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Bolton Shared Concern with Barr; Details of Bryant's Crash; Sanders Surges in Iowa. Aired 7:00-7:30a ET

Aired January 28, 2020 - 07:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hunter Biden's 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.


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

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY.

And this morning two big questions, where are the votes and what's the argument? This all has to do with the stunning revelation that John Bolton writes that the president personally and directly told him that aid to Ukraine was tied to investigating the Bidens. We're still waiting to hear, at length at least, how the president's defense team will address this. They'll have another chance in just a few hours.

Remember, if what Bolton says is true, the president is lying. If what Bolton says is true, it is firsthand evidence of a quid pro quo. If what Bolton says is true, it directly contradicts what the president's lawyers said at the beginning of the case.

But, late last night, one of the president's attorneys offered the first hint of a possible defense against all this. Alan Dershowitz argued that even if the defense did everything Bolton says, despite the fact that it would call out a lie from the president, Dershowitz says it does not constitute an abuse of power.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So, are there enough Republican senators this morning who are willing to hear more of what John Bolton has to say? At least two senators, Mitt Romney and Susan Collins, have indicated they are interested. Two others, Lisa Murkowski and Lamar Alexander, say they are open to the idea but have not yet committed.

And now John Bolton reportedly has more to say.

New reporting overnight from "The New York Times" says Bolton told Attorney General William Barr that he was concerned about President Trump granting personal favors to the autocratic leaders of Turkey and China.

Joining us now is one of the reporters who broke this story, Maggie Haberman, White House correspondent for "The New York Times" and CNN political analyst.

Maggie, great to see you. Thank you again for joining us with your new reporting.

So, it sounds like the headline is that John Bolton was not just concerned about what was happening with Ukraine. There was more stuff that was concerning to him and he's talking about more of that in the manuscript.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. What Mike Schmidt and I have been told is that he writes about interactions that he himself had with Bill Barr, the attorney general. And it's noteworthy that it's Bill Barr.

I just want to note that when we reported on other things that were supposedly said in this book two days ago, Bill Barr was one of the few administration officials who actually offered a statement saying that what we had wasn't entirely true or at least what Bolton was claiming wasn't true.

We -- this is unusual to hear Barr expressing concerns about the president, but this began with Bolton saying some version to Barr of he himself was worried that the president was doing what amounted to personal favors to the heads of autocratic nations who had some Justice Department investigations or federal investigations in the U.S. with companies that are based in their countries.

And that Barr basically agreed or offered some similar concerns and pointed specifically to some conversation the president apparently had with Erdogan of Turkey at the G-20 in 2018 and then also concerns about conversations the president had had with Xi Jinping when he lifted sanctions on the telecoms firm from China, ZTE.

Now, look, again, we have to see when this book comes out, if this book comes out, a major question as we addressed in our reporting yesterday is, the White House has the ability to omit key or all details or delay publication of it. So we'll see what else emerges.

But, again, at minimum it's clear that, from what he put in writing, that John Bolton saw a lot and has a story to tell.

BERMAN: And in the context of the last 48 hours, that might be the most important aspect of this. As intriguing as Bill Barr is, as intriguing as anything about Xi or Erdogan is, it's the idea that there is more. That John Bolton has still more in this unpublished manuscript that could come out.


BERMAN: And it plays directly to the sensitivities and anxiety that you also reported on yesterday, Maggie, from inside the Republican caucus, behind closed doors in the senate. Tell us more about that. HABERMAN: So there was a -- there were several conversations that went

on after our story went up. The White House started yesterday morning here -- our initial story. The White House started hearing yesterday morning from unhappy Republican senators, among them Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader, does not like surprises, felt very frustrated that he had not been told in advance that this manuscript was at the White House and that some folks knew what was in it and felt blind- sided.

Look, Republicans are basically, you know, the president's shield for lack of a better way of putting it because they are being asked not just to vote on the impeachment articles, but on whether there will be witnesses.


And that's the key vote ahead. And so a lot of them felt as if this was information that was going to change what happened.

Now, I want to say, time has often been on the president's side realistically. Yesterday morning there was a lot of concern, McConnell told his caucus be cool and wait and see what happens. We'll see where we are today and we'll see where we are tomorrow. We have seen this president sort of wait out things before, the "Access Hollywood" tape controversy from 2016 obviously comes to mind. But Republicans, right now, I think, are feeling more likely to vote for witnesses than they were a few days ago. Again, I still remain fairly skeptical, but we'll see.

CAMEROTA: Back to the Bolton book for a second. Why wouldn't the White House just stop the publication of it or spike the key passages?

HABERMAN: I mean I -- look, I can't speak to their internal review process, so I don't want to go further than what we know, which is that they are looking at it. And this is -- this is a standard review process. Other authors have gone through this. The White House looks at things for classified information, among others, and, you know, related topics.

My guess is that they are going to try to stop it. We have seen other authors have to sue the administration to try to get books eventually published. We'll see.

BERMAN: And we are waiting to see today if and how the president's defense team addresses the Bolton revelations more.

HABERMAN: Right. That's right.

BERMAN: Alan Dershowitz, late last night, did it the most directly. And I just want to remind people, again, I said this in the open here, if what John Bolton says is true, the president is lying now and has been lying about it for months.

That's not insignificant. If what, you know, John Bolton says is true, the president's own defense team said things that were not true early on in the arguments. But now Dershowitz has yet a new defense, which is, even if Bolton -- what Bolton says is true, it doesn't constitute an abuse of power. Is that where you think the White House will be on this?

HABERMAN: That is. I do, John, and I think that that is what -- I'm glad you raised it because that is something that was being said by White House officials to Republican senators yesterday morning, which was essentially, we're charging ahead. Even -- you know, even if this is true, John Bolton is, you know, a disgruntled former employee and so forth. But even if this was true, even if he came and testified to that, it still doesn't rise to an impeachable offense.

And there was a debate about -- on the Trump legal team about whether to address this at all yesterday. There were two topics that were of real concern, one was Rudolph Giuliani's work in terms of Ukraine, which we did see get addressed, and the other was, do you mention Bolton? We saw throughout the day there was no acknowledgment and then there was a push to have Dershowitz do it. And Dershowitz did it in a way that basically just sort of flicked at it and moved on. I think that is going to be the defense you see if this continues to come up.

CAMEROTA: But, of course, there was the other defense that I think Ken Starr floated, which is, you know, the more you impeach, the more you normalize it.

HABERMAN: Right. You can't ever get used to impeachment or suddenly every -- the slippery slope argument basically that then every administration, the opposite party will be trying to impeach.

So what's the feeling in the White House of how these arguments are playing?

HABERMAN: Look, the president himself, from what I heard yesterday, was fairly candidly bored watching it because what we have seen in terms of a presentation on the Senate floor from his team has not been a fiery, you know, Fox News type appearance that I think he's used to seeing from Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz, for example. It has been more steady and stayed and what you would hear in front of a tribunal.

But within the White House, look, they were very, very rattled by our reporting. They spent some time regrouping. They tried figuring out how to address it. From everyone I talked to, the White House is preparing for the likelihood that there will now be some kind of witnesses deal.

That doesn't mean they think it will definitely happen, but a number of them are privately conceding that they think that that is likely where this is heading and they will stick with their argument, which is on process, which is generally been where they've been the whole time, until we heard Dershowitz last night say even so that's not an impeachable offense. But they will talk about how this president was mistreated, this isn't right, this normalizes impeachment. It is worth noting that that argument was being made by Ken Starr, who had a big role in the last impeachment, and that wrangled a lot of Clinton folks. But I do -- I do think that they believe that they can, as they have forever, just kind of put blinders on and keep walking forward. BERMAN: Interesting, though, they are getting ready -- your sources

say they are beginning to prepare for at least the chance that they'll lose on witnesses, at least the first step of witnesses.

I do want to ask --

HABERMAN: But for --

BERMAN: Go ahead.

HABERMAN: Yes. No, no, I was going to say, and they've been in fairness, John, preparing for that more or less the whole time. They have always allowed for this contingency, they just think it's likely they're going to need to use it now.

BERMAN: Let's talk about Rudy Giuliani, because that was interesting. Jane Raskin --


BERMAN: One of the president's attorneys, long-time attorneys through Mueller and whatnot, said this yesterday.


JANE RASKIN, TRUMP DEFENSE ATTORNEY: In this trial, in this moment, Mr. Giuliani is just a minor player. That shiny object designed to distract you.

Senators, I urge you most respectfully, do not be distracted.


BERMAN: Now, I know why she was saying that, Maggie, because Republican senators really are unhappy with Rudy Giuliani.


Everything he has done has rubbed most of them the wrong way they will tell you behind the scenes.

HABERMAN: That's right.

BERMAN: So it's interesting that they felt like they had to address it that way.

I'm not sure it's true that Rudy Giuliani is just a shiny object.


BERMAN: In fact, I'm pretty sure it's not true.

HABERMAN: Right. He's not a -- he's not a side concern. He's pretty central to this whole thing. Remember, we heard in the House testimony from Fiona Hill that John Bolton supposedly told her that he wasn't going to be a part of whatever drug deal that Mick and I can't remember if it was Sondland -- Mick Mulvaney and either Sondland, the ambassador, or Giuliani were cooking up. I can't remember which.

But Giuliani has been key to this the whole time because he was pushing for the ouster of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, who he insisted was blocking, you know, the justice that Trump sought in terms of people who he thought had wronged him in 2016 and were trying to do so still.

So I understand why they did it that way. And, again, as I mentioned, there was a debate about how to deal with him throughout the weekend and they eventually settled on this. It's interesting coming from Jane Raskin, who worked alongside him, as you note, on the Mueller investigation, worked pretty closely with him, that she dealt with the Mueller team pretty extensively as well.

CAMEROTA: Maggie, thank you very much for bringing us your reporting.

HABERMAN: Thanks, guys.

CAMEROTA: We really appreciate it.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right, we are learning more about the final moments before the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his daughter and others. We will speak with an NTSB investigator on the scene about what they're finding, next.



CAMEROTA: We're learning more about the helicopter crash that killed NBA legend Kobe Bryant and eight others, including Bryant's 13-year- old daughter. Radio transmissions show the pilot was aware of low visibility in the Los Angeles area moments before the chopper crashed.

Joining us now is Jennifer Homendy. She is an NTSB board member who has been on the ground at the crash site in Calabasas, California.

Jennifer, we really appreciate you being here.

I have to tell you, the more details we find out about those final moments, the more haunting this all becomes. And I know that you're at the crash site. Has it revealed clues to you?

JENNIFER HOMENDY, BOARD MEMBER, NTSB: Well, we're still collecting the perishable evidence. We're mapping the debris field. And we're working to obtain further information from the company and the pilot and others to help us with our investigation.

CAMEROTA: Here are a couple of things that we have learned. Visibility was so low on Sunday morning that L.A. police had grounded their helicopters. What does that tell you? What's the threshold for when helicopters should not be flying?

HOMENDY: Well, in this -- in that situation, L.A. County has different helicopters. It's a different circumstance. But certainly the weather information is something we're going to take into consideration as part of this investigation and any investigation. Typically we look at man, machine and the environment to help us to determine what happened. And we have weather professionals on staff that will help us do that.

CAMEROTA: OK. So help us understand what was going on, on board that helicopter when the pilot had to ask for special visual flight rules. This is according to air traffic control. So why would they ask for special visual flight rules as opposed to the regular visual flight rules?

HOMENDY: Well, special visual flight rules is permission from ATC to go into controlled air space below certain minimums. In this case, below 1,000 feet and less than three miles visibility.

CAMEROTA: And under what circumstances would a pilot request those?

HOMENDY: If there were weather conditions that would be one reason that they would request that. But it's -- it's not something that is abnormal. But in this situation, as part of this accident investigation, we will be looking at why he requested that and what the weather situation was at the time and whether he should have.

CAMEROTA: I want to just play for you a little snippet from the air traffic controller's exchange with the pilot. So this is the air traffic controller talking to the pilot.


AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL TOWER: Two echo x-ray, you're still too low level for flight following at this time.


CAMEROTA: OK, so what he talks about there is the flight following. That's obviously a term that you're familiar with and basically the context of this is that before losing radio contact, the pilot had asked for flight following which allows the controllers to track the flight and be in regular contact. And you hear the controller there responding that the helicopter was too low level for flight following.

Then the air traffic controller asked the pilot what he planned to do about it and there was no reply.

So what does that tell you?

HOMENDY: Correct. Well, flight following, he was -- the pilot was too low for flight following so that they couldn't see him on radar. So he had -- ATC has to be able to see that helicopter in order to provide flight following. So he was too low for that.

CAMEROTA: I just want to show you -- I don't know if you can see it, but for our viewers at least, this is the helicopter route. They take off from Huntington Beach, John Wayne Airport. They're flying north. And at Glendale, I don't know if people can see this, maybe -- I don't know if we can zoom in, but basically there is a circular pattern of what happens. It -- the helicopter shows that it is going in circles around Glendale.


CAMEROTA: Does that mean that the pilot was disoriented?

HOMENDY: No, that's not unusual. He was trying to get into air space and in contact with air traffic control and air traffic control was holding him out at -- for about 12 minutes. So it's not an unusual situation.


CAMEROTA: All right. Jennifer Homendy, we appreciate you coming live to us from the crash site. The world waits to find out exactly what happened on this flight, if we can ever determine that.

Thank you very much.

HOMENDY: Thank you. Thank you for having me.


BERMAN: All right, tremors in the world of politics, Bernie Sanders seems to be surging just days before the Iowa caucuses. This has potentially huge implications in the Democratic race going forward. We'll discuss, next.



SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You could tell how good I feel by how nervous the establishment is getting.


BERMAN: So with only six days now until the Iowa caucuses, Bernie Sanders is surging in the polls and it is clearly rattling some nerves among those in the Democratic Party.

Here to discuss, CNN political director David Chalian.

David, thank you so much for being with us.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Last hear Harry Enten talked a little bit about the why Bernie Sanders is surging now. It has to do with consolidating some of his own support from 2016 and among very liberal voters cannibalizing some of the vote from Elizabeth Warren.


So I can talk to you about the implications here, both the near term and the far term.

In the near term, how is this affecting the arguments from Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar?

CHALIAN: Well, the argument that those three candidates specifically that you name make day in and day out as to why they should be the nominee is because they believe their best position to bring back some Republicans that may have been with Trump in 2016, maybe because of a dislike of Hillary Clinton, and bring them over to their side, bring independents and that they could stand atop a ticket as the nominee to really help the Democratic Party down ballot.

And, you know, obviously what they are suggesting in making those arguments when asked about Bernie Sanders is that if he is atop the ticket, that perhaps some of the down ballot races for the Senate, for the House will be endangered because they are in purplish places or a little more red places.

Now, Sanders, of course, John, you know, rejects that argument.


CHALIAN: He believes he's got a triple threat here. He can bring back some Trump voters. He can energize the Democratic base and that he's uniquely qualified to bring new people into the process.

BERMAN: And that is his argument. But you are beginning to hear the suggestion, as you say, which I think will get louder than a suggestion if this continues over the next days and weeks, that Bernie Sanders is a threat to some Democrats in their electable possibilities going forward.

If we can throw up the calendar here for a second because it's really interesting. You can see Iowa and New Hampshire, then Nevada. Bernie Sanders is leading outside the margin of error in many polls in Iowa, most polls in New Hampshire and then in Nevada he's very competitive, too. It's not impossible, David, that he wins the first three contests here.

So what on earth does that mean going forward?

CHALIAN: And, you know, John, it's such a good question because I think if you and I were having a conversation that Joe Biden might be out front and could win the first three contests, you and I might be discussing, well, he's going to put away the nomination.

Well, why isn't that the same when we discuss about Bernie Sanders? And it's because of this concern that Bernie Sanders just mentioned in that sound bite you just played at the top of the segment, which is that the establishment is not sure that having a self-declared Democratic socialist atop the ticket, somebody who is campaigning on getting rid of your private health insurance and transforming the system into a government-run system is the person that can actually defeat Donald Trump, the general election polls suggest he can right now, but they are, you know, a snapshot far away in time, or that look at how the Democrats won the House in 2018.

Look at the districts. Look at the majority makers right now. These are freshman Democrats sitting in Republican districts, in Trump districts, and they feel that that policy position that Sanders puts front and center in his campaign may turn off the very voters that they were able to woo to deliver the House majority and make Nancy Pelosi speaker

BERMAN: Let's put that calendar back up for a second because it also raises other intriguing possibilities. You see the fourth contest is South Carolina. And that's where African-American voters really start to factor in, in much larger numbers. That's why Joe Biden -- if he were to lose the first three contests, would need to clearly show some kind of strength.

But beyond that, when you start looking at these Super Tuesday states, and I've been reluctant to bring this candidate up, David, because he needs to show the ability to compete on a larger scale nationally, not just financially, but when you look to Super Tuesday, when you put that calendar back up again, that's exactly where Michael Bloomberg is spending, not a little, but a lot. Like $200 million.

Does he come into the conversation if Sanders shows strength and starts to eliminate other contenders?

CHALIAN: Without a doubt. And he has now visited, Michael Bloomberg has, all of those Super Tuesday states on the campaign trail.

John, I think the one thing you're pointing to that is critical here, if Bernie Sanders were to win those first three contests, even if Joe Biden were to put something together and keep his strength in South Carolina, it's impossible to say that Joe Biden would not have emerged from those first four early states in a weakened state.

That is exactly Michael Bloomberg's rationale. It's why he's skipping the four early states, waiting to see if there is room after those four early states in that more moderate, centrist, establishment lane, if you will, and then just overwhelm the airwaves with his money and with a contrast with Bernie Sanders. This is the exact formula the Bloomberg team is sort of thinking about when they think about how Michael Bloomberg can get the nomination. It is not if Joe Biden emerges from the first four states in a really strong position.

BERMAN: And which could still happen. We need to make that clear. Iowa in flux.

CHALIAN: Totally.

BERMAN: There are some polls which show Joe Biden doing better there. This could all change. But right now Bernie Sanders is surging.

So we looked at the near term, the medium term and let's look at the longer term.