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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Soon, Democrats Begin Final Day Of Case Against Trump; GOP Senator Questions Patriotism Of Purple Heart Recipient. Aired 10- 10:30a ET
Aired January 24, 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: The impeachment trial begins right now.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer live in Washington alongside Jake Tapper, Anderson Cooper and Dana Bash is up on Capitol Hill. This is CNN's special coverage of the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump.
Today is the final day for House managers to present evidence and make their case for the conviction and removal of the president of the United States. The focus is expected to be on the second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Democrats will also wrap up today with an eye toward a vote next week on whether or not they should call any more witnesses or call for any more documents, materials the White House has refused to turn over during the House investigation. The question is whether at least four Republican senators agree that more information is needed for a fair and comprehensive trial.
BLITZER: But we're starting right now to hear the argument from the Republican side that President Trump will invoke executive privilege to try to block those witnesses, which could send the issue to the courts, possibly extending the trial for weeks, if not months.
Our Dana Bash is up on Capitol Hill. Dana, the Alaska Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski, she is one to watch clearly as a Republican who could break ranks on the witness question. What are we hearing from her as far as her thinking on the vote next week?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, our colleague, Jeremy Herb, caught up with her last night after the trial was over for the evening. And what she said was really telling, because she seemed to be echoing what she has been hearing, what she is being lobbied on by her fellow Republicans who are saying, no witnesses.
And the gist is she said to Jeremy, wait a second, why should we take the time to potentially go to court, which is likely what would happen if we -- even in a bipartisan way, call for witnesses, because the White House would say, no, you can't have our top officials and former officials, we're going to claim executive privilege, so it will go to court. So she said, why should we be the ones to say go to court, when the Democrats who are here presenting this case, prosecuting this case, they didn't do that in the first place when they had this huge issue before them in the House, because it said it would take too long.
And so that is a real, real debate and kind of a push and pull going on behind the scenes that is as important, maybe even more important than the trial and the arguments that we are hearing on the floor of the Senate, in the chamber, from the House managers.
So there is kind of a two-pronged war. You have the managers and then, of course, starting tomorrow, the president's defense team, making that their broad arguments. But then you have the real arm twisting going on behind the scenes. And if what Senator Murkowski said is any indication, Republican leaders are having some success in their arguments to say if you say, yes, to witnesses, it is going to slow this whole thing down. Jake and Wolf?
TAPPER: Dana, what is the argument that they're saying beyond the principles of the idea of extending this, in terms of brass knuckle politics, how rough is it getting in terms of Republican senators being told, you can't go against the president on this, if you do, there will be serious recriminations?
BASH: It's getting pretty tough. The problem that the president's team has in those arguments is the audience that they have. For example, Lisa Murkowski, it doesn't get any tougher than what she went through the last time she was elected, which is she lost the primary, her leadership in the name of Mitch McConnell said, we're going to support the Republican who won that primary and she won in an unprecedented write-in campaign. So she clearly is one of those who doesn't feel that she has or needs the support of anybody else except for those people back home.
And then the others, Mitt Romney maybe is in similar camp, and then others, Jake, as you know, they have their own political issues back home. And if you look at someone like Susan Collins, look at someone like Cory Gardner, they have that delicate balance we have been talking about for so long, which is not making the president's team or the president's supporters who are her own constituents and voters angry, but also making sure that the Democrats who she relies on to vote for her in a state like Maine or for Cory Gardner in a state like Colorado or independents also believe that they are supporting a fair trial.
And so that is why you see those cross currents, those pressure points coming on two sides and maybe even more than two sides on those key senators as we lead up to that critical question about whether there will be witnesses.
TAPPER: All right, Dana Bash on Capitol Hill, thanks so much. Let's go right to right to Senator James Langford, he's a Republican from Oklahoma. Senator, thanks so much for joining us. You have another full day of arguments ahead of you. Democratic impeachment managers will focus on the obstruction of Congress article today.
Now, I understand that perhaps ultimately you're not going to think this rises to the level of removing a president. But broadly speaking, looking at the facts, looking at what President Trump has said in public, looking at what President Trump said on that call, looking at all the evidence that we have all seen, do you think President Trump did anything wrong here?
SEN. JAMES LANGFORD (R-OK): Well, so we have said, get the other side of the story. We heard the House side of the story all the way through the House impeachment. The president's side didn't come out other than tweets or random statements. We still only heard the House side of the story for the last three days. They'll have another time all day today and then we'll get a chance to be able to hear the president's side of the story.
So somewhat what you're asking me is tell the president's side of the story before anyone, including me, has even heard the president's side of the story.
TAPPER: And he's been talking publicly about his side of the story. We know as a fact that the president asked Ukraine to conduct these investigations that it's being argued would benefit him politically, investigations into the Bidens, investigations into what his own aides have called a debunked conspiracy theory about Ukraine and the 2016 election. Those are just facts, we all see them. They're not in dispute.
LANGFORD: So a couple of things that are in dispute is the motivation and that's where the House managers are really focused in on is motivation. This was his motivation, this was his motivation. So you got to different things here. One is the debunked theory that Ukraine was really the source of all of the elections. The president was pretty clear in the phone call to say, hey, there is some people saying this. We know there are other people.
The House managers have already identified all those people, that some people are selling the president one thing, some people are telling the president another thing about this. There is nothing wrong with the president saying to the president of Ukraine, hey, I've got people on both sides that are talking about this, can you help us be able to figure out if there is anything to this.
So I really don't see the issue. The House managers had absolutely no success in trying to say how -- trying to answer the 2016 question about where did this interference come from, how that affects his 2020 election.
Literally, this phone call on the 25th of July was the day after the Mueller investigation closed and said this whole issue is resolved, there was no engagement with candidate Trump, with Russia, Russia was definitely trying to influence the election, candidate Trump was not engaged with them, so that issue is closed. So I don't even understand the argument of why that's some kind of a political thing.
You go into the second part of it, President Zelensky raises to President Trump call, which the House managers have conveniently left that out all the time that President Zelensky raises, hey, I've got some staff who's meeting with Rudy Giuliani. The president then responds, yes, thanks for getting a chance to meet with him. There are people that asked questions about that.
If the president has a belief that there is real corruption there, then there's real corruption there. And obviously there is a lot more than phone calls the House managers have talked about, but again, they're trying to strike it, this was his motivation, then the White House is going to step up and make their side to say, no, this is really what the president's motivation was or say, or they're going to say, no, this was his motivation.
TAPPER: Do you think President Trump is really concerned about corruption?
LANGFORD: Yes, I do. Actually I think he's concerned about corruption. I also think he is concerned about the people of Ukraine and the war that's there. And the House managers have tried to say he's not concerned about them at all when the president stepped up, provided lethal aid, provided aid in the past to them, has been very clear to be able to engage in a lot of things with Ukraine over several years.
And so where President Obama would not provide lethal aid, he was sending blankets and MRE packets for food, President Trump has increased that dramatically during his time period for the last several years.
So there is this story that they're trying to allude to the president really doesn't care about anything on Ukraine, and then there is the actual facts around it, that I think have not come out yet.
TAPPER: I'm sorry, Wolf. Can you just give me one more example, one other example of anywhere where President Trump has ever expressed concern about corruption? Russia, Saudi Arabia, Israel? I mean, is there any example you can point to where President Trump expressed any concern about corruption?
LANGFORD: Sure I can. If you want me to send you a long list, I can send you a long list.
TAPPER: Just give me a couple of --
LANGFORD: Well, you're trying to put me on the spot to be able to talk about international world policy on that, but he's talked about corruption all over the world. So there is this spin that's out there all the time to say the president is corrupt and he likes only corrupt leaders. And so there is this constant spin in the national media. That is not true. And there are lots of areas where the president has reached out directly on areas of corruption. If you want me to send you a list on that, I can certainly be able to pull it together and get it to you. BLITZER: It sounds, Senator -- this is Wolf Blitzer, it sounds like you've already made up your mind. Is that right?
LANGFORD: What I'm waiting to be able to hear is the rest of the story on this and to be able to get all the details. I have a whole list of questions that I have for the White House. I want to hear their side of the story. And then there's also a question time. And if I don't get answers from the White House, then I have question time to be able to continue to be able to get those details.
There are important facts that need to be able come out and I want to be able to get all these important facts out there and then to be able to make a final decision.
BLITZER: I know you've been speaking with your Republican colleagues. Do you believe there are four votes that would be necessary to bring the number to 51, 47 Democrats if there are four Republicans, there will be witnesses that will be called. Are there four Republicans?
LANGFORD: So I'm not going to speak for my other colleagues on it. There are a lot of folks that are looking at that. There has been a lot of dialogue from a lot of different folks saying, do Hunter Biden need to come, do some of the House folks that have already testified, did they need to come back, like what happened in the Clinton investigation. Are there new people to be able to come forward?
The question that's in this that all of us have is the House was an incredible hurry to say we've got to hurry as fast as we possibly can, then delay for over a month, sending it to us and then the bring it to us and say now, we want you to go through the long process of doing witnesses that we did not do because we were in a hurry.
This looks more like a political strategy from them. And if we went through the 11 amendments that they did on Tuesday, it would take months and months and months to be able to drag the trial out. So it has every appearance right now of their request of not just saying, we needed more facts. Clearly, they had enough facts they felt like to be able to impeach the president.
Now, it looks like we're going to be in hurry to impeach, we're going to stall this for a month and then we're going to ask the Senate to do multiple, multiple, multiple investigations that will take all away until the summer to be able to drag this out in the Senate. That looks more like a political game there than a fact-finding game.
The first thing that we need to do is respond to the facts that are in front of us. If there are additional facts that we weed, we need to go get those additional facts. But if this is just a stall technique, then we do need to fall in to their political stall technique.
TAPPER: Oklahoma Republican Senator James Langford, thank you so much for your time, sir. I always appreciate it.
LANGFORD: Thank you. TAPPER: Adam Schiff delivering an emotional final plea to senators last night as Democrats wrap up their opening arguments. Will it be enough to sway those moderate Republican senators to vote to allow witnesses?
BLITZER: And we expect senators to begin arriving very soon for day four of the president's impeachment trial as we're standing by to hear directly from the minority leader, Chuck Schumer. This is CNN special live coverage of the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We are just a few hours away from the start of day four of the impeachment trial. But before it begins, we want to go back to how it ended last night because it ended with lead impeachment manager, Adam Schiff, making what seemed like a final plea to Republicans to, in his opinion, do the right thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): If right doesn't matter, we're lost. If the truth doesn't matter, we're lost. The framers couldn't protect us from ourselves if right and truth don't matter. And you know that what he did was not right. You know, that's what they do in the old country that Colonel Vindman's father came from, or the old country that my great grandfather came from, or the old countries that your ancestors came from or maybe you came from. But here, right is supposed to matter. It's what 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 to do what's right for this country. You can trust he will do what's right for Donald Trump. He'll do it now. He's done it before. He'll do it for next several months. He'll do it in the election if he's allowed to. This is why if you find him guilty, you must find that he should be removed because right matters, because right matters and the truth matters. Otherwise, we are lost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That speech may as well have fallen on deaf ears because CNN is learning the Republican support for witnesses is fading as the president threatens to use executive privilege. Republicans argue that the legal fight to compel testimony would take too long. This is their argument, even though they criticized Democrats for not fighting out witness subpoenas in court during the House investigation for the very same reason.
With us is Law Professor Ross Garber, former federal prosecutors Laura Coates and Jeffrey Toobin, and also Tim Naftali, Presidential Historian.
Laura, I mean, I'm wondering what you make of Schiff's closing argument. He seemed to get emotional there to some degree. And also the argument by Republicans now which is, well, look, if it wasn't good for the House to go through the court process, why should the Senate go through the court process? It's going to take long and it's going to suck up all our future time.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I thought Adam Schiff was very, very compelling in his overture and really appeal to the idea of a sense of duty and right. But I think the big flaw in his argument is that the question is not whether it's right, it's whether it's enough to impeach and remove. And I think for the Republican members of the Senate, they are grappling with that still.
Now, I think the facts are out there, they're as clear as can be. They laid out chronologically what the evidence was, what are the facts in this case. They did it in a beautiful job of compartmentalizing it and laying it out.
But in terms of whether it meets the standard, not just of the founding fathers, they did, abuse of power, betrayal of the nation, corruption of the office of the official, in the elections, but for the Republican members, they wanted to hear enough to allow them to say, it's enough to remove a president of the United States. And they're looking for any reason to say, no, not -- that's not going to be. So it may have fallen on deaf ears.
And the second point, essentially, of why they're saying, well, you know what, this may take too long, I mean, the Washington, D.C. is known for bureaucratic red tape. Everything takes too long. But that doesn't mean you don't actually continue on the quest. It means that democracy is at stake. And I think that's what the real appeal has to be.
And just a matter of, you know what, I don't want to sit here much longer, unless it's this, Mitch McConnell is saying, look, I can acquit him now or I can acquit him five months from now. What do you want to do?
COOPER: I mean, Ross, if the argument by Democrats was, look, this needs to happen now because of the upcoming election, couldn't the Republicans make the same argument?
ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Look, we saw where this was going to go. That's exactly it. The House Democrats said that's the reason why they didn't even issue a subpoena to John Bolton at the House, was that the president was going to claim executive privilege, litigation was going to take too long. We saw this coming. This is the Senate Republicans' argument that it's the exact same thing, and then that it was the House -- we'll hear, the House's job to gather all this evidence. So, yes, that's what we're going to see.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: But it's a completely fake argument. I mean, let's remember where we are in all of this. John Bolton has said, I will testify if I get a subpoena. He will testify unless a court jumps in and says, you can't testify. GARBER: Not necessarily. What's going to happen is there are two things that the Trump team can raise. One is complete immunity, which is the issue they raised before. That may be solved by Bolton showing up. But it's just like at a trial, even if Bolton is in the chair and he's asked the question, you know, tell me about your conversations with the president, team Trump is going to object based on executive privilege. And that becomes --
TOOBIN: And who is going to tell him not to answer?
GARBER: Well, that becomes a very complicated legal analysis. It could be the chief justice ultimately. It's the senators. But it forces the senators then to do this very complicated legal analysis about whether executive privilege applies in the impeachment trial context and then whether it's overcome.
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: And I just want to say this, the people watching this aren't lawyers. And they will then see the president's former national security adviser say nothing and the signal to them is there is a cover-up here. And that would be very helpful to the country.
COOPER: But, Jeff, couldn't Bolton just do an interview right now? And not even -- not even go down this road, just -- he wants to talk -- we'll talk to him.
TOOBIN: Absolutely. There are sort of two issues here. There is the John Bolton issue, his own decision, and then there is the decision of the Senate. John Bolton is pretending like there is some legal impediment to him telling his story. He has said, I have information relevant to the impeachment of the president of the United States. Where is he? Where is that information? Give an interview. Release your book. What he is doing is marketing his book, he is not doing his patriotic duty. I mean, I don't think there is any doubt about that. John Bolton, if he has relevant information, should give it.
Now, there is the separate question -- of course. There is the separate question of whether Mitch McConnell's argument that, well, it's legally too complicated to bring in these witnesses, is bogus, and particularly when it comes to Bolton. Because Bolton has said he will come in there, and the idea that a court will issue an injunction to stop him is highly speculative, very unlikely, and what they are doing is a cover-up. It is not a legal argument.
NAFTALI: It's not just about witnesses. There are documents that the House properly subpoenaed. You just bring some of those documents out and you will change the narrative.
COOPER: Senator Marsha Blackburn is spreading unfounded claims about and questioning the patriotism of Colonel Alexander Vindman, a National Security aide and Iraq War vet who testified in the House impeachment inquiry. His attorney is now weighing in.
[10:25:00] TAPPER: Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee is on the attack, her target, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. Of course, he is the National Security Council aide, Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient who testified before Congress, talking about the Ukraine scandal.
BLITZER: In a series of tweets, the senator questioned Lieutenant Colonel Vindman's patriotism. She also made a number of smears and unfounded claims.
TAPPER: In a statement, Vindman's attorney, David Pressman, wrote in part, this difficult moment in our country calls for seriousness and seriousness of purpose.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman has sacrificed enormously for our country. But a member of the Senate at a moment when the Senate is undertaking --