Return to Transcripts main page


Alexander: Dems Proved Case, But Voters Should Decide Trump's Fate; Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) is Interviewed About the Impeachment Trial; Candidates Begin Final Push with Iowa Caucuses 3 Days Away; Super Bowl LIV: 49ers Versus Chiefs. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired January 31, 2020 - 08:30   ET


SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): And so I think it's really important that we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and, you know, I mean, look, it isn't over until it's over, but the writing appears to be on the wall.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's not over until it's over. One of the open questions is whether every Democrat will vote to convict the president when it comes to that either late tonight or tomorrow morning. Do you know where the votes are there?

TESTER: I don't. Look, I took probably a couple of hundred pages of notes and two notebooks and I've been compiling that, started this morning, all the information in the Senate. But I haven't sat down with anybody else in the caucus and said, how do you feel? What have you heard? What have you done?

I think by the questions yesterday, you could pretty well determine where people were coming from on both sides of the aisle, by the way. And so that's my only input on that issue.

BERMAN: Are you a yes vote on conviction?

TESTER: Well, I would tell you that I think if there were new witnesses brought in, it would help -- it would help with the process, and potentially get me to a point where I could vote to acquit the president. But those witnesses appear not to be coming in.

BERMAN: So, in other words, without new witnesses, you are going to vote yes on convicting the president. You will vote to convict the president on both counts?

TESTER: It is -- the trial is not over yet. We haven't -- we don't have the potential witnesses yet. But I will tell you what I said when I first started out. And that is, I don't think the defense adequately engaged the charges that were put forth.

BERMAN: One of the things that Lamar Alexander complained about is the partisan nature of this impeachment. He wishes that it had been more bipartisan in either the vote to begin the impeachment process, the vote to impeach the president, he has been impeached in the House of Representatives and I guess maybe even the Senate trial. In your mind, who is that on, the lack of bipartisanship here?

TESTER: Well, look, I don't know. I mean, I can tell you that the president has said some things that is rather intimidating in the press. I can also tell you that the votes were partisan, but I can also tell you the information that was put forward should be taken with what it is which is, which isn't partisan, which is you have a president that's asking a foreign power to do an investigation. That's serious business. And if that's not impeachable, I don't know what is.

BERMAN: What could the Democratic House managers or the Democratic- led House have done differently in your mind?

TESTER: You know, I said from the beginning, they -- they put out a compelling case. I think the folks on the defense side are nice people. They're good people. But I don't think they engaged.

I don't know that I would do anything different if I was the House managers. They laid out a great case.

BREMAN: And then the big question, I think, as of tomorrow is, what happens now? Really, what happens now?

TESTER: That's a great question.

BERMAN: What is to keep -- what is to keep a presidential campaign, and I've been saying this all morning, from opening an office of foreign interference outreach?

TESTER: That is the question. And that's the whole point why we need to hold the president accountable because I think there's a real possibility he goes off the rails on this stuff and really does go after foreign interference in our elections in a very bold way. And, look, we heard from the defense over the last two or three days that said it's not impeachable.

Man, oh, man, election security is absolutely one of the most critical things in this country. And it just drives me crazy.

BERMAN: But, OK, but this does appear to be all but over then. So, really, is there anything you can do in the Senate going forward? And what is that?


Well, I mean, look, I don't think it's over until it's over. I think the arguments have to be made, the deliberation has to be done. We need to take the votes on the witnesses.

You never know what can happen. We get surprised all the time with votes around here. So, it's not over in that regard. When the elections -- if, in fact, this goes and the president is acquitted as most are predicting, then we've got do our level best to continue to hold him accountable using whatever methods we can.

But, look, he's shown that he doesn't have to give any information to Congress, no matter what Congress does. And I think that's also very, very harmful to our democracy.

BERMAN: Senator Jon Tester, we appreciate you being with us this morning and throughout the Senate trial -- thanks for your time.

TESTER: Yes, thank you, Jon.

BERMAN: Alisyn?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Really interesting to talk to him throughout all of this.

We have three days until the Iowa caucuses. And former Vice President Joe Biden has a lot to say. We're live in Iowa, next.



ROMANS: The 2020 Democratic candidates in their final push for Iowa voters.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is covering Joe Biden on the campaign trail. She joins us live from Burlington, Iowa.

So, what does it look like out there?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Alisyn, for all these candidates, they're really heading into crunch time, as they're making their arguments in these three days before the Iowa caucuses. And what Joe Biden has been aiming to do is create this matchup between himself and President Trump. And over the past few days, he's been trying to draw this contrast with Trump in both value sets and leadership style, arguing that character is on the ballot.

Take a listen to a bit of his argument he's giving to voters in these final days before the caucuses.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Welcome to Donald Trump's world. Up is down, lies are the truth, allies are enemies, everything is through the looking glass.

In Joe Biden's America, the president's tax returns won't be a secret. Political self-interest will not be confused with the national interest. And no one, no one, even the president of the United States will be above the law.


SAENZ: Now, in an interview this morning, Joe Biden says he feels the race here in Iowa is going to be very close, noting that tight polling between himself and Bernie Sanders. And he also noted that caucuses take a lot of commitment. That you have to spend hours often as you make that caucus decision and these candidates all are going to be making their final arguments in these coming days. One person the Democrats won't be hearing from is John Delaney. The

field got a little smaller as he dropped out this morning as we're now three days out from the caucuses -- John.

BERMAN: Dropped out right here on NEW DAY for the whole world to see. Arlette Saenz in Iowa, thanks so much for being with us.

So, the countdown to kickoff in Miami is upon us. Andy Scholes has more on Super Bowl LIV in this morning's "Bleacher Report".


Hey, Andy.


Just two days from Super Bowl LIV. And, of course, Patrick Mahomes is a big star in the game this year.

I know you're a Patriots fan, John, but I still got you this Patrick Mahomes shirt. It's dry fit. You can wear it the next time you are running a marathon, so you can stand out pretty nicely.

But, you know, Patrick Mahomes, with the win, could etch his name into the record books this weekend. He'd be the first quarter ever to win an MVP and a Super Bowl before turning 25 years old.

Mahomes may have been destined for greatness at a young age. He got to be around pro sports as a young kid. His dad, Pat Mahomes Sr., a major league pitcher for 11 seasons. Mahomes says growing up in baseball really helped shape him into the player he is today.


PATRICK MAHOMES, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS QUARTERBACK: Definitely an advantage because I got to see a lot of things not a lot of kids got to see. I got to see players like Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter and how hard they trained when they were at the top of their game. It really wasn't just a grind. And you don't see that as a little kid, I mean, you see the guys going out there performing and being great but you don't understand how much hard work it takes. So that instilled in me at a young age that I'm going to have to work hard if I want to be where I want to be at.


SCHOLE: Yes, and we'll have much more on Mahomes. The Chiefs and the Niners tomorrow on our CNN "Bleacher Report" special, kickoff in Miami. Coy Wire and myself get you ready for the big game. We're going to be joined by Jerry Rice, Rob Gronkowski and many more. That's tomorrow at 2:30 Eastern, right here on CNN.

Now, finally, this is the first Super Bowl in four years without Tom Brady, but still making his way into the news. Brady posting this cryptic picture to social media yesterday with no caption.

John, I wanted your take on it. Is he walking towards the field, away from the field? I zoomed in many times. Don't know what to make of it.

What do you think?

BERMAN: I think he's walking toward me.


BERMAN: That's what I think he's doing. No, look --

SCHOLES: That's what you hope.

BERMAN: The amount of time that I spent, the amount of time I spent looking at that picture yesterday is embarrassing, I have to tell you.

CAMEROTA: Much of this is embarrassing.

BERMAN: Much of this is embarrassing.

CAMEROTA: Yes, he's such a man -- an enigma. He's such a man of mystery, John.

SCHOLES: Free agent.

CAMEROTA: Free agent. Hmm.

BERMAN: We didn't -- he didn't agree to that. Just so you know.


CAMEROTA: Andy, thank you very much.

So president Trump's acquittal seems closer this morning than it was last night. What effect will this have on his presidency and future presidencies? Two people who played a role in previous impeachment proceedings give us their bottom line, next.



CAMEROTA: It seems certain that the U.S. Senate will vote to acquit President Trump at his impeachment trial, perhaps in a matter of hours. It could happen tonight, for all we know, or it could happen tomorrow morning.

But what does any of that mean for the future of democracy for the future of the country, for the future of the presidency.

Let's get to the bottom line with CNN contributor John Dean, former Nixon White House counsel, and CNN political commentator, Joe Lockhart, he was White House press secretary during President Clinton's impeachment.

So, Joe, I'll start with you. If president Trump tomorrow or Monday or Tuesday is able to claim that he was acquitted and vindication, what does it mean for a president who has already said Article II of the Constitution allows him to do, quote, whatever he wants? What does it mean for the future of his presidency? Let's start there.

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, you can't -- it's hard to separate the two. I think there's a massive expansion of presidential power and a massive contraction of congressional power. Republicans I think were very short-sided here and saying we want to protect our guy but in the process, they had limited their powers.

Going forward, particularly given with -- so getting to the Trump presidency, there will be no oversight because there will be no cooperation. There's no reason for him to cooperate. He -- the Republicans have shown their hand, and I think it has and will upset in a very significant way the balance and the separation of powers between the House and the Senate and the White House.

BERMAN: There really are two separate questions. What does Donald Trump do as of tomorrow or Sunday? Remember what he did the day after Robert Mueller testified before the House of Representatives. What did he do?

CAMEROTA: A little phone call he made.

BERMAN: He picked up and called the president of Ukraine and asked him to investigate Joe Biden. So, does he do the same? That's one question, John.

But the other question really is, what is to limit a president in the future from asking for foreign investigations now?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This sort of removes the best and most important guardrail that confronts a president. It's not realistic that the House can continue investigation. The Senate is certainly not going to undertake any investigations.

This president who already was ignoring the guardrails and breaking norms is just going to do what he wants to do. So there is really no restraint on him, and he doesn't seem to be self-restrained. I think that's a troubling situation.

There is -- you know, when I suggested to publicly and Nancy Pelosi bought the idea of not sending the articles over, I thought she should have held them over until the election and made them an election issue. She couldn't get a fair trial, so, therefore, she was just going to make it an election issue.

BERMAN: So, you think this is -- you think the fact he's acquitted makes it more dangerous?

DEAN: Yes. But I still think it's an election issue. He's carrying this on his back into the election.


CAMEROTA: Well, that's interesting because that brings us his approval ratings, Joe. They've gone up since the impeachment process began October 2019. This is a Quinnipiac University -- 38 percent, now 43 percent. You saw the same thing happen with President Clinton. What is that?

What is that that Americans approve of the president when more information comes out about what they've done wrong?

LOCKHART: Listen, I think that if you look at Trump's numbers, they've been trading in a very narrow band between 38 percent and 43 percent. He's the first president in the history of the Gallup poll that does this every week since the '60s who has never gotten to 50 percent. Has never gotten to the point where half the country.

So I don't read too much into that. You know, there is a sense, and it happened with bill Clinton. He got to 73 percent the day he was impeached. By the time the trial was over, his numbers were slipping a little bit. They were artificially high.

There's a rally around your guy, you know, among your base, but I don't think that this significantly changes his position as he goes to face the voters. He has his base. He has done nothing to expand his base in three years, and that's a problem for him. He's got eight or nine months to figure that out.

BERMAN: There's also the question going forward -- what happens with John Bolton, right? John Bolton will not testify before the Senate at this point but John Bolton still has a story to tell and even last night overnight, let me read you, he was defending those members of the administration who have come forward and testified, which is ironic.

He said: All of them acted in the best interest of the country as they saw consistent to what they thought our policies were. The idea that somehow testifying to what you think is true is destructive to the system of government we have I think is very nearly the reverse -- the exact reverse of the truth.

John Bolton could have testified to the White House if he wanted to. He could have told his story any point if he wanted to. Be that as it may, what does happen when John Bolton gets to tell his story?

DEAN: Presumably, the White House will not block his book. That they will vet it and they will not be significant --


CAMEROTA: But they are already blocking it. They sent them a strongly worded letter saying they were top secret things in there.

DEAN: The staff at the NSC, I know people who know them well. They are professionals. They are people who actually want declassification of more information rather than classification.

So the White House -- the political people have to weigh in on the people who are now vetting it. They'll do -- the woman who wrote the letter is very legitimate. So, this wasn't a setup. And it's a process that takes time.

So I think they'll get it out in time and his book will come out. That will be the vehicle which will cause him to talk about all of this. And this is not going to help Trump. It's not going to help the Republicans who voted to not bring witnesses in. I think a lot of members of the Senate who were up for re-election are going to have some real trouble explaining this.


DEAN: I do.

CAMEROTA: You think in November --

DEAN: I would love --

CAMEROTA: -- voters are going to still hold them accountable?

DEAN: Cory Gardner is dead. You know, it's just over.

CAMEROTA: You agree?

LOCKHART: Yes, I do. I think this is more problematic for the senators who are in cycle because it's very hard to explain, you know, the -- to do the Lamar Alexander. Yes, he's guilty, right, but who cares?

I do think that Democrats have an opening over the next eight or nine months, which is -- it's a two-pronged attack on Trump which is, A, he doesn't care about you. He cares about himself. He hasn't really helped you. Secondly, he's corrupt. And it's a character issue.

If I'm the Democrats, I really want to probe and push on the Trump fatigue. I think more than anything, people are tired of this drama. It was fun for a while. It's no longer fun.

And the question for Democrats will be, and I can't answer it, I can hope will be, will they feel resigned and feel like their voice doesn't matter and relax and go away dejected or will they be fired up and we'll see numbers that we've never seen before. I can hope but I can't answer it at this point.

BERMAN: One of a Gallup poll out the other day, and satisfaction among Americans on a whole range of fronts is actually high. So, when you say, it's not working out for you, that might be a tougher argument.

I do wonder, Joe, as you look back at these five months if you think there is anything the Democrats could have done differently or better that would have led to a different outcome.

LOCKHART: Listen, I think there's lots of discussion about how they could have done the articles differently. I've watched the lawyers debate that back and forth. I just don't think that there is. I think the Republican Party right now is in the grasp of Donald Trump, is a party that, more than anything, is defined by their fear and by the fact that they're intimidated by the president.

You have people who, you know, have been seen as potential statesmen, sort of wilt in the wake of Donald Trump.


And it's a party that isn't -- that is not built on the foundations that we traditionally have seen. It's built on the cult of personality, and they'll rise and fall now with Donald Trump. And given all those things, and the Gallup poll was startling and there's a FOX poll showing the same thing. People are feeling pretty good. And the president still at 43 percent job approval. That's a problem for him.

CAMEROTA: Joe Lockhart, John Dean, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts this morning on this historic day with us. We're just at the beginning.

CNN's coverage will continue after this.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Friday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto on Capitol Hill this morning.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. We're glad you're with us.

A big day ahead. The Senate set to gavel in.