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Ken Starr, Alan Dershowitz, Robert Ray Expected To Join Trump Legal Team; Ken Starr Has Predicted Witnesses At Senate Trial; CNN: Donald Trump Adds To His Legal Team As Impeachment Trial Starts; Lev Parnas: Perry Aware Of Ukrainian Pressure Campaign; Donald Trump Has Repeatedly Distanced Himself From Associates, Advisers. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired January 17, 2020 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

President Trump added some big names to his impeachment defense team. Bill Clinton's Ken Starr is one addition, the noted appellate lawyer Alan Dershowitz another. No Republican House members so far. That's a sign the President is listening, at least for now, to those urging him to put strong legal minds ahead of sharp partisan instincts.

Plus President Trump says he does not know Lev Parnas, despite a pile of photos of them together at "POLITICO" and social events. Parnas has a lot to say about the President's Ukraine obsession but it is unclear if the Senate wants to hear to it and if this friend of Rudy Giuliani s to be believed. And the LSU Tigers get a champions welcome at the White House with a very interesting twist from their Oval Office Tour Guide.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We'll take pictures behind the resolute desk. It's been there a long time a lot of Presidents, some good, some not so good. You got a good one now even though they're trying to impeach the son of a bitch. Can you believe that?


KING: And we begin with a major decision by the President that offers us a big window on the impeachment trial just around the corner sources today detailing to CNN some major additions to the President's Legal Team, including one who factored large in the Bill Clinton impeachment battle.

The White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump Personal Lawyer Jay Sekulow will take the lead, but now with help from constitutional and appellate lawyer Alan Dershowitz, Former Clinton Era Independent Counsel Ken Starr and Robert Ray. Plus the Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and long-time Personal Counsel, Jane Raskin. It is a noteworthy team because of the heavy hit has added, and because at the moment, anyway, there are no House Republicans in that group.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins us now live from the White House. Kaitlan, what behind the President's decision here? Why did he decide this is the team he needed for the trial that begins in earnest Tuesday?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well John, he had been wavering over who he should at he wanted those fierce House Republicans who are here in his mind so good at defending him on the team, but he was being advised no, you've got to consider your audience here, see his Republican Senators and of course a few Democrats that they're hoping they could get over to the side that they have got to.

And Mitch McConnell has been telling President Trump that those House members like Jim Jordon and John Ratcliffe are not the way to go. So now you see the President seems to be listening to that advice.

He's now adding these seasoned attorneys, and of course the two biggest names are Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz, who are being added to this and they're notable not only because of Ken Starr's obvious role in the investigation that led to Bill Clinton's impeachment, but also because he is a prominent figure on television who the President watches often and likes how he is on TV.

And the President wants people who are really good on television on his team. That's something he's been pushing, voicing concerns about whether or not Pat Cipollone had that strong TV experience that you're going to see people like Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz have. Alan Dershowitz is an interesting one because our sources are telling us that the President and Dershowitz have been going back and forth over whether or not he was going to join the team.

And we're told that about on Tuesday the President had essentially left it at that. He wanted Dershowitz on the team, he made it clear, and it was Dershowitz's decision on whether or not he was going to join. Which we are told he was not eager to do. He kind of makes that clear in a statement talking about his role in this where he makes it clear he voted for Hillary Clinton in the election, but he feels like the stakes are so high here that he's going to join the team.

Of course, there are going to be questions about Alan Dershowitz. Some people advised Trump against putting him on the team John because of his ties to Jeffrey Epstein, because of this legal scandal he is involved in where a victim of Jeffrey Epstein says she was also sexually abused by Alan Dershowitz something that he has said is not true and he has counter sued her after she sued him for deformation.

So a lot going there. Now he's going to be representing the President, and of course the biggest moment of his Presidency, but you will see all of them on the Senate floor because we're told Alan Dershowitz, Robert Ray and Ken Starr will all be presenting on the Senate floor, John. KING: Very important decision by the President to have a heavy team. Kaitlan Collins live at the White House. Appreciate it. With me here in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Dana Bash Michael Shear with "The New York Times" CNN Legal Analyst Shan Wu and Paul Begala a long time Democratic Strategist who of course was a senior adviser to Bill Clinton back during his impeachment.

Shan I just want to start with you and when you look at the list, I want the legal take on it, because there has been a political conversation. A lot of people telling the President, you want combat, you want Jim Jordon, you want Mark Meadows, you want John Ratcliffe some of the House members who have been his strongest defenders. Now this is a decision by the President that no, I need good legal people not good political people.

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think that's right. I think it's generally a good decision because Starr and Dershowitz can probably supply some legal cover from Republican Senators. They can supply information about their interpretation of the constitution, what the framers wanted


WU: That's what they would need to stick on. If Starr kind of veers into his love of publicity, goes off the rails a little bit, he is going to be very ineffective. Starr has never been at - but they can use him for the kind of substantive constitutional take on things.

KING: First big case I ever covered was the Claus Von Bulow appeal back in the day in - Alan Dershowitz was his appellate lawyer back then. That's not a job where you do court room arguments, it's not where you trying to sway a jury, you're trying to sway a judge, so it's little interesting the choices. But there is no question about intellect.

I do want to get to the politics though. I lived through this with you I was covering the White House in the days. You were in a different capacity advising the President on how to handle this? Monica Lewinsky tweeted this a short time ago, this is definitely and are you, fill in the blank kidding me kind of day. I'm guessing you have the same feelings?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, people first off should go back, people who are younger than olds guys like and us and look at how Starr and his--

KING: We were child prodigies.

BEGALA: Yes, we were. Starr and his team abused Ms. Lewinsky. It's really; really shocking if you look at the way they treated her, threatening her family with criminal charges absolutely outrageous. People should know that. People should know that during the Clinton impeachment, Sam Dash, legendary Watergate Lawyer, was Starr's Ethics Adviser. Dash resigned in protest because he believed Starr was so unethical in fact he said once he was unlawful. Not in terms of Monica Lewinsky this was in terms of impeachment. So Starr brings some baggage. He's the guy who said we have to impeach the President for a consensual affair that he lied about. Now he's going to say what the GOA calls a crime, soliciting a bribe from Ukraine to leveraging American military that's no big deal. That's a tough case to make, he is a smart lawyer.

KING: Since you brought up the criticisms of Starr, I just want to bring in Mr. Ray. Most people I talked to back in those days thought he handled the shutdown of the investigation rather professionally.

BEGALA: I left - when the impeachment trial was over, so I never dealt with Robert Ray, so I just don't know.

KING: In a settlement with the President, the President had to give up his law license in the end. So Mr. Ray did not just walk away, but he did shut down the investigation where some in Clinton line thought it might keep going on endlessly. So you look through the clips, right, what have these gentlemen said about the current case?

This is Ken Starr talking about the number one issue. Democrats want to push the House impeachment matters that want to push to get new witnesses, new documents not considered during the House impeachment debate. Ken Starr was asked about this on Fox News quite recently.


KENN STARR, FORMER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: I predict there are going to be witnesses. We've had too many indications from too many different Senators that they want this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is the witness then? Who appears?

STARR: I think the top one is John Bolton, right, for the Democrats. Then the Republicans really do want Hunter Biden.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you think that will happen? That's what you're saying now?

STARR: Oh, there will be a battle royal over Hunter Biden.


KING: He will now be central to the battle royal over all of these witnesses. But it is interesting in the sense that if the President or Mr. Cipollone, at least, did their due diligence, they know this is in the record. When this argument plays out in the Senate floor, it's not binding to the centers, they can vote any way they want, the Chief Justice can rule anyway he wants but it is easy to stand up and say, well, Mr. Starr, you're here representing the President, you said just a while ago probably good idea to have witnesses.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: A lot of things are in the record and to be fair for people in both parties who are still around, where you can use what they are saying - look at what they were saying then, and say very hypocritical based on what they're saying now. Can we just say once again, you guys had to talk about the Clinton years? This is not an accident that this President chose these lawyers for a couple reasons. One is he likes people who play lawyers on TV, who are actually lawyers, because that's how he consumes information, a lot of information.

He also happens to know Alan Dershowitz very well. But also he is obsessed with the Clintons. And he has been, Hillary Clinton and so forth. So to be able to get all of these players who were involved on the other side during the Clinton years, it is very telling of who Trump is and who you Trump thinks?

Never mind that I'm going to have to go back into my storage and find my grunge wear, my flannels, and I'm going to pop nirvana at the top of my play list.

KING: Does it matter, Dana is right, we are in the hearing now, and the person who was impeached is the President of the United States who says blue on Monday and red on Tuesday and says there is no difference in what he said Monday and Tuesday so things change as we go.

But I just want you to listen, to go back in time for those of you unfamiliar, here is Ken Starr and then his successor is the Whitewater Independent Counsel Robert Ray talking about different issues here. But I want you to see them and hear them to re-familiarize yourself with them then we'll talk.


ROBERT RAY, INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: I have to exercise responsibly in my authority only to bring a case where I believe that a fair-minded jury would convict on that evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.


STARR: He engaged in an apparent scheme to conceal gifts that had been subpoenaed from Ms. Lewinsky. He coached a potential witness, his own Secretary, Mrs. Curry, with a false account of relevant events. Those acts constitute a pattern of obstruction that is fundamentally inconsistent with the President's duty to faithfully execute the law.


KING: It's a flashback. But there are two very interesting points there. When Ray shut it down, a lot of Republicans were very critical of him. Saying why aren't you bringing additional charges? Why aren't you going after Whitewater? Why aren't you going after other things? He said listen, that's not my job, my job is to only case I could bring it to a jury. I don't see it, he shut it down.

In Starr's case there though, in that testimony and if you go back through the whole Starr report, his fights with the courts, he repeatedly said the President of the United States has an obligation when under investigation by a constitutionally appropriate authority as he was in that case to turn things over. And that Bill Clinton kept stalling and obstructing. Bill Clinton did stall, might not - my job to use the word obstruct nowhere near the level of no, no, no that has come from the Trump Administration. How does he square that circle?

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, and the Democrats will no doubt point to that as a way of when we get to that debate ultimately about whether to call witnesses, whether the Senate should demand more documents, they'll turn to that.

Look, I think one of the other interesting points here is that we have still never seen what the President's legal defense of all of this is? We've seen his political defense, right? We've seen letters from Pat Cipollone the White House Counsel which are largely political arguments, and we've seen the House members, the Jim Jordan of the world, making largely political responses.

We've never yet seen an actual legal defense. So the challenge for these lawyers is going to be to take their client, who really wants a political defense put on, that he wants to be exonerated in a political sense, and they're going to have to turn that in to some kind of legal argument that satisfies their client.

BEGALA: Just want to hit with you some facts.

KING: To that point, the then-President of the United States back then lied to the American people for seven months.


BEGALA: You said stalled, he lied about an affair John, everybody - fair lies, nobody comes home and says I had the greatest affair last night.

KING: He stalled in some requests for documents, they pushed they challenged things in courts?

BEGALA: Can I give you some facts, we produced 90,000 documents. Trump has produced zero.

KING: That's why I said in the end they agreed to comply with subpoenas. Nothing like of the scale we have seen here, I agree with that.

BEGALA: 90,000 documents, dozens of witnesses. The President himself testified under oath for over four hours, these creeps asking about his sex life under oath. He testified. He gave blood. Trump won't do anything. You can't compare the two. If what Clinton did was stalling, then it's really clear that what Trump is doing is obstructing justice.

KING: That's for the Senators to decide. I'm going to run a little long here on purpose because I do want people to hear the voices here. To the point that was just being made. We have heard from Pam Bondi on television, you're going to hear her and you're going to hear from Alan Dershowitz on television. But to the idea that it's okay to ask the Ukrainian President to investigate Joe Biden and to withhold a White House meeting, to withhold aid, no, that's not what they talk about. They say Nancy Pelosi is in the wrong.


PAM BONDI, FORMER FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL: She calls our great President who did nothing wrong a clear and present danger. Oh, he's so horrible that she had to get these over there, and what does she do? She holds onto him. Its political gamesmanship and she failed miserably.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, CONSTITUTIONAL LAWYER: Hamilton would be appalled at this notion that you can impeach and not bring it to the Senate. First of all Nancy Pelosi has no power to keep up in the Senate. The leaders of the Senate have the right to just say, we're scheduling the trial. She is placing herself above the law, Nancy Pelosi.


KING: To Michael's point, we have yet to hear a factual defense of a documentary evidence from all of the witnesses in this case that is pretty damning that the President did not give the new President of Ukraine a white house meeting, would not give him one, still hasn't given him one, and withheld aid until he got what he wanted, which is a personal political gift that has nothing to do with national security.

WU: There is no factual defense possible.

KING: And what do they do?

WU: They have to take a look at those facts and try to devise a legal theory to say this was still within the scope either of his duties as President, or this isn't what the founding fathers intended. The one thing I would point out is looking at Ken Starr to rain in the idea of irrelevance in terms of witnesses I would not hold my breath on that, that's the guy who went from real estate inquiry into a sex.

KING: Begala should buy you lunch.

BEGALA: It's a fact.

KING: Up next for us, how Democrats answer this question, do you really want Lev Parnas to testify at the trial?



KING: A huge question of risk and reward for House Impeachment Managers. Do you try to call Lev Parnas to testify at the Senate trial? The risk, Parnas is under indictment, and anything he says the White House legal team will paint as lies, concocted, they will say, to convince federal prosecutors to spare him jail time. Some potential path who Rudy Giuliani fixer says he knows a lot, both about the pressure campaign on Ukraine and about the President's distrust of his Former Ambassador in Ukraine.


LEV PARNAS, INDICTED ASSOCIATE OF RUDY GIULIANI: To my knowledge, the President fired her at least four times, maybe five times may be once in my presence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Explain that, you said that he fired her in front of you?

PARNAS: Correct. He called Rudy was on his way there to ask and what to discuss. And Rudy told him that you need to make sure to give him the message.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Mr. Giuliani told Secretary Perry what you need to convey to the Ukrainian government is that they need to announce an investigation into Joe Biden?

PARNAS: Absolutely.


KING: Vivian Salama and Catherine Lucey both at "The Wall Street Journal" join our conversation. That is a huge challenge for the impeachment managers in the sense that this guy says he knows a lot. This guy says he was involved.


KING: This guy says essentially he was Rudy Giuliani's right-hand man in doing all this nefarious stuff in Ukraine. He's also under indictment and Giuliani himself says a lot of things that are untrue. Is Lev Parnas to be believed and do the Democrats think we want to call him?

VIVIAN SALAMA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: It's going to be his word against everyone else and so far the President has been very quick to insist that he doesn't know him. We've seen a photo of the President and Lev Parnas before. He says it was a quick photo. I take thousands of photos with people but don't actually know them.

So it's really going to be his word against the White House and against anyone else, and again like you say he has been indicted so already like there is a question about his credibility and whether or not the Democrats can actually build a case to make him seen credible to the others that remains to be seen.

KING: And it also fits into the argument and that we mentioned Ken Starr now in the President's legal team in the last bloc Sol Weisenberg was someone who worked for Ken Starr back in that investigation. He said this to "The New York Times" makes them look sloppy as hell. I think they should have gotten their act together a little better. They wouldn't' be in this hot mess.

Meaning, Sol was making the case that well, if Lev Parnas and others had this information, why did the House Democrats hurry up and impeach? Why didn't they wait for it? Now the Democrats argue that he brought this up later, and he brought it up probably in the context that we might not know it if there was not an impeachment now moving to the Senate and Lev Parnas is looking to somehow to Curry favor.

SHEAR: Yes, it's true. I mean, look it cuts both ways. On the one hand it potentially puts pressure on some of the moderate Republicans who could argue, look, there is information that we should have, let's go out and get it. But it does give you the ability, give Republicans, allies of the President, the ability to look at the House case and say it just kind of gives it a sense that the House case looks a bit half- baked, right?

There were all sorts of people that didn't get called. There were reasons for that, among them that the President made a concerted effort to make sure he blocked people, and so that's - but it just gives the case and the Republican allies the ability to say, you know, we're not going to fix all the problems with the House.

BASH: That's true, it does give them the ability to do that, but anybody who is looking at what really happened, and I know that may be a bit generous, will see that the timing was such that he was dealing with the courts, Lev Parnas. And it wasn't until then, after that he could afterwards, that he could maybe turn his attention to Capitol Hill.

I can tell you one thing, Nancy Pelosi is saying, I told you so, right now on the notion of delaying sending things over, and it fits right into her list of the reasons why it was good, what she called collateral benefits to delay, because more and more things are coming out.

KING: And Lev Parnas now finds himself on a list that has a lot of again if you judge a man by the company he keeps, your eyes might roll here. But whether it was George Papadopoulos even Paul Manafort, Ambassador Sondland, people who the President clearly knows getting a little trouble and the President says, who?


TRUMP: I don't know him, perhaps he is a fine man, perhaps he is not - I know nothing about him. Here is what I can tell you this--

Vindman I watched him for a little while this morning, and I think - I'm going to let people make their own determination, but I don't know Vindman, I never heard of him, I don't know any of these people.

He was a lawyer for me for one of many - they always say the lawyer and then they like to add the fixer. I don't know if he was a fixer. I don't know where that term came from, but he's been a lawyer for me. Didn't do big deals, did small deals. Not somebody that was with me that much. Look, I didn't know Manafort well he wasn't with the campaign long.

It was a very unimportant meeting, took place a long time. I don't remember much about him. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I forgot that Michael Cohen is part of that - to the President like this for years but he didn't know him.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Now, this - I mean this is the tape speaks for itself. I mean, it's a repeated strategy of the President to try and back away from these people. They just brought coffee I barely knew them they were one of many. The Michael Cohen stuff is particularly notable because he was his personal lawyer for so long and knew so many things and was so close to him by the end of that process. He was just one of many lawyers.

SALAMA: Well, let's say that he really didn't know Lev Parnas as he says he doesn't. There is still sort of three degrees of separation because of at the end of the day, Lev Parnas dealt directly with Rudy Giuliani, - yes two degrees thank you. Two degrees of separation because he dealt directly with Rudy Giuliani and so for arguments' sake, even then, you still have this very close connection that is going to be hard for them to back away from.

KING: And Parnas is interesting in the sense that he clearly now feels the freedom even though he is still under indictment and severs legal proceedings he is trolling. He's trolling the President, he's trolling Rudy Giuliani. I think we can show you a tweet Pam Bondi was just named to the President's defense team, and voila, there's a picture of Lev Parnas with Pam Bondi.

Is he a credible witness? Is he to be believed? I don't know the answer to that question but he certainly they keep saying they don't know him. There are pictures of him with the President's children, repeated pictures of him with the President he is all over the place that Rudy Giuliani.


SHEAR: You also have to - if you're the Democrats, you also have to think what actually he adds that we don't get from better people. You know how much was there - certainly he's got information about Rudy Giuliani. Ultimately for the House Managers, Rudy Giuliani is not the target. The target is the President of the United States, and does Lev Parnas actually have direct information?

They do have other witnesses that they've already that are in the record that have - had some direct contact with the President, so you just have to weigh that if you're the Democrats.

BASH: And he's obviously somebody who is the kind of person who wanted to be a player, wanted to be part of that world. That's why he took all those pictures. And when he did that with Rudy Giuliani, it all worked because he was his entre to Ukraine.

KING: We'll watch staring Tuesday. We'll get votes on these things in the relative near future. Up next for us, some of the 2020 Democrats have to go back to their day jobs just days before Iowa votes. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)