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Cory Booker Drops Out of 2020 Presidential Race; How Booker Dropping Out of Race Impacts Democratic Field; Pelosi Defends Impeachment Delay & Warns of "Cover-Up" by Senate; Collins Working with Group of COP Senators to Allow Witnesses; Trump Officials Struggle to Explain Soleimani Intel; Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) Discusses Administration Explanations for Soleimani Killing, Trump Greenlights Soleimani Strike Due to Impeachment. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 13, 2020 - 11:00   ET



COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: The last time, Jim and Poppy, LSU won the national title was 2007, and it happened to be on this very field.

Who do you have, Jim, Poppy, Tigers or Tigers?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Hard to beat a team at home field. I'll put LSU.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Vikings. Vikings is all I can think about.

All right --


HARLOW: Thanks, Coy.

Thanks, all of you, for joining us. We'll see you back here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: I'm Jim Sciutto.

"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

We have breaking news in the presidential election that we'll begin with today. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker officially announcing just now that he is ending his bid for the White House. The announcement coming in just moments ago.

CNN's Rebecca Buck is following all this. She joins me now.

Rebecca, what is Booker saying?

REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Kate, he's telling his supporters that he felt he did not have the resources to continue in this race for president, with just a few weeks to go until the Iowa caucuses.

Of course, Booker was not going to be on the debate stage tomorrow night for CNN's debate in Iowa with the "Des Moines Register." He was one of the vocal critics of the threshold that prevented candidates of color from making that debate stage. Tomorrow night will be first time we will see all white candidates on that stage.

But I want to focus on Booker's decision for now and read you from an email he sent out to supporters, going out right now.

He says, "It was a difficult decision to make" -- ending his bid for president -- "but I got in this race to win and I've always said I wouldn't continue if there was no longer a path to victory."

"Our campaign has reached the point where we need more money to scale up and continue building a campaign that can win. Money we don't have and money that is harder to raise because I won't be on the debate stage and because the urgent business of impeachment will rightly be keeping me in Washington."

Of course, Booker was one of the Senators who would have had to return to Washington and will be in Washington for this impeachment trial in the Senate. It threw another wrench into his campaign plans moving forward.

But, of course, resources were the key question here for Booker. He only raised $6.6 million in the last quarter of 2019, which was his best quarter of the campaign, but far behind the leaders in this race.

And, of course, he never had a breakout moment from the time he launched his campaign nearly a year ago, February 1st, in Newark. He had a consistent message of love, of community, of mending the moral fabric of America, but it wasn't something that voters ever responded to.

And so, Kate, we see the result of that today, Booker ending his campaign before voters cast their ballots in Iowa, New Hampshire and those other early states.

Now, we don't know if Booker will endorse a Democratic candidate in this primary process. What he did say in his statement to supporters, however, Kate, is that he will campaign for and support whoever is the Democratic nominee. And also help Democrats down the ballot because, as he said often on the trail, beating Trump is the floor for him, not the ceiling -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Rebecca, thank you for bringing that breaking news. Appreciate it.

This news comes just one day before the next Democratic presidential debate, three weeks out from the Iowa caucus.

CNN's Ryan Nobles is in Des Moines with much more on this.

Ryan, Booker did not make the cut for tomorrow's debate hosted by CNN. How does Booker dropping out impact the field, do you think?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I think the most glaring issue that this is going to raise now, Kate, you, at one point, had one of the most diverse fields in the history of Democratic presidential primaries, of any primary of any kind. And with Booker dropping out, this contest becomes much more white.

In this one, have a Democratic Party, that the backbone of which is voters of color, particularly African-American voters. So I think you're going to see these campaigns make a specific effort to really reach out to voters of color, both Latino colors and African-American voters, to make sure that they understand that these candidates are behind them, even though they may not necessarily have the same identity as them.

And, you know, I think this is where you see some of the criticism come in about the Democratic primary schedule, the primary schedule in general, Kate, in that you have both Iowa and New Hampshire, which have overwhelmingly white voters, that control this process in the first two states. And it is not until South Carolina gets involved that voters of color really have a strong influence in the outcome of this vote.

So, you know, I think that Cory Booker, I think many people are surprised this is the end that his campaign has come to. He's someone that people believe has immense political talent. He's one of the strongest speakers and has an impressive resume in terms of being the mayor of a major city like Newark, New Jersey, and a U.S. Senator.

The fact that as Rebecca mentioned, his campaign was never able to gain that strength and momentum came as a big surprise.

But, Kate, it really all comes down to money. And the candidates that are still in this race at this point have a lot of money and the resources to perform in places like Iowa, where you need a ton of resources on the ground to get voters out to caucus sites.


And then keep in mind, Kate, you have such an early calendar in terms of Super Tuesday with massive states like Texas and California that come up, right after those first four early voting states. And if you don't have the money to compete, it is so difficult to get your message out there.

I don't think that, even though Cory Booker was, you know, polling in the single digits, that we shouldn't necessarily just cast this aside ss not being significant. He represents an important part of the Democratic primary. And it is going to be up to these candidates that are still in the race to reach out to that constituency and make the case because they're up for grabs.

BOLDUAN: Ryan, thank you so much.

As I mentioned, Ryan is in Des Moines. Do not forget tomorrow night, Democratic presidential debate is at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, hosted by CNN in partnership with the "Des Moines Register." At 9:00 Eastern only on CNN.

Now to the other big focus, that is now going to be Cory Booker's very big focus, the major week ahead in the impeachment of President Trump. This is the week that folks have been talking about for weeks now.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi now expected to turn over the articles of impeachment to the Senate within days, clearing the way for the Senate trial to begin.

Pelosi, who does not often do interviews, took to the Sunday shows to lay out her case, and warn that efforts to dismiss the case before the trial even starts is a cover-up. Listen.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We have confidence in our case that it is impeachable. And this president is impeached for life. We need to have witnesses and documentation. And if we don't, that is a cover-up.


BOLDUAN: Not surprisingly, of course, President Trump is taking the direct opposite view of the speaker here, calling for the Senate to do just that, flat-out dismiss the impeachment case against him.

Let's get to Capitol Hill. CNN's Manu Raju here with me now.

Manu, if this is the week, what happens now?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Tomorrow, Nancy Pelosi will meet with the House Democratic caucus. She's going to discuss the next steps with them. She already made the decision herself -- she's not expressing it to her members yet -- about exactly how this will play out.

But I can tell you the expectation on the Hill is that by the middle of the week we should expect impeachment managers to be named, the Democrats who will actually prosecute the case on behalf of the Democrats, who impeached this president on two counts.

And then afterwards, those managers will walk over to the Senate, read aloud the articles of impeachment, the president abusing his office as well as obstructing Congress. Those are the charges these Democrats are going to read from the floor of the Senate.

But after that, the procedural things will take place on the Senate floor. Members of the Senate will get sworn into office, will swear in the chief justice, John Roberts, who will preside over the proceedings.

But the actual arguments themselves are still days away. We're expecting probably by early next week is when each side will present its arguments. Democrats will make the arguments on their side about why the

president should be removed from office. The president's defense team will make the president's arguments and argue that the case has not been made by the Democrats.

Now, at that point, after those arguments have been made, after several days of both sides, Senators will have a chance to ask questions to these lawyers, who will be making their case, and to the impeachment managers.

And then question will arise about witnesses, whether the witnesses come forward. Democrats wanted an agreement up front about witnesses. Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader, said, no, we can deal with that later in the trial.

That's the key point to watch, and whether Republicans at all break ranks. They'll need four Republicans to join with 47 Democratic Senators to vote in favor of subpoenaing witnesses. So how does that shape up through the course of this trial?

A lot to watch. And this historic trial about to take place. And where does it go from here?

Ultimately, though, Republicans and Democrats agree that it is very unlikely the 67 votes will be there to remove the president from office -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Right. A long way before then.

Manu, thank you very much.

Here with me now, Anna Palmer, a senior Washington correspondent for "Politico," co-author of the book "The Hill to Die On," a fantastic book about this Congress. And CNN legal analyst, Elie Honig, former federal and state prosecutor.

Great to see you guys. Thank you for being here.

Anna, Speaker Pelosi, she was very clear this weekend that she believes that in this intervening three weeks, since the House impeached and since where we landed now, that she believes the Democrats have gotten some wins in the past week, that more information has come out in terms of by way of details and emails, John Bolton has come forward to say he'll testify.

Is that the sense you're getting from the Senate side of things, though?

ANNA PALMER, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "POLITICO" & AUTHOR: I think Pelosi has to say this is a win. She led the Democrats down this path of the three-week delay.


PALMER: She didn't get what she ultimately wanted, witnesses. She didn't get any deal with Mitch McConnell. He didn't give an inch to her.

So Democrats are united on the Hill. It's pretty interesting. They feel like she's done a very good job battling this president, time and time again. And they are setting themselves up for a trial, historic votes on whether there are going to be witnesses or not.

BOLDUAN: If they didn't get the ultimate win they wanted, maybe their view is they didn't lose anything in the interim, they weren't hurt by it, maybe.


Elie, if things move forward this week, what are the first days of the impeachment trial going to look like from your perspective? Manu laid out some of it right there for us.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: After the pomp and circumstance that Manu laid out, I think we'll hear opening arguments from both sides. The House managers, who will effectively serve as the prosecutors in this case, will lay out their case and the president's lawyers will lay out their case.

And then the moment of truth, as Anna said, will be when they have to decide if they are going to call witnesses or not.

One thing that Mitch McConnell has been saying is we're following the Bill Clinton 1999 impeachment trial model here. I think that model works against Mitch McConnell because --


HONIG: -- in '99, they had a more than complete investigation. Ken Starr had talked to Monica Lewinski's ex-boyfriends, the White House window washers --


BOLDUAN: Bill Clinton gave a blood test.

HONIG: Yes. Everything you could think of, and then some. Here we have enormous gaps in witnesses, Mulvaney, Pompeo. Yet, even with that difference, they had witnesses in the Clinton trial. They testified off site and played the video in the chambers.

I think, by that precedent, there's a strong argument that there does need to be witnesses here.

BOLDUAN: Is it as unclear as it feels in terms of will witnesses be called or not behind the scenes? It almost feels like, wow, McConnell and Pelosi have played this -- played this staring contest, had this staring contest going on. Most everyone else, especially Democrats in the House, they largely have been left in the dark exactly where things are going to end.

PALMER: I don't think we know where they're going to end by any stretch of imagination. I think that -- (CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Other than the ultimate outcome seems --


PALMER: I agree with what Manu said there. Yes.


PALMER: But I do think you see some cracks in Republicans who aren't necessarily just going to go in lockstep with Mitch McConnell and saying no witnesses.


PALMER: Whether that's Susan Collins, whether that's Mitt Romney.

Those -- you're going to see, I think -- my colleagues had a great piece this morning about how Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, is going to try to cause shenanigans and cause votes that will hurt Republicans on the campaign trail. So I think that that is really where things get interesting.

BOLDUAN: Shenanigans. What? Never! Just read your book.

One of the Republicans that -- Senate Republicans that everyone is keeping their eye on is Susan Collins, moderate Republican, up for re- election. There's been some question if she would be one of the Republicans to break to vote with Democrats on something like calling witnesses.

Let me play what she said this weekend that has a lot of people talking. Listen to this.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): I am working with a group of Republican Senators and our leaders to see if we can come to an agreement on some language that would be in the initial resolution setting out the parameters of the trial in the Senate that would include an opportunity for the House to call witnesses and the president's counsel to also call witnesses.


BOLDUAN: I hear what she's saying, but how real do you think this is?

PALMER: I think Susan Collins often lets Democrats down, to say the least. Whether it was Brett Kavanaugh, with the Supreme Court. She often plays this middle ground. When it comes down to it, she almost always falls in line with where the Republicans are.

I do think it is going to be interesting to watch. It's something we're going to be reporting on, the ins and outs of whether they find a deal there. But I'm skeptical of whether or not she's going to be this kind of white knight for Democrats.

BOLDUAN: Can you give me, real quick, the role -- another great piece in "Politico" about this -- the role of John Roberts, the chief justice, and how much he presides and oversees the trial?

HONIG: I think the chief justice has more power than a lot of people recognize at this point. The Constitution tells us the chief justice shall provide, no limit. That's a very broad grant of power.

The Senate's own rules says the chief justice gets to decide evidence and witnesses but the Senate can overrule him. Legally, I don't know if that holds up.

And politically, I think it is going to be very difficult if Chief Justice Roberts says, we'll have witnesses, for the Republicans and then to overrule them. I think that's politically very dicey.

BOLDUAN: Stand by to watch history at the very least.

Thank you, guys. Appreciate it.

HONIG: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the Trump administration -- Trump administration officials continue to take questions on the intelligence that led to the killing of Iran's top genera but they're still not giving clear answers. We're going to talk to a member of the House Intelligence Committee and what this means, next.


Plus, a CNN exclusive. CNN's Arwa Damon goes inside Al-Asad Airbase with U.S. troops to get a firsthand look at the destruction after the Iranian missile attack there.


BOLDUAN: Ten days after the American drone strike that took out Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, it is still not clear what exact intelligence led up to the strike. It is only getting more confusing as the president continues to, in his words, reveal new details that his team struggles to back up.

Here was the president Friday night, offering up new information.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies.


BOLDUAN: Four embassies.

Then this was Sunday when the defense secretary was put out to explain that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK ESPER, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: What the president said was he believed that probably could have been. He didn't cite intelligence. He didn't cite a specific piece of evidence. What he said he probably believed could have been --


UNIDENTIFIED NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Are you saying there wasn't one?

ESPER: I didn't see one with regard to four embassies.


BOLDUAN: Joining me now, Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi.

Congressman, thanks for coming in.

REP, RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Hey, thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: You were briefed along with other members of the House. Was there any mention of four embassies being targeted?


KRISHNAMOORTHI: I would have to agree with Secretary Esper. I don't recall that. And I walked through with the feeling I didn't have a "who, what, when, where, how" about any impending attack or imminent attack.

BOLDUAN: So I'm struck by this. As the days have continued, information has come out, there's a clear dispute from Pompeo and the national security adviser, dispute between what they think or think was said during the briefings with House members, and what I'm hearing from you and other members who were in the briefings.

Is it the changing story and the lack of transparency with Congress that is the problem or the nature of the threat?

I ask that because if you -- if they had briefed you all, after the fact, with one consistent message, they didn't know where, they didn't know when, but they knew Soleimani was planning an attack and knew it would happen, would you have been any more likely to support this strike?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, first of all, I think that it was both the lack of transparency as well as the nature of the threat that there wasn't consistent information on either of those fronts.

And that's why you have two Republican Senators, specifically Senator Lee, who basically castigated them and really laid into them for the lack of transparency and the shifting explanations for why Soleimani was killed. Why is this important? The reason why it is so important is the

president is always authorized to act in the self-defense of our country when there's an imminent attack. But he can't launch offensive hostilities and then go to a war.

And we cannot have a war with Iran. That's something that my constituents overwhelmingly are against. And they're continuing to pour in their emails and phone calls and correspondence to that effect.

BOLDUAN: The "New York Times" reported -- and it is kind of a behind- the-scenes piece this week in the days leading up to the strike -- something striking that the president had impeachment on his mind when he made these decisions to move ahead with the strike.

They write this: "He told some associates he wanted to preserve the support of Republican hawks in the Senate in the incoming impeachment trial, naming Senator Tom Cotton, of Arkansas, as an example, even though they had not spoken about Iran since before Christmas."

If that is true, does that matter to you?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, if that is a motivation for the attack, that's absolutely a problem. And I also noticed in a lot of his tweets he would mix up both the impeachment issue as well as the attack on Soleimani, which also raises questions and suspicions about, what are the true motives behind that attack.

We cannot go to war with Iran. And if you launch such an offensive hostility against -- or military action against the regime, then we get closer to the precipice.

We are not in a peaceful state of affairs with Iran right now. It is not tenable. It is not something that we can be happy about. So we have to be very careful right now.

BOLDUAN: You've been on the short list of possible picks to be a House manager for the Senate impeachment trial. Do you know if those decisions have been made?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I have no idea.

BOLDUAN: If you -- if you all expected to be voting on this as early as Wednesday is the latest reporting -- I heard Senator Blumenthal say he thinks it is going to start midweek this week -- don't you think you need to know?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I really can't comment on any of this. I really have zero information about next steps with regard to this particular issue.

BOLDUAN: And what is your level of interest in being a House manager?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I really don't want to get into it. I know that Speaker Pelosi is going to assemble a fantastic team who knows the case and will be able to bring credit to the House. BOLDUAN: The typically verbose Raja Krishnamoorthi avoiding my

questions on House managers. I'll take that as you are interested.

The speaker has said all along that the reason she was holding up the articles was to get McConnell to lay out the rules of the road for the Senate trial. She said she wanted to know that it would be a fair trial.

He has not laid that out, what the rules of the road would be. She has made clear, though, that this week you are moving ahead.

So did McConnell successfully run out the clock, win this staring contest?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think the interesting thing is that when we began this whole conversation about the outlines of the trial, it appeared that McConnell wanted to have a two-day trial without any witnesses and any further information.

But I think because of Speaker Pelosi, we are now talking about witnesses. And, you know, we kind of have shone a light on this particular issue. And the American people want it.


BOLDUAN: But you no -- you're no likely -- you have no more guarantee of witnesses than you did three weeks ago.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: You're correct. There's just no guarantees about what happens in the Senate anymore. And I think in this particular case, we'll have to see how things unfold.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, thank you for coming in.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you. Thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: Really appreciate it. Noteworthy on that House manager bit, sir. Thank you.

Coming up for us, Democratic candidate, Mike Bloomberg, is slamming his party's primary process. He calls it undemocratic. His campaign manager joins me next.