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Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) is Interviewed About the Impeachment Trial and His Presidential Campaign; Senate Begins Impeachment Trial of Donald Trump; Indicted Rudy Giuliani Associate Lev Parnas Claims to have Witnessed President Trump Fire Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired January 17, 2020 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the D.A., Columbia, there are a lot of answers still that we need from a lot of open questions. And, as you said, Evelyn Yang was and is incredibly courageous and brave to do this given the fact that, guys, as we sat down, she hadn't even told hear own parents.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This will help. This will help a lot of people. There's no question about that. Dana Bash, thank you very much. Stick around.
Thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you CNN Newsroom with Max Foster is next. For U.S. viewers, the impeachment trial has begun. NEW DAY continues right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Breaking overnight, several U.S. troops injured in Iran's missile attack last week on American bases in Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were 11 casualties in the attack despite the Pentagon saying that there were no casualties.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's not that kind of treatment at al Asad for one of these injuries.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D-CA) CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Donald J. Trump, president of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you solemnly swear you will do impartial justice, so help you God?
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) HOUSE SPEAKER: They are afraid of the truth. They don't want to see documents. They don't want to hear from eyewitnesses.
MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The House's hour is over. The Senate's time is at hand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
BERMAN: Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Friday, January 17th. It is 8:00 in the east. President Trump is on trial. For just the third time in U.S. history, the president is on trial in the U.S. Senate. We saw the oath. We saw the ceremony, the signings. That was the scripted part. That is now over. They are now off book and really making it up as they go along.
And how the Senate makes it up will determine whether voters think the process is fair or not. This, to an extent, is the wild west. We do not know how it will play out. Will they hear witnesses? Will they allow new evidence? Will there be parliamentary gamesmanship that will draw it out?
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.
BERMAN: We'll see. The answers to all of this, the answers to all of this will become clear only in the next few days.
CAMEROTA: We are also hearing even more prom indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas. He tells CNN he watched the president tell an aide to fire U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEV PARNAS, INDICTED RUDY GIULIANI ASSOCIATE: In the conversation, the subject of Ukraine was brought up, and I told the president that our opinion, that she is bad mouthing him and she said that he's going to get impeached, something like that. I don't know if that's word for word, but that she was --
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You said that at the table where the president was?
PARNAS: Correct, correct. And his reaction was he looked at me, like he got very angry, and basically turned around to John DeStefano and said, fire her. Get rid of her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: OK, we'll have more of that.
Also, a developing story to tell you about. Overnight, the Pentagon has confirmed that 11 U.S. troops were actually hurt in last week's Iranian missile strikes in Iraq. You'll remember the president initially said no troops were injured. So we'll speak with Dr. Sanjay Gupta a little later about what this means and why we're only now learning about it.
But first, to impeachment. Joining us now, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Great to have both of you. Jeffrey, what are your burning questions this morning about how this wild west is going to unfold? JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: All of us know that it's
unclear whether there will be witnesses. But there are a lot of other issues that we don't know how they'll unfold in the next couple of weeks or months, however long this trial is going to take. I think we have a full screen there. What are the rules of evidence? Can the House managers submit, for example, the documents that Lev Parnas has produced?
CAMEROTA: Yes, they can.
TOOBIN: Well, they can. Will the Republicans say it's inadmissible because it wasn't available before the House?
CAMEROTA: So there will be votes on these things?
TOOBIN: Well, maybe. Or maybe John Roberts, as chief justice and presiding judge here, will have to rule on the admissibility of those sorts of issues. I'm sorry, can we get that slide back up? Yes. So can they refer evidence? How will that evidence be permitted? Will they offer it as pieces of paper or will it be included in briefs? And what if there are votes and there's a tie? In 1868, the chief justice broke ties.
CAMEROTA: Why not today?
TOOBIN: In subsequent rules, they have said if there's a tie vote, it fails. It's the same as voting no. So we don't know how that sort of issue is -- that's going to be resolved. It is not a trial like we have ever seen before. And the big difference from 21 years ago with Clinton is that there was an atmosphere of comity and cooperation between the Democrats and Republicans in that trial, which is completely absent here.
CAMEROTA: I'm beginning to see your point.
BERMAN: It is the wild west. And on Tuesday what they're going to try to do, Dana, is vote on the procedures and rules that Mitch McConnell unilaterally will determine. Again, 21 years ago, however many years ago it was, 19 years ago, I'm bad at math, it was agreed to by Chuck Schumer and 100 senators voted to support it. This time it's just the Republicans coming up with it. And how Democrats choose to handle it once it all starts, that is a huge unknown also because they can send paper questions to the chief justice in the middle of it all.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. The Senate majority leader says he's going to use the Clinton model. We haven't seen the actual paper that they need to put forward and vote on that really write the rules of the road to see whether or not it does look like the Clinton model.
But as you said, it's really hard to compare for so many reasons, in that, yes, you can have the general rules of the road in that you're going to start the proceedings and deal with witnesses later, which is generally what he's saying when he says the Clinton model. But because the atmosphere is so different, because, just even a basic understanding of what went on back then, obviously, it was a different crime that that president committed, but it was also a situation where President Clinton apologized, and he was very contrite. And you also had Democrats, his fellow Democrats in the Senate, who were really mad at him because he lied to them.
It's completely different now. You don't have a contrite president. You have a president fighting tooth and nail, and his fellow Republicans in the Senate backing him up. And that is the template with which all of the votes and the procedures are going to go forward.
TOOBIN: And just to reflect on what Dana said, we don't really even know how the president's lawyers are going to defend this case. Are they going to say, as the president has said, this was a perfect phone call? Are they going to say, like John Thune, who was a senior member of the Republican leadership, senator from South Dakota, has said this was not a good phone call, but it's not impeachable? Probably the former, not the latter. And how will the Republican senators, will they all get in line and say this was a perfect phone call? That is yet another unknown about how this will unfold.
CAMEROTA: Last hour, dana, Jeffrey poo-pooed the idea that some Republican senators would vote against Mitch McConnell to hear from witnesses. He said it's different -- he's saying today, yes, I'm open to witnesses, and then when the rubber meets the road and they have to actually vote.
TOOBIN: Can you say poo-poo on television?
CAMEROTA: Oh, I said it. Oh, I said it.
BASH: We're cable, Jeffrey. You should know this, Mr. Lawyer.
CAMEROTA: But here -- well, the names seem to be growing. So John Barrasso has just added his name to this list of senators who have out loud said that they are open to witnesses. And Dana, these are not all senators who are in lockstep, obviously, with the president. Might they vote against Mitch McConnell and prove Jeffrey wrong?
BASH: It depends -- well, look. We don't know the answer to that. John Barrasso is a member of the Senate Republican leadership. I find it hard to imagine that he will vote that way. But I'm not making any bets on anything here when it comes to these votes, particularly for the senators who have kind of poked their head out of the hole and said, well, maybe I would be open to witnesses, because on the one hand, sure, they have to answer to Mitch McConnell. But the most important thing that they have to do is answer to their constituents and voters back home. And for those in reelection campaigns who, yes, have a very staunch Republican base who don't want their Republican senators to do anything to oppose the president, they also have to, in order to win, get Democrats who have voted for them in the past, get independents who have voted forever them in the past. And if their opponents and the Democrats nationally can successfully convince those voters that these guys can't even -- don't even have a strong enough stomach to support a fair trial, that's going to be hard for them back home.
TOOBIN: Keep in mind, too, the votes on witnesses may not be very simple and straightforward. They may be voting on packages of witnesses. Mitch McConnell may force the Democrats to vote on -- you get John Bolton, but you have to get Hunter Biden, too. So the questions about witnesses may be more complicated than simply up or down on the issue of witnesses. Another unknown.
BERMAN: The politics have changed, I think, a little over the last few days, or maybe a lot depending on how you look at it, with Lev Parnas out there speaking. Let's hear more from Lev Parnas, because I think it's interesting. This is the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani who has come out with more information about what he says he did from January all the way through the summer to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, or else he says he threatened they would not get aid.
And he has got more information. What's the bite we have? He says that Republicans should want him as a witness. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEV PARNAS, INDICTED RUDY GIULIANI ASSOCIATE: I should be their best witness. I should be their number one witness because I'm the one that got all the dirt supposedly. Why aren't they calling me to testify? Why do they need Biden? Call me. Ask me what Biden did wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So now, Dana, we have a person that Republicans will have to vote against hearing from in addition to John Bolton, if they cast that vote. But we also have these documents which may be more damning in some ways than even hearing Parnas' story directly. So how do you think the politics may have shifted over the last few days?
BASH: Listen, what you just said is really the key about the documents versus the witness. To say that he is an imperfect witness is an understatement, and I defer to the counselor here on our segment to back me up on that. But it is the documents, in particular, a letter that apparently shows that the president did direct the money to be withheld. And there are very likely other documents that the House never got to see because the White House withheld them. And so there is going to be an open question on whether even that letter in particular opens the door to pressure again on those Republicans to say, wait a minute, if there's more, I want to see it, because the ballgame here, politically, in the court of public opinion, is going to be, if the Democrats have anything to do with it, to say, are you kidding me? These senators shirked their constitutional responsibility by not even getting the information that allowed them to really understand what their vote to acquit the president was all about.
CAMEROTA: Don't a lot of witnesses in criminal, or many in criminal cases, have dubious pasts. There's a way to deal with Lev Parnas, right? TOOBIN: Well, yes, but they are closely cross-examined on that issue.
I was talking to Anderson last night about interviewing Lev Parnas. And he said it's the first time I'd ever interviewed someone who was wearing an ankle bracelet at the time. And he's wearing an ankle bracelet because he's out on bail now. That is not an ideal position for a witness you want to tie your story to.
But as prosecutors often say in situations like this, well, if he's such a terrible person, if he's such a liar, why was he with Rudy Giuliani every single day for months? Why is that -- what does that say about Rudy Giuliani? So prosecutors have dealt with problematic witnesses before. And our prisons are full of people who were convicted on the testimony of unpleasant cooperators.
CAMEROTA: But don't tether your fate to someone with an ankle bracelet?
TOOBIN: Maybe, yes and no. That's the problem.
BERMAN: You are casting a very narrow -- there are different kinds of ankle bracelets.
CAMEROTA: I don't mean an anklet. I mean the other kind. Dana, Jeffrey, thank you very much.
Opening arguments will begin next week in the impeachment trial. So what do Senate jurors who will decide the president's fate want to hear? One of those jurors joins us next.
BERMAN: How about toe rings?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT: Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States now pending you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help you God?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump is under way. Senators have been sworn in.
One of the biggest hurdles will be setting the ground rules for the trial, including whether, of course, there will be witnesses.
Joining us now, Democratic Senator Michael Bennet. He is also a presidential candidate.
Senator, thanks so much for being here.
SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you for having me.
CAMEROTA: Let's about what -- I don't know if you heard our previous segment, but Jeffrey Toobin laid out how this is the Wild West. That really anything can happen next week. Anything can happen for the next few weeks. There's very little -- there's not much in the playbook for how this is going to go.
Is there anxiety among your fellow Democrats that this is unchartered territory and Mitch McConnell has a lot of power here?
BENNET: Well, I don't think there's anxiety. I think there's a real desire to get to the bottom of what happened. And I believe that the pressure is building among the public for us to call witnesses and to have records because the public looks at this and says, you know, if you can -- if you got people available that haven't been able to testify, we'd like to hear them because a fair trial requires that.
CAMEROTA: But what about the scenario that Jeffrey Toobin also laid out which is it might not be that simple. That Mitch McConnell might be able to do something with witnesses whereby it's a package deal or a trade deal. In other words, OK, we'll give you John Bolton. You give us Hunter Biden.
BENNET: Yes. I think that the -- I think the public isn't going to be enthusiastic about a deal that feels totally political. I mean, you know, I don't think Hunter Biden can shed any light on whether or not President Trump tried to extort the president of Ukraine.
But many others can. There may be other witnesses Republicans want that I'd be interested in hearing from as well.
CAMEROTA: Well, but look, Hunter Biden is the name that comes up most regularly. I mean, I know you say Americans wouldn't be interested, but certainly, President Trump's supporters would be. So, 35 percent to 40 percent of the country is interested in that name.
And so, would you vote? If that were your choice, would you go along and say, yes, we'll take that deal? That Hunter Biden has to testify to get John Bolton?
BENNET: I actually don't think that will be the choice because I think Mitch McConnell will not want to turn this thing into a circus. He may, but I doubt it very much.
I think that the American people want to know what -- they know the allegations are very serious, and they want to know what the facts are. And I don't think that's going to help them ascertain the facts.
But there may be many other packages of witnesses that McConnell puts together that people on both sides could vote for. And that would be good, not bad. CAMEROTA: But as you sit there today, given that there have been
about five Republican senators who have said they're open to hearing witnesses, do you believe that we will hear from witnesses in this trial?
BENNET: I think we will. I mean, I think that the only way we won't is if Mitch McConnell shuts it off and decides that the witnesses will be too damaging to the president's cause. But I don't think that's where a majority of the Senate is.
So as long as we've got 51 votes to have witnesses, I think we can have them. And I hope the public is calling their senators saying this is what we want you to do.
CAMEROTA: Is this Senate trial bad timing for your presidential race?
BENNET: It's not optimal, but there's nothing to do about it. I am going to go up to New Hampshire this weekend and spend more time there than any other candidate. I'm in the middle of doing 50 town hall meetings. I'm going to keep doing that. Be in Iowa on Monday and back in the Senate on Tuesday morning for the trial.
CAMEROTA: But do you feel the way Bernie Sanders does that you'd rather be on the trail?
BENNET: I actually don't feel that way. I think I've got a constitutional responsibility to fulfill, and I feel privileged to have the chance to do it.
CAMEROTA: Senator Marsha Blackburn says you should recuse yourself from this. Let me read her tweet: Senator Sanders, Senator Warren, Senator Klobuchar and Senator Bennet are spending millions to defeat Donald Trump and we're supposed to believe they will be impartial during the trial? They should recuse themselves.
BENNET: My response is, we should have a fair trial. I will be a fair witness. And I hope Senator Blackburn will vote for witnesses and vote to have the evidence in front of the American people so we can assure that there's a fair trial.
CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, as you've heard, Mitch McConnell has said he's not pretending to be impartial. He doesn't consider himself impartial. He has a vested stake in this.
Don't you as well?
BENNET: I think the country has a vested stake in this. And it really, really matters. We're -- what is at stake in my view is whether we want to live in a democracy or whether we don't want to live in a democracy.
The impeachment is only one part of that. But we have a president who, you know, has been talking about blowing up cultural sites in Iran. We have a president who wants to get rid of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act because he thinks it's unfair to -- for us not to be able to bribe foreign officials.
I mean, we're supposed to set an example for the rest of the world. We have a president who yesterday was claiming the economy is the best it's ever been when we're now creating jobs at a slower rate than when Barack Obama was president of the United States. We're creating jobs at the same rate that Barack Obama's administration was, we'd have a million more jobs today than we've had with Donald Trump.
And farm bankruptcies are up 23 percent. Farm incomes down 16 percent. We're exporting $4.5 billion less in our farm economy because of this president's crazy trade wars.
So there is a lot at stake here. And I think it's important for us that are sitting in this impeachment trial to do the job that we have at this moment. But it's also vitally important that Donald Trump is only a one-term president.
We need a president in this country who will tell the American people the truth again. And that's why I'm running.
CAMEROTA: Senator Michael Bennet, we really appreciate you taking time to be on NEW DAY.
BENNET: Thanks for having me.
CAMEROTA: Thank you.
BENNET: Thank you.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We have some breaking news. These are live pictures right now of a Delta flight that skidded off the taxiway at the international airport in Kansas City. The airport is now closed.
I wonder if we can take the banner down.
The spokesman says the plane's nose and wheel is off the pavement. It's hard to see there, but we know that no one was hurt. We'll keep you updated as we learn more.
CAMEROTA: Of course, we're counting down the days to the Iowa caucuses, 17 days. But another big early state we're also watching is South Carolina. So, we're going to speak with a group of black voters to see how they feel about what's happening in 2020, which candidates they're backing today.
CAMEROTA: Seventeen days until the Iowa caucuses, and then on to New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
So we thought it would be a good time to gather an all-important group of African-American Democratic voters from South Carolina to see how they're feeling about their upcoming primary, and the lack of more candidates of color and all of the issues of race in this race.
Here is the latest "Pulse of the People".
CAMEROTA: So this is the latest "Washington Post" poll among black Democratic voters. And Joe Biden leads the charge by more than 2 to 1.
Why do you think that Joe Biden is so appealing to black voters?
DARION MCCLOUD, SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRAT: To be simply, to be honest, Biden is the person I think that will pull in white voters, black voters, men, women. He's that candidate.
JENNIFER WINSTON, SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRAT: I also believe that he brings the confidence of foreign policy to the table as well, electability, being likable amongst different demographics and different age groups.
VANITY DETERVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRAT: I think that Joe Biden has been very good at reminiscing on the Obama administration and his tenure in the White House then, so I think it's largely dependent on the electability that he has.
CAMEROTA: OK, all that being said, show of hands, how many of you plan to vote in the primary for Joe Biden?
After all the things you just named, only one is voting for Joe Biden.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm undecided.
CASSANDRA WILLIAMS RUSH, SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRAT: The statistics in South Carolina at the point indicates that Biden is number one, but Tom Steyer is following very closely behind.
CAMEROTA: Do you like Tom Steyer?
RUSH: I do like him a lot, yes. I like his environmental standpoints because I'm an environmentalist. So at the moment, I am leaning towards Tom Steyer.