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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Six GOP Senators Join Democrats And Vote Impeachment Is Constitutional; Interview With Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL); Sources: Trump Unhappy With His Attorney's Performance; Biden On Impeachment Trial: The Senate Has Their Job, I'm Sure They're Going To Conduct Themselves Well. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired February 9, 2021 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Some senators say without witnesses, it could wrap up as early as this weekend. We'll be watching it all with you.
And thank you so much for joining us. "AC360" with Anderson starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening, what a day. Today stands alone in American history. Only three Presidents as we know have ever been impeached, only one has been impeached twice; and today, his second trial began.
It takes place at a crime scene, and that too, is a first. The first impeachment trial involving the direct loss of human life, the first of an ex-President, the only American President ever to refuse to recognize or respect the outcome of a free and fair election.
The only trial ever spurred on by an insurrection incited on national television by the defendant. On that day, with blood in the Halls of the United States Capitol, the defendant after praising the attackers, expressing his love for them, told us all to quote: "Remember this day forever."
Well, history already has, yet a pillar of the defense argument is that it's better to forget, healthier for the country, and that it's not even constitutional to have a trial. Forty-four Republicans agreed, just six join Democrats in rejecting today's motion to dismiss. That's how the day ended.
It began with House Managers using conservative legal arguments to bolster their constitutional case, and playing a powerful video of the insurrection itself, to make perhaps the best argument yet for conviction first, and remembering always.
We'll talk about it tonight with the best legal and political minds that we know. George Conway joins us along with Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger. We'll look ahead to the vote to convict or not and whether Republicans actually have the stomach for holding perhaps the most brazen President in history, even the slightest bit accountable.
First though, CNN's Ryan Nobles takes us through this day. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): On day one of the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, the Democratic House Impeachment Managers wasted no time getting to their most damning evidence.
The prosecutors unveiled a documentary style video that meticulously constructed the timeline of events on January 6th.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After this, we're going to walk down and I'll be there with you -- we are going to walk down -- we're going to walk down to the Capitol.
NOBLES (voice over): Editing together Trump's speech, his tweets and his video messages to supporters, while they responded and attacked the Capitol.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): President Trump claims the election was stolen --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to beat us all? Are you going to beat us all?
SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): It is not about the good people of Arizona --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we will stand in recess until the call of the Chair. I will pause.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Protesters are in the building.
LANKFORD: Thank you.
NOBLES (voice over): The video was designed to remind the Republican jurors in particular of the riot they experienced a little more than a month ago, putting the blame on the former President.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): That's a high crime and misdemeanor. If that's not an impeachable offense, then there is no such thing.
NOBLES (voice over): Today's debate, though, was not over impeachment, but instead the constitutional standing of the trial itself.
Trump's legal team argues that because he is no longer in office, he cannot be convicted.
BRUCE CASTOR JR., DEFENSE LAWYER FOR FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: The majority in the House of Representatives does not want to face Donald Trump as a political rival in the future. That's the real reason we're here. And that's why they have to get over the jurisdictional hurdle, which they can't get over. But that's why they have to get over that in order to get to the part of the Constitution that allows removal.
NOBLES (voice over): But Democrats came prepared to offer evidence to the contrary. They used opinions from conservative constitutional experts, who've argued former officials already out of office can still be impeached.
REP. JOE NEGUSE (D-CO): Presidents can't commit grave offenses in their final days and escape any congressional response. That's not how our Constitution works.
NOBLES (voice over): Lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin making that case on a personal level.
RASKIN: My youngest daughter, Tabitha was there with me on Wednesday, January 6th. It was the day after we buried her brother, our son Tommy, the saddest day of our lives.
I told her how sorry I was, and I promised her that it would not be like this again the next time she came back to the Capitol with me. And you know what she said? She said, "Dad, I don't want to come back to the Capitol."
Of all the terrible and brutal things I saw and I heard on that day, and since then, that one hit me the hardest.
COOPER: Ryan Nobles joins us now from Capitol Hill. So six Republican joined Democrats to vote that this impeachment trial is constitutional. What's been the reasoning from the senators as to why they didn't vote with their party?
NOBLES: Well, the simple answer, Anderson is that they thought the arguments made by the Democratic House Impeachment Managers were more convincing than those made by the Trump legal team. Listen to what Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): President Trump's team were disorganized. They did everything they could, but to talk about the question at hand. And when they talked about it, they kind of glided over it, almost as if they were embarrassed of their arguments.
Now I'm an impartial juror, and one side is doing a great job and the other side is doing a terrible job on the issue at hand, as an impartial juror, I'm going to vote for the side that did the good job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: Now, Cassidy wasn't the only one, there were a number of Republicans that were very critical of the Trump legal team. The difference though, Anderson is that the vast majority of them still voted that this was an unconstitutional process.
Remember, it's going to take 17 Republicans to vote with Democrats to ultimately convict President Trump and at this point, that still does not seem likely.
COOPER: Ryan Nobles, appreciate it. Thanks very much.
Joining us now CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Laura Coates; CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger and CNN legal analyst, Norm Eisen. He served as counsel to House Democrats in the first impeachment trial, and was Ethics czar in the Obama White House and served as Ambassador to the Czech Republic.
Norm, I mean, the contrast between the two legal teams today was beyond striking. How effective do you think each side was or ineffective because the preliminary test of that came just after 5:00 p.m. today when the procedural vote was taken? Democrats only managed to gain one Republican vote.
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Anderson, thanks for having me back. I thought the House Managers were extraordinarily effective.
They blended an explanation of why, of course, there's no January exception for a President who commits a high crime and misdemeanor discussing the law, the precedent, the Constitution, and they told the story.
They surprised everyone by telling the story that they'll be sharing with the Senate and the country of the horrible insurrection Donald Trump incited, and third, they brought a motion.
The President's team was awful. They have no case. The law is not on their side. The facts are not on their side. The politics, the President has a lot of supporters in the Senate caucus.
But Anderson, another one broke with him today, Senator Cassidy of Louisiana, and that is six times more than the number of Republicans who we managed to persuade in the previous trial. Ultimately, we only got Mitt Romney, a signal today that six are on board, a very good day, not just for the House Managers, but for the Constitution and the rule of law and justice in the United States of America.
COOPER: Laura, I mean, what is shocking, the quality or the lack of quality of the argument made by the former President's attorneys, you know, we're used to seeing sort of the tawdry team of people he has been able to, in his later years assemble around him.
But I mean, this was surprising even by those standards.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, to call it abominable, would really be generous and charitable of me. I have never seen such a poor quality performance of a team of lawyers who is charged with actually trying to defend an impeachment, let alone an average case.
You had them say they were surprised by the arguments that were raised. We've all read the briefs. They were consistent, the actual House Impeachment Managers what was surprising to them, the caliber performance, the meandering arguments, the inability to actually even follow their own outline about the constitutional premise that they were guarding against or defending.
I was shocked to think that these are the people who had a week to prepare. I recognize they didn't have the six-month period, they didn't have a year to prepare. But even after a week, even after 24 hours, there should have been a more thorough reckoning with what the actual charge was.
We didn't hear anything really about the January exception. We didn't hear much about a real foundational reason for why this was an unconstitutional act. We heard them talk about perhaps if I had to try to make a coherent argument out of Mr. Castor's statements, it'd be the he is trying to say that the Congress is scapegoating former President Trump.
Well, scapegoating by definition means that somebody else's wrongdoing, somebody else's mistakes, or somebody else's actions. We're knowing here, the evidence shows that it was actually assignable to the person who may be culpable here. They didn't address these issues, and trying to make a political statement about how this was witch hunt 5.0.
I mean, there was so much more that could have been done to actually address this specific claims. And if I was former President Trump, I would be shocked. I would be dismayed. I'd be disgruntled.
But at the end of the day, the power of the evidence against then President Trump may have been too great even for the most competent lawyer, let alone for what you actually saw there.
COOPER: Gloria, Bill Cassidy, the lone Republican as Norm pointed out who switched his vote tonight, whose words you just heard from Ryan Nobles, he called it the team -- the Trump team disorganized.
I mean, I've heard drunk wedding speeches, which have been more organized than some of what we heard today.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, completely incompetent. I don't know what they were thinking, and if I were Donald Trump talking about what Laura is talking about, I mean, one of his attorneys today said Donald Trump lost the election.
Now, if you're Donald Trump, and you've been spending months saying the election was rigged, and you didn't lose, and then one of your attorneys gets up there and one of his arguments is, well, he's already out of office because he lost the election. Wouldn't you be upset about it?
Another thing --
COOPER: Right, so when you've raised a quarter billion dollars on your fraudulent claim?
BORGER: Saying you didn't. Yes, I mean, it was just -- it was stunning. Also, when Mr. Castor got up there and started flattering the senators for like 20 minutes saying how wonderful they are, that was so insulting to probably each and every one of them sitting there. He wasn't making any constitutional arguments. He was trying to be a
pal, saying maybe I can win them over because of my winning way. I don't think that worked either, Anderson. It was just honestly, a joke.
COOPER: Norm, the former President's lawyers also made the case the Democrats are seeking to disenfranchise Trump voters by seeking to bar the former President from ever running for office again. I mean, a pretty rich argument considering that the whole impeachment was spurred on by their client encouraging his supporters to disenfranchise 81 million Biden voters.
EISEN: Anderson, hypocrisy and illogic are the hallmarks of Trump law, and he has taken better lawyers than these in the prior impeachment lawyers who I once respected, and twisted them into telling absurd falsehoods at his behest.
And, you know, there's no factual basis to exonerate Donald Trump. The law is against him, this whole constitutional argument that you can't try an ex-President was a distraction. And today was evidently a distraction from the distraction.
It only illustrates just how impossible it is to justify the President's behavior. His high crime and misdemeanor of inciting insurrection, and we're going to hear a lot about this in the next two days, as the House Managers really unload on him, today was just the preview. It's the worst behavior in the history of the American presidency. There's nothing -- Clarence Darrow couldn't do anything with that.
COOPER: Laura, I thought one of the interesting arguments Congressman Raskin had is the idea of a January exemption that essentially those who are saying the President can't be impeached because of this, are really saying that any President in the future can do whatever they want in the month of January after the election if they've lost and cause any kind of mayhem and try to subvert whatever they want and there will be no repercussions, if you believe the argument that this President can't be impeached.
COATES: And that would be the logical follow of that, wouldn't it Anderson, because you'd have a get out of jail free card at precisely the time as Congressman Raskin noted, at precisely the time, that it is most enticing, to try to undermine conditions of power, when it is most enticing to try to abuse power, and try to stay in the Oval Office at the precise time following an election, weeks before an Inauguration.
What is a more opportune time for somebody who wants to abuse the right to abuse power and refuse to leave office than those final days and weeks of their actual presidency? If you don't hold people accountable, that phrase of, you know what, no one's above the law. That's so far in the rearview mirror these days, this conversation about people being above the law.
If you can't have a co-equal branch of government assert some sense of agency autonomy, oversight, and check and balance over a co-equal branch of government that, as they say, has imperiled them, then you've lost not only the idea of no one above the law, you've lost the foundation of our democracy, Anderson that says, we've got three co- equal branches of government.
What you have instead is a throne, and you have people who are around the throne who are able to enable and empower them to stay there and that would be a real misfortune in our democracy.
COOPER: And Gloria, the former President's attorneys never really came up with an answer to the question of, well, how are you going to hold a President accountable in the future if this January exemption, which is nothing in the Constitution about it exists?
BORGER: You know, maybe that's what surprised them about Jamie Raskin's argument, although, as we all know, it shouldn't have surprised them. They had no answer, because they have no argument about accountability here.
What they were making was a political argument, and these lawyers are lucky that they're not before a jury. They are before the United States Senate, which is acting as a jury, because if they were in a courtroom, they would lose.
Right now, you've got about 13 Republicans who have said, you know, publicly, I'm not sure how I'm going to vote. But they're probably doing that just to show and it's very unlikely that this President is going to get convicted. But if you were anywhere else other than the United States Senate, he might.
COOPER: Gloria Borger, Laura Coates and Norm Eisen, thanks very much.
The question tonight of this entire trial is accountability versus forgetting, our next guests is a Republican in favor of accountability. Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois joins us now.
Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): You bet.
COOPER: First of all, I want to get your reaction to Day One of the trial. Were you surprised that Senator Cassidy did change his vote?
KINZINGER: Yes, he's been hard to figure out. I'm not overly surprised. I think he's a principle driven guy. But yes, it was definitely a surprise. And I think a pleasant surprise, and I think it's indicative of quite honestly, how poorly the defense did in their performance.
COOPER: Did that surprise you? I mean, clearly, the President, you know, has had problems with paying attorneys and with keeping attorneys. Did it surprise you just the -- yes, just the nature of their, you know, their argument or lack thereof?
KINZINGER: Yes, it did a little bit. I mean, I didn't think it was going to be powerful because how do you defend what happened on January 6th, and the events leading up? You don't, but I mean, I guess to these attorneys' credit, they got on the case a week ago, you know, and now you have to put up a pretty serious defense.
But yes, it was certainly outmatched. And I actually thought the prosecution did a good job.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, what stood out to you today?
KINZINGER: So I didn't see all of it. But I'll tell you, the parts I did see, it was methodically not necessarily just out of emotion, out of fact, laying down what happened, which I think sometimes we forget out of the emotion of what happened on the 6th, we've kind of walked away.
But I thought the most powerful thing was how they opened it, showing the video, showing stuff that we hadn't seen on the internet before, having the subtitles and the words people were saying, you know, with Trump, and I think anybody at least, even if you don't want to vote to remove, if anybody had to doubt that this was, you know, Antifa, or BLM or a false flag operation after that, there's no way you can't, and unfortunately, there were people that did, in fact, believe this wasn't, you know, what it was.
COOPER: You know, it was interesting to me, because the -- you know, we've all seen a lot of -- or some of that video or a lot of it, certainly. But there was something about putting it in what seemed to be a chronological thing where there was juxtapose to what the President was saying and what the crowd was saying and what was happening inside the House Chamber at the time and just sort of the small moments of horror and brutality against law enforcement personnel.
You know, I think back to the President saying he was a law and order -- the former President saying he was the law and order President, and those people who are attacking the Capitol saying they're patriots. When you see them attacking individual police officers, calling them names, you know, torturing them in some cases, it really just even though some of these videos have been seen before, I just found that very, incredibly disturbing.
Yes, it's amazing to me, because as a supporter of police officers, but also a person that recognize we need to reform in some areas, to see these folks with, you know, the thin blue line flags and this law enforcement stuff, using those to beat law enforcement officers. I mean, it's incredible.
I've become friends with one of the gentlemen, I won't name him, but that was involved in that and was really hurt. He's a police officer. And to hear his stories, he said, you know, these people are walking around acting like they support law enforcement officers, and they're saying things that are chilling.
It's like, I think there was -- not to get overly spiritual -- for me, there was just a serious level of evil that descended over that. And you see what happens when you take rhetoric and you let that anger go overboard, and I think the President bear serious responsibility for what we saw on the six and it's not just a speech that day. It's the four years of building the groundwork leading up to that.
COOPER: You know, part of that, I think just based on what you were just saying, it comes to mind the idea of other rising people and is something I think we saw a lot of over the last four years.
I mean, certainly we've seen a lot over the last decades, but it's so easy to otherwise people, to make people other than -- other than American, other than patriotic, other than human, you know, and we've seen it in Bosnia, we've seen it in Rwanda where a radio was telling people that, you know, Hutus, were telling the radio listeners that Tutsi were cockroaches for, you know, getting them ginned up for genocide.
And you see it in in these videos where people who claim they are patriots are in the face of a police officer calling him, you know, as we're seeing it right there and, you know, gouging out of the eye of one, you know, squeezing one, and you know, suffocating one in a doorway.
KINZINGER: It's incredible. And that's the huge problem, Anderson, it is not even our political dialogue. That's a huge problem. But it's -- that's a result of the fact that we've picked tribes in this country. You're either on the left tribe or the right tribe, and anybody that's not on your tribe, even if they're not on the other tribe, they are seen as the enemy.
And I've said before, kind of facetiously, but kind of not, I feel like if California got a nuclear missile, that, you know, some on the right would say, well, good, less electoral votes for the Democrats. And you know, if Texas got it, I just think the bottom line is, we have to understand each other's humanity, you can disagree.
But you know, as we saw on a commercial that's made the round, we have common ground, and we're standing on it, this is our Earth. This is our country, this is us and we need to see the humanity of each other, and we're just not.
COOPER: You wrote an opinion piece in "The Washington Post" and you said, quote, "Impeachment offers a chance to say enough is enough. It ought to force every American, regardless of party affiliation to remember not only what happened on January 6th, but also the path that led there."
And you went on to say, "The further down this road we go, the closer we come to the end of America, as we know it." What message do you think Senate Republicans are sending about who are voting not to proceed with this or voted not to proceed with this about where their priorities lie for the future?
KINZINGER: So I, you know, I'm not going to judge individuals, but I'll tell you this. If it's politics, which is why you would not vote to remove, that's the wrong answer.
This is one of those moments. And by the way, I have to promote this go to country1st.com with a one S-T. I do a video on there, where I talk about like kind of how we've gotten to this place and where we need to go.
But the bottom line on a vote like this, in a moment like this, is it has nothing to do with your election, your re-election, what your career is.
Anderson, we asked young men and women to give their lives to defend this country. And we appreciate that as we should, and yet, we're unwilling to give our own careers for a cause of the country. I just --
You know, the juxtaposition of that still just kind of maddens me sometimes.
COOPER: CNN is reporting that the former President is fixated on retribution against Republicans who are voting against him. How much do you think that looms in the minds of Republican senators? And you know, again, not individuals, but just how much do you think it looms in their mind? And do you worry yourself about retribution from him?
KINZINGER: You know, I don't fear the President at all. I mean, I really don't. The bottom line is I'm fine if I'm not re-elected, because I can look at myself in the mirror and I feel real peace.
And when I have kids someday, I think they'll be proud of this. That's where my pieces. I feel accountable to God and I feel like it's the right thing.
In terms of others. Look, yes, it's certainly fearful. Because they have envisioned some their entire life, being in politics and being who they are. There is nothing wrong with that ambition.
But then when that ambition goes above things, like, do we defend the Constitution? I mean, what happens if the next President does this again, and if that person happens to be a Democrat, we have no moral authority whatsoever to be outraged about anything now because we've lost that moral authority with this relativism.
COOPER: I'd definitely recommend you have kids. I'm trying -- I just tried it, it is a really good thing. You'd be a great dad.
COOPER: Congressman, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
KINZINGER: You bet.
COOPER: Just ahead tonight, conservative attorney George Conway, who knows good lawyering when he sees it and practices, his take on the day.
Also, tonight, President Biden's take on today's proceedings as our 360 impeachment trial coverage continues.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:28:03]
COOPER: The Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted today to end the trial of an ex-President after blocking the trial of a sitting President just a few weeks ago, 43 other Republicans voted with him signaling in so many words that their first priority is looking the other way even though many are criticizing the President's defense team or even praising the work of the Democratic House Managers.
Now, we showed you a portion of the video presented from the Democrats at the top of the program. We want to play you another extended clip because we think it's important and we do want to warn you some of it is hard to watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody in, this way, this way.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... thousands of votes, they came in in duffel bags. Where the hell did they come from?
TEXT: The crowd breaches the protective barricades of the Capitol as Congress meets to count the votes of the Electoral College.
CROWD: U.S.A. U.S.A. U.S.A.
TRUMP: When you catch somebody in a fraud, you're allowed to go by very different rules. So I hope Mike has the courage to do what he has to do.
We fight, we fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.
TEXT: President Trump ends his speech and urges his mob to move toward the Capitol.
TRUMP: So we're going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue -- I love Pennsylvania Avenue and we're going to the Capitol and we're going to try and give our Republicans, the weak ones, because the strong ones don't need any of our help. We're just going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fuck you police.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS: Stop the steal. Stop the steal. Stop the steal. Stop the steal. Stop the steal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're leaving, they're leaving, they're leaving, they're leaving.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS: Break it down. Break it down. Break it down. Break it down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Break it down (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Break it down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll break it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just stay down, get down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Want to fuck on me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's going to be something here (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's when we fucking need a help, 30,000 guns (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS: Fight for Trump. Fight for Trump. Fight for Trump.
COOPER: The video was powerful enough that even the President's attorney Bruce Castro acknowledged at the beginning of his remarks what came next in his presentation, we're now learning to not please his clients. CNN's Jim Acosta joins us now not far from Mar-a-Lago. So Jim, what are you hearing about the former President's reaction so far to his legal team's performance?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, he was angry. He was disappointed. I talked to a source familiar with his thinking just a short while ago who said it's not been great. He is obviously disappointed in how his impeachment team are performed earlier today.
But Anderson, keep in mind, I talked to, you know, the source earlier this evening about all of this who said, listen, this is a legal team that jumped in at the almost the very last minute after the previous impeachment team bailed on the former President. And, you know, in this sources assessment, you know, essentially, what can you expect at this point, when they have that, you know, that amount of time to prepare for, you know, an impeachment of a former President of the United States.
I will say, though, Anderson, that, you know, the source was making the point that if you look at the President's current legal team, his impeachment team, as it stands right now, it is not as experienced as the one that we saw back in the beginning of 2020 at his first impeachment trial, where he had people like Kenneth Starr, Alan Dershowitz, Jay Sekulow, and so on. This is just a very different team of lawyers to say the least. COOPER: And without much time at all for them to prepare as well. I understand you spoke to one advisor that worried about how his legal representation would do if he ever faced criminal charges.
ACOSTA: Right. And I think that's important. I talked to a Trump team advisor earlier today who said, listen, you know, the former President is not able to attract the same kind of caliber of legal talent that he used to be able to.
And in the words of this advisor, you know, Trump would be quote, F, if he ever had ended up in a criminal procedure and brought up on criminal charges. Essentially because he cannot attract the kind of legal talent in terms of lawyers they used to be able to in the past. And in the words of this advisor, nobody wants to represent him. That is a huge problem.
And I will tell you talking to a source who has spoken with the President in recent weeks. You know, this is, you know, this is a Donald Trump, who is not so much concerned about where things stand in terms of the impeachment trial, listen, obviously, this was a bad day, whereas impeachment team, he generally believes he's going to be acquitted that there just aren't enough Republicans who are going to side with Democrats to convict him.
But beyond this impeachment trial, Anderson, the President, the former President has been reaching out to aides and advisors and saying that he is concerned about how he could be prosecuted, criminally, outside of this insurrection, probe.
And so, that is what he faces after all of this is over, and he's concerned about it. And then in this advisors, you know, assessment earlier today, you know, Trump would be in a whole lot of trouble, he is in serious jeopardy if he ever ends up in a court of law, because that is where not having a good legal team really can come back to haunt him. Anderson.
COOPER: Jim Acosta. Appreciate it. Thanks.
Joining us now, conservative attorney and Lincoln Project co-founder, George Conway. George, I want to get your reaction just a moment. But first, we just heard how the former President apparently reacted to today's proceedings. I mean, he was the one I guess, to replace the legal team just days ago. Does that reaction surprise you?
GEORGE CONWAY, CO-FOUNDER, LINCOLN PROJECT: No, it doesn't. I mean, one of the things I tweeted during these proceedings was there's going to be one guy in Palm Beach, Florida, who's going to be very, very unhappy at what he was seeing, particularly Mr. Castor, who had no nothing to say that was coherent and was saying it and it almost somnambulant way.
He -- there's nothing in there that was either compelling from a legal standpoint, and importantly, for the President, for former President engaging from a televisual standpoint. So, he was never going to like that. And the reporting that we've just heard is not surprising at all.
COOPER: Is it just that he can't attract decent, I mean, you know, great lawyers that he, you know, he doesn't pay them.
CONWAY: He can't, he can't, he always had trouble attracting great lawyers in 2017. In fact, he consulted with me on this. He was asking around to find a good top notch law firm to represent him in the Mueller investigation, and he couldn't find one. That's how he ended up with Jim Dowd, a solo practitioner. And he cannot -- and it's gotten worse since then.
CONWAY: I mean, not even the people who represented him from him, represented him in the 2019-2020 impeachment are willing to help him now. And it's a really extraordinary thing. I mean, this man is supposedly and probably worth a couple billion dollars. He's a former President of the United States. And this is the best he can do in terms of worrying.
These guys were terrible. I mean in 30 years, I practice law for 30 years, I've seen good lorry lawyering and I've seen bad lawyering. I have never seen such an extreme juxtaposition of good lawyering and bad lawyering and you're one proceeding at one time. And these guys were just absolutely awful.
Now, you can cut them a break, because they are only called on to the -- into the case a few days ago. But still, I mean, there was there's -- there are law review articles that explain the arguments that they could make. They distorted one of them a law review of a professor who wrote a law review article that laid out both sides took the other side from them, but it laid out exactly the arguments they needed to make. They didn't even do that.
COOPER: What --
CONWAY: The first present, have even go beyond (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: What do you think was the first, you know, Castor what do you think what was his strategy? I mean, there must have been some sort of thought process? To me, it was like a meandering drunk wedding speech. But there must have been some reason behind the, you know, ridiculous flattery of the senators. And it just, I don't know, do you think there was just trying to distance himself from the emotion of Raskin?
CONWAY: I have no idea what that mean. He was -- he had a yellow pad where he had notes. So, it was thought out to some degree. What he was trying to accomplish was absolutely beyond me. It was disorganized. It was rambling. It didn't touch upon the issues that were facing the court of impeachment. It was mystifying and he was doing.
COOPER: And yet --
CONWAY: I just don't get it.
COOPER: And yet, only one Republican senator seemed to be convinced from a previous vote he had that this should go forward. What does that say that the President's attorneys can put on a terrible display and doesn't, you know, only one person --
CONWAY: It's shameful. It is absolutely shameful. Because the fact, you know, that this was bad lawyering, this was ill preparation. But the fact of the matter is the fundamental problem they had is they didn't have any answer to -- this should have been their best day actually, because this is -- you know, the case there at least is an articulable case against trying a former public official. It's not a good one.
But at least it's -- there is a coherent argument to be made and some people have made it. There's no coherent argument to be made about whether the President of the United States has a First Amendment right to encourage people to basically end American democracy by stopping account of the electoral votes.
And on the merits, on the facts as that video powerfully showed their dead to rights. This should have been Trump's best day.
COOPER: This was the easier day.
CONWAY: And it was instance that they got 44 votes. But that's that just -- I mean, that is shameful, that 44 senators could look, watch that for four plus hours, and not do the right thing. Because there was no -- there was literally nothing that the Trump lawyers gave them to justify a vote against holding this trial.
COOPER: The argument I thought of that of what Representative Raskin called a January exemption, I thought was an interesting argument that a President can be impeached all the way up until an election and then suddenly, if you believe that there, he doesn't, he can't be impeached as a former as a former President, a future President could just do whatever they want in the month of January. Do you think -- do you do buy that argument?
CONWAY: Oh, absolutely. It's a powerful argument. They refer to the so-called January exception in their briefs. And there's an interest there's a lesson there for lawyers.
One of the things I first learned when I began practicing law firms were senior lawyers, is that whenever you get a chance to appear before a judge before a trial, whether it's on a matter of jurisdiction or a matter of discovery, or even just a scheduling conference, you want to preview your case before the judge to get the judge thinking, hey, these guys seem like they have something that they're right.
And here's what the in House impeachment managers brilliantly did. When you're making a legal argument of any sort where you're trying to persuade the court that X is the correct rule of law, you basically do three things in this -- in basically in this order. One, is you show that the text of whatever it is you're interpreting says X. The second thing you do is you show that historically, people
understood that the text meant X. And the third thing you do, and the last thing you do is and X makes a lot of sense. How could the rule be anything other than Xx like we've shown you?
What they did here is they took that last point that you normally make in a brief, and they put it front and center, which is this has to be the rule, there cannot be a January exception to a President's constitutional oath of office to protect, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. It cannot be that on in his last days of office, there's a January exception that where he can basically do whatever he want, including subvert democracy to stay in power, and not be subject to impeachment, and a future punishment, such as disqualification.
And that's how they brought in. That's how they made that movie relevant. That's how they the video relevant and that's how they brought in the emotional points that Representative Raskin made in the closing portion of the argument. It was just brilliantly done.
And again in 30 years, I've never seen such good lawyering and juxtapose with such bad flooring in one place at one time.
COOPER: You know, it's interesting just in your description of it now I get why it was so effective. Because watching it when he showed the calendar with all the years blocked off, except that one month, it does, it frames the entire thing and it did it made the video then even more powerful and sort of gave you an intellectual basis behind it.
CONWAY: And it's set up the textual argument and set up in particular the historical argument, because in 1787, they explained there was a fellow named Warren Hastings who was Governor General, McCain's Governor General in India, and he was impeached and tried after he had come back to Britain. And then the 1876 precedents of Secretary of War William Belknap resign Bowers before he was impeached, and he was tried in the Senate voted that they had jurisdiction by 37 to 29. Of course the Trump lawyers had basically nothing to say (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: Well in fact, what they did have to say, which I thought was so I don't know, you know, I'm no lawyer, but I do know, you know, British common law, American law is sort of based on what happened before. And that was one of the first things that the first attorney said is, you know, why are they even talking about, you know, we don't want a king here, which is a sort of just ridiculous.
CONWAY: (INAUDIBLE) and reason why it's relevant is the constitution talks about impeachment in very basically three or four very short sentences. And the reason why it doesn't say it doesn't put forth like two pages about impeachment is the framers had -- were relying on English parliamentary history.
They knew what impeachment was, and they changed it in a certain -- in a couple of ways. They limited the punishments for a conviction to remove for off from office and disqualification from further office in England, you could actually put somebody in jail. But other than that, they left it unchanged, and that's why it was relevant.
COOPER: George Conway, thank you. Always appreciate it.
CONWAY: Thank you.
COOPER: Just ahead, the former President's National Security Advisor John Bolton joins us to discuss the conservative legal opinion Democrats decided today to bolster their case, including that the top counsel who was Bolton's attorney during the first impeachment. And what President Biden said at the White House today about the trial.
COOPER: We're talking about day one of the first ever second impeachment trial of an American President which is not it's only claim on history the defendant had more members of his own party vote to impeach than any other President has. And today some of the Republican senators will decide his fate very publicly praised the case. Democratic House managers made today. Part of the Democrats argument that the trial of an ex-president was constitutional rests on the work of conservatives, his lead manager Jamie Raskin explained.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D) HOUSE LEAD IMPEACHMENT MANAGER: The vast majority of constitutional scholars who studied the question and weighed in on the proposition being advanced by the President this January exception, heretofore unknown, agree with us. And that includes the nation's most prominent conservative legal scholars, including former 10th Circuit Judge Michael McConnell.
The co-founder of the Federalist Society, Stephen calibrating, Ronald Reagan, Solicitor General Charles Fried, luminary Washington lawyer, Charles Cooper, among hundreds of other constitutional lawyers and professors. I commend the people I named their recent writings to you in the newspapers over the last several days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Charles Cooper has no relation to me, but he did represent our next guest and the first impeachment. He's John Bolton, one of the former Presidents former National Security Adviser, also a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and author of The Room Where It Happened To White House Memoir.
Ambassador Bolton, thanks for being with us. So, you've written that those arguing that it is unconstitutional trial, former President had the better argument. So, if you believe that what's to prevent a president from abusing his power in his final days? What's the mechanism of accountability?
JOHN BOLTON, FMR TRUMP NATIONAL ADVISER: Well, I think you have to give the framers of the Constitution, some credit here, they understood when they set the mechanism up that presidents had defined terms. But accountability can come in a lot of different ways. It can come through impeachment, it can come through judicial prosecution, as I think Donald Trump is very vulnerable to.
It can come politically, from the voters rejecting any effort by President in that situation to leave. And also there are other questions that he didn't talk about, for example, how long after President leaves can people go back in once you acknowledge what the advocates of impeachment are saying here that the trial can go on after a President leaves office.
I think there's a fundamental misunderstanding when people try to look at the experience of impeachment in England, which the framers were quite familiar with when they drafted the Constitution. When it comes to the President, the framers did 180-degree reversal from the English practice, because under English law, the head of state and head of government combined at that time in the monarch was not subject to impeachment. Ask yourself how many English kings have been impeached and convicted? And the answer is zero.
So, by putting the President in the position of being impeached, they were taking dramatic changes from the British practice and there were many others as well. And the structure of how they wrote the provisions in the constitution dealing with impeachment, look at the President in office and consider removal, the principal remedy with disqualification from future office being a possible add-on not an alternative but a possible add-on.
COOPER: Your former attorney Chuck Cooper, who's a high respected conservative lawyer, which is I'm sure why --
BOLTON: He's not former attorney. He's a colonel.
COOPER: He's colonel. OK. He wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that it is Constitutional to impeach and trial former president part arguing quote, given the Constitution permits the Senate to impose the penalty of permanent disqualification only on former office holders it defies logic to suggest that the Senate is prohibited from trying convicting former officeholders. What do you say to that?
BOLTON: Yes, look, I thought Chuck's op-ed was very well written. I've known him for 35 years. It's my admiration for his legal work is one reason why I'm proud. He's my attorney today. We diverge on this one. I think the way you look at both Article 1 Section 3 and Article 2 Section 4 is that to get to the question of disqualification, you have to lay the predicate first of impeachment, and then trial and conviction.
Now, the point he's making is that conviction automatically leads to removal from office, but it has to be in conjunction with removal. Otherwise, Article 2 Section 4 which explicitly says removal is the penalty doesn't work. So, the process goes impeachment, trial, conviction and removal as if it's one thing. And then the Senate in its discretion, can consider disqualification. But again, the way it's written, it's not in the alternative, it's an add-on. [20:55:03]
COOPER: What did you make of the former President's attorneys and the presentation they made?
BOLTON: I didn't watch them. I didn't think it would be worth it.
COOPER: I think you're probably right. You didn't you, of course, didn't testify in the former Presidents first impeachment --
BOLTON: I make.
COOPER: Sorry, go ahead.
BOLTON: I make my own. I make my own. Yes, sorry. I make my own Constitutional analysis. And that's where I came in.
COOPER: Well, he probably could have used your analysis, because it was more cogent than the one -- there was really much analysis was actually given. At the time, you, you know, you took part in either in the House inquiry that did have witnesses, nor in the Senate trial, which didn't have witnesses before, at the time saying that you would only if subpoenaed, and you've argued that you don't believe your testimony would have made a difference?
I'm just wondering in light of everything that's transpired after the former presidents acquit on that first impeachment, and on January 6, do you still feel you made the right decision to not testify?
BOLTON: Yes. I think the incorrect decision and in respect of the first impeachment was made by the House advocates of impeachment, they rushed it, they limited the scope of it. They made no effort whatever to broaden the base politically of support for impeachment. Look, we've now got in contemporary times for examples of impeachment, impeachment efforts.
Two against Trump, one against Clinton, one against Nixon, the last three failed the one against Nixon, in effect succeeded because he had to resign. And why did that succeed, and the other three fail? Because the advocates of impeachment against Nixon took their time, built up the evidence made the case irrefutable until Republicans support collapsed. Barry Goldwater went to the White House and told Nixon, it's over.
They didn't make any effort to convince Republicans against Trump in either impeachment case, and honestly, Republicans made essentially no effort to convince Democrats against Clinton in that impeachment effort. It takes time if you want to have a bipartisan success.
That's the way you do it. And this is where -- I think the first Trump impeachment contributed to Trump's conduct that's led to the second. Nancy Pelosi loves saying Trump was forever impeached, but he was also forever acquitted. And I think that emboldened him, it did not constrain him.
COOPER: John Bolton, appreciate your time. Thank you. BOLTON: Thank you.
COOPER: Joining us now our Chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins. So, you had the chance to ask the President if you plan to watch the trial. What was his response?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He really doesn't want to talk about impeachment is essentially what he told us. He said, it's not his focus. It's not his job to decide what former President Trump's fate should be. And instead, he said he is focused on getting people back to work, dealing with the pandemic.
Of course, a lot of that has to do with rallying support for his pandemic relief bill. That's what he was doing in the Oval Office. When we saw him earlier, he was meeting with top CEOs, people like Jamie Diamond, the top executives at Walmart, Lowe's, places like that earlier today.
And so, he said the Senate is starting their job, he believes they'll execute it. Well, he didn't say of course, what he believes the outcome should be that's a question. He's declined to answer on several occasions. And so, Anderson, he really just said he's letting the Senate do their job. Well, he is going to focus on doing his job as they are really trying to put a lot of distance between their early agenda that they're trying to move on and what's happening just down the street on Capitol Hill.
COOPER: I mean, it makes sense from a political standpoint that he wouldn't want to get to link to this because, you know, no matter what happens, but particularly because it seems like so few Republicans are willing to be convinced by arguments actually, that they've already made up their minds. He seems to think he knows what the end result is going to be.
COLLINS: Yes. But they haven't even said whether or not they agree with this argument over if it's constitutional for a former President to go to trial, given Of course, that's been such a big argument that was expected to be a big focus today.
And so, it's a fitting question for the White House, because of course, he is the current office holder, but it's one they have declined to answer time and time again, though, they have been very critical of the way that former President Trump handled January 6, and while they try to put a lot of distance between this and what's going on, you know, they're making trips to the Pentagon tomorrow to deliver remarks. They're scheduling all these other events to really counter program it.
You can't move remove yourself that much from it, Anderson because it's historic in its nature, a sitting President has never had to deal with the impeachment trial of his predecessor, especially not his first 100 days in office. So, it does have an effect. White House aides will privately admit that, but publicly they're trying to put a lot of distance between the two.
COOPER: Yes. Kaitlan Collins, fascinating day. Appreciate all your reporting. More to come tomorrow.
Another historic day in Washington, one of many that we have seen over the last few weeks and frankly, last few years. How many historic days have we had? Wow.
Programming note, I'll be back 11:00 p.m. Eastern tonight with more live coverage of today's trial. For now, news continues, let's hand over Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME". Chris.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: You'll be on at 11:00 and I will be on from 12:00 to 2:00 in addition to our shows tonight because this is history, and it matters. Anderson, I'll see you in a second.