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Six Democratic Candidates to Face Off in CNN Iowa Debate; House Speaker to Meet with Dem Caucus on Impeachment. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired January 14, 2020 - 06:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Top Democrats take the stage in the final debate before the Iowa caucus.

[05:59:34]

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sanders told Warren he did not believe a woman could win.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bernie Sanders did not say that a woman could not win.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's more than four Republican senators who purportedly are seriously considering having witnesses.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I'm comfortable with the Clinton model, opening arguments first, and then we'll have a vote on whether or not to have witnesses.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): The case is now gaining momentum in the Senate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let the good times roll. LSU sits on the throne of college football.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, Tech (ph)!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: What a game that was. Congratulations, LSU. Joe Burrow, future Cincinnati Bengals starting quarterback next year. That was some good football last night. And the Tigers, well, they were both Tigers, but the LSU Tigers, they're the champions.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. I mean, it's --

BERMAN: You saw it coming. CAMEROTA: You're taking the words out of my mouth. Good. Thank you for that.

BERMAN: It was really good, and it was really late. And so I'm really tired this morning.

CAMEROTA: Wow.

BERMAN: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, January 14. It's 6 a.m. here in New York. It's 5 a.m. in Iowa, where it is a huge day. The final debate before the Iowa caucuses which are now less than three weeks away. How big is it? Well, let me count the ways, in no particular order.

First, tonight, just six candidates will be on stage, the fewest yet. Second, this is a wide-open race, with four of the candidates bunched at the top of the polls. Third, for three of the candidates, the sitting senators on stage, it might be one of their last chances to even be in Iowa, with the Senate impeachment trial due to begin in Washington any day.

Fourth, this is the first debate since the United States killed Iran's top general. Foreign policy will no doubt play a major role.

And fifth, brand-new, real tension between two leading contenders, Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren. This is after CNN's M.J. Lee first broke this story. Senator Warren released a stunning statement overnight that, back in 2018, Sanders told her he didn't think a woman could win the 2020 election. Sanders denies saying it. How will it play on stage tonight?

CAMEROTA: You've made the case. The stakes are high.

BERMAN: This is -- It is really interesting.

CAMEROTA: OK. So on the impeachment front, this morning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will meet with the Democratic caucus. Several House Democrats tell CNN that they expect Pelosi to announce who will serve as the impeachment managers. And tomorrow, she could send those impeachment articles to the Senate.

This comes as four Republican senators signal they are open to hearing from witnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton in the Senate impeachment trial, but they will not decide until after opening arguments.

So we have a lot to get to. Let's begin with CNN's Ryan Nobles. He is live outside the debate hall at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

What do we expect, Ryan?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, good morning from Des Moines.

And you are right. Under any circumstances, this debate at this stage of the Iowa caucuses would be huge, but in 2020, it takes on a new level of significance for two primary reasons.

First, you have four candidates in the top tier bunched in a very tight race now, each with a realistic shot at winning the caucuses. And No. 2, with the Senate impeachment trial looming, three of those four top candidates may be forced to exit the campaign stage; and this will be their last opportunity to make a big case to a huge audience, as they will here tonight.

And among the topics, you can bet that impeachment will come up. But we also expect these core Democratic issues that are driving this primary contest to come up as well: issues like health care, the economy, economic inequality and, of course, climate change.

And then don't forget the rising tensions in Iran, foreign policy in general. The previous votes on the Iraq War that many of these candidates have taken, that is all expected to be a part of this conversation.

And it all comes against the rising backdrop of tensions between two of the top candidates in this race, those representing the progressive wing. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders battling over a number of things, but chiefly this report from CNN that Elizabeth Warren then confirmed last night that, in a conversation with Bernie Sanders in 2018. Sanders told her that he thought a woman could not win in 2020.

Now, the Sanders campaign has pushed back against this in a big way, calling it ludicrous and Bernie Sanders himself saying that this is something he did not say.

Expect both these candidates to get the opportunity to provide clarifying statements as to exactly what they heard in that conversation, but it won't be the only tension we'll see on this stage. Expect Bernie Sanders to go after Joe Biden, as well, because of that Iraq War vote and his foreign policy perspective in general.

There is no doubt the past 24 to 48 hours here in Iowa, there have been a flurry of activity. It is clear that we are getting close to these votes being cast. The candidates know what is at stake, and it will all be on this stage here tonight -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: It's going to be a really interesting night, Ryan. Thank you very much for the preview.

And in about three hours, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will meet with her entire Democratic caucus. She could name impeachment managers and hold a vote to send those articles of impeachment to the Senate.

CNN's Athena Jones is live on Capitol Hill with what to expect. How's this going to go, Athena?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.

That's right. Today is the day that we could start to get some answers about the next steps on impeachment. So we could learn in just a few hours who will be the impeachment managers, those House members who will be prosecuting the case against President Trump. And as soon as tomorrow, we could see a vote in the House on a resolution to approve those managers and to formally send the articles of impeachment over to the Senate.

Meanwhile, one of the big questions during this nearly month-long period that Speaker Pelosi has been holding onto those articles, refusing to transmit them to the Senate, is what has been gained by doing so.

Well, Pelosi has argued that the delay has helped Democrats emphasize the need for a fair trial with witnesses and documents. This period has also allowed some reporting to come out that supports the Democrats' case. And so she and her allies can certainly argue that this constant focus on what would make a fair trial is what has helped push some of these moderate Republicans, folks like Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and also Mitt Romney to come out in support of witnesses.

Take a listen to what Senator Romney had to say about this.

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ROMNEY: I'd like there to be witnesses and be able to hear from someone like John Bolton. At the same time, I'm comfortable with the Clinton model, which is we hear the opening arguments first, and then we'll have a vote on whether or not to have witnesses.

I won't be supporting the Schumer approach, which is to have a vote on witnesses before the opening arguments.

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JONES: So there you have it. As senator Romney's saying he's open to witnesses. The timing, he doesn't agree with Speaker Pelosi on the timing but he's open to witnesses. And so the question is how many more Republicans can these few Republicans bring with them when it comes to the matter of witnesses? One of the things we'll be watching.

BERMAN: All right, Athena, stand by for us. Again, those Democrats meet about three hours from now. We'll have a much clearer sense of how things will progress.

In the meantime, CNN broke the story about the controversial conversation between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. M.J. Lee, who did break it, joins us next with brand-new reporting and details, plus what it means for tonight's big debate.

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[06:10:58]

JEFF WEAVER, SANDERS CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR: There are some wires crossed here, but clearly, Bernie Sanders did not say that a woman could not win. I think their wires were crossed. It was a discussion about Trump, misogyny, sexism in politics, and -- and the difficulty of running in the era of Trump for women, the special challenges that women face in the era of Trump. But, you know, those conversations can sometimes get misconstrued, Chris.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: That's Jeff Weaver, a senior advisor to Senator Bernie Sanders, responding to CNN's report that, in 2018, Sanders told Senator Elizabeth Warren that a woman could not win in the 2020 election.

The interview came after Warren confirmed the story on the record, saying in a statement, quote, "Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate. I thought a woman could win; he disagreed."

So this growing tension will be very interesting to watch on tonight's debate stage in Iowa, among the many stories playing out there.

Joining us now, the reporter who broke this story between Sanders and Warren, CNN political correspondent M.J. Lee; and Ryan Nobles back with us from Iowa.

M.J., first of all, terrific reporting. Second of all, it was even more stunning when Elizabeth Warren came out with an on-the-record statement last night. The Sanders campaign all but dared her to come out publicly, and she did.

So what does that tell you, and what does that tell you about where this is headed?

M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, there is such a huge difference between where we were yesterday when CNN first reported this story and where we are this morning when this story was first reported.

As you know, it was based on multiple sources, multiple people, including people that Elizabeth Warren spoke with directly at the time.

But I think, John, you are absolutely right about the Bernie Sanders camp and Sanders himself, frankly, almost daring Elizabeth Warren to say something on the record when his response to our reporting was to vehemently deny the characterizations in the story, calling it ludicrous, accusing Warren campaign staffers of lying.

And the fact that Elizabeth Warren has now put out an on-the-record statement means -- and I think we should sort of let this sink in -- the top female Democratic candidate for president has now said on the record that her friend and male rival in this race once said to her over a year ago that he did not believe that a woman could win.

So I think this just really marked a huge moment in this race and also just in the discussion about gender in politics.

CAMEROTA: And before we get to Ryan with more on Bernie Sanders' reaction, M.J., just catch people up, because this was at a meeting, a private meeting, supposedly, in December of 2018 at Elizabeth Warren's house -- apartment in Washington, D.C., when they were both weighing whether they would make a run for the presidency and what that would look like. And is it true that, at that time, they were sort of intending on this nonaggression pact with each other?

LEE: Right, you know, this nonaggression pact that we have been talking about all year, there was a discussion about it per our reporting. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren met at Warren's apartment in Washington, D.C., at the end of 2018. As you say, this was exactly right around the time when both senators would have been thinking very seriously about launching their campaigns, and they did soon thereafter.

And according to our reporting, the two had a private discussion about what it would look like for the two of them to potentially run against each other. And they agreed that, if they were to run against each other, they wanted to remain civil. They did not want to go on the attack against each other, because they did not want to undermine the progressive movement.

So that context, I think, is very important, that one of the important things they discussed in that meeting was to not go against each other and attack each other in this race.

And yes, it was in that conversation, according to our reporting and that Senator Warren has now confirmed, that when Elizabeth Warren laid out for Sanders why she thought she would be a strong candidate, she talked about the economy and how she could win over broad support from women, that Sanders' response was, I don't think a woman can win.

[06:15:17]

BERMAN: Ryan, if we can shift the focus a little bit more to what we are going to see tonight, you covered the Sanders campaign. The Sanders campaign is in a different place tonight than it has been in a long time, not just because of M.J.'s reporting, but also because Senator Sanders has been doing well in fundraising and in polling, seeing more of a co- -- as more of a co-front runner now than he has.

How is the Sanders campaign approaching tonight's debate? Do you think he'll focus more on Elizabeth Warren, maybe more on Joe Biden, more maybe on Bernie Sanders?

NOBLES: Well, John, it's a great point. And we should point out that the Sanders campaign believes that's part of why this has become an issue, because Sanders has launched to the front of the field; and now there's a new level of focus on him.

And I think one of the things that Sanders is going to do initially first is say that his recollection of this conversation is not the same as Elizabeth Warren's. And all you have to do is look at his past record to show that this isn't something that he believes. That he's gone back to even the '70s. There's tape of him saying that a woman could be president of the United States. And don't forget that in 2016, he begged Elizabeth Warren to run for president, because he thought that she could win. Now, I do think that they do not want a long, elongated conversation

about this particular topic and that his campaign does not feel comfortable getting into a war with Elizabeth Warren. That they do believe that the progressive movement needs to come out on top in this Democratic primary. They still believe Bernie Sanders is the best candidate to do that. But going back and forth and fighting over this, you know, closed-door conversation is not necessarily going to help them to that end.

So I do believe that they're going to try and shift the focus to Joe Biden as soon as possible. I mean, they've been spoiling for a fight with Joe Biden for quite some time now. They do believe that the situation in Iran really brings that into focus, particularly his vote to support the Iraq War and his mixed messaging surrounding that topic. They believe that Sanders has been consistent and that this is a winning issue for them.

But there's no doubt that M.J.'s reporting complicates that process for them, and it's going to be a difficult position that Sanders will find himself in to explain his version of exactly what happened in that conversation.

BERMAN: This is going to be something to watch tonight, for sure, not just the Sanders/Warren dynamic but also foreign policy in Iran, as Ryan was just saying.

M.J. Lee, Ryan Nobles, thank you very much. You can watch tonight's CNN/"Des Moines Register" Democratic debate at 9 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

CAMEROTA: All right. Will the public ever hear from President Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton? Well, there are new signs that enough Republicans may vote with Democrats to allow witnesses at the Senate impeachment trial. Those details next.

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[06:22:07]

CAMEROTA: Impeachment update. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will meet with her entire Democratic caucus less than three hours from now, 9 a.m. Eastern. CNN has learned that the speaker is expected to announce her impeachment managers for the Senate trial, and there could also be a vote on sending those impeachment articles over to the Senate.

Joining us now, CNN senior political analyst John Avlon; and CNN political commentator Joe Lockhart. He was President Clinton's White House press secretary during that impeachment.

John Avlon, the impasse appears to be breaking. Today, there's going to be movement. And we have heard from at least -- well, just four Republican senators have signaled by saying out loud, on camera, that they would like to hear from witnesses. They are open to hearing from witnesses. So that's also seems to be a break in what has been an impasse. JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Words are the new form

of signaling and that is a very big deal, because it's a four-person threshold that needs to be crossed. And there are even some potential folks who people think are likely, based on competitive swing state general elections coming up, that may be added to that. So that's a big deal, because you need at least four to say, look, you can't block witnesses, unlike every other Senate impeachment trial in American history, not just presidential but judicial and senatorial.

So the dam seems to possibly be breaking. Nancy Pelosi, I'm not quite sure what her gambit bought her but time, but that seems to be moving forward, as well. So the impeachment looks like it is on.

BERMAN: That we can all agree on. She's going to announce this, that we're going to see impeachment managers over the next two days and the Senate trial will begin.

I am going to take the under on the witnesses thing. Yes, we can put up those four senators again, the list that CNN has gathered, the four senators who say they are open to impeachment witnesses.

Look at the language there, Joe. I'm not bowled over by that. Being open to impeachment witnesses is different than saying, I will definitely vote for impeachment witnesses after we hear the opening statements. None of them, even Mitt Romney, is saying that right now.

LOCKHART: Yes, listen, I think you've got to put them in categories. I think Romney is independent enough to defy the president. Lamar Alexander is retiring. He's an institutionalist. He has no political pressure.

CAMEROTA: So then they're yeses?

BERMAN: They're open to it.

LOCKHART: Not necessarily.

CAMEROTA: Sort of in between.

LOCKHART: Yes. Right. But I would think that those two are more likely than the others.

You have to understand the dynamic, and I don't feel sorry for them, but they're in a tough spot. the rest of them. You know, Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, people who are up for reelection. Mitch McConnell has a lot of leverage on them. He can decide that the national money gets cut off. He can sit -- and I'm sure he's told Susan Collins, you need 10, 15 million dollars in the last two months, you better stick with me. If not, I'm going to tell the donors to put it someplace else.

So I think there's reason to be skeptical still that we'll go through this first part of the trial, and Republicans will -- it will be a little like Kavanaugh, where they will say, well, we thought we should have an investigation, but that's enough. Let's just -- let's just go vote. [06:25:08]

AVLON: Look, you know, you want steps towards accountability. Witnesses provide that. In both Maine and Alaska, independent voters are hugely powerful. And the question for the senators will be do we take the risk of doing the right thing and being rewarded by independent voters? Or are we partisan hacks and will risk their wrath?

BERMAN: What is it, 66 percent of Americans polling said they want to hear from John Bolton?

CAMEROTA: I think more.

AVLON: Seventy.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

AVLON: Seventy percent of Americans don't agree on apple pie and motherhood at this point.

LOCKHART: But if you look -- Take Susan Collins. If you look at Maine, she used to be elected by conservative Democrats and independents. She is so underwater with independents right now because of the Kavanaugh vote, there's a real question for her whether she can ever win them back.

BERMAN: But she needs every single Republican.

LOCKHART: Well, she -- That's absolutely right. She has never depended on the far-right wing in Maine, the Paul LePage voters. She -- that's the only certainty she has now.

So she -- she can't -- there's no good decision for her. And that's why there is -- I agree with both of you, but there's reason to be skeptical that this will actually happen.

BERMAN: Do you know what they're all going to love to see? Rudy Giuliani for the defense. Explain.

CAMEROTA: Well, let's go to our resident Rudy Giuliani expert.

AVLON: Yes, I have a Ph.D. in Rudy Giuliani.

CAMEROTA: I know you do. Rudy Giuliani is lobbying President Trump that he wants to be part of his impeachment team, his impeachment defense team. Rudy Giuliani is actually part of the controversy. He's one of the main players in the --

AVLON: Potentially --

CAMEROTA: -- in the controversy. So how does this work?

AVLON: It's not going to work. And it's not going to happen, and it's not a good idea, although it would make good performance art.

Look, I think you've got a bunch of real fundamental problems here, the most obvious of which is Rudy is involved with this.

Now, Rudy is trying to argue, Look, I know so much about the case. Therefore, I will be a great witness. The other thing is there may be some divisions within the president's defense team, White House counsel -- the White House counsel leading the effort might not want Rudy to play such a public role.

BERMAN: Might?

AVLON: I'm -- you know, I'm using the gentle understatement here, John. Look, sorry, this is not going to happen, but he is -- you know, he's lobbying for it effectively in public. But I think there are a bunch of reasons, a boatload of reasons why it's not going to happen.

CAMEROTA: But, like, lack of self-awareness, I mean, is that one of them?

AVLON: I -- Yes, that may fall into that category.

CAMEROTA: John Avlon, Joe Lockhart, thank you.

BERMAN: You're just reading between the lines.

CAMEROTA: I really am. That's what I do.

BERMAN: Reading between the lines.

CAMEROTA: OK?

BERMAN: All right. The Ukrainian gas company at the center of President Trump's impeachment scandal has been hacked by the Russians. What we know about what they were looking for and what they found out, next.

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