Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) Discusses Impeachment, Bolton Bombshell, Election & GOP Rival Jeff Sessions; Former Laker Karon Butler Discusses Death of Kobe Bryant; Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) Discusses Impeachment, Bolton Bombshell, Trump Response to Leak. Aired 11:30a- 12p ET

Aired January 27, 2020 - 11:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:31:57]

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN's special coverage of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. I'm Dana Bash, on Capitol Hill.

And joining me now is Senator Doug Jones, a Democrat of Alabama, in his first national interview since the impeachment trial began.

Thank you, Senator, for braving the cold.

(CROSSTALK)

SEN. DOUG JONES (D-AL): That's no problem. Thank you.

BASH: So, first of all, you tweeted last night about the Bolton news saying that, you know, how important it is to hear from him.

JONES: Yes. Well, look, I've been saying that for a month or several weeks. I wrote an op-ed in the "Washington Post." When you have witnesses who have firsthand information, and knowledge, and they have got documents one way or another, I think you have to hear from those witnesses.

I think the American people deserve to hear from those witnesses. And it only seems appropriate that the Senate of the United States subpoenas those witnesses, get them here.

He said he was going to testify. He did not do that in the House. He said he's willing to testify. Let's hear him.

And importantly, the president gets cross examination. His lawyers can cross examination. Whether it is true or not.

BASH: So I don't need to tell you are one of the most, if not the most vulnerable Democrat in the Senate right now.

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: They keep saying that.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: You are up for re-election. Jeff Sessions wants his old seat back. And so -- you're in a state where the president won by about 30 percent, 30 percentage points.

JONES: Yes.

BASH: So what are you hearing from people back home about this position and, more importantly, the articles of impeachment?

JONES: Well, it is really been fairly mixed. We have a number of people that have called and have e-mailed and they're supporting the president. I appreciate that.

We also had a significant number -- it is not the same -- but a significant number who either want him removed or particularly they want to hear witnesses in a fair trial.

And I think that's really important because, even though the president has a lot of supporters in Alabama, those supporters deserve to hear the entire case.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: So that --

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: Absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: -- that's resonating even in Alabama?

JONES: Absolutely. You know, they deserve to hear that. They want to know if the president that they voted for abused his office. And if he did not, they want to hear that as well. Not just the inferences and speculation.

BASH: So already we're hearing Republican Senators begin to say, come on, there's nothing new here with John Bolton, or another argument that we're starting to hear them say is that the House should have done this, it is not up to the Senate to call brand-new witnesses.

JONES: Right.

BASH: This should have been dealt with and litigated in the courts, if need be, by the House Democrats.

JONES: I think that's two different questions and issues. Number one, whether the House did it or did not do it is an important question. I think that's an important question for article two.

But the Senate of the United States has a separate duty, under our rules, under the Constitution, to try the case. I think we are duty bound to give the people of America a full, fair and complete trial. Regardless.

[11:35:05]

If you look at what the House managers presented early, in all 15 previous impeachments, presidential impeachments, judicial impeachments, they all had new witnesses and documents in the Senate.

No one ever said, just take the House's case and move it over. They had new witnesses. They did their own. And I think we should do that.

BASH: You mentioned article two. There are two articles of impeachment before you.

JONES: Yes.

BASH: And that you're going to have to vote on. Are you thinking of them differently?

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: No. Unlike some people, I have tried to separate the two. I guess that's my lawyer training, when a judge says each count of an indictment stands on its own. I've been looking at them separately and listening to the arguments to see where they are and I want to try to keep those unconnected.

Unfortunately, sometimes, though, when the White House continues to withhold information, it is hard to keep those separated. I am doing that and that's what I want to continue to do.

BASH: OK, Senator, thank you.

JONES: My pleasure, Dana.

BASH: I really appreciate it.

We're going to take a short break. We're waiting to hear from the president himself speaking about this bombshell news from his former national security adviser.

Again, we're going to take a quick break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:41:13]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: It is a somber day, especially for basketball fans around the globe. One of the sport's greatest, Kobe Bryant, has died.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: So sad. He was one of nine people killed in a helicopter crash in southern California on Sunday. Among them, Bryant's 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. Bryant was a legendary figure both on and off the hard wood, playing

with the Los Angeles Lakers for all 20 years of his NBA career. He won five NBA championships and two gold medals for Team USA.

TAPPER: But it was the Bryant family, not the game, that got Kobe's undivided attention in his final years. He is survived by his wife, Vanessa, and three daughters, Natalia, Bianka and Capri.

Kobe Bryant lived life to the fullest, epitomized by an interview he did in 2008.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KOBE BRYANT, FORMER NBA STAR: Have the time. Enjoy life. It is -- life is too short to get bogged down and be discouraged or -- you have to keep moving. Have to keep going. Put one foot in front of the other, keep on rolling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Joining us now, someone who played with Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles, former Laker, Caron Butler.

Caron, thank you for joining us. Sorry we have to talk under these circumstances.

But what was your first reaction when you heard this awful news?

CARON BUTLER, FORMER LOS ANGELES LAKERS BASKETBALL PLAYER: I immediately just started crying. And I called his phone number over and over again, you know, hoping for a different resolve or different result or answer or text.

You know, me and Kobe always connected at least once a week where we exchanged text messages or we connected, you know, via phone call and we just talk about, you know, life, we talked about our kids.

And I was just -- I was just devastated. I immediately called his assistant, Rita, and she told me the news was true. I called my wife and I just poured out my emotions to her. I just started crying, man. To try to process it all.

TAPPER: You call Kobe a friend and mentor. Tell us what it was like being around him.

BUTLER: It was always school in session from a mentor perspective. He always encouraged me to be the best version of me. He always challenged me in that way. And in that space. And everyone around him. And he always made time, even when he didn't have time. And I think that's the beauty of Kobe Bryant.

And I know right now people are focusing on the legacy of numbers. And I want to step away from numbers and just talk about him as a human being. He was a special man. He was a special father. He's an incredible husband. He was an incredible brother to mentor.

TAPPER: Thinking back on your time with him, was there any particular piece of advice that he gave that really stuck with you?

BUTLER: Told me no limits. Never put a ceiling on what you're capable of accomplishing and doing in life. And I took that to heart. And every time I needed a resource or a shoulder to lean upon, he was always that big brother that I could reach out to.

And that is more than any money, that's -- you can't put a value on that. And that's priceless. And I'm going to miss my big brother.

BLITZER: You're not alone. We're all going to miss Kobe Bryant in so many ways, what he did on the court, off the court.

You know, Caron, what are you hearing from some of your friends who knew Kobe and his family so well?

[11:45:01]

BUTLER: Everybody's just hurt right now. They're trying to process it. And I think that, you know, what I'm doing right now, what a lot of other individuals are doing with their platform is just making sure that people know who Kobe Bryant was, outside of basketball. He was so much more than that.

I never forget, during his farewell tour, we had dinner, he was just, like, man, now it is the next phase, it is the second chapter. It is the second stage. I want to maximize this space and it is going to be a whole lot of five, four, three, two, one, moments in this next chapter of my life.

And he was doing it. He was a best-selling author. He was a great father. He was an Oscar award winner. He was inspiring people from different walks of life to just go out there and just seek whatever you want to seek and do it to the fullest.

And that's what I remember most about him, his legacy and his passion about being the best possible father he could be.

TAPPER: One thing that strikes me, as somebody who followed his career since he was a high school basketball player for the Lower Merion Aces, outside Philadelphia, is that he was always trying to become better, not just a better athlete, but a better man. He would make a mistake, own up to it and try to make it right. And he would try to improve himself in a very public way.

BUTLER: You know what, he used to always say, stay goal-oriented. Once you accomplish a goal, you know, now what? Now what's next?

I never forget when, you know, I start writing a book and I was going through the process and he did the foreword on the book for me, and he's, like, what's next? What you thinking now? Your creativity can't die. You have to stay creative and have to stay moving forward in that process.

I just -- that always stuck with me. And still sticks with me to this day. If I'm doing something, I'm, like, what's next? What else do I need to accomplish in this borrow time that we have here on earth? And he always challenged me to maximize that in that space.

BLITZER: Caron, I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm so sorry for everyone's loss. He was so special in so many ways.

And I think I speak for all of our viewers here in the United States and around the world when I say may he rest in peace and may his memory be a blessing.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:52:02]

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, what's your response to the Bolton manuscript, and does that increases the chances that he could be called to testify?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have not seen the manuscript. I can tell you nothing was said to John Bolton. But I haven't seen the manuscript. I guess he's writing a book. I'm not sure.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President --

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: We were just listening to President Trump speaking for the first time since the bombshell report about John Bolton, his manuscript, rather of the book he's planning to release in March, saying that he did have conversations with the president about the quid pro quo that House managers have been talking about on the floor of the Senate and that the president has been impeached for.

I'm back on Capitol Hill. I'm Dana Bash.

And I'm joined now by Senator Tina Smith, of Minnesota.

Thank you so much.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: What do you make of what the president just said? He didn't say a whole lot, but he kind of tried to brush it off a bit.

REP. TINA SMITH, (D-MN): Yes. He didn't say a whole lot, but it seems really clear that the Bolton manuscript confirms what we heard from the House managers all last week.

And we spent all day Saturday listening to the president's lawyer saying the president did nothing wrong. So from my perspective, this is an easy choice for Republican

colleagues to call for hearing testimony and the documents from Ambassador Bolton.

BASH: Except we've been hearing from Republicans all morning, the ones who are talking, a lot of them saying nothing new, this is not something -- that's one argument.

And the other argument is that's not something we, the Senate, should be responsible for going forward, it should have been the House Democrats who dealt with it in the House, whether it meant going to court or not.

SMITH: The House Democrats attempted to get the testimony and to have Ambassador Bolton testify, and he refused. Now he is saying that he does.

I think the American people want to know what he has to say about this.

And, remember, we have one man, the ambassador, who has an eyewitness account, who is willing to testify under oath and tell the truth. And why would we not want to hear that? What is the possible justification?

BASH: Are you having any conversations across the aisle with your Republican colleagues? And do you think the four votes would be there to make this happen?

SMITH: I will keep the conversations I've been having confidential.

But this has thrown everyone in disarray, especially on Saturday when the arguments were so strong on the part of the president's lawyers that there was nothing to see here. Then to have, a few hours later, this Bolton bombshell drop, I think, has given a lot of people pause.

You've been reporting how people are going, how could I not have known about this. I think people are really frustrated.

BASH: You're hearing that also privately?

SMITH: Yes. Yes.

BASH: Senator, thank you so much.

SMITH: Thanks, Dana.

BASH: I appreciate it.

[11:54:54]

And we're going to take a quick break. CNN's coverage of the impeachment trial of President Trump will continue after this.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: I'm Jake Tapper, live in Washington, alongside Wolf Blitzer, Chris Cuomo, Dana Bash on Capitol Hill. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world for CNN's special coverage of the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump.

[12:00:05]

BLITZER: In just one hour, the Senate gavels back into session.