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Pressure Builds on GOP Senators Over Witness Battle; Ken Starr; We're Living in the 'Age of Impeachment'; NTSB Details Moments Before Crash That Killed Kobe Bryant. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired January 28, 2020 - 06:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Mr. Bolton's book is further evidence that a large number of people were, quote, "in the loop" on this scheme.

[05:59:35]

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power.

KENNETH STARR, WHITE HOUSE DEFENSE TEAM: Like war, impeachment is hell.

SCHUMER: We think witnesses who are not eyewitness to what happened shouldn't be part of this.

PAM BONDI, TRUMP IMPEACHMENT ATTORNEY: Hunter Biden's activities created a conflict of interest for Joe Biden.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These guys are attacking me and my family. Well, guess what? I don't hold grudges, because presidents can't hold grudges.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, January 28, 6 a.m. here in New York.

Capitol Hill sources say the pressure is building on Senate Republicans to allow witnesses in President Trump's impeachment trial. CNN has learned that former national security adviser John Bolton's claim that President Trump personally tied that military aid to Ukraine to his own political favors totally blindsided GOP lawmakers.

And this morning there are new allegations from Bolton's manuscript of his upcoming book. "The New York Times" reports Bolton also writes that he expressed concern to Attorney General William Barr over President Trump granting personal favors to the leaders of Turkey and China. Which begs the question: what other bombshells could come out as President Trump's defense team gears up for another day of arguments?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So for most of the day, the president's defense team completely avoided the Bolton news, focusing instead on all kinds of things -- the Bidens, Rudy Giuliani, the economy -- but in prime time we did begin to hear what could be their last line of defense on Bolton. It came from law professor Alan Dershowitz, who spent most of his time making a case contradicted by the Founding Fathers' precedent and, at one point, even Alan Dershowitz, but more on that later.

On Bolton, though, who remember who reportedly writes that the president directly told him that aid to Ukraine was tied to the investigation into the Bidens, this is what Dershowitz said.

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DERSHOWITZ: Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense.

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BERMAN: This morning we're counting votes. Will enough Republicans come forward to call for John Bolton to testify under oath? The trend is at least moving in that direction, and then there is new reporting that the White House is now bracing for that very real possibility.

Let's go straight to Capitol Hill. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux live there.

Look, the defense team was supposed to be done yesterday. That was the initial plan, but now they're going into today. They clearly have more to say or maybe more to clean up.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John.

I mean, and we're just hours away from hearing from that testimony. The White House defense team presenting its last chance to make the case that the president should not be removed from office.

It was day two yesterday. I talked to many Democrats, including Senator Kamala Harris, who believe that the Bolton book, that manuscript, was a game changer. But Republicans meeting behind closed doors. There's all abuzz that it's still uncertain how this is going to impact the trial.

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MALVEAUX (voice-over): President Trump's defense team spending hours avoiding the elephant in the room: former national security adviser John Bolton claims President Trump told him in August the hold on nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine was linked to investigations into his political rivals, which undermines a key pillar of the president's impeachment defense.

MIKE PURPURA, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Anyone who spoke with the president said that the president made clear that there was no linkage between security assistance and investigations. MALVEAUX: But late into the evening, attorney Alan Dershowitz finally

addressing the claims made by Bolton.

DERSHOWITZ: Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense.

MALVEAUX: Democrats need four Republicans to join them in order to subpoena new witnesses like Bolton. GOP sources tell CNN three senators are almost a certainty at this point.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I think it's increasingly likely that other Republicans will -- will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton.

MALVEAUX: President Trump's legal team spent Monday focusing on the process and the Bidens, which they say wasn't part of the plan, but the Democrats forced their hand.

BONDI: Hunter Biden's decision to join Burisma raised flags almost immediately. We would prefer not to be talking about this. We would prefer not to be discussing this, but the House managers have placed this squarely at issue so we must address it.

MALVEAUX: A source telling CNN that Republican Senator Patrick Toomey resurrected the idea of a possible witness swap, but Democrats have repeatedly said such a trade -- say, Hunter Biden for John Bolton -- was off the table.

SEN. ED MARKEY (D-MA): Hunter Biden is not on trial. This is clearly an attempt to feed red meat to their base but also red herrings to take us away from the central issue.

MALVEAUX: This as new details from Bolton's manuscript could further strengthen the case to call Bolton to testify. "The New York Times" reports Bolton writes that he privately told Attorney General Barr that he had concerns President Trump was effectively granting personal favors to the autocratic leaders of Turkey and China.

[06:05:06]

Bolton claims Barr replied "he was worried that Mr. Trump had created the appearance that he had undue influence over what would typically be independent inquiries."

The Justice Department denying the claims in a statement, saying the account, as related in "The Times," "grossly mischaracterized what Attorney General Barr and Mr. Bolton discussed."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And I talked with Senator John Cornyn, a Republican. Like the majority of Republicans, he dodged the Bolton issue. He said he would not make any announcements regarding witnesses until after the White House defense had completed its case.

So all eyes on the defense today and how they handle Bolton, who is a friend to many of these Republican senators; whether or not the White House lawyers decide to try to discredit Bolton, as the president would prefer -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK. We will look for that, Suzanne. Thank you very much.

Let's bring in Elie Honig, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor; and CNN political commentator Joe Lockhart. He was President Clinton's press secretary during that impeachment.

So Joe, has that revelation from Bolton's manuscript significantly reshuffled the deck, as far as you can tell?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know that it's reshuffled the deck. It's really interesting, watching the Republican response yesterday. They seemed more concerned about being blindsided than the substance of what Bolton said, and that goes to just how politically they're looking at things.

The being blindsided means they don't know what else might come. So I think that's what caused the, you know, severe anxiety among Republicans.

And what happened during the day yesterday was the White House reached out, McConnell brought the caucus together and, I think, assured them that, you know, this is it. I'm not sure that that's true. But it was striking to me that there were not any Republicans who went to the microphone yesterday and were concerned about the substance of what John Bolton said.

BERMAN: Look, they don't know what the heck is going on, and I mean that. They don't know what's next. There are new revelations overnight that have to do with the president and the leaders of Turkey and China. They don't know.

So I think there were two things that were going on yesterday. Behind the scenes politically, Republicans are trying to figure out what the heck is going on. They just want to know what's going on.

And the defense team arguing before the Senate they wanted to press pause and just figure things out and make a strategy about where to go. You heard Sekulow, Jay Sekulow, in his very first comments, make a somewhat veiled reference to it. And then you didn't hear anything again until Alan Dershowitz made that claim that, even if this did happen with Bolton, it doesn't rise to an abuse of power.

Elie, as an attorney -- and I know this isn't a trial -- do they have to address it today? Seemed to me that they might be preparing all day yesterday and last night to figure out how to address this head-on. Do they need to do it?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: If this was a criminal trial with a jury of impartial peers of the person on trial, you absolutely would have to address it. If you didn't, it's game over. It's right down the middle. It's exactly the issue in play here.

But this is a Senate trial. This is impeachment. And they -- do they really need to persuade the jury here? I don't know.

And the strategy in this setting might be smarter. Let it sit. Let it hopefully go away.

And I think what Alan Dershowitz was doing at the end was giving a blessing to Republican senators to vote no on witnesses, because they can say, Well, I just heard this very famous law professor say. even if what Bolton said is true, it's not impeachable, so that's why I'm going to vote for -- vote no on witnesses.

I think that was what he was aiming at there.

CAMEROTA: In terms of witnesses, Joe, is this becoming a scenario for Democrats of be careful of what you wish for? And the reason I ask that is because of what Senator Pat Toomey said, which is, OK, you'll get your Bolton. We're curious enough about John Bolton. We'll give him to you, but you -- it has to be a deal. We can't just give you something for nothing.

Here's what he said. "Senator Pat Toomey raised the 'one for one' witness deal. The proposal for witness reciprocity is not something most GOP senators are actively pursuing, and it is essentially a backup plan in case enough Republicans vote to hear witnesses, Senator Mike Braun said."

And so then, let's say that Democrats say, as they have all along, Jo, Hunter Biden is actually not relevant to this. We're not going to agree to that.

Can't Republicans say, We offered. We offered them witnesses. They said no.

LOCKHART: Well, listen, I mean, this is not about how Democrats feel or a Republican feels. It's about who has the votes. So this whole idea of trading witnesses doesn't make a lot of sense.

Democrats will move forward, under all circumstances, to try to get John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, the OMB guys, to the floor. And if the price of that is the Republicans want to bring in Hunter Biden or Adam Schiff or Joe Biden, that's a price that they're willing to pay.

CAMEROTA: That's a price the Democrats are willing to pay?

LOCKHART: That's -- I believe it's a price -- I mean, they'll vote -- they'll vote against it. They'll rail against it. But I don't think you'll see at this point the Democrats saying, OK, fine, we're backing away from wanting witnesses.

Remember, you've got to have the Republican votes, too, and they're -- you know, the dynamic within the caucus to turn the Senate floor into a circus on an issue that it really has nothing to do with what the trial is about.

[06:10:13]

Then you start talking about guys like Lamar Alexander, who says, This is not the Senate that I want to -- this is now how I want to remember, you know, my 16, 17 years in the Senate. So -- but the Democrats have no choice at this point to go forward and push to get John Bolton. There's -- to climb back on that now would be absurd.

BERMAN: It's a two-step process here that Mitch McConnell is watching. He's watching. If he loses four votes, if there are four people in the Republican caucus who wants witnesses -- want witnesses, then he'll figure out how to make it palatable for the rest of the caucus, right? Then you might see him try to work out a deal.

So there's two -- there's a lot going on behind the scenes. We're going to show, obviously, all day the arguments from the defense team.

But the actions happening at the lunches, in the cloak room, whispering back and forth, where Mitch McConnell is trying to figure out where he is.

And Elie, again, "The New York Times" and Maggie Haberman, who will be on later in the show to tell us more of her scoop, they're getting more details about what's in the Bolton book.

The new details that we're learning overnight have to do with John Bolton being concerned and, allegedly, Bill Barr being concerned that the president is too close and coddling autocrats in Turkey or dictators in Turkey and China. The specific details of that I don't think matter as much as this is a signal to Republicans that there's more.

HONIG: Yes.

BERMAN: The book has more.

HONIG: This is a warning shot. And what it's telling Republicans is, if you vote no on witnesses, you will wear this, and not just this week, but every week moving forward. Because more and more of this is going to come out.

Look, this -- Just Bolton's manuscript alone is several hundred pages. We've seen, what, a couple of excerpts, a couple -- couple sentences here and there. And think of how damaging they've been. There's going to be way more in Bolton's book. Way more people are going to come forward. There's going to be more Freedom of Information Act lawsuits. This stuff is all going to come out.

And I think what the message here is anyone who votes no, be prepared to live with this up until the 2020 election and beyond.

LOCKHART: And the fact of the matter is, if you believe Bolton, his literally agent, and Simon and Shuster, they're not leaking this. So let's assume for a second they're telling the truth. It's coming from inside the White House, which means they have access to all sorts of information; and there are people who, in the White House, who believe that the truth should be told.

What -- what their motive is, I don't know, but you have to then assume that those people have access to a lot of information. And I completely agree with Elie that this was -- particularly, the second story -- this was a shot. This was saying, you don't bring John Bolton up now, you're going -- you are going to hear stuff from now until election day.

CAMEROTA: There's also an angle where John Bolton, I mean, reportedly his team is saying, OK, all bets are off. We -- we honored the confidentiality of this manuscript. You didn't, so maybe we can talk now.

We'll see. Thank you.

BERMAN: Look, the phone lines are open. Let's make perfectly clear. If John Bolton wants to call in, we take a phoner. In person is better, but free free. Call in. Tell us what you really think.

LOCKHART: He can have my time.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, Joe. Thank you.

BERMAN: You're on a lot.

LOCKHART: Yes.

BERMAN: All right. President Trump's lawyers spent a substantial amount of their defense pushing these unfounded theories about the Bidens. Look, they also -- Ken Starr -- Ken Starr, the independent counsel, was up there lamenting --

CAMEROTA: Impeachment.

BERMAN: -- impeachment and excessive investigations. Much more ahead.

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[06:17:38]

STARR: The Senate is being called to sit as the high court of impeachment all too frequently. Indeed, we are living in what I think can aptly be described as the age of impeachment. Like war, impeachment is hell. Or at least presidential impeachment is hell.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right. So that actually happened.

CAMEROTA: He said that.

BERMAN: He said that. He was Kenneth Starr. Kenneth Starr was the independent counsel who prosecuted the case against Bill Clinton, the man largely responsible, along with Bill Clinton, for the impeachment of Bill Clinton; now in front of the American people lamenting impeachment. Some people saw this as irony. Some people saw it as flat-out gaslighting. Other people saw it as bizarre. We're joined by Joe Lockhart. He is familiar with this. He was Bill

Clinton's press secretary during the impeachment. Also with us, Paul Rosenzweig, former senior counsel to Ken Starr. What amazing perspective from you two gentlemen on this.

Joe, I want to start with you. Hopefully, your blood pressure is back to normal.

LOCKHART: Yes. You know, it was bizarre, and it was difficult to watch, because it was almost like he was using this session to, you know, cleanse his soul or say, you know, some version of, It wasn't my fault.

But the reality is that, you know, Ken Starr was appointed looking into a land deal, and he spent the next three or four years looking for something to bring a charge against the president. He found the relationship with Monica Lewinsky, but he did it in a way that was so aggressive that he left -- even if the House didn't want to impeach, he left them very little choice.

You know, I always remember that, you know, he had an ethics adviser named Sam Dash who resigned in protest, because he said that Ken Starr was improperly inserting himself in the process.

He wrote the Starr report as an indictment, a charging document, rather than, here's what happened. In that -- and, again, the president had no due process in that, you know, you hear that a lot, no one was in the grand jury with that -- he wrote it, and massive amounts of exculpatory evidence was left out.

And to see him talking about, you know, the era of impeachment, which frankly, he brought on, was -- was really a little hard to stomach, having been through it.

CAMEROTA: Mr. Rosenzweig, what did you think when you heard Ken Starr lamenting impeachment?

PAUL ROSENZWEIG, FORMER SENIOR COUNSEL TO KEN STARR: Well, there was a dose of irony. I guess I would just say that I think it's wrong as a factual matter.

You know, we -- we went through two pretty controversial presidencies between the Clinton impeachment and now. You know, there were lots of Democrats who thought that George Bush's handling, for example, of the Iraq war -- you know, Bush lied, people died -- warranted condemnation. And there were lots of Republicans who thought that President Obama had acted improperly, and yet, we didn't see impeachment come.

My own view is that each president's conduct stands or falls on its own merit. And it seems to me -- I mean, I'm sure Mr. Lockhart and I probably still would -- should get a beer and discuss the Clinton impeachment.

But there seems to me to be no reason to think that -- that the Trump behavior is any less impeachable than President Clinton's behavior. If anything, it's more -- more impeachable. And that seems to me to not be about an age of impeachment, but rather about impeachable conduct by a president.

CAMEROTA: But then how do you explain what Ken Starr is saying?

ROSENZWEIG: Well, you'd really have to ask Ken that -- you know, for his own explanation. I would say, you know -- I guess what I would actually say is, if he thinks that he really did make a mistake back in the 1990s, that would be a lot more forthright way of approaching this and to say, you know, I misunderstood; I erred. I -- you know, instead -- it was, as Mr. Lockhart said, a kind of implicit cleansing of the soul. And perhaps an explicit mea culpa would have been more appropriate. I don't know.

BERMAN: Look, I have to say, Paul, the most important thing I think Paul said is that it's wrong.

CAMEROTA: Factually.

BERMAN: What Kenneth Starr said is wrong. Right. You can say it was strange. It was just so strange. It was so strange. But it being wrong has more relevance to this case.

And it wasn't necessarily an argument having anything to do with the facts of the case against President Trump.

I want to bring up something else that happened yesterday. Joni Ernst, who's from Iowa, a senator up from reelection -- for reelection. She said something after parts of the presentation, which largely focused on the Bidens, which sent up all kinds of radars. I want to play this for you.

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SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA): Iowa caucuses are this next Monday evening, and I'm really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters, those Democratic caucus goers, will they will be supporting Vice President Biden at this point?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The charges against the president, Joe, are that the president was trying to influence voters --

LOCKHART: Yes.

BERMAN: -- against the Bidens; and Joni Ernst is celebrating that?

LOCKHART: Yes, I mean, listen, every once in a while, a member will get up and either hasn't read the talking points or isn't smart enough to understand what the talking points mean.

But her glee there sort of revealed what was really going on yesterday. For now -- we now know from the Parnas tapes that this started in 2018. And so it was a concerted effort, a conspiracy to try to dig up dirt to hurt Joe Biden. Now, the first route was through Ukraine. But what we found with

Republicans yesterday is that effort bear fruit -- bore fruit yesterday, because all they wanted was to have this story splashed; and they had to use the floor of the United States Senate, then -- then so be it.

Now, the story -- and Pam Bondi, if she was in a courtroom, would have been cited for contempt for just telling lies, you know, just very simply misrepresenting the truth about, particularly, on Joe Biden.

You know, my -- my second thought was I think maybe Joni Ernst has misread Iowa Democrats. I don't know that this is going to hurt Joe Biden. I think it may help Joe Biden. Being -- being smeared in or being the center of this international controversy, where the president's being impeached over it and then using the floor of the Senate to go after Biden, I think that may rally caucus-goers around it. We won't know until Monday, but I think they've miscalculated. And it was just -- it showed what they're really about.

BERMAN: Look, I can tell you one thing. I want to buy tickets to that beer that you're going to have with Paul --

LOCKHART: Yes.

BERMAN: -- talking about the Clinton impeachment. That is something I would like to see.

LOCKHART: We'll certainly send you the tab.

[06:25:04]

CAMEROTA: Thank you, gentlemen. Thank you very much.

Coming up, new details about what happened in the minutes just before the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant. So we have the latest in the investigation for you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Developing overnight, federal investigators have released new information on the final moments before the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, and seven others.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is live in Calabasas, California, with the details. A string of what turned out to be fateful decisions, Omar.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John.

The investigation is still ongoing, but we have learned a lot in the 24 hours since we last spoke, including that the pilot was speaking to air traffic controllers, telling them that he was rising in altitude to avoid a cloud layer. That was his final transmission before NTSB says flight radar data indicated it made a left descending turn.

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