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Interview with Nikolas Bowie of Harvard Law School; Democratic Candidates Blanket Iowa as Senators Sit in Washington; White House Forms Coronavirus Task Force. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired January 30, 2020 - 10:30   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Abuse of power, President Trump is accused of it but Alan Dershowitz, one of the president's lawyers, doesn't think the interpretation of the legal phrase warrants impeachment. Dershowitz has continually cited one scholar, Nikolas Bowie, an assistant professor of law at Harvard Law School who, he says, supports his argument.


ALAN DERSHOWITZ, TRUMP IMPEACHMENT ATTORNEY: Professor Bowie, in his article in today's "New York Times," equates abuse of power with, quote, "misconduct in office," misconduct in office, thus supporting the view that when the framers rejected maladministration, they also rejected abuse of power as a criteria for impeachment.


COOPER: On Tuesday's "AC360," Jeffrey Toobin challenged Dershowitz on that point.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, Alan, you are equating maladministration with abuse of power --

DERSHOWITZ: That's right.

TOOBIN: -- and you are the only scholar who does that --

DERSHOWITZ: Again, you're wrong. I mean --

TOOBIN: No, I'm not wrong, Alan.

DERSHOWITZ: Let me give you a cite (ph). Today's "New York Times," Professor Nikolas Bowie says that almost exactly. He says that maladministration, abuse of office, abuse of power -- read it in "The New York Times."

TOOBIN: Yes, and --

DERSHOWITZ: And he's on --

TOOBIN: -- I've read that article. And --

DERSHOWITZ: -- and he's on --

TOOBIN: -- let me -- and let me finish, Alan.

DERSHOWITZ: OK, so quote -- quote -- quote the point --

TOOBIN: Let me finish.

DERSHOWITZ: -- before you say all scholars, please.

TOOBIN: Well -- Nikolas Bowie, in that article, says you are wrong about --

DERSHOWITZ: That's right, and that's why it makes his argument so much stronger. He thinks I'm wrong, and yet he agrees with me that maladministration, abuse of power and abuse of office are essentially the same.

I'm not quoting him for his conclusion, you can quote him for his conclusion. I'm quoting him for the point that you just made, saying no scholars think that abuse of power is the same as maladministration. He is --

TOOBIN: OK, so --

DERSHOWITZ: -- one that (ph) does.

TOOBIN: -- the best you can do is quote a scholar who thinks you're wrong?


COOPER: Nikolas Bowie joins me now from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Also Jeffrey Toobin is here with me as well. And I know Jeffrey has been looking forward to talking to you, Professor Bowie. Can you just explain your position on abuse of power and why you think Alan Dershowitz is misconstruing it?

NIKOLAS BOWIE, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF LAW, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Sure. So abuse of power is a crime. There are people around the country who have been convicted of it recently. It's a crime that's existed since this country was founded, and it's a criminal offense.

To equate it with maladministration, as my colleague Professor Dershowitz does, is the equivalent of saying that criminal corruption is the same thing as getting a bad performance evaluation. Maladministration is just an 18th century term for doing a bad thing at your job, for, you know, not filing papers correctly.

And I think he's right, that a president shouldn't be impeached for getting a bad performance evaluation. But to equate that with criminal corruption? That's a joke.

TOOBIN: What do you mean, abuse of power is a crime? You said there are examples, what do you mean?

BOWIE: So abuse of power is a common law crime, similar to burglary, murder, robbery, larceny, arson, all of these crimes, when originally prosecuted in this country, weren't necessarily written down in statute books but they developed over the course of history through judicial opinions, through legal treatises.

And so there's one example of a treatise that I cite in the law review article, from the 1840s, in which, you know, the leading scholar of criminal law in this country, Francis Wharton, includes an example of a bunch of common law crimes including extortion, bribery and what he called misconduct in office.

And so misconduct in office, or abuse of power, is simply using your official position, using the offices of your position corruptly or wickedly for your own ends. And so examples of that include taking a bribe in order to use your official powers to do something to help your own benefit.

TOOBIN: Let me ask you about that bribery question. You know, the House managers didn't include the word "bribery" in Article I. Do you think that was a mistake? Do you think that would have got rid of a lot of this confusion?

Because, essentially, the charge is that the president engaged in a bribery scheme with the president of Ukraine. Do you think some of this confusion could have been cleared up if they'd simply just called it bribery, because that's explicitly mentioned in the Constitution?

BOWIE: Perhaps, but I think it's a mistake to focus on the title of the charges because what they have charged the president with doing is using his official position, using the offices of the -- or using the powers of the presidency to help his own re-election.

And I was listening, earlier, to Professor Dershowitz talk about how so long as a president is acting in the national interest or he thinks he's acting in the national interest, then it's impossible to say that the president is acting corruptly.


And I just have to emphasize that that is such an irresponsible argument. Because think of what that would mean. That would mean that if a president were to order the military to start rounding up black people because he's afraid they're going to vote for a Democrat in the next election, then so long as the president is motivated by the national interest, so long as the president is motivated to get re- elected, then that's fine, then the president isn't corrupt. That can't be right.

Or so long as --


BOWIE: -- the president takes a -- so long as the president takes a bribe, if the bribe is to use his official positions to assassinate a senator, then so long as the president is doing that because he thinks the senator's voting record is out of the national interest, that's OK? That is such an irresponsible and ludicrous argument.

TOOBIN: In your "Harvard Law Review" article, which is the basis of all of this, you talk about your concern about presidents having notice, presidents, you know, being clear -- it's clear -- what -- making it clear to them what's permissible and what's not.

And one of the arguments that opponents of impeachment make is that, you know, when you say "abuse of power," it's not like bribery or treason. The term is so vague that it doesn't give the president fair notice of what's off-limits. What do you make of that argument?

BOWIE: So abuse of power has elements in the same way that bribery has elements. So just as bribery might have, you know, in some jurisdictions, taking a -- taking money or taking something of value more than an inexpensive meal in order to use your official position to take acts that either benefit the person who's giving you the bribe or anything else.

Abuse of power has similar elements. And the elements of abuse of power are using the -- using the powers of your office wickedly or corruptly in order to, you know, benefit yourself personally as opposed to benefit the country or your position, to do something in your position.

So to say that someone needs notice before they're prosecuted? Absolutely. One of the things that led me to write the article in the first place, is that I think it's wrong for a government to punish any person without giving them notice that they're breaking the law.

But abuse of power wasn't made up, you know, two months ago, when the House drafted these articles. Abuse of power has been around as an established offense for over two centuries.

And so to say that the president didn't have notice, that they couldn't use their official position to help their own re-election as opposed to in the national interest, or that the president could stop an appropriation of funds from going to a country simply because he thought it would be better to hold that so that he could investigate a political rival? To suggest that he didn't have notice that that was against the law is absurd.

COOPER: Professor Bowie, this reminds me in the scene of -- in "Annie Hall," where Woody Allen -- where this guy in line is talking about Marshall McLuhan, what Marshall McLuhan thinks. And Woody Allen gets annoyed and says, I happen to have Marshall McLuhan right here, and you have no idea what you're talking about.

It's a pleasure to have you on. Thank you so much.

TOOBIN: The real Nikolas Bowie, it's so exciting --


BOWIE: Thank you. TOOBIN: -- you've been cited so many times, my goodness.

COOPER: You have no idea how excited Jeffrey has been all morning.

TOOBIN: I know, it's great -- it's great to have you.

COOPER: He's had a spring in his step. We appreciate you being with us, thank you so much.

BOWIE: Yes, thank you for having me.

COOPER: All right, take care.


Several senators running for president, sitting in the impeachment trial while their rivals campaign in Iowa: how the race is tightening with just four days to go.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's happening just four days from now, the first real votes by real voters, giving us the first hint as to whom Democrats really want to see -- who they want to see elected in November. The Iowa caucuses, this coming Monday.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The Iowa caucuses do not always predict the party's nominee. After all, Bill Clinton lost the contest in 1992, Senator Ted Cruz won it four years ago. But Iowa voters have picked the nominee over the decades more often than not.

Let's get to CNN's Abby Phillip. She's traveling with the campaign of former Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Arlette Saenz is on the trail with Joe Biden, both candidates pounding Iowa in these final days before that crucial vote.

Abby, let me start with you, Buttigieg held five town halls in Iowa yesterday.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The pace here is really frenetic, as he's racing against the clock toward that Monday deadline. The campaign has said that Buttigieg has held 40 town halls in 18 days here in the state.

He is going to far-flung towns -- we are here in Decorah, Iowa, population 8,000. He is touching some of these precincts that he says are critical because Obama won them in 2012 and in some cases -- in 2008, and in some cases in 2012. And then Donald Trump flipped those seats and turned them red.

He is saying to Iowa voters here that, as part of his electability argument, that he can appeal to some of those voters who went from Obama to Trump, and bring them back to the Democratic Party. But he's also making a strategic decision that creating some geographic variance here in where he is strong in the state is going to help him on caucus night.


But he's taking advantage, clearly, of so many of his competitors, those United States senators, being back in Washington. He has quite a few more town halls in the coming days and I don't think the pace is slowing down any time soon -- Jake.

BLITZER: You know, let's bring in Arlette too, Abby. Arlette, how is the former vice president addressing the fact that his name is being invoked at the impeachment trial here in the Senate?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Wolf, Joe Biden has forcefully pushed back against the president and Republicans who have raised his name throughout this impeachment process. He's essentially telling voters here in Iowa that if they want to ruin Donald Trump's night on February 3rd, they should caucus for him. He says this all shows that the president is most concerned about facing the former vice president in a general election match-up.

And in just a short while here in Waukee, Biden is going to deliver a speech that will serve not just as a closing argument to Iowans, but also a prebuttal to President Trump, who is set to hold a rally here in the Des Moines area later this evening.

And Biden will argue that character is on the ballot. And advisors that I spoke with said that Biden wants to present the ultimate contrast with the president in values and leadership styles.

And we actually have a few excerpts from this speech that I want to read to you. Biden will say that Americans "deserve a president who tells them the truth -- not lie after lie after lie. A president who will put the country's interest first -- not his own self-interest. A president who appeals to the best in us -- not the worst. A president who will bring us together -- not pull us apart."

Now, one thing that Joe Biden is not expected to speak about in this speech today is that impeachment trial. Instead, he is trying to create this match-up between himself and the president as he continues to argue to Iowans that he is best positioned to beat Trump in a general election -- Wolf and Jake.

BLITZER: All right. Arlette and Abby, the A-team, guys. Thanks very, very much.

Right now, at least 6,000 people are stuck on a cruise ship after a couple is suspected of contracting the coronavirus.

TAPPER: Plus, more Republican attacks against John Bolton who the Senate is considering as a potential witness. This is CNN's special live coverage, stay with us.


[10:51:46] COOPER: Some 6,000 people are being kept on board a cruise ship in Italy until two passengers have tested negative for the deadly coronavirus. A spokesperson for Costa Crociere cruise ship tells CNN a husband and wife from Hong Kong are being kept separately in solitary confinement and that the wife has a fever.

We've also just learned that the U.S. is planning new evacuation flights for Americans in Wuhan, China, the city at the epicenter of the outbreak. Some 200 Americans who arrived on a charter flight from there, yesterday, will stay at a military base in Southern California for three days as they are monitored for symptoms.

I want to bring in our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. I cannot imagine what a nightmare it would be to be stuck on a ship and fearful of the coronavirus. The numbers are alarming. I mean, it's killed, what, 170 people, infected more than 7,700?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, the numbers are alarming, there's no question. And they're obviously more alarming because every day, we wake up and you hear the numbers have increased. And not just a little bit, but they've increased significantly.

Part of that, Anderson -- and you and I have covered these types of stories -- part of that is because there's greater awareness now, obviously, of this virus, and there's more testing available. So that drives the numbers up as well.

I think what -- the concern, the public health concern always is, is this, you know, spiraling into a pandemic, is the virus mutating more and more, becoming more transmissible and more deadly as it mutates?

I can tell you right now, as the numbers go up, Anderson, it's a -- that's bad news, obviously. But there's some good news in that as well. And this is what I mean: as the numbers go up, thousands, maybe, you know, 10,000, if the number of people who have died does not go up significantly, that means the fatality ratio is low.

And so you may have tens of thousands of people ultimately who get this virus, the majority of whom do not have illness or have only mild illness. And that's a picture that's starting to emerge.

Remember -- let me show you real quick, Anderson -- SARS, again, a story you and I both covered back in 2003. When you look at the United States at that time, through those several months of the SARS outbreak, there were eight people in the United States who were diagnosed with the infection, and it was all travel-related.

So if this sort of goes that way, it may spread around the world but not in significant numbers around the -- around the world in other countries.

COOPER: And the White House, they're announcing the creation of a coronavirus task force. Is that -- I mean, is that something that actually makes a difference as a matter of precaution at this moment?

GUPTA: Yes, I think so. You know, and there was a task force, you know, around Ebola, there was an Ebola czar, you may remember, at that point.

I think the biggest thing with these types of stories is that there is a medical and health, obviously, component to it, which is what drives it. But we know the economic impact this can have. This particular task force is being chaired by the Health and Human Services secretary, but it's coming under National Security Council because there are security concerns as well.

So the task force is designed to revolve around this task, it's designed to be short-term but essentially make sure that the folks in OMB understand what the medical people are saying, who understand what the national security people are saying. So it's to sort of bring that together. One of the greatest disruptions from these types of outbreaks is impacts outside of medicine alone. I think that's what they're trying to address.


COOPER: All right. Sanjay Gupta -- Dr. Gupta, thanks very much --

GUPTA: You got it.

COOPER -- appreciate it.

Now (ph) to (ph) Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, accusing Lindsey Graham of being in the loop over the Ukraine scheme. The question is, how does he say he knows that?

Plus, how the Trump team couldn't answer the question about whether the president even mentioned investigating the Bidens before he entered the 2020 race.