Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Alan Dershowitz: My Comments On Unchecked Power Mischaracterized; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: Trump Not Truly Acquitted If No New Witnesses In Senate; GOP's Graham Bullish On Democrats Joining GOP To Acquit Trump; Adam Schiff: Trump's Defense Team Resorting To "Desperation"; Soon: Senators Question Trump Team, House Managers. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired January 30, 2020 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Today's round two of questions from the jury. The Chief Justice John Roberts read out 93 questions from the U.S. Senators yesterday but there was one that he refused to read. We're going to get to that in just a few moments.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: But first we're getting new comments from members of both the Senate and the House including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Our Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill. Lauren, the Speaker is claiming that President Trump will not be truly acquitted if the Senate refuses to hear from new witnesses?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: That's exactly right, Jake, and that is something that Senate Democrats have been making the case about for the last month and a half, essentially arguing that you cannot have a trial without witnesses. Here's what Speaker Pelosi said at her press conference just a few minutes ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Well, he will not be acquitted. You cannot be acquitted if you don't have a trial. And you don't have a trial if you don't have witnesses and documentation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOX: And, of course, the critical vote on witnesses is expected to happen tomorrow, Jake. There is still a question mark around Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee, who is retiring in 2020, and, of course, is a close ally to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. I was told by him just a few minutes ago that he still is undecided, and as he came in to the Capitol, I saw him in the Russell building, he was driven to the Capitol, he told me once again he was still undecided.

He has not made up his mind yet about witnesses. He wants to listen to the rest of the question and answer session today. Now we expect that this could be another long day. We expect that Republicans and Democrats are going to use all of their time. They have just a little less than eight hours left to ask their questions. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill thanks so much. Let's discuss this and John King, let me start with you. Because, obviously, if President Trump is acquitted by the U.S. Senate, then according to the constitution, according to the law, he is acquitted.

This is Nancy Pelosi trying to send out a political message. Sham trial, cover-up, trying to take away any victory from President Trump, assuming that he is ultimately acquitted.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR, INSIDE POLITICS: And so she's trying to speak to the Democratic base, which ultimately actually pushed her to do this. Remember, if we rewind the tape a few months, Nancy Pelosi did not want to do impeachment because she was worried it would be partisan, and she was worried if it was all partisan, it would backfire in the Democratic Party.

Now she's trying to tell the base, we impeached him, the Senate Republicans Mitch McConnell, sham trial. That will be the Democratic argument. The President who has a pretty good - is going to have a very different argument. He's going to say I was acquitted by the United States. Senate.

If a couple of Democrats vote for that even on one count, he is going to say I was acquitted on a bipartisan basis by the United States Senate. That will be the blaring conversation for the next week of so it is actually I think an interesting question is will it be a blaring conversation all the way through November?

The President will keep it to stoke his base without a doubt. It was a partisan impeachment to keep his base fired up. Will the Democrats want to move on health care move on to economic issues move on - it depends in part of who they nominate it depends up on how the nominations part plays out Pelosi speaking to her base for now trying to justify why they did this and put more pressure on McConnell.

BLITZER: And Gloria, if he's acquitted tomorrow let's say, and that's possible, he could be acquitted tomorrow, Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday. He's going to have a big interview that we televise Sean Hannity is going to be interviewing him during the Super Bowl.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I wonder how that will go.

BLITZER: And then on Tuesday, he does the "State of the Union," Address, a huge audience as well. So he is going to be pretty happy if he is acquitted tomorrow.

BORGER: Right. And so obviously he would claim vindication and would have reason to do so in the sense that the Senate did not convict him, but I think John's point is the right one, which is, how is this going to play in the long term?

And in the end, the Democrats, you know, everyone was worried, oh, this is going to kill Democrats in 2020 if you impeach the President, it's going to be terrible for the Democratic Party, but anything can happen, and now they have an argument. Now they have an argument to say, which is that the President's - you know, this was a sham trial without witnesses particularly, given the Bolton book. We don't know what Bolton would have testified to, and we still have many hours to go to see if he'll say something in public, but particularly given what John Bolton said, I think that changes the equation a little bit.

Because not only can they claim it's a fake trial, but they can say, look at John Bolton. He said the President told him to do this, and by the way, the President's lawyers are also claiming that the President is a King, so they can use that.

KING: You're shaking your head as Gloria talks but--

BORGER: Don't do that.

(CROSS TALK)

KING: You've been on the ballot in a tough year. I was talking just in the context of the Presidential Race. If there are no witnesses, will it be an issue if you're running against, if you're the Democrat running against Cory Gardner or Susan Collins or Martha McSally, isn't that part of your thing, Velcro to Trump?

RICK SANTORUM, (R) FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Yeans ago in politics. I mean, this is January of election year; so much is going to happen between now and then. This will be a litany that Trump will say on the campaign trail, he'll start about the Russian investigation - he won't talk about impeachment.

He'll talk about impeachment from the context of how all they're trying to do is overturn this election. They don't trust you. They've actually given him some more fodder. I know that's not how they look at it, but he will use this as a

[12:05:00]

RON KLAIN, ADVISE TO BIDEN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Donald Trump is sitting on top of a pretty solid economy and a world pretty much at peace and he's net negative in approval, net negative in favorability. Why, because voters have problems with his character and his conduct.

Joe Biden is up in Iowa with an ad that says his character is on the ballot. That's a message not just from him but a lot of Democrats. This is another brick in that wall. He will be the first impeached President in history to seek reelection. That bathtub ring will be around him and it won't go away.

For his core supporters, for his base, yes, it will be an applause line of rallies. But for voters were Senators saying, do we want this man in Oval Office for four more years given all these things? It's another brick on the wall.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And that's worth - and I think the Bolton book comes in, that's where the President's behavior comes in months before the November election. What does he do that essentially makes this argument stronger in the mind especially of independent voters, this idea about character? That's what this goes to. How does he conduct himself as an American President, and is it the way most Americans think he should be?

BLITZER: Senator holds that thought for a moment. Dana Bash has got a special guest up on Capitol Hill. Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks so much, Wolf, and I do have Senator Cory Booker from the great state of New Jersey. Appreciate you joining me. We were talking, as we were listening to my colleague's talk, about what it's like to be on the floor listening to this, and you're actually saying you feel sad.

SEN. CORY BOOKER, (D-NJ): Yes, I mean there were points last night where I just felt sad and wounded by it all watching their arguments devolve from you know this was a perfect letter, nothing wrong - per the conversation, rather, nothing wrong to now this argument that's so thin, so tenuous.

Yes, the President can solicit foreign interference if he thinks it's in the best interest of the nation or the best interest of our country. It's a very sad evolution of arguments. I think Dershowitz did damage yesterday to the very ideals of our country with an argument that was basically saying what Donald Trump said, which is I'm president of the United States and I can do anything I want.

BASH: I'm hearing some of that privately from Republicans. I know you have relationships across the aisle. I'm guessing do you as well? Meaning the frustration that Dershowitz took it a step too far?

BOOKER: Yes, I've got friendships on either side of the isle and private conversations. The one thing I know from a lot of them is that this is not acceptable behavior. The President has done things - I call it moral vandalism, but they're just wrong.

They're wrong for a play ground, they're wrong for a work place, they're wrong for the moral leader of the United States. It's very wrong and I think that weighs upon a lot of them. But in this moment, at a time that rushes strategy with us, they're perfecting everywhere from Europe to Madagascar how to interfere with the Democratic elections.

And so they're going to continue attacking our democracy. And so to have a President to say it's okay from either solicit that kind of interference if that helps me, this is a very bad moment in American history where the threat of democracies are real. They're going to try to beat us tank for tank Russia anymore, they're going to try to insidious things that put against each other and drag our democracy.

BASH: When you have those conversations with your friends in the Republican Party. Is it a just kind of an understood thing that they may feel that way but they don't feel that they can vote that way?

BOOKER: I don't want to push my perception on them. Their words are often words of exasperation or frustration, or real reference to a President that has - in fact, we joined bipartisan ways to try to stop him from doing things, usually in foreign policy.

But this is what I think is the reality right now, is that nobody is willing to stand up and say that I think the consequences for them. This is the party of Trump any more. I don't even want to call it the Republican Party.

He's a ball and chain around the neck of so many of these Senators that they know if they try to go against him in any way that he will attack and he will drag them down and endanger their reelection.

So the joke I've been saying a lot to friends is there is a reason why profile encourages such a thin volume. I just don't see anybody stepping out in this. I think that we are soon at the end of this impeachment trial, and we're going to move ourselves as a nation through an election.

BASH: And Senator, there very well may be some of your Democratic colleagues who vote to acquit the President. And it will give him bragging rights, potentially, of a bipartisan acquittal. Are you talking to some of those maybe more moderate Democrats?

Do you get the sense that is going to happen? And if so, are you talking one, two, three? And also what do you think that will mean politically and also with regard to how history will look at this?

BOOKER: I - in this moment where - history will look back on this moment. I think it will more of the information that they're suppressing right now and not letting witnesses, not letting key relevant documents that can fully expose the President's wrongdoing, those will come out.

[12:10:00]

BOOKER: History will know what this President has done and, I believe, how wrong it's been. I am extending grace right now because I want to shift the conversation to what I heard about on the Presidential Campaign trail that people are really concerned about.

Prescription drugs, this President has done nothing about that. Their public schools being underfunded. This President has done nothing about that. Their social security checks that aren't going far enough and there are so many real issues.

That's why we won so big in 2018, we kept the conversation on all the policy things the President is doing to hurt this nation. I'm a competitor. I'm ready to go back and fight in this next election.

BASH: And that - toss it back to Wolf and Jake this is your first interview with CNN since you left the Presidential Race, how are you feeling?

BOOKER: It's been an incredible experience to go out there on the President's Campaign Trail to speak from my heart about the need in this nation for us to remember - you heard me say it, patriotism is love of country, and you can't love your country unless you love the country's men and women.

We are country telling itself a part right now. I spoke to that. It didn't turn out how I wanted it to, but I feel better to have that opportunity.

BASH: Senator, thank you so much for coming out and talking to us today.

BOOKER: Thank you.

BASH: Appreciate it, thank you. Wolf and Jake back to you.

TAPPER: All right, thanks so much. And Senator Santorum you noted that it sounded that Senator Cory Booker there - sounded very defeatist about the chances that there will be votes in the way that he wants them to go.

SANTORUM: Yes. Look, I think that this is over and that - I know contrary - Nia and I have been saying Friday night lights. The lights are going to off on Friday night, and I think and we were talking I think most Republicans are very, very comfortable.

I understand what Cory was saying, which is their members who have concerns about the President's character and about some of the things he says and does. But on this particular issue, I think the vast, vast majority of Republicans you have seen it by the question is very comfortable that they're doing the right thing.

And that - the idea that all they're doing it because of Mitch McConnell, or they're doing it because they're afraid of the President, no member on an issue like this would vote against what they believe in their core is the right thing to do.

BLITZER: Senator if you were still in the U.S. Senate how you would vote tomorrow on witnesses?

SANTORUM: I would vote for no on witnesses.

BLITZER: Why?

SANTORUM: Again, because I believe that what the President did in this situation accepting the facts as even Adam Schiff would want - are not sufficient to remove a President. And that's where it begins and ends with me.

TAPPER: Are you critical of the actions that he took?

SANTORUM: Absolutely and I think the interesting thing you seen through this process and now that the more the facts are been laid out is that you see more Republican members saying that. They're now saying, well, you know, we don't like what the President did, or we have some concerns about it, but we're seeing more of that.

TAPPER: We're seeing the House Impeachment Managers walk into the Senate right now. Ron Klain, let me ask you, there is the future in terms of tomorrow, there is the future in terms of how history will look at this entire thing, then there's November.

Do you think, as an Adviser to Joe Biden, that you will be talking about impeachment and cover-up of a trial and all that in October? Should Biden be the nominee? Or do you think you will be talking about health care and the economy and education?

KLAIN: I think we'll be talking about both in this way. I think obviously voters care more about health care and the economy education climate change then perhaps they do about impeachment. But I think what they know is that the character of the President determines if those things happened.

And as you said we're on the year right now in Iowa with an ad about character and I think that choice between the kind of person you have as President Ties to the kind of result you get from that President.

To have the President on the lawn of the White House saying like China interfering in our elections, Ukraine, other countries. I don't think the American people want that, I don't think that's the kind of democracy they want, and that will become a factor come in fall.

BORGER: But he's accusing the President, and his legal team is accusing Joe Biden of having no character. They're saying, well, Joe Biden's son was crooked and used his connections and they made all this money, so does that blunt the argument at all or does Biden suffer?

KLAIN: No I think two things. First of all, we had every single appointee of the Trump Administration who testified before the House said none of this stuff was true. They said Joe Biden carried out the policy of our government, of Europe.

A policy of Republican Senators endorsed. So the President can say it's not true, his own appointees say it isn't true. Second, on the core character question, the American people have known Joe Biden for forty years; they've known Donald Trump, for long time too.

I am absolutely comfortable when they compare the two individuals and their character being President, they'll make the right choice.

BLITZER: Adam Schiff you can see him there he and the other House Managers are Lofgren among others. They are making their way to the Senate right now. This question session is about to begin. Meanwhile, the Former Attorney General of the United States Jeff Sessions is slamming the President's Former National Security Adviser John Bolton suggesting it was dishonorable for him to speak out against the President in his upcoming Book. Let's listen to Adam Schiff.

[12:15:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We'll answer a couple questions before we get started today. What we saw yesterday were the most incredible arguments borne of desperation, arguments that if the Senators ever followed would lead this country down the most destructive path. Yesterday the President's defenders argued that a President of the United States could do essentially whatever he wanted to secure his reelection, no matter how corrupt, if he believed that his reelection was in the national interest.

As the President's lawyers argued, if the President does a quid pro quo, even one where he withholds military aid from an ally at war, even if he takes actions that jeopardize our national security and the integrity of our elections, as long as he thinks it's in his reelection interest, that's okay, and there's nothing that Congress can do about it.

What's more, if part of that quid pro quo involves an investigation of his political rival, the fact that his political rival is running for President gives it greater legitimacy, not less, because it would be more consequential. That is the most absurdly dangerous argument that could have been made.

And the fact that they must resort to this level of desperation is the result of the fact that the House Managers proved the defendant's scheme involved withholding and military aid, withholding of a coveted White House meeting with the President of Ukraine in order to coerce, to extort, to blackmail that country into conducting or announcing the sham investigations, to help him cheat in the election.

They went on to say that soliciting, inviting, coordinating in a U.S. election notwithstanding what the FBI Director says or self respecting American says, that they view that as perfectly fine. It is the normalization of lawlessness, but that's what they've had to resort to as the evidence has continued to pile up of the President's guilt.

And when that evidence threatened to get even greater, with the testimony of John Bolton, they have gone to extraordinary lengths to put a muscle on John Bolton. To avoid calling him as a witness to avoid let the American people hear what he has to say. To try to stifle his book to attacking him publicly because they fear what he has to say, because they already know the President's scheme has been exposed.

So that's where they are. We will continue today to make the case, a case that has already been made to the American people but needs to be made to this Senate, and that is a fair trial requires witnesses. A fair trial, an impartial oath requires witnesses.

And that's what they should deliver for the American people. No trial, no vindication. No vindication for the President or anyone else. The constitution requires a fair trial and that's all we're asking. I'm happy to respond a couple of questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has a 1:00 question he's going to ask regarding in terms of the whistleblower involving your name. Do you have any thoughts on - of that and what should be done perhaps - about that?

SCHIFF: Well, as I said yesterday, we protect whistleblowers. We need their cooperation we need their support in making the country work. And I'm not talking specifically about this whistleblower I'm talking about whistleblowers generally.

We rely on people of good conscience to report misconduct. The only point in outing this whistleblower is to satisfy the desire of the President for retribution, and that is not something that this senate should condone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some Republicans are pointing to the Steele dossier, and in comments last night, is that legitimate thing to - DNC had been involved in the Steele dossier?

SCHIFF: You know honestly, going down the Steele dossier rabbit hole, I don't even understand what the logical connection is supposed to be. The President is on trial right now for withholding military aid from an ally at war, trying to coerce that ally into helping him cheat in the next election.

And to continue - and that may gratify the President. Part of what the President's lawyers are doing isn't meant to persuade the Senators, it's not meant to persuade the American people, and it isn't. It's meant to gratify the grievances of the President by talking about Christopher Steele or James Comey or Peter Strzok or Lisa Page.

[12:20:00]

SCHIFF: None of those people are responsible for the President's misconduct, only Donald Trump is responsible for his misconduct and he must be held to account. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Adam Schiff making comments before today's final day of answering questions back now with the panel here in New York. One of the moments yesterday that was interesting to see was Rand Paul was trying to submit a question in which the whistleblower was named, which Chief Justice Roberts, that was specifically something specifically he said he would not read.

JEFFREY TOOBIN: You know it's just an example of the scorched earth defense that we have seen from the President and his supporters. The identity of the whistleblower has nothing to do with whether Donald Trump committed high crimes and misdemeanors.

His testimony would be irrelevant because the whistleblower just said in his letter, go talk to these other people who have firsthand information. That's what was done, that's where this investigation went. But this is just an example of harassing people who dare to speak about the President, and it is a scary prospect especially because there are specific laws designed to protect whistleblowers.

And the shameful thing is to see someone like Chuck Grassley, the Senator from Iowa, who has made protecting whistleblowers a cornerstone of his career say basically nothing about this awful tactic.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is also undermines the argument they're making this whole time about how we don't have first hand information. We can't believe anyone unless it's first hand information. And then saying we like the very person who they all they have is second hand information and that moves up the cue to the race to top priority.

You can't say that on the one hand you required that first hand information and then they'll say, but Bolton, we don't mean you.

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes I thought it was also interesting that I mean there is a good argument that technically the Chief Justice can't refuse to ask a question posed by a Senator, but in this case the Chief Justice as the presiding officer drew the line at something he viewed as improper.

COOPER: We're going to take a break. Just an hour we're going to hear live from Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn and Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:25:00]

BASH: Welcome back to CNN's Special Coverage of the Impeachment Trial of President Trump. I'm Dana Bash on Capitol Hill and I'm joined now by Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. Thank you so much for joining.

SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN, (R-TN): Good to be with you.

BASH: I want to start by playing for you what you heard in person last night from Alan Dershowitz'

BLACKBURN: Sure.

BASH: --his argument for the President and against conviction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, TRUMP IMPEACHMENT ATTORNEY: Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest. And mostly you're right. Your election is in the public interest. And if the President does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Are you comfortable with that?

BLACKBURN: What he was talking about is rooting out corruption and fighting corruption, and that that is in the public interest. One of the things we hear about so regularly is you know waste, fraud and abuse. When I came into Congress I was at a freshman project was fighting waste, fraud and abuse and that's what people want to see done.

BASH: Which is totally understandable -? BLACKBURN: Right.

BASH: But when the President was talking to the Ukrainian leader, he didn't use the word corruption at all. What he was specifically talking about was his political opponent.

BLACKBURN: He talked about burden sharing. He talked about corruption. They had been working on the issue of corruption for a very long time.

BASH: I'm not sure that that's actually true.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: There's not a lot of evidence that he was working on corruption there or anywhere else until Joe Biden became an actual potential threat to him.

BLACKBURN: But bear in mind, what he did when he campaigned was to talk about burden sharing and talk about a proper use for taxpayer dollars.

BASH: Absolutely, I agree with you. I covered them on the campaign trail. That is true. But what he did with the Ukrainian leader was not about burden sharing. The reason why he was impeached by house was about him asking a foreign leader for help him investigating into a political opponent.

BLACKBURN: They came up with two articles and both of which are of fraud the abuse of power and the obstruction of Congress. You've covered a lot of us for a long time, and you know and you remember the argument in the House, with fast and furious, should we go after President Obama when it came to some of the delays in funding, when it came to the Affordable Care Act.

And we didn't do that on the Affordable Care Act we decided that going to court would be appropriate and we won that lawsuit.

BASH: But there was no allegation that President Obama did any of that for his own personal, political gain. You had real policy disagreements, but can we just go back to Alan Dershowitz? Because it's hard for me to imagine any of you saying that what Dershowitz suggested, which is effectively that the President is a King and he can do what he wants, or she at some point, what they want, if it is in line with their political interest if you would be talking about a Democratic President. I can't imagine it.

BLACKBURN: I think that when you look at--

[12:30:00]