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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Soon, Opening Arguments Continue In Case Against Trump; Soon, House Managers Present Abuse Of Power Case. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired January 23, 2020 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: -- a big long day ahead for you.
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): Aloha.
HARLOW: And thanks to all of you for joining us. We'll see back here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: And I'm Jim Sciutto. CNN special impeachment trial coverage continues right now.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer live here in Washington alongside Jake Tapper, Anderson Cooper and Dana Bash, she's up on Capitol Hill. This is CNN special coverage of the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump.
Today marks day three of this historic trial, just the third time the U.S. Senate has been faced with the prospect of removing a sitting president.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And just about three hours today's session will gavel into action with the House impeachment managers, once again in the spotlight. They are going to present the case against the president often using Mr. Trump's own words as evidence against him. Today, we're told the focus will be on the first article of impeachment, which alleges abuse of power and the push by the president and his team for an announcement of investigations by the Ukrainian government that would help the president politically, one investigation into former Vice President Biden, his son, Hunter, and the company Hunter Worked for, Burisma.
The second investigation into what Trump's former Homeland Security adviser, Tom Bossert, has called a debunked conspiracy theory about Ukraine, not Russia, interfering in the 2016 U.S. election. The White House using an Oval Office visit for the Ukrainian President Zelensky and almost $400 million in congressionally allocated security aid as the incentive to get those investigations announced.
BLITZER: There is also been certainly a lot of talk about the decorum of the jury, the 100 U.S. senators who are supposed to be seated and quiet for the duration. But that's not exactly what some are seeing. Dana Bash is up on Capitol Hill leading our coverage there.
Dana, before we get to that, you have some new reporting on the key issue of witnesses. What are you learning?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as we have been hearing the House Democratic managers make their case for impeachment, but also throughout that arguing that it would be a stronger case if there are witnesses, I am told that the president's allies have been working hard, they're not waiting for their defense team to argue against that, they have been working hard behind the scenes, lobbying key senators who may be wavering on the Republican side on that question of witnesses.
And what that means is not only pressing them with calls from the White House, from fellow members of Congress, but also identifying people that these Republican senators trust to try to make the case that witnesses, any witnesses are a bad idea. So that is a very, very active behind the scenes strategy and lobbying campaign that's going on as we speak.
I don't have names. But the names are kind of obvious, there are a little more than a handful of Republican senators who have said publicly that they are open to the notion of witnesses.
TAPPER: And, Dana, pretty considerable blow to transparency, the U.S. Senate decided to shut off the C-SPAN camera that would show what the senators are doing during the presentation. There have been a lot of reports about senators not being there, leaving, not paying attention. What are you seeing in terms of decorum from the senators?
BASH: It's honestly mixed. The times that I have been in and we have a big team here rotating into chamber, I have seen a lot of senators paying attention and really taking notes and listening and being I wouldn't say riveted but I would say attentive to the presentations that they have been hearing from the managers, particularly on the Republican side and those are the senators that these managers are trying to -- trying to sway.
There certainly have been times where we have seen empty chairs, sometimes the senators get up from their chairs, they stand behind their chairs just to stretch their legs because they have been sitting for so many hours, and sometimes we have seen the senators leave, especially as it gets late into the night. We have seen them either go off the floor totally or into the cloak room where, to be fair, they can also watch the proceedings.
So it's a bit of a mixed bag, but I would say overall what I've observed and what our colleagues have observed is given how intense this is, the majority of the time the senators have been paying attention and taking notes.
BLITZER: Dana, thank you very much. Jake, I always assumed that the rules were the rules. They're supposed to be seated. They're supposed to be listening, they're not supposed to be on their cell phones and they're not supposed to be leaving. TAPPER: Well, they don't have their phones or computers there. They're not allowed to have reading materials other than ones directly relevant. But they're also human and they probably need to stretch their legs. And these are long days as you and I well know.
Let's talk to one of the senators now. We have with us Democratic Senator and 2020 Presidential Candidate Michael Bennet of Colorado, a Democrat. Thanks so much for joining us.
SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. I'm not sure they're all human, by the way.
TAPPER: Well, who isn't a human?
BENNET: Well, I'm not going to name.
TAPPER: Right, classic.
So tell me, first of all, what are you seeing? Are you okay with how your colleagues are taking this all?
BENNET: I think so far people are by and large listening and I'm grateful they are. Because I think the case that has been laid out is damning, shocking, appalling, and the allies if the president are trying to say to the American people there is nothing to see here and I think it is -- we are in the midst of a very profound constitutional crisis.
TAPPER: And if you could offer any advice to the House impeachment managers since you are a Democrat, like as they are and you find their case compelling, to make their case even more compelling, maybe not so much with, you know, a Democratic senator in mind as much as a Mitt Romney or Susan Collins in mind, what might they be able to do to improve the case they're presenting?
BENNET: Well, I actually think they're doing a phenomenal job, not a perfect job, but I think some of the comments in the first night about that sounded more partisan, were not useful, didn't help the case --
TAPPER: Jerry Nadler's comments?
BENNET: Yes. But that was very much an outlier in a day where what you did have was a respect, not just for the Senate, and that's not even to me the important part, but a respect for the Constitution and for democracy. And I think in the end, that's who's really going to judge this. I mean, these documents -- one way or another, these documents are going to come out. My concern -- and we're going to know what happened. My concern is that if the Senate doesn't do its job to have documents and witnesses, we will have neutered the Senate and the House of Representatives for all time.
The oversight we're supposed to provide of the funding that we have -- the military funding that we sent Ukraine and of a president who has stonewalled not just the Senate, but every journalist in America, every voter in America, by saying I'm a king, I don't have to give you documents, I don't have to give you witnesses. By this time in the trial, in the Clinton trial, we had 90,000 documents that we were considering. We don't have a single document that they have turned over.
TAPPER: That they have turned over.
But let me ask you. You just said one way or another, we're going to find out what happened. Doesn't that suggest that we don't fully know what happened?
BENNET: Well, we don't. We definitely don't fully know what happened.
TAPPER: But does that mean, by definition, that the impeachment and the trial are premature if we don't know fully what happened?
BENNET: I disagree with that. That's the whole point of having the trial structured the way the founders structured it. And what we have is a set of facts that were ascertained over the objection of the president of the United States, who stonewalled the House of Representatives completely.
Now in -- but nonetheless, the house has been willing to or have been able to present a very compelling case because brave Americans were willing to come and testify against the president's edict. And with that testimony as well as the president's own words, which are such a damning part of this trial, we have got a very compelling case.
Now, it is our duty, as senators, there's nobody else in America who has this duty to make sure the American people hear the facts.
BLITZER: But you know that if you don't have four Republicans next week, who will vote in favor of bringing witnesses in, the trial is presumably going to be over by the end of next week, he'll be acquitted. What about your Republican colleague from Colorado, Cory Gardener, where does he stand, because this is obviously a very sensitive issue in Colorado?
BENNET: Yes, I don't know where he stands. I don't know where he'll vote. And I can't say where he'll vote. But I hope it is not just four, I hope it's 10 or 15. Because I hope by next week, what people see is that if we allow this kind of conduct to go forward, and we allow the president to stiff arm America the way he is in this context, there will be nothing left of our checks and balances. And it will allow the next president, whether a Democrat or a Republican, it say to any congressional inquiry, no, I'm not going to send you documents, I'm not going to send you witnesses.
That's not the way it works. It's not the way it's ever worked. The president's partisans want people to believe that's the way it works, but it doesn't work that way.
BLITZER: You're one of four Democratic Senators who had to leave the campaign trail in Iowa, New Hampshire, to come back to Washington and sit and sit and sit. You've been doing a lot of sitting right now. How is that affecting your campaign? BENNET: Well, obviously, it's a big interruption, but we've got a constitutional obligation that we have to fulfill, all of us do. And I believe each of us is privileged to have that chance. So I've got a great team in Iowa, great team in New Hampshire and I'll be back in New Hampshire on Sunday. So I got to do both.
TAPPER: All right. Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat from Colorado, thanks so much. Good to see you. I appreciate it.
We expect senators to start arriving soon for the second day of opening arguments and we are going to stand by to hear from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
We'll bring you his comments.
BLITZER: Plus this, from protesters to feathered pens, they're the moments the T.V. cameras don't capture, but there is one man who does. He joins us next.
TAPPER: Just two full days left for the Democratic House impeachment managers to make their case on the Senate floor, their message increasingly targeted toward a small group of Republicans who might possibly be willing to break ranks on a vote to back additional witnesses and additional documents.
BLITZER: One potential vote, the main Republican Senator Susan Collins, Senator Collins also taking incoming fire from the right. The Lincoln Project, a conservative pact led by anti-Trump Attorney George Connolly, releasing this digital attack video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Susan Collins, you aren't doing the job we elected you to do. Oh, sure, you certainly talk a good game. You're concerned, troubled, worried, but one thing you're not, independent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think of that attack on Susan Collins, the long- time incumbent senator from Maine?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's potentially powerful because she is so important here. She would be one of the four, if you get four votes for witnesses, and she's viewed as a leader among the more centrist, I don't want to call them -- she's more moderate, but trying to get more centrist conservatives like a Murkowski, like a Gardener, maybe a Mitt Romney or a Lamar Alexander, very close with Rob Portman. So she could be a leader if there is to be a group of four. But there are some things in politics for discussions in Washington and there are some things in politics don't actually impact on the ballots. Susan Collins is on the ballot this year. That could be a very powerful ad against her in a very competitive race. We just checked. There is no money behind it in the State of Maine. There's No money behind it, period. It's not even on Facebook right now. It's just posted online on YouTube. You can find it if you want it and advocates of the group who are critical of her are tweeting about it. But if you're a Maine voter and you're watching television or logging on to Facebook, you're not going to see it unless somebody sends it to you.
That doesn't mean it can't work but there's a test. This group has spent $35,000 so far on Facebook ads, not this ad. It's overspending.
The question is, it's only January, early in the impeachment trial, do they put money behind it, or are they trying to have a conversation in Washington or are they trying to move votes in Maine, we shall see. At the moment, they're not doing anything in Maine where she is the senator.
TAPPER: Well, that's significant. Because, obviously if there is money behind it and it is her constituents are seeing it, that's different than if it is just on Twitter. But let me also ask you about the approach of the ad. Because whether or not you buy that she was up in the air on the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh, it's very clear that Senator Collins did not like how she was pressured by the left, by Democrats, on that vote.
Okay. Now, maybe she was always going to vote for him. I have no idea. But she said she didn't know how she was going to vote and she took offense to how she was approached. Is that ad a good way to get her to actually consider voting for evidence, voting for witnesses, or might she be offended by it? It mocks her, right? It mocks her.
KING: It does mock her. Look, her brand has been independence. To this point about how does she choose, she is one of several. I would say Martha McSally made her choice in attacking our colleague last week. Cory Gardener has gone quiet, it appears that he's going to stay with Trump, but he hasn't decided there yet. It's a tough choice for any of these senators because, yes, they need independents, Susan Collins has a history of getting some Democrats. The issue you can't win without the Trump base. And the president's campaign is spending money.
This group right now has this ad, they're tweeting about it, they haven't put any money behind it, the president's campaign spent money in Maine. Now, Donald Trump is unlikely to win Maine, but Maine is one of the states that splits electoral votes.
TAPPER: Right. It might win the second congressional district.
KING: So Trump's campaign is very smartly spending money both on on television and digital to try to shape the impeachment debate and without specifically mentioning Susan Collins to try to shape her vote in that part of the state. The president is going to compete in Maine. Again, he's not likely to win it, but he does have a chance for that one electoral vote. This is why it is so hard for her. Ticket splitting has become such a rarity in American politics, but because the president's campaign will focus on her state, she's going to have pressure from the president, pressure from this campaign, pressure from her Democratic opponent, pressure from all the interest groups, from A to Z on all sides of this debate. What is she going to do? She's in a very tough race. The most recent polling I have seen on that race has it an even race.
The voters of Maine, you ask them to remove, convict and remove or keep in place, it's pretty evenly split. She has the toughest decision. So targeting her no matter where you are on the debate is smart, if you will. But, again, I would just say, if you want to get her in Maine, you should spend some money in Maine.
BLITZER: I want to play some clips. During the breaks, Republicans senators have been walking out and talking. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): It was increasingly clear to me that they just really don't want to try the case that they have.
SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R-WY): I didn't hear anything new at all. Present the case and let us vote.
SEN. JIM SCOTT (R-SC): The goal of this entire process is not to remove the president from office. It's simply to remove certain Republican senators, Colorado, North Carolina, Iowa, Maine, and Arizona from office, and this is absolutely an opportunity for them to try to overtake the Senate.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): The longer they talk at this point, the weaker the case is getting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Senator Cruz, you saw him, he's always --
KING: Senators do not say -- politicians don't say the exact same thing by accident. This is a talking point by Mitch McConnell and his team, say it's old, say we've heard it all, say they're wasting our time, say let's move on, say their case is weak, say their case is old. Why? Because McConnell wants to keep his people in line, this is a debate now not just for Susan Collins and Mitt Romney and Lamar Alexander, Rob Portman, those five or six potential votes for witnesses, it's a competition for the people watching at home who will influence their home state senators, who can pick up the phone and call those senators and say, yes, you're for witnesses, or no, you're not for witnesses.
This is a very smart -- you can disagree with it if you want witnesses -- very smart political strategy by the majority leader. Every break, his people come out and they're communicating to reporters in Washington, they're using their social media feeds as well to say, this is old, let's move on, the Democrats are wasting our time.
Now, if you listen to the hearings, yes, this stuff all did come up during the House impeachment inquiry, so it's old. It's also incredibly important for Democrats as they try it sway those votes for witnesses or if they try to make their point, they're not -- the math is not there for conviction and removal, but it's a smart political strategy.
BLITZER: And Senator John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, has already said that he thinks a lot of these senators are hearing this for the first time because they were not like we were watching all of the House impeachment inquiry.
We're going to take a very quick break. Coming up, the moments you don't get to see while the cameras are focused on the speakers, Senator Rand Paul doing a crossword puzzle, Senator Marco Rubio and his now famous feathered pen. We'll talk to the man capturing those moments, next.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Anderson Cooper. We still don't know if enough Republicans will side with Democrats and vote to allow witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Trump. We don't know if any Republicans will even do that.
Democrats have found a creative work around though. They are playing video clips of witness testimony and public statements and perhaps the strongest witness so far is the president himself. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Last month, President Trump made clear that he supported having senior officials testify before the Senate during his trial, declaring that he would love to have Secretary Pompeo, Mr. Mulvaney, now former Secretary Perry and, quote, many other people testify in the Senate trial.
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: -- in the Senate. I would love to have Mike Pompeo, I would love to have Mick, I would love to have Rick Perry, and many other people testify.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: -- the first time the president's own words have been used against him in court. CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider has more.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson. The president's words have often gotten him into predicaments, particularly in the courtroom as his administration fights to defend his policies. So let's first take immigration. It is one of the president's prime legislative priorities whether it's the travel ban right here that the Supreme Court ultimately okayed after several revisions, or some of those asylum policies. The president has repeatedly slammed foreigners.
So this is the take from The Washington Post saying this, his words about Mexican immigrants as criminals, drug dealers and rapists, Nigerians going back to their huts, Haitians all having AIDS, or of too many migrants from S-hole countries have helped stall much of Trump's immigration crackdown.
Then, of course, remember when the president declared a national emergency at the border last year, at that point, there were a slew of immediate lawsuits, and those lawsuits once again using the president's own words against him, in particular attorneys challenging the president's authority to declare that national emergency, repeatedly pointed to this from the president, in February 2019.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn't need to do this. But I would rather do it much faster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: And those words from the president came after a protracted battle with Congress over wall funding, some of which the president ultimately got. And ever since then the president has actually been moving funds from the Pentagon to further fund the border wall.
But other court proceedings have also been affect by the president's Twitter feed and his own words calling into question, for example, his administration's decision to put that citizenship question on the census, that was a move, of course, that was ultimately blocked by the Supreme Court last year.
And now, just next month, we're anticipating that fight over the president's tax returns and financial documents. That will play out at the Supreme Court next month. Of course, that too could see the president's words taking center stage yet again.
COOPER: Jessica Schneider, thanks very much, I appreciate it.
I want to talk now with our panel here. Laura Coates joins me, as well as Ross Garber and Tim Naftali.
Laura, just in terms of what to expect today, obviously, we're still -- it's Democrats making the argument, we will hear mostly from Adam Schiff who is leading the way.