Return to Transcripts main page


Democratic Candidates Face Off In Final Debate Before Iowa Caucuses; House Dems Release New Docs on Eve of Impeachment Trial. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 15, 2020 - 05:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: From Des Moines, Iowa, the final debate for Iowans' caucus just 20 days from now.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's incomprehensible that I would think that a woman could not be president of the United States.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I disagree. I am not here to fight with Bernie.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My record overall, I'm prepared to compare it to anybody's on this stage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: House Democrats unveiling new documents about President Trump's pressure campaign in Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They include the previously undisclosed letter from Giuliani to President Zelensky making clear he wants a meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have impeachment articles being sent over. There is an incredibly important moment for our country.

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


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good early morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, January 15th, 5:00 in the East.

BERMAN: Five o'clock. Do not adjust your --

CAMEROTA: Your sets.


CAMEROTA: We're really here. This is live. This is a special edition of NEW DAY. And if you're just waking up, we have a lot to fill you in on.

Last night's debate saw six Democratic rivals sparring in Des Moines.


It is less than three weeks now until the Iowa caucuses. But it was this moment --


CAMEROTA: After the debate --

BERMAN: Denied --

CAMEROTA: -- that has people talking this morning. That's Senator Elizabeth Warren refusing to shake Bernie Sanders' hand. And then Tom Steyer wanders into the awkward moment.

What did he hear them saying to each other? We'll ask him when he's on "new day" this morning.

Of course, there were other key moments for all of the candidates. We'll discuss whether this substance-heavy debate moved the needle for any of them.

BERMAN: Meanwhile, major historic developments in Washington.

Later this morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will announce the impeachment managers, these are the House members who will prosecute the president in the Senate trial which we just learned will begin in earnest next Tuesday.

And there's surprising new information in the case. Dozens of pages of new evidence just released that paint a dark picture of the activities of associates of Rudy Giuliani. From Giuliani himself, what appears to be a letter requesting a meeting with Ukraine's president, to conduct the president's personal business, not America's. There's a handwritten note apparently from indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas about getting Ukraine's president to announce an investigation of the Bidens.

And most bizarre and perhaps most concerning, new questions about the safety of ousted Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. She's calling for an investigation after the release of text messages between Parnas and his Republican congressional candidate seen here with President Trump. And these texts subject some surveillance schedule of the ambassador.

We don't know if it's connected. But remember, the president later said that she would, quote, go through some things.

There is so much to get to on this historic day. Let's begin with the debate aftermath.

CNN's Ryan Nobles live in the empty debate hall in Des Moines, Iowa -- Ryan.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: We're actually in a coffee shop nearby, John.

Yes. A lot of people clearing out of Des Moines for good reason. Half the candidates on that stage will have to head back to Washington to serve as jurors in the upcoming Senate impeachment trial. That made the stakes last night here in Des Moines huge.

But despite that fact, this debate turned out to be heavy on policy and for the most part, light on fireworks.



NOBLES (voice-over): A tense ending to the Democratic debate when Senator Elizabeth Warren declined to shake Senator Bernie Sanders' hand after the two sparred about whether Sanders made a sexist comment to her.

WARREN: I disagreed. Bernie is my friend, and I am not here to try to fight with Bernie.

NOBLES: Warren standing by CNN's reporting that Sanders told her in a closed door meeting in 2018 that a woman could not win against President Trump in 2020. A claim he vehemently denied.

SANDERS: I didn't say it. Anybody knows me knows that it's incomprehensible that I would think that a woman could not be president of the United States.

NOBLES: But despite their stories not matching up, Warren used the opportunity to insist that a woman's time in the White House has come.

WARREN: Can a woman beat Donald Trump? Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost ten elections.

The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they've been in are the women.

NOBLES: Sanders wasn't interested in a squabble with Warren. Instead, he focused on President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Sanders and Biden drew sharp lines about their stances on trade, the economy, and war, with Sanders accusing Biden of having bad judgment when he voted in favor of the war in Iraq.

SANDERS: Joe and I listened to what Dick Cheney and George Bush and Rumsfeld had to say. I thought they were lying. I didn't believe them for a moment. I took to the floor, I did everything I could to prevent that war.

Joe saw it differently.

NOBLES: Biden defended his record, arguing his experience matters.

BIDEN: It was a mistaken vote. I think my record overall on everything we've done has been -- I'm prepared to compare it to anybody's on this stage.

NOBLES: Sanders also said he made a mistake in supporting the war in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, on health care, Warren, a supporter of Medicare-for-All,

making the case that Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and Senator Amy Klobuchar aren't thinking big enough.

WARREN: The problem is that plans like the mayor's and the vice president's is they are an improvement, they are an improvement over where we are now. But they're a small improvement.

NOBLES: A claim Buttigieg rejected.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's just not true that the plan I'm proposing is small. We've got to move past a Washington mentality that suggests at that bigness of plans only consists of how many trillions of dollars they put through the treasury. That the boldness of a plan only consists of how many Americans it can alienate.

NOBLES: Klobuchar accused Warren of a plan with numbers that don't add up.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't buy that it's not enough -- it is a big, big step to say to people making $100,000 a year that your premiums will cut -- be cut in half, which is what the nonprofit public option will do.


And as you talked, Mayor Buttigieg, about Medicare and having negotiation, I actually have led that bill for years.

NOBLES: And billionaire Tom Steyer made the case that he is about more than just his money.

TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Whoever is going to beat Mr. Trump is going to have to beat him on the economy. And I have the experience and the expertise to show that she's a fake there and a fraud.


NOBLES: And now, there are just 19 days to go before voters here in Iowa attend their caucuses and pick their choice for president of the United States. But there's a good chance that this race takes a back seat as the focus now shifts to Washington and the impeachment trial of President Trump.

CAMEROTA: OK, Ryan. We'll get more analysis from you coming up. Thank you very much.

So, who were the winners and losers from last night's debate? We have that next.


[05:10:09] CAMEROTA: Six of the Democratic candidates went head to head last night in Iowa, but this is the moment -- you're about to see -- that got the most attention. That's Senator Elizabeth Warren refusing Bernie Sanders' attempt to shake her hand. This is after the debate.

The two progressives continued to spar over her claim that he said a woman cannot win this presidential election.

Back with us, Ryan Nobles. Also joining us, CNN political analyst Elaina Plott. She's a national political reporter for "The New York Times."

So, Ryan, that in a moment that is getting so much attention that we see there, I am a body language expert as John can tell you --

BERMAN: Among other things.

CAMEROTA: Among many other expertise -- they're not burying the hatchet, I guess, right? Is that what that moment tells us?

NOBLES: Yes, I don't want to make too much out of this back and forth. But it certainly impossible to ignore what you saw there in the interaction between the two of them. It's almost as if we have another private conversation that we're going to try and figure out exactly what was discussed between those two candidates because there clearly is a bit of animosity between the two about the way the process has played out.

I know from my perspective covering the Sanders campaign, they were not interested in engaging in this topic at all. They didn't even respond to a request as to exactly what was said between the two of them here. But I think it represents a broader issue at stage as this race moves forward.

I don't think anymore you're going to see either campaign be unwilling to draw sharp distinctions between each other as this campaign moves forward. Essentially the ice has been broken in terms of this nonaggression pact that they had at one point. And now, I wonder if in now shifts to conversations about substantive policy decisions.

You know, even though, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are like minded on a lot of issues, there's a lot of differences. For instance, Medicare for All. They see the way Medicare for All should be implemented very differently. Perhaps now we'll see them draw those distinctions on the campaign trail.

BERMAN: You know, it's interesting, Elaina, I think both campaigns came out of this debate thinking that they did fine on what could have been the most tense moment and awkward exchange. Well, how can that be? It might be because Elizabeth Warren's not making a play for Bernie Sanders voters with all this. What she's doing is trying to turn this into an electability argument. We heard her do that explicit and make a play for suburban moms, to some different supporters who aren't necessarily in the Bernie camp.

How do you see it? ELAINA PLOTT, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that's exactly right, John, because when you think of it in such a way that Elizabeth Warren going against Bernie Sanders exclusively for the share of voters that they're probably already tussling over anyway, it's in many ways a zero-sum game. If Elizabeth Warren is to advance in the way she hopes to in places like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, she has to broaden her appeal to different parts of the electorate.

And I do think that's why that she, you know, she was clearly not interested in escalating that conversation last night. As Ryan put it, Bernie wasn't either. She very well could have belabored that but immediately broadened it to say she was one of the only candidates up there, perhaps disingenuously, that had beaten a Republican incumbent in 30 years.

To make that point, I do think it was one of the more powerful moments in a debate that overall, John, I thought saw a lot of the candidates just trying ton make a mistake rather than really put themselves out there in a powerful way.

CAMEROTA: That is interesting.

Let's watch this other moment where Elizabeth Warren talked about whether a woman can win this year. She brought in Amy Klobuchar into the conversation. So watch this moment that's also getting attention.


WARREN: Can a woman beat Donald Trump? Look at the men on this stage. Collectively they have lost ten elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they've been in are the women. Amy and me.


KLOBUCHAR: When you look at what I have done, I have won every race, every place, every time.


KLOBUCHAR: Every single person that I have beaten, my Republican opponents have gotten out of politics for good. And I think -- I think that sounds pretty good. I think that sounds pretty good with the guy we have in the White House right now.


BERMAN: She didn't just beat them. They left the business altogether.

CAMEROTA: That's right. She scared them out of the business.

Elaina, those were -- those were compelling points that they made.

PLOTT: Absolutely. I do think that we're showing here moments that truly made an impact. But you know, last time I came on, sat in New York, we talked about winners and losers. I felt there were clear answers for both.

I'm not sure, though, overall that I saw a winner of this debate at all. As I said, you almost felt the at anxiety percolating on that stage with just, you know, so few days until the Iowa caucuses that people were so afraid of messing up rather than kind of launching the offensive that could really make them stand out.


BERMAN: Like the World Cup finals. You know, the World Cup tournament is always great if you're a soccer fan. The final game stinks because everyone is so nervous about making a mistake. Wasn't that it stunk, they were afraid to go out on a limb perhaps.

And, Ryan, one beneficiary of that t might be Joe Biden.

PLOTT: Absolutely.

BERMAN: If you're the front-runner run Ryan, status quo in a race is your friend. I think people know that Joe Biden's not Cicero. He's not going to go into a debate and knock your socks off. It may be again he gets through this just fine.

NOBLES: John, that's such an important point, right? Because, you know, the Sanders campaign did not want to fight with Elizabeth Warren last night. They did want to fight with Joe Biden.

And Biden just didn't engage. You know, there were a number of opportunities where Sanders specifically pinned him down on his position on trade, his position on the Iraq war vote, foreign policy in general. And Biden just kind of sloughed it off and then said, listen, my experience is what my experience is. If you're going to support my campaign, you support me in totality.

And I totally agree that, you know, Biden's entire game plan here was to just keep things on the steady. That's really the way his campaign has been from the very beginning. And despite all the knocks against him, you always have to take a step back from this and recognize the stability of Joe Biden as a candidate. You know, he has not skyrocketed and run away by this race by any means, but he has still consistently been the front-runner by almost every metric. And even though any of the Democratic candidates could make the case that they've got a realistic shot, his has been the most consistent.

And it was clear last night that he did not want to mess that up.

CAMEROTA: Brian, Elaina, thank you both very much for the analysis and reporting.

PLOTT: Thanks, guys.

CAMEROTA: So, coming up on NEW DAY, we'll have three of the candidates who were on stage last night. We have Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer, and Amy Klobuchar. So, we have a lot to talk to them about.

BERMAN: And, of course, Tom Steyer was in the middle of that conversation physically between Bernie Sanders --

CAMEROTA: I have a lot of questions for Tom Steyer about what he heard --

BERMAN: I'm sure you do.

CAMEROTA: -- and why he wandered into the moment.

BERMAN: Look, I'm interested as a body language expert, if you're version lines up with the version he actually heard.

CAMEROTA: Yes. No, I have a lot to say with him and even re-enact.

BERMAN: With that, you'll be right.

An historic day in the impeachment front. House Democrats unveil not just the impeachment managers but we're seeing actual new evidence of some of the work that was being done by Giuliani associates behind the scene. And some of it's -- ranges from bizarre to just dark.



BERMAN: On the eve of a key step in the impeachment trial, House Democrats have released new evidence of Rudy Giuliani's push to get Ukraine to announce an investigation of the Bidens. These documents are from an indicted Giuliani associate.

CNN's Kara Scannell is here with the details.

And these range from the revealing to the bizarre, Kara, to kind of dark.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Yes, John. I mean, this is a new trove of documents, these text messages and documents provided to Congress by Giuliani's former associate Lev Parnas. They expose a number of previously unknown details about their efforts to dig up dirt on the Bidens and to take down ousted Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

The materials include this letter to Ukraine's president. And in it, Giuliani requests a meeting, noting that he is working with the president's, quote, knowledge and consent. So, this is the first document made public where Giuliani links his efforts in the Ukraine directly to President Trump.

There is also this handwritten note that Parnas scrawled on a sheet of hotel paper in Vienna. In it, he mentions getting President Zelensky to announce an investigations of the Bidens. Now, the documents Parnas provided also contain a series of exchanges between Parnas and a Ukrainian prosecutor Yuri Lutsenko. He was helping Giuliani dig up dirt on the Bidens.

In one WhatsApp message, Lutsenko says he was making progress in getting information on Trump's rivals and appeared to reference then- Ambassador Yovanovitch. He writes: And here, you can't even get rid of one female fool.

Now, the trove of information reveals a new player in this endeavor, a Connecticut congressional candidate named Robert Hyde. He's an ardent Trump supporter. And these text messages between Hyde and Parnas show him smearing Yovanovitch and alluding to a surveillance operation. In one of the messages, on March 23rd, 2019, Hyde texts Parnas: Wow, can't believe Trump hasn't fired this B. I'll get right in that.

Couple of days later, March 25th, he texts Hyde again -- or Hyde texts Parnas again, saying, they know she's a political puppet, they will let me know when she's on the move. Parnas replies, perfect. Hyde then responds that he made -- to Parnas saying, you can do anything in the Ukraine with money was what I was told. To which Parnas replies, LOL. He later updates Parnas on Yovanovitch's whereabouts.

Now, last night, in a statement, Yovanovitch's attorney called for an investigation into whether she was under surveillance in the weeks before she was recalled from her post in May of 2019.

We reached out to Hyde for comment last night and asked him if he intended to hurt Yovanovitch to which he replayed in a text, no effing way. He went on to tell us what kind of bull Schiff question is that. That was an apparent reference to the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who, of course, is leading the impeachment investigation -- John, Alisyn.

BERMAN: I'm not sure it's the time for a pun. I think these are serious questions being raised. Kara, terrific reporting. Thanks so much for that.

Elaina Plott is back with us. Also joining us, CNN legal analyst Elie Honig.

I think there's a lot to discussion here.

Let -- to discuss here. Let me start with the biggest of big pictures, Elie, which is that the fact of new information and new evidence which confirms parts of what seems to be a scheme to pressure Ukraine -- pretty interesting with the impeachment trial days away.


ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I think it's exhibit A for why we need exhibits, for why we need to have witnesses and documents. This investigation is still ongoing, we're learning important, new details every day, and I think this should fuel the Democrats' fight to not have this be a whitewash, to not have this be a shutdown.

I mean, look at these documents. These are wild -- these are wild -- not accusations, these are facts. This is proof.

I mean, the whole narrative of, I hardly knew the guy, right? Trump is trying to distance himself from Rudy. Now, we see these documents that Rudy says he's acting with the direct consent of the president. And everyone's trying to distance themselves from Lev Parnas, well, these documents again draw Parnas closer to Giuliani and Trump. So, we have such a dynamic situation where the facts are evolving, we

need to get them. We need to have a trial.

CAMEROTA: This is madness, I think, Elie. I mean, this is -- the fact that every week we learn new things about this Ukraine scandal. And Democrats say that's why we had to act with alacrity because Giuliani was still doing it, and clearly there was still a scheme, and we needed to get this done right away.

Republicans say, but you didn't -- I don't exactly understand Republicans' argument actually, because it's -- well, you should have finished your investigation. See, you left all of these, you know, threads untied but it's all witch-hunt.

HONIG: Yes, Republicans are coming up with ridiculous arguments, they're just trying to close the door, and seal this all up, because it's a dangerous situation. Cooperators are dangerous for the people they used to deal with. We're seeing that with Lev Parnas. He's cooperating at least with Congress.

And when these documents get turned over, you can't really argue with documents. I mean, look at the surveillance documents. Those are incredible. I mean, they're not just sort of loosely tracking her, she's inside the embassy, now she's outside the embassy --

CAMEROTA: To Kara's point, what does it mean? They'll let me know when she's on the move. The address I sent you checks out. It's right next to the embassy. They're willing to help if you pay a price.

What are they planning to do with her?

HONIG: They're physically tracking her. And Lev Parnas, if he's going to cooperate, he needs to answer the question. What were you going to do? What was the plan?

CAMEROTA: Elaina --

CAMEROTA: I'm sorry about that --

BERMAN: These are Giuliani associates. We're talking about Lev Parnas here, Giuliani associate -- I don't know if he knows Robert Hyde, this new figure who is in pictures with Donald Trump and half the Trump children, as well.

What on earth do you make of this?

PLOTT: What I make of this is that, to reiterate Elie's point, this is the first documented evidence we see that have Rudy Giuliani in writing saying that he was, in fact, working on behalf of the president.

You recall that, you know, throughout the last several months, the way that the White House tried to distance itself was by saying this was Rudy Giuliani's own doing. We did not direct this. We were not in contact with them throughout the duration of this. But now, we have in writing Giuliani saying to someone, I am doing

this on behalf of President Trump. And so what I'm looking for as a reporter moving forward is, is this finally the red line for Donald Trump to say, you know, I don't know this person, I've never met this person in my entire life, meaning Rudy Giuliani? Which he has been reluctant to do thus far, because, you know, their relationship runs so deep.

But this is pretty damning for the president. I think Republican senators as the trial hopefully moves forward in good faith should be forced to grapple with the situation, was everything we're seeing being done in the national interest or Donald Trump's personal, political agenda?

BERMAN: Can I tell you, Rudy Giuliani lays it out explicitly in that letter.

PLOTT: Quite explicitly.

BERMAN: He says he's not working for the president of the United States. He's working in a personal capacity for Donald Trump.

CAMEROTA: At the behest of Donald Trump.

BERMAN: At the behest --

PLOTT: Exactly.

BERMAN: -- and with the knowledge of Donald Trump. So, that sort of answers that question.

CAMEROTA: It also answers the question of why Marie Yovanovitch testified that she felt threatened, that she was afraid of her life, that things were getting weird. That when they said to get on the next plane home, she didn't hesitate. She wasn't paranoid. People were following her.

They were spying on her. The spying scandal it turns out was from Donald Trump's associates, Giuliani and his nefarious cast of characters who were going to do something to her.

I mean, I don't know how else we're supposed to read they're willing to help if you would like to pay a price. Help do what?

So, I don't know if we read this yet, but her attorney says needless to say the notion that American citizens and others were monitoring Ambassador Yovanovitch's movements for unknown purposes is disturbing. We trust that the appropriate authorities will conduct an investigation to determine what happened.

Who are the appropriate authorities to investigate that, Elie?

HONIG: Well, it should be the United States Department of Justice. Whether Bill Barr will do anything about it would be a huge change of pace for him. But the attorney is absolutely right. I remember when Ambassador

Yovanovitch testified. It seemed cloak and dagger. She was getting messages, you're in danger. I remember thinking a little like, OK.