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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Schiff Proposes Limiting Witness Depositions To One Week To Push Back Against GOP Concerns Over Delays; Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) Discusses About His Take of Lamar Alexander And The Democrats' Push For Witnesses; Key GOP Senators Murkowski And Alexander Meeting Now; GOP Sen. Alexander Will Announce Decision On Witnesses Tonight; Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) Will Announce Decision on Witness Tonight; Senators Question House Managers, Trump Lawyers. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired January 30, 2020 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, TRUMP IMPEACHMENT ATTORNEY: His remarks are so much more powerful. They're called admissions against interest and for somebody to say, oh, I cited Bowie and he's taking the opposition. I said that on the floor of the Senate.
That makes his admissions even more compelling. He wrote a very strong article saying you need crime. He repeated it in The New York Times. You wouldn't know that from
watching your show and other shows that he admitted that and made an admission also about abuse of power, which was helpful to my argument.
So you always cite people who disagree with you, when they say something that agrees with you, because it gives it more credibility. Please go back and read his articles. But he is a coward, because he should have stuck by his guns. But he's an assistant professor. There's probably a lot of pressure on him to make sure that he's never used in any way to help a position that the dominant members of the faculty don't agree with. Shame on him.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right. Professor Dershowitz, he's a distinguished scholar. Let's leave it at that and let's continue this conversation down the road.
DERSHOWITZ: I understand that. But he didn't behave as a distinguished scholar on your show.
BLITZER: It's inappropriate to go after a distinguished Harvard law professor in that kind of way.
DERSHOWITZ: He went after me, called me a joke. Why can't I respond?
BLITZER: And you did respond.
DERSHOWITZ: You didn't stop him when he called me a joke. He is same standards.
BLITZER: I didn't interview him. I'm just interviewing you and we got to leave it on that note. DERSHOWITZ: Whoever it was, he didn't stopped him. So please let's
have a single standard, not a double standard.
BLITZER: Alan Dershowitz, we will continue this conversation down the road. Thanks so much for joining us. Erin Burnett is going to pick up our special coverage.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, we are just moments away from the senators going back into that chamber with the Chief Justice. These are the final few hours. This is it. The senators will have to question both Trump's legal team and the House managers.
As Democrats continue to push for witnesses ahead of the key vote tomorrow, the lead Democratic House manager at this moment, Adam Schiff, has a new proposal. He says that if you get witnesses, if you're going to vote with them there, they'll get them deposed in a week and they believe that then it will go very quickly to alleviate concerns, which of course, have been put out there that once you have witnesses, all time is thrown out of the window and a significant amount of time passes by.
He's saying, no, that's not the case. And as we've seen throughout this trial, of course, one surprise after another, and you just saw Alan Dershowitz trying to explain away what he said yesterday about an incredibly expansive view of executive power.
Phil Mattingly is OUTFRONT live on Capitol Hill. Phil, what are you hearing about this new proposal that Chairman Schiff is putting out? And more importantly, does this breakthrough to people who have bought into the if you get witnesses, this becomes a very prolonged process?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Erin, I want to walk you through what just occurred on the Senate floor which could potentially be a very important moment and it included Chairman Schiff's proposal of trying to limit to one week the depositions for any potential witnesses that would be subpoenaed.
What we saw shortly before the break is Senator Lamar Alexander. One of basically two Republicans at this point who haven't made up their mind on where they stand. Alexander has sat silently throughout the course of the last day and a half as these questions have moved through. More than 140 questions up to this point, he proceeded to ask his first question.
Now, we all perked up, everybody essentially froze when Senator Alexander asked that question because we've been waiting for any sign from which way he might be leaning at this point in time. The question was this, can you compare to the House managers the bipartisanship between the Nixon proceedings, the Clinton impeachment proceedings and the current proceedings.
And he asked that question with two conservative Republicans; Steve Daines of Montana and Ted Cruz of Texas, which we all kind of thought was assigned to some degree. And then Zoe Lofgren, one of the House managers who was involved in the Nixon proceedings, was involved in the Clinton proceedings, came and made the case for why she believed at some point based on new evidence that she had seen up to this point, this could become bipartisan even if it hadn't been yet.
And I'm told bipartisanship or their lack thereof has been a significant concern for Lamar Alexander. That was followed by Chuck Schumer, following up with a question where the Schiff proposal came out and then Mitch McConnell immediately following up for a question as well.
Everybody is trying to get a sense of where Lamar Alexander was and that exchange, that series, Erin, could be very important as we wait for those undecided senators to make up their mind.
BURNETT: All right. Phil, thank you very much and as we get more, you hear more in these few minutes that we have before the break ends and those senators go back into the chamber, we'll go back to Phil. I want to right now, though, go to Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. He's been in that Senate trial afternoon.
And Senator, what did you make of that moment of Senator Alexander's question and where he stands? Obviously, when it comes to your pushes Democrats for witnesses, Lamar Alexander is central.
SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR): He certainly is. And, Erin, my take is there are a number of Republican senators that are wrestling with this question of how you can go forward with a fair trial without having one witnesses who can make firsthand accounts.
I also think that what Adam Schiff was trying to do was to be conciliatory. There are a lot of ways to get there. You have a vote on a witness that Justice signs off on a subpoena. You can be off to the races.
So there are a lot of senators who I think are going to be up late tonight, really thinking through a bit of history because years from now, people, I believe are going to say, did you have a fair trial. That's what I got at home in places Donald Trump won, in places Hillary Clinton won.
BURNETT: So the witness vote is coming, right?
BURNETT: That's what it is about right now. Should there be a 50/50 tie? Your colleague, Senator Richard Blumenthal, says that Chief Justice Roberts should break that tie. And your colleague, Senator Chris Murphy, also a Democrat says Chief Justice Roberts should not break that tie. Where do you stand, Senator?
WYDEN: My sense is and I have tried study John Roberts, so the Chief Justice, for a number of years. My sense is because he feels so strongly about not affecting political judgments, my take his he would be very reluctant to break a tie and I based that on having studied him for a number of years.
BURNETT: So you're going with a will not should not.
WYDEN: And it is more a watch his style, you see his reluctance to get immersed in politics to be the political decision maker, that's coloring my judgment.
BURNETT: Rand Paul wrote a question today, Senator Paul. And in that question, as you know, Senator, he named the whistleblower. Now, Chief Justice Roberts refused to read that. He has read questions which describes some things about the whistleblower. He refused to read a question in which that name appeared.
So Rand Paul then went back and the senator read his question aloud to reporters in the halls of the Senate. We obviously are not reporting on that name. Should Senator Paul face any consequences?
WYDEN: I am co-chair of the whistleblower caucus, so I feel very strongly that it's important. It's critical to protect whistleblowers. And I will tell you, Erin, on the basis of what has happened over the last couple of months, whistleblowers are certainly less likely to come forward. The Chief Justice made a ruling, I think, that disposes it.
BURNETT: And a final question, Senator. Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said President Trump wouldn't be acquitted if the Senate trial does not include witnesses. It's sort of at the heart of, well, it can't be a meaningful vote if it did not actually include all of the information. If the Senate votes to acquit without calling witnesses, Senator, will you accept that result as an acquittal?
WYDEN: My concern is and we're still in a period where things are very fluid that I'm going to spend all my time, every bit of time trying to approach our Republicans and talk about the historical impact of this. This is going to set a precedent. This is going to set a precedent that a lot of senators are going to have to face for years to come.
And I'm going to focus on trying to get Republicans support for key witnesses, witnesses with firsthand knowledge.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Senator. I appreciate your time. And, Laura, I'm going to go right to you. We're going to joined in just a few moments by member of the President's defense team to talk about some of this.
But, obviously, Congressman Schiff is saying, look, it doesn't mean weeks or months. It doesn't mean we don't have an end game. We're going to depose any people, OK, he made it clear, it was open ended, within a week. And they could do that. They could do that behind closed doors.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes.
BURNETT: And it's going to be moved very quickly. Is that true? Do you actually think that can all happen? COATES: Well, I think they are following the precedent we set in the
Clinton impeachment trial. But the problem is the deciding of who the witnesses will be and the streamlining of the questions and what are the most important parts, it is difficult to assume you could actually get comprehensive in long-term depositions from any one particular witness given the gravity of the issues.
However, you could do so if everyone is doing the same thing. I think in many ways Schiff was saying this because he wanted to say, can you at least allow for there to be some form of a fair trial and process, could you at least allow what we've done in the past before much less than a matter of how quickly you could do it.
You can get a deposition in a day. You can do it two days. You can do three days. It could be a short time period to do so. But I think his argument was more so political than it was about the amount of time.
BURNETT: And trying to get them onboard. Now, to this point, Ryan, that was a moment, the Chief Justice sits this odd thing, literally, these very formal little index cards. The card the questions are written on. I mean, the senator stands up and says, I have a question for the House managers or the Trump team and then Chief Justice Roberts reads it.
So on this issue, we're talking about a possible tie and will Chief Justice Roberts see it as his job to step in and break that tie. I thought this was an interesting moment. He appeared to show some emotion. This was a question from Senator Warren and she asked about how this trial is going to affect Americans' view of the entire government system and particularly Supreme Court. Here's the Chief Justice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES: At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the Chief Justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the Chief Justice, the Supreme Court and the Constitution?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Senator, I would not say that it contributes to a loss of confidence in the Chief Justice. I think the Chief Justice has presided admirably.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: There was that extra moment when he was done reading that question, that I thought was just significant, hard to tell. He doesn't let anything show on his face, but it seemed meaningful to him.
RYAN GOODMAN, CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, JUST SECURITY: I would think that it would and in some ways he is being used as a vehicle because he has no choice but to read the words.
GOODMAN: So it made for that moment. So I thought it was right for what Adam Schiff did to try to then bolster him in a certain sense, because I don't think that's necessarily playing fair for him to be put into that situation.
GOODMAN: And we're talking about really grave questions that he's about to maybe face like do I do something as significant as breaking a 50/50 tie. That's the enormity of the situation. So to use him in that way, I thought, didn't play well and the real question is like now what will his role otherwise be, because we shouldn't put him into that kind of a position.
BURNETT: It is just such an important moment that he's going to have possibly if that happens, but his role in this is significant. Scott, he also, of course, had to read that question from Lamar Alexander that Phil Mattingly was talking about, where everyone is trying to read into what will Lamar Alexander do.
He's that crucial person. He could be that person who causes a tie and hopefully no one will shy away from that if they think it's the right thing to do. But what did you read into that question that he submitted along with other senators, including Ted Cruz?
SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, look, I think that Lamar Alexander is obviously still trying to make up his mind about what he wants to do. But I think he's also one of the most thoughtful and most respected members of the Senate. And so I thought I trust Lamar Alexander.
Whatever he does here, I think he's going to go down in history as one of the greatest senators from Tennessee and one of the greatest Republican senators of all time and I trust his judgment.
On the question, by the way, from Elizabeth Warren, I thought that was ridiculous, honestly, to hector and pressure the Chief Justice of the United States with that political question. That was a question written by someone who's running for president who doesn't know any other way except to sort of be, I thought, rather vicious in the way she was raising the specter of his illegitimacy.
I agree with the way Schiff answered it by the way. I thought he handled it perfectly and I thought that question was out of bounds.
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I agree. I think it put him in a very tough position and it didn't do the democrats any favors by putting him in that position. He's going to make up his mind based on what he thinks.
I do think there was a pretty significant uptick in the hostility today between the two sites. I think they're tired of each other.
LOCKHART: And particularly from White House Counsel Cipollone, who seem to be on a very hair trigger today going after Schiff very personally. And I think the Democrats were smart to let Zoe Lofgren answer those questions.
I think the Democrats have done a very good job here of making the case. The Republicans for that actually have done a very good job of distraction. And the President has gotten what he wants, which is he's gotten Joe Biden smeared on the floor of the Senate. So whatever happens here, everybody got something.
BURNETT: Well, we are now just a few minutes away from them all returning. All of you stay with me and we are going to hear from President Trump's team as we await the Senate to return from a dinner break. One of the President's impeachment attorneys will be OUTFRONT next. Is he preparing for witnesses?
BURNETT: Breaking news, we are moments away from the impeachment trial starting back up and we are just learning that two key senators to watch, Lamar Alexander and Lisa Murkowski, are meeting right now. This is as the final few hours of senators' questions are about to get underway and this is the big question, this is the votes for witnesses or not. This is the final moments.
And OUTFRONT now, one of the President's impeachment attorneys, Robert Ray. And I appreciate your taking the time to be with me.
ROBERT RAY, TRUMP IMPEACHMENT ATTORNEY: Of course. Nice to be with you.
BURNETT: So Senator Murkowski, Senator Alexander are meeting. This is obviously very significant. If one of them votes for witnesses and the other doesn't, you could end up in a tie. They know that and they're meeting. So this is something I would imagine you view as very significant as well.
RAY: Of course. I mean, trials are unpredictable things. This is where we have now landed. This is something for the Senate as a body to make a determination about and it's going to come down to some close votes. So they are very much well aware, I am sure of the significance of their actions and also the difficulty that would be presented by putting the Chief Justice in a position to have to consider the question of whether to break ...
BURNETT: So you see it as they want to vote together rather than one way or the other? RAY: Well, look, during a trial I have to be very careful.
RAY: I am not in any way trying to influence or impact their decision. That's a call that they have to make. All I'm suggesting to you is the question you asked, isn't this significant? You're darn right, it's significant. It's significant for the country.
BURNETT: And this is the big question, this is witnesses. Jay Sekulow began the President's defense. We all saw it, of course, with an impassioned argument on this very issue. And I just wanted to play, again, one of the key moments. Here's Jay Sekulow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Not a single witness testify that the President himself said that there was any connection between any investigation and security assistance, a presidential meeting or anything else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Which was a grim situation until it wasn't, until John Bolton came forward and said, to use Sekulow's words, the President himself said there was a connection between an investigation and security assistance. Can you explain that hypocrisy why Sekulow and your whole team wouldn't say, great, let's hear from the guy.
RAY: Well, it's not hypocrisy, because the most that Bolton can say based upon what has been reported is this is what the President wanted.
That's not sufficient of a link to get into the question about whether or not there actually is evidence that would be sufficient to sustain an impeachment charge, which is the one that should have been brought if the house managers actually had the evidence to sustain it of a corrupt quid pro quo.
BURNETT: But he's saying no one said the President said this and Bolton is saying the President did. Just on its fact, on the basis of that simple reality, how was that not significant?
RAY: I don't think that's a newsflash, I think everyone has understood for quite some time and going all the way back to the Mick Mulvaney press conference about what it is that the President wanted to see happen and he's said as much, so I don't see how that really is news.
BURNETT: Well, it is to your fellow lawyers. The whole time they've said there was no connection between the investigation and security assistance. RAY: Well, I guess this depends on what kind of connection we're
talking about here. Let's be very careful about the kind of connection that would have to be sustained. I addressed this when I had my remarks to the Senate. It would have to have been a conversation between the President and President Zelensky somewhere along the lines of, listen, here's the deal, you're not getting foreign assistance unless I get the investigations that I want.
That conversation, of course, never took place.
BURNETT: But if Rudy Giuliani was the messenger of that or anyone else, it's not the same effect?
RAY: I understand that. But the principal witnesses with regard to this, first, the President who denied it and people will say, well, that's what Adam Schiff has claimed, that's a false exculpatory. But it's still actually evidence and denied that the existence ...
BURNETT: But he has said it under oath.
RAY: Well, he's denied the existence of a quid pro quo. No, he did it contemporaneous to the events while this was happening in a conversation that he had both with Ambassador Sondland and also with Senator Ron Johnson.
RAY: That's not an insignificant thing.
And the second thing, of course, is that the Ukrainian officials have continuously from President Zelensky on down that any pressure was applied with regard to that and third and probably most significantly ...
RAY: ... the aid got released.
BURNETT: Yes, the aid got released three days after the President found out there was an investigation into the aid.
RAY: Yes. But, Erin, eventually they ...
BURNETT: Zelensky gets 90 percent of his military aid from the United States of America, so of course, he's going to say there's no pressure even if there's pressure. I mean, it's hard to use those things (inaudible) ...
RAY: Well, I don't think evidence really is of the sort of. Of course, he was going to say that. I mean, the fact is what the facts are and I think the most significant of which is the administration through OMB and Mick Mulvaney all recognize that the aid was going to be only temporarily withheld. It was going to be released prior to the end of the fiscal year and they knew they didn't have authority to extend it beyond that any further and that's in fact what happened.
BURNETT: And that's why there was so much urgency on getting an investigation.
RAY: I'm not sure of what's the connection.
BURNETT: The investigation that everyone kept saying that the President of the United States wanted, that we heard witness after witness after witness talk about in the House.
RAY: Yes. I guess my response to you is this, there's nothing improper about the President withholding aid in order to see what the Ukrainians do and that's all that was done here. That is completely a legitimate action for the President to take and that is the action that he did take and there isn't any evidence to suggest anything beyond that to the contrary.
BURNETT: So one of your colleagues on President Trump's defense team, Patrick Philbin said something, which was pretty surprising to anyone who has been following this in a specific point. Let me just play him.
BURNETT: This was just a few moments ago. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICK PHILBIN, DEPUTY COUNSEL TO THE PRESIDENT: I just want to make clear that there was no conduct of foreign policy being carried on here by a private person. Ambassador Volker was clear that he understood Mr. Giuliani just to be a source of information for the president. And someone who knew about Ukraine and someone who spoke to the President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That answer was surprising because, again, here's what we've heard from witness after witness about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL TAYLOR, TOP U.S. DIPLOMAT IN UKRAINE: The official foreign policy of the United States was undercut by the irregular efforts led by Mr. Giuliani.
DAVID HOLMES, UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: I became aware that Mr. Giuliani, a private lawyer, was taking a direct role in Ukrainian diplomacy.
GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the President of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Patrick Philbin knows all of that, why would he say there was no conduct a foreign policy being carried on by a private person? RAY: Because we have a foreign policy establishment that does that. I
mean, I think really the question if we can keep our eye on the ball here is issues related to what was done asking for and making a request for the Ukrainians to look into matters involving corruption, including the Bidens and Burisma. I mean, if we can just sort of focus on that, that's the real question.
If I have said it would have been better to have done that through the usual ...
BURNETT: He did say that.
RAY: ... an appropriate government channels and one of the reasons you do that is because then your political motives really are not subject to question when everybody understands that they're being run through the appropriate processes of the federal government. That's not to say that the President doesn't have the authority to do it outside of those channels, but there are consequences to that and that's why we found ourselves in this situation.
BURNETT: All right. Bob, thank you and stay with us, please. The Senate is expected to return from their dinner break at any moment. As we are learning the two key senators who are crucial to deciding whether the Senate will hear from witnesses were just in a closed-door meeting. What does that mean?
BURNETT: Breaking news, as we await the senators returning from their break, we have been telling you about Lamar Alexander submitted a question today, a crucial Republican senator. Well, guess what, he says he is going to make his announcement tonight on witnesses.
I want to go straight to Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. Manu, look, he knows the significance of this and he just had a closed-door meeting, I know, with Lisa Murkowski, another crucial senator. But him making this decision tonight and announcing it is extremely significant.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. He told me just moments ago that he will announce this decision tonight. Of course, if he decides to come out against witnesses and documents, that should be enough to ensure that there will be no witnesses and documents in this Senate trial and that the President Trump's trial could be ended quickly, potentially as soon as tomorrow night.
Now, after this closed-door meeting with Lisa Murkowski, Senator Alexander emerged.
I asked, Are you going to make a decision? He said, I'm going to make my decision after the last question tonight. So, I said, well, are you going to announce your decision? He said, yes.
I said, well, are you coordinating your decision with Lisa Murkowski? And he said that, we were just talking. He said, Lisa and I often talk about what we are doing. He said they're not coordinating. They're acting independently of one another.
But they're clearly checking in on this. And, of course, they are the two key senators who we are not clear where they'll come down. We do expect Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney both to vote for that motion that would allow for more votes for subpoenas and documents, for witnesses and for documents. But we don't know where Lisa Murkowski is yet.
She is saying that she's leaning -- she says that she's curious about talking to witnesses, but she's very mum over the last couple of days --
RAJU: -- about whether to move forward.
And Lamar Alexander has not show his cards one way or the other. He's very close to Mitch McConnell, but he's an institutionalist. Bipartisan support in his chamber -- bipartisan relationships, so his decision to make this announcement decisive is going to come tonight, he tells me.
BURNETT: Manu, can you imagine them splitting? I mean, let's just to play this out for people. If Lamar Alexander votes for witnesses and Murkowski votes against witnesses, then you end up with a tie.
BURNETT: And a tie is a situation no one wants to be in. Republicans don't want that, Democrats don't want that, John Roberts doesn't want that, nobody wants that.
So, would you see them splitting on this issue or?
RAJU: Yes, according to what Lamar Alexander told me they are acting independently --
RAJU: -- but there is a push to limit the defections on the Republican side because of that issue. No senator wants to be the decisive vote. If it's 51-49, that's easier for Republicans to message so Republicans can't be blamed to be the decisive vote to move against witnesses. So, and also raising the question about whether the chief justice --
RAJU: -- will force that tiebreaking vote. So, that's why members don't want to go that route. We'll have to see what they decide. And of course tonight could be a decisive night about the president president's impeachment trial, whether it will end tomorrow night or go on for some time.
BURNETT: Hugely a significant development. Obviously, Murkowski heading back in there now. The Senate majority leader is back. Obviously, we're waiting for the gavel in.
This is a huge development though, it's safe to say, isn't it, Scott? I mean, that Lamar Alexander HAS said he will announce. I would imagine that mean he's already decided he's going to wait until the questions and answers are done. What do you read into that?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, he's it, right? If he says he's not going to do it, then if just three others do it, then it leaves it at 50/50. If he is going to do it, I assume that makes it more likely that Murkowski is going to do it.
So, yes, really big announcement tonight. And, of course, Republicans are warning that this could drag this out for an indefinite period of time. And that's something that obviously the Senate leadership has been warning against heavily.
MADDOW: Now, they have been but again, I want to make that point, Ryan, Adam Schiff is saying that's not so. They'll get depositions. They'll do the depositions of witnesses within a week. Maybe they would do a deal or you're just going to have -- I'm just saying, Bolton for Hunter Biden and that's it, and everybody's going to get a little bit of what they want and they're done and you do all that in a week. Is that possible?
RYAN GOODMAN, CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, JUST SECURITY: Seems possible. It seems possible that they could do the depositions. They could even get written statements, maybe just one written statement from Bolton and then the other side could get their written statements. There's compromise there.
So, the idea that somebody would make a decision tonight before seeing what that compromise might be suggests to me in a certain sense that maybe their mind is already made up in a different direction because otherwise you might see movement in that space.
BURNETT: All right.
Well, all of you stay with me. We're going to take a brief break. As I said, they've all filed in -- starting to file in. McConnell is in the room. Murkowski is in the room. We're following the breaking news.
Lamar Alexander will be announcing tonight he tells our Manu Raju whether he will support hearing from witnesses or not. We'll be right back.
BURNETT: Senator McConnell is gaveling back in for the final part of the question and answer session. Let's listen in.
GRASSLEY: I send a question to the desk on behalf of myself, senators McConnell, Hoeven and Wicker.
J. ROBERTS: Thank you. The question from Senator Grassley and the other senators is addressed to counsel for the President - "During President Clinton's impeachment trial, he argued that quote 'no civil officer, no President, no judge, no Cabinet member has ever been impeached by so narrow a margin and that the closeness and partisan division of the vote reflected the constitutionally dubious nature of the charges against him,' end quote. President Trump has raised similar concerns during these proceedings and argues that the lack of bipartisan consensus highlights the partisan nature of the charges. Are the President's concerns well-founded?"
PHILBIN: Mr. Chief Justice, senators, thank you for that question. I think the concerns are very well-founded. I think that they are concerns that echo back to our founding, when Alexander Hamilton warned in Federalist No. 65 precisely against partisan impeachments.
A partisan impeachment is one of the greatest dangers that the framers saw in the impeachment power and in Federalist No. 65, Hamilton specifically said that "impeachments could become persecution by an intemperate or designing majority in the House" - excuse me - "in the House of Representatives" and - and that is what we have in this case.
In fact, there was bipartisan opposition to the articles of impeachment here in the House. So this is one of the - it is the most divisive sort of - an impeachment could be brought here and it reflects very poorly on the process that was run in the House, which did not have bipartisan support, and the charges that were ultimately adopted in the House, because it is a purely partisan impeachment.
And I think that that's important to bear in mind also that the House managers themselves and some of the members of this chamber at the time of the Clinton impeachment warned very eloquently against partisan impeachments. They recognized that a partisan impeachment would not be valid, that it would do grave damage to our political community, to our politeia, to the country. It would create deep divisions that would last for years.
And in the Clinton impeachment, they made those warnings when it was not even arising in the context of an election year. Now we have a partisan impeachment, as we pointed out, when there's an election only nine months away.
And it will be perceived and is perceived by many in the country as simply an attempt to interfere with the election and to prevent the voters from having their choice of who they want to be President for the next four years.
And the House managers have said "we can't allow the voters to decide because we can't be sure it will be a fair election." That - that can't be the way we approach democracy in the United States. We have to respect the ability of - of the voters to take in information - because all of the information is out now, they've had plenty of an opportunity with the - the process that they ran in the House, to make all of the information public that they want and to be able to make their accusations against the President. We think they've been disproved and the voters should be able to decide.
And the most important thing, the greatest danger from this partisan impeachment, I believe, is the one that Minority Leader Schumer warned about back in 1998, which is that once we start down the road of purely partisan impeachments, once we start to normalize that process and make it all right to have a purely partisan impeachment, especially in an election year, then we just turn impeachment into a partisan political tool and it will be used again and again and again and more frequently and more frequently.
And that's not a process, that is not a future for the country that this chamber should accept. Instead, this chamber should put an end to the growing pattern towards partisan impeachments in this country, put an end to that practice and definitively make clear that a purely partisan impeachment not based on adequate charges, not based on charges that meet the constitutional standard will not get any consideration in this chamber and will be rejected. Thank you.
J. ROBERTS: Thank you, counsel. Senator from Maryland?
VAN HOLLEN: Mr. Chief Justice, on behalf of myself and Senator Klobuchar, I send a question to the desk directed to both parties.
J. ROBERTS: Thank you. The question from Senator Van Hollen is to both parties. The President's counsel will go first - "In his response to an earlier question this evening, Mr. Sekulow cited individuals like the Bidens as being quote 'not irrelevant to our case,' end quote. Are you opposed to having the Chief Justice make the initial determinations regarding the relevance of documents and witnesses, particularly as the Senate could disagree with the Chief Justice's ruling by a majority vote?" The President's counsel first (ph).
SEKULOW: Mr. Chief Justice, again, to make our position clear, we think constitutionally that would not be the appropriate way to go. We're - it's - again, no disrespect to the Chief Justice at all, who's presiding here as the Presiding Officer, but our view is that if there are issues that have to be resolved on constitutional matters that it should be done in the appropriate way.
You have Senate rules that govern that as to what you would do and then there's, you know - if litigation were to be necessary for a particular issue, that would have to be looked at, but this idea that we can short circuit the system, which is what they've been doing for three months, is not something we're willing to go with.
I - I've said that, I said it all day yesterday and - and no - again, no disrespect to the Senator's question but we're just - that's not a position that we will accept as - as far as moving these proceedings forward. Thank you.
SCHIFF: Senators, counsel for the President says "that would not be constitutionally appropriate." Why not? Where is it prohibited in the Constitution that in an impeachment trial, upon the agreement of the parties, the Chief Justice cannot resolve issues of the materiality of witnesses? Of course that is permitted by the Constitution. Now, counsel earlier said that the House managers want to decide on which witnesses the President should be able to call. "We want them to call our witnesses."
Well, you would think that Mick Mulvaney, the White House Chief of Staff, would be their witness, if indeed he supports what the President is claiming, if indeed he is willing to say under oath what he's willing to say in a press statement. You would think he would be their witness.
But I'm not saying that we get to decide, that's not the proposal here. The proposal is we take a week, the Senate goes about its business, we do depositions, the witnesses are not witnesses on the President's behalf, that we get a decision on as House managers but rather that we entrust the Chief Justice of the United States to make a fair and impartial decision as to whether a witness is material or not, whether a witness has relevant facts or not, or whether a witness is simply being brought before this body for the purposes of retribution, in the case of the whistleblower, or to smear the Bidens without material purpose relevant to these proceedings. We're not asking that you accept our judgment on that, we're proposing that the Chief Justice make that decision.
And I think the reason, of course, they don't want the Chief Justice to make that decision, as I indicated the other night, is not because they don't trust the Chief Justice to be fair, it's because they fear the Chief Justice will be fair.
SCHIFF: And I think that tells you everything you need to know about the lack of good faith when it comes to the arguments they make about why they went to court, why they refused to comply with any subpoenas, why they refused to provide any documents, why they're here before you saying that the House managers must sue to get witnesses and they're in court on the same day saying you can't sue to get witnesses.
And this is why they don't want the chief justice to make that decision, because they know the witnesses they're requesting are for purposes of retribution or distraction.
J. ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. Manager.
TILLIS: Mr. Chief Justice.
J. ROBERTS: Senator from North Carolina.
TILLIS: Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice. I send a question to the desk on behalf of myself and Senator Cruz.
J. ROBERTS: Thank you.
The question from senators Tillis and Cruz is for the House managers. You have based your case on the proposition that it was utterly baseless and a sham to ask for an investigation into possible corruption of Burisma and the Bidens. Chris Heinz, the stepson of then-Secretary of State John Kerry, emailed Kerry's chief of staff that, quote, "apparently Devon and Hunter both joined the board of Burisma and a press release went out today, I can't speak to why they decided to, but there was no investment by our firm in their company."
Heinz subsequently terminated his business relationship with Devon Archer and Hunter Biden because, quote, "working with Burisma is unacceptable," and showed a, quote, "lack of judgment." Do you agree with Chris Heinz that working with Burisma was unacceptable? Did John Kerry or Joe Biden agree with Chris Heinz? If not, why not?
SCHIFF: Justice, the reason why Joe Biden is not material to these proceedings, the reason why this is a baseless smear is that the issue is not whether Hunter Biden should have sat on that board or not sat on that board. The issue is not whether Hunter Biden was properly compensated or improperly compensated or whether he speaks Ukrainian or he doesn't speak Ukrainian.
What the president asked for was an investigation of Joe Biden. And the smear against Joe Biden is that he sought to fire a prosecutor because he was trying to protect his son. I guess that's the nature of the allegation. And that is a baseless smear. As we demonstrated, as the unequivocal testimony in the House demonstrated, when the vice president sought the dismissal of a corrupt and incompetent prosecutor, it had nothing to do with Hunter Biden's position on the board.
It had everything to do with the fact that the State Department, our allies, the International Monetary Fund were in unanimous agreement that this prosecutor was corrupt. And the un-contradicted testimony was also that in getting rid of that prosecutor, it would increase the chances of real corruption prosecutions going forward, not that it would decrease them.
So the sham is this. The sham is that Joe Biden did something wrong when he followed United States policy, when he did what he was asked to do by our European allies, when he did what he was asked to do by international financial institutions.
And the other sham is the Russian propaganda sham that this CrowdStrike kooky conspiracy theory that the Ukrainians, not the Russians, hacked the DNC, and that someone whisked the server away to Ukraine to hide it. That is Russian intelligence propaganda. And, yes, it's a sham.
And it's worse than a sham. It's a Russian propaganda coup, is what it is. Thank God, Putin says, that they are not talking about Russian interference anymore, they are talking about Ukrainian interference.
Now counsel says, well, isn't it possible that two countries interfered? But you heard what our own director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, said. There was no evidence of Ukrainian interference in our election. There is no evidence. So, yes, I think we can cite the FBI director for the proposition that that is a sham. And that's why -- that's why we referred to it as such.
But at the end of the day, what this is all about is the president using the power of his office, abusing the power of that office to engage in soliciting investigations and actually just the announcement of them. If the president thought there was so much merit there, then why was it that he just needed their announcement?
And what's more, as counsel just conceded before the break, Rudy Giuliani was not pursuing the policy of the United States. OK, if it wasn't the policy of the United States then what was it? If it wasn't the policy to pursue an investigation of the Bidens, then what was it? It was a domestic political errand is what it was.
J. ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. Manager.
WYDEN: Mr. Chief Justice.
J. ROBERTS: Senator from Oregon.
WYDEN: Mr. Chief Justice, on behalf of Senator Menendez, Senator Brown, and myself, I send a question to the desk for the House managers.
J. ROBERTS: Thank you.
Senators Wyden, Menendez, and Brown ask the House managers, the president's counsel has argued that the president's actions are based on his desire to root out corruption. However, new reporting indicates that Attorney General Barr and former National Security Adviser Bolton shared concerns that the president was granting personal favors to autocratic foreign leaders like President Erdogan of Turkey. The president has also acknowledged his private business interests in the country, like Trump Towers in Istanbul.
The Treasury Department has not denied that the president directed Treasury and the Department of Justice to intervene in the criminal investigation of Halk Bank, the Turkish state-owned bank which has been accused of a scheme to evade Iranian sanctions.
Has the president engaged a pattern of conduct in which he places his personal and political interests above the national security interest of the United States?
JEFFRIES: Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice. And I also want to thank the senators again for your hospitality and for listening to both sides as we endeavor to answer your questions. Thank you for that question.
I think, first and foremost, there has been a troubling pattern of possible conflicts of interest that we have seen from the beginning of this administration through this moment. But the allegation here, related to the abuse of power charge, is that in this specific instance the president tried to cheat by soliciting foreign interference in an American election by trying to gin up phony investigations against a political opponent.
Now, what counsel for the president has said is that what the president was really interested in is corruption, that he is an anti- corruption crusader. For you to believe the president's narrative, you have to conclude that he's an anti-corruption crusader. Perhaps his domestic record is part of what senators can reasonably consider. But let's look at the facts of the central charge here. The president had two calls with President Zelensky. On April 21st and on July 25th.
In both instances he did not mention the word corruption once. Release the transcripts. The word corruption was not mentioned by Donald Trump once. We also know that in May of last year, President Trump's own Department of Defense indicated that the new Ukrainian government had met all necessary preconditions for the receive (ph) of the military aide
Including the implementation of anti-corruption reforms. That's President Trump's Department of Defense saying there is no corruption concern as it relates to the release of the aide. Now, I think we can all acknowledge as the president's counsel indicated that there was a general corruption challenge with Ukraine.
I think the exact quote from Mr. Purpura was since the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has suffered from one of the worst environments of corruption in the world. Certainly I believe that that's the case.
But here's the key question, why did President Trump wait until 2019 to pretend as if he wanted to do something about corruption. Let's explore. Did Ukraine have a corruption problem in 2017, generally the answer is yes. Did President Trump dislike foreign aid in 2017, the answer is yes.
What did President Trump do about these alleged concerns in 2017, the answer is nothing. Under the same exact conditions that the President now claims motivated him so seek a phony political investigation against the Bidens and place a hold on the money, the president did nothing.
He did not seek an investigation into the Bidens in 2017. He did not put a hold on the aid in 2017 but the Trump administration oversaw $560 million in military and security aid to Ukraine in 2017.
In 2018 the same conditions existed. If President Trump is truly an anti-corruption crusader. But what happened in 2018. He didn't seek an investigation into the Bidens. He didn't put a hold on the aid; rather the Trump administration oversaw $620 million in military and security aid to Ukraine.
Which brings us to this moment. Why the sudden interest in Burisma, in the Bidens and alleged corruption concerns about Ukraine. What changed in 2019. What changed is that Joe Biden announced his candidacy.
The president was concerned with that candidacy. Polls had him losing to the former vice president and he was determined to stop Joe Biden by trying to cheat in the election, smear him, solicit foreign interference in 2020. That is an abuse of power. That is corrupt. That is wrong.
J. ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. Manager. The Senator from Maine.
COLLINS: Mr. Chief Justice, I send a question to the desk on behalf of myself, Senator Rubio, and Senator Risch.
J. ROBERTS: Thank you. The question from Senator Collins, Rubio, and Risch is addressed to the House Managers. The House of Representatives withdrew it subpoena to compel Charles Kupperman's testimony.