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Impeachment Trial Begins with Arguments Over Evidence; Trump Scoffs at Impeachment Trial as he Leaves Davos. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired January 22, 2020 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, January 22. It's 6 a.m. here in New York. Six a.m., a mere few hours since the dramatic revealing and, in some ways, surprising marathon first round of the impeachment trial of President Trump.
They didn't finish in the Senate until just before 2 a.m., a long day with the most significant moment coming right at the beginning -- a retreat from Mitch McConnell -- and the most heated moments right at the end. It was well after midnight when Chief Justice John Roberts scolded House managers and the president's defense team for their language and rhetoric in the Senate chamber. He even whipped out the word "pettifogging."
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Stop it.
BERMAN: Really. We'll play that for you in just a moment.
In between all that, Republicans successfully blocked every amendment offered by Democrats, including efforts to subpoena three key potential witnesses, as well as documents from four different departments in the U.S. government. Now, just as a reminder, the president was impeached and is on trial for allegedly abusing his power by pressuring a foreign government to investigate the Bidens and then blocking the investigation into his actions.
CAMEROTA: In the end, Republicans approved Mitch McConnell's rules for this impeachment trial. But the majority leader made significant changes to his initial proposal after getting pushback from both moderate and conservative members.
Both sides will now get three days for opening arguments instead of two. And the evidence from the House investigation will automatically be entered into the Senate record.
The trial resumes this afternoon with the opening arguments of House Democratic managers. So a lot to get to.
Let's begin with Lauren Fox. She is live on Capitol Hill. It was a late night, Lauren. LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was. This all wrapped
up, Alisyn, just about four hours ago, and senators will be back at it for the second day of this impeachment trial beginning at 1 p.m. Here's what you missed just earlier this morning.
CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, U.S. SUPREME COURT: The Senate is adjourned.
FOX (voice-over): Just hours ago, the Senate finished their first day of President Trump's impeachment trial, ending a marathon session stretching well into the early morning to establish the rules.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): There's a reason why we're here from 5 to midnight, and that's because they don't want the American people to see what's going on here.
FOX: The tension evident as both sides sparred over the president's blocking of witnesses in the House investigation.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): President Trump does not want you to hear from Ambassador Bolton. And the reason has nothing to do with executive privilege or this other nonsense. So far, I'm sad to say, I see a lot of senators voting for a cover-up. Voting to deny witnesses. An absolutely indefensible vote. Obviously, a treacherous vote.
JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I'll tell you what's treacherous. Come to the floor of the Senate and say, "Executive privilege and other nonsense."
FOX: At nearly 1 a.m., Chief Justice John Roberts had enough, issuing this stern warning.
ROBERTS: I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and the president's counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world's greatest deliberative body. I do think those addressing the Senate should remember where they are.
FOX: Senate Democrats presenting 11 amendments to the floor, pushing to include new evidence and subpoena witnesses like White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We believe witnesses and documents are extremely important. We will not back off on getting votes on all of these amendments, which we regard as extremely significant and important to the country.
FOX: And one by one --
ROBERTS: The amendment is tabled.
The amendment is tabled. The amendment is tabled.
FOX: Republicans voting mostly across party lines to block all of them.
PAT CIPOLLONE, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: They never subpoenaed Ambassador Bolton. They didn't try to call him in the House. And they asked that the case be mooted. And now they come here, and they ask you to issue a subpoena for John Bolton. It's not right.
FOX: But Republican Senator Susan Collins breaking from the GOP to support the tenth amendment, requesting to allow more time to file responses to motions. CNN has learned Collins was part of a group of about 15 senators that, earlier in the day, pressured Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to make a significant change to his rules.
In handwritten revisions, McConnell updating his resolution to give both House impeachment managers and President Trump's defense team three days to make their case. And evidence from the House investigation will now be automatically included without requiring a vote from the Senate.
FOX: And as this drug on throughout the day, I should tell you that you started to see a change in scene on the Senate chamber floor. Essentially what started as senators in their seats attentively listening turned into senators starting to mull around, passing notes, walking to the back of the chamber, having quiet conversations in the back of the chamber. So you can really see that this started to wear on the senators throughout the day.
Like we said, they'll be back at it at 1 p.m. today, when we expect that the House managers will begin to make their case.
CAMEROTA: Or some were just flat-out sleeping.
BERMAN: Yes. They might be under the desk right now, because it's not worth going home. Lauren Fox, thank you very much. Keep us posted. The chief justice, we should say, is going to be at the Supreme Court at 10 a.m., hearing arguments.
CAMEROTA: He's burning the candle at both ends. These are hard hours, obviously, for everybody, but now that they've stretched it out over three days, I don't know if that helps.
BERMAN: They're not digging ditches, OK? They're sitting in a room, listening to people talk. There are harder jobs in the world.
Joining us now, CNN political commentator Joe Lockhart. He was President Clinton's press secretary during his impeachment. Also with us, CNN senior political analyst John Avlon, and CNN political analyst Margaret Talev. She is the politics and White House editor at Axios.
And I want to start, if you will allow me --
CAMEROTA: Please do.
BERMAN: -- at the end, with the chief justice of the United States speaking out loud, admonishing both sides for their behavior on the Senate floor, for a few reasons. One, we rarely hear from the chief justice, so it's interesting, in and of itself.
Two, I think this is a microcosm of what happened yesterday and what might happen over the next few days. Where Democrats are really trying to focus this on being a cover-up and put pressure on Republicans in that chamber. The president's defense team is trying to make this about anything other than the actual charges against him. And the chief justice and the Senate, they're just trying to get through this. So watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and the president's counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world's greatest deliberative body.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: John, is there a winner here? What's the upshot from that moment?
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think he obviously said in equal terms. And the Senate has not done a great job of distinguishing itself as the world's best deliberative body in recent years.
But I do think in the overall substance of the day, the key difference was that the Republicans and the Trump legal team ran into a fire wall of their own making. Because the president has been so fixated on playing to his base that they haven't done the adequate job of putting forward evidence to support his arguments. It is essentially an ad hominem attack. It's a dismissal of the charges without dealing with the underlying evidence.
And that leads them into the place where they're going to be, more often than not, being admonished for not living up to that high standard. They haven't -- they haven't been dealing with the facts, because they haven't had to. They've been playing to the base. Now they're in a different arena. This is the Senate with the chief justice watching, and you can't simply attack your way out of this problem.
CAMEROTA: Joe, what struck you from yesterday?
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I thought that the chief justice's comments were aspirational, because they are not living up to this.
You -- you have two sides talking past each other. The Democrats are focused on the evidence. What happened, the gravity of the situations. The Republicans are sitting trying to provide sound bites for Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson. That's all they're trying to do. It's what they did in the House.
And I think, while the chief justice said, "in equal parts," he was not really speaking to the House managers. He was speaking to the president's legal team.
CAMEROTA: You don't think that he was talking to Jerry -- to Jerry Nadler --
CAMEROTA: -- about using the term cover-up?
LOCKHART: Well, then he's going to admonish him many more times, because the Democrats are going to use that phrase.
BERMAN: What Jerry Nadler did was he accused the senators --
LOCKHART: Oh, no, I understand.
BERMAN: -- of covering up. So that's where the senators believe a line was crossed. So I think he was definitely speaking to both sides there.
But I do think, Margaret, and it is interesting. Because the entire battle yesterday, if you look where the war was fought, it was fought over the issue of a cover-up. And that, to me, is the exact ground where Democrats wanted to be yesterday. It's probably the ground where they want to be over the next several days.
And they came prepared. The House managers came out with a clear strategy, not just with visual aids, but I think with -- with a goal to make that argument. It wasn't as clear to me that the president's lawyers were as prepared for what was effectively -- I know the opening arguments are today -- but that was the opening of the trial.
MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and John, I think yesterday did serve as a pretty good preview for the -- the broad strokes of what we're going to see today. The opening arguments today will be a chance for Adam Schiff and the other House impeachment managers, this group of men and women from geographically diverse backgrounds, different professional backgrounds, to come and lay out the case for these two articles of impeachment.
And while we are still waiting to hear on the precise details of exactly how this is going to unfold, we know it starts at around 1. We know it could go until 9 p.m. or so tonight. That we've got three days of these House Democrats making their case.
And this will largely be a case for the public, because what is different about the opening arguments is it is a chance for these House managers to lay out their case without the ongoing interruptions from the president's legal team. And then in a couple days, vice versa is true. So there'll be all sorts of things that we'll hear about, whether it
has to do with Lev Parnas or the GAO report or other elements of this, where we haven't yet had the votes to understand whether these -- these sort of facts or -- bits of information will be submitted into evidence. But for an opening argument, it's fair game.
So today will be a little bit like yesterday, but with less back and forth and a little bit more sort of literary sweep.
And I think the place to watch is the president, because if his team is not pushing back, he may feel pressed, too. He's going to be on a plane back from Davos with a phone in his hand and a connection on Air Force One.
CAMEROTA: Good to know.
So John, these 11 amendments that the Democrats proposed were struck down for the documents they say they need from the State Department, from the Department of Defense, from witnesses, subpoenas for witnesses like Mick Mulvaney. And interestingly if we look back in the time machine in 19 --
AVLON: I like me a good time machine.
CAMEROTA: I do, too. In 1999, back then, Mitch McConnell really wanted to hear from witnesses. He really believed in witnesses. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): It's not unusual to have a witness in a trial. It's certainly not unusual to have a witness in an impeachment.
My view was that we were entitled to witnesses. I voted for live witnesses myself. Had my vote prevailed, they'd have been live witnesses. I would have been prepared to vote for whatever the House managers wanted in terms of putting on their trial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: So what happened to yesterday? Why did -- why did he strike all those down?
AVLON: Spoiler alert, where you sit isn't -- where you stand, it doesn't matter where you sit in Washington.
That said, there's a reason that this moment is supposed to be more solemn. There's a reason the oath of impartial justice should impact. It shouldn't just be situational ethics. There should be a transcendent standard.
Now, look, during Clinton impeachment hearing, you know, Chuck Schumer argued against witnesses.
BERMAN: And we've had -- We have that sound, which we've played. We don't have it right now but we've played that before.
AVLON: Yes, absolutely.
BERMAN: We just uncovered what Mitch McConnell said.
AVLON: Great job by K-file yet again.
But here's the important thing. There's never been a Senate trial, presidential impeachment or of judges where witnesses haven't been called. And I do think Democrats laid out that argument for why it was necessary. You're going to hear it a lot more, and you should. Because McConnell was right in 1998 -- in 1999. There's got to be witnesses for a trial if it's about a search for the truth.
CAMEROTA: That's a really good context. That there's never been an impeachment trial without witnesses. I think that's good for everybody.
BERMAN: Judges or presidents.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Really great. Thank you, all, very much.
Also, CNN has a new national poll on the 2020 race, and it shows some big movement in the Democratic field, so we'll bring you our new poll numbers in just moments.
BERMAN: And new overnight, the budget office released nearly 200 pages of never-before-seen documents related to the impeachment case against the president. We'll tell you what they reveal next.
CAMEROTA: All right. After a really late night last night, the Senate will reconvene at 1 p.m. this afternoon for day two of President Trump's impeachment trial. It will start with opening statements.
Back with us, we have Joe Lockhart, John Avlon, and Margaret Talev.
Something interesting happened, Joe, yesterday, and that was that Mitch McConnell set out these rules and then they changed. And he had to change them by hand, and they changed sort of dramatically, because everything that we talked about yesterday in terms of the time length and in terms of what evidence would be submitted into the record changed.
Here's the back story. This is CNN's reporting. "While moderate Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Rob Portman of Ohio led the charge, in all about 15 senators argued in favor of changing McConnell's resolution, a Republican aide told CNN. That included some of the president's staunchest allies, such as Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan, South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds, Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker."
So how did this happen? LOCKHART: Well, it's funny, because I was just settling in to watch,
and I looked at my phone. And Phil Mattingly was saying they've changed the rules. And I'm like, that just changed the whole game here.
I think politically, McConnell lost control of his caucus. He was too draconian. He misread the caucus and had to climb down.
Were the changes going to change the trial? Probably not. I mean, extending for a day, not having to exclude evidence they don't like, that's significant. So these were significant changes. Will it change the outcome? I don't think so. It may change the outcome, though, on the vote for witnesses. Because you see here that there are people in the caucus who are not willing to die on any hill for Donald Trump. Most hills, but not any hill.
And I think for the moderates who are up in this cycle, they face a very difficult ten days. Because I guarantee you, between their opponents, Project Lincoln, the Bill Kristol group are going to be running ads in those states saying they voted 13 times or 11 times, whatever the number is, to keep evidence and witnesses from coming into the trial. They're covering this up.
BERMAN: Margaret, what does it tell you that there was this discomfort within the Republican caucus? And it wasn't just Susan Collins. It was some 15 of them that included names like Rob Portman, Sullivan, you know, Mike Braun, Tom Cotton. Across the board, there was discomfort with where McConnell was going.
And then, even after McConnell changed the rules, Susan Collins felt the need to come out with yet a new statement, saying she is likely to vote for witnesses. Not just she's going to entertain it. She is likely to vote to hear witnesses.
TALEV: Yes. I thought that statement was pretty telling. Mitch McConnell has understood for some days now that this is really real. That it is entirely possible that his hand is going to get forced on the witness question. And what will he do next?
And so he's a strategic thinker. And part of what he's doing and part of what Republicans are doing in the Senate is sort of frontloading their willingness for concessions. So it makes it a little bit easier for him in a few days when he can say, Look, I've been listening to moderates in my caucus and I've been, you know, listening to Democrats, and I've already changed the pace of this. It was going to be two days. It was three days.
So the idea that it lets off some steam on the front end is real. But there -- but some of this is also not just theater. It is also real. There is a real likelihood that there's going to be enough of a Republican push that there may still be an effort to call John Bolton.
And I think this is a big question. You've heard the White House and the president's supporters sort of promote the idea that that's not a real thing. That's never going to happen. But I just don't think we know that yet. And that -- that could be important to the way the rest of this trial proceeds.
I still don't know that it's going to change the outcome in terms of the fate of President Trump and acquittal versus non-acquittal. But in terms of shaping the public view of this, it could make a real difference. And I think another question we'll be watching for, even as we watch these opening arguments, as we think ahead to the witness questions is whether this will all -- how much of this will happen in public, how much of this would happen in deposition format. There's a lot going on behind the scenes that these test votes kind of illuminate.
But -- but it's not totally a transparent process. There are a lot of conversations going on right now about what the votes exist to do and how McConnell should proceed in each of those different scenarios.
AVLON: Of course, this is a dynamic process. But Mitch McConnell tried to jam this through yesterday, and it didn't work for his own caucus.
And the question is not whether the president's going to be removed. No president has been removed. That two-thirds bar is very high, as it should be. The question is whether the Senate, or allegedly the world's greatest deliberative body, can agree that facts matter and agree on a common set of facts.
And as we saw last night in the middle of the night, OMB releases new emails showing that the president and the administration has not been telling the truth. Spoiler alert.
CAMEROTA: New information comes to light, it seems, every single week, if not more.
AVLON: And it doesn't fit the White House's fact pattern.
LOCKHART: Listen, I think that it would take an earthquake, a political earthquake for the president to be removed. What's happening now is all about setting the stage for November. The Senate is in play, because the Senate is not doing their duty. The president is getting hammered every day, and he's going to his base. We're going to look back on this in mid-November and say this shaped the election.
BERMAN: You wanted to do something.
CAMEROTA: Well, thank goodness for Freedom of Information Acts, because these 200 pages have just been released before midnight last night; and it shows the emails, the email -- the flutter of emails that were going back and forth at the OMB about the hold. So there's all this confusion.
Now, let me tell you something. This is what a lot of the emails look like. They are so heavily redacted. But between the lines, you can still read the confusion among people like Duffy and McCusker who's like, what's happening? Why is this happening? And the timing of -- on the day it was released, the sort of haphazard
nature of having to quickly get it out, because it had already been -- it had been found out; and people were investigating.
BERMAN: I think the big point is the answers are out there to a lot of these questions. If people want the answers and want the evidence, it's here. You can get it.
LOCKHART: And the -- but the president's lawyers made clear yesterday, and this -- I give them credit for making this point clear. Which is they don't want any more information out there. The information that they were -- exculpatory evidence, we'd know it. The rest of the evidence is damning, and they're going to do everything they can to make sure the American public never sees it.
BERMAN: All right, friends. Thank you very much.
The president obviously is on trial while he is overseas. We're waiting to hear from him any moment now to get a sense of how this is all affecting him. Stick around.
BERMAN: Happening now, the president is preparing to head back to Washington from meetings with economic leaders in Davos in Switzerland. The president will speak in just moments as the impeachment trial clearly weighs on his presidency.
Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, live in Davos to get a sense of, I guess, the president's mood, Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. I mean, this was a scene of duck-and-cover yesterday. We were with the president and many of his top officials, including the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump. And they were just getting as far away from the cameras and as fast from us as possible when we were trying to ask questions about the impeachment trial that was getting underway in the Senate.
The president was essentially just giving us his usual talking points that it's a hoax and a witch hunt and so on. Earlier this morning here in Davos, he did speak with CNBC and, essentially, repeated the same lines of defense that he always gives about this impeachment process.
And so the question, I think, John, is whether or not the president is knocked out of these talking points during these press conferences he plans to hold in the next several minutes.
I will tell you, though, I talked to a senior White House official yesterday who assured me that today there would not be a press conference. And now we're having a press conference. So it's interesting. It sounds as though, after the president was trying to hide from the cameras yesterday on this subject, he is now very much wanting to engage and get his voice out there. We know the president was watching. He told CNBC that. We also heard
from White House officials yesterday that he was periodically checking in on what was happening during the impeachment trial. He thinks his defense team is doing an OK job so far. He seems to be happy with all of this, John. And I think you were just having this discussion a few moments ago.
This is all coming down to a fight over witnesses. This is going to be the story of this impeachment trial. At least the way it's unfolding right now. They are fighting over the -- the idea of whether or not people like the former national security adviser John Bolton will testify.
I will tell you, I talked to a senior White House official last night who said, listen, yes. The White House, the president's defense team, they are prepared for the possibility that somebody like John Bolton could testify. They would prefer at this point that is done in a closed setting. So at the very least, we might potentially see John Bolton testify in a closed setting.