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Senators Expected To Clash Over Impeachment Trial Rules; CNN Reports, White House, Senate GOP Working To Limit Possible Bolton Testimony; Adam Schiff, House Manager Speakers Before The Senate Trial Begins; Interview With Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI). Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired January 21, 2020 - 10:00   ET

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


[10:00:00]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, guys, very much. And thanks to all of you for joining us. We'll see you back here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: You're witnessing history, folks. I'm Jim Sciutto in New York. CNN Special Impeachment Trial Coverage continues right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer alongside Jake Tapper. We're live here in Washington D.C. for CNN's special live coverage of the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump. Anderson Cooper is also here in the nation's Capitol and our Dana Bash is leading our coverage up from Capitol Hill.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Today, of course, day one of the historic trial that we'll see Democratic members of the House of Representatives trying to make their case for the removal of the president of the United States, something that has never happened. This is, of course, just the third time the Senate has ever been ceded for a trial of this magnitude. We have it covered from every angle, the process, the powerful players, the arguments on either side, before the gavel falls in a few hours.

BLITZER: So here is where we stand right now. President Trump is just the third president in American history to be impeached by the House of Representatives. They passed two articles. The first for abuse of power over his withholding of military aid to Ukraine, a U.S. ally, whom he actively pressured to announce an investigation against the political rival, the former vice president, Joe Biden.

TAPPER: The second article of impeachment is for obstruction of Congress, and the successful efforts by the Trump White House to block the testimony of key witnesses and the production of possibly damaging documents. The question of witnesses as we move ahead with the trial will also be a key part of the discussions and the debate today.

BLITZER: So the rules of this trial will be unlike anything you have ever seen before. That includes the last impeachment trial. The final guidelines will actually be set today with the votes on the Senate floor. But we know what the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, wants, and that's a very quick trial. Our Sara Murray is joining us. She has details of how Mitch McConnell wants this to go. So what's on the majority leader's wish list right now?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you pointed out on his wish list is getting this over with quickly. Things kick off at 1:00 today when they will debate the rules that are governing this trial and everyone pretty much believes that Mitch McConnell has the votes to get what he wants. And what he wants is for each side to have 24 hours to make their opening argument. That would be split over two days each. So we could have some late nights ahead of us and that is a very condensed timeframe. It is much more condensed than what we saw in the Clinton impeachment trial. So that will be the first phase.

The second phase of this is senators asking questions, but not the way we usually see them debating on the floor. These will be questions that are submitted in writing to the chief justice, John Roberts. That will last for 16 hours.

Now, after that, we could get into the real red meat of this. This is the question of whether the senators want to hear new evidence. They will have four hours to debate on whether they want to hear from witnesses, whether they want documents. Now, if that vote goes down, if that fails, things could be over pretty quickly. There will be some final deliberations and then a vote on the articles of impeachment.

But, of course, Wolf, the big question is how the senators will break on whether to hear more evidence either from witnesses or in the form of documents.

BLITZER: All right, Sara, thank you.

TAPPER: On the eve of this historic trial, President Trump announced the inclusion of a slew of Republican members of the House that he is adding to his defense team. They're just part of the collection of powerful public officials that we're going to see in this trial, Wolf.

BLITZER: Personalities that include the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, and 100 very, very quiet senators. Jessica Dean is here to walk us through all of this. So, Jessica?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, lot of players in all of this, Wolf, and Jake. Let's a look first at the House impeachment managers. If you take a look, again, names you know by now, Adam Schiff, the lead manager there, chairs House Intelligence, Jerry Nadler, chairs House Judiciary, a lot of legal and litigation experience from these House impeachment managers.

Then you take a look at President Trump's legal team, which as you mentioned, is going to be a mix of House members and lawyers. So you see some of the House members, Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows, some of the names that you've seen throughout all of this. But you're also going to see Alan Dershowitz, a well known constitutional lawyer, Ken Starr, who led the independent counsel investigating Bill Clinton, and then you have Pat Cipollone who is going to lead the president's defense. He's considered by President Trump a strong silent type, he is known to be very prepared, very calm. But he has no television experience, really. So it will be interesting to see how all of this plays out.

And then as we said, the very quiet senators. We have some moderate Republicans we're keeping an eye on, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Lamar Alexander, Mitt Romney. What will they be doing, how will they be voting? And then you have some of the senators who have been pulled off the 2020 trail, like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Michael Bennett and Amy Klobuchar. And then, finally, Chief Justice John Roberts, who will be presiding over all of this, again.

[10:05:02]

Again, he's used to no cameras, doing his work across the street very quietly. This is going to be a very, very different venue. Wolf?

BLITZER: It certainly will be. All right, Jessica, thank you.

After weeks of saying the rules for President Trump's impeachment trial will follow those of President Bill Clinton, it appears Mitch McConnell had a last minute change of heart because Senate majority leader who once promised to work in his own words total coordination with the White House Counsel is getting some praise from the Trump team, which wants to wrap all of this up as soon as possible. And that has Democrats in the House and the Senate fuming. Here is the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): President Trump was so confident and McConnell was so confident of his arguments, why do they have to do them at 2:00 in the morning? Why can't they do them in the light of day? The rules he proposed are really a national disgrace.

If you don't have a real trial that you can judge impeachment on the merits, then this democracy has eroded.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash is on Capitol Hill for us now. Dana, under these rules, some observers say it's possible, possible that President Trump could find himself acquitted by the middle of next week with this rules change. Is that true?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is true, if you just do simple math because this organizing resolution, if it passes, as it's going to be presented, and there is going to be a long debate today about that, but if it does, the number of hours are spelled out very clearly and not just the number of hours, Jake, the number of -- the total for each argument, for example. It's how long they have to go each day.

So, for example, the House managers have 24 hours, as does the president's team, to present their case, but they have to do it in two days, which means 12 hours a day, which means probably 1:00 in the afternoon until 1:00 in the morning. And so you have that, combined with 16 hours for the senators to ask questions. The big wild card here, as it has been from the beginning, are the witnesses. So if the Senate does not vote to approve any witnesses or additional evidence, then they're done, then there's nothing else to do, and that could put it at next week, which is why you're hearing from Chuck Schumer and other Democrats saying that they believe that the Senate majority leader is just trying to shove this through, do a lot of it in the dark of night, in the wee hours to shove it under the rug.

BLITZER: Dana, as the White House and the president's Senate allies, they work to try to speed up the trial, a new CNN poll shows, get this, nearly 70 percent of Americans say a trial should allow testimony from new witnesses who did not testify in the House inquiry and that includes 48 percent of Republicans. So will public sentiment, Dana, have any influence on those moderate Republicans, key Republicans, who have expressed at least being open to witnesses?

BASH: It could. That poll is so important because another critical dynamic that we have to always keep in mind as we go forward with this impeachment trial is that for the first time in history, it is happening in an election year for Congress, but more importantly for a president. So public opinion matters in a big way because it will determine -- potentially determine how voters see this and see what they call fairness.

So particularly for those potential four Republican senators who we have all been talking about, that the Democrats will need in order to get 51 votes to approve any witnesses, those numbers, nationally and likely even more intense in their home states where they are in tough re-election battles, several of them will put pressure on them for the message that Democrats have been pounding away on for the past two weeks and that is fair trial, fair trial, fair trial.

They're doing that very intentionally because their polling shows what our polling shows, which is no matter what the endgame, no matter the result, which nobody thinks will be anything but an acquittal now, the pressure on them to allow witnesses will be great based on public opinion. That is a huge part of the dynamic here.

BLITZER: Yes, it certainly is. All right, Dana Bash will be with us throughout the day, throughout the next several days. We'll see how long this goes.

Our next guest says Mitch McConnell wants a fast trial, not a fair one. Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii is joining us. She's a member of both the Judiciary and the Armed Services Committees. Senator, welcome.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): Good morning.

BLITZER: In just a few hours, a debate over the rules proposed by Leader McConnell will begin, expected to be rather fiery, but McConnell has previously said he has the support of all of the Republican senators, at least as far as this vote on round one, meaning the rules are likely to pass. Senator Schumer says Democrats will fight it. Realistically, what options does your party have at least now?

[10:10:00]

HIRONO: Our option is to continue to offer an amendment, amendments, to the McConnell process, and also during the trial, the House managers will be able to propose motions. And so there will be votes. Anytime that either side calls for witnesses, there will be votes. So that's what we're going to do. We can be the loyal opposition to the end.

But the good thing, Wolf, is that this is a trial without witnesses or without the appropriate documents. Whoever heard of such a thing. This is why the American people -- they are on our side, and wanting to have a fair trial.

BLITZER: One of the departures from the Clinton trials of 21 years ago is that the evidence from the House investigation will not be automatically admitted. It will now require a vote. Are you concerned that by not subpoenaing witnesses or documents, the House, the House of Representatives may not have the strongest case here, that some of this evidence actually will be dismissed?

HIRONO: Every time I hear Mitch McConnell say that they're following the Clinton playbook, I just want to say, give me a break. This is another departure, a massive departure. Because, of course, during the Clinton impeachment, there had already been a lot of witnesses, a lot of depositions taken, lots of evidence produced. None of which occurred in this instance, with President Trump stonewalling every request. So I'm shocked.

But, you know, nothing that Mitch McConnell does to speed up this trial and make it harder for the process to be fair surprises me anymore. My expectation is to not even allow what came through on the House side with their impeachment process as part of the record is really, once again, you know, an effort to stonewall this whole process and Mitch McConnell and the president are on the same page on this. It is a huge cover-up.

And, of course, Mitch wouldn't be bringing this resolution to the floor if he didn't have the caucus, his own caucus behind him. So all of the Republicans are going to vote for this kind of a truncated unfair process is pretty much complicit, I'd say, in the cover-up.

TAPPER: Senator, Jake Tapper here. The White House announced eight new members of the president's impeachment team, all of them are House Republicans, some of them have legal backgrounds. But a source familiar tells CNN these lawmakers will likely mostly serve as surrogates and outside advisers. It seems to a lot of observers that the president is signaling he's going to take this fight directly to the public as his re-election bid looms.

HIRONO: Well, apparently, he needs his cheering section. And this is a president who just needs to be adulated at all times. And, clearly, during the Senate impeachment process, he had his supporters who are very noisy about it. And so he wants them to continue to be noisy on his behalf. But at the same time, I doubt very much that they're going to be focusing on what he actually did.

That's what this impeachment trial is all about, that he shook down the president of another country for his own political purposes and used almost $400 million taxpayer money as a bribe. I doubt very much that his House cheerleaders will be focusing on that. They'll be focusing on everything else. So this trial, as far as the president and Mitch McConnell views it, is one of distraction, and if it can, delay.

TAPPER: The Washington Post reports that even if former National Security Adviser John Bolton does testify, the White House and Senate Republicans are working to try to minimize the impact of his testimony, perhaps limiting it to behind closed doors. Of course, that is how testimony was done during the Clinton impeachment trial. Would that be acceptable to you if it did mean you could ultimately hear from one of the key players here?

HIRONO: Well, the rationale for having Bolton testify behind closed doors, I assume, is some kind of executive privilege or, I don't know, national security interest. I think that that's another part of their cover-up.

But Bolton has already said certain things and his assistant, Fiona Hill, has already testified to the fact that Bolton called this entire scheme a drug deal and I didn't recall Bolton saying, my aide was lying.

TAPPER: 21 years ago -- during the Senate trial 21 years ago for Bill Clinton's impeachment, the testimonies were done behind closed doors, videotaped and then the video excerpts were shown to the members of the Senate. That would be following the Clinton precedent, would that be acceptable to you?

HIRONO: If we're following the Clinton precedent, there would have been all of the discovery done at the House level and that's not what's happening at all. So they want to trickle out the -- and limit as much as possible anything that any witness that we want can testify to.

[10:15:01]

So that is their whole modus operandi, is to limit the information that is produced for our consideration, as well as to the American public. It is all par for the course with those guys.

TAPPER: Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, aloha, thank you so much.

HIRONO: Aloha.

BLITZER: And our special coverage continues. In just a moment, we expect to see more senators file in as soon as the president's impeachment trial is set to get underway in just a couple of hours.

Plus, any minute from now, we're going to hear directly from the House impeachment managers. The seven of them, we'll bring you their comments live as soon as they begin the news conference. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:20:00]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Listen, three hours now until President Trump's impeachment trial gets under way, and still one big question remains, will witnesses be allowed to testify. We don't know the answer to that. Democrats are clamoring to hear from some of the key players who can shed light on what happened with Ukraine, chief among them, obviously, former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Bolton himself says he would testify if ordered by a subpoena, but now we're learning that Senate Republicans and the White House are preparing contingency plans on the chance that Democrats do gather enough Votes by Republicans to force Bolton to testify.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins us live from the White House. So what's the liberal concern about Bolton testifying? Do they know what he would say?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, they do not know what he would say. And whenever Bolton announced he would be willing to come forward if they did subpoena him, the White House was caught off guard by that and sent on a bit of a scramble trying to figure out how they were going to handle that. And now, their main priority is making sure there are not going to be witnesses in the Senate trial.

But Anderson, as you've seen play out over the last several days, you're seeing those Republicans, those moderate Republicans who are really going to be the determining factor about whether there are witnesses start to seem to hedge to say that they're open to that idea after the opening arguments.

So the White House wants to be prepared in case that does happen, if those witnesses do come forward. And they've said that if the Democrats get to call people like John Bolton, they want to call people like Hunter Biden. But when it comes to Bolton, they're preparing a backup plan of exactly what they're going to do if he does come forward.

And ever since he first offered his testimony, essentially, the conversations in the White House from get-go were what they were going to be about, executive privilege, whether or not they were going to try to invoke that, how Bolton would respond, because some of the officials have been concerned that he would ignore them saying that he could not speak about certain matters because, of course, all of this is going to be related to national security matters since it involves Ukraine.

So, Anderson, that's really been the discussion. So far, the president has been increasingly fixated on Bolton, asking people what they think he would say about him. Though officials have said they also think he would have a lot to say about people like the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and the chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.

Of course, all of this is playing out while the president is not even here at the White House. He's overseas in Davos at the World Economic Forum, and we're reporting this morning that we have multiple sources telling us, Anderson, the president was initially hesitant about going out of the country as his Senate trial was going underway. And there was a lot of debate inside the White House about whether it's wise for him not to be here in Washington watching all of this play out.

But in the end, there were other aides who said, no, it would look good for the president to be on the world stage, talking about the American economy, while Democrats and Republicans are fighting over the rules, the procedures and, of course, he'll be back here tomorrow. And also don't forget, his hotel room is equipped with that TiVo-like device, where he can still watch Fox News and still pay attention to what it is that's going on and what they're saying about him on Capitol Hill.

COOPER: How much of wanting the president to be away for those people who did want that in the White House was about limiting his, you know, ability to watch the proceedings in real-time and tweet about it and weigh in on it as it goes?

COLLINS: Well, it's less about limiting him, because they know they really can't keep the president from watching. I mean, you'll remember, whenever he was in Vietnam for that second Senate with the North Korean dictator, that's when Michael Cohen was testifying. And the president hardly slept on that trip because he would go to these meetings, he'd come back to the hotel and he would demand to know what it is Michael Cohen had said.

So they know they can't really keep the president away from watching this, but if he is in Davos, he is around these other world leaders, he's got meetings to attend, so it helps keep him distracted to a degree, more so than he would if he's here at the White House in his study off the Oval Office where there are two televisions and he's watching and keeping a close eye on all of this, though he will still be doing so, just from 4,000 miles away now.

COOPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thanks very much, from the White House.

In the middle of all this, House managers are making a new demand. A short time ago, Democrats sent a letter accusing White House Counsel Pat Cipollone of being a material witness and demanding that he'd turn over any information that he may have, quote, firsthand knowledge of. I'm going to break that down, as you see on the right-hand side of your screen, we're awaiting a press conference or some statements by House impeachment managers. We'll obviously bring that to you live. That's what you're seeing on the right-hand side of the screen. We're here with our team.

Jeff Toobin, this idea of the letter that was sent by the managers, which we have here, the statement, is that just a warning shot? Is that just --

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think they are operating on the perhaps illusory assumption that this is a real trial. Remember, Article II of the two articles of impeachment says obstruction of Congress. And the act of obstruction that is central to that accusation is a letter that Pat Cipollone wrote to Congress on October 8th, eight-page letter saying, you're getting nothing, that we are not cooperating with this impeachment inquiry at all.

[10:25:11]

If you were doing a real trial, you would want to know what were the circumstances underlying writing that letter. Did the president know about that letter? Did he approve that letter? And you would want Pat Cipollone's testimony.

They're asking for it. It's unlikely they'll get it.

COOPER: Here is Adam Schiff and the other House managers.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Good morning. Last night, we received for the first time the text of the McConnell resolution that will govern the trial. And we could see why this resolution was kept from us and from the American people. This is nothing like the process that was used in the Clinton trial.

[10:25:00]

SCHIFF: To begin with -- and this is, I think, most indicative -- in the Clinton trial, both Senate leadership worked out a bipartisan proposal for how the trial would be conducted. That obviously has not happened here. Senator McConnell did not consult at all with Senator Schumer on the contents of this text. I would imagine that Senator Schumer only got to see it probably around the same time that we did in the House.

And the reason this was kept hidden is that it does not prescribe a process for a fair trial. And the American people desperately want to believe that the Senate will give both the president and the House of Representatives a fair trial.

This resembles nothing like the Clinton proceeding.

For the first point, in the Clinton case, if we're truly following the Clinton precedent, all of the documents were provided before the trial, more than 90,000 of them.

Does this resolution provide for the president to provide the documents before the trial? No, it does not. It leaves that question of whether the House will ever see these documents, whether the American people will ever see these documents to the end and only the end, with no guarantee that this material will ever be shown to the House or to the American people.

That is a profound departure from the Clinton trial. Without the documents, you can't make important judgments about even which witnesses should be called, or what questions should be asked of the witnesses when you do. So that is a profound departure from the Clinton precedent.

On the subject of witnesses, it is also a deep departure from Clinton, where all of the witnesses testified before the Senate trial. The issue in the Clinton trial was not whether they would testify; they had testified already, they had been interviewed already, some, dozens of times. The question in the Clinton trial was, will they be recalled? Will they be required to testify again? And that question was answered in the affirmative.

Here, though, if we're following the Clinton precedent, all of these witnesses should testify, should be deposed before the trial begins, not after the trial is over. So this is not at all the model used in the Clinton case as well.

This resolution even goes so far, in another departure from the Clinton precedent, to say they're not even going to admit the evidence that was received in the House, that they're going to even postpone the decision about whether any of the witness testimony will actually be part of the record.

And finally, they are compressing the time of the trial. Whereas the Clinton trial, managers had six hours a day to present over a course of days, they're now presenting that we double the amount of time each day so that the proceedings can conceivably go well into the night, when apparently Senator McConnell hopes the American people will not be watching.

This is not a process for a fair trial. This is the process for a rigged trial. This is the process if you do not want the American people to see the evidence. This is a process you use if you want to, hand-in-hand, working in concert with the president, allow the president to continue to obstruct the Congress and deny the truth to the American people.

Thankfully, however, we know the truth. The evidence is already overwhelming, and that evidence is that the president abused the power of his office, withheld hundreds of millions of dollars of needed military aid to an ally at war in order to coerce that ally into interfering in our election; and then when he was caught, obstructed the Congress to cover it up.

That truth is inescapable, no matter how McConnell wishes to structure this trial. But we will be appealing to the manager -- we will be appealing, as managers, to the senators today to live up to the oath they have just taken to do impartial justice and to hold a fair trial.

[10:30:00]