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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Soon, Trump Defense Begins Final Day Of Opening Arguments; Trump Lawyers Say, Giuliani A Minor Player And Shiny Object; Conservatives Aim Ire At John Bolton After Bombshell Claims. Aired 10- 10:30a ET
Aired January 28, 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: We appreciate it. And thanks all of you for joining us. We'll see here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: And I'm Jim Sciutto. Make sure to stay tuned here. CNN's special coverage of the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump begins right now.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer live in Washington alongside Jake Tapper, Anderson Cooper, and Dana Bash up on Capitol Hill. This is CNN's special coverage of the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump.
Today, the president's defense team wraps up their presentations before the U.S. Senate, this after they focused attention to on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden's work in Ukraine. They also spent some time defending the actions of President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: But the crux of their argument seemed to focus on impeachment itself, and the criteria set out in the U.S. Constitution, treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors. The Trump team argued that the president's actions in this case simply does not meet that standard. And they took on for the very first time on the Senate floor claims made in a draft manuscript of former National Security Adviser John Bolton's book, as reported by The New York Times and The Washington Post.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, TRUMP IMPEACHMENT ATTORNEY: Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense. That is clear from the history, that is clear from the language of the Constitution. You cannot turn conduct that is not impeachable into impeachable conduct simply by using words like quid pro quo and personal benefit.
ROBERT RAY, TRUMP IMPEACHMENT ATTORNEY: If these impeachment articles now are sustained beyond summary resolution in favor of acquittal, impeachment in the future literally will mean not only the proof of high crimes as no longer necessary to sustain the effort but that no crime at all is sufficient so long as a partisan majority in the House says so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Before the Senate gets to vote on removal, the senators must first decide whether to hear from witnesses, like John Bolton. That leads us to these four senators, Mitt Romney and Susan Collins, they seem to want witnesses, while Lamar Alexander and Lisa Murkowski have expressed at least an openness to the idea.
Dana Bash is leading our coverage on Capitol Hill. Dana, Senator Romney just said something rather interesting about witnesses speaking to our Manu Raju.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. He said to, again, as you said to Manu Raju on the question of witnesses, what he leaned into is the notion of one for one, meaning if the Democrats get John Bolton as a witness, then Republicans should be able to get their pick of a witness.
And, specifically, what Romney said to Manu is I think that is a measure that has fairness associated with it, but then on the question of whether or not the Republicans would be able to call Hunter Biden, who's top of the list for them, Romney said I wouldn't tell either side who they ought to call.
And so the reason why this is important is because as night fell yesterday, and as we've even spoken to sources this morning, it is so clear how much the conversation has changed because of the Bolton manuscript, because of the revelations in it, and the conversation being, of course, about witnesses. It has moved from are we going to have witnesses to, well, if we have witnesses, how are we going to go about that and what witnesses would we have in addition to Bolton.
That is not to say -- I want to be clear, that is not to say that the votes are there, that those four Republican votes needed are there, explicitly for Bolton. But even the president's most ardent supporters up here were telling me with a shoulder shrug and a sigh that the conversation changed and there is -- it is more likely than not that that could happen.
But they're also saying that they are watching what we're going to hear on the floor this morning, the president's lawyers giving their final presentation, making the argument not just against conviction, but we also expect likely against witnesses. And so they're that hoping Republicans can maybe use that presentation for cover if they are looking for that cover.
TAPPER: And, Dana, what are we expecting from the president's attorneys on the floor of the Senate today? Is it just a conclusion, will they talk more about the Bidens? What do we think?
BASH: My understanding is all of the above. I can tell you that it wasn't until very late last night that the decision appears to have been made by the president's legal team, that they would wrap up rather quickly this morning and do it, at least they're telling us, in a couple of hours. And that would be the end of the arguments we hear from his team.
We do expect, as I said, them to talk broadly about not convicting this president on either account of impeachment, but also to specifically use the time to beat back the notion of needing to hear from any more witnesses or any witnesses at all, obviously, since there haven't been any witnesses to date. Jake?
TAPPER: Any new ones, that's right. Dana Bash, thank you so much.
Joining us now, Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. Thank you so much for joining us, Senator.
I want to get your reaction to what Senator Romney just said that it would be in the neighborhood of fairness if there are witnesses for Republicans to get to pick a witness and Democrats to get a pick to pick a witness. What do you think about the idea? The Democrats don't control the Senate. It might be the best you can do.
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): This is a trial, we expect relevant witnesses. This is why I would be perfectly happy with having the chief justice make a decision on relevancy. And what the Republicans can do is to argue they want Hunter Biden, we'll argue that he's not relevant to the proceedings and then they can vote is down and have Hunter Biden.
So, yesterday, the Trump Team, in my view, tripled down on the argument that there is absolutely no evidence connecting the hold to any investigations. Well, yes, we have a lot of evidence, not to mention Bolton, who is ready and willing to testify. And as a side track, they took us down the rabbit hole regarding Hunter Biden with Giuliani running around like the Mad Hatter, eccentric uncle. But the bottom line is that they've argued that there is no evidence when there actually is evidence connecting up this hold to the investigation.
And the second thing is I think they are arguing alternatively with Dershowitz that even if the president did it, so what? This is what I call the so what defense. I've been saying that the Republicans are probably going to come down we did it, so what. This is a big deal. It is not so what that we have a president who thinks that he can do anything he wants in the Article II of the Constitution.
TAPPER: So, Senator, I understand your argument that Hunter Biden and Joe Biden don't know anything about the allegations being made about the president that are most germane to the impeachment trial. But what about the whistleblower, if there is a way for the Intelligence Community whistleblower to testify in a way that preserves his or her anonymity? How could Democrats argue about the whistleblower -- against the whistleblower as a witness given that it was his or her complaint that set this all in motion?
HIRONO: Subsequent to the whistleblower's complaint, there have been so much evidence as to what was going on and what the president's intentions were with this entire scheme. We do not need the whistleblower. Much of what his complaint rely on the testimony that have already been presented by others who came forward to testify. So we do not need the whistleblower.
But the president keeps wanting to out the whistleblower. This is what he does. He doesn't like the fact that somebody actually dared to raise questions about his behavior and now he wants to get this person, even if his testimony, his or her testimony is totally not necessary for the proceedings.
BLITZER: As you know, Senator, this is Wolf, that the president's defense team spoke a lot about Hunter Biden and Joe Biden. They spoke a lot about are Barack Obama. and then last night, we heard this from your Republican colleague, Senator Joni Ernst. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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 be supporting Vice President Biden at this point?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Senator, what does that tell you?
HIRONO: Well, she's putting a political spin on this whole thing in spite of the fact that what the arguments raised yesterday really to Joe Biden, the fact was he was promoting a United States policy in wanting this corrupt prosecutor to be gone along with our European allies, by the way. So they raise very interesting innuendos. That's what I mean about going down the rabbit hole relating to the Bidens. They want us to continue to not look at the truth and I'm glad there are some Republican Senators, such as Mitt Romney, who may be are open to hearing the truth, even if it hurts.
BLITZER: Senator, you say you don't appreciate what the Republican legal defense team for the president is doing in what you describe as the so what defense. But, remember, and I covered it 21 years ago during the Bill Clinton impeachment trial, his supporters were saying, yes, the then president of United States, he lied under oath about a sexual relationship with a White House intern, but so what?
That was the argument, that doesn't necessarily rise to the level of impeaching a sitting president of the United States. What do you say to that argument?
HIRONO: The thing about an impeachment trial is that the trial is very much based on the facts, and the facts in the Clinton trial, whether he had this kind of an affair, which nobody likes, of course. But in this trial, the facts are the president used his awesome powers to shake down the president of a foreign country to do his political dirty work, using taxpayer money as a bribe. I don't see all those factors involved in the Clinton impeachment trial. This is why facts matter in a trial. This is why witnesses who have facts to bring to bear, relevant facts, matters. And this is why the Republicans are so intent on wanting to push this forward so we don't see the facts in this trial.
And, you know what, John Bolton is right there. He's the 200 pound elephant in the room now. But there were so many other people, 17 other witnesses, who testified to various aspects of this entire scheme that was wrong by the president with Rudy Giuliani, not as a Mad Hatter, but as a guy running around on behalf of the president to make this all happen.
BLITZER: Senator Hirono, thanks so much for joining us.
HIRONO: You're welcome.
All right, despite the president's personal lawyer being at the center of the Ukraine pressure campaign, the impeachment defense team reduced Rudy Giuliani to what they described as a minor player and sShiny object.
TAPPER: Plus, conservatives now attacking John Bolton, calling him, believe it or not, a tool of the left. This is CNN special coverage of the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A shiny object, a minor player, it appears the president's defense team has landed on its strategy to explain away Rudy Giuliani. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANE RASKIN, TRUMP IMPEACHMENT ATTORNEY: Rudy Giuliani is the House manager's color distraction.
But I suggest to you that he's front and center in their narrative for one reason and one reason alone, to distract from the fact that the evidence does not support their claims.
But in this trial, in this moment, Mr. Giuliani is just a minor player, that shiny object designed to distract you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Rudy Giuliani is just a minor player, he so-called minor player at the center of the scandal that fueled the president's impeachment. He was mentioned on the infamous July phone call when Trump asked Ukraine's president, Zelensky, to dig up dirt on the Bidens. He's requested meetings with Zelensky, acting capacities, Trump's personal attorney, all while openly conducting a shadow campaign in Ukraine ahead of the 2020 election.
I want to start with Jeffrey Toobin.
The idea that Rudy Giuliani is just kind of a shiny -- I don't even know what that means, that he's a shiny of object. I think the shine went off of him a long time ago. But the idea that he is a minor player makes no sense.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It makes no sense but it's argument to try to get rid of his central role. He's not only just mentioned in the July 25th phone call, it's impossible to imagine the story without Giuliani initiating it. I mean, if Rudy Giuliani is not agitating with his allies, like Lev Parnas, to get the Ukrainian government to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, it doesn't happen. He initiated the whole thing.
COOPER: Well, also, Laura, what the president was saying to Zelensky was not talk to the ambassador, talk to the people of the U.S. embassy, it's talk to Rudy.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It was as if he's saying, this is my right-hand man. If you want to get to me, this is the person to go through. If you want anything done, here is my contact therefore, either coming to you. And you have to be agreeable with him, (INAUDIBLE) not happens. But the whole idea of making him a minor player is they're parking (ph) around the idea that they're trying to confine their entire case to, this is all about the July 25th telephone call, as opposed to the pressure campaign that Giuliani was about.
He was not just about the July 25th phone call, he was at before then, what happened afterward. He was a vehicle for the entire to happen. But if they say minor player, they're making you say, just look at that one transcript, do us a favor, if you will. That's all they want to go on. It's not factually correct.
ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Jane Raskin is a terrific lawyer. I have no idea how she drew the short straw to make that argument. But Laura is right. Fundamentally, Rudy is the biggest problem with the defense here. Unquestionably, nobody is disputing he was working on behalf of the president personally, personally. There is no dispute about that. And I think that's Trump's biggest issue is trying to explain why this personal lawyer. And, you know, I'm going to assume that he is acting as a lawyer and not as a political operative, which is how it seems to me, what is his personal lawyer/political operative doing dealing with U.S. government officials, dealing with Ukrainian government officials, what is he doing here at all?.
COOPER: Ken Starr also was part of the president's defense team. I want to play some of what he said yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEN STARR, TRUMP IMPEACHMENT ATTORNEY: Impeachment has now been normalized. It won't be a once in a generation act, but an every administration act. Democrats will regret it when Republicans are handing out the pens.
Whether the president's actions are, in fact, grounds for an impeachment, or some other sanction, is a decision in the sole discretion of the Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPPER: This Ken Starr now and Ken Starr back then. Jeffrey, I know you --
TOOBIN: Well, you know, I -- Ken Starr, it was sort of fun to see him again, I guess, because I'm -- you know, I followed his career for so long. When he was solicitor general, he was nicknamed the solicitous general because he has this sort of ingratiating, very kind of courteous way of speaking.
But out of all of the people in the United States to say that we're using impeachment too often, the architect of the last failed impeachment seems like an inappropriate choice. But I don't think it's going to swing votes one way or another, but there seems to be a certain tone deafness in picking him of all people.
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Although, I would say, there is one useful parallel, which is to think of this -- to say that Rudy Giuliani is irrelevant to this impeachment crisis is like saying that Monica Lewinsky is irrelevant to Clinton's impeachment crisis. Having Ken Starr come back was a remarkably funny and weird, bizarre and totally Trumpian approach to defense.
The president, I think, believed, as he often believes, that if you make people who like Bill Clinton angry, you are somehow making his base happy. He brought Ken Starr in and Ken Starr was this player in a different movie. I watched it -- I couldn't -- I mean, as a historian, I was delighted to see Ken Starr because he thoroughly showed himself to be a hypocrite, a complete hypocrite. If you look at how he turned the Whitewater investigation desperately looking for a reason to get rid of Bill and Hillary Clinton, finally, he gets a reason because the president is a totally flawed man. And then uses that to make grand arguments about the threat to the Constitution posed by President Clinton's misconduct regarding an intern in the White House.
And now to have him say that this president, who corrupted U.S. foreign policy for his own personal benefit, has not somehow reached the threshold of a threat to the U.S. Constitution, that Bill Clinton did, you have to wonder, does this man actually look himself in the mirror in the morning?
COOPER: Since he damning revelations from John Bolton's book, there have been an increased interest in having him come and testify as a witness. He's a former Fox News Contributor. Obviously, he's being now attacked as a tool of the left by some.
Plus, a new revelation from the book that Bolton feared what the president was giving to dictators.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: John Bolton was certainly one of the most conservative members of the Trump administration. He was seen as a hawk who leaned toward tougher action on Iran, fought for hard-line of Venezuela and North Korea and eventually those differences among others forced his exit from the White House. But as President Trump's former national security adviser unleashes his damning claims against the president, conservatives are doing an about face and going on the attack as they try to discredit him.
TAPPER: CNN's Sara Murray is here to help break this down and explain it to everybody.
Sara, the criticism seems to fall into two basic camps. One is that Bolton has this ulterior motive to sell books and the other calls his character into question.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The attacks are coming on all sides. It's certainly safe to say that his stock has fallen with the Republican Party. Here is just a look at some of those attacks.
Senator Rand Paul called him a disgruntled employee. Senator Josh Hawley called him not a firsthand witness, which is confusing, because actually he is a firsthand witness. Senator John Barrasso had to say, there is nothing new here, he's just trying to sell books. Rush Limbaugh, of course, weighed in, calling Bolton disloyal. The Trump White House has called him a liar. Lou Dobbs called him a RINO, that's Republican in name only, and a tool for radical Democrats, which I don't think anyone had that on their bingo card for how John Bolton would come up to these proceedings, but you never know.
Moving on to Rudy Giuliani, he weighed in saying Bolton wasn't man enough. And Senator Pat Roberts rounds this out saying, Bolton was reading gone with the wind. So we see a lot of Republicans certainly changing their tone when it comes to John Bolton trying to discredit him and, by default, the manuscript that he's written.
BLITZER: Very interesting. All right, Sara, thank you very much.
Gloria, I know John Bolton for a long time. he's a neoconservative, very much of a hawk, very conservative, a real Republican in so many areas. But look at the criticism he's now getting.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, because his testimony and his book would be damaging to the president of the United States, and so you have to discredit him. That's the way it works on Fox News, that's the way it worked last night, the guy is a traitor, suddenly he's a prisoner of the left wing, whatever you want to call it.
And the assumption is, and I don't think it's --