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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Proposes Rules for Senate Impeachment Hearing; Hillary Clinton Criticizes Bernie Sanders in New Documentary; Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) is Interviewed About the Impeachment Trial and Being a House Impeachment Manager. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired January 21, 2020 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your New Day. It is Tuesday, January 21, 8:00 in the east.
And we begin with a defining moment in American history. The third presidential impeachment trial begins today. And there will be plenty of arguing, particularly now that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has laid out the rules that do not follow a Clinton impeachment model as he had promised they would. Why is he changing that precedent? Today we'll begin with fiery debate over those rules. Only the impeachment managers from the House and the president's legal team will be involved in that. Then amendments will be offered by the Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Again, despite what Mitch McConnell promised, this is really not the Clinton model. This is a departure, not just the pace, which does seem designed to get the president acquitted by as soon as next week, but also the framework. For now, not a single shred of evidence collected by the House of Representatives will be part of a Senate trial record. We have new reporting this morning on a contingency plan for Mitch McConnell in case the Senate votes in favor of witnesses. There are new reports this morning that the leader has a plan to keep former National Security Adviser John Bolton off the stand at least publicly. This is what the Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said about that moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: "The Washington Post" is reporting tonight if there are the votes to get witnesses that the president's defense team and the Senate Republicans might move to have Bolton's testimony be in a classified setting behind closed doors. Is that something Democrats would ever agree to?
CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: No. Coverup, coverup, coverup.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Joining us now, CNN political commentator Karen Finney, former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, and former U.S. senator Joseph Lieberman who was a key player in the Clinton impeachment process. John Dean, counselor, first to you on the process as we see it today. How do you think Mitch McConnell has designed these rules? What are they meant to do?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: They're meant to make the trial go as fast and as limited as conceivable. Whether they'll get away with it, we'll find out this morning. I don't know if there are Republicans who are going to cross over, but I think those Republicans who do not are going to take that into the election this year, and it's going to be very tough to defend.
CAMEROTA: Senator, what Mitch McConnell said as recently as January 7th was that this was going to follow the Clinton model. H said, all we're doing here is saying we're going to get started in exactly the same way 100 senators agreed to 20 years ago. Not true.
JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, (I) FORMER U.S. SENATOR: It's not literally true. He did follow the overall model of the Clinton rules.
CAMEROTA: The timing is different. They're squeezing it into two days as opposed to four. And the evidence the House gathered may be different.
LIEBERMAN: I think the most significant difference is that there's not automatic admission of evidence from the House. But here's a big difference. In 1999 in the Clinton impeachment trial, there was disagreement between both parties as we headed into the trial. The chief justice, just as now, was seated. The oaths were taken. We didn't have agreement on the rules. And then our two leaders who were working much more closely, Trent Lott, Tom Daschle, than McConnell and Schumer today, said let's go into the old Senate chamber. And 100 of us, no staff, no media, no record, let's just talk about what our historic responsibility is. And we came out of there with an agreement on the rules.
So honestly, to me, the best thing that could happen is not that they begin fighting, but that Senator McConnell and Senator Schumer agree, let's just go and talk this over as people who were elected, took an oath specifically to do impartial justice in this case, and figure out to do it.
CAMEROTA: What are the chances on that happening, do you think?
LIEBERMAN: The chances -- I wouldn't bet it on it right now. I'm offering a hope and a prayer, but also setting a precedent which really worked in 1999.
BERMAN: There is no sign --
LIEBERMAN: No, no sign.
BERMAN: And Senator Lieberman, I do want to bring up one point. You, as far as I understand it, I don't want to put words in your mouth, you haven't made up your mind on what you think should happen in this. You want to listen to this process play out. Is this, the McConnell rules as he has proposed, is this the kind of open trial you would like to see and one where Mitch McConnell made clear he doesn't want to see any witnesses? Is this the kind of trial you'd like to see in order to make your determination?
LIEBERMAN: Not as presented now, but I'd like to think this is an opening statement by Mitch McConnell. Here's the reality. This all comes down to those four, five, whatever, Republican senators, it comes down to the Senate as to what they want to do. The critical factor really will be, will they hear witnesses, and I think they should hear witnesses to have a fair and impartial trial. And that's going to be determined on that vote next week, by the independent- minded Republican senators.
BERMAN: You don't think it's a fair trial unless they hear witnesses?
LIEBERMAN: That's correct. And I think more important than me, I think the important thing here is that the American people feel even if the final vote is along party lines, as it was in 1999 on President Clinton, that the process by which they got to the final vote was not partisan. It was fair and reasonable.
CAMEROTA: Karen, first there was a question as to whether or not Senator McConnell would allow witnesses. As of last night, there's a question as to whether or not they'll allow the evidence that was gathered in the House. It's not going to automatically be put into the official record. A trial without witnesses and evidence, what is this?
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's a sham. It's a cover- up. And I agree completely with what Senator Schumer just said. Think about how we opened this segment. We were talking about a "Washington Post" story talking about all the many ways that the White House and Senator McConnell are trying to make sure that the one person who we know called this a drug deal, this whole arrangement with Ukraine, does not have the opportunity to speak. They are terrified of having him on the record saying those words.
And I want to go back to the Clinton impeachment because I actually was interviewed by Ken Starr. I had that delightful honor. And it is really just astounding to me. We were told as White House staff people, if you get a subpoena, you are expected to participate. You are expected to cooperate. I got my own outside counsel as a lot of others did. And the point is, Ken Starr is now negotiating against his own arguments from the 90s in that he turned over reems of documents, evidence, and testimony, and, as we know, President Clinton testified via video. So there are a whole host of ways to accommodate inserting evidence and information that is relevant. And we know that new relevant information, like the GAO report that just came out, continues to come forward. And yet the Republicans are saying we're not interested in any of that. And I think that is going to run afoul of the American people, because people understand fundamental fairness, and they understand when someone is trying to keep them from hearing what the truth is.
DEAN: Well, I would certainly second everything she said. As I opened and said the key members of the Senate who have been on the fence and have not declared today is the day they're going to declare. We'll find out if we'll have a full and fair trial. And without it, I think it will be a black mark on the Senate.
BERMAN: Let me ask you this, because it is interesting. This is supposed to be a trial where the House managers lay out the case to remove the president from office. It seems now, and Senator Lieberman just pointed to this before, that they main issue is whether you can convince four or five senators to even allow witnesses. It strikes me that those might be two different arguments to make if you are the House managers. They may approach it differently because those are different goals.
DEAN: A lot of people don't like to go into process. These are process arguments. I'm one who loves to be in process, because I think process determines results. And if you ignore process, you are really ignoring the way the machinery is going to produce and what it will produce. This is a process day. And if they don't get it right, it's going to harm the outcome.
LIEBERMAN: I agree with John. We're a rule of law country. That's one of the ways we distinguish ourselves. And rules of law are all about process. Of course, it's about the result in the end, but how you get to the result is really critically important and distinguishes us as Americans. So here we are in a trial, an unusual trial, which is going to get as much attention as any trial in our country ever does. It's rare and critically important. And so the rules, the process, really has to be fair.
CAMEROTA: I mean, yes, go ahead, Karen.
FINNEY: I was just going to say, I think it's so important that we underscore the seriousness of this moment because certainly during the Trump presidency when we are living by tweet and it seems that there's a crisis every moment, sometimes we miss how big a moment is. And this is one of those moments. We're not just talking about process. We're talking about upholding the rule of law and our Constitution. We're talking about very serious, fundamental questions about our democracy, and will members of the Senate take that seriously or are they so beholden to partisan politics that they will go along with this scheme to keep out evidence and information. That just is un-American. And so I do think it's important because we've had, like I say, so many crises of the moment over the last three years that we really underscore what a big fundamental moment this is for our country.
BERMAN: You were one of the senators on the fence 21 years ago. Ultimately, you voted not to convict President Clinton, but it seems that you listened and weighed your options until the very, very end. Do you really think there are senators weighing their option now?
[08:10:08] LIEBERMAN: I think there are a few. In 99 everybody predicted and was right that President Clinton would not be convicted and removed from office. Everybody is predicting the same about President Trump today. Probably right, probably right about the end of it. But I think there are some Republican senators, and maybe some Democratic senators, I hope, who are not sure how they're going to vote.
And I just want to come back to the brilliance of the Framers of our Constitution. This is not the Senate doing everyday business. This is an impeachment trial. They are sitting as jurors. The chief justice is in the chair. I can't tell you what an effect that had on me and I think every other senator. This is not a normal day of work in the Senate. There's the chief justice, and we take an oath. And we signed a book to do impartial justice. If you want to get a bit theological, you swear to God you're going to do impartial justice. So I hope the Senate today can rise above the rat-ta-tat-tat partisanship of every day that characterizes our politics and do this fairly and keep their minds open until they hear all the evidence.
CAMEROTA: That's what you did, right? And so you were this model of not being in lockstep with, obviously, President Clinton, and you spoke out and called his behavior immoral. And that, obviously, angered some of your Democratic colleagues. And so if you were in the Senate today, and last night you heard that Mitch McConnell not only doesn't want any witnesses but may not want the evidence from the House, what would you say?
LIEBERMAN: I'd say I want to hear witnesses. Incidentally, When the trial of Bill Clinton began in 99, we didn't have an agreement on witnesses. But our two leaders and all of us decided, OK, let's agree on the basic rules, and let's generally agree outside the rules we're going to have witnesses. And let's see if we can work it out as this goes on.
It started in a way that encouraged mutual confidence. And then as you know, we agreed to hear three important witnesses, depositions were taken, and, ultimately, we all saw the videotape of those depositions. I hope that the Senate today can reach a similar conclusion without a lot of battle back and forth, because all it's going to do is bring the country down and, frankly, make it harder for them when this is over to get something done to solve some problems.
BERMAN: You have a tough day ahead of you watching what's going to happen.
LIEBERMAN: I agree.
BERMAN: I do want to ask one question about the election, Karen, and this is specifically to you because some reporting just came out of a documentary that includes former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who you worked for in the campaign, talking about Bernie Sanders. And I want to read you what she says here in this documentary apparently. The "Hollywood Reporter" has got this today. It says, quote, Hillary is talking about Bernie Sanders, "He was in Congress for years. He had one senator support him. Nobody likes him. Nobody wants to work with him. He got nothing done. He was a career politician. It's all just baloney, and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it." Wow.
BERMAN: The secretary not holding back on Bernie Sanders there. What do you make of that sentiment and the effect of a statement like that going public two weeks before Iowa?
FINNEY: I think the effect of it is going to be null and void because I think the Bernie bros will make sure that they come to Bernie's defense. And I also think voters are judging Bernie in this cycle in the way that he is conducting himself in this 2020 cycle, not necessarily just around 2016, although as we've talked about before, I do think there is some baggage from some of the ways that women were treated.
That being said, look, there was a sentiment, I'll be honest and I know I'll get attacked about it, his own colleagues would say he's hard to work with. He hasn't -- and when there was a frustration in the campaign at certain things that were being held against Hillary Clinton, he seemed -- the fact he had been in elected office for a very long time somehow didn't seem to matter despite the fact that he was in office longer than Hillary was.
But here's the thing. Those are all 2016, people are going to have to watch this, I haven't seen it, and judge on their own how fair they think it is. The thing I would remind you, as we saw the other night on the debate stage, this is hard. This is really hard stuff, and these moments get really tense. And we saw that between Warren and Bernie in even the best of friends.
CAMEROTA: Karen Finney, John Dean, Senator Joe Lieberman, thank you very much for preparing us for this day ahead.
President Trump's impeachment trial begins today, so we'll speak with one of the House impeachment managers about what we should expect, next.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's impeachment trial begins today. And because of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's new rules, this could stretch into the wee hours of tonight and tomorrow and beyond.
CNN has learned that House managers practiced their opening arguments well into last night on the Senate floor.
Joining us now is one of the seven impeachment managers, Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren.
Now, Congresswoman, thank you so much for being here.
So, tell us about that dress rehearsal last night. How did it go, and what part of the case will you be presenting?
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, it wasn't really a dress rehearsal. The House members have never served in the Senate, never spoken from the Senate floor, so we had an opportunity to go over, get the feel for the chambers, say a few words of some of the statements we'll be making tomorrow just to get a feel of the place. And I think that was helpful.
CAMEROTA: And what part of the case will you be presenting?
LOFGREN: Well, I'll be doing part of the proactive case of -- for the articles of impeachment later in the week. Today, we expect there may be some proposed amendments about evidence from Mr. Schumer and under the rules as we understand they'll be adopted, the House managers and the president's lawyers are the ones who argue the pros and cons of those amendments. So, I'll be participating in that.
CAMEROTA: OK. Let's talk about what Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced last night. What did you think of the rules as he announced them? Because you'll remember, he had promised -- he had vowed, I think, to follow precedent with the Clinton impeachment.
Here's what he said as recently as January 7th of this year: All we are doing here is saying we are going to get started in exactly the same way 100 senators agreed to 20 years ago.
Was he being honest when he said that?
LOFGREN: Well, it's not what he's doing now. Every impeachment that the Senate has ever considered, other than when judges resign before they finish, was included witnesses, including the Clinton trial. Evidence has always been taken, and so to not accept the House evidence to preclude witnesses is not in keeping and certainly the accelerated schedule is not what the Clinton matter had.
You know, the idea that we'll be arguing this in the middle of the night when most Americans will be asleep shows, I think, maybe a hope that they can just get this by the American people, close it down before anyone knows it's going on. I don't think that's going to work. But it looks like that's what they're trying to do.
CAMEROTA: We just had Senator Chuck Schumer on. He said that they're trying to do it with as little evidence as possible, done in the cover of darkness. He said it's a national disgrace.
Do you agree with that?
LOFGREN: I think most people in America, when they hear the word "trial", they expect fair trial. They expect evidence. They expect witnesses. And they expect the people who were hearing that evidence and listening to those witnesses to do the right thing, to make impartial justice.
That doesn't look like what Senator McConnell is trying to achieve. But I think that's what the American people should expect.
CAMEROTA: But help us understand this. Why wouldn't everything that the House did, everything -- all of that evidence that we all watched on TV and they compiled methodically and Republicans were certainly involved in asking questions and Democrats were involved, why wouldn't that automatically be part of the official record?
LOFGREN: Well, it should be, and certainly has been in prior cases. In the Clinton impeachment, I was a member of the Judiciary Committee at the time. There were like 70,000 pieces of evidence during the House proceedings. They were housed over in the ford building. We tromped over there to look at them.
All of the evidence was made part of the record, and even with that, witnesses and additional evidence was also admitted into the record. So, this is not how the Senate acted during the Clinton impeachment. It's not what the precedence of our country would seem to indicate they should do.
But basically this -- the people want a fair trial. And it looks like Mr. McConnell is not willing to do that, to give a fair trial.
CAMEROTA: You are as calm, cool and collected as your reputation. I mean, you are truly seen as one of the cooler heads in all of congress. Many people say that's why -- that, along with your experience of having done this before, is why you were chosen. But are you -- were you angry last night when you heard the rules that Mitch McConnell was putting out? Are you angry today?
LOFGREN: I'm disappointed. I don't think it's what America needs, I don't think it's what he promised, and I don't think it will yield a result that the American people can have confidence in, because if there's not a fair trial, then people won't feel that the end result is just and also for that matter, the president hopes to be exonerated. He's not going to be exonerated if there's no fair trial. He may get off for partisan reasons but he will not be exonerated.
CAMEROTA: As I said, you will have done this three times. This is, I would imagine, deja vu in a very sort of bizarre way for you.
Did you ever imagine that you would be here again?
LOFGREN: Well, I've never done exactly this, been a manager. I have been involved in the prior two impeachments, first, really, I was just a law student working on the Nixon impeachment, a member of the Judiciary Committee during the Clinton impeachment, and here now with president Trump.
You know, it is not what I expected. It is disappointing. It's upsetting that the president has engaged in this behavior that threatens the constitutional order that brings us to this point. It's not a joyful moment for me. Far from it.
CAMEROTA: Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, thank you. We really appreciate you taking time to talk to us on what will be a very busy and very late day. We will be watching. Thank you. LOFGREN: Thank you.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump called himself a very stable genius. Now, a blockbuster new book examines that claim from the standpoint of hundreds of current and former insiders. One of the authors joins us next.
BERMAN: Just hours before the start of President Trump's impeachment trial, we're getting an in-depth look at the president and the chaos within his administration. It's a new book out today called "A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America".
Joining me now is one of the authors of the book, Carol Leonnig. She's a multiple Pulitzer Prize-winning national investigative reporter for "The Washington Post".
Carol, thanks for being with us. Congratulations on the book, and the remarkably positive reviews across the board here.
I want to dive right in to read an excerpt here that's getting a lot of attention, because I think it sets up a framework for what you're trying to do. This was a meeting at the Pentagon between the president and all of his generals, where really some of the security establishment was trying to teach the president about what's going on in the world.
The president didn't like it. He says, quote, you're all losers, Trump said. You don't know how to win anymore. I want to win.
We don't win any wars anymore. We spend $7 trillion. Everybody else got the oil and we're not winning anymore. Trump, you write, by now was in one of his rages. He was so angry he wasn't taking many breaths.
All morning he'd been coarse and cavalier, but the next several things he bellowed went beyond that description. They stunned nearly everyone in the room and some vowed they would never repeat them.