Return to Transcripts main page

NEW DAY

Alexander: Dems Proved Case, But Voters Should Decide Trump's Fate; Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) is Interviewed About the Impeachment Trial; Lakers to Play First Game Since Kobe Bryant's Death. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired January 31, 2020 - 07:00   ET

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


[07:00:01]

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Factually incorrect. There are 64 people injured and have been treated for these injuries as a result of what Iran did. And what is next? Well, the Pentagon saying they are asking Iraq for permission to put Patriot missile defenses into these bases to try and protect against future ballistic missiles. But the Iraqis have yet to give their permission -- John and Alisyn.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you very much.

Major news in the impeachment trial of the president. A key senator comes forward and tells us what he thinks in this really closes the door on everything.

NEW DAY continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We have a situation. The fate of our nation is riding on how this is resolved.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Republican Senator Lamar Alexander says he plans to vote against witnesses.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): That's a big, big deal. The chances of additional witnesses has plummeted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That could mean the swift end to the president's impeachment trial.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you can go forward with a fair trial without having witnesses who make first-hand count?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Democrats are impeaching him without a broad consensus. They're impeaching him on the basis of made up criteria.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not a real trial and it's not a real exoneration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's a cover-up. ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY and it is another historic day.

A major development in the Senate impeachment trial while you were sleeping. Republican Lamar Alexander announcing overnight he will vote no on hearing from witnesses and getting more evidence.

Susan Collins is the only Republican senator to definitively at this hour have said yes to witnesses. Utah Senator Mitt Romney is expected to join her today on that side.

There is still uncertainty over whether Alaska's Senator Lisa Murkowski will say yes or no. But even a yes vote from her would only result in a 50/50 tie. And that would mean probably the witness vote fails unless Chief Justice John Roberts decides to break that tie.

BERMAN: Unlikely.

All right. Stunningly, Lamar Alexander says that Democrats proved their case that the president asked Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and linked aid to Ukraine to that investigation. But Alexander does not want to hear John Bolton's testimony that Bolton says the president told him the very same thing.

Overnight, Bolton did speak. We did hear from him at a closed door event in Texas. And what he did was defended government officials who broke with the White House and testified in the investigation. He told the crowd that members of the Trump administration should be able to speak their minds without retribution. We'll get to a John Bolton in a second because he can speak his mind any time he wants. He could come out this morning and tell us everything he knows.

Joining us now, CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins, Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator Paul Begala and Rick Santorum, CNN senior political commentator and a former Republican senator.

And, friends, I think we need to read what Lamar Alexander wrote last night. It was a really interesting statement. It came at 11:00 p.m. where almost everyone was sleeping.

Here's one part: There is no need for more evidence to prove that the president asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son. He said this on television on October 3rd and during his July 25th telephone call with the president of Ukraine. There is no need for more evidence to conclude the president withheld the United States aid, at least in part to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. The House managers have proved this with what they call a mountain of overwhelming evidence.

Paul, first to you. Lamar Alexander says, you know what? The House managers proved it. Not only do I think it's not worth removing the president over it. That's a high bar. But I don't think we should hear any more witnesses in the case.

The significance of all this.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, this is Lamar Alexander's place in history. History will not remember he was the governor of Tennessee, he was the president of the University of Tennessee, he was the secretary of education, and for 17 years, a respected senator from Tennessee.

They will remember that he brought the O.J. Simpson jury nullification to the United States Senate. Right, he says, yes, he did it, but it just doesn't matter.

You now, Rick Santorum's former late colleagues, Arlen Specter, in the Clinton case, he tried to argue guilty but not proved, whatever that wins. I think Alexander is saying he's guilty and proved, but I just don't care.

It's really a tragedy. This thing's a farce. OK? Let's just face it -- it's a sham. You can't have a trial without witnesses, and now, you have a juror who says, yes, he did it, but I just care.

CAMEROTA: Rick, I'm sure you have a lot to say, but first let's read more of Senator Alexander's statement because I think it's really interesting. He says, it was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation.

[07:05:03]

Which elected official -- I'm sorry, when elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law. But the Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year's ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.

So, Rick, if you can use taxpayer dollars for your own political errands, where does that leave us?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first off, I agree with Paul that this process has been a sham. But it started in the House, and that's one of the major flaws that I think Senator Alexander, many people see.

Here is the key question last night that people seem to be ignoring. There was a question that -- I forget who asked it. But they asked, is there any evidence that anyone in the Trump administration actually went to Ukraine and said, we are -- we are not going to give you this aid until you -- until you, you know, do what we ask you to do?

And the fact is there's no one that alleged that ever happened. No one who -- nobody. And there's no evidence anywhere. There's no suggesting there's evidence anywhere. CAMEROTA: Well, John Bolton referred to it as a drug deal. There was

some deal he was referring to, if only we could know the details of that.

SANTORUM: But -- what Lamar is saying is, look, the fact the president withheld aid and that the president, you know, wanted something, that isn't enough. That there has to be something. And even if there is, even if those things happened, under the statute, under the MacDonald court case, if you will, an official act of having -- excuse me. The Ukrainians doing something for, quote, political benefit, having a meeting or doing an investigation is not -- is not bribery. I mean, it's not sufficient.

BERMAN: Yes.

SANTORUM: So, even if you accept all these things, it just doesn't rise to the level of a high crime. It may have been inappropriate. That's what Lamar tried to zing the president on, but it's not a high crime.

BERMAN: I'll just say, Senator, I think you're a few days behind because John Bolton is willing to say that the president told him that was aid was directly linked to the --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Hang on with senator. Hang on. Senator --

SANTORUM: You're missing the point. The question was, was he directed to tell the Ukrainians? Nobody says that.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: hang on. Hang on. Hang on, Senator.

What Senator Alexander is that Democrats proved their case and I still don't think it is worth removing the president. That's where we are. We're in a different place now. You now have senators saying it all happened. It all happened, the House managers proved it.

And, Kaitlan, to you, it strikes me that that's the opposite of what President Trump has been saying for months. He called it a perfect phone call. He said there was no quid pro quo.

And now, Lamar Alexander and other Republican senators go along with him saying, no, no, no, it wasn't a perfect call. There was a quid pro quo.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, this statement that you're reading from Alexander is really what Republicans have been saying privately. And, of course, Lamar Alexander has more freedom to say on paper that, yes, the president did do what he's accused of and yes, it was inappropriate, because, of course, he is not running for re-election. He is not coming back to the Senate. This is essentially what Republicans say behind the scenes. Even some

White House officials say this as well. That the president shouldn't have done this. But essentially they were saying it wasn't worth removing him from office.

So, it will be interesting to see how the president does respond to this, because, yes, Lamar Alexander may have very well just saved him from having witnesses in his impeachment trial, which the White House thought was going to be a disaster. They didn't think it would lead to his removal. But they weren't really sure. There were a lot of unknowns when witnesses and documents are thrown into the mix.

But the question is, how does the president respond to having the senator say he did do what the Democrats said he did and it was wrong?

CAMEROTA: Hey, Paul, what did you think about what Senator Santorum's argument was which is unless somebody explicitly spells out to you how they plan to bribe you that it doesn't -- it doesn't count?

BEGALA: Well, even Senator Alexander says it was proved because it was. And it was proved, by the way, without a single document from the White House, without a single witness.

If you want to see inappropriate but not impeachable, I can take you back to the time machine, to the Clinton case, right? Inappropriate but not impeachable, he's having an affair with a young staffer and lying about it. I think Rick knows something about that because he voted in that trial.

But here's the thing, in that case, in that case, the White House produced 90,000 documents, 90,000. We had scores of witnesses. Mr. Starr, the special counsel, interviewed not just Monica Lewinsky, not just Bill Clinton for four hours about his sex life. He interviewed window washers at the White House, painters at the White House, Monica Lewinsky's hairdresser for goodness sakes, a mailman who delivered letters to one of the witnesses.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

BEGALA: We knew everything about that.

CAMEROTA: But --

BEGALA: Yet in this case where the United States foreign policy is being subverted to help the president personally, we don't want a single document or single witness.

CAMEROTA: But, Paul, don't you wish -- don't you wish you would have stonewalled on all of that?

BEGALA: No.

CAMEROTA: Wouldn't that have been more effective?

BEGALA: No.

[07:10:00]

You know what? I actually called our lawyers on this and I called President Clinton.

We never had a single meeting where we said, we're not going to participate. We fought about this and that executive privilege. We had tussles and fights. But it was never an option for Bill Clinton not to testify.

He even gave blood, knowing that blood would prove that that was his DNA, but that's what you do if you believe in the rule of law. And we know Mr. Trump doesn't. Apparently, now, the Republican Senate doesn't either.

BERMAN: I think the important place to be this morning isn't necessarily to relitigate even the facts that were presented in this case or in the Clinton impeachment trial, because, again, in this case, Lamar Alexander has stipulated them. He has changed the equation here.

Now, the question is, Senator Santorum, what is to keep a campaign from opening an office of foreign interference outreach in the future? Because -- seriously. I mean, you're laughing at it, but there's nothing, right?

Because the United States Senate is about to say it's inappropriate but we don't see any punishment. And not only don't we see any punishment, we don't want to hear evidence to that effect. What is to keep a president from doing -- or this president from doing the exact same thing tomorrow?

SANTORUM: Oh, I don't know. I would think that the last six months of the -- this presidency and what the House has gone through and what the media has put the president through is a pretty heavy price to pay.

BERMAN: He did this. We didn't put him through anything. He did this, OK? The president made the phone call, made the ask, (INAUDIBLE)

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: And you've heard me say from day one, from day one that I actually agree with Senator Alexander that --

BERMAN: So how will you keep him if you agree with him? How will you keep a president from doing this again or a politician from doing this again?

SANTORUM: He is subject as you know to an election. And the public, you know, knows all this. And you're right, there are a lot of people in the American public who don't like the fact that the president did this. It's now -- it's very public. Everybody knows about it.

And that's -- that's a big cost. I mean, he's accountable to the people. That's what really the House -- the White House counsel was saying, which is let the people decide. Now, you have all the facts. Give the Democrats credit for hounding the president and going after him on this.

It is very clear. Everybody has, you know, the facts laid out before them. Make a decision and let the people decide whether they want a man like this who's capable of doing these things in the presidency or not.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Cheating, cheating in the election.

BERMAN: The American people don't have all the facts yet because the Senate has kept John Bolton from testifying in the White House --

SANTORUM: You just heard Alexander accept that.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Hang on, but I will say, in terms of all the facts, the White House has stopped John Bolton from testifying and is apparently keeping him from publishing his book. So, there is more information they are talking about, I just wanted to make that point.

CAMEROTA: OK, Lis -- sorry, Kaitlan, Lisa Murkowski, Senator Lisa Murkowski is still deciding. She says that she will announce whether or not she's a yes or no on witnesses this morning. We are waiting to hear from her.

If she says yes, it does get a bit more complicated. Because then it's a tie.

COLLINS: Right. It's a lot more complicated, and the question, of course, is going to then go to John Roberts, the chief justice, and what decision he would make. And a lot of people have come to believe that they do not think he is going to break that tie. And then, of course, that vote would fail and the president could be acquitted as early as tonight.

We don't know exactly where Lisa Murkowski is on this, and I want to point to two questions that she was part of yesterday that really show us that we do not know. One was essentially, what's your argument against not bringing John Bolton here? But then she was also on another question that Lamar Alexander was on, which is essentially saying, if John Bolton does come and he says all of this is true, he testifies to everything that the Democrats are alleging, does that still then rise to the levels of impeachment? And, of course, Lamar Alexander seems to come to the decision that, no, it does not.

So the big question is, what is she going to do? And, of course, we're waiting to hear an actual statement from Mitt Romney on his vote. But based on the people we've been speaking with, and White House officials, they do not think there's going to be another surprise vote in all this.

BERMAN: Well, there may be a surprise vote, Paul Begala, and that might be what if the Democrats don't keep their caucus in line on the vote to convict? In other words, is it possible that not every Democrat votes to convict the president?

I want your answer on that.

And just beyond this, how will Democrats use this or could this be a political win for them going forward? To be able to point back at this impeachment trial?

BEGALA: Well, you've certainly had two or three who said that they're open to voting for acquittal and they might, they might. I don't know that matters very much because the fix is in.

I do think that, politically, we began this knowing that the impeachment of Bill Clinton really hurt the Republicans who impeached him, thinking that the impeachment would hurt the Democrats this time because they're the one seeking impeachment of a president. And it was a partisan vote. It really was. There's no denying that.

But here's the thing, in every election since then, the Democrats have done really well. They won the Kentucky governors race, they won the Louisiana governor's race.

[07:15:01]

They won the House and Senate in Virginia. So, impeachment certainly hasn't hurt them. I'm not saying they won because of impeachment. But in each of those cases, the Republican ran saying, hey, stop the impeachment, and they lost.

So, I do think -- I don't think it's going to have a huge effect, frankly, on Donald Trump's re-election. I don't think it's going to be a major issue for Trump. It's going to be a huge issue for vulnerable Republicans. Susan Collins, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Cory Gardner, Martha McSally in Arizona. It would cost them some Republicans their seats and they need to know that.

And I can't wait to see some of those folks retired.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead.

SANTORUM: Yes. Well, let me just say that, you know, I voted for the president's impeachment as Paul said in 1999. And in 2000, I was on the ballot in Pennsylvania. President Bush lost my state by four points, I won it by five. So, it didn't hurt me.

But having said that --

BEGALA: But it hurt some others, didn't it?

SANTORUM: We did -- we did lose -- we did lose a bunch of Senate seats in that area. I'm not sure again -- I could tell you impeachment was not a big issue at all in my campaign. And I think if you went to John Ashcroft and Spencer Abraham and others who lost, they would tell you, impeachment wasn't a big deal.

That was January of 1999 and the 2000 election, here we are in 2020. It's a 2020 election. But I agree, I think it has a more -- a bigger chance to affect Senate and House races than it does the president's race.

I just would add one other thing. We have -- we have this Durham report that's going to come out, potential indictments of the FBI. I think that of all of these scandals that we're looking at, if that does go off and we don't know where there is or not, I think that has the greater potential to affect the election than something that happened light years away from the November election here in January.

BEGALA: I will note, one person who lost their seat, a lot of them did, but Jim Rogan, the congressman from California, was on the --

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: Yes, he was the House manager.

BEGALA: You know who beat him? Adam Schiff.

SANTORUM: Adam Schiff.

BEGALA: I love it. History is wonderful.

CAMEROTA: Fun with history.

Kaitlan Collins, Paul Begala, Rick Santorum, thank you all very much.

BERMAN: All right. As we've been saying, it does seem Democrats will fall short on their for witnesses. The real question is, what next? What does this all mean?

A Democratic senator joins us, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:21:16]

BERMAN: In a few hours, the Senate will vote on whether to call witnesses in the president's impeachment trial. That vote is now expected to fail. And President Trump could be acquitted tonight or very early tomorrow.

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley from Oregon.

Senator, thanks so much for being with us.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): You're welcome.

BERMAN: Those are the facts. Lamar Alexander statement overnight makes it clear that at best, it seems, that Democrats will get a tie on witnesses or lose that vote. My question is, in the larger sense if that vote fails, if the president is acquitted overnight as everyone expects, he will be, what then?

MERKLEY: Well, I can tell you first, Lamar's decision, it's an offense against the Senate. It's an offense against the rule of law. And it's an offense against the American people. The American people will never know the true facts. The Senate will

now have the first-ever so-called trial that is a kangaroo court without witnesses and without documents. And it's certainly an insult to the rule of law.

So it's a tragedy in every possible way that this is where we're headed. What next comes after that? Well, certainly, we got to make sure this is not an exoneration if you do not have a fair trial for the prosecution and the defense, it's not an exoneration. We can't let it be seen as that.

BERMAN: What specifically do you think the offense against the Senate is that Lamar Alexander did? What he said was that the house managers proved their case. He said that he believes the actions were inappropriate, but it doesn't constitute the need to remove him.

MERKLEY: What we heard for day after day from the lawyers defending the president was, well, we're not sure about this. There's holes in the story. We're not sure what happened to that conversation. Or -- and that uncertainty is something that many of my colleagues have seized on to justify their position.

The only way you resolve that uncertainty and really know what happened in those meetings and in those messages is to have the witnesses and have the documents. But the Republicans are terrify terrified of this, because the threads of this go to the top of department after department. The National Security Council, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, our foreign service. And so, it's a can of worms. And they're saying, and Lamar is helping them do it. We're going to pound the nail on a lid on that can of worms. We're not going to look at the details. We're going to keep it wrapped up because of the damage it would do to the president and to the administration.

BERMAN: What is to keep a presidential campaign today, tomorrow, at this point from opening an office of foreign interference outreach?

MERKLEY: Well, absolutely nothing except integrity. That's what we're losing in this moment because we have so much evidence, as Lamar has said. There's quite a lot of evidence about the story of what happened. Recruit Giuliani to do a back door operation to pressure Ukraine, and it doesn't work, and there's an ambassador on their way. So, you're doing whole operation to get rid of the ambassador, a very fine woman who was a champion against corruption.

And then what happens? New election in Ukraine, you no longer have a corrupt head of Ukraine, you've got a champion. And so, you've got -- you've got to create a pressure campaign. That involves the whole U.S. government getting involved.

This is not some big deal. This is not some little, inappropriate offense the way it was characterized in Lamar's statement. This is the operation of the U.S. government, multiple (ph) departments applying pressure to corrupt the 2020 election.

It deserves a strong response. Not a, well, boys will be boys, a little bit of misbehavior. Let's look the other way.

BERMAN: How much hope do you put in the chief justice that if there is a 50/50 vote, that he would break a tie?

MERKLEY: I do not think he would break a tie. And I tell you, we have seen the chief justice be on the court while we have proceeded to undermine the Constitution by concentrating power through Citizens United, throwing up his hands on gerrymandering even though it means an offense -- against equal representation in Congress.

[07:25:12]

We've seen him help gut the voting rights act. So, he's not taking a stand for the institution of the United States. If he took a stand, he would say, I'm breaking this tie because the Constitution a trial. A trial in American means a fair trial. A fair trial means documents. And yes, I'm taking a principled stand.

I do not see that in this chief justice.

BERMAN: One of the things that Lamar Alexander decried was the fact it was not a bipartisan impeachment or a bipartisan process. What could Democrats have done differently in the House or the Senate in presenting the case, do you think?

MERKLEY: You know, I think it's very hard to get to the bipartisan stand today with the essentially the deepening of the partisan divide, where people see themselves more a team member in a party than an individual standing up for the United States. And, you know, the separation of the media has contributed to that. Social media has contributed to that. The way the Senate is run in kind of the segregation of the senators into Democratic and Republican camps just on a daily basis.

All of that has made it much, much harder. And it speaks to an underlying infection that we don't have a solution for. Except we have to recognize it and we have to work hard to change it. Different leadership in the Senate that says, we want to change how the Senate operates, in a more bipartisan way. It would make a big difference.

BERMAN: Senator Jeff Merkley, thanks for being with us this morning.

MERKLEY: You're welcome, John. Thank you.

BERMAN: Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: John, the Los Angeles Lakers will be back on the court tonight for the first time since the death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others in that helicopter crash.

CNN's Sara Sidner is live outside Staples Center in L.A.

What are they planning, Sara?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, every fan I've spoken with says they will definitely be cheers, but there will also be tears at this game. This, of course, being the first game that fans will be able to attend since they learned of the death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and seven other souls many only whom loved basketball, including a couple of Gianna's teammates, you children on that flight. A lot of people devastated here.

And the memorial continues to grow here right outside the Staples Center where the game will be tonight. But it also is growing at the practice facility. I was there yesterday to listen to the coach and anyone on the team who wanted to speak. We watched everyone as they sort of went out and did their business, trying to focus on their task ahead which is playing the Trail Blazers, the Portland Trail Blazers. We watched as LeBron James and the rest of his team practiced and got ready.

But there is also a memorial, an unmistakably huge memorial right outside of the facility, all across and along the sidewalk there with messages just like here to Kobe and Gianna, specifically talking about the inspiration that Kobe gave to them and also that they saw that Gianna was going to start falling in his foot steps. She was going to be the next big player. That was her basketball dream.

I want to let you hear from coach Frank Vogel who I asked what is planned tonight for the fans who are also mourning Kobe Bryant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: A lot of people are out there grieving along with you and the family and the team. Any sense of what will happen on Friday?

FRANK VOGEL, HEAD COACH, LOS ANGELES LAKERS: This is a about our whole Laker family, you know, and extended family meaning our fan base and Laker Nation. So, you know, there will be some sort of tribute. I don't want to get into any details of what it will look like, you know? But this is going to be about all of us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: So you heard there, that, you know, they're not -- they don't have all the details. This is such a shock to not only the fans but, of course, the organization and, of course, his family. That we will see something tonight and everyone will have to wait and see.

I do want to give you an idea of what is out here. There are lots of basketballs. This one says, dear Kobe, dear Gigi -- Gigi being the name for Gianna. And that is in reference to something Kobe did after he left basketball. He won an Oscar for his love letter to basketball called "Dear Basketball".

There are so many messages. People are writing entire letters. Leaving them for Kobe and for Gianna. It is a beautiful sight to see the outpouring here, not only for Kobe and Gianna, but for the other seven souls who died and their families as well.

There's just a lot of love happening out here outside the Staples Center. And this place is expected to be packed for this first game since the death of Kobe Bryant. CAMEROTA: Sara, we can just see the backdrop behind you of the

balloons and the flowers and all of the outpouring of grief, and as you say love.

Sara, thank you very much for that reporting.

SIDNER: Sure.

END