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CNN Reality Check: Senate Impeachment Trial Witnesses; Warren Accused Sanders Of Calling Her A Liar At Debate; Ukraine Probing Possible Surveillance Of U.S. Ambassador. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired January 16, 2020 - 07:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: In his explosive new interview with Anderson Cooper, indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas -- he reveals damning new evidence and says he is willing to testify in the Senate impeachment trial.

This comes as four Republican senators say they are open to hearing from witnesses but will decide after opening arguments. And other Republicans say there's never been witnesses at an impeachment trial, so why start now?


BERMAN: John Avlon has a reality check on that -- John.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, all right. So, should there be witnesses at a trial? Now, it seems like a silly question because trials have witnesses. That's because a trial is supposed to be a search for the truth.

But in fairness, a Senate impeachment trial is political, not a legal process. Alexander Hamilton even spelled it out right there, putting political in all caps so we wouldn't miss it. But as we know, politics and truth are often at odds, so let's check in to see what some of those Senate jurors have been saying.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): The House is going to send articles of impeachment and I think the fairness would be that the inquiry be limited to whatever they looked at when they made that vote happen.


AVLON: OK. In other words, Sen. Rubio is saying that there should be no additional witnesses or new information at the Senate trial, not even from John Bolton, who the White House is signaling it will block, citing executive privilege, just like all these other folks.

[07:35:05] But, Rubio doubled down with a tweet explaining his position. Quote, "The testimony and evidence considered in a Senate impeachment trial should be the same testimony and evidence the House relied upon. Our job is to vote on what the House passed." Except that's not the Senate's job and it's not remotely precedence.

So let's take a trip in the way-back machine to 1868 -- President Andrew Johnson facing the first impeachment trial and that guy was a piece of work. Get this, "The Atlantic Monthly" called him egotistic to the point of mental disease, insincere as well as stubborn, cunning as well as unreasonable, vain as well as ill-tempered.

And stuff like that even made it into his articles of impeachment, which accused Johnson of disrespecting Congress with intemperate, inflammatory and scandalous harangues.

So at Johnson's Senate trial -- get this -- there were 41 witnesses -- 25 for the prosecution and 16 for the defense. OK, you say, but you had to go pretty far back.

What about Bill Clinton's trial? Well, there were three witnesses called -- Monica Lewinsky, Vernon Jordan, and Sidney Blumenthal.

But wait, there's more. Did you know the Senate presides over the impeachment trials of judges and senators? That's right. And the Senate's completed 13 of those cases in our country's history and every single one had testimony from witnesses.

You don't believe me, let's listen to this guy.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): In every trial that there has ever been in the Senate regarding impeachment, witnesses were called.


AVLON: And if Republicans fall in line this time, they'll also be abandoning the values of the Senate because Alexander Hamilton asked where else than in the Senate could have been found a tribunal sufficiently dignified or sufficiently independent? Hamilton believed that senators would have the quote "necessary impartiality between an individual accused" -- that would be the president in this case -- "and the representatives of the people."

But, independence and impartiality are not qualities the Senate is known for these days.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I'm not an impartial juror.


AVLON: But here's a stat that might cause some senators to remember their oath. Seventy-one percent of Americans say that President Trump should allow his top aides to testify in the Senate trial, 79 percent of Democrats, 72 percent of Independents, and even 64 percent of Republicans.

And you know who also agreed with that position once a time?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want them to testify but I want them to testify in the Senate where they'll get a fair trial.


AVLON: In the Senate -- and that was just last month.

And that's your reality check.

BERMAN: Interesting what history actually says about all this, isn't it?

AVLON: It's fascinating.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And instructive. Thank you very much, John.

AVLON: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right. So this was the most buzzed-about moment from the Democrats' debate when Sanders and Warren appeared to exchange tense words after the fact. What were they saying? Well, CNN has now found the audio of that moment and it's just as bad as you think. That's next.



BERMAN: This morning we now know what Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders said in that tense exchange after the Iowa debate. This came after sparring about whether Sanders told Warren in a 2018 meeting that a woman could not win against President Trump in 2020.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think you called me a liar on national T.V.


WARREN: I think you called me a liar on national T.V.

SANDERS: No, let's not do it right now. You want to have that discussion, we'll have that discussion.

WARREN: Anytime.

SANDERS: You called me a liar. You told me -- all right, let's not do it now.

TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't want to get in the middle. I just want to say hi, Bernie.

SANDERS: Yeah, good, OK.



CAMEROTA: It doesn't get any less awkward each time I see it.

BERMAN: No, increasingly more awkward. And what about Tom Steyer? We won't even get to that this morning.

Joining us now, CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny, and CNN political correspondent MJ Lee. She broke the story about their private conversation on this.

And, MJ we have questions about gender, questions about electability, and now, out in the open for all to see, questions about honesty.

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and this is not the kind of interaction that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren had in public on the debate stage. It was clear talking to both campaigns heading into that debate night that they were not interested in having any kind of sort of extended fight or escalation on the debate stage.

And we saw that play out, right? Bernie Sanders twice denying that this was something that he had said, and Elizabeth Warren simply saying well, he and I disagree.

When the debate was over and when it came time -- when it came time for the two of them to have an interaction, he first extended out his hand and she obviously wouldn't take it. There was a lot of gesturing. And now we have this audio and the word liar is being thrown around.

CAMEROTA: Jeff, that's what MJ has been talking about. There was this public presentation that they did during the debate and then there's clearly this private hostility that we were accidentally privy to.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No question, and I think it's all because of what unfolded on the debate stage.

If you look at what happened at the very beginning of the debate, this is what I thought was interesting because I thought I remembered them shaking hands as they came onto the stage. And I think we have the video to show that. So as they were walking out on stage, Sen. Warren here is reaching out her hand to shake Sen. Sanders' hand. So it started the debate with a ton of civility if you will.

And as MJ was saying, she's right. They were planning to deescalate this feud because it divides progressives. That is not what either of them wanted to do.

But it was clearly how Sen. Warren perceived Sen. Sanders' answer on the debate stage that angered her. And the question is that I have, why didn't she say that more on the debate stage? Why didn't she say no, no, you are lying or you are calling me a liar or whatever?

But the question here beyond this audio is it's been remarkable how this non-aggression pact has held up between these two candidates over the last year. I can't recall a presidential campaign where you have two rivals who are unquestionably in each other's lane like this. And it has held up.


Now the question going forward, are they going to divide progressives here? My guess is that the senators are going to have a conversation and work it out. They did not talk after the debate, I'm told. They will have quite a bit of quality time together in the Senate as they head back to Washington for the impeachment trial here.

But it is very much an open question how some of their voters are going to perceive this and who it may help or hurt now just some 18 days before Iowa.

BERMAN: Look, I've always thought that it wasn't necessarily about the progressive voters exclusively, per se. That what Elizabeth Warren was doing by bringing up this discussion or talking about this in a more wholesome way was to appeal beyond just that Bernie Sanders base and try to reach suburban moms or make the issue about gender or electability.


BERMAN: And, MJ, the question now is what are voters going to make of all of this? How are they going to perceive this?

LEE: Well, you know, first of all -- and we've talked about this on your show a lot -- this idea of prescribing candidates to progressive or liberal or conservative lanes, it just doesn't work very perfectly, right? It doesn't fit perfectly.

And I think the truth is that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren do share a lot of supporters. But there are also people who are diehard Bernie Sanders supporters who are never going to take a look at Elizabeth Warren, and I think vice versa as well.

I think in the big picture, when you are out there talking to voters there is just a sense of wariness about Democratic candidates, right now, going at each other. I think even when it comes to policy and now with something that is incredibly personal, these voters worry that if the Democratic candidates are spending any amount of time right now bickering with one another, arguing with one another, that is time taken away from sort of preparing to take on President Trump, whoever the nominee ends up being.

So I would assume -- I haven't been out on the roads in the last three days but if I were to talk to voters and ask them to react to this, that there would be a lot of I really wish that the candidates were not fighting right now.

CAMEROTA: Well, Tom Steyer -- really?

BERMAN: You know, he's got some explaining to do.

CAMEROTA: Tom Steyer's got some splainin' to do, Jeff, this morning because we had him on yesterday --

ZELENY: Right.

CAMEROTA: -- and did he claim he didn't hear anything?

BERMAN: That's what he claimed -- I didn't hear. I just wanted to say goodbye and thank you to them. I wasn't listening.

LEE: Sometimes you block out, I have to say.

ZELENY: And I was -- I talked to him right after the debate off- camera and I really thought he might reveal what he heard. And I think in fairness to him, he walked up in the middle of it and it clearly -- you know, it was very loud in the room. The applause was still ringing in the hall. When we went back and listened to the audio that's what was so extraordinary.

So I'm not sure he heard all of it but he clearly interrupted it. Had he not been standing there, my question is would this actually have escalated a little bit?

But also, it's so extraordinary when we listen to this audio, just the few seconds before Sen. Warren and Sen. Sanders had their confrontation, Sen. Warren was praising Joe Biden. She said good job, Joe, great performance; good job, Mayor Pete; and then she moved on to Bernie Sanders. So it was just a really interesting window into their mindset here.

But, Tom Steyer, perhaps one of his biggest moments -- at least most public moments on the stage -- that maybe he sort of saved the republic by interrupting this fight. Who knows?

CAMEROTA: Maybe. But also, I think it actually speaks well of him that he's not going to tell --


CAMEROTA: -- tales out of school. I mean, he was taking the high road obviously on our program. He did hear it, it now seems apparent, and he wasn't going to engage and get in the middle of something --

ZELENY: It was really loud in the room, though. I have to say it was really loud. We had to sort of boost the audio there.


ZELENY: It was really loud. So I'm not sure.

CAMEROTA: OK, interesting. Here is what he said on Twitter last night. "Just want to say hi, America."

BERMAN: That said it. That said it.

CAMEROTA: That said it. I think that really says it all.

BERMAN: All right.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, both.

We have breaking news right now. It's very interesting. Ukraine has just made a big announcement about an investigation that they're launching.

BERMAN: Yes, it's not the one you think or it's not the one the White House wants at all.

CAMEROTA: We have that breaking news next.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: And we have more breaking news. Moments ago, Ukraine announcing it will launch a criminal investigation into what happened with U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. This is very different than the investigation the Trump administration had pushed for.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live in Moscow with the breaking details. What do we know, Fred?


Yes, you're absolutely right. This is coming fresh off the printing presses. In fact, we just got a statement from the Interior Ministry of Ukraine saying they are opening a criminal investigation into the possible surveillance of Ambassador Yovanovitch -- quite interesting.

I'm actually getting a lot of this right now. I'll read it to you -- parts of the statement. They said that they're basing all this on the materials that were made public by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Obviously, all those text messages and similar communications that were published over the past 24 hours.

And then there's a key part of the statement that I want to read to you. It says, "Ukraine's position is not to interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States of America. However, the published references cited by the media contain a possible violation of the law of Ukraine and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations which protects the rights of a diplomat on the territory of a foreign country."

So clearly, the Ukrainians see themselves as having a responsibility for the safety of Ambassador Yovanovitch.

And they said, "After the analysis of these files, the national police of Ukraine, basing on the fact of the publication of the files, has initiated criminal proceedings of the criminal code of Ukraine."

The Ukrainians further going on to say that they are now going to investigate all this and see whether those text messages that have been made public were just bravado or whether there was really a private illegal surveillance campaign going on on the territory of Ukraine.

They're also calling -- and this is in the later part of it -- "The Ministry of Internal Affairs requested all the information and materials from the FBI about persons who may be involved in a possible criminal offense. In accordance with the international legal mechanisms, the minister of internal affairs of Ukraine, Arsen Avakov, suggested that the U.S. side take part in the investigations."


So they're clearly calling on U.S. authorities also to participate on this. But in the end, they say they expect a prompt reply from the United States. As you can see, Ukraine actually moving forward with a criminal investigation into this.

Of course, we at CNN have reached out to the State Department on multiple occasions and have gotten no answer as to what the State Department plans to do about this -- any sort of comment or whether or not they, themselves, plan to investigate as well, John.

BERMAN: All right, Frederik Pleitgen with this really interesting reporting. Thanks so much for being with us. I have a lot of questions about this.

Joining us now, CNN correspondent and former FBI special agent, Josh Campbell. Josh, there's a political aspect to this which is in your purview -- which I have to say, I find it fascinating that this is the investigation that Ukraine has decided to announce publicly -- what message are they sending to the world about that and maybe the Trump administration.

Let's leave that. We'll talk about that later.

But what I want to ask you with your expertise and security, what does it tell you that Ukraine is announcing an investigation into what may or may not have happened to a U.S. diplomat before the State Department announces such an investigation?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Yes, this is a major development for two reasons.

First of all, we see the Ukrainian government taking this very seriously -- this idea that perhaps a U.S. ambassador was placed under physical surveillance. But also, as you mention, because thus far, we have heard nothing from the American State Department about these allegations nor any type of information regarding what they're going to do to look into it.

Now, as Fred was mentioning -- and this is important -- you know, a quick history lesson. He mentioned this Vienna Convention.

This goes back to the 1960s where you had nations that signed the treaty saying that it is up to the host government to protect foreign diplomats. We do that here in the United States for foreign ambassadors and it's up to foreign government overseas to protect personnel that are in the diplomatic community.

And it appears as though the Ukrainians are taking that very seriously, this idea that an American ambassador may have been surveilled. We don't know if there was perhaps threats associated with that but the Ukrainians certainly taking that very seriously.

And also, the idea that they're now asking for the support of the FBI -- U.S. federal investigators --regarding any information that they might have.

Again, a major development and the silence, right now, appears very deafening from the State Department. We haven't heard that diplomatic security has launched an investigation.

BERMAN: Right.

CAMPBELL: We haven't heard that the FBI is looking into this. But again, a major development here as it relates to the security of an American diplomat overseas.

BERMAN: What would the normal process be, Josh, from an administration or a state department? If they cared to investigate, how would they?

CAMPBELL: Well, there are different avenues for that.

Now, inside the State Department there is a bureau of diplomatic security. These are federal agents that are charged with protecting American ambassadors, American diplomats -- and again, their purview is the security of these officials.

And so, if there's any type of information or allegation that one of those ambassadors was surveilled, was placed in any type of threatening situation, it would be up to them to try to investigate that not only to ensure the protection of the ambassador but to ensure that there aren't other threats out there against other personnel.

Now, to be sure -- and, you know, in fairness to the State Department these aren't investigations that are typically announced publicly. But something this high-profile where you have this information that's out there, even a signal from the State Department that they take it seriously would be, I think, important for the American people as it relates to this intergovernmental cooperation that we can expect now between the FBI and the Ukrainians. That would probably be done out of sight.

BERMAN: Right. CAMPBELL: We won't see a lot of the inner details there.

But again, if the signal here to the American people is that they -- that the U.S. government takes the protection of diplomats seriously, there has to be some type of information from the State Department to that end.

BERMAN: Josh, we have about 30 seconds left.

You have some new reporting on a warning that has gone out to first responders in the United States. What's that about?

CAMPBELL: Yes, John. You know, in the United States, obviously, the job of law enforcement is very dangerous. Police officers, they're on the beat, they're fighting crime. To the list of those dangers we now add the possibility of officers being ambushed by terrorists.

This is coming from the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington -- an alert that was sent out to police departments around the country warning officers of the likelihood that terrorists could conduct ambush-style attacks on police officers. Because of their physical presence, because they're obviously uniformed, they could be targets of opportunity.

And this study actually looked back on a number of different incidents from 2014 to 2018 indicating that some 53 officers in the United States were ambushed by both terrorist and non-terrorist elements. Again, you know, obviously an important development for law enforcement.

We don't yet know if this has anything to do with the recent developments related to Iran. That's something that we've asked the National Counterterrorism Center and we're waiting to hear back from them.

But again, this new bulletin going out to U.S. law enforcement that American -- law enforcement officers should be alert to the possibility of possible ambush attacks, John.

BERMAN: Josh Campbell, thank you so much for your reporting on all of these developments.

CAMPBELL: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: And thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" is next.

For our U.S. viewers, this explosive interview with a central figure in the scandal that ultimately led to the impeachment of President Trump.