Return to Transcripts main page


Final Debate Before Iowa Caucuses; Sanders and Warren Clash; Russians Hack Burisma; Trump may Invoke Executive Privilege. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired January 14, 2020 - 07:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say is ultimately what they do, then there will be votes for witnesses.


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY.

Tonight, six of the remaining 12 Democrats will take the stage for the final debate before the Iowa caucuses. And for three of them, this is likely the last chance they have to make their case to Iowa voters in person because they will be jurors in the Senate impeachment trial.

So this high stakes face-off comes amid a very public feud between the two leading progressives, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders. Warren tells CNN that back in 2018 Sanders told her that he didn't believe a woman could win the 2020 election. Sanders denies having said that.

Foreign policy is also likely to be a big focus for the first time now that the White House has taken the U.S. to the brink of war, or at least high tensions with Iran.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will meet with the Democratic caucus. Several House Democrats tell CNN they expect her to announce who will serve as impeachment managers. These are the people that will prosecute the president in the Senate. There could be a vote to send the impeachment articles to the Senate on Wednesday. That would be actually approving the impeachment managers.

Four Republican senators are now signaling a willingness to consider witnesses, including former National Security Adviser John Bolton, but that decision will not be made or even addressed until after the opening arguments in the Senate trial.

Joining us now -- this is you, OK.

CAMEROTA: No, no, I want to hear you do it. BERMAN: Joining us now, CNN political correspondent MJ Lee, CNN

political commentator Andrew Gillum, he's the former mayor of Tallahassee and a former Democratic nominee for governor of Florida, and CNN political analyst Alex Burns, he is a national political correspondent for "The New York Times."

CAMEROTA: You did it so much better than I could have. It was so good.

BERMAN: OK, I did it -- I did it well. You don't have to go that far.

CAMEROTA: It was excellent.

Mayor Gillum, tell us, since you are standing there in front of the debate stage, what we should be expecting tonight or what you're looking for.

ANDREW GILLUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, good morning both to John and Alisyn and my co-panelists here.

One, you probably can't tell it from where you are, but we're actually in a pretty intimate space. It's a pretty small room that we're in. The debate podiums are quite close in proximity. And given all of the tensions leading up to tonight's debate, it's going to be very, very hard to escape whatever energy any of the campaigns, the candidates in the room is offering between each other.

My hope is, however, that this scuffle between Senator Warren and Senator Sanders is able to be put to rest one way or another. I believe that we've had, for the most part of the year a really high level of debate, discussion on the Democratic side, and I hope that in 20 days before the first election is done in this primary, that we don't devolve off course. Let's keep this conversation about the voters and what it is that we're going to do to make their lives better.

I think hopefully that will happen, but we're going to have to get through some of this first.

BERMAN: An intimate space isn't always the kind of space you want when there is tension like we are having right now.

GILLUM: Yes. Right. I know.

BERMAN: And MJ Lee is the one who broke the story on this tension. It has to do with a meeting between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren that happened in 2018 where initially sources told MJ, and I'm putting words in your mouth and you're right here, that Bernie Sanders told Senator Warren that a female candidate couldn't win.

This escalated astronomically after your reporting, MJ. Where are we now and what's the significance as we head into this intimate space tonight?

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, to, you know, recap, you can do the math on the timing of when this meeting happened. Again, this would have been when both senators in December of 2018 were thinking about launching their 2020 campaigns and our original reporting was that both Senator Sanders and Warren had a discussion and were in agreement that were they to ultimately face one another as 2020 candidates, that they wanted to remain civil, that they did not want to attack one another so as not to undermine the progressive movement.

And one of the topics that came up was how they saw sort of the path to beating Donald Trump. And when Senator Warren, according to our sources, said to Bernie Sanders that she thought she could run on the economy and gain support from women across the country, that Sanders' response was that he doesn't think a woman could win.

Now, our original story included pushback -- very strong push back from Senator Sanders saying the characterization in this story was ludicrous, that he essentially did not say what the story said he said, which then prompted Senator Warren to put out an on the record statement of her own.


Again, I think this is such a giant moment in this campaign because these two friends and colleagues who, for a long time, have maintained pretty good relationship, even as they have been rivals in the race, they are now feuding and openly disagreeing on the issue and the very sensitive issue, I should say, of gender.

Now, do I think that the two of them are interested in prolonging this and particularly on the debate stage? I really do not. I do not think that they want this to overtake the debate. I think they probably are going into tonight thinking about sideways to keep that topic pretty contained so that they can talk about the other issues that they want to talk about. And, again, because it is important for them, I think still now to maintain sort of that look of civility, even if they have now both publicly said that their accounts of that meeting are different.

CAMEROTA: Yes, in fact, Bernie Sanders senior campaign adviser, Jeff Weaver, was on Chris Cuomo's show last night doing more damage control about this.

So listen to him.


JEFF WEAVER, SANDERS CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: There's some wires crossed here, but clearly Bernie Sanders did not say that a woman could not win.

I think their wires are crossed. I think it was a discussion about Trump, misogyny, sexism in politics and the difficulty of running in the era of Trump with women, the special challenges that women face in the era of Trump, but, you know, those conversations can sometimes get misconstrued, Chris.


CAMEROTA: Alex, where are we with this? Is it over?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I don't know if it's over. I think MJ's absolutely right, that even last night you saw people in both camps, particularly the Sanders camp, trying to turn the focus away from this and back towards what they want to talk about in this debate to begin with, which, on the Sanders side, is Joe Biden and the war in Iraq.

But I think Jeff Weaver's word choice there is really interesting, right, to say that things can be misconstrued, even in that first very, very forceful statement that was issued for MJ's story.

You did have the Sanders campaign acknowledging that Sanders addressed sexism as a force in the 2020 election and predicting that Trump would weaponize forces like sexism. That's a long way from confirming the same account that Warren offered, but clearly there's -- it's not as though the Sanders campaign is saying nothing remotely covering this subject was ever addressed in that meeting, right?

I think that tonight is probably going to be an interesting challenge, not just for the candidates, but for the mooed raters. This isn't an interview, so it's not as though you necessarily have the luxury of doing six rounds of sort of factual inquiry about what did and did not happen in this meeting. So it's really on Warren and Sanders to decide for themselves, I think particularly Sanders because of just how hot his response to this was yesterday, his campaign manager going out and saying, you know, if Elizabeth Warren were telling -- were to come forward and tell the truth, she would say that all of this is lies. That is not what Elizabeth Warren did. It's really on the two of them to decide how much they are open to prolonging this and how much they are both going to sort of say their peace and then pivot away.

BERMAN: And, look, it's also not in a vacuum either. It has to do with some tension that still exists from 2016 and the Sanders campaign in accusations that were made.

CAMEROTA: And even before this --


CAMEROTA: The tension between them was ratcheting up yesterday and the day before.

I do think, though, it's interesting, Mayor Gillum, that the name that's not in the Sanders/Warren discussion is Joe Biden, who is right up there in the polls, if not leading in the polls.

What does he need to do tonight? How should he approach this? There's that tension between the progressives and there's also all these new questions about foreign policy following the U.S. strike that killed the Iranian general.

GILLUM: Yes, you know, Vice President Biden has really been able to ride out of sight on this one and, frankly, he's good to do it. As was mentioned before, I don't think it benefits Warren or Sanders to go any deeper here. Clarify it and move on. For Joe Biden, this could be a really strong night for him. Given all

that has taken place in the world, the country, the world is on edge. Donald Trump has pretty much walked us up to the brink of war and thankfully -- and we're all hopeful that we're in a moment of de- escalation. But at this moment, I think Americans are going to want to see some stability. They want to be reassured that we will have a commander in chief who is stable, who will considerate at any point that American lives are at stake and that you, as the president, can put American lives at stake, that it will be the most sobering decision that a president of the United States will make.

I think Joe Biden will be on strong footing to make that case. But he won't be alone in this conversation because you'll also have, you know, Bernie Sanders, who will basically say, look, going back to the last wars of these decades, I've been against them. I've warned against moving into these incursions. That they cost a great deal of money, a great deal of lives, and take us off the focus of the American people.

And so there will be some differences in position around foreign policy.


But I do think tonight will potentially present as a strong evening for Vice President Biden to show his bona fides on the global stage as a stable hand who understands the world, who understands these global leaders and who will be somebody who is stable enough not to move this country and the world into another war, quite frankly, over a personal beef.

CAMEROTA: And then, of course, impeachment, which is heating up, the impasse appears to be breaking in terms of the Senate trial.

And, MJ, some of these candidates are also going to be jurors in the Senate trial.

LEE: That's right. We have a couple of senators who are going to have to juggle their schedules in a way that they never would have expected when they initially got into this race, right? We are now three weeks away from the Iowa caucuses and for these candidates like Elizabeth Warren, like Amy Klobuchar, like Bernie Sanders, they are now confronting the reality that at one of the most important moments in the race for them, what they really need to be out there knocking on as many doors as possible, shaking as many hands as possible, they have to focus on their day jobs, and that is to be in the Senate participating in the Senate impeachment trial.

And that really is just something that throws a wrench into their final stretch of campaigning. It does not allow them the flexibility and the time and space to make that final push and make that final argument in Iowa the way that they would like to. And I think what will be really interesting is to see how they adjust their campaign strategies in these final weeks to make up for the fact that they can't be there out on the ground. BERMAN: Alex, I want to give you the last chance to say what you are

looking for -- what else you're looking for on the debate stage tonight.

BURNS: Look, I think that, as Mayor Gillum was saying, it's a big test and opportunity for Joe Biden. I think the foreign policy conversation is not just important because he needs to sort of project that strength and stability and defend his record in Iraq, I think it's part of the electability test that Democrats are applying to all the candidates in this election. They are going to want to know what Joe Biden will say when Donald Trump comes after him for the Iraq War, which he certainly will. Democrats remember that Trump did that to Hillary Clinton over and over in 2016.

I think that we shouldn't lose sight of Mayor Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, particularly in this conversation, because, look, it's clear that there is a national favorite from the moderate lane. We have not seen the moderate Democrats in this race really get into it with each other --

BERMAN: At all.

BURNS: At all in the months and months and months, really since Michael Bennet dropped off the debate stage. He got into it a little bit with Joe Biden at the start. So if you're Pete Buttigieg, you have gotten where you are mostly by going after the left. I don't know that there's a path from here to the nomination that doesn't run through Joe Biden and the bet that Joe Biden is going to collapse on his own has not paid off for anybody.

CAMEROTA: Alex, MJ, Mayor, thank you all very much.

You can watch tonight's CNN/"Des Moines Register" Democratic debate at 9:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

BERMAN: New this morning, CNN has learned that Russian military hackers successfully infiltrated Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company at the center of President Trump's impeachment trial.

CNN's Brian Fung joins us now live from Washington with the details.

This looks very similar to the attacks on the DNC and the Clinton campaign, Brian.

BRIAN FUNG, CNN TECH REPORTER: That's right. This may be the very first time we get a glimpse of Russia's 2020 playbook here. You know, the attack, say, according to analysts, the online security firm Area One began in November when Russian military intelligence, or the GRU, set up a network of fake websites designed to lure Burisma employees into giving up their email credentials.

Now, as I said, this began in November when the impeachment proceedings were just ramping up and the attack succeeded, according to Area One, meaning that the Russian hackers gained access into the internal communications networks of Burisma. It's not clear what the Russians may have wanted with that access, nor is it clear how deeply Burisma may have been compromised. But Area One says it's monitoring of the Internet for these types of attacks gives it a high degree of confidence that Russia was behind the attack on Burisma. It's calling it a cookie cutter version of what played out in 2016.

Let me read to you a snippet of the report that Area One put out yesterday. It said, the timing of the GRU's campaign in relation to the 2020 U.S. elections raises the specter that this is an early warning of what we have anticipated since the successful cyber-attacks undertaken during the 2016 U.S. elections.

Now, we spoke to the CEO of Area One who said, you know, his analysis and his company's analysis of what went on with Burisma looks like and carries all the hallmarks of the 2016 attacks on the DNC.


BERMAN: Very similar indeed.


Brian Fung, thanks so much for being with us.

FUNG: My pleasure.

BERMAN: So will lawmakers get to question President Trump's former National Security Adviser John Bolton? We've been looking at the numbers. But even if they want it, what are the legal hurdles they still might have to jump over to get that testimony? What you need to know, next.


BERMAN: So at least four Republican senators now say they are open to hearing from witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial, but they won't decide until after opening arguments are made. So what happens if John Bolton is subpoenaed or asked to testify and President Trump invokes executive privilege?

Joining me now is CNN legal analyst Ross Garber, he's an impeachment law professor.

And, Ross, I have never been more excited and happy to see you because I do not think people understand the legal and constitutional twilight zone we are about to enter.


So work with me here on this scenario.

If 51 senators say they want to hear from John Bolton, if John Bolton says he wants to testify but the White House then tries to exert executive privilege, what happens?

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, so this is -- I agree, this is absolutely fascinating. And so a couple of sort of big, preliminary things. And one big, preliminary thing is to keep in mind that the Senate has no more power to force somebody to come in and testify than does the House.

Now, you teed it up in an interesting way is, what if Bolton wants to come in and testify? Well, we don't know yet that he actually wants to come in and testify. What he has said is if he's subpoenaed he will come and testify.

And there are really three hurdles we have to focus on. One is, will the Senate issue a subpoena? That's sort of the, does the Senate want to hear from him? Do they think they need to hear from him? Then second, is he immune from a subpoena? And that's the argument that was made in the McGahn case, that you can't force him to come.

Now, assuming you clear those two, which it may be that they can clear because Bolton has said he'd show up, the third question, which is the interesting one, I think most interesting, is, does executive privilege apply? And that means once you want him there, once he's there, will he actually answer questions? And in the Senate, unlike in the House Intelligence Committee, the president's lawyers can object based on executive privilege, and that's where it gets interesting.

BERMAN: It gets really interesting because who gets to determine the validity of the objection? Ultimately, 51 senators can decide anything they want in an impeachment trial, correct?

GARBER: Yes. So -- that is true. And executive privilege is particularly interesting for folks like you and me and the people watching because the Supreme Court has said that executive privilege exists, it's real, but they haven't defined the exact parameters of it. For example, does it even apply in an impeachment trial? And what the Supreme Court has said about it is that it's a balancing test. On the one hand they look at the interests that are at stake in having the testimony. And here, in a Senate impeachment trial, those would seem to be incredibly strong in favor of the Senate, favor of testifying, balanced against the interests at stake in maintaining the privilege, which, according to the Supreme Court's test, also seem to be very strong because they involve national security and military and diplomacy issues.

And you're exactly right. So the senators get to decide, but first -- actually, the chief justice gets a crack at it. The chief justice gets to decide whether he wants to decide the issue himself or he wants to give it to the senators for a vote.

BERMAN: Yes. I will say, though --

GARBER: And if he decides --

BERMAN: The chief justice is deciding not as the chief justice of the United States and the head of the judicial branch, he's deciding as the presiding officer in the Senate. It doesn't carry the same weight as a judicial ruling. And, by the way, the judiciary has no constitutional role whatsoever in an impeachment hearing, which brings me back, and this is circular here --

GARBER: Exactly. BERMAN: If 51 senators want to hear from John Bolton and John Bolton wants to answer questions, is there any authority on earth that can keep it from happening?

GARBER: So the answer is -- probably the answer is no, although we are in uncharted territory because, you know, the president could try a last ditch effort to go to court on this. And, you know, this -- this gets very, very complicated very, very fast. I think as a practical matter, if the president and Mitch McConnell don't have the votes to prevent his testimony entirely, look for them to potentially cut a deal, you know, that involves getting his information without having him to testify, answering written questions, something like that.

But I think, you know, right now my prediction is still it's unlikely we're going to see John Bolton testify just because of all those hurdles, but you're exactly right, this really is up to the senators.

BERMAN: Watch the number 51 and we are very much in the twilight zone.

Ross Garber, great to have you on. Thanks so much for helping us understand.

GARBER: Always good.

CAMEROTA: All right, John, tonight is the final showdown before the Iowa caucuses, but two of the top Democrats are already battling it out. We have a live preview from Des Moines, next.



CAMEROTA: We are hours away from the Democratic debate before the Iowa caucuses. So that's tonight, six of the 12 remaining candidates will face off in Des Moines. There is the stage.

What should we all be watching for?

CNN's Ryan Nobles is live at the debate site in Iowa with a preview.

So a lot's happened in the past 24 hours and we will see that dynamic play out, I assume.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alisyn, I think you're right and I think the first thing a lot of people are going to be looking for is for Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to explain their version of exactly what happened in this phone conversation back in 2018 after our MJ Lee broke that at least Elizabeth Warren's recollection of what happened in that conversation was that Bernie Sanders told her he did not think that a woman could win in 2020.

Now, this is something the Sanders campaign is pushing back against in a big way. Sanders himself in a statement calling it ludicrous and then last night Jeff Weaver, one of his senior advisers, told Chris Cuomo this.

Take a listen.


JEFF WEAVER, SENIOR ADVISER, SANDERS CAMPAIGN: There's some wires crossed here, but clearly Bernie Sanders did not say that a woman could not win.

I think their wires are crossed. I think it was a discussion about Trump, misogyny, sexism in politics and the difficulty of running in the era of Trump for women, the special challenges that women face in the ear of Trump. But, you know, those conversations can sometimes get misconstrued, Chris.



NOBLES: So the wires may be crossed here, but Warren was very clear in a statement last night where she said that