Return to Transcripts main page


2020 Primary Season Kicks Off With Iowa Caucuses Today; Soon, Senate Impeachment Trial Back With Closing Arguments. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired February 3, 2020 - 10:00   ET



COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: -- championship print already set Kansas City on Wednesday. Jim, Poppy?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: So if I tweet that now, does that give me a shot as quarterbacking --

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Going to Disney World or being a QB?

WIRE: You still have it in you.

SCIUTTO: The former, yes.

HARLOW: You can go to Disney World, Sciutto. Coy, you were great. Thank you very much.

Thanks to all of you for being with us. A big night tonight in Iowa. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. CNN's special coverage of the Senate impeachment trial begins right now.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Big day, I'm Chris Cuomo in Washington along with Erin Burnett in New York. Welcome to CNN's special coverage of the impeachment trial of President Donald John Trump.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm glad, Chris, that it has brought us together today. It is not though the only major story we're covering this morning. We're also watching the Iowa caucuses. So this is it, right? Democrats officially kicking off the presidential primary season with their first crucial contest.


PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For the last year, each of us has been competing, saying that we are the campaign to beat Donald Trump and part of that is demonstrating you can turn people out, you can get actual voters to support you. The process of proving that begins right here in Iowa.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: All right, and this is their last time to make the pitch, right? We're going to Iowa later this hour. First, the Senate is in the impeachment trial today, closing arguments from the House managers and the Trump legal team starting moments from now. The final vote will come on Wednesday afternoon, the day after President Trump delivers his State of the Union Address. Chris?

CUOMO: And, of course, it's all speculation about how will he use the opportunity tomorrow. But we have to get there. The Senate wrapped up last week by voting to not allow any additional witnesses or documents. But, lead House manager Adam Schiff says, not so easy. He's going to hammer away at the fact in his closing argument today about that they did and what it means.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I'm not letting the senators off the hook. We're still going to go into the Senate this week and make the case why this president needs to be removed. It will be up to the senators to make that final judgment and the senators will be held accountable for it.


CUOMO: Now, the last part is the operative part, being held accountable. This is a dicey play for the Republicans, maybe even more so than they know. We're just an hour away from the beginning of closing arguments, so let's bring in Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

Manu, what are you hearing from the senators as they're getting into place about how to handle today?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're just still getting in. Members have been -- they were out for the weekend, expect some to arrive just as the opening arguments begin at 11:00 A.M. Eastern. This will be the last time that the House managers will make their case, those senators, last time, followed by the defense team making their case before that ultimate vote on Wednesday.

Expect to hear a lot more from Senators after these speeches are made on both sides. Each senator will have an opportunity to go to the floor starting this afternoon to make their case about why they believe president should be convicted, why he should be acquitted. That will happen today. That will happen tomorrow, that will happen in the run-up to Wednesday afternoon.

And, ultimately, there will be a question about where a lot of the Republican senators come down, while we know that almost all of them, if not all of them, will vote to acquit the president, will a lot of them side with the Lamar Alexanders of the world, the Tennessee Republican, that the president's conduct was improper, was inappropriate, but not impeachable, or will they side with the House Republicans who have said that the president did absolutely nothing wrong. That will be something to watch in the coming days.

Also will be something to watch, will anybody break ranks on the final vote, three Democratic senators from red states, including Doug Jones of Alabama, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, they have not said yet how they will ultimately vote. And how will some -- two Republican senators who voted to move forward on witnesses, Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, will they vote to convict the president? Those are some of the key questions to look in the days ahead in the next 72 hours or so.

But, Chris, as you know, the ultimate outcome is not -- there is no question about what will be the president will be acquitted. The only question is what will the ultimate vote be and how will the senators explain their decisions, Chris?

CUOMO: That last part is the key. Manu, so good, thank you very much. As you hear things, please get in my ear, come back to me.

Manu is right, but today is going to be a day to not just be right, but also be righteous. Let's bring in the panel to get file (ph) our way through where these arguments go and what they mean. Ross Garber, Laura Coates, Susan Glasser, Alan Frumin, thank you each.

Laura, they're in a box. They're in a box because now those who are silent are starting to pop up. And what are we hearing with the Republican senators? It's wrong. It's inappropriate.


I wouldn't have done it. But, you know, wrong, being all that, but I am not empowered to remove. But you are as a voter. However, I am not going to give you what you need to make that decision. That is not as easy a sell as ironically the big vote which is why they're acquitting.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's right. And, of course, Adam Schiff on the floor in the last day said, listen, if I don't have the information, how can we legislate a solution, because he knows full well that today the Senate is the jury, but tomorrow it is the voters. But they remain the legislative branch of government whose job it's going to be to figure out how can we avoid election interference in the end? How are we going to legislate a way to close that gap, Chris, between what we don't want to be lawful and what currently is, what we hope to be illegal and what's inappropriate? They're job is to close that gap and they have not done so because in part they have information for you.

Also, they're going to go from that idea of saying last week, the senators, so what to now, so here's why, here's what I meant by this. And it's curious because the voters are going to be receptive to that because at this point, they've already done the deed. So now what?

CUOMO: And also Jessica is the E.P. in my ear. If at any point you have Joni Ernst and how she tried to articulate this, let me know. She's an interesting point of what I see as this hedge that I -- we all predicted last week was going to happen. Why? Because they know he did something wrong. Joni Ernst, obviously a key senator here, not just as Republican, but in Iowa, and that state in focus today. You knew they had to start admitting the obvious. But they now have an obvious problem. How is it that it's wrong and you want me to look, but you voted no to the proof? How do you finesse that?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, look, I think that's what I'm going to be listening for in the senators' statements. Because one of the questions in the closing arguments and as we hear from senators explaining their vote is why did they make this decision on the witnesses and how is this trial going to be regarded in history. I think that's what the fight is all about, it's the legitimacy of the trial itself.

And for Senate institutionalists, to me, that's what's so striking about Lamar Alexander's decision to be kind of the crucial vote against the witnesses, is that it undermines the potential legitimacy of the outcome that we already knew. And so I think Democrats really designed their trial strategy around the idea that it would benefit both Republicans and Democrats for there to be a more legitimate trial, right?

You would think that Republicans since they're going to give a partisan overwhelming acquittal to the president and they knew that from the very beginning, you would think that they would mind as many people as possible to think there was a legitimacy there.

Now, they did not make that decision, right? They made a different decision, which is that it's not in our interest to keep this going on. I think --

CUOMO: But that's problem, Susan.

GLASSER: Historically, that's what we're going to be debating.

CUOMO: So the problem is that there is a convenience to this. I just want people to hear Senator Joni Ernst. Now, she was in the news because she was saying, this is going to be bad for Biden, yes, no kidding, the president thought the same thing, that's why he pressured Ukraine to get dirt on Biden because, of course, it's bad to have your name mentioned in this context. But listen to something else that Joni Ernst, the senator, tried to sell as this balancing act. Listen.


SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA): I think, generally speaking, going after corruption would be the right thing to do. He did it maybe in the wrong manner.

Does it come to the point of removing a president from office? I don't believe this does.


CUOMO: Now, Ross, to give some context to you weighing in on this, now, he did it in the wrong manner. Yes. And now she's doing the same thing because she's doing this in the wrong manner, which is I want to acquit him, I'm going to agree with his defenders who say that there is no direct evidence of him doing anything wrong, and then I'm going to vote against direct evidence. She too is now stuck in this same problem that the president has, which is I want to do something that I think matters, but I'm going to do it the wrong way, she's doing the same thing.

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think what she is saying, and I find these explanations fascinating for a couple of reasons. One is the historical reason and the second, as somebody who actually works on impeachments, there are going to be more impeachments. There are going to be presidential impeachments, there are going to be judicial impeachments, there are going to be impeachments of governors.


GARBER: And those of us who actually work on those impeachments are going to look to how this was done to see how to do it in the future. And it's --

CUOMO: And you know they don't care about though, right? I'm not being cynical.


CUOMO: But you know they are thinking just about right now.

GARBER: Exactly right. No, that's exactly right. But as impeachments are structured in the future, you're exactly right, they care about now, but people care about precedence. So, for example, in this impeachment process, everybody looked at Clinton and they said -- the Republicans said, well, we're going to do it just like Clinton did.


But as we know, in Clinton, it was set up to not be a real trial, to not have witnesses, to not have a real process, to get to a preordained result, which was an acquittal.

And so by structuring in that same way, that, I think, largely creates a problem --

CUOMO: They still have witnesses in Clinton. Now, each one of them had been previously examined.

GARBER: There was not a single witness that testified before the Senate in the Clinton trial. They were all deposed. It was discovery. And the Republicans argument in this situation is not illegitimate. Here, we had lots of videotape testimony, it was played before the Senate and the Senate trial, not a single witness testified before the Senate, in this trial, not a single witness testified on the floor of the Senate in the Clinton trial.

GLASSER: Well, that's slicing it pretty thin to say there were no witnesses, there were three witnesses. Ask Monica Lewinsky if she had to testify in that trial, sir, and she will say, yes, I did.

GARBER: Well, she would be wrong. She testified at a deposition. Ask Gordon Sondland if he had to testify. Monica Lewinsky had to testify. Both of their videos were played.

My point is actually not to justify this process. I think it's a terrible process. I think what happened in the House was terrible. I think what happened in the Senate is terrible. I think this should not be the model for future --

CUOMO: But don't give credit to this situation where it is not due by saying it was the same. The big difference is Ken Starr had access to everybody and their aunt, okay? Everybody got interviewed by him in his own way, the way he wanted to do it, nobody could say no, if anything, it put them at a much bigger disadvantage in Clinton than you had here when it was going on in the House. So --

GARBER: Yes. What happened was the House had all of this --

CUOMO: That's right.

GARBER: -- dumped on it.

CUOMO: That's right.

COATES: From who? From the president of the United States, which is why you have the obstruction of Congress charge here, in a sense of they didn't have --

CUOMO: Well, he's saying in Clinton, Laura, with Ken Starr.

GARBER: In Clinton, Ken Starr, and in that situation, actually, the president actually did invoke privileges and immunities with respect to Starr. And that's why it's a dangerous precedent to set. Clinton, they got all this information here, Congress had to work for it. The House had to work for it, they didn't get it.

CUOMO: All right, let's go to break. But when we come back, let's make sure -- that we -- and, Alan, I want you to come in on this, the idea of let's keep in short focus what's going on here. They are telling you, you need to decide this. It's too big for us. We weren't given this power. But they will not give you access to the people and documents that they know you need to make the decision.

So when we come back, how are they going to sell this to you? Because you don't have to be a lawyer, you don't have to be Ross Garber and be an expert. You know the problem, the president knows it too. How will they sell it, how will he sell it to you in the State of the Union, because you know that's what it's going to be about, next.



BURNETT: On the heels of his expected acquittal, President Trump remains defiant in the face of impeachment. He is preparing to take a victory lap tomorrow starting with his State of the Union Address.

Now, the White House says the speech will be forward-looking, these are what they are projecting, they want it to be optimistic. However, ultimately, it's up to him. And it will be the first time in months that the president will directly cross paths with someone who many see as his nemesis, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi. In fact, we actually have learned that the two have not spoken since October.

CNN's John Harwood is at the White House. John, that's a long time for the speaker of the House and the president of the United States not to speak directly. What can you tell us?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is a long time, but we've also seen, Erin, that as on the U.S., Mexico, Canada Free Trade Agreement that the president signed last week, they can do things together when they have to, even if they're not communicating.

The question is going to be how exactly does President Trump lay out his case tomorrow and with what tone. He said himself it's going to be a positive speech. There is very good reason for him to give a positive speech because he's got a good story to tell on the economy. History would tell us that it's a good enough economy to smooth the re-election path for a president, but this is a president whose personal behavior has been a complicating factor.

Now, with respect to Pelosi, yesterday, he was insulting Pelosi, Schiff, Mike Bloomberg, that sort of thing, in his interview with Fox, on his Super Bowl ad about criminal justice reform was positive. We would expect he would do the same on the economy.

The personal dynamics are going to be interesting, though. When Bill Clinton reached the end of his Senate acquittal, he made an apology to the country about his behavior. He even apologized to the Congress for distracting their time. Zero chance this president is going to do that.

But how is he going to interact with Nancy Pelosi? Is he even going to shake her hand? He didn't invite her to the USMCA signing ceremony last week. It's going to be a very interesting personal interaction between those two on the biggest stage tomorrow night.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, John. It certainly will be when you see her sitting behind him for all of us to watch during the entire speech.

All right, let's bring in my panel here. Tim, let me start with you. So how unusual is it? And John points out they have done some things together. But on that big trade deal signing, he doesn't invite the speaker to be with him.


That would be normal protocol. They have not spoken since October.

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, Bill Clinton had two speakers and one acting speaker in this period of his impeachment trial. And the final speaker was a guy named Denny Hastert. And Hastert sent a message to all the Republicans, be nice to the president when the president gave his State of the Union. Be civil. Show respect. Right now, the president of the United States is not sending the signal, and I'm sure that Speaker Pelosi would send the signal but we need civility again in our society.

How unusual is this? Totally unusual. The fact that the president of the United States has decided to let his impeachment define the relationship with Congress completely is unprecedented. Nancy Pelosi should have been at the USMCA signing and he should be talking to her. But that's the way he plays the game.

BURNETT: You know, Bianna, it is the way he plays the game. And, again, this point of -- and we all sort of laughed. But he'll never say -- Lamar Alexander says, I didn't need a ninth person to tell me what I already know. He did it. The president will never say, I'm sorry. In fact, he can't, because all he said every time is everything I do is perfect, including that call.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: And, yet, look, he may be tweeting now. But we have yet to hear from him in the 48, 72 hours since saying, no, it was a perfect call and Lamar Alexander is wrong. So maybe he's turning a new page and saying, where I'm going to agree to disagree, but do it quietly is with these Republican senators who say it may not have been perfect, but it's not impeachable.

That having been said, Nancy Pelosi, this also isn't her first rodeo. Remember, it was last year's State of the Union where she gave that famous clap that turned into a meme. And what has her line been, impeached for life, right, impeached for life, and that has what this president is going to go down in history as having been and without any witnesses, they say that it's a rigged process, right? So it will be interesting to see the dynamics between the two of them and what if anything the president will say about his impending what we assume to be acquittal.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You really think there's a chance he's going to take the high road?

GOLODRYGA: No, I'm saying we haven't heard him attack where he --

BURNETT: She's saying he's backing off.

GOLODRYGA: You had Lamar Alexander and Joni Ernst both come out over the weekend and say what the president did is something that we wouldn't do, it's not the right thing to do but it's not impeachable. He normally takes Twitter right away and says they're wrong.

TOOBIN: That's true.

GOLODRYGA: I'm not saying it won't happen.

TOOBIN: Yes, I think it's just a countdown until he starts attacking anyone who says that what he did was less than perfect. It may be as you suggest after this State of the Union and after the vote, and on Wednesday. It's not like he's going to lose any votes. And, in fact, one of the real mysteries of what's coming up is whether there are any Democratic votes for acquittal. I mean, we don't know that yet, Joe Manchin, Sinema in Arizona.

But in terms of the president's behavior, I always think these set piece speeches with President Trump, you never really get the real Trump.

BURNETT: No, because it's off the prompter. That's the problem.

TOOBIN: Yes, and he's not -- and this is to his credit. I mean, he can talk for well over an hour extemporaneously. There are multiple lies always, but you're getting the authentic person, and I think that's what his supporters really like about him, is that he is he not filtered by speechwriters and handlers.

BURNETT: Well, that's what you're going to get tomorrow.

TOOBIN: But the State of the Union is a handled event.

BURNETT: So amidst this, what has he been spending time on? As Bianna says, he's not been defending the call over the weekend, but he was at a battle with Mike Bloomberg, right? So he's now looking at that next stage. There is a feud going on. Trump keeps calling Bloomberg short, Mini Mike, and saying he wants a step stool, the debate and all these things that he's alleging. I can't believe I'm saying this on national television.

Bloomberg's campaign spokesperson responded, the is lying about the step stool. He's a pathological liar who lies about everything, his fake hair, his obesity and his spray-on tan.

So here we are.

NAFTALI: Well, look, it's amazing to me to think that we're only starting the voting today, because, in many ways, we have been in this re-election campaign for almost four years.

BURNETT: It's amazing to say this, we are starting the voting tomorrow today, America, Iowa.

NAFTALI: Yes. But, I mean, it feels like we have been in this. And the president took a risk. He was then a candidate four years ago, that you can act like a child and bully and win. And he won. And he has denigrated, he has pulled down, he's degraded political speech in the United States.

GOLODRYGA: And never apologized.

NAFTALI: But that's the part of it. If you're shameless, you don't.

So now, Mike Bloomberg's team, I guess, have decided why not. Let's play the same game, let's be alpha males too. I don't know. The American people are the ones who are going to decide if this works. It worked in 2016. I don't know if it will work in 2020, but it certainly brings down the level of --


TOOBIN: But the people who tried to go to his level, like Marco Rubio, for a while, it didn't work. So, you know, Michelle Obama famously, when they go low, we go high, that didn't work for Hillary Clinton either. So, you know, beats me. I don't know. GOLODRYGA: (INAUDIBLE) spoke out and it was very different from what he expressed personally (ph).

BURNETT: Yes, he did. And we're going to talk about that later because he did. His campaign sort of gave a super nasty response and his was a little bit more elevated, personally. It's a game they're clearly trying to figure out.

All right, coming up, the day is finally here, voters in Iowa caucus tonight, as we said, amidst all this, yes, they're voting. What are the last minute messages from the Democratic presidential hopefuls? We go live to Iowa.