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Nikki Haley Criticizes Trump, Says He Has No Future in GOP; CNN Reports, Three GOP Senators Met with Trump's Lawyers Ahead of Defense Presentation; Democrats Debate Whether to Seek Another Form of Punishment Against Trump after Impeachment Trial. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired February 12, 2021 - 11:30   ET

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


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Every Republican, including senators who are going to cast the vote in the next 24 to 48 hours, this is the decision they are making.

[11:30:06]

Donald Trump has brought so many times to a horrible, toxic place. What choice do we make now? And then are you consistent? Because we've also seen Lindsey Graham, as one example, ping pong balls. Trump is a cancer. No, he's great. Trump is terrible. Well, he's awesome. We've watched this through. So can you make a choice and stick with it consistently? That's a big challenge for the Republican Party.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: In the interview with Politico, she also says, never did I think he would spiral out like this. I don't feel like I know who he is any more. The person that I worked with is not the person that I have watched since the election.

But she did say this. We have a clip from an interview that she gave on Fox News right after a couple of days after the January 6th insurrection on Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, FORMER U.N. AMBASSADOR: We don't want to go back to the Republican Party before Trump because he added people to the fold. He brought in a part of America that had not been heard, had not been seen and had not been understood.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So that is sort of the ping pong you're talking about?

KING: It is. And, look, it is hard for them. Okay, give them a little bit of grace. It is hard for any Republican how do you navigate this because Donald Trump got 74 million votes. Donald Trump won 25 states. Donald Trump has power over the Republican base. The question is what's more important to you, your power or your principle?

That's the question that the Republican senators will vote and it's a challenge for somebody, Governor Haley, Ambassador Haley, if she moves forward. Are you willing to look Trump supporters in the eye, and she does say it in the article, we should not have followed him. Good for her. Good for her. Will she consistently say, I'm one of the people who made a mistake, I'm one of the people who did not stand up to him and get right in front of him and say stop it when you're lying about an American election? Stop it. You lost. Stop it. Be a man. Stop it, acknowledge the facts.

Because those Republican senators voting, very few of them did it, and the Republicans who supported Trump, very few of them did it. It is hard. He's the leader of your party. But he was telling a lie to the country, a dangerous like that turned into an insurrection. Will she say that and look Trump voters in the eye when we see here in Iowa in two years, and in New Hampshire in two years, and in her home state of South Carolina two years, will she look at Republican voters and say, he lied to you? You need to think about that. You need to check your sources even when they are the president United States or a candidate that you support because he lied to you. And because he lied to you, we did some wrong things. Will she be consistent?

BLITZER: And we all remember in 2016, she was saying very awful things about Trump, the candidate, when she was supporting Marco Rubio for the Republican presidential nominee, but then things changed.

KING: Well, we could play that tape for ten years.

BLITZER: We had Marco Rubio. We had Ted Cruz. We'll play a lot of those guys.

All right, Jake, back to you.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf.

Coming up next, Trump's defense lawyers will try to different a defense of the former president after meeting with three key Republican senators who are also supposedly serving as impartial jurors in the impeachment trial.

Plus, the quick presentation expected from team Trump. What the trial timeline looks like after their presentation. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:35:00]

TAPPER: Welcome back. Before this impeachment trial got underway, senators took an oath to attempt to be impartial jurors. But we are now learning that at least three Republican senators, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham and Mike Lee, all three former never-Trumpers, huddled with the former president's legal team yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): We spent, I don't know, 45 minutes, an hour, in there talking with them and I just wanted to sit down and say, okay, what are you all looking to put forward and to share our thoughts in terms where things are. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: CNN is now learning that while inside of that meeting, the senators gave the legal team for Trump their suggestions for how to best proceed during today's presentation. They talked strategy.

Dana and Abby are back with me. Look, I mean, we shouldn't pretend that this is the same as a jury in a courtroom. It is not. These are all inherently political operators. Still, it is kind of odd.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is not a good look. It is not a good look to be overtly walking into a room where everybody could see you as a member of a jury, even though it is inherently political to walking in with members of the legal team who are going to be trying to make an argument that is supposed to persuade you, technically.

Having said that, you know, we don't know the level of coordination that went on between the House managers and the Senate Democrats, and that would be as close to equivalent as you could get. Our colleague, Manu Raju, was on a call with aides to the House managers just this morning and asked, was there coordination and they sidestepped the answer to that.

So we don't know but it is -- it is just a very blatant illustration of the fact that the jig is up in so many ways on what we are seeing.

TAPPER: While we're on the subject of Ted Cruz, I would like to get your reaction, Abby, to something that Ted Cruz said in 2016.

[11:40:02]

As I noted earlier, all three of these Republican senators who are now advising the Trump legal team, Mike Lee, Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz, all three of them used to be ardent never-Trumpers and are now among the most devoted Trump supporters in the Senate.

Take a listen to some things Ted Cruz said back when he was running against Donald Trump in 2016 that are germane to this idea of whether or not Trump incited violence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: When the candidate urges supporters to engage in physical violence, to punch people in the face, the predictable consequence of that is that it escalated.

Donald Trump now as a consistent pattern of inciting violence, of Donald and his henchman pushing for violence.

No politician has a right to threaten violence against American citizens. Even lefty numbskulls are American citizens and you don't threaten violence against them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: What is the saying about a foolish consistency?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, I had almost forgotten how on-the-nose Ted Cruz's old comments were. I mean, all three of these senators were people who actually condemned Trump for the very things that he is being impeached over. So, you know, just -- it just shows you how far the Republican Party has come.

But forgive me if I'm not as concerned about whether they're coordinating with the Trump legal team. To me, the meeting yesterday shows that they're worried that the Trump legal team is not going to be prepared --

BASH: They are, very.

PHILLIP: -- to do what they're supposed to do. I think it tells you a lot more about what we're about to see over the next few hours, which is that if they were so concerned that they spent 45 minutes kind of bucking them up, I think it just indicates that they are worried that this actually does have to be a little bit more than just phoning it in in order to close the deal.

Obviously, Trump doesn't want to be convicted and I don't think that they would have gone into the room if they thought that it wasn't necessary for them to make sure that what they said today was at least a little bit more than just -- well, frankly, a little bit more than what we saw the first time around when people couldn't figure out what on earth they were trying to do with their legal arguments.

BASH: Yes. And that is a main reason why they went in there. I mean, it doesn't take a political expert to see that what happened the first and only time that they have spoken was a disaster, and every Republican knew that. And so they went in not just to buck them up but to talk to them from a political point of view and from a legal point of view. Because we're talking earlier, the House managers are lawyers, but they're also politicians and so they bridge those two worlds and these guys who President Trump hired, they're lawyers without much of a political sensibility.

PHILLIP: And just quickly, I mean, this is also being broadcast to the American public. And I think we're used to kind of thinking about Republicans only thinking about their base but I do think there are some Republicans who are worried that this will penetrate to the American people and damage them. And so it is not just about whether Trump will be acquitted or convicted, but it is also about what is being conveyed to the rest of the world about Trump's culpability and their culpability in what happened on January 6th.

So there is -- it is a political consideration, but it is about the broader world of public opinion, not just about the narrow band of, you know, maybe 25 to 28 percent of Americans who are registered Republicans.

TAPPER: And, Anderson, I can't help but think about the fact that the very first impeachment hearing, impeachment trial that I watched was the one against Bill Clinton, and one of the House impeachment managers at the time was now Senator Lindsey Graham, who was very upset and distressed that President Clinton lied under oath, suborned perjury, all the rest.

I'm not mocking in any way his outrage at that. I understand why President Clinton was impeached over all of that. But I can't wrap brain around how somebody could be upset, about a president suborning perjury, allegedly, about a president committing perjury, allegedly, and not upset about this.

I can't -- I guess this is why I don't belong to a political party. I can't comprehend adjusting one's views of indecent behavior based on the party affiliation of the person who does it.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, yes. I mean, looking for consistency for Lindsey Graham, sadly, is kind of an uphill battle. I mean, this was a man who, the night of the insurrection, said he was done with Trump, that he was out.

[11:45:03]

And then, you know, he was heckled in an airport by Trump supporters, and the next thing we know, he is now back in the warm embrace of Donald Trump. We shall see what happens today. Jake, thanks.

Coming up, Trump's legal team delivers its defense today, as we've been talking about. And the presentation, as you know, is expected to be quick. What the trial timeline looks like as they take the Senate floor.

Plus, the House impeachment managers could seek a vote on hearing witnesses' testimony, the potential risk and rewards of that move, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:50:00]

COOPER: We're moments away from the former president's legal team laying out its defense now that the former president's attorneys said they don't plan to use as much time as the impeachment managers in a historic impeachment likely will move at a much faster pace and could end this weekend.

Manu Raju is joining us now, CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent on Capitol Hill.

So, let's take a look at the remaining timeline and what happens next. Kind of walk us through it.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL: Yes. It's going to go pretty quickly, as you just said. The Democratic impeachment managers are done and now Trump's team will have its chance to make its case. And they have up to 16 hours, eight hours today, eight hours tomorrow. They are not going to go anywhere near that 16 hours. We're told three to four hours this afternoon is all they need to make their case. They have already come under withering criticism from Republicans and their initial arguments about the constitutionality of the trial, that being a meandering case. They are now contending they're going to make a crisp argument over the next few hours this afternoon and wrap up their case focusing on the constitutionality, in their view, unconstitutional proceedings, and, in their view, how Donald Trump was not responsible for the riot here.

Now, once that is done, we are expected to go into the question and answer period as soon as tonight. That's when senators from both sides will have the opportunity for up to four hours to ask questions to each side. Already, I'm told that Democratic and Republican senators submitting their proposed questions to the respective leadership. They'll have up to four hours on the floor to do that. We are not expecting them to use the full four hours.

And at that point, a key question is going to be whether or not they will seek witnesses. The Democratic impeachment managers had been numb. Even this morning, they refused to say if they need further witnesses to corroborate that could go further on their arguments.

But there is a feeling among Democrats and Republicans, but particularly Democrats, that there is no need to go that far to have witnesses. Democrats senators believe that the case has already been made. So, Anderson, this all could mean that we can get to that final vote on whether to convict Donald Trump by tomorrow.

COOPER: And you're also learning more about Democrats might do if the former president gets acquitted.

RAJU: Yes. There is a debate that's ongoing within the Democratic Caucus in the House and Senate about whether to do anything else here, whether to censure Donald Trump, or whether to simply move on. And the debate focuses on whether this is -- whether taking such an action, to censure Donald Trump, would really amount to anything or would provide -- or if it would give Republicans some cover of sorts.

One Democratic senator put it to me this way. There are two ways of looking at it. One way is you get an opportunity to have some kind of condemnation, he said. But there's another way of looking at this. Do you give Republicans a chance to get well on something that doesn't have as much of an impact in terms of accountability?

Now, there have been some ideas floating, such as censuring Donald Trump and preventing from -- ever from running for office again, so the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. That is something that Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia has proposed. The Democratic leadership though in the House and the Senate have not yet publicly embraced that idea and some just want to move on to the domestic agenda of Joe Biden and not talk about Donald Trump anymore. But that is still a question they have to pursue.

And also, the question, Anderson, will Republicans go along with it? One Republican, Senator Marco Rubio, refused to answer that question when I asked him. Would you support censuring Donald Trump? He said that's not the question before us.

COOPER: Yes. Manu Raju, thanks very much. Back with our legal and political team here in New York. Ross, I want to ask you something about something that was in The Washington Post. I want to put this up on the screen. They're reporting that impeachment managers eyed possible testimony from senior officials, such as Mark Short, the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, but immediately concluded they would run into a legal thicket trying to compel their participation.

Do you think that is a mistake to not have witnesses?

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, if this were a real trial, if the goal were to actually get the facts and a just verdict, then I think like everyone would expect to see witnesses. That's how you get to those things. That's not what this exercise is. This is a political constitutional exercise, and they can count votes. And they see that they don't have the votes for conviction, and they're unlikely to get the votes for a conviction. And so I think it's very unlikely we're going to see witnesses.

COOPER: And there would have been -- the legal thicket, I mean, that's real. Just because Marc Short would be called, that doesn't mean --

GARBER: Yes. So what would have happen is if he didn't want to show up, then a subpoena would be issued.

[11:55:01]

And then he could refuse to show because of a claim of executive privilege. And then if could refuse to show because of the claim of executive privilege and it would wind up in court.

COOPER: The problem is, then, Laura was talking about this before, the -- things go unanswered. You had Mark Meadows on Fox, and I want to play this because somebody can say anything, make any claim about what was going on in the White House, and there is no way to check it. Let's show what Mark Meadows said last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK MEADOWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: He was trying to send in the National Guard to make sure that all the rioting that was going on, that it actually was quelled. He did the same thing on January 6. He didn't delay at all.

He wanted our National Guard to be on the ready for any civil unrest.

He condemned it and wanted to make sure that we respected law and order and was very forceful in that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I mean, idea that he was condemning it in real-time is not the case.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure, and so there are holes. And you would like to hear witnesses. I mean, if this were a movie, Mike Pence would come in in the 11th hour, or Marc Short would come in in the 11th hour or Mark Meadows would come in at the 11th hour and say, I testify that this is what I saw. And Pence might say, well, I didn't get a call from the president and this is why. But that's not going to happen,

And I think that if they start going to senators like Ben Sasse, who has said he spoke with somebody at the White House, he's a juror. So what do you do? You know, he's a juror. Can you compel him as a witness? It's a difficult situation.

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, besides the procedural issues and how it can delay, witnesses are loose cannons. Witnesses are not always the most reliable if you're trying to have a very methodic trial strategy. They introduce new elements, new aspects of bias. They might run off at the mouth in ways that require you to now address additional factual disputes. And so there is a strategy behind not calling witnesses.

But there is also the issue that every single one of those members of the Senate are the witnesses. So calling witnesses could seem redundant and superfluous in the sense that you all saw what happened, America saw what happened, the world saw what happened. And ask yourselves, according to your own watches, how quick did help come? Was it immediate? Was it expeditious? It was none of those things. So they can use their own memories probably as the best form of a witness.

GARBER: But there are still factual issues, right? Laura, you were a prosecutor. How many cases did you prosecute where you said, you know what, we're good, we don't need any witnesses?

COATES: Never, because he said, she said, has to be resolve.

GARBER: Yes, exactly.

COOPER: Well, Wolf, there is still so much at this point. We saw what was going on inside the White House minute by minute while the attack was occurring.

BLITZER: Yes. And I suspect they're not going to eventually call witnesses to try to find out, but we shall see.

John, they're getting ready within the next couple minutes and they've been pretty much on time in starting. The president pro temper presiding officer, Senator Leahy, would bring the session to order. The chaplain, Barry Black, will have an opening prayer. We'll do the pledge of allegiance. And then the four lawyers representing Trump will have an opportunity to make their defense.

KING: And they will be making that defense after two days of a very powerful, compelling and damning presentation by the impeachment managers, essentially the prosecution in this case that essentially laid the predicate of all the horrible, reprehensible things that President Trump did, lying about the election, if I lose, it's a fraud, the big lie he then told for two months, the ramp-up he had to bring his supporters to Washington on January 6th and the things he said, and more importantly, perhaps the things he didn't say and didn't do as the insurrection was playing out.

How does the defense, how does the Trump team counter that? Do they just argue, we shouldn't be here because we don't this is constitutional, even though the Senate already voted on that. In a court of law, the judge would say, not relevant, shut up, say something else. This is different because there are no such rules in the Senate. They can argue that even though it's already been voted, that the trial is proceeding and the Senate has constitutional grounds to do this.

How much of it is process? Do they defend Donald Trump? Do they try -- you just saw his former chief of staff lying on Fox News last night, saying the president was rushing to send in the National Guard, the president was rushing to condemn this. He was not. There is zero evidence of that. If there was evidence of that, we would see the video, we would see the tweets. It doesn't exist.

So do the trump lawyers try to do what Trump often did, just have fantasy and fiction, or do they try to come up with some argument against this? They're going to argue, he didn't tell them. He didn't specifically say, crash the Capitol, hurt people, revolt against your own government. That's what their argument is going to be. He was not that specific.

The managers, I think, they tried to do their best in, okay, but we have seen years of the president understanding what happens when he tweets certain words. We have seen years of the president saying, after violent episodes, I love you, or thank you, or you were peaceful, when they were not.

So it's going to be fascinating to see what argument do they try. And I think the fact that they are planning to be brief is on the advice of those Republican senators they met with last night.

[12:00:02]

As of now, it appears the math is in their favor no matter what they say. And so this is almost -- lawyers take an oath to the Constitution.