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Murkowski Signals Frustration; Senators Pass Time in Trial; FISA Warrants against Carter Page; Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is Interviewed on FISA Warrants and Impeachment Trial. Aired 7:00-7:30a ET
Aired January 24, 2020 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Continues right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you really want to hear what happened, call the witnesses and bring in the documents.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It is unclear if any minds were changed. It takes four Republicans to join with Democrats to vote next week for new witnesses.
SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): I hope people are listening to see what their real objective is, to redo 2016 and to preempt what is going to happen in 2020.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): If the president had any exculpatory witnesses, he would be demanding their appearance here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Democrats might want to be careful what they wish for when it comes to witnesses.
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): We have read the transcript and it is damning evidence of a corrupt quid pro quo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
CAMEROTA: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. And this is the final day for the House Democrats to argue for the removal of President Trump from office. This afternoon, they will focus on the second charge, his obstruction of Congress, they say.
Last night, just before midnight, Congressman Adam Schiff made an impassioned plea to Senate Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Here, right is supposed to matter. It's what's made us the greatest nation on earth. No Constitution can protect us. Right doesn't matter anymore. And you know you can't trust this president do what's right for this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The House managers, they wrap up their case by tonight. Then the president's defense team will begin presenting its case tomorrow.
A source tells CNN's Dana Bash that President Trump's allies are pressuring Republican senators to oppose the vote to subpoena aides like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney. John Bolton is a former aide which, frankly, legally speaking, is crucial here.
One key Republican senator, one of the few you have to watch, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. She seems to be telling America which way she is leaning this morning. She says, the House made a decision that they didn't want to slow things down by having to go through the courts. This has to do with asking and pushing for witnesses and evidence. And now, she says, they're basically saying, you guys, the Senate, got to go through the courts. We didn't, but we need you to. That does not sound like someone itching to vote for new witnesses or evidence.
Joining us now, CNN global affairs analyst Susan Glasser, CNN's senior political analyst John Avlon, and CNN political commentator Michael Smerconish, host of CNN's "SMERCONISH."
And, John, we're going to have a chance to talk about the legal case that was made yesterday and will be made today because it's very, very interesting. But I just think people need to take stock of what the senators are actually telling us. And Lisa Murkowski told us yesterday she is unhappy with the House of Representatives for not trying to get these witnesses. It doesn't sound like someone who's going to vote yes on the Senate getting them. She also was pretty critical of the repetition of the House manager's arguments. Without Murkowski, there are no witnesses.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Without Murkowski, it's hard to see how Democrats cobble together four. That's correct. And they -- we know they're coming under a lot of pressure from the Trump white house and the Senate leadership.
But just take a second to really look at the argument they're making. The Senate is pushing this idea that they're not going to get witnesses anyway because Trump's team will block it. That's totally circular because they're arguing at the same time that they should have gotten that information that's being blocked by the Trump White House.
So the argument that they're hanging on right now is intentionally circular, it's deeply duplicitous and it will lead to a fundamental dereliction of duty and overturn -- impose, certainly, the will of the vast majority of the American people on witnesses.
CAMEROTA: Also, Susan, since the time that the House was blocked and didn't get the witnesses that they wanted, things have changed. Since that time, the former national security adviser, John Bolton, has come out to say that he is willing to testify if subpoenaed. Since then -- I mean we just heard this week that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, if subpoenaed he would be -- his word was happy to testify. So things -- there's new information. Things have changed. So Lisa Murkowski is using, I think, an old argument.
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, that's right. Also there's the question of, you know, they're sort of threatening senators that you're going to be trapped in this room forever, which, you know, I can tell you, having been there up in the Senate press gallery this week watching them, this is not a happy bunch. They want to get the trial over with as soon as possible.
You know, and Mazie Hirono, I think, had a good observation. Someone asked her about this, the senator from Hawaii, and she said, you know, nobody likes to be forced to listen to stuff that they don't agree with. And, to me, that is what the Republicans look like.
So I think, you know, Lisa Murkowski is also reflecting the discomfort of the Senate with the idea of keeping this going any longer. They've been threatened with that.
But the circularity is extraordinary. You have Chief Justice John Roberts sitting there in the chair and there's a strong argument that rather than going through the courts for months and months and months to litigate this, that, in fact, his ruling would be final because, guess what, if it makes its way through the federal court system, it's going to end up with the exact same person, Chief Justice John Roberts.
And so there's a strong argument, of course, that the Senate and the House would be entitled to as much testimony as possible in the course of conducting their constitutionally delineated impeachment responsibility. So it's a silly argument, but, you know, this is about politics in the end and not about law.
BERMAN: Michael, you want in on this?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Very quickly.
I'm not sure if the number is three or if the number is four or if the number is actually more than that in terms of how many Republicans would have to break ranks. If John Roberts would break a tie, then it's three. Otherwise, conventional wisdom is that it's four.
But, John, nobody wants to be number 51. And I think that they'd actually need more than three or four for this really to occur because I don't think any Republican wants to be known out there as the person who cast that vote.
CAMEROTA: I thought that something interesting -- there was an interesting development yesterday that you could hear in the talking points of Republicans, and that was during the Senate GOP lunch. They apparently heard from Republican leaders that they were not actively enough making the case for the president.
So, basically, for the past few days, all Americans have heard are the Democrats' side and this case against the president, and that has made Republicans, and you can imagine the White House, very uncomfortable. So they apparently got these orders that whenever they had a break to go to the cameras and make the case for the president.
Well, the message was a little bit muddled when they did that. And so here is just a bit of Senator John Barrasso, Tim Scott, Senator Lankford trying to make the case in front of the camera.
So listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R-WY): Well, we sat through another day, seems like "Groundhog's Day" in the Senate.
SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): The Democrats have literally bought into that premise that if you just say it often enough, it must be true.
SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): On Tuesday, all day, we heard the same stories, the same videos. On Wednesday, all day, the same stories, the same video. Manager Schiff started this morning by saying, I'm sorry, we're going to do some of the same things just in a different context.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Is that the best defense of the president, too repetitive, John?
AVLON: I mean, obviously not. First of all, the president has a Ph.D. in repetition. Second of all, their core argument seems to be undercut by their own colleague, John Kennedy from Louisiana, who said a lot of senators are hearing this for the first time.
CAMEROTA: Most he said.
AVLON: Most. Yes. Nine out of 10 I believe he said.
BERMAN: And intense lying.
AVLON: And intense lying.
And, finally, look at the other argument that's seeping through. And Susan mentioned it. It's the hassle factor argument. It's that our constitutional obligation to oversee impeachment is really, really boring. And we don't want to sit here and listen to things we disagree with. Talk about snowflakes, people, do your job. Do your job.
BERMAN: It is interesting to me that the White House was leaning on the Republican senators to get out more and talk more.
I think part of the reason is because we actually have heard from some Republican senators and Republicans like the president. It's just been in the Democrats and the House managers' presentation, like when Jerry Nadler played Lindsey Graham's own sound on what constitutes an abuse of power or an impeachable offense.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): And I might say the same thing of then House manager Lindsey Graham, who in President Clinton's trial flatly rejected the notion that impeachable offenses are limited to violations of established law. Here is what he said.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): What's a high crime? How about an important person hurt somebody of low means? It's not very scholarly. But I think it's the truth. I think that's what they meant by high crimes. Doesn't even have to be a crime. It's just when you start using your office and you're acting in a way that hurts people, you committed a high crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: You know, if the White House is asking senators, the Republican senators, to talk more, it must be, Michael, to an extent that they think this is leaving at least a little bit of a mark hearing from Lindsey Graham in his own words.
SMERCONISH: Well, I -- it's pretty simple, right? I think the big guy is sitting in the White House with a clicker in his hand and he's going channel to channel and he's not seeing enough defense offered for his side of the equation, which, by the way, will start tomorrow. That's where this comes from.
I have to be a contrarian. I think there's some truth in what those Republicans said relative to the repetition. It has been very repetitious. I'm also mindful of the fact that, you know, I sit watching or listening to this and people who hold down real jobs and are punching a clock, they don't get to see it. So there's a purpose in the repetition. You need to reach a whole variety of constituencies.
CAMEROTA: Well, for sure, Michael. I mean, absolutely. Nobody -- I mean for people steeped in it, like us, we have heard some of this before, not everybody has. But I guess my point, Susan, was, is that the best argument, the process?
Well, we just keep hearing the same thing, as opposed to, the president didn't commit a crime. The president didn't do anything wrong. They're not saying that yesterday -- at least yesterday.
GLASSER: You know, Alisyn, I think that is an important point.
SMERCONISH: Well, listen -- sorry.
GLASSER: They aren't saying that. They never have. Even the president's defense, it will be very interesting tomorrow to see whether they engage with the facts because effectively his defense is, it doesn't matter if I do it, it still doesn't rise to the level of removal from office.
Democrats coming into this have been more disciplined than I'd seen them. They really have been quite effective at creating a den over the last few weeks in favor of witnesses. Americans overwhelmingly, even many Republicans, support the idea of a fair trial. Most people think you can't have a fair trial without witnesses and testimony. In 15 impeachment cases in the Senate in its history and now this is the third presidential one, there's never not been witnesses and testimony. I mean, come on, you know, it's a sort of absurdity. And so, in the end, it's amazing to see this entire impeachment process come down to the question of whether there are three or four senators who are willing to have something that approximates a fair trial.
BERMAN: Michael, you, in addition, I think you were just going to jump in there, but you also feel strongly about something that surprised people yesterday, which was the House managers leaning so far into a prophylactic defense of Joe Biden.
SMERCONISH: So there's an argument being made today that, uh-oh, the Democrats opened the door relative to addressing and introducing Hunter Biden. I don't see it that way. This is a very quirky process, right? There are no binding precedence. There are no rules of evidence. There's not even a burden of proof that is established in the rules. And so, you know, you haven't seen someone stand up and object to an argument that has been made.
My point is this, Republicans were going to bring up Hunter Biden anyway. It's been made a little bit easier for them. But the idea that Democrats now open the door therefore tomorrow you'll see the GOP do likewise, I don't buy it.
One thing, though, I think it does benefit the White House argument that Hunter is relevant because, after all, the Democrats spent so much time on it.
CAMEROTA: OK, Michael, Susan, John, thank you all very much.
Coming up in a few minutes, we will speak with House impeachment manager, Congresswoman Val Demings.
BERMAN: So there have been all these arguments on the Senate floor on national TV. But there's a lot that goes on behind the scenes that we don't see. Actually, you know what, it's not behind the scenes, it's on the actual floor of the U.S. Senate, owned by the people of the United States, and they decided were not allowed to see it.
CAMEROTA: But like that -- like, what are they playing with? What's that in their hands?
BERMAN: Exactly. But we've got spies inside the chamber who can actually tell us what the senators are doing. That's next.
CAMEROTA: Or reporters.
BERMAN: The House Democratic impeachment managers wrap up their case today. They will focus on obstruction of Congress.
Now, you get to watch the proceedings, but you only get to see a fraction of them on TV because, frankly, the Senate has decided to hide much of what is going on in that chamber from the American people. They were strict where the cameras can point. But they can't hide it from everyone, including our intrepid CNN politics reporting Jeremy Herb, our spy inside the Senate chamber. There are people allowed to sit in the press section up in the gallery. You can see what these senators are doing during the trial while the rest of America can't.
So just, by and large, what is it like?
JEREMY HERB, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, you know, it's kind of a fascinating glimpse, especially because, you know, these senators are forced to sit there for hours and hours, or at least they're supposed to be sitting there. Often they aren't actually in their seats. And so, as you said, you know, there are no cameras in there beyond the ones that are trained on the person speaking. There's no phones in there. There's no still photography in there. And so it really is, you know, the dozens of reporter who are in there are the eyes and ears of how those 100 senators are reacting to what's going on.
And it's interesting just to see the various things. You know, yesterday, for instance, Senator Richard Burr, senator from North Carolina, he decided to bring in fidget spinners to help his colleagues pass the time. And you could see, for a long stretch of time, Burr was there. He was playing with the spinner. Tom Cotton got very excited. He had a purple spinner. And so, you know, there are various ways.
A lot of senators are taking notes. A lot of senators are paying close attention. But the mind will wander. People are getting up and wandering themselves just to keep their attention. And so it really -- it's kind of a fascinating glimpse into, you know, how the senators, both are listening to the trial, but also dealing with just being back, effectively back in that classroom listening to a lecture, I would say.
CAMEROTA: Yes. So spill the beans, who has been cutting class? You know, we keep hearing that there are some people who are not in their seats. Are there any worse offenders than others? Well on I believe it was Wednesday night, Dianne Feinstein left about an hour early and just kind of waved good-bye to the reporters as she walked out of the Capitol.
I saw when I was in there for about an hour yesterday Tom Cotton was gone for a long stretch. Rand Paul has been in and out. Marsha Blackburn, she decided to do a television hit the first night during the session.
And, obviously, you know, the senators, there's a -- the sergeant at arms says at the start of the day that they cannot speak on pain of imprisonment. That rule is not being really enforced. You can see a lot senators are congregating in the back corners of the chamber and they're having side conversations that generally are a whisper, although a couple times it happens where, you know, we can actually hear at least mumblings up from the press gallery above them.
BERMAN: Like 30 of them would be in the slammer right now if John Roberts actually enforced the rules. Seriously, they're talking in the chamber, period. I mean you were hearing them whisper and they're leaning over and talking to each other.
HERB: Technically yes. Yes.
BERMAN: They could be thrown behind bars by the rules of the Senate.
Is Lindsey Graham OK? And I'm not even kidding here because he's walking out of the room all the time. He was out repeatedly yesterday, two days ago, and then yesterday, when he was actually -- his name was invoked and video was played of him, he wasn't in there.
HERB: Yes, that's absolutely right. You know, it's -- there have been various times where people have been named. Jerry Nadler was attacked -- I was watching -- on the first night how he reacted to that. And, obviously, when there was a clip played of Lindsey Graham from 1999, from the Senate trial, they -- my immediate thought was, well, how is Graham reacting? What is he doing in the chamber? And he wasn't there. I believe he was back if the cloak room. And the senator next to him patted the empty chair.
And, you know, he didn't know, obviously, that was coming. And he has been in there a good portion of the time. He's not necessarily a big truant. But, you know, it's those moments that we are missing by not getting these cameras in there.
CAMEROTA: But that's really helpful, Jeremy, to have you in there to tell us what's really happening. Thanks so much for being our eyes and ears in there.
BERMAN: Tom Cotton likes purple. Purple fidget spinners got Tom Cotton excited.
CAMEROTA: Yes. There is a whole classroom high school analogy that you can't help but draw here.
BERMAN: Yes, except this is the trial of the president of the United States and these people have been elected by us to sit there and listen and they're paid $175,000 to do it. That's the only difference between this and the breakfast club.
CAMEROTA: You do make a good point.
All right, how are senators feeling today about witnesses? A Democratic senator joins us next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [07:25:07]
BERMAN: We have a developing story. The Justice Department says it should have ended its surveillance of former Trump campaign associate Carter Page earlier than it did, acknowledging that two of the four FISA warrants were not valid.
CNN's senior justice correspondent Evan Perez is live in Washington with more.
This seems significant, Evan.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is extraordinary, John.
The Justice Department has told the secret court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that two of the warrants that they took out on Carter Page essentially there was no proof enough -- that there was not enough proof in order for the FBI to be able to do the surveillance of Carter Page. And that's a big deal because now this means that at least the Justice Department is saying that they should have ended the surveillance much earlier than they did.
The first two warrants are still, the FBI and the Justice Department are saying, are still valid. But on next week the court is demanding a deadline essentially for the Justice Department to explain what it is doing to quarantine the information that was collected during the surveillance of Carter Page.
This is a big deal, John, simply because the two sections -- or three sections, rather, of the FISA law are up for renewal in March. You can hear Republicans now criticizing the FBI, saying that these -- these warrants have been abused. And so you'll expect to see some changes coming from Congress when those -- when this -- when this law gets renewed in March.
BERMAN: The question is what happens to that information, if there was anything, frankly, that was useful gathered from the latter FISA warrants.
BERMAN: What happens to that now? You say quarantine. This will raise some serious questions.
BERMAN: Evan Perez, thanks so much for being with us.
CAMEROTA: All right, John, joining us now is Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who serves on the Judiciary Committee.
So, Senator, thank you very much for being here. I know you have a busy day ahead.
But let's just start there with what Evan Perez just reported. Are you surprised that the DOJ has found two of these FISA warrants against Carter Page to be invalid?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Not surprised, but obviously very disappointed. Not surprised because there was information from the inspector general of the Justice Department about those FISA warrants that clearly indicated that the FISA process failed in some respects in this investigation. And that's the reason that I've been calling for reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court process to provide more checks and more adversarial scrutiny so that these kinds of mistakes are prevented in the future.
CAMEROTA: And, in fairness, you have been calling for reform of the FISA courts since at least 2013. We have some statements from you. But when you tweeted on July 21st of 2018, you sounded confident in the court, the FISA court then. I'll read it for you.
Carter Page FISA documents show convincingly that serious and significant factual evidence supported the warrant and renewals. The national security need for surveillance was real and credible as the FISA court correctly concluded repudiating false accusations by Trump cronies.
Were you wrong then?
BLUMENTHAL: I think we were right to call attention to the FISA court's vulnerabilities based on what I knew then. I think that the FISA warrant was certainly justified for a while.
What they're talking about here, as I understand it from this preliminary information, is in effect quarantining, walling off, separating information that may have resulted from a tainted process later.
Let's move on to President Trump's impeachment trial. You've been in there. Have you -- is it your impression that any of your Republican colleagues have been moved by or swayed by what they've heard in terms of the House managers' case?
BLUMENTHAL: They certainly have been seeming to listen. Whether, in fact, they've been hearing it, absorbing it and truly giving credit to it remains to be seen. Not just what they say, but how they vote. And the key will be whether they vote for additional documents and evidence.
You know, the most damning evidence so far are those videos showing the president's own statements on October 3rd calling for an investigation by Ukraine for the Bidens, the words in the July 25th transcript asking for a personal favor in return for release of the money that Ukraine needed to defend itself against a common enemy, his corrupt use of the office for personal gain, and his acknowledgment, as recently as a day ago, when he was in Davos, that he's continuing to withhold evidence, a virtually clear confession of obstruction.