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Impeachment Trial Begins with Rules Debate; Looking Back at Impeachment History; Sanders Apologizes to Biden; Aired 7:00-7:30a ET

Aired January 21, 2020 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[07:00:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: McCarthy and the impeachment of Richard Nixon.

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ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY and it is a big day.

This is the effective beginning of the trial of President Donald J. Trump and it is expected to be wildly contentious.

The first order of business will be a debate over the rules proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Rules that seem designed to speed the acquittal of President Trump. That could come as soon as next week. Rules that keep all the evidence collected by the House of Representatives completely out of the trial, at least for now. Rules that are decidedly not the Clinton model, despite the promise from Mitch McConnell to stick to the process used with Bill Clinton's impeachment 21 years ago.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sounds furious.

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SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): The evidence is less available, the evidence is given in the wee hours of the morning and may never be produced at all. It is a cover up. It is a national disgrace.

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CAMEROTA: So Schumer will offer amendments today demanding witnesses and documents and we will speak to him live in just minutes.

Take a look at this new CNN national poll. It shows a majority of Americans, including a plurality of Republicans, want to hear from new witnesses in the Senate trial. But that's not stopping the president's lawyers and allies in the Senate from trying to stop former National Security Adviser John Bolton from testifying in public.

BERMAN: All right, joining us now, CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman. She's a White House correspondent for "The New York Times," and CNN political commentator Paul Begala. He is a Democratic strategist who worked for President Clinton and had a front row seat to impeachment all those years ago.

Maggie, I want to start with what we will see today, a fight over the process which we just learned from Mitch McConnell last night, a process which accelerates, fast tracks this trial and could lead to an up or down vote as soon as next week.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right, Mitch McConnell's goal was to get this over with quickly, possibly before the president -- hopefully, in his mind, before the president's State of the Union Address, which is scheduled for February 4th at the moment. We'll see if that gets done.

Look, there is obviously a lot of anger by Democrats. There is also an acknowledgment by the White House that they don't really know how this is going to go. They have put their faith and their trust in Mitch McConnell and faith and trust between this White House and the Senate majority leader has not always been prevalent over the last three years. But right now they are really in Mitch McConnell's hands. They acknowledge they don't know which way this is going to go. At the moment, it does not look as if Democrats have enough votes among Republicans to push through witnesses, but once this all starts getting argued, things could change.

CAMEROTA: Paul, as a dyed in the wool Democrat, as you are, are you, a, seething at the rules that came out last night from Mitch McConnell and, two, do you -- and other Democrats feel bested by him at this point? I mean the fate is in his hands at the moment.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the truth is, no, actually, the Democrats -- look, the conclusion is set, right, the system's rigged. They're not going to remove Donald Trump. He's not going to be convicted. There's only 47 Democrats. You need 67 votes to remove him.

So then what's the goal? The goal for the Republicans ought to be to allow the acquittal to seem as legitimate in the eyes of the American people as possible. These rules don't do that. And what they do is do everything they can to keep facts and evidence out, to keep witnesses and documents out.

By the way, the whole thing about the State of the Union, they're just wrong about that. I'm sure Maggie's right, that that's their concern. They were wrong to be concerned about it. I worked for a president who gave a State of the Union in the middle of an impeachment trial. I helped him write it. I helped him prepare it. It's great.

HABERMAN: Do you think that there's some --

BEGALA: It's the best thing that could happen to Trump is to give a State of the Union in the middle of this trial because it's a president's best night.

HABERMAN: Are they similar political performers, Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, in terms of compartmentalizing?

BEGALA: That's a -- that's a very good point.

HABERMAN: I'm just saying. I mean I -- that's, I think --

BEGALA: He's a good performer, though. Trump is a fine performer.

HABERMAN: Oh, no, no, no, there's no question -- there's no question that he does well in terms of -- in terms of riffing on stage, but I think that the State of the Union is not where they want to have him doing that when in the heat of the impeachment trial if they can avoid it.

BERMAN: Managing the president it seems as if they're trying to do there.

Let's just throw up so you can see what these rules are. Twenty-four hours of arguments over two days, that means that, there you go, the House managers will have two days, they could be long, long days. Then you're going to get 16 hours of questions from the senators and then four hours of debate over whether or not to have witnesses. And, again, if you add that all up, it could be over as soon as next week, Maggie.

But, there's a little curveball, and I think you noted this, let's put up those poll numbers again. The new CNN poll which shows that 69 percent of Americans want to see witnesses and a plurality of Republicans say they want to see witnesses.

[07:05:05]

It's not clear that the president and Republicans have been winning this argument insofar as it existed over the last month, is it, Maggie?

HABERMAN: No, it's not. And part of that, John, as you know, is because new evidence has come out. In our reporting, and in Just Security's reporting, and other people's reporting, that have shown that as much as I think when the House inquiry ended, the line that people were hearing was, well, we basically learned what there is to know. There's clearly a lot more to know. There's also the question of hearing from John Bolton, the former national security adviser. Democrats definitely want to hear from Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff.

So I think you have seen a public that is a little more engaged than the White House would like it to be. Republicans are taking a huge gamble here. And it might be a gamble that pays off, but their gamble is that if they push this through, that by the time we get to the election, when a lot of senators and the president are on the ballot, that voters are not going to have this top of mind. And we'll see.

CAMEROTA: How about the evidence, Paul? I mean the idea that everything the House did they'll have to vote on whether that evidence is even going to be allowed into the official record. How can there be an official record without evidence? BEGALA: It's preposterous. In the Clinton case, we had Ken Starr, who

was a big, relatively thorough guy. He interviewed window washers at the White House, painters. He interviewed a cosmetologist. He interviewed ex-boyfriends. And all of that came into evidence without any right for the president to object at all. It came in by rule.

In this case, they don't want the established evidence to come in. They don't want new evidence to come in. They -- I'm starting to think they really don't want evidence and facts in this thing. I think it's because the evidence and the facts are not their friends.

This is where Nancy Pelosi has been brilliant in slow walking this because it has allowed Maggie and other journalists to do their job and to bring more evidence to light despite the Trump cover up. I think that the thing is clear from all of this is that they don't want facts, witnesses, evidence and documents in this and that is probably because they don't help the president's case.

BERMAN: I think it's safe to say Maggie would do her job under any circumstances.

BEGALA: Absolutely.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

BERMAN: There is an interesting dynamic that's shifted, though, as we get ready to hear these arguments over the next few days. There is an element of -- for the prosecution, the House managers, this is now about convincing four Republicans to say they want witnesses. It isn't necessarily about convincing two-thirds of the senators to convict the president. And I wonder if that will shape the arguments that we will hear from the House managers, Maggie.

HABERMAN: I think it will. I mean that is clearly what the Democrats are looking at right now is trying to convince four Republicans to come over to their side. The person who the White House has kept its eye on is Lamar Alexander. Based on what Lamar Alexander said yesterday, it does not sound as if he is leaning toward voting against the White House is probably the best way to put it. But I do think you're going to see the House managers shaping their arguments today to explain why it is that they believe that there needs to be presentation of witnesses, presentation of documents, presentation of facts admitted into the record and to try to compel and to some extent give some political cover for Republicans to vote with them.

CAMEROTA: So, Paul, as you sit there today and everything that you've heard in the past before these rules came out from the Mitt Romneys of the world, the Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Lamar Alexander, do you think that in the middle of this they're going to vote to hear from witnesses?

BEGALA: It -- it -- I don't know. It is the most politically perilous vote for the Republicans. Not the vote to acquit. Again, that's a foregone conclusion. If I advised one of these Republicans, I would say, your greatest moment of peril, if you're up for re-election, is the vote on witnesses. Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Martha McSally of Arizona, they're going to have a terrible vote on witnesses because 70 percent -- you saw our poll, 69 percent of the American people want witnesses. More Republicans want them than don't want them. You really can't have a trial without witnesses and evidence. So that's the moment of political peril.

I -- how they vote, I don't know, but Mitch McConnell has actually put his most vulnerable senators in a terribly politically perilous moment.

BERMAN: You know, it is interesting, though, Mitch McConnell has done one thing to the White House here, Maggie, which is to say, if you want a vote to dismiss the case right away, you go ahead and do it. I'm against it, but it's up to you. He's, in a way, challenging the House -- his -- the president's impeachment defenders to do this, but it's all on them.

HABERMAN: To some extent I think that's right. Look, I think that there was a limit to the load that McConnell was going to carry, for lack of a better way of putting it, and I think that it did not include this vote to dismiss. He has said it repeatedly, McConnell, to the president, to White House staff that is not possible. The president has continued to want that. We have seen the president tweet about this.

The president, according to everyone I talk to, goes back and forth between wanting this to be over fast, wanting to see witnesses.

[07:10:04]

He is incredibly uncomfortable being in the middle of this and no matter how many times people say he's in a great mood, he's fine, it's all OK, it's not really OK. And so I think you are going to -- up until the time it is over, continue to hear some pressure from the White House on McConnell to make that happen, and I don't expect it will.

CAMEROTA: "The Washington Post," Paul, has reporting that behind the scenes at the White House, or maybe in Mitch McConnell's orbit, they are scrambling for what happens if John Bolton does get called. It turns out they might not really want John Bolton to reveal much because one of the possible contingency plans is to make it a classified setting.

BEGALA: It's astonishing. They really will do anything. There's -- Rachael Bade in "The Washington Post" has also reported that they may sue Bolton to keep him from testifying. They may put him in a classified setting. They're doing everything they can to keep Bolton and others, Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, who used to run the Budget Office, and a couple of others from testifying.

There is a reason for that. I don't think I've ever seen a case before where every new piece of evidence seems to be damning. If the president did nothing wrong, they wouldn't fear this evidence. It's pretty simple in this case. The reason they don't want evidence is because the evidence is going to harm them. BERMAN: Hey, Paul, we have a new poll which shows the president's

approval rating is at 43 percent. And I'm wondering if you know this, because I think this is the kind of thing you keep in your head and the tip of your tongue. What was President Clinton's approval rating during the impeachment trial?

BEGALA: Well, 71.

CAMEROTA: But did it start at 71, Paul? Because I -- didn't it -- did it improve over the course of the impeachment trial?

BEGALA: It did. As the House impeached Clinton, he went up. He was in the 60s, the economy is strong. Of course the economy's strong now. He was in the 60s. And when the House voted to impeach him, the American people did not approve of Clinton having an affair or lying about it, but they really, really thought the impeachment was very, very partisan, much more than they think today. And so Clinton's approval went way up into the 70s. And I think that's really interesting.

Again, if I worked for Trump, you have a strong economy, partisan impeachment that drives Clinton to 71. Strong economy, partisan impeachment, Trump hasn't moved an inch. He's at 43. He hasn't gone up a point. I think they're in real trouble in the White House.

BERMAN: Maggie, what do they think inside?

HABERMAN: They think that the president is going to be able to win re- election based on who he has with him and that they will be able to, depending on the opponent, get a scrap of the electorate with him, enough to win. It is not going to be the type of victory that Paul is describing.

We -- I don't -- Paul would know better than me, but I certainly have never seen a sitting president who only focuses on his base. And that is what this president has done. And they have left themselves with extremely little time, nine months, to try to build on that through plans they're going to -- the president at Davos just announced a tree planting initiative. That's not going to be enough to undo years of saying that climate change is a hoax, which he has said over and over again. He has done very little in terms of health care, despite his claims on Twitter, other than try to undo a lot of the parameters of the Affordable Care Act.

So they are taking a gamble that they are going to be able to take what he has and with the economy plus whoever the rival is he can win. It will not be a pretty victory if he wins, but it could be a win.

BERMAN: There's always infrastructure week.

CAMEROTA: Yes, that's coming up.

BERMAN: Just saying.

HABERMAN: Right.

CAMEROTA: That is coming up. Paul, Maggie, thank you both very much.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Coming up here in just minutes, we will speak with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer about the battle for these new rules just announced by Mitch McConnell. How is he feeling this morning?

BERMAN: So, this impeachment trial of the president begins today. This is just the third time this has happened in U.S. history. Not the three you're seeing on the screen right there. Richard Nixon, there was no trial. Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, now Donald J. Trump. How does this compare to others? We will discuss, next.

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[07:17:58]

BERMAN: This morning, all eyes on Capitol Hill as the trial of President Donald J. Trump gets underway in the U.S. Senate.

Joining us now is CNN presidential historian Jeffrey Engel. He is the co-author of "Impeachment: An American History."

Professor, thank you so much for being with us.

Look, we've talked a lot about how the structure and rules of this trial different -- differ from past impeachments, and we'll get to that in a second. But you look at this and say the very nature of the question that these senators are being called to rule on, the very issues at hand are wildly different than we've seen before. How so?

JEFFREY ENGEL, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, for one thing, this is the first time that we're seeing a case where the president is really being impeached for something that the founders feared. You know, in Andrew Johnson's case in 1860s, that was really a case where Johnson with remarkably unpopular, but also coming close to the end of his time in office and there really was no sense that his policies were going to continue or that he was damaging the union in some way.

Same with Bill Clinton. Everyone knew that Bill Clinton was guilty, the question was simply whether or not lying before a jury over an affair was something that was dangerous to the people. Which, of course, it was really the critical element of a high crime. It's not a crime in the regular sense, it's a crime against the American people, against the body politic. And this, that Donald Trump is being accused of, is exactly the kind of nation harming crime, nation harming act that essentially the founders were explicitly concerned about.

BERMAN: It's interesting you say this because one of the foundations of the defense from the president and his team is that no crime, they say, was committed. So this whole thing is invalid.

ENGEL: Well, obviously, the General Accounting Office would disagree with the idea that no crime had been committed. But, more importantly, it reaches to a fundamental philosophical point that must be understood, that the question that senators are going to engage in is not whether or not something on the books happened. I mean the president can do all kinds of things that are not necessarily on the legal books because, frankly, a president could be creative and come up with things that have never been thought of before to be put into those books.

[07:20:03]

The real question is whether or not a president going forward is going to be dangerous or harmful to the American people. We don't really care in a sense at the Senate if the president committed a crime and needs to be punished for that crime. The Constitution explicitly says that other courts will deal with punishments for crime.

The question the Senate is engaged in is, has the president demonstrated a proclivity for doing dangerous things going forward? In a sense, has a high crime been committed, something that doesn't need a crime, something which can only be judged by how a person holds the tenure of their office.

BERMAN: Now, it is interesting. You note or you take issue with one of the common phrases that people -- and a lot of people on TV use to describe the role of the Senate here. The Senate, you say, not 100 jurors, and it's not just you who says this, but the late chief justice of the United States, William Rehnquist, also says so.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM REHNQUIST, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES: The chairman is of the view that the senator from Iowa's objection is well taken, that the court -- the Senate is not simply a jury, it is a court in this case. And, therefore, counsel should refrain from referring to senators as jurors.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So if they should refrain from saying it in the House, we should refrain from saying it here. But what's the effective difference of being jurors or the court itself?

ENGEL: It's a critical difference. Justice Rehnquist there in 1999 was responding to a motion from Senator Tom Harken asking to be called a court rather than jurors and his argument was both simple and profound. It was that jurors are typically just deciding whether or not something did or did not happen. They are talking about innocence or guilt. And they have to follow the judge's instructions, including listening only to the evidence presented at the trial to determine that analog question, guilty or innocent.

Here, the Senate is not a jury, it's a court, which is to say they are able to take in any information they want, use any evidence no matter the source, and their job is not to determine guilt or innocence, again, that's for another court to decide afterwards if a crime has been committed, their job is to determine whether or not the nation is best suited, the nation will go forward the best by having this man continue as president. It's really a question of judgment, though they're not judges, judgment is required and experience is required to determine the future of the country with this vote.

BERMAN: It's up to them to decide whether any evidence or, in this case, it turns out, no evidence will be included in the process. And that gets to what we've been discussing today, these rules proposed by Mitch McConnell. McConnell had promised the Clinton rules for the impeachment trial. These aren't the Clinton rules at all.

First of all, there's the time frame. He's trying to get this done very, very quickly with these marathon days. But, second of all, the entire body of evidence produced by the House of Representatives not submitted, not part of this trial, at least not now.

What's the effect of this these differences as far as you see it?

ENGEL: You know, the effect on the trial should be purely political. That is to say because senators are a court, they are allowed to use their judgment, they are allowed to use any evidence, no matter where it comes from. Democrats, if they wish, could refer in their own minds to the Mueller report, to the emoluments difficulties the president has had. Really the question is for what's in the trial is what the American people see, what the official record says.

And, frankly, I think this is going to be a problem for Senator McConnell going forward that he may, in fact, want the American people not to hear about the trials, but the only thing they're going to remember in many ways is that they didn't hear about the trials, that there were people who had material evidence that didn't present. That's something we've never seen before at an impeachment case. We've only had three cases really, but this is the first time that we've had the administration actively trying to halt information from coming out during the trial. Information that could exonerate them, but probably won't.

BERMAN: Professor Jeffrey Engel, thanks so much for the history lesson. Really appreciate it.

ENGEL: Good to talk to you.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, John, four of the Senate jurors in President Trump's impeachment trial are also running for president. How will that impact this final stretch to Iowa?

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[07:28:03]

CAMEROTA: Thirteen days away from the Iowa caucuses and Senator Bernie Sanders is apologizing for the actions of one of his supporters, a surrogate. This time it's an op-ed accusing Joe Biden of having a, quote, big corruption problem. Sanders is one of the four presidential candidates that are off the campaign trail today while listening to President Trump's impeachment trial.

Joining us now is CNN political reporter Arlette Saenz, she is live in Des Moines, Iowa, with more.

So, Arlette, let's just start there with Senator Bernie Sanders apologizing, So I think we have that. Let's listen to what he said.

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SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Joe Biden is a friend of mine. I have known him for many, many years. He's a very decent guy. And Joe and I have strong disagreements on a number of issues. And we'll argue those disagreements out. But it is absolutely not my view that Joe is corrupt in any way and I'm sorry that that op- ed appeared.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: So that's not the first time that he's apologized for something that a surrogate has done. Are his surrogates going rogue or is this somehow countenanced by the campaign? What's the latest thinking on the ground?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Alisyn, certainly some of the criticisms that Bernie Sanders is trying to lob against Joe Biden, they've been overshadowed by some of these errors that are from surrogates or things promoted by his campaign team. You have this op- ed that was written by one of his longtime supporters, someone who has been out on the trail, suggesting that Joe Biden has a corruption problem. Bernie Sanders quickly coming out to apologize, saying that he doesn't think that's the case.

But let's also think back to the weekend where you saw this debate over Social Security play out. And Joe Biden called out the Sanders campaign for promoting this video that took some comments from him out of context relating to Social Security. So Bernie Sanders' attempt to take on Joe Biden when it comes to that issue of Social Security was in part overshadowed by the fact that they were promoting an out of context video.

[07:30:09]

So this is something that --