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House Managers React after Trump Team Arguments; Interview with Sen. Angus King (I-ME), GOP Senators Voting for Witnesses in The Senate Trial; Witness Testimony Is Undecided in Senate. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired January 28, 2020 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00]

REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL) IMPEACHMENT MANAGER: Thank you. You know, and the Chairman has already so eloquently said that this trial and the Republican's tactic is to create distractions, to distort, deceive, distract.

I would be more concerned based on the evidence that we have all heard about the President's credibility. And if there are others, Republican Senators out there or anyone else who has questions about John Bolton's credibility where he said he would testify.

He said he would come in and testify under oath so let's subpoena him so we can hear what he says. And the American people can make up their own minds about his credibility but based on the evidence and overwhelming testimony that we have before us, I would be much more concerned about the President's credibility.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY) IMPEACHMENT MANAGER: Let me add two things. Number one, it's fundamental in any trial that the triers, you listen to the witnesses and you make the judgment as to whether the witness is credible and telling the truth. You don't not hear from the witness because maybe he's not going to tell the truth.

If he's a relevant witness, you hear from him. That's what courts do every day in this land. Second of all, John -- there's no reason to assume that Mr. Bolton isn't tell the truth. In fact, John Kelly until recently the President's Chief of Staff said this morning that he believes Bolton's account.

I don't think you could have a better statement of belief than from the President's Chief of Staff. And what you're seeing is anyone who will testify against the President, they're going to say is lying, and if we've got to keep them away from testifying, but if we can't keep them away from testifying, he must be lying. This is just nonsense.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You talked about the criticism that you faced for not going after Bolton. You asked him to voluntarily appear. Why didn't you subpoena him to appear just so that you could say you checked that box? And secondly, do you believe that the investigation that you ran was also impartial. At least that's some of the criticism that you've thrown at the Senate. REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA) LEAD IMPEACHMENT MANAGER: Well, first of all, in terms of subpoenaing John Bolton, we could have subpoenaed John Bolton, but we subpoenaed his deputy first, and his deputy sued us, and it was very clear that John Bolton would tie us up in court for months or years, and his lawyer made that crystal clear, so there was little to be gained.

We had made it clear at that point with respect to other witnesses that we had subpoenaed who were refusing to come in that we were not going to play this game of rope a dope endlessly in the courts and allow the President essentially to obstruct the Congress with impunity, which is what he attempted to do by saying he was going to fight all subpoenas.

So the fact that in the case we did bring against Don McGahn they're arguing, you don't have a standing to sue in court to enforce subpoenas shows just how disingenuous the President and his lawyers are. So that didn't make much sense.

In terms of the impartiality, look, in the House of Representatives, we allow the minority to suggest witnesses, and they did. We called witnesses in the open hearings that were proposed by the minority. In the -- in those super secret depositions they keep complaining about, there were as many members entitled to be there as the entire body of the U.S. Senate.

They had every opportunity to ask all those questions in the depositions and the hearings the same as the members of my party. And so they can complain and say it was partial or it was -- didn't have the same due process.

They can make the argument as they have repetitively that we didn't get the same due process as in other impeachments, but the reality is they did, and I don't think those process grievances amount to very much. We'll take one last question. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The Senate does not decide -- the majority of the Senate does not decide to subpoena and seek Mr. Bolton's testimony, is that something the House would do to get his account out for the American people to judge as Ms. Demings said?

SCHIFF: You know, I'm not going to discuss what backup, fall back position there is. At the end of the day, nothing is sufficient if the Senate doesn't decide to have a fair trial, and you simply can't have a fair trial without witnesses.

You know, the resolution that Senator McConnell pushed through the Senate says that the witnesses have to be deposed before they testify. Now the fig leaf of a justification that was given for that is, well, they depose their witnesses before their testimony in Clinton.

[15:35:00] Now, of course in the Clinton case it was the salacious quality of that testimony that led them to want to have those witnesses deposed so that all those unseemly questions that were asked in the deposition didn't have to be asked before the Senate. That's not the issue here.

Why if the Senators have the opportunity to hear directly from John Bolton would they, number one, not want to do, and number two, even if they do it, want it to be done in a deposition form?

After all the complaints they've made about depositions, it's very ironic that the -- they're making such a strong case for a deposition here. But look, we're not in the investigative stage anymore. We are in the trial, and the triers of fact and the judges of the law and the Senators are both should evaluate John Bolton's credibility for themselves.

They don't have to take our word for it. Look, he's not exactly on the same policy page as many Democrats. They don't have to take John Kelly's word for it. They don't have to take the President's word for it. They can make their own judgment, but they can't do that if they refuse to even hear what he has to say. Thank you.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, the lead House manager Adam Schiff making the case that if there are no witnesses that are called before the Senate trial of a president, this will not be a fair trial. We have a lot to digest, a lot to assess. Our continuing coverage will resume right after this.

[15:40:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: At least two key Republican Senators, they now appear to be willing to call former National Security Adviser John Bolton to testify in light of the revelations in his forthcoming book.

Bolton writes that the President directly told him he wanted military aid to Ukraine to be tied to investigating the Bidens. But Senators in favor of bringing in the witnesses will need at least 51 votes for that to happen.

CNN's Phil Mattingly is joining us live from Capitol Hill. So what are you hearing from Senators now that the President's team has finished their closing arguments?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as we speak, every Republican Senator is currently behind closed doors. Having a meeting, it was supposed to be a Senators only meeting that was scheduled by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to deal exactly with this issue, this idea of witnesses, something the Trump administration, the Trump defense counsel have said they don't want.

Something McConnell himself has urged his members not to pursue. And what they're doing right now at least in part I'm told is McConnell is expected to give a presentation about the concerns he's raised in the past about what would happen if witnesses are brought forward. Related to issues like executive privilege, related to elongating the trial and related to potentially the Senate setting precedents that Republican members may come to regret in the future. And all of this is part of something we've seen over the course of the

last couple of days, Wolf. Even in the wake of the Bolton revelations. Republican leaders pushing hard on their members not to go through with voting yes for witnesses.

As you noted, two Senators on the Republican side very firmly in the yes camp right now. They need four, Democrats do, they don't have them yet. McConnell trying to ensure behind closed doors, Wolf, they don't get them.

BLITZER: Phil, up on The Hill, I want to stay on the Hill, Dana Bash is joining us right now. Dana, you're joined by a distinguished Senator from Maine.

DANA BASH. CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, thank you, Wolf, and thank you Senator Angus King. You're an independent --

SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): Yes.

BASH: -- from Maine, but you caucused with the Democrats which is why you're not down the hall in that meeting that Phil was just discussing. But you haven't --

KING: My invitation was lost in the mail.

BASH: Clearly. But you have been talking to your friends and colleagues across the aisle. I mean, this is clearly a pressure campaign. We've been reporting on it extensively, but it's happening as we speak to try to pull back the votes --

KING: Yes, I went on a limb yesterday morning and I said I thought there were going to be five or ten Republicans that were going to vote for bringing in John Bolton. I think I was a little naive. I felt last night that the walls were closing in, arms were being linked, so I think it's going to be a very tight vote. This will probably be on Friday.

BASH: Why? What changed?

KING: I don't know, because the Bolton revelations to me, assuming they're true make him a crucial witness. I mean, throughout this argument the President -- the White House counsel have been saying we don't have direct evidence. We don't have direct evidence. How do you know what the President was intending?

Well, here's a guy that's standing in the front row with his hand up saying I've got some direct evidence, and to say you don't want to call somebody like that, I just -- you know, I don't know how you do that with a straight face.

BASH: And yet you just told me you think this is going to be over by Friday?

KING: Well, I think the -- my understanding is what happens now is the White House closed arguments today. Tomorrow and Thursday are questions from the Senators. BASH: Correct.

KING: And then the next step is the vote on Friday --

BASH: But what you're telling me, you think now despite being from your perspective optimistic that there will be votes -- that vote will -- it's a general vote first. Will there be witnesses?

KING: It's only going to be two -- there are two people outstanding, and we think that Susan Collins and Mr. Romney, Senator Romney are yeses. So there are two votes. I don't -- I'm not lobbying anybody.

[15:45:00]

There's not pressure being put on from our side except to say we want the facts.

And, again, I just don't know how you can go home to your constituents and say, you know, we didn't need to really hear from this guy who said he knew exactly what the President did. If there's no witnesses called and the President is acquitted over the next three or four days this trial will go down -- this will go down in history with an asterisk.

It will be Trump impeachment, no trial. I mean, that's what we're really wrestling with here, and, you know, I don't know exactly what John Bolton -- by the way, I've been saying John Bolton should be called before I had any idea what he was going to say. But if the central charge is misuse of the office for a political purpose to help yourself in your campaign, why not talk to the person who knows whether that's true?

BASH: You know your friend and colleague Senator Lankford from across the aisle is saying, well, lets first bring the manuscript to the Capitol and allow the Senators to read it, to get a sense of whether or not it's even worth bringing him to testify.

KING: I mean, I like James Lankford, we get along very well. I just think that's an unnecessary step. Under the rules he would be deposed, put under oath, deposed by counsel, and then that would be a preliminary to appearing as a witness before the Senate.

BASH: He's saying it's not in lieu of that, but do you think that that's really what they're getting at?

KING: Yes. I just think that would add a couple of days. I don't know if it would -- we already know enough to know that we ought to talk to him. And again, I don't know, you know, what he's going to say. We all only know about secondhand press reports, you know, that nobody has seen the manuscript.

Although, here's an odd thought, Dana. Here we are in this incredibly important historic moment, and there are staffers in the White House and publishers in New York and editors who know the facts and we don't. That's weird. BASH: All right, well, we're going to have to leave it there but

maybe we will get to see more and maybe hear from him. But based on your prediction it sounds like --

KING: I think it's going to be really close.

BASH: OK. Senator, thank you. Tossing it back to Wolf and Jake.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thank you very much. Thank the Senator for us as well. With the President's legal team now wrapping up their arguments, we'll take a closer look at what's next in the impeachment trial.

[15:50:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All right. Now that the President's legal team has wrapped up their arguments , Senators will now prepare for a two-day, 16-hour Q&A period where they can submit written questions to the both the House managers and the White House legal defense team.

Here's an example of how this process was handled during the Clinton impeachment trial back in 1999 where a question is read by the then Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM REHNQUIST, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES: This question is from Senator Leahy to the House managers. Did any of the managers consult with any member of the Senate before seeking aid from Kenneth Starr to speak with Miss Lewinski? Did you discuss whether this violated the Senate's 100-0 vote on trial procedure?

REP. BILL MCCOLLUM (R- FL) HOUSE IMPEACHMENT MANAGER: Mr. Chief Justice, members of the Senate, the question is certainly a valid question to ask. We did not consult with any Senators about this. We don't think that what we wanted to do with talking with Miss Lewinski had anything to do with the rules that you've passed. We do not want to violate those rules. And we don't think that we have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, since Senators can't speak during the course of the Senate impeachment trial, they have to write their questions and the answers are supposed to be limited to about five minutes according to the Chief Justice John Roberts.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right and Chuck Schumer has just said that the questions are going to be organized by his office -- this on the Democratic side -- to make sure they're not repetitive. They'll be in a logical order, and what they're going to try and do obviously is give the Democratic managers an opportunity to state their rebuttal to what were the closing arguments of the President's case. And so the question is -- and Alan, you know much more about this than

I do -- is will Democrats only ask Democrats questions and Republicans ask the Republican lawyers questions, or will Democrats ask the Republican managers questions say perhaps about Bolton and why he might be really relevant to the trial?

ALAN FRUMIN, SENATE PARLIAMENTARIAN EMERITUS: The Clinton trial provides a bit of a guideline and a roadmap. I see that Chief Justice Roberts I think will behave very much as Chief Justice Rehnquist did.

But with respect to the questions by the Senators to the parties. In the Clinton trial there were 106 questions and only 20 went to, quote, hostile or adverse parties. You are asking me and suggesting and hinting that we will see more than simply less than 20?

BORGER: Don't you think we might.

FRUMIN: I think we might.

BORGER: I think that we will, yes.

BLITZER: Eight hours each day, 16 hours over two days, you could ask a lot of questions.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. That's a lot questions. It's going to be a long day. You know, these the Senators have been forced to sit there. Some of them haven't been sitting down the whole time, and others have been walking around because how can you sit for that long?

But, yes, I think this is also a time for the folks who are running for president because I assume, they read the name of the Senator who is asking the question, so this how -- you're running for president.

[15:55:00]

Amy Klobuchar, she's a lawyer, Elizabeth Warren, also a lawyer. Kamala Harris not running for President anymore, but she's a lawyer. So I think you know, it that way I think they'll try to get some airtime in this impeachment in a way that they hadn't before.

BORGER: And what about follow up?

HENDERSON: Yes.

BORGER: Because obviously that's how you get a lot of information.

BLITZER: But that has to be another written question.

BORGER: But you can do that on the spot, correct? It doesn't have to be submitted in advance.

FRUMIN: Well, all of the questions will be going through the respective leaders on both sides of the aisle.

BORGER: Right. You can't walk up to Chuck Schumer and say --

FRUMIN: A lot of the questions -- there will be forms. Will you comment on the answer given by so and so?

BLITZER: All right. So there's going to be a lot of excitement I'm sure tomorrow and Thursday and Friday. I'll be back in one hour at 5:00 p.m. Eastern in the "SITUATION ROOM." "The Lead" with Jake Tapper starts after a quick break.

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