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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI); House Approves Sending Impeachment Articles to Senate. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired January 15, 2020 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:07]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: It is just a few yards, but perhaps the most important walk of the year is about to take place.

THE LEAD starts right now.

In just minutes, House impeachment managers will deliver the articles of impeachment to the U.S. Senate, and President Trump's trial for abusing his office and obstructing Congress will commence.

They were allegedly tracking her movements, possibly even discussing her demise. The House releasing new damning evidence against Rudy Giuliani and one of his henchman, as they allegedly plotted against the ousted Ukraine ambassador in various ways and much more.

Plus, a handshake snub after a heated exchange -- new information today on why Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, their friendly pact seems broken.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with the politics lead.

History today on Capitol Hill, with a whole new phase in the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump about to begin.

In the next hour, we expect to see a historic walk. The newly named House managers, the members of Congress who will prosecute the case against President Trump, will walk across the Capitol to notify the Senate that they are ready to deliver the articles of impeachment, kicking off the trial of President Trump.

As CNN's Sara Murray reports for us now, this is only the third such trial in the entire history of the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The president is not above the law. He has been impeached. He has been impeached forever. They can never erase that.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The final chapter of President Trump's impeachment begins today, as two articles of impeachment are set to be transmitted to the Senate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled seven impeachment managers, including intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler

PELOSI: The emphasis is on comfort level in the courtroom. The emphasis is making the strongest possible case to protect and defend our Constitution, to seek the truth for the American people.

MURRAY: After presenting the articles to the Senate tonight, the managers will act as the prosecutors for House Democrats, outlining for senators the case against President Trump for his role in the Ukraine scandal.

After that, the president's lawyers will have a chance to present their defense.

Ahead of the vote on House impeachment managers, Republicans let out wails of protest.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Back when this national nightmare began.

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): This impeachment process has been flawed from the outset. It resembles not a congressional action. It resembles more a Dr. Seuss book, knowing not which way it goes.

MURRAY: The White House press secretary unloaded on Pelosi in a statement, saying: "The speaker lied when she claimed this was urgent and vital to national security, because, when the articles passed, she held them for an entire month in an egregious effort to garner political support. She failed. And the naming of these managers does not change a single thing. President Trump has done nothing wrong."

Meantime, Pelosi suggested Trump's behavior, asking the Ukrainian president to do us a favor, looked like something from a mob boss.

PELOSI: Do me a favor? Do you paint houses too? What is this? Do me a favor.

MURRAY: As her fellow Democrats press the Senate for a legitimate trial.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): Any trial that does not allow witnesses is not a trial. It is a cover-up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, that Senate trial is expected to begin on Tuesday.

And, Jake, the big unanswered question still is whether senators are going to allow new evidence to be presented at that trial, including witnesses.

TAPPER: Sara Murray, thanks so much.

And in point of fact, obviously, President Trump said do us a favor, not do me a favor, but I appreciated the reference to "The Irishman."

Joining me now is Congressman Justin Amash, an independent, the only non-Democrat to vote in favor of sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate earlier today.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

There was discussion about you being an impeachment manager, considering your unique position as a former Republican.

Congressman Dean Phillips, a Democrat, said: "I'm disappointed that congressman Justin Amash is not among the managers. As an attorney, former Republican and the only independent member of the House of Representatives, he has articulated the constitutional rationale for impeachment as well as anyone in Congress, and his absence is a missed opportunity for a bipartisan management team."

Did Democratic leaders ever talk to you about possibly being an impeachment manager?

REP. JUSTIN AMASH (I-MI): Well, first, I appreciate the kind words from Dean.

But, no, I never was contacted by any of the Democratic leadership.

TAPPER: Would you have been one if they had asked?

AMASH: I would have had the conversation with the speaker if she wanted to have that discussion. And then we could have talked about the role and whether I would accept that role.

But, without that conversation, I couldn't say.

TAPPER: How strong do you think the case is against the president for removal from office in the Senate?

AMASH: I think it's a very strong case, if the senators are willing to listen.

So, we should have a Senate trial that is a full and fair trial. And people should be allowed to call witnesses. And I think both sides should be able to call witnesses and make the case for their side.

[16:05:08]

TAPPER: Do you think that both sides should be allowed to call witnesses, even if that were to include Republicans calling Joe Biden, Hunter Biden or the whistle-blower as witnesses?

AMASH: I think, if they feel a particular witness is relevant to the case, they should be allowed to call that witness.

Normally, in a court, you might have a judge who would make a determination about relevance. But, here, you're going to have the chief justice. I don't know that the chief justice is going to get really involved in that. But I do think that, if they can make the case that any of those

individuals is relevant to the case, they should be allowed to call those individuals.

TAPPER: I suppose they would make the argument that the whistle- blower obviously is the one that prompted all this and, in some cases, claims to have firsthand information, was never interviewed by the House, and that the Republicans making the argument that President Trump was really actually sincerely concerned about corruption in Ukraine, that Hunter Biden and Joe Biden and what happened in Ukraine or what didn't happen is relevant.

Would you vote for something like that, as long as other witnesses such as Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton, people from OMB were also called?

AMASH: I think, if they can make a credible claim that those are relevant witnesses, then, yes, I'd make that trade.

I'd be willing to accept some of those witnesses in exchange for people like Bolton and Mulvaney and others.

TAPPER: What do you make of your former Republican colleagues arguing that President Trump was sincerely deeply concerned about corruption in Ukraine?

AMASH: Well, there's no evidence of that.

I mean, Ukraine had received money previously. This seems like something that he brought up because we were in the midst of the start of a presidential election campaign, and he clearly wanted to go after Joe Biden.

And he was asking for a favor from Ukraine to help him personally.

TAPPER: When talking about the war powers resolution and the president not notifying Congress about Iran, you said something interesting to "Rolling Stone."

You said -- quote -- "On order nary legislative matters, most members of Congress don't think anymore. They just follow whatever they're told by their leadership."

Do you -- that's kind of a describing a mindless partisanship. Do you see it when it comes to impeachment? Do you see it on one side more than the other?

AMASH: I think it's worse on the Republican side, but I do see it on both sides.

I think that, if the roles were reversed, if you had a Democratic president, you would see a lot of Democrats, maybe not all the Democrats, but you would see a lot of Democrats defending the president.

So I do see this sort of mindlessness. And it's easy to say, well, if we were in charge, we wouldn't do the same thing, whether it's one side or the other. But I have been here for enough years to see that partisanship really runs rampant here on both sides.

TAPPER: I have to say, just as an American, just as somebody who wants to know what happened with this story, I find it incredible that there are people in Congress who don't want to hear from John Bolton, who don't want to hear from Lev Parnas, who don't want to find out what happened, whether it exonerates the president or not.

What do you say to your former Republican colleagues, still colleagues, but you're no longer a Republican, when they say they don't want that?

AMASH: Well, our job is to find truth for the American people. It's not to root for one side or the other. It's not to root for the president or for Republicans or for Democrats.

We're here to stand up for the American people and find truth and defend justice. And it's the job of our House members and also of the senators to go and do justice and impartial justice.

TAPPER: Is your job a lonely one these days, sir?

AMASH: In many respects, yes.

I mean, it's tough here, with all the partisanship that goes on. But I I'm happier now than I have ever been, as an independent, and I believe I'm doing the right thing, representing my district as an independent.

And I wish more members of Congress would do the same thing, follow the Constitution and represent their constituents.

TAPPER: Independent Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it, sir.

AMASH: Thanks, Jake. Appreciate it.

TAPPER: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she emphasized litigators and comfort in a courtroom when selecting the House impeachment managers, but another part of her selection may have an impact well after the Senate trial ends.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:13:36]

TAPPER: And we are back with the breaking news this afternoon.

The House of Representatives voted on a pretty much party-line vote to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate. But it is unclear how exactly that will go down tonight, when the impeachment managers, the Democrats, seven of them, walk over to the Senate side later this hour.

Senate Republicans are telling us that they are not going to officially accept the articles of impeachment. They will instead tell the managers, come back tomorrow. Then we will formerly receive them.

House Democrats are insisting they expect Republicans to accept the articles tonight.

Let's chew over all this.

I mean, this just really is so emblematic of where we are in terms of the Democrats and the Republicans. And they can't even agree to accept the articles of impeachment.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's silly.

And it, I think, defies the gravity of the moment. I mean, it really is -- you said earlier in your run-up that it really is a historic day, the third impeachment trial of a president of the United States.

And this is the type of thing that I think the public should expect that they could work out in a phone call beforehand.

TAPPER: And that's right. It's the third of -- the first was Andrew Johnson in 1868. Then we had to go all the way to 1999 for Bill Clinton.

Nixon was not actually impeached. He resigned before that could happen. Donald Trump today. It's very historical. It really does seem to bother the president -- and I can certainly understand why -- when Nancy Pelosi says -- and I think she's certainly trying to get under his skin -- this will never go away. This will be on -- this will -- you are forever impeached.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

[16:15:04]

And when the Chief Justice Roberts sits in the chair and says, at the end, he'll say before he bangs the gavel, the impeachment trial of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, he's hereby acquitted, bangs the gavel as well. The president gets to say that as well. So, everybody is going to say their piece.

TAPPER: Yes.

Listen to Speaker Pelosi, how she closed her remarks this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The president is not above the law. He will be held accountable. He has been held accountable. He has been impeached. He's been impeached forever. They could never erase that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Why do you think she keeps saying that? I mean, she's not wrong. It's true. Is it just because she knows the Senate will ultimately vote not to remove him from office? KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's unthinkable

that he won't be acquitted. And I think she says it because it's true. And she wants to point out the fact that this did happen and let's not forget it, and also gets under Trump's skin.

That he really -- first of all, she drives him crazy. She is living rent-free in his head all the time, and so, I know that she knows that she gets under his skin. And so, I think that she wants to just keep repeating this as often as possible so that everybody understands that this is an impeached president.

TAPPER: Yes.

URBAN: But it is last big day, right? So, you know, Chris Cillizza had an article out yesterday or today, I can't -- it was like, she misjudged, she overplayed her hand, right? So, it's her last big day. She transmits the articles and then the Senate takes over.

So, it's her last hoorah to kind of get into the president's head as Kirsten points out.

TAPPER: Yes, I mean, I do think that that's up for debate, because if ultimately the last, whatever it was, 28 days of holding it up did put enough attention on Republican senators and the question of whether or not they will allow witnesses, and we have no idea how that's going to shake out, but if ultimately, Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, et cetera, during that four weeks were like, yes, maybe I need to do the witnesses thing, then maybe she didn't overplay the hands.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: We could have wrapped this up overnight and this thing could have gone away. We had a national conversation about the wisdom of calling witnesses, and the last thing on earth, Jake, that Susan Collins and Cory Gardner and Joni Ernst and senator -- and Mitt Romney and senators who are either in tough races or in sort of purple states want to do is to be on the record casting a vote to say they don't want witnesses, and, you know, had we moved straight to the impeachment trial that would not have happened.

So, this is still an open question, and frankly, what you are going to see, I think, is some deal on witnesses, and in some way down the road just so those are Republicans don't have to cast that vote.

TAPPER: In Mitt Romney's defense, he's neither up for re-election or in a purple state, he just --

WILLIAMS: He's Mitt Romney.

TAPPER: He's Mitt Romney and --

POWERS: Plus, there's more information that's come out which we're going to talk about later in the show.

TAPPER: Yes, absolutely.

POWERS: So, now they are going into this with more information and with having had a conversation where the majority of the public thinks that we should have witnesses.

TAPPER: And, Carrie, let's go over quickly who is the House impeachment managers will be. There are seven of them -- Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, Hakeem Jeffries, Jason Crow, I believe he's a freshman, Val Demings, Zoe Lofgren, who was there for the impeachment of Clinton and the near impeachment of Richard Nixon as a staffer, and finally, Sylvia Garcia. It's a diverse group in a lot of ways. It's also a geographic diversity to them. They come from New York, Florida, Texas, Colorado and California.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's right. And I think the most significant selection is Chairman Schiff, because he has experience in being an impeachment manager because he was a former prosecutor because he conducted effective hearings for the witnesses under the House Intelligence Committee.

As someone who studies the House Intelligence Committee, I did not love the idea of the Intelligence Committee being the public face and the venue through which impeachment hearings were conducted, but I understand why Chairman Schiff had to take them on given the intelligence-related collections and the national security implications of the Ukraine allegations.

TAPPER: Just take a listen to on of the impeachment manager, Jerry Nadler, talking about the case for witnesses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): If the Senate does not permit introduction of all relevant witnesses and of all documents that the House wants to introduce because the House is the prosecutor here, then the Senate is engaging in an unconstitutional and disgusting cover-up. The Senate is on trial as well as the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: What do you make of that, David?

URBAN: So, look, Jake, I worked in the Senate in the last impeachment trial, and I worked for -- I was Senator Specter's chief of staff --

TAPPER: And the Scottish law thing was your idea, right?

URBAN: Exactly. No, it was not my idea.

I can tell you that the gravity, it will -- it does settle in when the senators go to take their oath and sit in those seats. So it is going to weigh in, but there is going to be a robust debate as to the witnesses. During the Clinton impeachment, there was incredibly robust exchange about who they were going to call, what they're going to call, how long it was going to last, what this burden of proof is for removing the president, right? What is the burden of proof? What do senators determine? Is that a preponderance of the evidence? Is it beyond a reasonable doubt? I mean, there are a lot of different questions. WILLIAMS: The big difference, David, in 1999, was that Lott and

Daschle, the leaders of the Senate, met the night or spoke on the phone the night the House passed impeachment and worked this all out.

[16:20:07]

So, you don't have that here.

TAPPER: Yes.

WILLIAMS: I think it's much more of the food fight on the floor of the Senate not similar to 1999.

TAPPER: The McConnell-Schumer relationship is not there, shall we say.

URBAN: The lack of comity across all of them.

TAPPER: Totally, and preceding this.

Stay here. We've got more to talk about.

Coming up next, a new evidence of a potential sinister plot involving Rudy Giuliani, Ukraine, how it may only add to the push for witnesses and documents in the upcoming impeachment trial.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:25:26]

TAPPER: Stunning new documents, letters, text messages in our politics lead, providing more possible, possible evidence that in the midst of his push to dig up dirt however accurate about Joe and Hunter Biden, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani pushed to meet with the Ukrainian president with President Trump's permission.

Handwritten notes by his since indicted associate Lev Parnas detailed the urgency of their campaign to convince the Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens.

The texts also feature a Republican congressional candidate discussing how the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was seemingly under surveillance and making a vague, threatening comment about the price to handle her, comments that that congressional candidate is now on Twitter describing as, quote, texts to my buddies and I wrote to some dweeb we were playing with that we met a few times while we had a drinks, unquote.

Though, the ambassador Marie Yovanovitch has called the texts disturbing and is asking for an investigation as CNN's Alex Marquardt reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The trove of explosive new evidence reveals a deeper, darker role that Rudy Giuliani and his team played in Ukraine for President Trump, handwritten notes, text messages and letters handed over by Giuliani's associate Lev Parnas who is now under federal indictment allegedly show a more sinister effort to get dirt on Joe Biden and exert power in Ukraine. The House Democrats are hoping the documents will be used in the impeachment trial, and they say it may just be a glimpse of what is out there.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We have only obtained a small sample of the universe of documents that the president is withholding.

MARQUARDT: On a hotel note pad, Parnas scribbled, get President Zelensky to announce that the Biden case will be investigated. Giuliani who is accused of leading an irregular channel with Ukraine was also reaching out to the new Ukrainian president himself. This newly released letter from Giuliani requesting a meeting, quote, in my capacity as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent.

SCHIFF: There is no fobbing this off on others. The president is the architect of this scheme.

MARQUARDT: Part of that scheme, Democrats say, was Giuliani's drive to get U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch removed. Disturbing, angry and vitriolic text messages now show Parnas in touch with Robert Hyde, a Republican congressional candidate in Connecticut, who suggests there is surveillance of the ambassador, they are moving her tomorrow, Hyde says on March 25. She's next to the embassy, he says later.

Hyde also appears to offer Parnas something nefarious and people who are willing to help and yes, you can do anything in Ukraine with money.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUARDT: Now, Robert Hyde has come out swinging on Twitter, denying he was ever in Kiev, claiming he was only playing with Parnas. Now, Hyde says he welcomes an investigation but adds that he's not been contacted by investigators.

Jake, one law enforcement official has told CNN that the FBI and federal prosecutors are indeed looking into Hyde's role in Ukraine -- Jake.

TAPPER: Alex Marquardt, thanks so much.

Let's chat about this.

So, let me start with you, Elliot, because in his letter to President Zelensky, this is turned over by Lev Parnas, Giuliani emphasizes, quote: I'm a private counsel to President Donald J. Trump. Just to be precise, I represent him as a private citizen, not as president of the United States. But later in the same later, he writes, in my capacity as personal counsel to President Trump, and with his knowledge and consent, I request a meeting with you.

WILLIAMS: OK. They're trying to have it both ways. They've tried to have it both ways from the beginning. Either Rudy Giuliani is an arm of the State Department or he's the president's private attorney. There is no universe --

TAPPER: He has said both. He has said he's both.

WILLIAMS: Right. And here's the thing, we want to -- we are -- three of us who are attorneys here, we want to encourage the proper exercise of the attorney/client privilege for things that are between an attorney and their client, not on domestic political errands that Rudy Giuliani was on now.

And what they're trying to do is using attorney/client privilege as sort of this sword for misconduct, and it's not appropriate. It carries both legal and ethical implications. And what do you expect at this point?

POWERS: But it's also -- I mean, they are not doing it for legal reasons. They are doing it just for legal reason, they are doing it because they trying to pretend --

WILLIAMS: Oh, yes.

POWERS: -- that this was just foreign policy, right, when in fact the problem with it is that it wasn't foreign policy. It was not the foreign policy of the United States to be withholding this aid and this was done in furtherance of Donald Trump's personal interests and the political interests. In that letter, that is what he is saying, and he is saying in his personal interests and in his capacity as his personal lawyer.

TAPPER: And wants a meeting with the president of Ukraine.

POWERS: Yes, so completely undermines their argument.

WILLIAMS: I can't say, look, I'm your attorney, hey, let's go kill somebody. Oh, it's attorney-client privilege, sorry, we can't talk about it. That's just --

[16:30:00]