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Live Coverage of House Impeachment Managers' Press Conference; Pros and Cons of Mitch McConnell's Senate Rules; Recent Polling Shows Majority of Americans Favor Including New Evidence in Senate Trial. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired January 21, 2020 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00]

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CA: And we're happy to respond to questions.

(CROSSTALK)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NY: Let me -- let me add -- let me add something here.

I just want to add that this fixation on the Clinton precedent is weird. The Clinton trial was conducted fairly, but distorting what happened there shouldn't make a difference.

The question is, should you have a fair trial now?

Any intelligent person knows that in any trial, whether it's for robbing a bank or for subverting the Constitution of the United States, the accusers -- in this case, the House of Representatives -- bring in all the witnesses and all the evidence. The defenders can bring in all the evidence they want. That's how you have a trial.

To be debating whether you should have the evidence admitted, to be debating whether you should allow witnesses is to be debating whether you should have a cover-up, by definition. There's no other way to look at it.

It doesn't matter if -- how it was done some time ago. It was done very fairly, as it happens, some time ago, but it doesn't matter. It cannot be used as an excuse.

The only reason to oppose bringing a witness is to cover up because you're afraid of what the witness will say.

The question before the Senate is: Do the Republican senators want to be complicit in the cover-up of the president? Any senator who votes to deny a witness, who votes to deny evidence is voting to cover up the president's crimes and subversion of the Constitution. There's no other way about it. There is no conceivable reason to deny witnesses, to say you cannot bring in the evidence; the House of Representatives cannot bring in the evidence. There's no reason.

I mean, it's obvious to say, what do they fear? Why won't they bring in the witnesses? Because they are afraid of what the witnesses will say. But there's no trial in this country in which you wouldn't admit the relevant witnesses, in which it's even a question.

SCHIFF: Let's go to questions.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Mr. Chairman, (inaudible) need the full 24 hours to make your case? And are you going to use the full 24 hours, even if you go through the night?

SCHIFF: You know, that will be a decision that the House should make, not that the senators should prescribe to go late into the evening.

Look, there is a wealth of evidence to present here, and we should have the opportunity to present the case as the House chooses to present its case, not to go late into the evening when Senator McConnell evidently hopes the public may not be watching.

And so we'll make decisions about how long our case should go within the rules that are prescribed. But I think the question is, what is the senator's interest -- what is Senator McConnell's interest in structuring the trial this way? Is this about hiding the evidence from the American people with late-night sessions? Is this about just trying to get it over with? Because that should not be the motivation here.

Senator McConnell has taken the same oath as every other senator in that chamber, and that is to do impartial justice, not to try to skew the process in such a way where the House is not permitted to put its evidence before the American people.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Do you worry about -- do you worry that all this focus on rules and process and what Senator McConnell's doing dilutes in any way the message you're trying to put out about what you think President Trump did?

SCHIFF: No, because, look, it -- it -- this is part and parcel of an effort to cover up the president's misconduct. That was the whole object that is charged in Article Two of the impeachment articles. And if the Senate and the Senate leadership will not allow the House to present its case, will not allow the calling of witnesses or presentation of documents, if Senator McConnell makes this the first impeachment trial in history without witnesses or documents, it will not prove the president innocent; it will merely prove the Senate guilty of working with the president to obstruct the truth from coming out.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHIFF: And so I -- I -- you know, I do think that by structuring the trial this way, it furthers our case that what's going on here really is a cover-up of evidence to the American people.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Who would you like to see -- hear from the most (inaudible)?

SCHIFF: Well, and I -- and I'll ask some of my colleagues to add on, as well.

But look, there are a number of key witnesses, I think, that we know even at the outside (sic) of the trial should be called, and they're people like John Bolton and people like Mick Mulvaney. They're people like Michael Duffey and Mr. Blair and others.

[10:35:00]

SCHIFF: But if we're proceeding in a logical fashion, if we're truly interested in a fair trial, the first step ought to be the production of the documents. Those documents will reveal precisely who the most important witnesses are. And they may be those four, and there may be others as well.

Let me just give one illustration of what's being hidden from the American people.

We have text messages where high-level people in the diplomatic corps are asking each other, "Are we really withholding military aid?" and "As we talked about last night, I think it's crazy to withhold military aid to pressure an ally to get help with a political campaign."

That document -- those documents have not been provided by the administration. They don't want the American people to see them. Now, we have seen them because cooperating witnesses did provide them. But documents like those are being withheld from the public. That is the kind of cover-up that the president is engaged in, and the Senate should not make itself a party to that.

So, you know, just to conclude, in terms of witnesses, we should review the documents. We should -- the House should have the right to call witnesses. The president should have the right to call witnesses; material witnesses. Not witnesses just for the purpose of smearing his opponent, but material witnesses. That's what makes a fair trial.

But let me ask my colleagues who haven't had a chance to speak if they'd like to add.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHIFF: Last -- last question?

QUESTION: How much does it hamstring you to not be able to -- to know which witnesses and documents are going to be admitted while you're making your case?

SCHIFF: Well, you know, it's as if you're on Judy duty -- jury duty -- and the judge were to come in the courtroom and say, "You know, I've been talking to the defendant, and we've decided I'm not going to let the prosecution call any witnesses. And I'm not going to let them call any -- for any documents. I'm only going to let the prosecution read from the cold record in the grand jury. And even then, we won't necessarily decide you can consider that as evidence."

That makes it impossible to have a fair trial -- not just difficult but impossible to have a fair trial. And -- and I think, for senators who take their oath seriously -- and I -- I hope and pray that they do -- this is not the fair trial that the American people want. It's not the fair trial the American people deserve.

Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

[10:37:33]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Adam Schiff, one of the House managers who is leading the team. We're here with Laura Coates.

Laura, I'm wondering, what do you make of what Adam Schiff is saying there?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think he makes a very fine point about two issues. Number one, Cipollone. Well, naturally, somebody who may have been involved in the decision-making process.

Remember, he supervised John Eisenberg, who was the national security lawyer who many of the witnesses, during the impeachment hearing, said he knows exactly what we're talking about, he was privy to the information. He's somebody who was not involved -- talking about Cipollone -- involved in not handing over the whistleblower complaint that was in fact the genesis of all this impeachment hearing.

So to have him now play both the idea of the coach and the player --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: In a normal -- in a normal trial, you would not have an attorney who's also a fact witness, is that correct?

TEXT: Pat Cipollone: House Managers accusing Cipollone of being "material witness"; Say role on defense team could "undermine the integrity" of the trial; Demand he disclose all first-hand knowledge

COATES: Of course you would not. But the word "normal" now goes by the wayside, except for one point that Nadler made just now, and Schiff reiterated. And that's the idea, kind of compare apples to oranges.

The Clinton impeachment trial to what's happening now, he used the word as very weird. Essentially, it'd be abnormal because in the Clinton impeachment trial, they had cooperated initially, they had information, 90,000 pages of documents handed over. They had witnesses who testified in front of the grand jury. You had somebody who was not running an entire operation to say nobody allows them to oversee and have oversight over my authority here.

So you have this comparison point they're trying to make very crystal- clear to the American public. That is, if you'd like to have a trial that gives transparency, that allows for the oversight function to take place, then why would you not have witnesses, documents, the ability for people who are presenting the case to actually decide how to do so. If you don't have that, you really don't have a trial.

COOPER: Jeff, it's interesting. For you, it's really the documents that is critical?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You know, if anyone who has either seen or participated in a white-collar crime investigation in the last 50 years, everyone knows that the key evidence is the documentary record whether it's e-mails, whether it's memos, whether it's text messages.

That's how you prove things in the modern era, because that's how business and government functions. People communicate, you know, through documents.

And if you were doing a real trial, where you would start would be with the e-mails among the various people involved in Ukraine policy. The fact that the -- the Democrats in the House of Representatives have been able to uncover as much as they have with the very sparse documentary record that they were allowed to see, is really pretty remarkable.

[10:40:04]

But if you are having a trial, in any meaningful definition of a trial, where you would start would be with the documents. And only then would you start interviewing the witnesses.

COOPER: What the Republicans say, though, is, well, look, the Democrats could have fought this in the courts to get documents, to get witnesses.

TOOBIN: And that is undoubtedly true. And it is also undoubtedly true that that fight would have taken us past November, and the Democratic response to that argument is, if you are charging a conspiracy to interfere unlawfully with the 2020 election, you have to try to stop it as soon as possible. You can't allow the alleged perpetrator to achieve what he -- what he sought to do, which is interfere in the 2020 election by delaying a resolution past the 2020 election.

COATES: And by the way, on that point, on documents, you're so right about the importance of it. That's why Nancy Pelosi, as speaker of the House, chose litigators. That's why she said I want to have a litigation focus, people who are going to (ph) on (ph) the team.

Because unlike a criminal prosecutor, who uses witnesses as the vehicle to convey information and to tell a story, litigators know they're confined to the documents, the evidentiary support, the exhibits, may have to bring that to life.

They had no idea if (ph) they're going to have witnesses available or ever (ph). So they have to use what they have, that limited closed universe of information, and convey the point and speak to a jury that really is not a group of laymen.

COOPER: I want to bring in our other panelists, Ross and Tim, in just a moment. I just quickly want to go to Dana Bash. Dana, the language that Schiff used was notable, "cover-up," over and over -- Nadler.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Over and over. It was intentional, both Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler used that language. And to me, the most sort of cogent line was from Adam Schiff, saying that if they go forward with this plan, this will not prove the president innocent, it will prove the Senate guilty of allowing, effectively, a cover-up.

And it goes back to what we were talking about at the beginning of this coverage, which is, this is so much about pressuring public opinion, about galvanizing the public, particularly constituents and voters in the states of the Republican senators who are potentially persuadable on the notion of allowing -- on the votes allowing the documents and, more importantly, the witnesses.

It is a full-court press using language that they have been told -- my understanding, from people who look at public opinion and what persuades voters -- that this is the language to use, "cover-up" and "fair trial." We've heard it over and over, and we're going to hear it for the rest of this time.

COOPER: All right. Dana, thanks very much. We're going to have more of our team here.

[10:42:54]

Coming up next, Mitch McConnell going with this strategy despite polling that shows 70 percent of Americans want witnesses and a fair trial. We'll take you there (ph) (INAUDIBLE) with special coverage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:47:49]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: welcome back to CNN's special live coverage of the historic impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump. The Senate trial gavels to order just two and a half hours from now. It will begin, we are anticipating, with a fierce debate over the proposed rules, released just last night by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, rules that seem designed to quickly get the trial over with, perhaps even acquit him quickly, and to make it arduous, perhaps impossible, for senators to consider evidence and testimony.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, is warning of a cover-up by -- he calls the McConnell rules "a national disgrace." Additionally, the American people indicate they expect more from the Senate trial.

Our brand-new CNN poll, by the way, shows nearly seven in 10 Americans say the trial should feature testimony from new witnesses who did not testify in the House impeachment inquiry. And we're going to hear from Schumer right at the top of the hour,

we're told. He's going to have a little news conference, make a statement.

TAPPER: Yes. We anticipate he's going to talk about how unfair the process is, we're going to hear the same talking points we heard from House Democrats, a few minutes ago, the idea that evidence from the House impeachment inquiry is not automatically going to be included, that has to be voted on. The fact that there's not going to be an agreement on witnesses at the beginning of this, and the fact that the trial is going to go 12-hour days, as they are -- as they are -- Democrats are casting it, late into the night.

Although, John King, to bring you in, I mean, even if it goes late into the night -- we should point out -- I mean, we're going to be covering it, we're going to be watching it. The American people are going to be kept abreast of what happens, so it's not as though they're going to some cave somewhere.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR, INSIDE POLITICS: No. It -- you would think that, number one, the senators are going to have to sit there, long hours. The House managers would like to break their case up into chunks, let people digest them, come back the next day. So you can understand why they would like to spread it out over three days --

TAPPER: Sure.

KING: -- or over four days. These are not the Clinton rules. Mitch McConnell lied, misled -- pick your term for it -- when he said, we're going to model this after the Clinton rules. These are the Trump- McConnell rules.

Mitch McConnell's in a hurry. He wants to get this done, he can't give the president everything he wants, but he's trying to give him everything he can. And this is going to be a test of his leadership, going forward, here. You just showed that national poll.

I just want to remind everybody, Mitch McConnell does not care about the polls. He will only care if they come to him and say, Susan Collins will lose, Cory Gardner will lose, you will lose your majority if you continue to do what you're doing. Otherwise, he doesn't care.

[10:50:08]

Remember, back in 2014, McConnell was not part of this, he didn't like it. There was a government shutdown, everybody said the Republicans would pay the price for it? They won the Senate in that election.

Remember when he held up Merrick Garland with -- kept a Supreme Court nomination from Barack Obama in the final year of his presidency? Everybody said that was horrible, the national polls were not in his favor? Trump won the election, McConnell got what he wanted, a Republican-appointed justice.

He does not follow the polls or the rules. He's going to do this his way unless he's convinced he's going to lose his majority. Then he would modify. Right now, he's on a fast track.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, if in fact there are 12-hour sessions that go into 1:00, 2:00 in the morning, remember, a lot of those sessions will be in primetime -- 7:00 at night, 8:00 at night, 9:00 at night, when there are a lot more people at home, potentially, watching television because they've come home from work.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, right. That could be. Certainly more than during the day. But I think that the most important thing to look at here is what John is saying, which is, this is a perversion of the Bill Clinton impeachment trial. And what McConnell is doing is trying to speed things up.

And also the document issue is a huge issue, which is not automatically allowing these documents from the House to be transferred to the Senate. And I think not only are we going to hear from the Democrats, like we heard from Adam Schiff, the -- you know, this is a cover-up.

What we're going to hear from them -- and this will get under Donald Trump's craw in a big way -- is, you can't vindicate a president if the trial is rigged. You will not have vindication. And what Donald Trump is looking for is vindication.

If they can convince the public -- and again, our poll shows that about seven out of 10 say you need to have witnesses, about 58 percent -- I think it is -- believe that he abused the power of the presidency, 57 percent believe that be obstructed the House of Representatives.

So they have a public that's listening. It is highly partisan. But if they can say to the public, they're rigging this trial and he can't be vindicated? That's a -- that's a point for them. I mean, that's something you're going to hear a lot about.

TAPPER: And Nia, one of the things that's interesting is, if these rules are adopted, it's not as though the evidence from the House won't be included automatically. It's not as though there won't be witnesses automatically. It just means that Democrats are going to have to fight for them, and try to get 51 votes for the evidence from the House to be admitted; 51 votes for new witnesses. And Democrats don't want to have to have those fights, McConnell's not precluding it --

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Right.

TAPPER: -- but he's making it much more arduous.

HENDERSON: Yes. And that's when Democrats have to rely on people that have, in some ways, been hard to read and maybe unreliable: people like Susan Collins, people like Lamar Alexander, people like Mitt Romney who have expressed this desire to have witnesses.

The question is, we don't know what witnesses they would really want to have, right? Are they only talking about the witnesses that Democrats want, or are they talking about the kind of witnesses that the president wants, right? The whistleblower, somebody like Hunter Biden, somebody like Joe Biden.

It's hard to imagine that if you're Susan Collins, you vote for Bolton but don't vote for Hunter Biden? I mean, you know, because they only need 51 votes to introduce these new witnesses.

Listen, Mitch McConnell has described himself as the Grim Reaper, somebody, you know, who essentially, Democrat wishes go to die in the Senate as long as Mitch McConnell is in charge. So I think that's something to keep in mind.

He is in lockstep with this president, he wants to protect his majority. And going into this, when he is looking at these rules, he, I'm pretty sure, knows where Susan Collins' mind is right now, in terms of what she's willing to do, the vulnerable --

BORGER: She (ph) got something out of it.

HENDERSON: Exactly. People like Martha McSally, people who are going into 2020 with their names on the ballot in tough re-election races, I'm sure he knows where his caucus is and he's designing this in a way that protects them and also protects the president.

TAPPER: Alan, as a former Senate parliamentarian, Joe Lieberman was on CNN earlier today and he said there wasn't an agreement on witnesses at this stage in the Clinton impeachment, but there was comity, there was -- the Democratic leader, Tom Daschle; the Republican leader, Trent Lott, they got along and they went ahead with the rules to start, and it was 100 to zero.

ALAN FRUMIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The two leaders did get along in the build-up to the Clinton trial. The Senate had watched the House of Representatives conduct its consideration of the articles of impeachment against President Clinton. And frankly, the senators were not pleased, they were horrified.

And they decided that -- that the founders created the Senate to be a check on everybody -- the president certainly, and the House of Representatives. So the leaders were determined that the Senate would conduct its trial with dignity. And the first step, the adoption of the basic rules of the road, were adopted 100 to nothing.

[10:55:10]

Obviously, we're looking at a different situation here. You earlier had alluded to fierce debate on these rules of the road. Well, of course, these rules of the road will be considered under the impeachment rules, which tend to prohibit debate on the part of the senators, fierce or otherwise.

So I think you'll see, on the floor of the Senate, what we've seen out here: frustrated Democrats, trying to make their case. Once they get into the floor of the Senate and the trial -- the impeachment rules, they can't speak.

BORGER: But the managers can debate these rules --

FRUMIN: Well, yes.

BORGER: -- they can go into closed session if the senators decide, OK, we have to participate in this. We won't be able to watch it, but they can do that, right?

FRUMIN: The managers -- the parties get to debate. The parties have one hour each.

TAPPER: By "parties," you mean people defending the president and the people prosecuting the president?

FRUMIN: Yes. White the senators sit there, quiet.

BLITZER: Very quiet. They have to be quiet.

Everybody, stand by. We're watching all of this history.

For four U.S. senators, by the way, serving as jurors in this impeachment trial, it means they'll be sidelined from the campaign trail. Will they be able to keep up the momentum, what, just two weeks out from the Iowa caucuses?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)