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Trump's Legal Team Begins Final Day Of Defense Case; GOP's Lankford: I Requested That Senate See Bolton Manuscript; Source: WH Telling Senators That Calling Witnesses Like Bolton Could Trigger A Nasty Court Battle. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired January 28, 2020 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer live in Washington alongside Jake Tapper, Anderson Cooper and Dana Bash. she's up on Capitol Hill. This is CNN special coverage of The Impeachment Trial of President Donald J. Trump.
Today the President's defense team wraps up their presentations before the Senate. The Trump team is arguing that the President's actions in this case don't meet the standard of high crimes and misdemeanors.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The big question now is whether four Republican senators will join the Democratic senators in calling for additional witnesses, including and perhaps especially President Trump's former national security adviser, John Bolton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): Listen, I'd like to see John Bolton. What I've not heard from any of my Republican colleagues is what's the reason not to see John Bolton and how stupid are we all going to look if his book comes out with extraordinarily relevant information 60 days from now when this proceeding is over. That just makes no sense.
SEN. ROGER WICKER (R-MS): don't think the testimony of Ambassador Bolton would - would be helpful because I basically think in agreement with a very scholarly approach that Mr. Dershowitz gave that there's - there's no article there that is grounds for impeachment or removal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Let's get straight to Dana Bash now on Capitol Hill. She's standing by with Senator James Langford, Republican from Oklahoma who has a new proposal on how he thinks the Senate should handle this Bolton manuscript. Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks Jake and senator, thank you so much for joining me.
SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): Sure.
BASH: First, tell us about your proposal is specifically on dealing with the Bolton manuscript.
LANKFORD: So we don't know the Bolton manuscript, the New York Times doesn't know the Bolton manuscript. Someone who has read it has talked to the New York Times reporter who's written a story and so we're getting bits and pieces. The best way to resolve this is we get a chance to be able to see this.
We know a lot of the other statements of John Bolton saying, talk to the attorneys and things that have been brought up by the House counsel but those of all been dismissed and now the facts have come to be able to bare those out.
What we don't know is about this manuscript and what the details are so right now, it's going for the classification process. The National Security Council, it's going through all their attorneys there. If they observe anything not classified in it, that - if it is classified then it needs to be taken out.
So I would recommend to the House, the White House, turn it over put it in one of the skiffs here so we can go through it even while it's going through the classification process, we can read all of it and see it and see for ourselves if there's anything significant there.
BASH: And the White House specifically, the NSC, apparently that's where this manuscript lives, they're open to that?
LANKFORD: I don't know. That's what I'm asking. So I'm asking both the White House counsel, I'm asking members of the White House, other folks to say this is a reasonable way to be able to resolve this.
We have to resolve in a couple of days, if we need witnesses or not. This is an issue that's outstanding that we don't have a good way to be able to answer. We can't say six weeks from now we'll be able to see it. We've got to be able to see it in advance to be able to make that decision of witnesses in a couple days.
BASH: So let's game this out. Is your vision to simply read the manuscript and that would be in lieu of John Bolton testifying?
LANKFORD: No, this is read the manuscript to be able to see if we need to call John Bolton. So that question's unanswered. We won't - we won't know how to answer that question still so we get through today's testimony, a couple of days still of questions.
I'm just saying, this needs to be a part of our information so we can make that decision about witnesses.
BASH: It's interesting because I've talked to several Democrats who have said no - no dice if that was where you were going with this. Only read it and that would be sufficient because they argue that as part of your trial process they need to be able to ask questions. He needs to be deposed and also a manuscript isn't under oath.
LANKFORD: Right. There's no reasonable statement that's been brought up by the House managers at this point to say John Bolton is really required because other than statements that he has said that they have saying that he said, talk to the lawyers.
That's a very reasonable thing for him to be able to say when you've got Rudy Giuliani who's a private attorney talking to someone official that John Bolton's been around the governor long enough to know OK, we got to keep those two things separate. Make sure you talk to lawyers to be able to clear this.
That's not an unreasonable statement. There's nothing indicting about this. This statement that's out there from New York Times is something we need to be able to take a look and see if it's even accurate.
BASH: So what you're presenting is obviously intended to be a very reasonable proposal.
BASH: Just put your political hat on and I'm asking you, I'm going to try to inject a little truth serum. Are you hoping that some of the Republicans who are talking about wanting to hear from John Bolton will be satisfied just by reading that and then they will brush the whole witness question aside?
LANKFORD: Everybody's making their own decisions, honestly. Everybody's making their own decisions. They've got to be able to determine what are they going to do but this at least allows people to make a decision based on facts that they can actually read the manuscript, rather than someone who read it, he will report it to someone who wrote a story and trying to make a decision on that. That's no way to be able to make a decision.
BASH: Senator, I appreciate it.
LANKFORD: OK, bye, good to see you again.
BASH: Thank you for your time. Thank you.
BASH: Wolf and Jake back to you.
TAPPER: We will see President Trump any moment now at a joint news conference along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The President is expected to unveil a long awaited, Mideast peace proposal, one that has been the project of his adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner for years.
The announcement also comes just hours after Netanyahu was indicted on bribery and fraud charges back in Israel. Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is at this event. Kaitlan Collins is also at the White House. Jim, let's start with you. The White House is now sending out a warning of sorts to senators?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right Jake. Talking to a Republican source who is touch with White House officials and senators up on Capitol Hill, who are close to this process saying that at this point, the White House is kind of painting a doomsday scenario if witnesses like John Bolton are called to testify in this - in a trial of the President.
This - this one source told me just a short while ago that the White House is telling senators essentially that calling John Bolton could trigger a nasty court battle that could last for months. Now obviously, Democrats are pushing back on that. They've been pushing back on that kind of talk, saying well, that - this you know, this calling of witnesses could actually be expedited by the courts.
It is uncharted territory so we don't really know but I will tell you, talking to a source close to the President's legal team, earlier this morning, they're saying at this point, if they call witnesses we'll deal with witnesses, we're prepared to deal with witnesses but at this point, the source close to the President's legal team says at this juncture, they are reasonably confident that witnesses will not be called to testify.
And they're going as far as to saying and I think this is how the conventional wisdom is unfolding here in Washington. They feel confident that the President's going to be acquitted at some point at the end of this week and so they see things going pretty well for the President's legal team at this point.
One other thing we should know, there's been a lot of talk about John Bolton's book over the last 24 hours. This source close to the President's legal team says the White House counsel's office did not know about the contents of that book, that the President's outside attorneys did not know about the contents of that book, essentially saying how could they have known about the contents of that book.
They weren't in possession of the manuscript but they do feel as though they dealt with the Bolton revelations yesterday, even though they only touched upon it a couple of times during those hours of testimony. That was by design. They wanted to stick to their game plan, going after Joe Biden, going after Barack Obama, defending Rudy Giuliani and so on and they didn't want to interrupt that strategy.
That being said, they're not ruling out the possibility that they'll address these allegations from John Bolton as they go back to making their closing arguments later on this afternoon but Jake and Wolf, at this point they are very confident inside the President's legal team.
They feel as though yesterday and Saturday went very well for the President. They say he's pleased with how things are going right now and there's - they're forcing an acquittal with no witnesses by the end of this week.
BLITZER: All right, Jim, I want you to stand by. Kaitlan, what are you hearing from the President's defense team?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's interesting Wolf, is how much things have shifted in the last 24 hours. When this folder report broke on Sunday night, the White House legal team and the impeachment defense team was really sent scrambling. They were frantic. They were being bombarded with calls from angry Republican senators who wanted to know what they knew and essentially, they met here at the White House to try to triage a situation and decide how they were going to deal with it yesterday which they thought was going to be their last day of argument.
They clearly weren't really that sure how to deal with Bolton that's why you saw a lot of the attorneys not touch on it until Alan Dershowitz got up. He was the second to last this week right before the White House counsel Pat Cipollone closed things out and he really made the argument that tried to assure those Republican senators who were so furious over what they had learned by saying that even if what Bolton had written in that manuscript was true, he didn't think it was worthy of impeaching the President.
And that is something that essentially some of those Republican senators felt they could hang their hat on but just to give you an indication of how much that changed. On Sunday night when they were being bombarded with these calls by these angry Republicans, they were worried they could lose close to a dozen of them on this vote about whether they were going to have witnesses.
Now that Dershowitz spoke, Republican senators really liked his performance. They feel a little bit better though they are not by any means in the clear yet on these witness.
BLITZER: Kaitlan, I understand the former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is also speaking out about these Bolton - these Bolton remarks?
COLLINS: Yes, this is pretty stunning. I think this is the first time we've heard from John Kelly weighing in on all of this. He was at an event last night in the Sarasota Herald Tribune, got some of his remarks and just posted in a short while ago and he said, "If John Bolton says that in the book, I believe John Bolton."
He says he's someone who anytime he was in the room with John Bolton and President Trump, Bolton was always someone who essentially gave the President the unvarnished truth. He says he's an honest guy with good character and he says "some of the conversations seemed to me to be very inappropriate but I wasn't there."
But John Kelly says he believes the people who were there it should come forward and say what they have to say so the senators because essentially get the full story which is not the position of the White House.
TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much. We're waiting for President Trump to speak but until he does, well, we should bring you this news. Moments ago, Rudy Giuliani reacted to the damning revelations reportedly from John Bolton.
When asked about the claims that the President told Bolton that he would not release aid until there was a Biden investigation, or at least the announcement of one, Giuliani told CNN, "I am convinced that is not true."
Giuliani went on to say, "I feel very bad that John, he was a friend of mine for 10 years, stabbed me in the back." Here's the President. Let's listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A big step towards peace. Young people across the Middle East are ready for a more hopeful future and governments throughout the region are realizing that terrorism and Islamic extremism are everyone's common enemy.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting with both the Prime Minister of Israel and a man that's working very hard to become the Prime Minister of Israel in the longest running election of all time, Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party and both leaders joined me to express their support for this effort.
Proving that the state of Israel looking for a peace and that peace transcends politics by any measure, unmeasurable, that's what they want.
On my first trip overseas as President, I visited the holy land of Israel. I was deeply moved and amazed by what this small country had achieved in the face of overwhelming odds and never ending threats. The state of Israel comprises only a minuscule amount of land in the Middle East and yet it has become a thriving center of democracy, innovation, culture and commerce.
Israel is a light on to the world. The hearts and history of our people are woven together. The land of Israel is an ancient home, a sacred place of worship and a solemn promise to the Jewish people that we will never again repeat history's darkest hour.
During my trip to Israel, I also met with Palestinian President Abbas in Bethlehem. I was saddened by the fate of the Palestinian people. They deserve a far better life. They deserve the chance to achieve their extraordinary potential. Palestinians have been trapped in a cycle of terrorism, poverty and violence, exploited by those seeking to use them as pawns to advanced terrorism and extremism.
I returned from my visit determined to find a constructive path and it's got to be a very powerful path forward in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To further this effort, I also met with President Abbas at the White House.
Forging peace between Israelis and Palestinians may be the most difficult challenge of all. All prior administrations from President Lyndon Johnson have tried and bitterly failed but I was not elected to do small things or shy away from big problems.
It's been a long and arduous process to arrive at this moment. On Sunday, I delivered to Prime Minister Netanyahu, my vision for peace, prosperity and a brighter future for Israelis and Palestinians. This vision for peace is fundamentally different from past proposals. In the past, even the most well-intentioned plans were light on
factual details and heavy on conceptual frameworks. By contrast our plan is 80 pages and is the most detailed proposal ever put forward by far. As I have seen throughout my long career as a deal maker, complex problems require nuanced, fact-based remedies.
That is why our proposal provides precise technical solutions to make Israelis, Palestinians and the region safer and much more prosperous.
My vision presents a win-win opportunity for both sides, a realistic two-state solution that resolves the risk of Palestinian statehood to Israel's security. Today Israel is taking a giant step toward peace. Yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu informed me that he is willing to endorse the vision as the basis for direct negotiations.
And I will say the General also endorsed and very strongly with the Palestinians, a historic breakthrough. And likewise, we have really a situation having to do with a race that is taking place right now. It will end and we will have the support and it's very important to say this of both parties and almost all people in Israel.
They want peace and they want peace badly. This is the first time Israel has authorized the release of a conceptual map illustrating the territorial compromises it's willing to make for the cause of peace and they've got a long way. This is an unprecedented and highly significant development. Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for having the courage to take this bold step forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: All right we're going to continue to monitor this event and bring you news when it happens. Let's talk about this. Wolf Blitzer, we do not know yet the details about this proposal. We know that the Palestinians have not really been including any of the negotiations.
Obviously we all hope for peace in the Middle East. We all hope that any proposal is successful. What do you make of this?
BLITZER: Well, I thought it was significant that the President said in his proposal, he would like to see a two-state solution. That means Israel obviously but a new state of Palestine, a formal state of Palestine. Now he says that the Israeli government of Prime Minister Netanyahu is deep trouble right now.
He's just been formally invited back in Israel, has to support this Trump peace plans that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner has worked out. He says it's a giant step toward peace. He hopes the Palestinians will accept it. Clearly, this is opening a negotiation or potential for negotiation.
But Susan Glasser is here. Let me get her reaction. You've covered this story for a long time. I think it's significant that he is calling for a two-state solution which many of the hard liners in Israel totally oppose. They want one state, one state only being Israel.
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, that's right. I mean, we don't know the details yet as you pointed out but it's certainly, it is a powerful visual on the other hand to see that this is a peace plan we rolled out with only one side involved. Not only are the Palestinians not talking with the President, nor did they have an input into this plan.
Of course, if the President of United States has now decided to put the finger on the scale and to unveil it with only one of the parties present. The message sent is that this is a proposal endorsed by Israel and not by the Palestinians. So I'm watching to see what do we hear from some of the influential air of allies in the United States, in particular of course Jordan who's security is most directly impacted by that this.
You know, we'll really have to see with the Trinidadians have to say. There are reports today that the President will also be putting out and has made explicit map with proposed lines from the United States. That would represent a different approach than what United States has taken before.
Trump has said that his proposal would be more specific than any offered in the past, it's not a framework for talks but actual proposal so that's very different but again politics here is the obvious back up. Let's just say that as a long-time observer of this, can we just take a moment to say, wow.
You have the impeached President of the United States in the middle of this trial and an indicted Prime Minister of Israel on the day that he is indicted, unveiling this so that's what's going to be remembered about this, even if it doesn't lead to any significant progress, one way or the other.
TAPPER: And an impeachment that is in part about alleged foreign election interference and the President of the United States trying to help Benjamin Netanyahu in what he rightfully called the longest election in history.
Speaking of which, let's talk more about the impeachment because we just got a President Trump because we just got these comments from Rudy Giuliani in which he is basically accusing John Bolton, his former national security adviser, trans-national national security adviser of lying. He said, I don't think he's telling the truth.
The President has made one definitive statement about the quid pro quo on tape and that's probably the best proof you can get which is to say, he said, there is no quid pro quo. Nothing exchanged. I probably heard that so often, I also can't imagine why all of a sudden the President would say something different than he said to 20 other people to the guy he probably had the most problems with in the White House, referring to John Bolton.
Rick Santorum, he also said that Trump really didn't respect John Bolton but Giuliani did and here's the irony, he said, I recommended him for the job.
FMR. SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R-PY) & CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, well, first off, I tend to believe that John Bolton probably - that the President probably said this to John Bolton and it goes back to the things that we've talked about all the time. The President says lots of different things on both sides of the issues and we hear it - I hear it all the time here.
Oh, the President never - you know he's so chaotic. He says - he says things he doesn't mean and so it's not surprising me that he would maybe in a fit say something like this to John Bolton.
The point is, two points. Number one, they didn't do it. I mean ultimately the money was released and everything with - everything with relationship with the Ukraine is actually you know been very, very positive for Ukraine under this President and number 2, even if he did do it and this goes back to the Dershowitz and Ray testimony from the other night, Republicans don't care.
I think James Lankford, Sen. Lankford's comments were indicative that look, the steam is out of the kettle here. There - that I think there's likely to be a reading of this - of this manuscript so everybody can feel comfortable. There's no smoking gun there that hasn't been talked about and then they're going to vote and you might get--
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They hope the steam is out of the kettle because the last thing they need is Rudy Giuliani day after one of the President's lawyers went to the floor the United States Senate described him wrongly but described him as a bit player, as a nobody, that the Democrats are trying to make it--
TAPPER: Shiny object.
KING: Yes, shiny object. Now Rudy Giuliani is once again raising his hand to prove that he's in the middle of all this because he was in the middle of all this but to Sen. Santorum's point, what's Sen. Lankford is doing with the knowledge of his leader, Mitch McConnell is what you might call the minimalist approach.
Mitch McConnell will do. He's going to try to do this in little steps. What do I have to do to keep it so I can get a quick vote? So if they can read the Bolton book and then he can look and say still not impeachable, go out and say you don't like this, still not impeachable.
Will that work? That's one of the reasons Rudy Giuliani - Rudy Giuliani's speaking up does not help that cause.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: But why keep that secret? There's nothing that we know about that says that anything that John Bolton has written is classified or should be kept a secret at all. So why should the senators read this privately and then be able to decide, OK, well, maybe we need to call him or we don't need to call him.
Well, then sign that through whoever the publisher is, release it. Release it.
TAPPER: And let's also note what John Kelly said according to a local press in Sarasota that he wasn't there, he doesn't know but that he thinks John Bolton is a man of honor and he believes him and would take his word for.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I mean you're looking at a situation where do you believe John Bolton, Rudy Giuliani or Donald Trump. Donald Trump, what 14000 or so misleading statements as chronicled in The Washington Post.
Rudy Giuliani, who's very hard to follow these days, who used to be known as America's Mayor is sort of America's top conspiracy theorist at this point. And then John Bolton who is you said has a very good history, a good reputation in this town. It may have taken - taken on some water given that he has spoken in this way about the President.
But he isn't known as someone who makes things up, right? And he's known as a note taker, known as a detail oriented guy so I think you know, like you said, I think a lot of Republicans privately probably would side with him over Donald Trump's word and Rudy Giuliani.
TAPPER: Coming up next, how President Trump's tweets about John Bolton could undermine the White House's claim of executive privilege.
BLITZER: Also this, the President praising Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo only moments ago for berating an NPR reporter.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: We just reported that senators are being told by the White House that if you call witnesses, the impeachment trial, they could - should expect a "nasty court battle." I'm talking about it now with our - our legal panel. Laura, how long a court battle could this be over whether or not witnesses would come forward?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, certainly longer than Mitch McConnell would like it to be to prolong this entire thing and the notion here would be they'd go to the courts to try to say can this person be precluded from testifying. It would have to be a pre-emptive strike to say, they are anticipating the President of United States will say that this witness cannot provide testimony, generally on executive privilege and can you please give us some court order or some decisive factor whether they can or cannot.
Honestly, speaking how this is the kind of a novel approach to doing so not trying to figure out privilege, but the idea of saying pre- emptively, this person cannot testify as opposed to a case by case analysis question by question because the privilege of course has not actually been asserted by the President of United States as it relates to of course John Bolton. As last we heard from Trump in Davos, his comment was, I don't want
him to testify because he left on bad terms and you never want somebody who left on bad terms to testify. That's not going to bode well if the court looks at a very expansive approaches, the reason for why and not to protective reason.
ROSE GARBER, CNN LEGAL Analyst: I mean, there are going to be two issues. One is remember the White House has asserted complete immunity for former advisors so that's one issue. Meaning they don't even have to show up and testify.
The second issue is this issue of privilege meaning even if they show up and testify, well, there are a whole bunch of subject matters that they're not going to be able to answer questions on and it's going to be this two-step process. Potentially, one is making these arguments with the Senate and the Senate having to sort of parse all of that out.
That - that could be it a difficult complex process. Going to court is tough because what they're - what the White House would be doing is going to court and saying, judge we're in the middle of an impeachment.