to speak to Mr. Giuliani because he knows all these things about Ukraine.

As Volker put it, the president's comment was not an instruction but just a comment. Ambassador Sondland agreed. He testified that he didn't take it as an order, and he added that the president wasn't even specific about what he wanted us to talk to Giuliani about.

So it may come as no surprise to you that after the May 23 meeting, the one during which the House Managers told you the president demanded that his Ukraine team talk to Giuliani, neither Volker nor Sondland even followed up wit Mr. Giuliani until July, and the July follow up by Mr. Volker happened only because the Ukrainian government asked to be put in touch with him.

Volker testified that President Zelensky's Senior Aide, Andriy Yermak, approached him to ask to be connected to Mr. Giuliani.

House Democrats also rely on testimony that Mayor Giuliani told Ambassadors Volker and Sondland that in his view to be credible, a Ukrainian statement on anticorruption should specifically mention investigations into 2016 election interference and Burisma, but when Ambassador Volker was asked whether he knew if Giuliani was -- and these are his words -- conveying messages that President Trump wanted conveyed to the Ukrainians, Volker said that he did not have that impression, and he believed that Giuliani was doing his own communication about what he believed he was interested in.

But even more significant than their reliance on presumptions, assumptions, and unsupported conclusions is the managers' failure to place in any fair context Mr. Giuliani's actual role in exploring Ukrainian corruption.

To hear their presentation, you might think that Mayor Giuliani had parachuted into the president's orbit in the spring of 2019 for the express purpose of carrying out a political hitch up (ph). They'd have you believe that Mayor Giuliani was only there to dig up dirt against former Vice President Biden because he might be President Trump's rival in the 2020 election.

Of course, Mr. Giuliani's intent is no small matter here. It's a central and essential premise of the House Managers' case that Mr. Giuliani's motive in investigating Ukrainian corruption and interference in the 2016 election was an entirely political one undertaken at the president's direction.

But what evidence have the managers actually offered you to support that proposition? On close inspection, it turns out virtually none. They just say it over and over and over, and they offer you another false dichotomy.

Either Mr. Giuliani was acting in an official; capacity to further the president's foreign policy objectives or he was acting as the president's personal attorney, in which case they conclude ipse dixit his motive could only be to further the president's political objectives.

The House Managers then point to various of Mr. Giuliani's public statements in which he is clear and completely transparent about the fact that he is, indeed, the president's personal attorney. There you have it. Giuliani admits he's acting as the president's personal attorney and, therefore, he had to have been acting with a political motive to influence the 2020 election. No other option, right?