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Soon: Senators Asks Questions to House Managers, Trump Lawyers; Impeachment Trial Enters Question-and-Answer Phase; White House Has Issued Formal Threat To John Bolton To Keep Him From Publishing Book. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired January 29, 2020 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And there are going to be a number of, I'm guessing, very pointedly written questions from very partisan senators, Democrats and Republicans, writing things, asking things to make a point, not so much to illicit information or find out an answer to a question. But the chief justice of the United States will seat there and read comments, whether it's about lying this person or sleazy that person, and then, of course, decide in question will have to answer it.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: That's a lot of pressure on the the chief justice right now as we walk through this process.
Dana bash, you're up on Capitol Hill, what are you seeing, what are you hearing over there?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Getting ready to start. And as you said, the whole -- all of the activity on the floor of the Senate in the chamber will be this Q&A session and it will be important interesting to see exactly what these senators ask and more importantly how the president's team and the House managers answer.
But make no mistake about it, even as we are watching this, the real drama is going on in the cloak rooms behind the scenes with the real intense lobbying going on of these Republican senators, two in particular. There are four, but two in particular, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Republicans and the leadership at the White House really trying hard to pull them into the no column on whether or not there should be witnesses.
And you could certainly expect some of the Q&A we are going to see on the floor. It will be not just about the notion of whether the president should be convicted or acquitted but about whether or not it is important for the Senate to hear from witnesses. Witness number one, of course, is John Bolton. So expect a lot of that to come kind of out through that the questions the senators are going to be asking.
TAPPER: And we just got a copy of the letter that the White House wrote to John Bolton's lawyer. We'll go to the Senate trial when it starts. But just to read the part, it says, based on our preliminary review, the manuscript appears to contain significant amounts of classified information, it also appears that some of this classified information is at the top secret level, which is defined by Executive Order13526, as information that, quote, could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave harm to the national security of the United States if disclosed without authorization.
The letter goes on to say, under federal law and the non-disclosure agreements your client signed is a condition for gaining access to classified information may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information.
The letter from the senior director for records access and information security management at the National Security Council goes on to say that Bolton's manuscript remains under review. In order for us to do our best to assist your client by identifying the classified information within the manuscript while at the same ensuring that publication does not harm the national security of the United States.
It goes on. But it's a clear letter stating your book, the manuscript contains national security classified information, classified information, information that could cause grave harm to the national security of the United States. In addition, Bolton signed a non- disclosure agreement. And under that those statutes under those agreements, the manuscript may not be published without this information deleted.
BLITZER: And normally in a situation like this when a former official writes a book and they're required to submit it to reveal, make sure top secret information isn't released, they then go through the process of deleting certain things or rewriting to make sure that top secret national security secrets aren't included. I assume the lawyers for John Bolton will now go back and say, well, show us where he has top secret information and we will discuss.
TAPPER: All classified information. I mean, John Bolton, this letter -- I mean, sorry, John King, this letter to John Bolton's attorney is basically saying, you can't publish this book right now.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And so now, you have a dispute. As Wolf says, in a normal environment, there would be a meeting. John Bolton could go to the White House with his attorneys, they could sit down with the national security team, saying what they talked about (ph). John Bolton has done this for 30 years. He is on the record saying there's nothing classified in here.
Now, that doesn't mean he's absolutely right but also remember the president has the power to classify things, so this could be coming the rear-view mirror kind of thing. You want to talk about my conversations with Erdogan or with President Xi, even if John Bolton thinks he has written it in a way that's not classified, the president can have a disagreement here.
So have this -- right now, it's going to be left to the lawyers, unless -- it's also left to the publisher. Do you decide -- there's the First Amendment, do you decide that you just go full speed ahead and in the context of what we're about to see, a lot of questions over the next two days are going to be, this is now the proxy for the debate over witnesses, whether that's John Bolton or whether that's John Bolton's manuscript. And here, the president, through the National Security Council the legal step, is making his views crystal clear, lock this thing up.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And how will this affect the question of whether John Bolton comes forward at all in any other way, even not in the Senate.
I mean, he may decide if he gets this letter from the White House that I have to tell my story and I'm going to figure out a way to tell my story even if it is not in this book. But his lawyer's letter to the White House when they submitted it on December 30th made it clear that they felt that there was absolutely no classified information in this and that they had scrubbed it.
KING: So I think to your point -- you make an important point -- John Bolton clearly wants to talk. He just wants to be told to talk. He wants to be told to talk. He wants there to be an official piece of paper so that he can say, they made me talk.
But in this back and forth here, one of the risks for the White House here taking this position is that he just decides, never mind, and goes out and talks.
TAPPER: And what do you think, Nia? I mean, the idea that the White House is telling John Bolton that this manuscript which were told his team was convinced would be fine in terms of national security information, they're saying, you cannot publish this book as it is because it contains, quote, significant amounts of classified information, some of it is at the top secret level, and if you publish it, it could reasonably expected to cause exceptionally grave harm to the national security of the U.S. And also under federal law and the non-disclosure agreements your client signed as a condition for gaining access to this information, the manuscript may not be published. How do you interpret this letter?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, this looks like a letter that they sent last week, right, January 23rd.
TAPPER: January 3rd, yes.
HENDERSON: Yes, you know, it's just --
TAPPER: Six days ago.
HENDERSON: Yes. And this is as the president was talking about this in this way, that John Bolton had all of this access to national security, classified information, he knows how the president thinks about foreign leaders and that's something that could leak out. I think everybody knows how the president thinks about foreign leaders because he's very open about it. But they're clearly trying to put the kibosh on this right now. It's interesting that it came last week and then sort of within the papers about what was is in it, and now conversation about whether or not folks in the Senate want to look actually at this as information about what Bolton would say about whether or not they would actually want to call him. I imagine that under normal circumstances, this is what the White House would do whether an impeachment was going on or not, they would probably look to shut something like this down.
KING: Right. And Republicans senators will now borrow from this letter, say, well, this is top secret, the president says it's top secret. We can't do this. We know the outcome of the impeachment trial, the president says this is classified, the president says this is top secret, the president says it will hurt the country, let's move on.
BORGER: So, John Bolton, go on television, say what you want to say.
KING: That will become a Republican talking point.
TAPPER: Let's also be clear, this line here, I mean, saying not only does it contain, quote, significant amounts of classified information but that it's at the top secret level, which could cause grave harm, exceptionally grave harm to the national security of the U.S. and then the invocation of federal law and non-disclosure agreements, this reads to me, and correct me if you think I'm wrong here, but it reads to me like, we will go to court if you try to publish this.
BORGER: Sure. Who signed the letter, by the way?
TAPPER: It's this woman, Ellen Knight. She's a senior director for Records Access and Information Security Management at the National Security Council.
BORGER: So then the question is also, has Cipollone read the book now? What kind of information? I mean, I think the House managers have a right to say, well, have you seen everything in this book? Because the White House just came out with a note that's saying that you can't -- you shouldn't publish it. So who has actually read it beside her?
BLITZER: We don't know how many -- if it's chapters that contain top secret information or --
TAPPER: Just says significant amounts.
BLITZER: Yes, a paragraph here or there, whatever it is. The release of top secret information could cause major national security problem for the United States. That's the nature of top secret information. It's curious that there's one level higher than top secret, sensitive compartment information, which is not included in this area (ph). HENDERSON: But it seems like John Bolton would know, right, and take great care not to --
BORGER: And his lawyer pointed that out.
HENDERSON: -- (INAUDIBLE) classified information, top secret information. And they obviously gave it to the White House at the end of December. There's no sense, given what we know about John Bolton, as careful as he is, that he would necessarily write a manuscript where he's putting the nation at risk.
BLITZER: But sometimes top secret information is in the eye of the beholder. There are a lot of differences.
BORGER: So is free speech.
TAPPER: And a lot of people have complained in the past, Democrats and Republicans, of the overclassification of information. Who knows if that's what's going on here, but perhaps he gave all the locations of our nuclear weapons in a special fold-out. I have no idea what's in the book.
KING: Yes. But, again, normally, these things are worked out. And it is possible. I assume, John Bolton, knowing his history was very careful. It's also possible that there's something -- there might be an honest disagreement over something or some things. Normally, again, the lawyers would sit down and work this out. It's also possible something has happened and something he writes about since he left and the White House thinks, given a more recent development, we need to be careful about that.
Again, you could have a reasonable conversation about that. But this letter reads like we're not really interested in a conversation, we're trying to shut this book down.
TAPPER: Well, it does say, we'll be in touch with you shortly with additional more detail, the guidance regarding the next steps that should enable you to revise the manuscript and move forward as expeditiously as possible. But we have no idea what that means in terms of how much of the book they will think is okay.
BORGER: And does this help Senator Langford, for example, who says, well, let's read -- let's take a look at this book in a classified setting. Maybe we ought to read it. And if it's classified --
TAPPER: But I don't think everyone in the Senate has access to top secret.
BORGER: Well, I don't either.
HENDERSON: I think this puts the --
BORGER: Classified though, if you did it in a classified setting and they --
TAPPER: Well, top secret level is a different level. I don't know if members of the U.S. Senate, all of them -- I'm sure you're in the Intelligence Committee or if you're in the gang of eight, yes, but like I'm not aware that every member of the Senate has access to that.
BORGER: So maybe they can't then. HENDERSON: And now, it seems like it gives them cover. If you're Republican, you can say, I mean, to John's point, that not only should we read the book because there's top secret information, we shouldn't talk to John Bolton.
BORGER: But if you're John Bolton now -- think about his. You're John Bolton right now, you get this letter, and you think you've cleared it because you know your way around national security a bit after decades in public service on it. And you say, wait a minute, I want to tell my story. This gives the White House cover, whatever. Maybe he will go out and talk about it. Maybe this is the shove. I don't know.
HENDERSON: Yes. I mean, he has been able to go out and talk about all of this stuff for a while now, whether it's on Jake Tapper's Show or Wolf's Show, whoever's show and he hasn't --
BLITZER: But if you've ever published a book, you know what the publishers always tell you, don't go on T.V. until the book is available in bookstores or online and you can actually go and buy the book.
HENDERSON: No, it's true. All of this stuff is only going to, I think, enhance interest in this book. It's probably climbing up Amazon charts, as we speak, even though it isn't --
TAPPER: Alan, as a former Senate parliamentarian, what is the process for bringing classified or top secret information to senators? Do they all have clearance where they can see top secret information?
ALAN FRUMIN, SENATE PARLIAMENTARIAN EMERITUS: The senators all have some degree of clearance. I doubt very much that they have the highest degree of clearance. But senators do have clearance. There is an office within the secretary of the Senate's office that handles secure information. And as we know, there is the SCIF in the Capitol, and even some Senate staff have a degree of clearance.
I was in secret sessions of the Senate as Senate Parliamentarian. So, clearly, there is some level of clearance for the senators, of course, and some staff. Whether it's sufficiently high so that they can see the manuscript, that I don't know.
BORGER: Well, it doesn't have to be the whole manuscript either, right? It could just the -- what are considered the relevant portions of the manuscript regarding Ukraine and the president's decision to withhold security aid, military aid.
TAPPER: So, John, let me ask you, there are going to be people who say, well, John Bolton, this is normal, this is fine, this is the normal process, which it would be normally, theoretically, this does happen. People leave the CIA and they write books and they submit them for application.
Here is Chief Justice Roberts. We'll continue this conversation when we get a break. In the meantime, here is Chief Justice Roberts.
JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES: The chaplain will lead us in prayer.
BARRY BLACK, SENATE CHAPLAIN: Let us pray. Divine shepherd, honor, glory and power belong to you. Refresh our senators as they enter a new phase of this impeachment trial. May they realize that you have appointed them for this great service and they are accountable to you.
Lord empower them to labor today with the dominate purpose of pleasing you, knowing that it is never wrong to do right. Give them resiliency in their toil as they remember your promise that they will reap a bountiful harvest if they don't give up.
Help them to follow the road of humility that leads to honor as they find their safety in trusting you. We pray in your majestic name, amen.
ROBERTS: Please join me in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. If there is no objection, the journal of proceedings of the trial are approved to date. Without objection so ordered. The Sergeant in Arms will make the proclamation.
MICHAEL STENGER, SENATE SERGENT AT ARMS: Hear-ye, hear-ye, hear-ye. All persons are commanded to keep silent on pain of imprisonment while the Senate of the United States, the city for the trial of the Articles of Impeachment exhibited by the House of Representatives against Donald John Trump, president of the United Sates.
ROBERTS: The Majority Leader is recognized.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Today the Senate will conduct up to eight hours of questions to the parties delivered in writing the Chief Justice. As a reminder, the two sides will alternate and answers should be kept to five minutes or less. The Majority side will lead off with a question from the Senator from Maine.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): Mr. Chief Justice.
ROBERTS: The Senator is recognized.
COLLINS: I send a question to the desk on behalf of myself, Senator Murkowski and Senator Romney.
ROBERTS: This is a question for the Counsel for the president. If President Trump had more than one motive for his alleged conduct such as the pursuit of personal political advantage, rooting out corruption, and the promotion of national interest, how should the Senate consider more than one motive in its assessment of Article 1.
PAT PHILBIN, DEPUTY COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Mr. Chief Justice, Senators; in response to that question there are really two layers to my answer because I'd like to point out first that even if there was only one motive, the theory of abuse of power that the House Managers have presented that subjective motive alone can become the basis for an impeachable offense, we believe is constitutionally defective.
It is not a permissible way to frame a claim of an impeachable offense under the Constitution. So -- but I'll put that to one side and address the question of mixed motive. If there were a motive that was of a public interest but also some personal interest, we think it follows even more clearly that that cannot possibly be the basis for an impeachable offense.
And even the House Managers as they have framed their case, they have explained and this is pointed out in our trial memorandum that in the House Judiciary Committee report, they specify that the standard they have to meet is to show that this a sham investigation, it's a bogus investigation. These investigations have -- there's not any legitimate public purpose. That's the language, any legitimate public purpose.
That's the standard they've set for themselves in being able to make this claim under their theory of what an abuse of power offense can be. So it's a very demanding standard that they've set for themselves to meet.
And they've even said they came up and they talked a lot about the Bidens. They talked a lot about these issues in 2016 election interference because they were saying there's not even a scintilla -- a scintilla of any evidence, of anything worth looking into there and that's the standard that they would have to meet, showing that there's no possible public interest and the president couldn't have had any smidgen even of a public interest motive.
because they recognize that once you get into a motive situation, if there's both some personal motive but also a legitimate public interest motive, it can't possibly be an offense because it would be absurd to have the Senate trying to consider well, was it 48 percent legitimate interest and 52 percent personal interest or was it the other way.
Was it 53 percent and 47. You can't divide it that way. And that's why they recognize it to have even a remotely coherent theory, the standard they have to set for themselves is establishing there is no possible public interest at all for these investigations.
And if there is any possibility, if there is something that shows a possible public interest and the president could have that possible public interest motive that destroys their case. So once you're into mixed motive land, it's clear that their case fails.
There can't possibly be an impeachable offense at all. And think about it. All elected officials to some extent have in mind how their conduct, how their decisions -- their policy decisions will affect the next election. There's always some personal interest in the electoral outcome of policy decisions. And there's nothing wrong with that. That's part of represented democracy. And to go start saying now that well if you've got a part motive that's for your personal electoral gain that that's somehow going to become an offense, it doesn't make any sense.
And it's totally unworkable and it can't be a basis for removing a president from office. So -- the bottom line is one you're into any mixed motive situation, once it is established that there is a legitimate public interest that -- that could justify looking into something, just asking a question about something, the Managers' case fails and it fails under their own terms.
They recognize that they have to show no possible public interest. There isn't any legitimate public interest and they've totally failed to make that case. I think we've shown very clearly that both of the things that were mentioned, 2016 election interference and the Biden- Burisma situation are things that raise at least some public interest.
There's something worth looking at there. It's never been investigated in the Biden situation. Lots of their own witnesses from the State Department said that on its face it appears to be a conflict of interest. It's at least worth raising a question about -- asking a question about it. And there is that public interest and that means their case absolutely fails. Thank you.
ROBERTS: Thank you, Counsel. The Democratic Leader is recognized.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Mr. Chief Justice, I send a question to the desk.
ROBERTS: The Democratic Leader asks of the House Managers, John R. Bolton's forthcoming book states that the president wanted to continue withholding $391 million in military aide to Ukraine until Ukraine announced investigations into his top political rival and the debunked conspiracy theory about the 2016 election.
Is there any way for the Senate to render a fully informed verdict in this case without hearing the testimony of Bolton, Mulvaney, and the other key eyewitnesses, or without seeing the relevant documentary evidence?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Thank you Mr. Chief Justice, the short answer to that question is no. There's no way to have a fair trial without witnesses, and when you have a witness who is a plainly relevant as John Bolton who goes to the heart of the most serious and egregious of the President's misconduct who has volunteered to come and testify, to turn him away to look the other way I think is deeply at odds with being an impartial juror.
I would also add in response to the last question that is any part of the President's motivation was a corrupt motive, if it was a causal factor in the action to freeze the aid or withhold the meeting, that is enough to convict -- it will be enough to convict under criminal law.
But here there's no question about the President's motivation, and if you would have any question about the President's motivation, it makes it all the more essential to call the man who spoke directly with the President, that the President confided in and said he was holding up this aid because he wanted Ukraine to conduct these political investigations, that would help him in the next election.
If you have any question about whether it was a factor, the factor, a quarter of the factor, all of the factor, there is a witness a subpoena away who can answer that question.
But, the overwhelming body of the evidence makes it very clear. On July 26th the day after that phone call, Donald Trump speaks to Gordon Sondland, that's that conversation at that Ukraine restaurant, and what does Gordon Sondland -- what is the President's question to Gordon Sondland the day after that call?
Is he going to do the investigations. Now, counsel, the President would have you believe the President was concerned about burden sharing. Well, he made have had a generic concern about burden sharing in other context, but here the motivation was abundantly clear on that phone with Gordon Sondland, the only question he wanted an answer to was is going to do the investigation.
Now bear in mind he's talking to the Ambassador to the European Union. What better person to talk to if his real concern was about burden sharing than the guy responsible for Europe's burden sharing. But did the President raise this at all? Of course not. Of course not.
And if you have any question about it, at all, you need to hear from his former National Security advisor. Don't wait for the book. Don't wait until March 17th when it is in black and white to find out the answer to your question.
Was it all of the motive, some of the motive, none of the motive. And we think, as I mentioned, the case is overwhelmingly clear without John Bolton, but if you'll have any question about it, you can erase all doubt. Now, let me -- let me show a video to underscore number two, slide two how important this is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAT CIPOLLONE, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: This (ph) House managers really their goal should be to give you all of the facts. Because they're asking you to do something very, very consequential and then (ph) ask yourself -- ask yourself, given the facts you heard today that they didn't tell you, who doesn't want to talk about the facts? Who doesn't want to talk about the facts? Impeachment shouldn't be a shell game. They should give you the facts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: The last video which is even more important and on point for Mr. Bolton, number three.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And once again not a single witness in the house record that they compiled and developed under their procedures that we've discussed and will continue to discuss provided any first hand evidence that the President ever linked the Presidential meeting to any investigations. Anyone who spoke with the President said that the President made clear that there was no linkage between security assistance and investigations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: (inaudible) know that's not correct, right, because of course Mick Mulvaney said that the money was linked to these investigations. He said in acknowledging a quid pro quo they do it all the time and we should just get over it.
Gordon Sondland also said the President said on the one hand no quid pro quo but also made it clear that Zelensky had to go to the mic and announce these investigations.
ROBERTS: Thank you.
SCHIFF: Thank you, Mr. Justice.
SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): Mr. Chief Justice.
ROBERTS: Senator King.
KING: I have a question for the President's counsel.
ROBERTS: To the President's counsel, would you please respond to the arguments or assertions the house managers just made in response to the previous question?
PHILBIN: Mr. Chief Justice, Senators, a couple of points that I'd like to make. Manager Schiff suggested that there was no evidence that the President was actually interested in burden sharing because he didn't apparently, according to David Hill, raise it in the telephone conversation that he had with Gordon Sondland that Hill claims to have overheard at a restaurant in Kyiv but let's look at the real evidence.