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McConnell Tells GOP Senators He Doesn't Have Votes to Block Witnesses; Former White House Chief of Staff: 'I Believe John Bolton'; 50 U.S. Service Members Were Injured in Iranian Attack. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired January 29, 2020 - 06:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: Danger, danger, danger. These articles must be rejected. The Constitution requires it.

[05:59:40]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The conscience of the Senate ought to be to seek the truth.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Senator Mitch McConnell is telling Republicans he does not have the votes to block witnesses.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Is there a chance that we might get a vote to allow witnesses and documents? Yes. Is it also an uphill fight? Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Chuck Schumer says, I just want to be fair, that's such bologna.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): They just want to drag this on. They're playing a delay game.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Are we going to say that, in order to get relevant witnesses, we're going to let the president's team turn this into some kind of a circus? I don't think the senators want that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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. It is Wednesday, January 29. It's 6 a.m. here in New York.

And this morning, a rare, genuine moment of uncertainty on Capitol Hill, at least relative uncertainty on the crucial question of whether witnesses will be allowed to testify in a trial. I know, high bar.

CNN has learned that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is telling Republicans he does not currently have enough votes to block witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Trump. Listen closely. He doesn't currently have the votes, not yet.

We will dissect why he is saying that and what it means in just a moment. This is crucial, because former national security adviser John Bolton, in a draft manuscript of his book, says the president personally told him that aid to Ukraine was tied to investigating the Bidens.

Former chief of staff John Kelly says he beliefs Bolton, which means the president's former chief of staff thinks the president is lying.

The American people overwhelmingly want to hear from witnesses: 75 percent support it in a new Quinnipiac poll. That includes a plurality of Republicans, 49 percent.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So a vote on witnesses will likely take place on Friday. President Trump appears concerned. He is attacking Bolton via Twitter. And a growing number of Republican senators now acknowledging that President Trump may, in fact, have held the U.S. military aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations of his political rivals. But they now claim it doesn't warrant removal from office or even hearing new evidence.

So let's begin our coverage with Lauren FOX. She is live for us on Capitol Hill, where things seem to be changing by the hour -- Lauren.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and the question about witnesses is looming; but first, 16 hours of questions that lawmakers are going to be able to ask to both the House managers and the president's defense counsel.

Last night, the president's defense team resting their case and making their closing arguments.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAT CIPOLLONE, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: And with that, that ends our presentation.

FOX (voice-over): With the conclusion of President Trump's defense team's opening argument, Senate Republicans are engaging in a new fight: defeating a vote to bring witnesses into the impeachment trial. Inside the Senate chamber, a warning from the president's outside counsel, Jay Sekulow.

SEKULOW: These articles must be rejected. The Constitution requires it. Justice demands it.

FOX: Trump's defense team also slamming the allegations from former national security adviser John Bolton's unpublished book manuscript, that the president told him military assistance to Ukraine was on hold unless they began investigations on former Vice President Joe Biden.

SEKULOW: You cannot impeach a president on an unsourced allegation.

FOX: Tuesday's short session ended with the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, playing some of Democratic lawmakers' own words from President Bill Clinton's impeachment saga.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHUMER: I expect history will show that we've lowered the bar on impeachment so much that it will be used as a routine tool to fight political battles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CIPOLLONE: You were right, but I'm sorry to say you were also prophetic.

FOX: And after the sound of the gavel --

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, SUPREME COURT: We're adjourned.

FOX: -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell meeting privately with members of his caucus, cautioning that Republicans currently do not have the votes to block witnesses. A source familiar with the remarks tells CNN some senators who have 2020 races on the line expressing their concern an extended impeachment could affect them, and many of President Trump's closest allies insisting it's time to move on --

CRUZ: They just want to drag this on. They're playing a delay game.

FOX: -- suggesting nothing Bolton could say would change their minds.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): There's a lot of hysteria about Mr. Bolton's testimony. Frankly, I think his testimony will be redundant.

FOX: Meantime, Senate Democrats are keeping a close eye on four key Republicans, but Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says there could be more who want new evidence like Bolton's testimony considered.

SCHUMER: There are ten to 12 Republicans who have never said a bad word about witnesses or documents who know in their hearts it's the right thing to do. But they have to weigh that against the pressure, the twisting of arms, that Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell will put on them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOX: And yesterday, some Republicans floated this idea of trying to get ahold of that unpublished John Bolton manuscript. Democrats really dismissing it. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, told me that that was bull and then used an expletive to describe how he viewed it. He essentially said, Look, John Bolton is living and breathing. We can bring him into the Senate to actually be deposed. Why do we need this unpublished manuscript -- Alisyn?

[06:05:06]

CAMEROTA: That's interesting. Some people -- that he had to remind people that John Bolton is living and breathing.

But Lauren, tell us what's going to happen. Explain how the question and answer process is going to play out.

FOX: Well, we don't know some ways that this is going to play out, but here's what we know. We know that each side, Democrats and Republicans, are going to have about eight hours each to ask these questions. Lawmakers have turned in questions via e-mail and via these forms that they could fill out to their leadership, who were sifting through them to make sure there weren't duplicates.

I also know that Senate Democrats, for example, Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told me his committee members got together, and they came up with a couple of questions related to how this issue of Ukrainian funding was so important for that country and why withholding it is was so important. He also said that Democrats on the Judiciary Committee got together. They're trying to organize their questions. Because you want to extract maximum, you know, ability for each side to fill in any gaps that they might have missed in their opening arguments, so their presentations.

Now, one thing we don't know. Can you direct a question, can a senator direct a question at a specific member of the president's defense team or a specific member of the House managers team? That is something we just don't know -- John and Alisyn.

BERMAN: No, I expect this will play out much more like a conversation. Statements and then rebuttals, and then rebuttals, and then rebuttals. I think that's what we're going to see over the next few days.

CAMEROTA: I think that will be really interesting.

BERMAN: Could be.

CAMEROTA: I think that we're moving into a more dynamic -- I mean, it's been interesting already, but this is a dynamic back and forth.

BERMAN: It will be much more fluid than just 24 hours of speeches.

Joining us now, John Avlon, CNN senior political analyst; Anna Palmer, senior Washington correspondent for "Politico"; and Sophia Nelson, a "USA Today" columnist who worked as counsel for House Republicans in the late '90s.

And Anna Palmer, I want to start with you, because the playbook, you just hit send. I haven't had a chance to read it yet. And I'm dying to know what your latest reporting is on where the votes are among Republicans. Do they think there will be the votes to ask for witnesses?

ANNA PALMER, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "POLITICO": I think that is the, you know, $24 billion question right now. I would caution, though, just because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he doesn't have the votes, it's 48 hours until that happens. That's a lifetime in the Senate.

And really, you know, I think anybody who questions his ability to whip his conference does that at their own peril. So I think, you know, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was right

in the sense that maybe there are a dozen or so members who haven't voiced specifics on it, but I think McConnell is going to work those members directly.

And I think you really started to see yesterday Senator Lindsey Graham come forward, saying, If we're going to have witnesses, we're going to have a lot of witnesses, and that's not something very many Republicans want.

CAMEROTA: Right. John, a lot of witnesses is sort of, I think, scare tactic, because we've heard before then say, this will go on forever. This will go on ad nauseum. This will stretch into -- even further into the election cycle. Americans don't want this.

BERMAN: If you hear a few facts, you might hear a lot of facts. Imagine -- imagine the deluge of facts --

CAMEROTA: The slowdown of facts. Please.

BERMAN: -- that might be coming in.

CAMEROTA: But John --

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- was it strategic that Mitch McConnell or people in there leaked that they might not have it yet, to get Democrat -- to give Democrats false hope or something?

AVLON: I'm not sure it gives Democrats false hope, but it indicates that this is very much a jump ball. And there's going to be enormous pressure on the, you know, two likely senators who might flip. I think most people would say that's Lamar Alexander and Cory Gardner of Colorado.

But it's notable that they're using the hassle factor argument against them. This isn't about truth; this is about this will drag on. This might be bad for you in terms of your own business at home.

Against 75 percent of the American people saying they want witnesses. Against the equivalent of Nixon's smoking gun tape, which is John Bolton saying he had the direct conversation with the president, who told him the aid would be held unless the investigations are announced, which all the defense lawyers have said didn't happen. That is -- happened. That is going to be in the public eye very, very soon.

And the fact that the Republicans' initial response yesterday was to say OK, maybe the president is lying. Maybe we've been lying the entire time. Maybe he did do something wrong. It's just not impeachable. That backsliding shows contempt for the truth, and the Constitution, and the integrity of our elections, which was Pat Cipollone's closing argument yesterday.

BERMAN: One point. The "Wall Street Journal" is reporting that Cory Gardner stood up in that meeting, closed-door meeting, Republicans, and argued to end this soon. No witnesses, because Cory Gardner, who's a Republican senator up in a tough reelection battle, thinks that if it continues, every day it's talked about is bad for him. He may not be on the fence. He may be a no vote on witnesses.

On the subject of lying --

AVLON: He may be a no vote. But so Lamar Alexander. But, you know, there's going to be pressure on -- the fact that there are 10 or 12 who know in their hearts this is the right thing to do, to listen to 75 percent of the American people, the fact they don't feel necessarily free to do that is itself a condemnation of the conversation happening inside the conference.

BERMAN: I want to bring up the subject of lying, which you brought up, John, because the president was lying overnight in defense of himself and in trying not to get witnesses. I want to read you what he says about John Bolton.

[06:10:04]

He writes, "Why didn't John Bolton complain about this nonsense a long time ago when he was very publicly terminated? He said -- he said, not that it matters, NOTHING!"

John Bolton did complain about this for months, according to sworn public testimony. He called this a drug deal. He broke up a meeting inside the White House between the Ukrainians and White House advisers, because he found it so unseemly, according to sworn testimony under penalty of perjury.

That is a lie from the president of the United States, Sophia, and I'm curious how you think that will sit. It seems like the Republican senators, they don't care about that. They're not bothered by the overlies here.

SOPHIA NELSON, "USA TODAY" OPINION CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, there's so much I want to get into, and we don't have the time. First, John said everything I wanted to say, but to your question, here it is.

There's this thing called enumerated powers. Hear me on this, what the Congress can do, what the president can do, and what the courts can do.

The president under Article II has power, right? He takes an oath to, what, faithfully execute the laws, to protect and defend the Constitution. OK, so the abuse of power that we're talking about, that Republicans are now saying apparently doesn't matter if a president abuses his power, it's not impeachable, is utterly ridiculous. It's utterly ridiculous on Federalist 65.

It's utterly preposterous that maladministration, which was a term that Hamilton threw out, because maladministration just means, I'm inept; I'm kind of dense. I probably am not as smart as I should be to have the job. That's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about a president who used money that was appropriated by the Congress. GAO says it violates the Impoundment Act. He's already committed one illegal act.

Then you have this issue of FEC violations. Did he do this to his benefit for his campaign, to get dirt on a rival, which violates another law?

So we've got the high crimes, guys. We've got the misdemeanors, if you want to call it.

But the abuse of power issue is so important, and Dershowitz is just off his rocker on this one. I don't know what he's talking about or where he dug this up. But it's not grounded in the Constitution.

And one of the biggest things our Founding Fathers feared, one of the biggest things they feared was that a foreign power would influence. That's why there's an Emoluments Clause. I thought that should have been an article of impeachment, by the way. I thought bribery should have been in the impeachment articles, as well. Because I think what the president did was bribe. He -- this for that. A quid pro quo is a bribe. So I don't know why they didn't use that language.

But to your question, I think that it is a disgrace that Republican United States senators, grown men and women, are whining about, Well, it might take too long, or we don't have time, or Well, if he did it, it's not impeachable.

Really? Is that the standard we have now? Because if we do, we're lost as a republic, guys. We're in trouble.

CAMEROTA: Guys, this is really helpful context.

AVLON: Big deal.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. Please stick around. We have many more questions for you, because the question and answer phase of the impeachment trial starts in just hours. And some lawyers in the case may be faced with tough questions about their role in the process, as will some Democrats. How is this going to look? Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:17:25]

CAMEROTA: As reports about John Bolton's book manuscript come to light, former White House chief of staff John Kelly spoke out yesterday, saying, quote, "If John Bolton says that in his book, I believe John Bolton."

Back with us, John Avlon, Anna Palmer, and Sophia Nelson.

So Anna, let's talk about -- well, first of all, let me just tell you a little bit more about what John Kelly said. He said that he finds John Bolton to be a man of integrity and great character. He also said that he believes -- OK, so the former chief of staff believes that we should hear from the people who were in the room, which would be John Bolton. And so just talk a little bit about -- I find it so interesting, this,

what's happening inside the Beltway of how John Bolton is becoming persona non grata to people who used to revere him as a, you know, foreign policy mind; and the people who are sticking with him, and the people who are abandoning him.

PALMER: Yes, it's an interesting divide. John Bolton is a figure in Washington deeply steeped in Republican politics. Long-revered on Capitol Hill, respected. You know, he has his own point of view that doesn't always align with some Republicans.

But he spent a lifetime in this kind of city, making his reputation. And also he fundraises a lot for a lot of Republicans. So it's been very surprising to see, certainly, on FOX News and other allies of the president, really try to tar him and try to kind of push him down as much as possible.

But John Kelly, interestingly enough, I think was somebody who was the guiderails when he was chief of staff, to the president, and I think he sees John Bolton as a key figure trying to do that, as well, when he was in the White House.

BERMAN: Not to be a broken record here, but if John Kelly believes John Bolton, then the president's former chief of staff is saying publicly he thinks the president is lying. Which I don't think we should ever gloss over. I don't ever think that's a small thing. I think that is a very big thing, and it's confronting those senators who will make a decision.

I want to play some sound. First of all, Democrats who know all of a sudden are glomming onto John Bolton, that's interesting, too. Treating him like Bobby Kennedy is fascinating to see, because he was one of the more reviled men in Democratic politics for a long time. But this is Republicans, his friends, turning on him. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOU DOBBS, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: John Bolton himself has been reduced to a tool for the radical Dems and the deep state.

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Clearly, he's trying to sell a book. How much does it cost to -- to sell out potential national security in your country?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): I would say that he's a witness very interested in making a lot of money right now. I think we have to take with a grain of salt his testimony, if he were to come in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Rand Paul, leave him out. He's always been an opponent of John Bolton.

CAMEROTA: And there's more people on FOX. I mean, we should also mention that FOX News was his home. He was a contributor there for many, many years. So there are more FOX News people speaking out about -- against him, and some supporting him.

[06:20:08]

BERMAN: Yes. James Inhofe, you know, senator from Oklahoma, says, "John Bolton is a great friend of mine, but he got fired and he's clearly upset about it."

It is interesting to hear these comments, John.

AVLON: It's stunning. Look, he was at FOX News for a decade. He is revered and trusted by Republican senators.

And I think it -- this illustrates the fact that the real debate and divide we're having in the country is not Democrats versus Republicans. It is Trump versus the truth.

And -- and there are some Republicans who will, knowing and admitting as a matter of their defense, that the president has been lying, backed up by the president's chief of staff, still attack anyone, because dissent is seen as disloyalty. That's why, one of the many reasons this is a dangerous moment.

Obviously, they know in private that John Kelly and Bolton are telling the truth. They will also attack anybody who disses Donald Trump in this particular instance. And that's contrary to their supposed roles in the Constitution.

CAMEROTA: Sophia, explain to us what we're going to see today. Because I think it's going to be very interesting, hearing what questions each side has for each other, and then how they address it. I mean, this is -- they will be able to confront what each side, I guess, thinks have been the lies and the fabrications and -- I don't know. Tell us how it's all going to play out.

NELSON: Well, here's how I expect it to work. I mean, I think all of the process is not quite clear, but I expect Mitch McConnell will get up this afternoon when they start the first eight hours.

What I'm not clear on is whether or not they're going to go, like they can ask a question of the managers; then they ask a question of the president's team? Or do they do all the manager questions one day, then they do all the president's the next day? I'm not quite clear on how that back and forth works. But --

BERMAN: The way they do it, it's the Democrats in the Senate get one question. Then the Republicans in the Senate --

NELSON: OK.

BERMAN: -- get one question.

NELSON: Yes.

BERMAN: Who it's directed to depends on the question itself. That much we know. NELSON: Right. So it's going to be a back and forth thing, which is

really interesting. Because I expect this to get kind of messy, to be honest. I expect it to be partisan, which is, again to John's point, we're not talking about what we're supposed to be talking about, which is the Constitution and the impeachment or the removal of the president. We're really into this partisan fight now of -- I expect Schiff will get a lot of the questions. I expect the president's lawyers, particularly Pat Cipollone, because he's considered a witness by the managers, feeling that he's someone that actually is a relevant fact witness. So just watch the questions.

I also think that you're going to know a lot about witnesses and what's going to happen after this question-and-answer period over the next two days. And then I expect those Republicans who are sitting on the fence or who don't know where they're going to vote yet. And let's not forget three Democrat senators are alleged to maybe be thinking about voting to exonerate the president, rather. Forgive me. So I think that that could be an issue, too. The Dems might not have all their votes in order, which is problematic.

BERMAN: Can we throw on the screen, so people can see, the question card from the last impeachment, so people get a sense of where the senators get to write? And Anna Palmer, you can go into this a little bit -- well, we don't have the picture now. It's a very small index card where the senators get to write a very short question.

CAMEROTA: Not a dissertation.

BERMAN: They get to direct it at one person. Then they have to sign it. They have to sign it there. And Anna, you know that there is nothing that senators like less than being succinct.

PALMER: That's very aptly put.

I think the other thing that's very interesting is they can only direct questions. They can't make any statements. So even if they might disagree with what the House managers or what the president's lawyers end up saying, they have to move on.

I think the other thing that's going to be really interesting is this tension right now that we're seeing in the Republican Party, where you have some senators like Mitt Romney who are very, you know, supportive of witnesses; and then you also have Cory Gardner from Colorado, who said he wants to move on as soon as possible.

And so how does Mitch McConnell thread the needle here, you know, in terms of giving each side enough space so they feel like they have been heard? And you know, looking at how he does that is going to be one of the key things in how does he try to get the votes so that there aren't witnesses and that he's successful on Friday.

BERMAN: Look, if Lamar Alexander signs one of those cards, it's flashing red lights. I mean, that's one of the things everyone needs to look for right there.

CAMEROTA: All right. Anna Palmer, John Avlon, Sophia Nelson, thank you all very much for all of this important context.

AVLON: Thanks.

BERMAN: Which one -- maybe one of the first times flashing red lights have ever been associated with Lamar Alexander. Just saying.

All right. Legends paying tribute to Kobe Bryant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, FORMER FBI PLAYER: We lost probably the world's greatest Laker, the world's greatest basketball player. It's just -- listen, people are going to say, take your time and get better, but it's going to be hard for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: This was so emotional. We'll have much more of this heartfelt ceremony next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:28:58]

BERMAN: New this morning, we're now learning that 50 U.S. service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries following the Iranian missile strike on U.S. forces in Iraq. That is a big jump from the number previously disclosed by the Pentagon, and you will remember, initially, the president said there were no casualties at all. So now the number is 50.

CNN's Barbara Starr broke this story. She is live at the Pentagon with the very latest -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.

Well, what clearly is happening is it is taking some days for symptoms to emerge in many of these troops since the January 8 bombing of the base at al-Assad in Iraq by Iranian ballistic missiles.

We are now at 50. There were 16 additional cases that emerged with symptoms and diagnosis since last Friday. It had been 34. Now it's 50.

The good news for the troops is that, of the 16, all but one have now been able to return to duty.

But look, they have every expectation here at the Pentagon that additional troops still, after all these days, might report symptoms. They are doing medical assessments on about 200 troops that were in that immediate blast area, so there still could be more.

END