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Warren and Sanders Take Jabs at Biden as Election Heats Up; Trump's Legal Team Responds to the House Democrats Impeachment Argument; House Managers File Rebuttal to Trump Legal Team's Saturday Filing. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 20, 2020 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: -- is poking at the former vice president, Joe Biden calling up past Biden comments about potential changes to social security. And this from Biden is certain to turn up the volume even more. Warning, listen, that a ticket led by either of the progressives would hurt the Democratic Party in much of the country.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was asked a rhetorical question. Bernie is at the top of the ticket in North -- in South Carolina or Warren is at the top of the ticket. How many Democrats down the line do you think are going to win? And it's just practical. If you look at the data in those states, I win in those states. So I think the candidate has to be someone who is going to help the ticket down line, they're going to be able to run with and not run away from.


KING: CNN's Jessica dean is live for us in Columbia, South Carolina. Jessica, kumbaya in the photos of that march. Not so much in the words of the former vice president.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's like we're two weeks out from the Iowa caucuses or something, right? Yes, here in South Carolina at the state capital, we have seen the show of unity from the Democratic candidates, the top tier here in Columbia to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day. You saw Warren and Sanders talking together there.

But as you mentioned, John, you had all of those examples, yes, the heat is turning up, the barbs are getting sharper as we get ever closer to the beginning of actual voting, of actual contest being run. And we're hearing from all the different factions poking and prodding at each other. I was at an event with Joe Biden over the weekend. That's where he called out the Sanders campaign to denounce this video that's going around that has pulled out some of his comments about social security out of context. He called it doctored, but it's really out of context when you're watching it. And then, of course, we had Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders last week, but they've turned their attention back to Joe Biden. But very interesting to hear Joe Biden's comments that you just played there, that is a message we're hearing more and more of what we're hearing on the stump, that he can bring the rest of the ticket with him. So we will -- it will be interesting to see, John as we get ever closer to February 3rd just how much more we hear from all those candidates.

KING: As the calendar does tend to drive the sparks. Jessica Dean live for us in South Carolina, appreciate it.

This has been the conversation in the Democratic primary but not so blunt if you will. When the moderates like Biden or Buttigieg or Klobuchar argue against Medicare for All or free college, they say you can't sell that in purple states, you can't sell that to the country at large. But then for the former vice president to name Sanders and Warren, he's made the electability argument throughout the campaign about him, I think I can -- I'm the best guy to beat Trump. Now he's saying to Democrats, if you nominate them, look at your governor, look at your congressman, look down-ballot and say goodbye.

DAN BALZ, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: It is an extraordinary thing for him to do that today, to push in that direction. It's certainly been out there as an issue. It often is in a Democratic primary. Who was the person at the top of the ticket who can bring the party together but also help down-ballot people?

The counterargument that Sanders and Warren or some of the others have made through the course of this is, we need someone who can energize people as much as possible, and by indication, they're suggesting that Vice President Joe Biden, whatever people may think of him generates very little enthusiasm, even within the Democratic base. And so that's the argument that people are making.

KING: And there's a way to say the party should be careful, the party should think hard, the party should nominate someone who helps the party down-ballot, but to say Sanders and Warren would blow up the party, welcome to the fray.

JULIE PACE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's the kind of quote that you could imagine coming back if Sanders or Warren were the eventual nominees, certainly in those purple states. But to Dan's point, I mean, these are candidates that have two, very different views on the Democratic electorate. Sanders and Warren argued that what Joe Biden talks about when he talks about the electorate in some of the purple states but also in some of these marginal Democratic states at this point, that he's talking about voters that are gone, that are not coming back to the Democratic Party, that have made their choice to be Republicans and to be with Donald Trump specifically.

And what Sanders and Warren would also argue is that -- and there is evidence to back up their argument in this, too, is that part of the reason that Democrats -- that Hillary Clinton lost in 2016, yes, it was white working class voters in some of these states that we talk about often, but it was also that turnout was down among black voters, among young voters in urban areas in Philadelphia, in Milwaukee, in Detroit, and that they argue that they can generate enthusiasm, particularly among young people.

KING: And so two weeks, the votes, it's hard -- the race is getting overshadowed by the big events here in Washington but two weeks from tonight we'll be counting the votes in Iowa. It's a one open wide race. You look at the polls in Iowa, you know, then if you point at the polls in New Hampshire, there's been a few points. I think it's different after that from those two states will change everything.

The fascinating part is the candidates are under stress here. This is Bernie Sanders, if the presidential campaign doesn't work out maybe Bernie Sanders wants to come join us here on INSIDE POLITICS.



SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- but I think everybody has their own sets of problems. I'm 78 years of age. That's a problem. If you're looking at Buttigieg, he's a young guy. And people will say well, he's too young to be president.

You're looking (INAUDIBLE) to one as woman. You know, so everybody, you know, brings some negatives, if you like.


KING: That's a pretty honest assessment, is it not?

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: Well -- so -- and also there's a new Iowa poll out today that shows Joe Biden pulling ahead. He's at 24 points. Bernie Sanders is 10 points behind Joe Biden now at 14 percent, and Elizabeth Warren at 18 and Pete Buttigieg.

And I bring that up to point out, you meant the -- you mentioned the argument that have been taking place between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, that poll suggesting that it may have hurt both of them because now both of them are trailing Joe Biden heading into the final two weeks. And the sources that I spoken to, someone close to the Warren campaign told me that they've been told to deescalate the situation with Bernie Sanders in this poll, perhaps reinforcing some of the reasons why they're being told that.

HEATHER CAYGLE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: And let's not forget like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are going to be in their seats in the Senate for the next two weeks, while Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg and others are going to be out shaking hands in Iowa and meeting face-to-face with voters. So that could also play a role given, you know, they're already a little bit down in this poll.

CHAMBERS: Bernie Sanders is now (INAUDIBLE) a fight by the way.

KING: He says he's go out there Wednesday night but if McConnell sticks to this 12-hour days, I don't think that's going to be possible. I think Bernie Sanders was expecting an eight or 10-hour day. We'll see, there's a lot of uncertainties.

When we come back, the president's legal team has filed 110 pages with the United States Senate, their rebuttal to the House Democrats impeachment argument. More on that in a moment.



KING: More now on the breaking news this hour. They just-filed formal 110-page White House legal response filed on the eve of the impeachment trial beginning in earnest. Let's get back to CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the White House for some of the highlights.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, we just got this briefing from the White House. It's about a 117 pages, a lot longer than that outline you saw from the White House on Saturday. We've got about a hundred pages here, we had a little bit of the paper jam. But, essentially, what you're seeing is they're laying out in detail this argument that you've been hearing from the White House, but what's notable about the difference in this and what we saw on Saturday is on Saturday we just got about seven pages from the White House, essentially saying that they did not believe the articles of impeachment could stand on their own, and here they called them flimsy, but they break it down a lot more. And they're defending the president's actions more in here than we had seen previously.

It's not just talking about the articles of impeachment and the process and the substance here, it's actually talking about the withhold of this Ukrainian aid, the president's actions here, and you're seeing them defend what the president is doing. Now, we had notice this on Saturday, because in that call -- in that short briefing, the White House wasn't denying the core tenets of this, that the president withheld the military aid, that he withheld a White House meeting, and that he also wanted this investigation into the Bidens. And you get an indication of that when you're reading through this lengthy briefing that they just filed with the Senate ahead of this trial getting formally underway tomorrow.

And just an indication of how much they're going to be attempting to defend the president's behavior here. In the index they talked about saying, quote, it was entirely appropriate for President Trump to ask about a possible Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. That's been the White House and the president's Republican allies trying to argue that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election because they wrote op-eds. While people have pointed out that's a whole lot different than the Russian interference at the intelligence agency -- the intelligence community, I mean, has talking about.

They also said, quote, it would have been appropriate for President Trump to ask President Zelensky about the Biden Burisma affair. That's really notable because it gives you an indication that they are not only going to be arguing against the House process, and whether or not it was fair to the president and whether or not these articles are fair, they're also going to be attempting to defend President Trump's behavior.

Now, the question, of course, is, is the audience going to be receptive to that? And the audience here is going to be these senators, and an indication in the beginning of this brief, of just the argument they're going to be making, and I want to read you a quote from it, they say, quote, anyone having the most basic respect for the sovereign will of the American people would shudder at the enormity of casting a vote to impeach a duly elected president.

That is going to be the White House message to these senators as they are going forward to make their case, and, of course, they already feel that the president is going to be acquitted. They don't really seem to have a lot of concern about that inside the White House here like there was concern during the Clinton impeachment. But the question that now the White House is facing and they don't know the answer to is whether or not there are going to be additional witnesses called forward.

I also want to note that we had a briefing call with sources working with the president's legal team as the White House puts it, and they were asked about Lev Parnas, this Rudy Giuliani associate who was indicted but now has been coming forward with these text messages, these voicemails, all these information and allegations about President Trump's behavior. When they asked about him, they believed -- they said, he was just trying to curry favor, they said, essentially saying he was hoping to avoid some kind of jail sentence, and they said that was not part of the House investigation. So in their opinion, it shouldn't be part of the Senate investigation. Though, of course, it is still a big open question about what -- if that's going to be something that comes up, John.

KING: That's the president's brief now, their return salvo, if you will, to the House impeachment managers. Both of these documents now used and the lawyers will make the case on the floor of the Senate for witnesses.

Let's bring it back in the studio. Kaitlan Collins, thank you. I just want read the first line which tracks pretty much the shorter brief they filed on Saturday which is more of a political argument than a legal argument. There are legal arguments as you go through this, or substantive arguments maybe is a better word because it is not a legal proceeding.


But they come out of the box with, "The articles of impeachment now before the Senate are an affront to the constitution and to our democratic institutions. The articles themselves and the rigged process that brought them here are a brazenly political act by House Democrats that must be rejected."

As Kaitlan was noting, if you go through the document, they used the term show trial. But they do specifically say yes, yes, the president did ask the Ukrainians to look into Joe Biden. They make the case they had every right to do so. I suspect that will be one of the flash points if you will in the argument for witnesses. What a John Bolton think about this? How involved was Mick Mulvaney in withholding the military aid and conversations about withholding a White House meeting? That would be the Democrats' arguments for. In this document, the White House essentially is saying yes, the president did it, he can, no need for anything else.

PACE: We already know that there was obviously concern within the administration from career officials about the fact that the president was raising these requests of Zelensky. It's what actually started the whole matter in the first place with the whistleblower complaint. And we have heard others testify that John Bolton, a stalwart Republican, also had concerns about this. It really does come down to what you think the president's powers are in office.

Does he essentially have unfettered ability to make any decisions he wants in a foreign policy space even if it involves a political rival? Certainly from the White House perspective, they like putting this out there, too, because they think it muddies the arguments around Joe Biden. They think that just keeping Joe Biden's name is good for the president politically just for Trump. A lot of these continues to just be about his re-election campaign.

KING: And the more political the conversations, the more likely that the Republicans stay in their corner if you will if it seems to be a big political flash point.

Another -- one of the subheads here, Dan is the Senate may not consider allegations not charged in the articles of impeachment. They're talking about specifics there in the sense but that seems to me also to be part of this no Lev Parnas, no information that's come out later, no GAO report that said withholding the money was illegal and broke the law. They're trying to make the case the House had an impeachment -- had an inquiry, has a record. That should be the basis right here.

And let's go straight to Capitol Hill. I'm sorry to interrupt you. House managers now responding as well.

CNN's Manu Raju live for us on the Hill. Manu, what's the latest?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is actually a filing that just came through from House Democrats to the senator -- the Saturday response from the White House that after the Senate had summoned the president. Now in this brief response not a nearly as long as more than a hundred page filing from Saturday but Democrats make the case, they pushed back on virtually every assertion that the president made.

One aspect of it, it says that President Trump maintains that the Senate cannot remove him even if the House proves every claim in the articles of impeachment. That is a chilling assertion. It's also dead wrong.

So they go on in this argument to reiterate their arguments we've been hearing for some time on why the president deserves to be impeached and ultimately be removed from office. And essentially this is just the latest in a legal filing that we'll see back and forth. You saw -- you've been talking about the White House filing. Tomorrow there's going to be another House Democratic filing responding to the White House's brief from today. So you'll see these legal documents, these briefings go back and forth, briefs going back and forth until we actually get to the actual arguments later today.

So we'll see also, John, whether or not House Democrats themselves decide to talk about -- a little bit more about this filing, about the White House's response. Right now, they are in Speaker Pelosi's office, the impeachment managers as they try to strategize for the next few days, discuss their arguments that are going to be made publicly and see what they have to say about the White House's latest filing as well, John.

KING: Manu Raju live for us on the Hill. Let's say war of the written word and the brief right now will become more of the lawyers on the floor of the Senate soon enough.

We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.



KING: More now on this 110-page legal brief fired today -- filed today by the president's lawyers. And just the title reminds us sometimes we get caught up in the details, we need to step back and remember the moment. Trial memorandum of President Donald J. Trump. The impeachment trial of the president of the United States begins in earnest tomorrow.

This is an interesting document, they say essentially, yes, he asked for an investigation into the Bidens because he believes they have been corrupt in the past. They don't blink, they don't back away from that one, they're not trying to deny it happened, they can't, but they directly address it.

They also say that the general accounting office ruling of last week should not be allowed in because it happened outside of the House impeachment case. We'll see if the Senate agrees to that. And they say the president was proper in his rejection of documents that the House impeachment had asked for and witnesses the House impeachment asked for.

The burden now comes -- again, I called it a war of the written word, the president's legal team including Pat Cipollone, try to find pictures of Pat Cipollone talking on camera. He's practiced a different kind of law. It's not what he's done at the White House. He hasn't been a spotlight seeker.

We are about to begin a fascinating moment.

CHAMBERS: So we expect to see about 45 minutes from him of substance and then we'll hear from Jay Sekulow. When the president's lawyers do talk, likely this is what's expected. He will then give us an overview of what has happened to get us to this point so far. Then there's the rest of the legal team who they say will have a discreet function, and they will come in and argue various things. And we don't know what the rest of that will look like, John, because they are waiting to see what plays out beforehand.

CAYGLE: And remember, these opening arguments probably aren't going to start until Wednesday at the earliest. Tomorrow will be all focus on this organizing resolution, and then on Wednesday if we get to that, the House impeachment managers go first.


And if McConnell gets his way and we get 12-hour days, we're all there watching until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m., so.

KING: It's essentially a completely different interpretation of pretty much the same set of facts.

PACE: Absolutely. And that is sort of the world we live in and we will see that play out on the Senate floor. One set of facts. No one really disputes those facts actually, they just view them completely differently. Democrats are united in believing that the president abused his power in office. Republicans believe he acted properly.

KING: Thank you all for dealing with the roller coaster today. The impeachment trial of the president of the United States begins in earnest tomorrow.

Thanks for joining us in the INSIDE POLITICS. Brianna Keilar continues our coverage after a quick break. Have a good afternoon.