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Interview With Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD); Impeachment Trial Preparation; CNN Obtains Text Of Resolution On Senate Rules For Trump Trial; Indicted Giuliani Associate Seeks Attorney General Barr's Recusal From Federal Case Against Him; New Book Examines How Trump Is Changing The Presidency; CNN Obtains Text Of Resolution On Senate Rules For Trump Trial. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired January 20, 2020 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: CNN has just obtained the text of a Republican resolution outlining the trial rules just hours before the Senate reconvenes to consider the charges against President Trump.
Tonight, Mr. Trump's lawyers are spelling out their defense strategy in new detail. They're rejecting the articles of impeachment as a charade, and urging senators to acquit the president quickly.
Let's go to Capitol Hill.
Our Senior Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju, is with us.
Manu, all right, so, set the scene for us. Tell us what you're learning about the rules for the impeachment trial that the Republican Senate majority leader is about to introduce.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he's just released this text that we have obtained, circling to Republican offices and now out publicly.
And the upshot here is that Mitch McConnell is looking for a quick Senate trial that could lead to the president being acquitted in just essentially in a matter of days, and, of course, the ultimate question is whether the Republicans would allow witnesses to come forward, but nothing in this resolution requires witnesses to testify.
Nothing in this resolution requires documents to be produced. Those are the two things that Democrats have been demanding for weeks. But Mitch McConnell has signalled for time that he would not allow that to happen.
And clearly in this resolution that will set the parameters for this trial, nothing is specified in terms of requirements for witnesses to come forward, as the Democrats have been demanding. Now, what it does lay out is a quick time frame for opening arguments.
What it says here is that there will be 24 hours of arguments that each side will present. First, the House impeachment managers, there will be 24 hours of arguments for their side, and then the president's defense team will make -- 24 hours to make their case.
Now, it's important to note this is over two session days, so essentially this could be split up into about 12 hours a day, and that's shorter than the Clinton time frame, because the Clinton time frame had 24 hours, split up into four days apiece, so here it's going to be up to 12 hours apiece for each side.
And then afterwards, 16 hours of questioning will be allowed for the senators to ask questions to each side. And then, at that point, there will be a vote in the Senate about whether they should subpoena or call any witness to come forward.
Now, that question doesn't specify if there are specific witnesses who should come forward. This is general language about saying, it's going to ask the Senate if they want to hear from any witnesses, so that will be a key vote after the questioning time of the senators is completed, after those opening arguments are made.
And also a Republican leadership aide is telling us tonight that what this resolution also does is allows for a vote of the Senate to allow to admit any new evidence that the House has produced or any evidence the House has produced as part of the record.
And they say this is different than the Clinton trial and the explanation given to us from a Republican aide is because their argument is that this is -- in their view, that the Clinton process was more fair to the president, sitting president in office.
They say it was the House investigation was not fair to the president, this current president, and so they're essentially arguing here that there will be -- according to Republican leadership aide, the resolution allows for the production of materials from the House to be printed and made available to the senators and allows for a vote at a later time for about whether or not to admit that evidence as part of the trial.
So there could be some key votes about getting documents, about even submitting their evidence for the record, and about actually for asking for additional records that Democrats have been demanding. They were blocked by the White House, but very clearly here, Wolf, Republicans are looking for a quick trial, wrap this up quickly, get the president acquitted and move on, certainly be done by the time of the State of the Union in early February.
And Democrats already are objecting privately. I'm sure we will hear some public concerns now that this appears to be a condensed time frame to get these proceedings done, Wolf.
BLITZER: Which suggests, Manu, that the Democrats, the House managers might use all of their 24 hours over two days, but the White House lawyers may decide to do it more quickly just to move on and get this thing over with.
RAJU: And that's been the expectations in the halls here in the last couple of days, not a belief that the White House will use that full time, that the president's defense team will use that full 24 hours because of exactly that, Wolf. They want to move on.
Democrats are signaling, though, that they're prepared to use as much time, up to 24 hours, if not all 24 hours, as part of their time. The question is, though, will this go through the night because tomorrow when that resolution is offered, there will be a vote -- a debate for up two hours on the resolution.
Then they will be an amendment that will be offered by Chuck Schumer to demand those witnesses and documents as well. They will be two hours of debate on that amendment. And there could be more amendments offered by Chuck Schumer.
And then once they're done with that debate over the resolution, that's when the opening arguments will actually begin. So if they start the opening arguments in the evening time, Wolf, will they go through the night? Will they recess for the night, reconvene in the morning?
These could be late nights or the next couple of days as they try to race through and wrap these proceedings up, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, we will see what happens.
Manu Raju, thanks again for that reporting.
As we're learning more about the impeachment trial rules, President Trump is leaving the country tonight.
Our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta, is already in Davos, Switzerland, where the president is heading.
Jim, the president is getting out of Washington as his impeachment trial is getting ready to begin. His lawyers are already preparing to argue his case.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They certainly are, Wolf.
And the White House, they want the president out here in Switzerland. The president is basically trying to escape this impeachment trial in Washington by arriving here in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum that gets started here in Davos tomorrow.
But the president, according to his impeachment team, he wants this trial dismissed quickly. That is one thing that they're urging at this point, as the president has been asking his associates in recent days, why are they doing this to me?
ACOSTA (voice-over): Before his impeachment trial has even begun in the Senate, the president is seeking a ruling of case dismissed.
In a 110-page memo blasted out by the president's defense team, Mr. Trump's attorneys write: "All of this is a dangerous perversion of the institution that the Senate should swiftly and roundly condemn."
ROBERT RAY, MEMBER OF PRESIDENT TRUMP'S DEFENSE TEAM: And this will be the argument from the president's defense team that this is an impeachment that is fundamentally and constitutionally flawed. Never in our history has there been an impeachment of a president without even an allegation that a crime was committed.
ACOSTA: The president's lawyers go on to argue that it was just fine for Mr. Trump to ask the leader of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden during their July 25 phone call, adding: "It also would have been legitimate to mention the Biden-Burisma affair," all but making the case that it's OK for a president to welcome foreign interference, as Mr. Trump did in front of the cameras.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And, by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened to China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.
ACOSTA: Over the weekend, at his Florida resort, a source close to the White House told CNN Mr. Trump was asking friends, "Why are they doing this to me?"
His allies are trying to assure him he should receive a speedy trial that's over in a couple of weeks.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): His mood is to go to the State of the Union with this behind him and talk about what he wants to do for the next rest of 2020, and what he wants to do for the next four years. He is very much comfortable with the idea this is going to turn out well for him.
ACOSTA: But sources tell CNN one of the president's high-profile attorneys, Alan Dershowitz, needed some convincing to sign on to the trial team that included a phone call from Mr. Trump to Dershowitz's wife.
Dershowitz is on the defensive, changing his story on whether a crime is necessary for a president to be impeached. Compare what he said during the Clinton impeachment.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, TRUMP IMPEACHMENT DEFENSE TEAM MEMBER: It certainly doesn't have to be a crime. If you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty, you don't need a technical crime.
ACOSTA: To what Dershowitz is saying now.
DERSHOWITZ: No, I haven't changed. I was saying, you don't need a technical crime, but you need criminal-type behavior. That's the position I have taken over time.
ACOSTA: Democrats aren't buying any of it in Mr. Trump's case.
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): There's ample evidence, overwhelming evidence -- any jury would convict in three minutes flat -- that the president betrayed his country by breaking the law.
ACOSTA: One top Democrat is warning that portions of the Intelligence Committee are holding onto some evidence that could damage the president.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The NSA in particular is withholding what are potentially relevant documents to our oversight responsibilities on Ukraine, but also withholding documents potentially relevant that the senators might want to see during the trial. That is deeply concerning, and there are signs that the CIA may be on the same tragic course.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta reporting from Davos, Switzerland, where the president will be heading later tonight.
Let's bring in one of the U.S. senators serving on the impeachment court.
We're joined by Senator Ben Cardin, Democrat of Maryland.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
And you have heard the breaking news, CNN has now seen this actual resolution laying out the proposed format for the trial, with each side given up to 24 hours over two days each to present their case.
So that could amount to some very, very long days and nights for you and your Senate colleagues. Are you comfortable with this format?
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): Wolf, first, it's good to be with you.
No, I'm not comfortable, from what I have heard so far. Look, I don't mind long nights. I don't mind us trying to get our work done in a timely manner.
But it is critically important that the Senate conduct a fair trial. I have had a chance over the weekend to read the managers of the House, their brief, and I have also looked at the president's reply.
And there are factual differences in how they interpret how the Ukrainians were responding to the president. And we need to hear from the key witnesses to see whether, in fact, the president was using the power of his office to deny Ukraine the aid that they needed in the presidential meeting in exchange for doing political favors.
The White House counsel said that was not the case. We have seen testimonies from some witnesses that, in fact, that was. But the key witnesses, those that know the president's -- what the president was doing, were denied access to the House through the president.
We need to hear them in the impeachment trial in the Senate. We need to see the documents. So, I think the key is not so much the time, how much time everyone gets or how long the days.
Will we have a fair trial and hear the key witnesses and see the documents that can tell us what the president's involvement was in regards to the use of his office and these investigations?
BLITZER: Well, we don't know if the Senate will vote to have witnesses.
But this resolution, the rules resolution that Mitch McConnell and the Republicans released says that any witnesses will first have to be deposed before the Senate can decide whether they will actually testify.
What do you think is behind that strategy?
CARDIN: Well, I think that's a normal process for a witness coming to a trial. You normally have a deposition.
Those depositions should have been taken a long time ago. They should have been done in the House. But the president denied the House the opportunity to hear from those witnesses. So that may make it a little bit longer before we actually get the live testimony or the transcripts from the deposition.
But that's fine, as long as we can get under oath the key witnesses testifying and have access to that testimony and those documents. That's what the American people should be demanding, and the Senate should be demanding this.
This is not a partisan matter. It's a matter of, what is a fair trial? And how can you have a fair trial if you don't hear the witnesses that have direct knowledge of the key facts as to whether the president was using the power of his office, withholding foreign aid, and withholding a presidential visit to do a political favor for himself?
That's what we need to find out.
BLITZER: But are you willing to wait to hear opening arguments from the -- first from the House managers, 24 hours over two days, then from the president's legal team, 24 hours, if they want it, over two days?
Are you willing to hear those opening arguments before you consider the issue of witnesses?
CARDIN: No, I think we should consider the witnesses from the beginning. We should know that we're going to have an opportunity to hear these witnesses.
And I hope that, when we have votes as early as tomorrow, that we can get 51 senators who recognize a fair trial must include these witnesses and documents.
I hope we can get that from the beginning. I hope we will have an opportunity to vote on that as early as tomorrow. We should have that. And, Wolf, it doesn't seem possible that you could go through 24 hours of argument in a short period of time as they're talking about in 24 -- in two days.
I think one of the purposes here is that Mitch McConnell is trying to saturate the hours, so people don't pay attention, and trying to get this over quickly, rather than allowing a fair trial to take place.
BLITZER: During the Bill Clinton impeachment trial, they had 24 hours, each side, but over four days.
Mitch McConnell now wants it over two days each.
The Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, says he's prepared to force votes for witnesses right away.
But here's a question, hypothetical. What if Republicans say, yes, you can have your witnesses, you can have John Bolton, you can have Mick Mulvaney, but only if the Republicans can call their witnesses at the same time, like Hunter Biden or Adam Schiff, the whistle-blower?
How would you vote for a resolution like that where both sides could call witnesses?
I think both sides should be able to request to have witnesses. That doesn't concern me at all, but they should show the relevancy. I think we can show the relevancy of the witnesses that Senator Schumer has talked about. I'm not sure you can show the relevancy on some of the witnesses that you're mentioning.
But if there's a relevant reason in dispute, and that we need to get those factual circumstances from a witness, that's perfectly acceptable.
But don't try to equate the importance of the witnesses that Senator Schumer has requested that have direct knowledge of the president's involvement on the aid and on the conversations with the Ukrainian president with what they're asking.
BLITZER: But what if that's the compromise? What if that's the deal, you get what you want, but they get what they want?
CARDIN: Well, we're going to need -- I'm all for trying to reconcile the differences.
I think the Democrats and Republicans should have a common set of rules moving forward. I'm disappointed that that effort has not been made prior to tomorrow.
But, yes, I'm all for trying to work out a fair compromise, a fair agreement, a fair way that we can proceed, hearing the key witnesses that know the president's actions in regards to the factual issues in the articles of impeachment.
BLITZER: All right, so you're supposed to start this debate, to debate the resolution that's been released just now, tomorrow, but the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, didn't put this resolution out publicly for quite a while.
He sent this resolution to Senate offices. CNN obtained a copy of the text. What does that tell you?
CARDIN: Well, it tells me that Mitch McConnell is following through what he said he was going to do. He's working with the president's lawyers. He's not working with both sides.
He's certainly not trying to develop a bipartisan process to move forward. Every previous impeachment process, the Democratic leader, Republican leaders have gotten together to at least agree on the rules of process.
There has been no effort made by Leader McConnell to engage Leader Schumer and to work out a process to move forward. It would have been in the best interests of the United States Senate, it would have been in the best interest to a fair trial if we could have a consensus resolution on how we proceed.
We should be able to do that. That's not so difficult. But there was no effort made. And, as you said, we didn't even see -- I haven't seen it yet, but as you did breaking news, it's just being released now, and we're going to be asked to vote on it as early as 1:00 tomorrow afternoon with no effort to try to bring about a consensus process to move forward.
BLITZER: Senator Ben Cardin, thanks, as usual, for joining us.
CARDIN: Thank you. Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: The breaking news continues next with what the just-released impeachment trial resolution means for the possibility of witnesses.
Plus, how indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas has shaken up the impeachment trial, and he may not be done yet.
BLITZER: All right, President Trump's impeachment trial begins in earnest just hours from now.
We're getting new information about the trial rules, as proposed by the Republicans, and the heated debate that's expected tomorrow.
Let's bring in our analysts.
And it's interesting.
You know, Susan, I will start with you. We have now seen the resolution that Mitch McConnell, the Republicans
want. Going to start off with 24 hours that the House managers will get, but only over two days, 12 hours each day, presumably, and then 24 hours for the president's legal team over two days.
During the Bill Clinton impeachment, they had four days each, so they're condensing it. Clearly, the Democrats aren't happy. The Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, just issued a statement, among other things, saying: "After reading his resolution, it's clear Senator McConnell is hell-bent on making it much more difficult to get witnesses and documents and intent on rushing the trial through. On something as important as impeachment, Senator McConnell's resolution is nothing short of a national disgrace."
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It really is shocking that we are receiving this just hours, less than 24 hours before these impeachment proceedings are scheduled to begin.
What possible reason could Mitch McConnell have at this point or offer at this point to defend this kind of schedule? Twelve hours, not including breaks, beginning at 1:00 p.m.
Why -- what is he going to tell the American public in terms of why they absolutely need to do this marathon session in two days, rather than four days? It's clear this is really just about McConnell, you know, working on the president's behalf, trying to get this over with, and trying to get through this trial in a manner in which the American public will not be able to see it, will not be able to engage with it, and other witnesses and documents are less likely to be produced.
And so, you know, I think Schumer is right. This is disgraceful, and it really is surprising, you know, that McConnell feels like this is something he can get passed.
BLITZER: Michael Gerhardt, you're an expert on impeachment. You teach it at University of North Carolina Law School.
What do you think of this proposal by Mitch McConnell?
MICHAEL GERHARDT, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA: Well, it's transparent in certain ways.
First of all, it's transparent that he wants to try and end this fast. And, secondly, I think as Susan just said, he wants to put it on and ensure it happens at a time when people can't see it.
It's not going to make a lot of people happy. I think one person it's not going to make happy is Chief Justice John Roberts. People have been hoping that Roberts might save this trial in some way. But, in fact, I suspect Chief Justice Roberts looks at this is not a great thing.
He doesn't want to have to sit there for 12 hours trying do this. He knows that's not going to ensure lawyers at their best. What this does is, it serves the president's interest, not the interest of the Senate, and certainly not the interest of trying to help the American people understand what's going on.
BLITZER: But he clearly has made it clear he would like this whole thing to be over with by the State of the Union address that the president would deliver before a joint session of Congress on February 4.
MARK MAZZETTI, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, contrast it to the way the House handled the impeachment proceedings run by the Democrats, of course.
There was a momentum that built up over several days. It took place in the middle of the day. People were watching. Witnesses were carefully orchestrated to build up a case.
McConnell is trying to build up the opposite, right? This thing is over before it even begins. People never know what happened, would never know what happened.
And so it's very transparent, as Michael said, that this is the strategy here. Contrast to the Adam Schiff strategy that we saw in the House, and we will see, of course, what pushback there is to this.
BLITZER: Let me get Shawn Turner.
You think senators are going to be able to stay up until 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 in the morning, and listen to these arguments?
SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, you know, there's been a lot of discussion about whether or not it's a good idea to have the senators stay there without having access to any social media or electronic devices.
Look, I think there are two different sides to that. On the one hand, there are people making the argument that this will actually, you know, kind of take away the public spectacle and allow people to actually focus on what's on the trial and what's actually being done.
But I actually see this a little bit differently. As has been said, the House, they had that momentum going and a lot of that momentum was driven by not only the fact that you had the kind of public performance, but also by the fact you had the fights in social media.
I think that, in this case, by McConnell not only keeping the senators there, not allowing them to be able to speak to each other, and not allowing them to have social media -- or access to social media, he's actually further kind of keeping the American public out of this trial, because he's not going to be driving people to the television because senators are out there tweeting or talking about this in public and social media.
So I think it's all part of just kind of keeping this under wraps as much as he can. BLITZER: Everybody, stand by. There's more we need to discuss.
He's throwing the president under the bus, but how did Lev Parnas get into the Trump orbit to begin with? We will take a closer look at the man shaking up the impeachment trial.
BLITZER: We're learning about the proposed rules of engagement for President Trump's impeachment trial as the Senate prepares to kick off debate on the GOP measure tomorrow. More details ahead.
Also tonight, a potential trial witness is back in the spotlight, indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas is asking the attorney general, William Barr, to recuse himself from this case.
Let's go to our Senior National Correspondent Alex Marquardt. Alex, what are you learning about Parnas and his legal maneuvers?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, for starters, Wolf, Parnas' lawyers are now saying that William Barr, the attorney general, is compromised because he was a point man for the president on Ukraine. They sent a letter to the Department of Justice today saying that the attorney general should name a special prosecutor and recuse himself from the investigation of Parnas' role in the Ukraine scandal
Now, remember from that transcript of the July 25th phone call, we know that the president asked President Zelensky to work with Bill Barr as well as Giuliani on investigating the Bidens. And now in addition to that trove of documents that Parnas has handed over to Congress, all of this goes right to the heart of the impeachment trial.
MARQUARDT: Deep in hot water, indicted on four federal charges, looking for an out, Lev Parnas has quickly thrown former associates including the president under the bus. His revelations in both interviews and in documents handed over are now shaking up the impeachment trial, which is reconvening Tuesday and centers on the president's alleged abuse of power in Ukraine for political benefit.
LEV PARNAS, INDICTED ASSOCIATE OF RUDY GIULIANI: That was the most important thing is for him to stay on for another four years and keep the fight going. I mean, there was no other reason for doing it.
MARQUARDT: Parnas has detailed how Rudy Giuliani was working feverishly to get the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to announce an investigation into the Bidens.
PARNAS: If they didn't make the announcement, basically, there would be no relationship.
MARQUARDT: Orders that Parnas says came directly from Trump.
PARNAS: Really, it wouldn't do anything about the president.
MARQUARDT: Parnas has handed over a growing library documenting longstanding associations and encounters with the president, Giuliani, and numerous other members of the administration, as they deny his allegations.
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I don't know him. I don't know Parnas.
MARQUARDT: Democrats are seizing on the Parnas documents as further deeper proof of the president's quid pro quo in Ukraine.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): He seems to be credible because everything he says corroborates things we knew.
MARQUARDT: Parnas gave congressional investigators a letter that Giuliani wrote to President Zelensky saying he was acting with President Trump's knowledge and consent, and asking for a meeting. Parnas has also revealed how focused and dark the efforts may have been to get the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch removed.
From text message conversation, a man named Robert Hyde suggests there are people watching and tracking Yovanovitch. Nothing has changed, she is still not moving. A Belgian number writes to Hyde who passes it on to Parnas. It's confirmed, the anonymous number adds, we have a person inside.
Hyde has claimed he was joking about the surveillance.
ROBERT HYDE (R), CONNECTICUT CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Who would be surveilling a U.S. ambassador, like who could do that?
MARQUARDT: But the president was convinced he needed Yovanovitch gone.
PARNAS: I told the president that our opinion that she is badmouthing him and that she said that he's going to get impeached. 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.
MARQUARDT: Parnas has pleaded not guilty to campaign finance charges after making a name for himself as a wealthy donor to Republicans. Along with another Giuliani associate, Parnas donated over half a million dollars to GOP campaigns before the 2018 midterms, including $325,000 to the biggest pro-Trump Super PAC, donations that prosecutors say illegally included foreign money. And from those donations, it was a short jump into the president's orbit.
PARNAS: I went from being a top donor, from being at all the events where we would just socialize to becoming a close friend of Rudy Giuliani, to eventually becoming his ally and his asset on the ground in Ukraine.
(END VIDEOTAPE) MARQUARDT: The documents that Parnas has handed over to Congress also show a much cozier relationship with the Intelligence Committee's top Republican, Devin Nunes, who, of course, is one of the president's staunchest defenders in the Ukraine scandal.
Nunes has now admitted that he remembered speaking on the phone with Parnas after first saying he didn't recall.
Now, this latest batch of Parnas documents shows repeated contact between Parnas and a top aide to Nunes, in which they arrange interviews and meetings with Ukrainian officials here in Washington including with Rudy Giuliani. Wolf?
BLITZER: Alex Marquardt reporting for us, thanks very much.
Let's get back to our analysts.
Mark Mazzetti, Parnas says Giuliani's efforts were the result of direct orders from President Trump. Has he proven those allegations? Does he have credible evidence to substantiate what he's saying?
MAZZETTI: Well, he's shown a lot of evidence that connects him to Giuliani, to other members of Trump's orbit on this specific campaign. One will certainly, president's allies will challenge his credibility on the issue of is he getting direct orders from the president. And that's part of the issue of -- the biggest issue about witnesses.
And the president thus far has been very effective in keeping the inner circle out of the testimony, whether it's Mick Mulvaney, Rudy Giuliani, potentially John Bolton, et cetera. Those people would be the ones who could directly corroborate Lev Parnas in what he's saying.
Now, everything Lev Parnas says, of course, needs to be taken with a large grain of salt because of his past, because he's currently under indictment, but I'll let the lawyers on the panel sort of talk about the riskiness of him being out on the T.V. and potentially lying about things while there's this ongoing indictment.
BLITZER: Well, you're a professor of jurisprudence. What do you think?
GERHARDT: Well, he might be lying. But let's just assume for a second a fraction of what he says is true. It's consistent with everything else we have learned from every other source, all of those people who testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee. People that worked in the Trump administration have put together a scheme that seems to have actually existed and Parnas is part of it.
Beyond that, I think we're also facing the reality that what we are watching in real-time a cover up. The president of the United States has ordered a number of people close to himself not to testify. All of these people have information. He's ordered all of them not to testify. That's the basis for the second article of impeachment against the president. So the more the president denies things and keeps people from testifying, the more I think senators should be interested in getting at the truth.
HENNESSEY: Yes. And let's keep in mind, one of the most significant documents Lev Parnas has produced is this letter from Rudy Giuliani to President Zelensky, in which he says he's acting with the knowledge and consent of the president. Rudy Giuliani has not come out to say that that was not a real letter. The White House has not come out to say either that the letter wasn't real or that Giuliani was not accurately representing the president of the United States
So the White House is sort of saying, well, you can't take anything this person is saying seriously. He is producing actual documents and thus far, the White House is not denying them.
BLITZER: Shawn Turner, does he have a credibility problem? Let's say they call him as a witness before the Senate trial, how much credibility does he have?
TURNER: Well, I think as others have pointed out, he certainly does have a credibility problem and he is already indicted and he has certainly a questionable past. But I think that one of the key points here too is that with regard to the documents that he's provided, you know, during the House proceedings, one of the, you know, kind of gifts that Republicans had was the fact that the White House refused to release any documents.
And so you don't have Republicans in the Senate or in the House will never have to answer to at least right now, will never have to answer to what's in those documents that the president has not allowed to be released. Now, Lev Parnas documents are a different story.
It's going to be very difficult for members of the Senate to look at those documents to see what those conversations were to look at that evidence and to not answer to as to why they did not do something about it, why did they not want witnesses called or want to find out more about it. So I do think he has a credibility problem that no one is going to change just on his word but these documents are really important to this case.
BLITZER: It's interesting, Michael Gerhardt, and our brand new CNN poll, look at this, 69 percent of Americans say they want the Senate trial to include witness testimony. That's a pretty staggering number.
GERHARDT: It is a staggering number, and it appears as if there are a number of senators that don't want that to happen. It's reasonable to ask the question, why don't they want that to happen, because it's likely to produce harmful information about the president.
Much of what the president says turns out to be not supported by facts and much of what's being said by others, Parnas included, seems again to be supported, corroborating a number of other witnesses. There's a case here that's been built by the House that is not yet refuted by anything the president has said or any of the men around the president. BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by, there's more news we're following. No matter how President Trump's impeachment trial turns out, a new book argues he's fundamentally changing the presidency, and corrupting the justice system. One of the co-authors, CNN National Security and Legal Analyst, Susan Hennessy, she is here, we will discuss.
BLITZER: As the White House and Senate prepare for only the third presidential impeachment trial in history, a new book argues President Trump is fundamentally changing the U.S. presidency. The book is called Unmaking the Presidency, Donald Trump's War on the World's Most Powerful Office, is written by Benjamin Wittes and CNN National Security and Legal Analyst, Susan Hennessey. Susan is still with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Congratulations on writing the book. We will talk about it in a moment.
But, first, I want to play a clip. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, one of the lead House managers, the lead House manager, he's accusing the National Security Agency where you used to work of withholding relevant documents to Congress.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The NSA in particular is withholding what are potentially relevant documents to our oversight responsibilities on Ukraine, but also withholding documents potentially relevant that the senators might want to see during the trial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You were an attorney at the NSA, what do you think?
HENNESSEY: Look, in the United States, we have this concept of the unitary executive. There's just one president and as a formal constitutional matter, all of the executive agencies are just doing what the president wants them to do. So, whenever we see places like NSA withholding documents, it's ultimately because that's what their boss is telling us, telling them to do, and that's where the ultimate accountability should lie.
And one thing that we argue in the book is really that -- you know, it might be emotionally satisfying to want executive agencies, federal agencies to ignore or defy the president, but that's actually not a healthy thing. It's not a good thing, and so really this is the case in which the appropriate pressure should come to bear on the White House, and it shows how the president's -- really, he does put his own personal political interests over the interests of the intelligence community, federal agencies, by placing them in this untenable position.
BLITZER: You have been writing this book with Benjamin Wittes now for a while. It's a very, very detailed account.
Did you actually foresee what is happening right now when you were writing this book that there would be a Senate impeachment trial of the president?
HENNESSEY: So, we actually held the book in order to get in a postscript about the Ukraine scandal, and one thing whenever you're writing a book like this is that you're worried that the world might prove you wrong while it's being printed up. The opposite has happened here. You know, the Ukraine scandal really is sort of the perfect encapsulation of how Donald Trump views the presidency, views the purpose of the American presidency, and the way that he is changing the office.
And that's that President Trump believes that the purpose of the presidency is to serve him, to serve his political interests and to serve the American public or the national interest as an after thought or when it's convenient. And what he does is that he's no abusing the edges, he's not trying to expand presidential authority, but we're usually are talking about executive power debates, and so what he's doing is he's personalizing and abusing the core executive powers, the powers that he indisputably has.
And that's really why the Ukraine scandal is a scandal. Not necessarily because of what he did but because of why he did it, these really corrupt purposes.
BLITZER: You devote a whole chapter in your book to what you call the president's war on truth. Tell us about that.
HENNESSEY: Yes. So, there's been a lot of attention paid to the idea that the president lies a lot. He doesn't tell the truth. There's been less focus on what this actually means long-term for the institution of the presidency. What does it mean to have a president who isn't believed, and a president who doesn't get -- isn't sort of entitled to that presumption of regularity?
Now, the idea that politicians lie or spin, that's a relatively old thing. That said, in this case, we have to sort of crossed into a position of which, you know, our enemies won't believe our threats. Our allies won't believe our promises. That's actually dangerous to the national interests.
It's also essential to democratic accountability. The president works for us, and the only way we can demand change is if we actually get accurate information from our government about what is happening on our behalf, and one thing that the president has done is completely demolished that norm and expectation of just basic candor.
BLITZER: You accuse the president, you and Ben Wittes, of corrupting the justice system. Give us the points you're trying to make. HENNESSEY: So, this is one of the most sort of pernicious and
significant ways that Donald Trump sort of approach to the presidency might have long term lasting effects, and that's Donald Trump's essential view that the purpose of the Department of Justice and FBI is to protect his friends and go after his enemies.
Now, the president is the head of the Department of Justice. He's in charge of law enforcement. We do that for a reason because we want law enforcement to be politically accountable, to focus on the things we want them to focus on.
These elaborate norms have grown up in order to allow for independent law enforcement. So we don't have a president who's weaponizing, you know, weaponizing law enforcement against the public, and one thing that really is concerning is that Donald Trump has demolished those norms. He appears to have gotten away with it. And that raises serious questions about the next president that might come in after him.
You know, that president might get away with firing their FBI director, saying they want their own person in office. It would be very hard to argue with them, but this is a case in which we really want to see norms being reestablished.
BLITZER: The book is untitled, "Unmaking the Presidency: Donald Trump's War on the World's Most Powerful Office," the authors: Susan Hennessey, and Benjamin Wittes.
Susan, thank you very much for coming in and talking about it.
HENNESSEY: Thank you.
BLITZER: An important new book indeed.
Coming up, no standing, no talking, no texting, and more. We'll take a closer look at the very strict rules governing what U.S. senators can and can't do during President Trump's impeachment trial.
BLITZER: Breaking news, CNN has obtained a copy of the proposed rules for President Trump's impeachment trial. The Senate kicks off debate on the GOP measure tomorrow.
Senators already will be under a series of very strict and arcane rules when that debate starts.
CNN's Brian Todd is here with details.
Brian, these are some pretty rules.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tough, indeed, Wolf, and there could be some handicapping going as to which senators are going to break which rules first.
And just imagine you're a U.S. senator in the chamber, used to being able to schmooze with anyone at anytime, and now no standing, no talking for more than a week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you solemnly swear.
TODD (voice-over): The impeachment trial, a test of the president's political strength, a test of America's constitutional resilience and a test of senators' abilities to sit down and be quiet.
MICHAEL C. STENGER, SENATE SERGEANT AT ARMS: Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye. All persons are commanded to keep silent on pain of imprisonment.
TODD: Among the new written restrictions for senators inside the chamber during the trial, keeping your mouth shut, even refraining from whispering to the person next to you. There's no use of cellphones or other electronic devices in the chamber. No reading materials are allowed, unless they're related to the impeachment trial.
And no standing. Senators have to sit in their seats when the trial is in session, except to vote.
NORMAN ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTEPRISE INSTITUTE: And you cannot even move during the course of the trial. Now, what will that do for middle age and older men who may need to bring in catheters is another story.
TODD: Some senators are already chaffing tonight. Quote, that's going to suck, said Marco Rubio about the no-talking rule.
Others are ruling with it.
SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): I think this will actually be healthy for all of us but will be a challenge.
JAMES ZIGLAR, SERGEANT AT ARMS DURING CLINTON IMPEACHMENT TRIAL: Sitting for the trial.
TODD: James Ziglar was the Senate's sergeant at arms during the Clinton impeachment trial in 1999.
ZIGLAR: All persons are commanded to keep silent, on pain of imprisonment.
TODD: Ziglar says in the Clinton trial, there were similar rules. They just weren't written down, and he points out Democrat Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa did violate the no-talking rule when he stood up and raised an objection.
SEN. TOM HARKIN (D-IA): Mr. Chief Justice, I object. I base my objection on the 26 rules on the Senate, adopted by the Senate, governing impeachment. ZIGLAR: Which by the way Chief Justice Rehnquist sustained and it was
not -- it wasn't a situation where I needed to go to do something or talk to Senator Harkin.
TODD: Ziglar doesn't believe it's too much to ask of a senator to sit still, be quiet and refrain from reading or texting on their phone in a proceeding with the gravitas of the president's impeachment.
ZIGLAR: Jurors at a normal criminal proceeding in our court system are required to sit still and listen to what's going on and I think it's part of that general culture that they're trying to make it clear to the Senate, you're expected to be there. You're expected to listen to this and you're not expected to be doing other work.
TODD: But analysts said among a group of people not known for wide attention spans or discipline, we can expect those rules to be broken.
ORNSTEIN: Senators are not used to being reined in. This is not just reining them in, it's putting them into chairs with straps around their arms and legs. And that's not something that's going to sit well with an awful lot of senators.
TODD: Now, a key question is, what happens to a senator who gets caught violating these restrictions? Who seem talking out of turn or looking at a cellphone? Analysts say it's not quite clear what that senator's punishment is going to be. They could kick out of the chamber, or in the worst case, according to the rules, even get arrested, although most believe it's never going to come to that, Wolf.
BLITZER: You know, Brian, there's one rule that's going to be especially tough for the senators running for president of the United States, right?
TODD: That's right, Wolf. One rule for the trial is senators have to be in attendance at all times. That means Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Michael Bennet, they're not going to be able to go to Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, to campaign for those caucuses and primaries, as much as they want to. Sanders has already said openly he's worried about how it's going to affect his campaign.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, reporting for us -- thank you, Brian.
Finally tonight, events honoring the life and legacy of the civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. are taking place all across the country. The leading Democratic presidential candidates participated in a march today as a part of the celebrations in Columbia, South Carolina. President Trump, along with Vice President Pence made a brief visit to the Martin Luther King Memorial right here in Washington D.C.
Listen to what Bernice King told me two years ago in the 50th anniversary of her father's assassination, about the enduring importance of his work. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What does it mean to you, to see these major tributes to your dad, people marching, listening to his speeches, remembering his legacy all these years later?
BERNICE KING, DAUGHTER OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: His words were so poignant at the time and they're till very relevant now and the legacy that he's left for us of nonviolent social change and peace with justice is something that, you know, resonates and, you know, I hope that people will use this day to not only just commemorate and remember but really act in his spirit, to bring about the changes that are needed to create a more just humane and peaceful world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Very powerful message to remember, especially on this day of service, a truly, truly great American.
Thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.