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Senate Republicans on Brink of Bringing Trump Trial to End; Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) Is Interviewed About the Senate Impeachment Trial; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) Is Interviewed About the Senate Impeachment Trial. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 30, 2020 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00]

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: -- 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. It just -- I can't imagine it.

I think that when you look at this, we have to realize that this boils it down to a policy disagreement. And whether you are talking about --

BASH: What's the policy disagreement?

BLACKBURN: The policy disagreement is over foreign policy and how we approach foreign policy. That is at the crux of this entire thing.

BASH: Because supporting Ukraine has been historically bipartisan. So how --

BLACKBURN: That's right, and there was a difference when President Obama delayed the use of lethal force. And, of course, you've got some of the House managers that voted for that lethal force to go forward, you've got others that have voted against all of that lethal force. So that is a policy disagreement.

BASH: Understood, understood. But this is a question about a bipartisan agreement about a policy, which in this case is giving Ukraine money that was approved in a bipartisan way here and holding it up for his own personal, political gain because he wanted the leader of another country to publicly announce an investigation of his political opponent. Can you see any world in which, if the tables were turned, as one of those senators asked yesterday, and a Democratic president were doing this that you would not raise holy hell?

BLACKBURN: What we see is that the president was focused on burden sharing, he was focused on corruption, he was focused on this as a policy change, and the way we were going to shift that policy. And he was not focused on this for himself specifically, and that is a point that the House managers have made, the president's team has made repeatedly.

BASH: OK. I don't see it as a policy decision, you see it very differently. I just to have ask you really quickly before we go to break, witnesses.

BLACKBURN:I'mYes.

BASH: How do you -- the Bolton book is going to come out. More information is going to come out. It's just the way the world works. How are you, down the road, going to be able to look your constituents in the eye and say, I voted against allowing these witnesses to come forward? And I allowed the trial to end without allowing this to be part of the record.

BLACKBURN: Well, we have to bear in mind that the House had 18 witnesses. They didn't give the Republicans the opportunity to call their witnesses. They disallowed the inspector general's testimony to be a part of that because he says in his testimony about the political bias of the whistleblower. We have heard from the House witnesses via all of the video that has been --

BASH: Well, not John Bolton who says he has firsthand information.

BLACKBURN: It is not our job to expand the House's investigation.

BASH: And you're comfortable with that. No matter what comes out, you're going to say it wasn't my job.

BLACKBURN: If they want to go back and call witnesses in the House and start another investigation, they're within their right to do that. But what the constitution requires us to do is to pull forward the two articles of impeachment that the House produced, and we take those into account. And we actually ask the question -- I asked yesterday, you know, does it meet the evidentiary standard for burden of proof in the House and then in the Senate for removal. And that's a decision we have to make and it is on those articles. That's the decision we're going to make.

BASH: Senator, thank you so much for joining me.

BLACKBURN: Good to be with you.

BASH: I appreciate it.

BLACKBURN: Absolutely.

BASH: We're going to take a quick break. We're coming up on time floor the -- this day, perhaps the final day of the real trial going on here. We're, again, going to take a quick break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:38:47]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back. Senators have just shy of eight hours left to ask questions of the president's defense team as well as the House impeachment managers before the Senate decides whether or not to call witnesses. The Senate majority leader has signaled he believes he has the votes to block any new witnesses. And our next guest says she does not think people, quote, fully grasp the constitutional danger of this moment. Susan Hennessey is a former attorney for the National Security Agency and the author of "Unmaking the Presidency."

Susan, what do you mean by this? What is the constitutional danger?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. So, the formers of the American constitution understood that they were creating an enormously empowered executive. This is something that they discussed extensively, this idea that they were vesting the commander-in-chief with powers that he might abuse. And they believed that they could control that risk by creating structural separation of powers and by the threat of impeachment.

So the founders thought, OK, we understand that a president might abuse these particular powers we're vesting in him, but don't worry, because there will be a coequal branch of government that will impeach him and remove him from office. And structurally, this threat of impeachment that hangs over the head of every American president is a reminder that he or she cannot abuse the powers of their office. They cannot use the powers of their office against the public good and for their own political gain.

[12:40:06]

And so if what we see now is for the Senate to decline to call plainly relevant witnesses with new information and essentially acknowledge that this is a sham proceeding, this is not about genuine fact-finding or getting to the truth but merely providing political cover for the president, that would be an acknowledgement that impeachment is not a genuine remedy in our constitutional system, instead impeachment is just a measurement of whether or not members of the president's own party have a sufficient number of seats in the Senate. And that has long-term and really, really serious structural consequences.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Susan, one of the impeachment managers, Jerry Nadler, just said it might be a good idea for the House of Representatives to subpoena John Bolton if the Senate vote fails tomorrow. What would that mean going forward?

HENNESSEY: Yes. So certainly just because the Senate declines to essentially discharge their constitutional duty doesn't mean that the House has to stop and accept that. We should expect the House to continue to undertake oversight.

Look, one way or another John Bolton's story is coming out either in the form of his book, in congressional testimony before the House, or in congressional testimony before the Senate. And I think we need to understand that the vote of Republican members of the Senate right now, and in that context, their choice is not to prevent John Bolton's testimony from coming out, it's to prevent John Bolton's testimony from coming out under oath before they have to actually cast their vote on it.

And I think that that demonstrates the degree to which members are really, really terrified of being confronted with what John Bolton actually has to say about what the president did. TAPPER: Susan Hennessey, thank you so much.

It's less than 20 minutes now until the final day of questions in the impeachment trial begin. You will hear from Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar live on Capitol Hill. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:46:41]

BASH: Welcome back to CNN's special coverage of the impeachment trial of Donald Trump. I'm Dana Bash on Capitol Hill. And I'm joined now by Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota. Thank you so much for joining me.

First question is really what we've been talking about all morning, what your reaction was to hearing Alan Dershowitz on the Senate floor making the argument that as long as the president is doing something that is also in the national interest, if it benefits him or her in the future, politically, that's OK.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's completely contrary to what this country is about. I think on one of the presidential debate stages, I said, if you're going to think like that, why don't you just give the president a crown and a scepter. Our country was founded on this idea that we were an independent democracy, that we didn't want to be ruled by a king. And if you say things like that, like you can do anything you want and it doesn't matter just to further your election, you basically have a dictator, you have a king, you have no democracy.

And I think even some of my Republican colleagues who quietly agreed with that. We'll see what they say today. But our big focus today, of course is more questions to get to the truth, but the real way we get to the truth is getting to the man in the room where it happens. And that would be John Bolton and a few of the other witnesses that we've asked for.

And I'm disturbed by some of the reports that there may not be witnesses. As I pointed out in my question last night, the last judicial impeachment hearing that I was part of, we had 26 witnesses in the Senate and got through it in good time.

BASH: So, Nancy Pelosi just said this morning that -- she argued that if there are no new witnesses that the president really won't be acquitted. It won't be a genuine acquittal if that's how the votes go, because you can't have that without new witnesses. Do you subscribe to that?

KLOBUCHAR:I'mWell, first of all, I'm not giving up on no witnesses. You know, we still have another day of questions. I've always thought with my colleagues the truth is not going to come out five years from now, it's going to come out five weeks from now or five days from now as we see every single day more information including these allegations. So, let's see what they do before I say that. BASH: But hypothetically speaking --

KLOBUCHAR: Well, no, I don't think it will be -- it will not be a fair trial, I just leave it at that, if we don't have witnesses. So I just want to get the witnesses.

BASH: Will the acquittal be legit?

KLOBUCHAR: I don't think it's a fair trial. And you can't have a fair trial, you can't get a fair result. But why don't we see what happens first.

BASH: OK.

I want to play for you on this issue of witnesses what one of the president's attorneys Jay Sekulow said about the notion of opening the box to -- not just to John Bolton but to other witnesses they want.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: I want Adam Schiff. I want Hunter Biden. I want Joe Biden. I want the whistleblower. I want to also understand there may be additional people within the House Intelligence Committee that have had conversations with that whistleblower.

I get anybody we want -- by the way, if we get anybody we want we will be here for a very long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLOBUCHAR: That's called a threat, and that's all that was. We should hear from relevant witnesses. And I thought one of our smartest moves was to say, let's let Justice Roberts decide. It was actually Senator Van Hollen's idea. Let's let Justice Roberts decide who is relevant.

[12:50:07]

They wouldn't even go for that, a conservative, a Republican-appointed judge, and they wouldn't let him decide. But in the end it should be relevant witnesses. And he's just trying to threaten us and it's not working because we want to have a fair trial.

BASH: I know you're not giving up on witnesses, but let's just, for argument's sake, say that there won't be any. Looking back, is there anything that the Democrats in the House or even in the Senate as this trial has gone forward, should have done differently. Even put not just your Senate hat on but your prosecutor's hat on to change the way the out come this looks like it's going.

KLOBUCHAR: If that it what happened, to me, with all these overwhelming number of witnesses that we've seen with a career military not the people in the room that it happens that we want to hear from, but the military, the diplomats, everything they've told us about this president just literally bolsters this idea that he's putting his private and partisan interest in front of the (INAUDIBLE). You know, I'm always good at looking back in the rearview mirror. I'll do that when it's done. We are not done yet. I'm right in the middle of this.

And I will say, you know, I'm off the presidential campaign trail right now, but I'm doing my job. And to me this is just a microcosm. Regardless of what happens with impeachment, this is what we're talking about on the trail, it is an economic check, yes. That's what most of our debates are about. What's the best economic agenda.

But for me, someone that brings in independents, moderate, Republicans, it's also a patriotism check. It's a decency check. And there are people coming to my events, we've had the biggest crowds than we've ever seen that are talking about that. And we got to remember that those people know what this president did was wrong.

BASH: Senator, thank you so much for joining me.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: I appreciate it.

We're going to take a quick break. The coverage here at CNN of the impeachment trial of President Trump. We'll continue after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: This just in, the United States Government is reporting its first confirmed case of person-to-person spread of the coronavirus according to the Centers for Disease Control. The new case is of the spouse of a person who contracted the virus abroad. The couple leaves in Chicago.

BLITZER: We're told the second patient did not travel to China. Updates as we get them of course. And remember, we're only minutes away from the question and answer session, day two of the question and answer session of the impeachment trial of the president of the United States.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:58:25]

BLITZER: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. 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 is leading CNN's coverage on Capitol Hill.

Today is round two of the high stakes question and answer portion of the Senate trial. In just a few moments, senators will get their final chance to ask their most pressing questions of the House impeachment managers and President Trump's defense team. Which means now is the time for senators to try to get any last minute clarity or answers to their questions ahead of tomorrow's expected vote on whether to call additional witnesses. BLITZER: Today could certainly set the stage for a rather testy debate tomorrow as Senate Republicans are on the brink of bringing this trial to a quick and sudden close. The big question right now is this could President Trump be acquitted by tomorrow night. The short answer is clearly maybe. We know that seems to be the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plan if the witness vote fails, but right now it's still very much up to a handful of undecided Senate Republicans.

And Jake, it clearly -- as far as we know, it could go either way right now. There are still some undecided Republicans. And by the way, as far as of the final vote, there are some undecided apparently, Democrats.

TAPPER: That's right. We expect there that will be at least two Republicans, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine, who will join with the 47 Democrats, and that will be 49 votes in favor of new witnesses. But that's not enough. You need 51. And so all eyes are on Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.

And the as you know, assuming that there is not a vote in support of more witnesses, is there then going to be a vote in favor of a quitting President Trump, and it seems likely --