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GOP Fight Against Witnesses Uncertain After Bolton Report; Remembering The Life And Legacy Of NBA Legend Kobe Bryant. Aired 7:30- 8a ET

Aired January 27, 2020 - 07:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[07:30:00]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: -- of his upcoming book that the President wanted the aid to Ukraine held in exchange for a personal political favor. How will this change the course of the trial?

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CAMEROTA: Republican sources say the new revelations in John Bolton's forthcoming book, according to "The New York Times," are adding a new level of uncertainty to this week's crucial vote on whether witnesses and documents and more evidence will be allowed in President Trump's impeachment trial.

Joining us now to talk about this, we have CNN Political Analyst David Gregory and Tim Alberta, chief political correspondent for Politico. David Gregory, you are always so good at giving us the broad perspective as of this morning with the breaking news that "The New York Times" now knows portions of what is in John Bolton's upcoming book, and a John Bolton is a direct witness. He heard the President say this stuff. He saw it with his own eyes. What possible rationale could Republicans used today for not wanting to hear from him?

[07:34:59]

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I'll get to that in just a second. I think the earth has moved here in a way that I didn't expect it to, right? We had this big spectacle that we thought was going to such a predictable conclusion. And then this happens. What are Republican defendants of the President saying? There's no direct evidence of any of the charges that House managers are making.

And here comes the manuscript called the room where it happened. You don't get any more direct in this. So of course, it's not surprising. We have known from other testimony that John Bolton had deep reservations about what was going on. And there was the potential that he was going to offer the kind of testimony that he appears able to offer now. He chose to do it in a book. And House managers didn't want to subpoena him and go through the process of fighting executive privilege.

To your question, I think it becomes difficult to hold Republicans together. But there is an advantage. I mean if we're just brainstorming about this, this morning, the President is clear on -- clearly unnerved about this. He's tweeted about it in a way that is coherent for him. In other words, it's right on point in his denials, Republicans will use that. His lawyers will use that. They've got the floor in terms of the Senate trial, to try to ameliorate this, and to perhaps head off witnesses.

If witnesses happen, you know, then this becomes a kind of a different event on both sides, frankly, if there's witnesses on both sides. But right now, you have to look to those four Republican's who are wavering, saying, you know, why shouldn't we hear from John Bolton on this?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: President's defense may be coherent. It's not particularly honest, right? He tweeted --

GREGORY: Right.

BERMAN: -- Democrat controlled House never had even asked John Bolton to testify. It's up to them not to the Senate. The Democrats did ask John Bolton to testify. They didn't subpoena him. But they did ask.

Tim Alberta, the President's defense team at the impeachment trial has said something now in front of 100 senators and the Chief Justice the United States that is now called into direct question. Let's play that.

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MIKE PURPURA, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: There is simply no evidence anywhere that President Trump ever linked security assistance to any investigations.

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BERMAN: So it seems to me that Republicans who are defending the President now have two choices. One, they can call John Bolton a liar. And good luck with that, considering that a lot of these Republicans ally themselves with John Bolton. And good luck with that, considering the President's history on this. Or they can say, yes, there's a smoking gun here. There is now a clear link between Ukraine aid and investigations in the Biden's. But we don't care that a shooting was committed, which is to say, OK, it all happened. It all happened, every last bit of it, but we still don't think that it's bad enough even to hear witnesses.

At this point, Tim, you know, you have your ear to the pavement more than anyone in terms of Republican sentiment, how do you think things will move or the next two days?

TIM ALBERTA, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: So I think you did a nice job of laying out sort of the two paths we could potentially go down here, John. And I think it's just worth recognizing here putting this in the broadest context possible that we have spent the last three years of this presidency, wondering if there was anything or any one that could serve as effectively a wedge between the President of the United States and his Republican defenders on Capitol Hill.

And when I say Republican defenders, I don't just mean the people who have always been loyal to him, but many of the people who have been sort of subjugated by him more or less over the last three years. And if we think at this late hour, that John Bolton is going to be the answer to that question, I think we're all kidding ourselves, if I can be really frank with you.

John Bolton does have deep ties with the Conservative Movement to the American right. He has been someone who has, you know, cultivated close relationships with many Republicans on Capitol Hill for a period of decades. He knows a lot of these senators very well, many of them like him, and they trust him and they probably believe him. Does that mean that they are willing to stake their political futures to his book and to his potential testimony, I highly doubt it.

CAMEROTA: That is really interesting perspective.

BERMAN: And of course, Tim has written a whole book.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

BERMAN: A wonderful whole book about Republicans on Capitol Hill and how they've been shaped over the last few years.

CAMEROTA: American carnage on the front lines of the Republican Civil War. Yes, that's a great point. But you know, David, according to "The New York Times," this isn't just John Bolton that "New York Times" that they got portions or understands portions of this draft. Mick Mulvaney is now implicated. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, you know, the Senate is supposed to provide checks and balances on all of this.

GREGORY: They're supposed to. But look, I mean, Tim makes a compelling point. We can believe that the earth has moved here and that some of the mechanics of the trial may change, maybe they're even going to be witnesses. I don't know that that changes the ultimate outcome. I think John and your predicate to the question to Tim is the important point.

[07:40:02]

You know, Republicans can move on this. They can say, look, if everything is true, it's really bad judgment. Shouldn't have done it, but it's just not impeachable. Or let's really put this to the voters. And that has always been the biggest danger for Democrats. If Republicans can argue they can make a case that this is not a high crime or misdemeanor, this is not how impeachment should be used. And by the way, if you think it's a close call, let's let the voters decide. That's always a compelling argument. And we just don't know yet where Bolton fits into this or others who might be compelled to testify.

BERMAN: The one thing Tim that Democrats -- that Republicans were telling me in December was their biggest fear was they just didn't know what was around the corner. Their biggest fear was the unknown in this trial and with President Trump and Rudy Giuliani. And this seems to me to be right in the wheelhouse in terms of the things that they were afraid of the unknown here. How do you see it?

ALBERTA: Yes, I think that's right. I mean, to put this in campaign terms, this is sort of the October surprise, right? Here, we are expecting that this trial is going to come to a pretty predictable conclusion and pretty quickly. And suddenly, here comes this bombshell dropping, you know, right in the 11th hour.

Again, I think your point a second ago, David was right, which is that many Republicans have already sort of built in these sort of default fallback arguments to say, well, you know, even if we were to be told that there is this compelling testimony that could come forward, does that change how we view sort of the fundamentals of this entire proceeding, which is that the President is going to be up for reelection in a matter of nine and a half months and we should allow voters to decide that this whole thing is a sham, et cetera, et cetera.

I don't know that John Bolton coming forth with essentially what could be a he said he said, situation, there's no indication that John Bolton has audio recordings or some sort of concrete, tangible evidence of what he is writing about in this manuscript. So ultimately, it would come down to the President's word versus John Bolton's word. And I don't know that that is, again, going to be enough to move any Republican senator who wasn't already predisposed to be moving.

CAMEROTA: Tim Alberta, David Gregory, thank you both very much for those important perspectives. Coming up in our next hour, we'll be joined by the lead impeachment manager, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff. What does he think of this breaking news?

Most Republican senators are holding firm of course and their support of President Trump. But that's certainly was different when President Clinton was on trial. So what's the change? We're going to get a reality check.

BERMAN: And remembering NBA legend Kobe Bryant, a closer look at his impact on the NBA and the millions of fans all around the world.

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[07:46:41]

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(SINGING)

BERMAN: What an emotional tribute last night. In the house that Kobe Bryant built, the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Grammys performance by Alicia Keys, Boyz II Men at the Staple Center beneath Kobe Bryant's number 8 and number 24 jerseys as thousands of fans gathered outside and his millions of fans around the world had a chance to process what this means to them.

Joining us now is senior NBA writer with the Bleacher Report, Howard Beck. He was on the Lakers beat for the "L.A. Daily News" during the start of Kobe Bryant's careers, you've written about basketball forever. And I'm a huge fan of your writing. And it struck me over the last 24 hours, that this death has had an impact on people, a peculiar impact on people around the world. And I'm wondering, why do you think that is?

HOWARD BECK, SENIOR NBA WRITER, BLEACHER REPORT: I'm still processing that myself, John. I think part of it is just obviously just the tragic nature of his death and so young at 41 and that Kobe, you know, for an entire generation of basketball players and basketball fans, he was their Michael Jordan, you know, time has passed very quickly for people in our age range. And he's the guy who inspired so many.

I heard from someone yesterday, who works in National Politics, who texted saying, Kobe was his inspiration just in terms of the work ethic, how much he put himself into his craft, and he tried to carry that same thing into his career. And so it does transcend basketball. And besides that Kobe never was just about the basketball. You know, I knew even from early on covering him starting when he was about 19, his second season in the league.

And so somebody who thought a lot about the world and about himself and about the things he could accomplish, and was curious about my job about everyone around him. He had this intellectual curiosity and a creativity that we saw once he retired, stepped away from the game. He could have just kicked it somewhere. He didn't. He went into media and created children's stories and films and poured himself fully into that as well.

And I think that's why there's so much outpouring. It's not the Kobe was just a five time champion, which is, you know, inspirational to itself. It's all that other aspect that that depth to him.

BERMAN: There was a depth there. And he was of this world too, right? He grew up for a period of time in Italy, spoke four languages, he was clearly curious about everything. And I think and I've been saying this, is that he was cut down at the beginning of what was going to be a meaningful second act. I don't think there's any question that there were contributions to be had here as a trade what everyone talks about is his competitiveness. And you write about a conversation he once had about golf, which I think was really interesting.

BECK: This was maybe his third season, my second year on the Beat, and we're sitting there in the locker room one day and there's a golf tournament on T.V. And he was just kind of, by the way, different -- much different atmosphere back then many, fewer of us sitting there so we could just have a casual conversation without recorders rolling in and there's no Twitter. And he says, Howard, man, you golf? I said, no. Do you? And he says, no. I would never play anything that I couldn't master. And I said, you could master golf or excuse me, you master a basketball. And he said, oh, absolutely.

[07:50:12]

And that was that soaring confidence that he knew that was about Kobe in the game of basketball. It was if that -- as if that was one in the same. There was no distance between the game and himself as far as he was concerned.

BERMAN: He could do whatever he wanted. But it wasn't just because of the talent. It was because of the work. You also write, he spent -- this is a guy who clearly had as much or more talent, natural talent than anyone who was on the court. But he spent the entire off season working on positioning and shooting with chairs. He was positioned empty chairs and work around them for an entire off season.

BECK: Yes, he set them up in a gym somewhere. And instead of having workout partners or whatever else, again, this was pretty early on his first couple years in the chairs there so he could practice his moves, getting to the hoop around the chairs posing as defenders.

And I also wrote, like, I think from anybody else, you'd think that that was kind of maybe, you know, manufactured kind of, there's not a question in my mind, Kobe absolutely did that. And he was maniacal about his craft. And I wrote this too, there were guys over the course of his 20 year career who jumped higher, who were taller, bigger, stronger, longer, faster. He wasn't the most supreme athlete. He was, by our standards one, but not by NBA standards is that he just outworked everyone.

He was absolutely dedicated and immersed in the game of basketball. That's how he applied himself to everything. And that's that same passion was you could see in his dedication to his family and to his media endeavors after.

BERMAN: Our Beck from the Bleacher Report, a pleasure to have you here, not for the occasion. But I'm a big fan of your work. And everyone should read everything Howard is written in the last 24 hours and going forward as you process this along with the rest of us. Thanks so much.

BECK: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: We'll be right back.

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[07:56:03]

CAMEROTA: So if Republicans do not think the Ukraine scandal warrants the impeachment of President Trump or removal, what action would rise to that level? Let's take a look at what they've said in the past. John Avlon has our reality check on that. Hi, John.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning guys.

So look after the defense teams opening argument start on Saturday, Republicans greeted cameras with talking points at the red.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Within two hours the White House Council entirely shredded the case.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It took less than two hours to completely shred and eviscerate Adam schiff's failed case.

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AVLON: And in case that was too subtle, Congressman Mark Meadows has tweeted three days of Democratic arguments were just shredded in two hours, shredded. Kind of like what happened last night to the defense teams argument about no witnesses directly knowing why Trump withheld the Ukraine military aid.

After "The New York Times" obtained a draft manuscript for John Bolton's upcoming book in which he clearly states that President Trump told him back in August that he was linking the release of aid to investigations into the Biden's. Now that should be the ball game in terms of calling Bolton to testify, unless Republicans admit on mass that they're not really interested in finding out the facts, in which case they should just adopt Melania's infamous, I don't really care do you jacket, as a team jersey.

But even if Bolton's testimony contradicts the Trump team's arguments, it doesn't mean the President would be removed. The two-thirds bar is appropriately high. No American president has been removed from office. And it would be incredibly destabilizing to our democracy. But nonetheless, 21 years ago, most Republicans in the Senate did vote to remove Bill Clinton. And some of those senators are still in office. Which got me wondering, what arguments they made at the time and how they might apply to Donald Trump today?

So here's some of what Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley had to say, the full powers of the White House were on lease to stonewall the process and to attack the credibility of those who investigated them. And said, I fear the future White Houses will refine and improve their own truth-fighting arsenals. That was prescient. Grassley also asked, is it now OK to lie because the President does it?

Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe said, I think that anyone who votes to acquit has got to say that we are going to hold this President to a lower standard of conduct and behavior than we hold other people. And he said, I really believe that the President of the United States should be held to the very highest of standards.

Finally, Mitch McConnell slammed the President who would seek to win at any cost, even if it meant lying to the American people, a President who time after time, chose the path of lies and lawlessness. Will we condone this President's conduct or will we condemn it, McConnell asked. Will we change our standards or will we change our President?

Now, much has been made of the fact that the Senate's got a binary choice acquit or remove. But there's a third option that's called censure, a formal statement of disapproval. It's only used once before by Senate against President Andrew Jackson. And it only requires a majority rather a two-thirds vote.

Now, after Bill Clinton's trial and an acquittal, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein drafted a censure resolution condemning the president of her own party for shameless, reckless, indefensible behavior, stating that he deliberately misled and deceived the American people.

Of course, a censure resolution would require Republicans to admit that, contrary to Trump's continued insistence, the President did do something wrong. It would state what most Republicans know, but seem afraid to say, we do not want future presidents of either party to pressure a foreign power to dig up dirt on a domestic political rival or his personal benefit. And that's your Reality Check.

CAMEROTA: John, very helpful to get all of that context. Thank you.

BERMAN: Reality for you, I'm not sure it's going to be reality for any Republican senators, though going forward. That remains to be seen.

CAMEROTA: We'll see what happens today. A lot is changing this morning. Thank you, John. And thanks to our international viewers for watching.

For you CNN Newsroom with Max Foster is next for our U.S. viewers, Breaking News from John Bolton. NEW DAY continues right now.

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[08:00:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just absolute shock and speechlessness in Los Angeles.