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Ex-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly Says "I Believe John Bolton"; Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) Discusses John Kelly Response to Bolton Bombshell, Whether to Have Witnesses; Impeachment Trial of President Donald J. Trump. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired January 28, 2020 - 14:30   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome back. Once again, we're waiting for the resumption of the U.S. Senate to wrap up the president's legal defense team, their opening arguments. We anticipate that Pat Cipollone, the lead White House counsel, will make a final statement.

And then we're told -- this could change -- but we expect them to wrap it up for the day, resume the Senate tomorrow with 16 hours, two days basically, of questions for both sides, the House managers as well as the president's legal defense team. Once they resume, of course, we'll go back live to the Senate.

At the same time, the former White House chief of staff, John Kelly, is now weighing in on the John Bolton's revelations.

According to the "Sarasota Herald Tribune," Kelly says he believes Bolton's allegation that the president told him that U.S. security aid was conditioned on an investigation into the president's rivals, including the Bidens.

The paper says Kelly told a crowd at a Florida lecture, and I'm quoting now, "If John Bolton says that in the book, I believe John Bolton. I think some of the conversations seem to be very inappropriate. But I wasn't there. But there are people that were there that ought to be heard from."

He also spoke to reporters and said this about John Bolton's character.


JOHN KELLY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: You may disagree with his politics or what he wants to -- what he wants to do with -- under certain circumstances, but John's a stand-up guy. And we'll see what happens.


BLITZER: Let's go back to Dana Bash, who's getting more reaction on Capitol Hill.

What are you learning, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Thank you, Wolf.

I am with the Senator from Indiana, Senator Mike Braun.

Thank you for joining me.

I was starting to tell you, as Wolf was coming to me, that John Kelly, who was the president's chief of staff for 18 months --


BASH: -- he said very bluntly, that, A, he believes John Bolton.


BASH: And, B, he believes John Bolton should come and testify before the Senate.

As a fellow Republican, somebody who you know, you know, John Kelly --


BASH: -- spent a lot of time with the president, spent a lot of time with all these players.

Does that sway you at all?

BRAUN: Well, I think that if you think that's a marginal piece of information, you need to -- where I'm at right now, it's getting to be a fairly binary decision -- we've got to take everything we've heard, even, you know, the Bolton revelation.

Which I thought that was kind of really discussed fairly last night by Dershowitz, that you can't get that to rise to the level of impeachment. So even if you assume that's true, it depends what state you're from, where your own --

BASH: What about you?

BRAUN: In my case, no, because here's why. I think the case was ill- founded on the major elements. It came across purely partisan. It had, you know, a -- it's disrupting an election and it's --


BASH: You're talking --


BRAUN: Those are the big-picture things.

BASH: So you're talking about ultimately your vote?


BRAUN: Yes, and that's what I'm basing it on.

For me, and I'm thinking almost all Senators. First of all, I don't think there are many Democrats still needing to make their mind up. And I don't think there are many Republicans.

And do I think this is the straw that will break the camel's back? No.



BASH: But in the short-term, though, the question is one of witnesses.

BRAUN: Yes. So witnesses --


BASH: So the decision you have to make is, do you want to hear it from and will you vote to allow John Bolton to come and testify?


BRAUN: I'm thinking almost every Republican will not vote to have more witnesses, because they're in a place where, from the state they're from, listening to their constituents, and where they interpret all the information, is that they don't need that.

And I think what made many more comfortable is having somebody of the statute of a Dershowitz, a constitutional lawyer, that said not only are the articles on a weak foundation, that neither one of them holds up, the breadth of abuse of power with no particular crime and obstructing Congress on many other reasons, don't need that information.

BASH: But let me just say that Lisa Murkowski has said the opposite. She said he is somebody she'd want to hear from.


BASH: Mitt Romney and Susan Collins. And likely you would just need one more.


BASH: But what's the downside? Why wouldn't you want to hear from John Bolton?

BRAUN: First of all, witnesses, as almost any Republican has said, it would be reciprocal. It wouldn't just be Bolton. How long does this go?

I think, in many places, people are upset that we even went down the trail in the first place. That would be the consensus in Indiana, due to the underpinnings of the case. The other thing, for history, if we're this polarized we ought to

worry how we're going to get around that, not only for legislation if we ever get back to it, but we've had two impeachments in 20 years that looked like they were purely partisan --


BASH: But we're on the road, so the argument to be made for witnesses is that it's happening.


BASH: So the trial is going on. So why not listen and get as much input from people who were there, who have direct knowledge?

BRAUN: Because if you feel you need that to help you make the decision, then I think you have the right to say you vote for witnesses.

BASH: But just don't -- you want to hear it?

BRAUN: And almost everybody Republican doesn't either. It's not like you're by yourself.

BASH: No. and I understand that.


BASH: You're right that the majority of Republicans feel that way.

BRAUN: I mean, almost overwhelming, almost everyone, so.

BASH: But for people out there who don't understand that --

BRAUN: Right.

BASH: -- who don't understand why, as a United States Senator, who's a juror/judge --


BASH: -- why wouldn't you want to hear from as many people --


BRAUN: Dana, it becomes very simple. And I think everyone can understand this. We are soon coming to the biggest binary decision we'll make in the whole process, convict or acquit.

And I don't think that even if you take everything what was in the Bolton revelation as the truth, would that make the difference, take it over the hump to where you'd convict a president on such a shaky case to begin with? That ought to be easy to understand, and I think that's valid.

BASH: Senator, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it. BRAUN: You bet. OK.

BASH: Thank you.

Jake and Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Dana.

Nia, the fact is, if there are witnesses, what could have been over with by Friday or Saturday, this trial if there are no witnesses, it could go on for several more weeks if they decide to call witnesses.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. And you heard Mike Braun talk about that, this idea if you call more witnesses, it's going to go on and on and on.

What's interesting here is the person whose name keeps coming up both on the floor there with some of these arguments we just heard, and from these Senators is Dershowitz, right?

Dershowitz has given these folks not only cover but the language to talk about it, right? He has given them the sound byte that they feel like they can talk about this case. It makes sense to them.

They talk about Dershowitz's stature as a legal scholar, somebody who taught at Harvard, was involved in somewhat controversial cases in the past, including O.J. Simpson and Epstein as well. But he is coming now to be in some ways the closer.

We don't know what's going to happen in this next hour or so of presentations. But in many ways, he is the person, I think, that these Senators are going to look to figure out how they can sell their vote back to their constituents, right? We'll see.

If Lisa Murkowski starts to pick up this language. She seems to have been assuaged in many way by Alan Dershowitz's notion that, listen, if everything is true, even the Bolton book, if Bolton comes in and testifies, it still doesn't rise to the level of impeachment and this idea that you need a crime to rise to the level of impeachment.

The president, in choosing him, I think, initially, people thought that's a bit of a controversial choice because of some of the cases he's been involved with. But here you see these Senators picking up his language.

BLITZER: Alan Frumin, you're the former Senate parliamentarian. Walk us through how that would work, if, in fact, there are going to be witnesses, if there are 51 Senators who vote in favor of witnesses?

Do they necessarily have to be deposed privately first before they come back and speak publicly, or videotaped and just the videotape is released, as was the case 21 years ago during the Bill Clinton impeachment trial?

ALAN FRUMIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Under the terms resolution governing consideration of this trial, yes, they have to be deposed first. After the 16 hours of questions, where I believe the Democrats will

try their best to make the case for new evidence, after those 16 hours, there will be four hours of argument divided between the parties on the question of whether or not to allow for further motions with respect to specific witnesses.


So there are two hurdles, two votes before you get to a specific witness. And the rules of the road in this resolution do provide that those witnesses must be deposed first before of their testimony is heard.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Can I ask about John Roberts? Because what if there's a tie vote? We know that Roberts doesn't want to get involved in this, as his mentor, Rehnquist, did not want to get involved in the Bill Clinton trial.

But if there's a question of admissibility of evidence or a witness, say, Bolton -- you know, Sekulow said Bolton's manuscript is inadmissible. What role would Roberts take if the Senate on a number of votes whether it's on witnesses or anything else on evidence, it's 50/50?

FRUMIN: Well, you were asking two questions.


FRUMIN: You're asking what role the chief has generally and what role might he have if there's a tie vote.

BORGER: Right.

FRUMIN: He's authorized to rule on questions of admissibility of evidence. The impeachment rules clearly give him that authority, subject, of course, to an appeal to the entire Senate.

Which raises the second question. If there's a tie vote, I will bet the farm that Roberts will not vote.

BORGER: And then?

FRUMIN: And then a question loses on its --


BLITZER: It fails because you need 51 when all is said and done.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Quickly, on the interview Dana did, there's an exhibit, if you need one, of how the pendulum has swung, not a lot, but how it's swung back and forth on where are Republicans and where will they go for witnesses.

He was on our air right after -- remember, the other day, right after the House managers ended the prosecution or right near the end of the prosecution, where used the term inappropriate. BORGER: Yes.

KING: He said what the president said on that call was inappropriate. So you saw a Republican, from ruby red Mike Pence's Indiana, saying something critical of the president a couple of days ago. Where is he now?

Are you saying Alan Dershowitz made the case, we don't need witnesses, the ball is not going to move? This is what's happening.

Right now, the Republicans feel good. The White House feels good. We have these 16 hours of questions. We're going to have a debate over witnesses. We'll see what's in the newspapers tomorrow. That's been our life the last few days.

But just to watch this flow back and forth is fascinating. It just reminds you, we're not at the finish line yet. It's not predictable.

BLITZER: Last night, Robert Ray, one of the president's lawyers, a former independent counsel, he also said that phone conversation was not perfect even though the president keeps saying --


BORGER: He doesn't work at the White House though.

BLITZER: -- it was perfect.

Everybody, stand by.

We're waiting for the resumption of this trial on the floor of the U.S. Senate. We'll be right back.



PAT CIPOLLONE, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, I had kind of a lengthy presentation prepared, but I think -- I think you've heard a lot from our side, and I think we've made our case.

And so I just want to leave you with a couple of points. First of all -- first of all, thank you Mr. Leader and thank you Democratic leader Schumer and all of you for the privilege of speaking of the floor of the Senate and for your time and attention, we really appreciate it.

We've made three basic points; one, all you need in this case is the constitution and your common sense. You just look at the articles of impeachment, the articles of impeachment fall far short of any constitutional standard, and they are dangerous. And if you look to the words from the past that I think are instructive as I said last night, they're instructive because they were right then and they are right now. And I'll leave you with some of those words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): There must never be a narrowly voted impeachment, or an impeachment supported by one of our major political parties and opposed by the other. Such an impeachment will produce divisiveness and bitterness in our politics for years to come and will call into question the very legitimacy of our political institutions.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): This is unfair to the American people, by these actions you would undo the free election that expressed the will of the American people in 1996, in so doing you will damage the faith the American people have in this institution and in the American Democracy.

You will set the dangerous precedent that the certainty of Presidential terms, which has so benefited our wonderful America will be replaced by the partisan use of impeachment. Future presidents will face election, then litigation, then impeachment.

The power of the president will diminish in the face of the Congress, a phenomenon much feared by the founding fathers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a constitutional amendment that we are debating. Not an impeachment resolution. The Republicans are crossing out the impeachment standard of high crimes and misdemeanors and they are inserting the words, 'any crime or misdemeanor.' We are permitting a Constitution - Constitutional coup d'etat which will haunt this body and our country forever.

REP. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): I warn my colleagues that you will reap the bitter harvest of the unfair partisan seeds you sow today. The Constitutional provision for impeachment is a way to protect our government and our citizens, not another weapon in the political arsenal.

REP. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY): I expect history will show that we've lowered the bar on impeachment so much we have broken the seal on this extremely - extreme penalty so cavalierly that it will be used as a routine tool to fight political battles. My fear is that when a Republican wins the White House Democrats will demand pay back.


CIPOLLONE: You are right but I'm sorry to say you were also prophetic and I think I couldn't say it better myself so I won't. You know what the right answer is in your heart. You know what the right answer is for our country. You know what the right answer is for the American people.

What they are asking you to do is to throw out a successful president on the eve of an election with no basis and in violation of the Constitution. It would dangerously change our country and weaken - weaken forever all of our democratic institutions.

You all know that's not in the interest of the American people. Why not trust the American people with this decision? Why tear up their ballots? Why tear up every ballot across this country? You can't do that. You know you can't do that. So I ask you to defend our Constitution,

to defend fundamental fairness, to defend basic due process rights but most importantly, most importantly, to respect and defend the sacred right of every American to vote and to choose their president. The election is only months away. The American people are entitled to choose their president.


Overturning the last election and massively interfering with the upcoming one would cause serious and lasting damage to the people of the United States and to our great country. The Senate cannot allow this to happen. It is time for this to end here and now. So we urge the Senate to reject these Articles of Impeachment for all of the reasons we have given you.

You know them all; I don't need to repeat them. They've repeatedly said over and over again, a quote from Benjamin Franklin, it's a republic if you can keep it. And every time I heard it, I said to myself, it's a republic if they let us keep it and I have every confidence - every confidence in your wisdom. You will do the only thing you can do, what you must do, what the Constitution compels you to do, reject these Articles of Impeachment for our country and for the American people.

It will show that you put the Constitution above partisanship. It will show that we can come together on both sides of the aisle and end the era of impeachment for good. You know it should end.

You know it should end. It will allow you all to spend all of your energy and all of your enormous talent and all of your resources on doing what the American people sent you here to do - to work together, to work with the president to solve their problems so this should end now as quickly as possible.

Thank you again for your attention. I look forward to answering your questions and with that, that ends our presentation. Thank you very much.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Mr. Chief Justice I have reached an agreement with the Democratic leader on how to proceed during the question period therefore I ask unanimous consent that the question period for Senators start when the Senate reconvenes on Wednesday, further that the questions alternate between the majority and minority sides for up to eight hours and during that session of the Senate. Finally, that on Thursday the Senate resume time for Senator's questions alternating between sides for up to eight hours during that session of the Senate.

ROBERTS: Is there objection? Without objection so ordered.

MCCONNELL: So we will complete the question period over the next two days. I remind Senators that their questions must be in writing, will be submitted to the Chief Justice. During the question period of the Clinton trial, Senators were thoughtful and brief with their questions and the managers and counsel were succinct in their answers. I hope we can follow both of these examples during this time.

ROBERTS: During the impeachment trial of President Clinton, Chief Justice Rehnquist advised counsel quote, counsel on both sides that the Chair will operate on a rebuttable presumption that each question can be fully and fairly answered in five minutes or less, end quote. The transcript indicates that the statement was met with quote, laughter, end quote.


Nonetheless, managers and counsel generally limited their responses accordingly. I think the late Chief's time limit was a good one and would ask both sides to abide by it.


MCCONNELL: So Mr. Chief justice, I ask unanimous consent that the trial adjourn until 1:00 p.m. Wednesday, January 29th, and that this order also constitute the adjournment of the Senate.

ROBERTS: Without objection, we're adjourned.

BLITZER: All right, so there it is, the session has ended until tomorrow 1:00 p.m., when the questions will begin for both sides.


Jeffrey Toobin, what do you think of Pat Cipollone's concluding remarks?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think what everyone will remember was the montage of the Democrats, who were in the House of Representatives in 1999 advocating against the impeachment of Bill Clinton, making arguments that the Republicans have made today.

It's a -- it was certainly a fun montage. There's a lot of hair change that's gone on. I'm not sure it's going to change many votes. But I thought it was an effective set of zingers. And I bet the Republicans really enjoyed listening to it.

BLITZER: Yes, it was awkward because a lot of what these Democrats were saying then, and he specifically included at least two of the House managers, Jerry Nadler and Zoe Lofgren, they say the opposite today.

TOOBIN: That's right. What they would say is that the facts were entirely different. But the idea that certainly Nadler said and Lofgren said that there shouldn't be a partisan impeachment, you know, is a very legitimate point.

And it is a point that the Republicans have raised effectively throughout this process, that the Constitution, particularly because there's a two-thirds requirement in the Senate, effectively, but not literally, requires more than just partisanship to -- more than just a partisan effort to throw a president out of office.

You know, the response to that is, look at the facts. Do these facts justify or not removing the president from office? And certainly Lofgren and Nadler say it's true, say that's the fact now.

But you know, the idea that a partisan impeachment is a bad thing is definitely something the Democrats were saying 20 years ago and they're not saying today.

BLITZER: You know, John --

TOOBIN: That's a fair shot against them.

BLITZER: Yes, that montage of those sound bytes from 21 years ago.

And you and I covered that Bill Clinton impeachment trial. At the end, he looked at the House managers, Pat Cipollone the chief White House counsel, and he looked at them and said, you were right back then, but you were also prophetic.

KING: You heard some laughter on the Senate floor. There hasn't been a lot of emotion shown on the Senate floor. You heard laughter there. You can be certain the president of the United States enjoyed that.

But it was also very interesting, again, playing to the idea that this is political because, what's the next question. Will Republicans vote to extend the trial by having witnesses or depositions or the Bolton transcript, some variation of new testimony and documents that would extend the trial?

Play to the politics, try to keep the Republicans in their camp. This is political, we don't want to do that.

Also keeping it so brief was -- with very few exceptions, the Trump legal team has listened to the majority leader of the United States Senate. Don't go too crazy into conspiracy theories on the Senate floor. Don't poke the bear too much. There were some eye rolls. There were some messages from Republicans when they went into certain things.

But even yielding back time. Again, Donald Trump is the master of trying to manipulate television, a former TV reality star himself. They yielded back time because they think they're winning.

Right now, what Mitch McConnell has said, do no harm in your presentations, close the case, leave it to me. Now it's on him. Now it's on him to keep four Republicans from breaking.

There are two who have made clear they want witnesses. There's a third who's leaning that way now. This is on Mitch McConnell now. His message to the president is do no harm, and I think he would believe they've succeeded.

BLITZER: You know, also, Gloria, he also made a point we've heard from other White House lawyers over the past couple of three days or so, why not trust the American people and let the American people decide who should be president in the election, which is in November.

BORGER: Well, in fact, that was the argument that Nancy Pelosi way back when after Mueller wasn't in favor of impeachment. Made the case that you had to have public opinion with you.

And Cipollone knows that the public is very divided on whether the president should be removed from office. There's an overwhelming majority who believe that perhaps he was lying and has been lying during this process and you can't trust him, and you go down the list.

However, on impeachment, the public is really divided about it. And I mean, on conviction the public is really divided about it.

I think what Cipollone did was try and appeal to the public there. He was actually not talking inside the chamber as much as he was talking outside the chamber, when he was saying one more thing about these videos.

I couldn't help but think that, if the Democrats were standing there, they would have videos to use of Dershowitz and Ken Starr.

BLITZER: And Lindsey Graham.

BORGER: And Lindsey Graham, who were also on the opposite side of the issue during the Clinton --

KING: And Mitch McConnell supporting witnesses, supporting witnesses.

BORGER: Exactly. And Mitch McConnell supporting --


HENDERSON: They did use Graham. They did use Graham.

BORGER: So they could have some videos going back and forth.

And I'm wondering if someone asked a question, whether in a response, they might have something ready to go on that.

HENDERSON: More videos.

BLITZER: It's interesting because, if you take a look at one of the main arguments the White House lawyers -