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Coach on Court in Kobe's Tournament When News Broke of Death; Soon: Senators Ask Questions of House Managers and Trump's Lawyers; Key House Chair: I've Spoken with Bolton about Diplomat's Ouster. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 29, 2020 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[12:30:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The shock and devastation of losing NBA legend Kobe Bryant will take some time to wear off the city of Los Angeles and for the millions of fans Kobe Bryant had around the world.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: But it's especially true for the student athletes who played in Kobe's Mamba Sports Academy tournaments. When the news of Kobe's death came down, everyone at the academy that day overcome with grief, they simply knelt down in prayer.

(INAUDIBLE)

BLITZER: That video was shared by retired WNBA player, Erin Thorn. Erin was there at the academy for the tournament when the tragic news came in. Erin, thank you so much for being here. I know how difficult this is for you, for so many people, our deepest condolences to you.

Describe for us, if you can, Erin, the moments right before you found out, what was going on.

ERIN THORN, WAS AT MAMBA ACADEMY TOURNAMENT WHEN NEWS CAME OF BRYANT'S DEATH: It was a normal day. We were actually playing a game at the time that the news broke so I'm coaching my team. And we're in the middle of the second half and I get a parent that comes and sits on my bench. And initially I was -- my first thought was, what are you doing on my bench. And she just held up -- she said, coach, and she held up her phone.

And she had the TMZ report on her phone. And I just -- I had to look at it two or three times and read it two or three times before it really processed. And I just looked at her face and she kind of nodded her head, yes. And -- I mean, that moment is forever etched in my mind.

TAPPER: So we saw the video of you all praying afterwards. A very moving moment, a touching moment, an opportunity to bring everyone together, to comfort each other. Did it help at all? Did it help in that moment? Did it help the students, the young girls process the shock and the grief? THORN: It helped as much as a prayer can. You know, the news is still hard to process to this day. We're three or four days later, and it's still just mind-blowing and saddening and devastating. I mean, there are so many words and yet no words that really give it justice to what that moment was like, you know, as we said that prayer, we ended with a moment of silence. And they're -- Kobe's mamba team is in a team room behind us and you could just hear the sobbing and the wailing back there. And that -- I mean, it was gut-wrenching.

TAPPER: Such an awful incident, and obviously in addition to losing Kobe, I believe it was three of the girls including Gigi Bryant but two others were lost. This is in all likelihood for most of the girls we saw in that gym, the first time they ever experienced anything like this. How are they doing?

THORN: It's rough, you know. These were not just untouchable kids and untouchable -- even Kobe wasn't really untouchable in this world. He was just a dad coaching his daughter and these three girls were peers and comrades to my girls out on the court and to all the girls that have played in his events. It's tough to swallow, and it's tough to just think.

You know, the basketball world is enormous, but it's really small when it comes down to it. I mean, you saw us all gather together as one in prayer. And, you know, as -- it didn't matter what uniform you were wearing at that point, you were all on Team Mamba.

BLITZER: You know, Erin, Kobe was certainly known for his passion, his commitment to the academy, to girls' basketball and the WNBA. But it was his commitment to family and his close relationship with his daughters that sparked the social media hashtag girl's dad. What do you remember about Kobe's relationship with his girls?

[12:35:06]

THORN: He was the ultimate dad. He loved those girls with everything he had, and he would do anything for them. You mentioned his mentality. He wanted to be the best at everything, and that included being a father. He wanted to be the best father.

And, you know, I just can picture moments where he was coaching her in the middle of a game, standing side by side. And those are the memories that I will take with me. Not -- I mean, yes, we have all the memories of him on the court and the greatness that he displayed there but those moments with his daughter just being another dad coaching his girl and wanting the best for his girl, those are the memories that I will take with me.

BLITZER: I know how difficult this has been and it will continue to be difficult. Erin, please send our deepest condolences and love to everyone over there.

TAPPER: Thank you, Erin.

BLITZER: We really appreciate you spending a few moments with us.

THORN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: We'll be back in a moment.

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[12:40:58]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The Senate impeachment trial entering a crucial phase. Just minutes from now, the 16-hour question and answer period is going to begin. It's the time for senators to clear up their unaddressed concerns. They could also use their questions to try to put House managers or the defense team on the spot.

I want to talk to our Sara Murray to find out it all is going to work. So Sara, what should we expect today?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, saddle up. We're looking at 16 hours of questions over the course of two days. These questions are going to be submitted in writing so you won't hear directly from the senators. Instead, here is a look at the piece of paper they will be submitting their questions on.

You can see there's a place for them to write their name, to write their question, and then to direct it either to the president's attorneys or to the House impeachment managers. These questions then get delivered to Chief Justice John Roberts, he's going to read the questions out loud, he's going to name the senator or senators who submitted them. And this is going to alternate between Republicans and Democrats.

The idea, the hope is for the counsel to the president or the House impeachment managers to respond in five minutes. Mitch McConnell, the chief justice had both implored everyone to keep their questions tight, to keep their answers succinct. We will see how that goes.

Back to you.

COOPER: All right, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Laura Coates, the -- we just saw Alan Dershowitz going in. There had been some question of who from the defense team would be taking questions. It seems like they will be there and -- in case any senator asks a particular person a question.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well -- and that's important, remember. Because each person on both sides took very discreet points. They had their sort of bailiwick they individually had to use and play to their strengths. I suspect that Alan Dershowitz will have the most questions from say the Republican side of the Senate because they are using his arguments about this general vague concept of abuse of power being something that sets the bar far too low for impeachment, and will make it at the mercy of every congresswoman and man in the future who just has a problem with the president.

They're going to be using the question session to essentially say I'd like the Supreme Court justice, Justice Roberts to be reading this statement that will probably be less like a question and more like a -- just to confirm what have you have said in the past. There is not enough evidence to support x, y, and z. So I think they'll use it as a tool.

COOPER: Ross, I mean, there's no follow-up, there's no back and forth, which, you know, any question you ask can be answered however the person wants to answer it, meaning it cannot be answered at all. They can answer another question that they wish they were asked.

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right, there's no direct follow-up and the Republicans and Democrats go back and forth on asking questions. You know -- and some of this may actually be a little bit choreographed. You know, in the Clinton impeachment trial there was the story that Peter Baker, now in the New York Times tells about how the White House counsel had the secret signal that he used with his pen to send to the Democratic leader to ask an open-ended question. Like, you know, what do you think of the arguments that the House manager just made. So it will be interesting to see that kind of choreography.

COOPER: So that one can comment on something that was just done.

GARBER: If they're asked the question, that's right. It's all about the question and answer. And, you know, we saw yesterday the chief justice admonish the lawyers to keep it tight. To try to keep the answers to under five minutes to avoid a kind of a filibuster from going on. And there were two audiences here, there are the swing senators and then there is the public.

COOPER: As we await the start of the trial, the president's personal attorney turns on John Bolton in a new interview. Rudy Giuliani, now calling the former national security advisor an atomic bomb.

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TAPPER: This just in. As we learn the White House has issued a formal threat to John Bolton to try to keep him from publishing his book. We are also learning that a key Democrat in the House says that he spoke with the former national security advisor. Dana Bash, tell us more about this letter from the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. He just put out a statement moments ago saying that he had a private conversation with John Bolton shortly after John Bolton left the White House. And in that conversation, Bolton told him that he should look into the firing of Marie Yovanovitch. And I'll read part of the statement that the chairman put out.

He and I, referring to John Bolton, spoke by telephone on September 23rd, on that call Ambassador Bolton suggested to be unprompted that the committee look into the recall of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

[12:50:05] He strongly implied that something improper had occurred around her removal as our top diplomat in Kyiv.

Now, I could tell you, I just got off the phone with a source close to the chairman asking why now, perhaps it's an obvious question in some ways since we are on the cusp of seeing a Senate vote on whether or not John Bolton should come and testify. But there was another answer that I got with this source which is that the chairman saw the president this morning tweeting angrily at the ambassador, John Bolton, saying that he is lying, and that all of the -- at least what we know about what's in the manuscript is untrue. And so what the chairman wanted to do was send out something that gave some backing to John Bolton and his credibility. This source I talked to emphasize the fact that the chairman has a lot of private conversations with people across the aisle, and he's very reluctant to reveal them but in this case he thought it was important on many levels.

Jake.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, standby because Gloria, you've been doing some reporting on this as well.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the real question is if he knew this, and even though it was this off the record conversation that he shared --

BLITZER: You're talking about Eliot Engle.

BORGER: Eliot Engle and Bolton, did he share it with the -- Adam Schiff? Did he share it with the intelligence committee? Could he have himself asked Bolton to come up and testify about it on the Hill?

You know, there are all kinds of questions I think that Republicans can raise right now about why is Eliot Engel just sharing this now and could he have done more about it at that, you know, at that time. And we don't know the answer to it. Obviously, he wants Bolton to testify and so that's why he's putting this out, and he was upset as Dana puts out by what the president was tweeting.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At the end of the statement issued by the committee he says that he did share it with the other committees involved in the investigation.

BORGER: Oh OK.

KING: However -- so, if you're Eliot, you say, uh-huh, senators, here's another reason you must call John Bolton. If you're a Republican, you say, uh-huh, House Democrats, why didn't you fight this out, why did you -- you were fighting this out in court and you decided never mind and pulled back.

TAPPER: And by the way, the House can still right now subpoena John Bolton. They can do that if they won, and they will win that vote because they control the House.

KING: Yes. But I do think that's the paradox of the post-impeachment box that they put themselves in by deciding to impeach, by going forward with this. That, yes, they can, and if there are legitimate issues of oversight, of course, they should as good government just as the Republicans in the Senate should do the same thing. But anything the House Democrats do now is t-ball for the president to say, this is gratuitous, this is spiteful, you're doing this only because you lost impeachment if that's where it ends up.

BORGER: It also gives you an indication of John Bolton's state of mind, unprompted in a phone call with the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee --

TAPPER: A very partisan Democratic chairman.

BORGER: A very partisan Democrat, he says, by the way, unprompted, I think you should look into that.

TAPPER: Stand by, we're moment away from the question and answer phase of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump. We'll be right back.

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[12:58:06]

BLITZER: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Welcome to CNN's special live coverage of the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump.

TAPPER: And I'm Jake Tapper, along with Dana Bash who's leading the CNN's coverage from Capitol Hill.

In just a few moments, the trial will enter a critical new phase. This is a two-day 16-hour total question and answer period. Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats will submit questions in writing to ask either the House impeachment managers or President Trump's legal team because senators are not allowed to speak. The chief justice of the United States John Roberts will read the senators' questions out loud to the full Senate chamber.

BLITZER: And for a handful of senators who are still trying to make up their minds, these two days potentially could be very crucial. Senators on the fence could potentially hear what they need to make a decision to vote on calling additional witnesses including the president's former national security advisor John Bolton. But right now, the reality is neither party has the votes and the pressure is clearly mounting.

It's going to start, Jake, in just a couple minutes or so. The chief justice will bring this session to order.

Take a look at this and want to put it up on the screen. This is the actual card that will be delivered to the chief justice of the United States John Roberts. You can see at the top, 116th Congress, second session, United States Senate, impeachment trial of the president of the United States. And then on the right hand side, question for, and you can either hit counsel for the president or House managers. You have to put your name, the name of the senator and then in writing you put the question there that the chief justice will read.

It's very, very precise how this is going to work. And the chief justice yesterday said he wants the counsel or the House managers to respond within five minutes.

TAPPER: And what's going to be a little awkward for John Roberts who considers himself to be the real arbiter of calling balls and strikes and not taking opinion is that this is a very partisan body and there are going to be a number of, I'm guessing, very pointedly written question from very partisan senators, Democrats and Republicans, writing things, asking things to make a point --

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