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Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) Is Interviewed About Pres. Trump Impeachment Trial; Senate GOP Poised To Reject Witnesses, Acquit President; Warren Makes Chief Justice Question His Own Legitimacy. Aired 11:30a-12p ET
Aired January 31, 2020 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN special coverage of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. I'm Dana Bash on Capitol Hill. And I'm joined now by Democratic Senator Ben Cardin from Maryland. Thank you so much for joining me.
First question is, what did you make of the argument that your colleague from across the aisle, Lamar Alexander, made that yes, what the President did was inappropriate, but not impeachable.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): Dana, first it's good to be with you. Senator Alexander is very thoughtful member. I disagree with his conclusion. But I respect the manner in which he came to his conclusion.
To me the President's conduct is extremely dangerous. If you follow the Dershowitz argument, it can lead to almost a lawless President. So I think that this is a clear abuse of power by the President. And really, you need to analyze it.
Now, I'm going to withhold because I'm still hopeful that we will get additional evidence and information and I want to withhold judgment.
BASH: What makes you hopeful about that?
CARDIN: Just an optimist, I serve in the United States Senate.
BASH: But if you're a realist, you don't think that's going to happen?
CARDIN: I recognize it's an uphill battle. So I don't want to draw a final conclusion until I've heard all the witnesses. And I really do think the witnesses and documents are critical to have a constitutionally fair trial.
So I think that Alexander should have allowed us to have that. He should have voted with additional documents. If he did, I think we would clearly have the votes.
BASH: You're senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as you talk to your counterparts around the globe, particularly allies and even as you learn information about adversaries, what message will it send, if the Senate does not at least hear witness but obviously, ultimately, when we expect there will be an acquittal?
CARDIN: You know, we've been having a rather difficult process. We were sitting in our seats, listening to arguments over and over again. The process is dictated by history and tradition. But part of that tradition is for the Senate to develop its own record and to have its own witnesses and deceit its own documents.
That was for the first time in the history of our country, the Senate didn't follow that practice. I think that's going to raise questions. It's one thing to say, well, the House did certain things, and we don't have to do things. But from the Senate, it was not right for the American people. It's not right. And quite frankly, it's not right for the President.
If in fact, we do have a not guilty finding it's going to be questioned as to whether it is a legitimate finding without listening to the witnesses.
BASH: Then Nancy Pelosi said that it won't be, what do you think?
CARDIN: I think it raises serious questions. If you don't conduct a fair trial, how can the conclusion of the United States Senate be respected?
BASH: One last question. One of your colleagues was talking to me about the possibility after the trial is over of bringing back the notion of centering the President, do you think that's viable?
CARDIN: You know, we'll wait to see. I think right now, we're all focused on this impeachment trial. I think we have to render a verdict based upon our constitution and our responsibilities. I would just hope members would want to get the full record before reaching a final judgment. I know that's what I would like and I think most of my constituents feel the same.
BASH: Senator, thank you so much for joining me. Appreciate it.
We're going to take a quick break as we await a very, very important decision and announcement from Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, who could be the 50th vote, could be the 51st vote. We just don't know. But again, she should release a statement any minute now. We're going to take a quick break. Stay with us.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: What President Trump did with Ukraine was inappropriate. And the House managers proved it but he should not be impeached and removed from office for. That is essentially what Republican Senator Lamar Alexander said in a statement where he also declared that he will not vote for additional witnesses. Now, it looks as though, Trump's acquittal could come as early as today. WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now to discuss the implications of this CNN senior commentator, former Republican Ohio governor, John Kasich. Governor, thanks for joining us. How do you square Senator Alexander's position?
JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, Wolf, I will if I think that when people need to draw a conclusion as to whether he should remove, be removed or not, I consider that to be something that we should respect to people's conclusion with, but when it comes to calling witnesses that that doesn't make a lot of sense to me.
But, you know, inside that caucus, I know that Jake knows this, Wolf, you follow things for a very long time. You can imagine the pressure inside of that Senate. And I think probably the message that we heard from vulnerable Republican senators would be don't drag this out. This is about control of the Senate, you know. And there was enormous pressure on people.
Now, I've faced enormous pressure throughout my political career. But, you know, at the end of the day, you've got to be comfortable with your own decision making. And I'm not going to question, you know, whether somebody is honest or dishonest or playing politics. I think that's really frankly, inappropriate for me to do. But I've always believed we needed more information, not less.
BLITZER: Because I remember covering you when you were a representative in the House in 1998. You voted in favor of impeaching President Bill Clinton on all four counts. How much pressure were you under and did you do the right thing at that time?
KASICH: No. Look, Wolf, if I was offering budgets, my own budgets against a Republican president of United States. As a young man, I wrote my own budget against a whole bunch of Republicans that wanted to go for a tax increase. I was a military reformer when none of the Republicans really liked it. The pressure was not really a big issue for me, because at the end, you listen to your colleagues, you listen to your constituents, but at the end, you got to be comfortable with yourself.
And for me, after 30 years in holding public office, there's not anything I look back upon and regret and say I was weak or, you know, I caved or whatever. It just it didn't work that way for me, fortunately.
BLITZER: All right, go ahead Jake.
TAPPER: Governor Kasich, so obviously, if you were in the Senate right now, you're making it clear that you would vote the way that Mitt Romney and Susan Collins have said they will vote in favor of additional witnesses and additional documents.
TAPPER: As of now, though, have you heard enough evidence to vote to remove President Trump from office or would you vote to acquit?
KASICH: No, I already said what I thought when I came out for impeachment back in the House. I thought the President's activities were inappropriate. And I think I've been strong and consistent on all that, Jake. So we'll let the Senate make their decision.
You know, I think in some respects, there's a demolition derby going on in the Senate. And frankly, I don't want to add to it. But my feelings and my opinions are very clear.
TAPPER: Well, and you said that he should be impeached, but him being impeached is different from being removed from office is all I'm saying.
KASICH: Yes. But I said that his actions were totally, totally inappropriate. And when I say the actions raised themselves to the level of impeachment. I also believe that, you know, that has consequences. So, look, you know, we are where we are right now. I was the first one to come out and say, he should be impeached. And I thought it raised to the level of abuse of power and abuse of power has consequences. And, you know, we'll leave it there.
TAPPER: There are a number of Republicans who have said that the Democrats the way they went about this process was too partisan, that obviously there were no Republican votes for impeachment in the House of Representatives. There are questions about process and the like.
Do you think that this issue will resonate with voters in say, Ohio? Do you think for instance, Senator Portman, who I know is a friend and colleague of yours, and a fairly, you know, reliable conservative Republican vote. Do you think voters are going to be upset with him next time he's up for reelection?
KASICH: You know, Jake, the question is, and I think to some degree, Mitch McConnell probably pitched the idea that this is a procedural vote in six or eight months, people will forget about it. I'm not sure. I think these votes have great consequences and people will pay attention as to what would happen in an election -- reelection effort in the Senate two years from now. You know, I can't say.
But things tend to be cumulative, you know, in politics. If you're constantly towing a certain line, well, then you have to live with the result. So I can't say what is going to happen in two years. I would think that people will be held accountable as we head into the campaign year here. And, you know, there's a lot of vulnerable Republican senators and it will be very interesting to see how their decisions on this play out over time.
TAPPER: All right, a man who certainly does not tow any lines one way or the other. Former Ohio Governor, John Kasich, thank you so much for your time, sir. We appreciate it.
KASICH: Thank you, Jake.
BLITZER: All right, Democratic senator and presidential candidate, Elizabeth Warren. They make the Chief -- she makes the Chief Justice question his own legitimacy. We're going to discuss that when we come back.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Democratic senator and presidential candidate, Elizabeth Warren forcing an awkward moment on the floor when she puts Chief Justice John Roberts on the spot with her submitted question, take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: A question from Senator Warren is for the House managers. 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?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Jeffrey Toobin, I mean, there were some people who were critical of Senator Warren for putting him in that spot.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I thought it was sort of an awkwardly phrased question and obviously embarrassing for the chief to read. I think the point that Senator Warren was trying to get to is that, is the system working properly? Does this seem like an appropriate way to go about investigating presidential misconduct?
And, you know, the fact that the Chief Justice is there, who has been a very dignified bump on a log, I mean, he really has done almost nothing other than, you know, not releasing the name of the whistle blower, and early on saying, you know, be nice to each other. Does that contribute to, you know, a public understanding and appreciation of how government works? I think that's the gist of the question. I'm not sure it was expressed all along.
COOPER: I just want to tell our viewers on the right hand side of your screen, in case you're wondering what that odd shot is. We're waiting, Senator Lisa Murkowski. We're expecting her to actually make a statement about where -- how she is going to proceed whether she is going to vote to have witnesses or not.
Obviously, if she did, then that could potentially lead to a tie. And then we've discussed what would occur in that circumstances which is the motion would fail to have witnesses as far as we understand.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. He has had an issue. I think Warren was, I think, playing on two things. I think she assumes Chief Justice Roberts fears, number one is the idea of what happened with the Kavanaugh and Gorsuch cases where you had an ideological shift towards a certain level or type of Supreme Court Justice and whether or not if you already could presume what they would rule, does it undermine them as being these kind of fair minded objective arbiters? On the other hand, I think she was responding to the fact that early on Justice Roberts said in reaction to the President making comments about the objectivity of a judge because of Mexican heritage or presumed Mexican heritage, that somehow he came forward and said, no, no, we are objective and you cannot do this and speak badly about our brethren and sisters of the court.
I think she assumed those two things would make him feel compelled to weigh in and this moment. But it was so awkward and it really antagonized him in a way that was unsuccessful. And frankly, it didn't actually get to the heart of that issue either.
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes. And the President's lawyers are arguing for presidential supremacy. I don't think they care about embarrassing the chief justice.
COOPER: John Bolton phrases the officials who've come forward to testify, will he of course is not done himself. He already told the crowd at a private event.