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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Soon, Senators Ask Questions of Trump Lawyers & House Managers; Trump Rips "Fired" Bolton as Senate Considers Him as Witness; GOP Attempts to Turn Trump Impeachment into Trial of Bidens; Chuck Schumer Press Conference on Calling Witnesses; Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) Discusses Impeachment, Reaction to Calling Hunter Biden as Witness, Need for Other Witnesses & Documents; Indicted Giuliani Associate in Washington to "Watch Trial". Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired January 29, 2020 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer, live in Washington, alongside Jake Tapper, Anderson Cooper and Dana Bash. She's up on Capitol Hill. This is CNN's special coverage of the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump.
In just two hours, the silent jury gets its turn to talk or at least to ask questions. Over the next two days, there will be up to 16 hours of questions from 100 U.S. Senators read aloud by the chief justice, John Roberts.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: One question we will not hear from the Senate chamber but will be a topic of debate in the halls of the capitol is this: How will President Trump's new attacks on John Bolton, his former national security advisor, affect the possibility that the Senate might vote to call Bolton as a witness?
Today, President Trump launched quite personal attacks on his former national security advisor, calling his book nasty and untrue, saying that it contains classified information.
And accusing Bolton of having not been able to get approved for the ambassador to the U.N. years ago. "Couldn't get approved for anything since, begged me for a non-Senate-approved job, which I gave him despite many saying, don't do it, sir."
Several Republican Senators seem to be following the president's lead and the lead of his legal team turning the impeachment trial of President Trump into a trial of former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter.
Florida Senator Rick Scott is one of them. Check out his latest ad, one that's running in Iowa ahead of the caucuses next week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): I'm Rick Scott, one of the jurors in the U.S. Senate. I'd like to thank the Democrats for badly launching this impeachment charade and for spending so much time in a cover-up for Joe Biden.
The real story is the corruption Joe Biden got away with. Vice President Biden threatened a foreign country and forced them to fire a prosecutor, who was investigating a company paying his son $83,000 a month. Biden got away with it and his son got paid.
I'm Rick Scott and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Wow. That is just astounding.
Let's just do a quick bit of fact-checking on that before we throw this to the panel.
When Vice President Biden called for the firing of the Ukrainian prosecutor, he was carrying out U.S. policy in accordance with what anti-corruption activists in Ukraine wanted done. Viktor Shokin, the prosecutor in question, was perceived to be corrupt. He was carrying out what the International Monetary Fund wanted done, the World Bank, European allies.
One can question whether Hunter Biden should have been on the board of a Ukrainian company during the period that his father was running Ukrainian policy in the United States but there has been no proof that Vice President Biden did anything corrupt whatsoever.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Rick Scott and I'm running for president in 2024. That's what this is --
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: To be clear.
BORGER: This is about who's the heir. And of course, John knows more about this than anyone. Who is the heir here?
And this ad in Iowa, gee, where's Rick Scott from? Hmm, Florida. Even Rick Santorum is agreeing with me, shaking his head.
You know, this is about Rick Scott saying, look at me, recognize me, I'm on the Trump train. Here I am, I'm a natural heir. And remember me for the next cycle.
BLITZER: But should he be doing this, John, while he's a juror in the U.S. Senate and we're waiting for his decision? KING: In a civics or good government textbook, no. In the age we live
in, not just the Trump age, this is the -- I don't remember ads like this during the Clinton impeachment trial but it was very political in what was said in the discourse there.
No, but it's not surprising. No in the sense does it fit for a sitting Senator from another state right before the caucuses. No. No.
But because the answer is so strong no, it makes perfect sense in the age we live in where you have -- look, we talked about this yesterday. Secretary Pompeo attacking journalists, and then issuing statements celebrating his attack on journalists instead of saying maybe we both had a bad day, let's move on.
KING: The vice president of the United States is thinking about running. The former South Carolina governor, who was more muted when she left the administration, suddenly very Trumpy, Nikki Haley, of late.
This is a competition. A, it helps you in two ways. You stay on the president's good side now and you don't get the Twitter directed your way, and getting conversations like this, which doesn't hurt.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: And you potentially damage Biden, right? You cut his knees off in Iowa, at least you try to in the way Joni Ernst is sounding like a pundit, saying, oh, she wonders what this focus on Biden means for the Iowa caucuses.
So, yes, maybe it's an effective ad. I don't think most people in Iowa know who Rick Scott is. He's not the most charismatic politician. He's probably got to work on that if he wants to run for president in 2024.
But, yes, this was the whole plan, right? Donald Trump wanted to weaken Joe Biden, which is why he wanted some dirt on him from the Ukrainian president.
The idea was to weaken him during the primary and knock him out of the primary so he wouldn't face him in the general. I think that is in keeping with the grand plan.
Rick is disagreeing with me.
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think the whole premise of this whole investigation that somehow a Ukrainian president announcing an investigation is going to have a material effect on this election. It would not. Given all -- I mean, it had zero impact on this election, number one.
On the Rick Scott issue, look, I didn't know this but Rick is running for president.
BORGER: You do know.
SANTORUM: I mean it's pretty clear.
SANTORUM: There's no other rational interpretation of what Rick Scott is doing.
BLITZER: Here's the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): -- my staff's names today like we had yesterday, which his whole family is calling up about. Win's (ph) whole family, wherever Win (ph) is.
OK, I want to thank my colleagues for being here.
Now, yesterday, as you know, the president's counsel ended their defense of the president. Up until the very end, Mr. Sekulow kept making the argument that the case against the president lacked eyewitnesses, knowing full well that his client, the president, was blocking the very eyewitnesses he said the trial lacked.
Knowing full well -- he knew full well one of the eyewitnesses, John Bolton, wrote that the president told him he wanted to continue the delay in military assistance to Ukraine until it announced the political investigations that he was seeking. Precisely the conduct charged in the first article of impeachment.
Mr. Sekulow had the temerity to standing on the floor of the Senate and say you must acquit the president because there are no eyewitnesses to the conduct alleged by the House. And also that Senators must not call eyewitnesses who could confirm it.
Of course, Ambassador Sondland was an eyewitness. Mr. Mulvaney admitted the president held up the aid at a press conference. Nonetheless, the president's counsel said you must have additional eyewitnesses, but you're not allowed to have them.
Mr. Sekulow's view of a trial is downright Kafka-esque. Kafka-esque. Remember the book, "The Trial." OK, I think it's --
UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: It's a novel.
SCHUMER: It's a novel.
SCHUMER: It's a short novel, not a long story. OK.
Now, frankly, the hypocrisy of Mr. Sekulow's argument was lost on Senators. I'm sure even Republicans added this up, the hypocrisy. If anything, his argument made the case for witnesses and documents even stronger. So inadvertently he helped us.
Now, I remain hopeful that four Republican Senators will join us in supporting witnesses and documents in this trial. It's an uphill fight, as I've always said, but the public is on our side and truth above all is on our side. And that's why we're still in the fight. That's why we're still in the ballpark.
Now, I want to talk about three lines of pushback that they're using, the tremendous pressure, of Trump/McConnell, is using on Republican Senators to try to get them to avoid the crucial Friday vote on witnesses and documents.
The first is, well, it will take too long. You've heard that one and that's what they're using, number one, in their own caucus. This debate over witnesses and documents --
TAPPER: All right, we're going to break out from the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer.
And I want to continue talking about what I consider the biggest news of the day so far, which is not Chuck Schumer referencing Kafka --
TAPPER: -- but rather the situation we're in where President Trump has taken to Twitter to really quite personally go after his former national security advisor, John Bolton.
Whose book, which will come out in March, we're told, "The Room Where It Happened," does detail, according to the "New York Times" and the "Washington Post," descriptions of a conversation he had with President Trump last August.
In which Bolton's impression was President Trump was directly linking aid to Ukraine, $391 million of security aid, badly needed to Ukraine, with the need for Ukraine to either launch or at least announce the launching of investigations into Democrats, such as Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
A direct allegation of a quid pro quo, according to a firsthand witness.
The question, John King, is will Republicans say, you know what, John Bolton is willing to testify. We're all going to finding out what's in this book by March anyway.
John Kelly, former chief of staff for the White House, Marine general, Republican, says he believes Bolton and the people should hear. Will they vote to hear witnesses?
My guess as of now is I still don't see it. I think there's still more allegiance to Trump and McConnell than there's to the public's interest in finding out what happened. KING: In the Senate, I would even flip the way you put it and say
allegiance to McConnell and Trump. There's a lot of questions. Can we trust the White House among even Republican Senators?
But when their leader, Mitch McConnell, they do trust, says I need you here, please be with me if you can here, that carries a lot of weight.
One of his key deputies, Senator Barrasso, came out and said the momentum is building toward no witnesses. Part of that could be trying to pull people along. Sometimes you say things publicly if you're not quite there yet but you say you're there to try to pull people there.
But what the president is doing is crystal clear, crystal clear. He's attacking John Bolton, who, yes, they had policy disagreements. John Bolton has been a Republican staffer for years. He's actually well regarded in the Republican Party, even by people who disagree with him, say he's a straight shooter. He comes in and he makes his case and you do the argument.
The president is trying to, A, attack him but, B, that's a message to those Republicans, don't cross me.
Here's my opinion. It's now crystal clear. It started with this is nonsense that he would testify and then it devolved into these personal attacks. This is the president sending a signal don't do this.
BORGER: If this were a real trial, it would be witness intimidation. We saw this time and time again when people were testifying before the Intelligence Committee and the president was tweeting about them. I don't even know these people, who are these people.
And now he's testifying about Bolton this way. And you might think he's trying to intimidate Bolton. I don't think that's going to work for Bolton.
But if you're a Senator sitting there or if you're the president's attorney, let's just think about that, would you be advising the president to do this in the middle of this trial?
BLITZER: And he has been relatively nice to Bolton over the past --
BLITZER: -- over the past several days since all this came out. But now, this morning, this morning the president is tweeting, "If I had listened to him, we would be in World War VI by now."
So the president clearly making it clear he is totally, totally going against Bolton.
TAPPER: Did I miss some wars? Was there --
BLITZER: Three and four and five, something like that. But -- (CROSSTALK)
TAPPER: It's so strong, it would have been such a horrible war that it would have subsumed world wars three, four and five.
TAPPER: That's the idea. That's really a big war.
BLITZER: -- for the president, he goes out and immediately writes a nasty and untrue book.
TAPPER: It doesn't make sense.
BLITZER: All right, CNN's special coverage is going to continue.
BLITZER: And just moments ago, one infamous guest arrived over here in Washington at the invitation of the minority leader. We're going to hear what Rudy Giuliani associate, Lev Parnas, wants to say to Senators.
TAPPER: Plus, Senator Kamala Harris will join us live to react to one of her colleagues who says Hunter Biden is relevant as a witness. A Democratic colleague said that.
Stay with us.
DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN's special coverage of the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump. I'm Dana Bash, on Capitol Hill.
I'm joined by Senator Kamala Harris --
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): Good to be with you.
BASH: -- from California.
Let's start with what we're going to see on the floor of the Senate today, which is the questions. You'll have an opportunity to ask the questions that you've probably been thinking about for some time. What is your number-one question for either the managers or for the defense team?
HARRIS: Well, one is, don't they agree and what would it add to the case to have all available evidence presented during the course of the trial. What would it mean to their theory of the case, what would it mean in terms of the conclusion and their conclusions about what this case actually is? I think that today is going to be important also to just redirect and
get us refocused on the issues before us.
The issue before us is article one of the impeachment, which is Donald Trump's conduct as it relates to that July 25th phone conversation with President Zelensky and all that he attempted to do in terms of manipulating the outcome of the 2020 election for his personal gain.
BASH: And on the issue of witnesses, you and I were talking about the fact that obviously the people in play are on the other side of the aisle, but you all have relationships.
BASH: Senators like Lamar Alexander and Lisa Murkowski are keeping their own counsel.
BASH: But you know them.
BASH: And so the decision that they are going to have to make is one that Senators have to make all the time.
BASH: Which is, is your allegiance to your party, is your allegiance to what you think is right, and where do you fall on that line.
HARRIS: That is true. And certainly it is true and should be true every day that we are in this building or doing our work.
It's particularly true right now because there's been much talk, rightly, about the fact that this whole issue is rooted in the legitimacy, the integrity and the importance of the Constitution of the United States and the intent of the framers.
And one of the core concerns that they had in the writing and establishment of that Constitution is that there would be influence by a foreign government, that there would be interference by a foreign government.
That is why, Dana, that it is this impeachment more than the other two of a president is probably the most significant and serious. Because the facts underlying and the allegation underlying this impeachment is about foreign interference and an attempt to elicit foreign interference in our government, in our democracy, in our elections.
BASH: So what I have been told, from Senate Republican sources, that one of the key arguments that they are making to try to persuade Lamar Alexander, Lisa Murkowski, in particular, to vote no on witnesses is, if you do this, then you are going to open the flood gates to impeachments happening all the time.
Because the House can pass whatever it wants when they have a majority. And it's going to be up to the Senate to deal with this in a more regular basis. That they're sort of appealing to their sensibility as an institutionalist.
HARRIS: I think that those arguments really are week and illogical because, at the core of the argument then, is there should be no consequence for bad behavior because there should be consequence for future bad behavior.
BASH: And their argument is the House should have dealt with the witnesses before.
HARRIS: But this is a trial. This is a trial. Everyone has admitted that. This is a trial.
I will tell you, as a former trial attorney, having tried many cases, that it is during the trial that evidence is presented. So their argument lacks merit.
And, again, is illogical because the reality is this is exactly the moment in which evidence should be presented, all evidence that is available and known to exist.
And in this case, it would include, obviously, John Bolton. It would include Mick Mulvaney. It would include the documents we know that exists in the possession of the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, in the State Department.
BASH: So Senator Joe Manchin, your Democratic colleague from West Virginia, he said this morning that he thinks that Hunter Biden could be a relevant witness but that it is up to the chief justice to decide relevancy. What's your take on that?
HARRIS: Hunter Biden is not relevant to article one of the impeachment. And article two of the impeachment is basically that there was a cover-up of the conduct underlying article one of the impeachment. He's not relevant.
The fact that the president's counsel wants to distract from the issue before us is not surprising. And good for them. They're trying. But let's not buy into that.
Let us agree that what should be before us is whatever is relevant to the allegations in front of us. Hunter Biden is not a part of that allegation at all.
BASH: Before I let you go, you were talking about Biden, and it made me think of Joe Biden. The "New York Times" reporting that you're considering endorsing the former vice president. Where are you on that?
HARRIS: I am focused on the impeachment. I haven't made any decision about who I'm endorsing.
BASH: OK. Senator, thank you.
HARRIS: You're welcome.
BASH: Appreciate it.
HARRIS: Good to be with you.
BASH: You, too.
We're going to take a quick break. The CNN coverage of the impeachment trial of President Trump continues in a short while.
And Lev Parnas, one of the characters in this drama, is actually here on Capitol Hill. We'll tell you about that after the break.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Lev Parnas' work in Ukraine put him in the center of President Trump's impeachment trial. While the indicted associating of Rudy Giuliani does have a ticket to the proceedings, he won't be inside the Senate chamber. That's not stopping him from sending a message to lawmakers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEV PARNAS, INDICTED ASSOCIATE OF RUDY GIULIANI: My goal is, hopefully, to look at these Senators and have them look at me and see that we need to call witnesses. The truth needs to come out. I'm here. I'm one of the major, most important witnesses, I think. It's me and John Bolton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, a judge rejected a request to remove Parnas' GPS ankle monitor, effectively denying his bid to attending the trial. Senate rules do not permit any electronic devices in the gallery.
CNN national correspondent, Kristen Holmes, is on Capitol Hill.
You followed Parnas' lawyers. They walked across Capitol Hill. What else did he tell you? And were they just there to essentially try to get attention on the idea of witnesses or particularly on him being a witness?
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So I asked all of those questions. First of all, they said that their aim here was to raise awareness for witnesses.