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Trump Scoffs at Impeachment Trial As He Leaves Davos; Ken Starr's Handling of Baylor Rape Cases Back in Spotlight; First Case of Deadly Coronavirus Reaches U.S.; House Impeachment Managers and White House Defense Team Make Arguments to Senate in Impeachment Trial; Senate Republicans Block Amendments to Subpoena Witnesses and Documents for Impeachment Trial; Chief Justice John Roberts Admonishes Both House Managers and White House Counsel During Impeachment Proceedings. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired January 22, 2020 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It is 8:00 in the east. drama, intrigue, surprises already in the impeachment trial of President Trump. Before it even started, a rare retreat from Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader. What does that tell us about the pressure he might be facing from his own caucus, from Republicans? And then, in the wee hours of the morning, both sides seem to cross a line. Chief Justice John Roberts admonished House managers and the president's defense team for their language and rhetoric inside the Senate chamber.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ROBERTS, SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE: 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: The 12:55 a.m. admonishment. Over the course of the day 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. And I just want to remind you, the president was impeached and is now on trial for allegedly abusing his power by pressuring a foreign government to investigate the Bidens, and then obstructing the investigation into these acts.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So as John alluded to, Mitch McConnell did make significant changes to his initial proposal after meeting resistance from his moderate and conservative members. So both sides will now get three days for opening arguments instead of the two that he had suggested. And the findings from the House investigation will automatically be entered into evidence in the Senate. The trial resumes this afternoon with the opening arguments of House Democratic managers. Joining us now to get through all of this, we have CNN political
commentator Jen Psaki, she's the former White House communications director in the Obama administration, CNN legal analyst Elie Honig, and CNN political analyst David Gregory. Great to have all of you. Elie, I know that you watch this stuff like a hawk. You have been on hand to walk us through everything that is happening in all of these weeks. So yesterday, what stood out to you?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So I think the Democrats really did a good job in their legal presentation, in the manner, in the substance, in the tone that they went about it. And, really, they're arguing on two tracks, and we should continue to watch this today. First of all, they're arguing in favor of the Articles of Impeachment that they've brought. But they're also anticipating the biggest fight ahead, which is the vote that got postponed yesterday on will there be witnesses? Will there be subpoenas for documents? They know that's going to be the ballgame. And so watch for that today. They're going to make their case, but they're going to highlight the gaps. Where are we missing information and why is it so vital?
BERMAN: It really was the day to argue the case about cover-ups and what evidence they don't have, and the pressure they want to put on those four Republican senators who could be the key votes in getting witnesses. And I want to play the sound that led to the admonishment from the chief justice of the United States because it's instructive. It's instructive about the argument overall the Democrats were trying to make, and instructive how the president's legal team pushed back. Thankfully, we have it. Let's play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JERROLD NADLER, (D-NY) HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Unfortunately, so far I've seen every Republican senator has shown that they want to be part of the cover-up. Either you want the truth or you -- and you must permit the witnesses, or you want a shameful cover-up. History will judge, and so will the electorate.
PAT CIPOLLONE, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: You don't deserve, and we don't deserve, what just happened. The only one who should be embarrassed, Mr. Nadler, is you for the way you've addressed this body. This is the United States Senate. You're not in charge here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: And then the chief justice, David, told them all to be nicer and not say mean things about the Senate. But it's really instructive here, right, because what Jerry Nadler was trying do, and he crossed the line in the chief justice's mind by directly accusing the senators by name of a cover-up. But, clearly, it's the argument that the Democrats were trying to make yesterday, and I think they will continue to try to make over the coming days. And on the Republican side, the president's defense team, what they really did was just accuse the Democratic managers and the House process of being broken there in so many words. That was everything we have seen and will see in a microcosm. DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, there's no question. We
have to be reminded that this is fundamentally a political process that the Constitution lays out as a remedy for a president that abuses the office, that abuses his power. And it's the politics that are playing out here.
And here's the chief justice who represents the judiciary, which has come through the Trump era in pretty high esteem, arguing, let's not get too far out here, even though he himself wants to be very careful about avoiding the politics. So it was a moment. It was a moment very late in the night that very few people saw except for it being replayed. But that's the politics.
And there is such an interest in both sides to be able to go back in an election year and say this was not a fair process. We didn't actually get to the truth. There wasn't an interest in getting to the truth. Both Republicans and Democrats are going to be using that throughout this election year.
CAMEROTA: There was another moment that if you're watching us right now you probably did not see last night. It was at midnight, Jen, and it was Adam Schiff sort of making his closing argument for the night, for the night, and why he felt that he had to do this at midnight. So listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D-CA) CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: There's a reason why we're here to five to midnight, and that's because they don't want the American people to see what's going on here. They are hoping people are asleep. You know a lot of people are asleep right now, all over the country because it's midnight. Now maybe in my state of California people are still awake and watching. But is this really what we should be doing when we're deciding the fate of a presidency, we should be doing this in the midnight hour?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: I heard that reference.
BERMAN: In the midnight hour.
CAMEROTA: In the midnight hour.
Jen, you were also listening closely to Adam Schiff, and you thought that he was telegraphing what is to come today.
JENNIFER PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that's exactly right, Alisyn. We saw Adam Schiff played such a prominent role during the House impeachment hearings, and he was the person who could speak contemporaneously and bring the argument back to why we're all here and why we're talking about this, which is the president of the United States attempting to bribe a foreign power for his own personal gain. We saw him do that throughout the day yesterday, and in the clip you just showed, we saw him also bring this back to the core question and the core message from the Democrats, which is the accusation that this is a cover-up, that Republicans not allowing witnesses, which is unprecedented, not allowing documents, also unprecedented, and, really, doing this in the dark of night is preventing the American people from seeing this. I expect we're going to see those arguments again today and throughout the opening statements of the Democrats.
BERMAN: I think that's one of the most interesting things to watch going forward, Elie, is how do the House managers balance in need to press the idea of a cover-up, because, again, I think that's really the main point they're trying to make over the next few days to try to get those four senators to vote for witnesses. That's a slightly different argument than prosecuting the president for abusing power for pressuring a foreign government to investigate the Bidens. How do they balance the time? How do they weave those arguments together?
HONIG: I think the House managers understand they're not going to ultimately win in the sense that they're going to not going to get 67 votes to remove the president from office, but they absolutely can win on the cover-up point. And the idea of a cover-up, I think, really resonates with the American public. We've seen polling showing that.
And if you look at what the chief justice reprimanded Nadler for. I've been reprimanded by a couple of judges. Must be scary to get reprimanded by the chief justice of the United States. But if you look at what he reprimanded him for, it's because Nadler used the phrase "cover-up." I really think the reprimand was aimed at the other side, which sort of made it much more personal, but that notion of cover-up I think really resonates with the public.
CAMEROTA: So David Gregory, are there going to be witnesses or not based upon what you saw?
GREGORY: I don't think so. I think that Mitch McConnell is very carefully paying attention to his vulnerable senators and what they need. And when they spoke out and said, hey, you're getting too far afield here from the previous rules in 1999, he tacked back. He didn't make a major reversal but he tacked back and allowed more time for the cases to be made.
And this is what's so important. Jen and I were talking about this earlier. So much of what you heard yesterday from the House managers, what you'll hear in dramatic fashion today, is synthesized information of what the public has already heard. The importance of witnesses. The importance of John Bolton is the idea of can you advance this story beyond the threshold information that Americans have about the president's conduct. And because it matters who tells your story in a polarized political environment, people have made a decision about whether they think this is impeachable conduct.
But it's up to senators to make a decision. And until and unless there's enough back scene demands for witnesses, I don't see Republicans breaking on that point.
BERMAN: Do we have the sound of Hakeem Jeffries quoting Biggie here?
BERMAN: I want to play that, Jen, because, again, I think this gets to the discussion that we're all having here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAKEEM JEFFRIES, (D-NY) HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE: We are here, sir, to follow the facts, apply the law, be guided by the Constitution, and present the truth to the American people. That is why we are here, Mr. Sekulow. And if you don't know, now you know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So Jen, why I find that so interesting and so much of what Adam Schiff said yesterday and what I think we're going to hear today again, as if David Gregory is right, and I don't know, we'll see whether there will be witnesses or not. But if he's right that there won't be, it seems to me that the Democrats and the House managers are still trying to get something out of this.
That's why they're leaning in so hard to this messaging. They've seen the polling, 69 percent in a CNN poll saying they want to hear more witnesses.
CAMEROTA: Any witnesses.
PSAKI: That's exactly right, John. I think the Democrats, as you said, have seen the polling. They see that even people in the country who aren't sure if the president should be removed from office for his conduct feel there should be witnesses, feel there should be documents, so you heard that consistently through the House managers yesterday in their presentation, and I think that will continue.
We've seen a little bit of move in the recent CNN poll where the public is in removing the president. We've seen that move among key demographics like women, and I think Democrats are looking at that as well. I agree with David and as he said, we were talking about this. I don't think we're on the path to witnesses, but I do think the Democrats are going to continue to argue that this isn't a fair trial, and the American people deserve better.
GREGORY: And can I just add the political point is so important here that we are in an election year, because it plays both ways. Republicans will argue that Democrats rushed all of this to get it done to avoid being in an election year. And Democrats will say, look, if we're not going to get witnesses, if we're not going to have a fair trial, we are going to lay this information out so the American people can ultimately make a judgment on the president's fitness for office. It's so dangerous to do it in an election year because that's what elections are for, unless you have a situation that will require the president's removal outside of the election calendar. Here, they're being stymied, so they're going right to the American public and use what time and use the forum they have to make the case and to try to connect it to the president's overall fitness. BERMAN: All right, guys, stick around. We've got more to discuss. The
president is about to head back to Washington. Before leaving Switzerland, where he has been, he did talk about the impeachment trial. We'll tell you what he said, next.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Moments ago, we heard from President Trump weighing in from Switzerland on the impeachment trial.
CNN's chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta live in Davos.
Jim, I have to say, this is a perilous moment for the president's aides, because he has an entire flight back from Switzerland to tweet god knows what about this process.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. And he's already doing that. He's been tweeting over the last several minutes after wrapping up this press conference. And this was one of those off the rails performances for the president.
He was asked about a number of subjects pertaining to the impeachment trial. He said he'd love to have Mike Pompeo testify, he would love to have John Bolton testify, he would love to have Mick Mulvaney testify, but then he also said out of the other side of his mouth that he'd be worried about national security concerns if those officials were to testify. So he was trying to have it both ways there.
And another point he said he'd love to have Rudy Giuliani, his personal attorney, be on his impeachment team but he, again, said out of the other side of his mouth there may be conflicts if that were the case. And then, John, in one very dramatic moment, the president said he'd love to appear at the impeachment trial himself but he said his attorneys might have a problem with that. So the president was engaging in bluster throughout most of this press conference.
The other thing we should point out is he was using some very deeply personal attacks going after the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, calling him a sleazebag at one point, talking about Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, saying that he's a con man and a groupie. And one other point that I thought was interesting, John, the president was asked whether or not abuse of power is an impeachable offense. The president said, well, it depends. That's not reassuring to a lot of Americans throughout who worry the president did abuse his power in that phone call with the leader of Ukraine.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Jim, beyond impeachment, the president was also asked about that Iranian missile attack in which we now know that several, I think almost a dozen, U.S. service members were injured and why we didn't know that sooner.
ACOSTA: Yes. Yes, Alisyn, the president was asked about that. He was asked about this discrepancy, why the president said initially there weren't any injuries and, of course, we found out that there were soldiers who were airlifted out of that area after that missile attack who did have injuries, and he was -- he was asked whether he could explain all of this.
And the president said, I'm going to read a quote here because I don't want to get this off, he said I heard they had headaches and then a reporter followed up and said, sir, you don't consider a potential brain injury serious? And the president went on to say, they told me about it numerous days later. You'd have to ask the Department of Defense. No, I don't consider it very serious.
Alisyn, it was a stunning comment and might be the comment that makes the most news out of this press conference. The president of the United States, you know, getting involved in a military conflict with Iran that results in an Iranian missile attack on U.S. service members that required those service members to be airlifted out of the area and the president calling all of this, well, soldiers had headaches after all of this. It's one of those comments that I suppose the White House will be trying to clean up as the president is on Air Force One heading back to Washington -- John and Alisyn.
BERMAN: Yes, we haven't heard a status report, but traumatic brain injury is something can be very serious. We've learned so much more about since the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan over the last several years.
Jim Acosta, thanks for being with us.
So, Kenneth Starr now part of the president's defense team and his impeachment trial. He was the independent counsel who led the charge on President Clinton's impeachment. But he has his own issues in terms of his past handling of sexual assault cases while he was president of Baylor University.
CNN's Ed Lavandera is live at the campus in Waco, Texas, to explain this history, Ed.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.
When Ken Starr arrived here in Waco ten years ago, it was a headline- grabbing celebrity arrival. But what happened during his tenure here still casts a large shadow over his legacy.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Ken Starr landed in Waco running. He reveled in Baylor University's youthful energy as the fatherly big man on campus. He became president in 2010 and was the face of Baylor as the school was enjoying a renaissance, led by a blossoming football program.
PAULA LAVIGNE, CO-AUTHOR, "VIOLATED: EXPOSING RAPE AT BAYLOR UNVIERSITY": What they really wanted to become sort of like a southern Notre Dame.
[08:20:01] I mean, they had really high aspirations, and they were moving in that direction.
LAVANDERA: Four years ago, it imploded amid a sexual assault scandal that rocked the university. Paula Lavigne wrote the book "Violated," exposing rape at Baylor amid college football's sexual assault crisis which, in part, chronicled Ken Starr's role.
LAVIGNE: There were horrible actions being done to women. Women were being ignored. Victim blamed. Cases just not going anywhere. Women not getting the services that they were entitled to under federal law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you get a raw deal?
KEN STARR, FORMER PRESIDENT, BAYLOR UNIVERSITY: I'm not going to say that.
LAVANDERA: In May of 2016, following an independence investigation, Ken Starr was fired as president. The report detailed Baylor's fundamental failures in responding to sexual assaults on campus.
Ken Starr refused CNN's request for an interview, but he did talk about why he left Baylor with "The Texas Tribune", saying repeatedly, he was not privy to all the facts.
STARR: I think that we responded all along the way in a reasonable fashion. To the information that was coming to us. They accepted the proposition that there was a fundamental failure, then the captain should go down with the ship.
LAVANDERA: For Starr's critics, those glossed over the painful reality of what happened at Baylor.
JIM DUNNAM, ATTORNEY: As he presided at the university during a time when hundreds of young women were sexually assaulted and their stories and their situation were ignored.
LAVANDERA: Jim Dunnam is a Baylor alum and lawyer representing 15 sexual assault victims in an ongoing lawsuit against the university. He says Ken Starr can't claim that he didn't know the full scope of the scandal.
DUNNAM: To deny awareness when hundreds of young women are being assaulted, is abhorrent. And someone needs to answer for that.
STARR: We're so sorry for what happened. We grieve. We grieve for what happened. But it doesn't mean that you can't say it's a new day. That's the biblical perspective that we try to live up to here at Baylor University.
LAVANDERA: Ken Starr has said he disagrees with the argument he presided over a fundamental failure to address this issue. But for Baylor women who tell us they experienced sexual assault, the prevailing sense is that Starr didn't take the issue seriously enough.
Stefanie Mundhenk Harrelson says she was raped by another Baylor student in 2015. She says she reported the attack to campus police and administrators and says she even met with Starr face to face.
STEFANIE MUNDHENK HARRELSON, SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIM: I remember him listening to my story, even, you know, shedding a tear when I tried about what happened that night. He told me that he believed there had been a miscarriage of justice in my case, and was going to do something about it. But he never did. He seemed so sincere. He was very good at pretending like he believed me.
LAVANDERA: Starr refused to tell us whether he did anything or not, but his critics believe he didn't do enough.
LAVANDERA: And, John and Alisyn, there are still a number of federal investigations pending, as well as litigation in court. So this is a shadow that still looms very much over him. And many critics say we still don't know the full extent of Ken Starr's involvement or noninvolvement in all of this -- John and Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Ed, thank you for reminding us and telling us more about that whole history.
Joining us now is legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers. She is a former federal prosecutor.
So, Jennifer, you know, this has cropped up. Ken Starr's past, not just, obviously, with the Clinton impeachment and what he did there, but now Baylor and then, Alan Dershowitz. Some connections, as we know, to Jeffrey Epstein.
And so all of this, at this moment in time, it just feels -- it has been -- it has been raised that the president had choices to make for his defense team. And that he chose guys with these kind of dubious connections. What does it tell us?
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it tells us something about who the president is because he, of course, has allegations of sexual assault against him, and connections -- close connections to Jeffrey Epstein. So, these are people he's been dealing with for years and years.
But it also tells you that he doesn't really care about that sort of thing. You know, Ken Starr is a person who presided over a system that was corrupt and it failed women. And he represented Jeffrey Epstein as did Alan Dershowitz in a way that got him off with a slap on the wrist at a time he could have been stopped and let him free, Jeffrey Epstein free, to continue what he was doing.
CAMEROTA: That's what they're doing. But being a defense attorney, by definition, you have to sometimes represent really distasteful people.
RODGERS: No, you don't. If you are a public defender, you sometimes have to represent distasteful people. If you're a private defense lawyer, you choose who you represent. You get that choice.
So, yes, everyone is entitled to a defense. I don't blame people for representing distasteful people. But they choose those representations. And so, Ken Starr chose that. Alan Dershowitz chose that. So that is their choice.
It's not the fact they have to do that. And they are people who were chosen by the president to be the public face, to be the television friendly people. To convince the public, the viewers that he should be -- that he should not be impeached, that he should be acquitted, and yet he's picking people who have this horrible history towards women, who are half of the public and half of this audience.
So even if you just look at it from a strategic point of view, I think it was a mistake to hire them to defend him in this impeachment.
BERMAN: Jennifer Rodgers, thanks for being with us.
CAMEROTA: Thank you, Jen.
BERMAN: Doctors have identified the first case of a deadly coronavirus here in the United States. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us next with the details.
CAMEROTA: First case of a deadly coronavirus has reached the U.S. It's in Washington state. The CDC says it expects more cases.
CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been following this for us.
So, Sanjay, just yesterday, we were talking about this and all the cases had been in Asia. So, what now?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, this was not unexpected. I mean, global travel, the way it is, we've seen this story before as you know, Alisyn, where viruses start in certain parts of the world and spread. You know, the SARS, it was in nearly two dozen countries at one point.