Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Senate GOP Poised To Reject Witnesses, Acquit President; Any Moment: Key GOP Vote To Announce Decision On Witnesses; Trump's Likely Acquittal: Impact On Reelection Democrats Race; Soon: Impeachment Trial Resumes With Debate On Witnesses; New York Times: John Bolton Book Manuscript Says Trump Directed Him To Help With Ukraine Pressure Campaign In Early May. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired January 31, 2020 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer, live in Washington alongside Jake Tapper, Anderson Cooper and Dana Bash from Capitol Hill. This is CNN's Special Coverage of the Impeachment Trial of President Donald J. Trump.

Today could mark the end of the historic trial and the acquittal of President Trump on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress just the third time in U.S. history the Senate has held a trial and a vote on removing a sitting President from office.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: But before we get to a final vote on those two articles of impeachment, we're going to hear four hours of debate on a motion to call additional witnesses in the trial. There has never been a Senate impeachment trial without additional witnesses.

Any moment now we are expecting Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, a moderate Republican, to announce her decision on witnesses. Let's go right to Capitol Hill where we find Dana Bash. Dana, do we have any idea how she might be leaning?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, everybody has been reading the tea leaves, listening in particular to the questions that she asked during the Q&A period yesterday and the day before.

We actually have our team all over Capitol Hill right now. Lauren Fox is outside of Lisa Murkowski's Office. Manu Raju is also working the halls. I want to go first to Lauren Fox. Lauren, what are you hearing from your sources in and around Senator Murkowski's Office?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, we've been standing here, Dana, for several hours now, and what I will tell you is that it's pretty much mum outside of her office. Essentially her press person came out, gave us her business card to remind us to get on that email list for when her eventual statement comes.

But we heard her statement would likely come mid-morning. Now of course we're into the noon hour and no statement has arrived. We're all watching and thinking about that conversation that she had yesterday evening with Lamar Alexander during the dinner break where she went with Alexander to his hide away.

We now know of course that Alexander is not going to vote for more witnesses. So a lot of us reading into that. What was that conversation like and was there any impact in Alexander saying he is not going to be supporting witnesses.

Now even if she votes yes no witnesses, Democrats still aren't expected to get more any additional witnesses because that puts them at a tie, and of course we don't expect Chief Justice John Roberts to break that tie, Dana.

BASH: That's right and I know you've been hearing, as I have Lauren, that part of the sort of pressure campaign on Senator Murkowski to vote no so that it's cleaner that they don't have to even worry about the question about the Chief Justice, but unclear if that's an argument that is going to sway Senator Murkowski one way or another.

Thank you for that reporting, Lauren. Raise your hand if you get anything from inside that office. I want to go now to Manu Raju who has of course been working the halls as well. Manu what are you hearing at this hour about an hour away the trial resuming?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's actually unclear at the moment whether or not they will actually move to the final acquittal vote tonight because there is ultimately questions here, Dana, about how many amendments that Democrats will ultimately offer to the efforts to try to end this trial tonight.

Now, we do expect of course that witness vote is going to almost certainly go down tonight, and afterwards Republicans wanted to move to quickly acquit this President. But there are uncertainties about the process.

Democrats have the power under the rules essentially to delay the proceedings, so what Republicans are warning right now is that the Democrats do move forward with a number of amendments that they could potentially adjourn for the night, reconvene tomorrow, try to wrap up votes tomorrow on the final acquittal of the President.

Or if that continues delay tactics, that they viewed as delayed tactics continue on Saturday maybe they even come back on Monday and deal with it Monday. John Cornyn just warned reporters moments ago perhaps it could even extend it to the President's "State of the Union" next week.

We'll see a lot of this is talk ones who have to be negotiated behind the scenes. The Republicans still hope to wrap up negotiations tonight. Now at the same time, Democrats and Republicans are reacting to Lamar Alexander's comments from last night, saying that the President acted inappropriately, but it did not rise to the level of impeachment.

And I asked one Senate Republican, Senator Pat Toomey about this earlier whether he agrees with Lamar Alexander. He said the President's phone call was not perfect.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R-PA): I said from the beginning I think there -- it was not a perfect phone call and there are elements that were not entirely appropriate. But they not poster raising for relevant --

RAJU: Why no witnesses, though?

TOOMEY: Because they don't add anything that is necessary at this point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: So also Lamar Alexander, of course, I asked him earlier today whether or not the President tried to solicit foreign interference in the campaign, whether he believes that that's exactly what he did.

[12:05:00]

RAJU: He said the President's conduct was inappropriate. He said the President did -- the Democrats proved their case, but he said the question is whether you apply capital punishment to every offense, and I think in this case the answer is no. Dana?

BASH: Manu, thank you so much for that. And as I toss it back to Jake and Wolf, and as we wait for what we believe will be the inevitable, whether or not there are 50 or 51 votes, it doesn't look like there will be witnesses and the inevitable being an acquittal of the President, whether it's today or Monday.

Maybe no skin off to a lot of Senators' backs, but there are four Senators who are really, really eager to get out of Washington and get to Iowa, because we are just three days away from the Iowa Caucuses where they have not been able to campaign Wolf and Jake.

BLITZER: Well, that's an important point.

TAPPER: Oh, yes that's right.

BLITZER: Iowa Monday that's --

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Let's not forget about that. As Democrats face the prospect of losing their vote on new witnesses along with an acquittal of the President, the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is blasting his Republican colleagues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): If my Republican colleagues refuse to consider witnesses and documents in this trial, the President's acquittal will be meaningless because it will be the result of a sham trial. If there are no witnesses, no documents in this trial, there will be a permanent asterisk next to the acquittal of President Trump written in permanent ink.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: You know, John King, I remember people saying that about George W. Bush after the recount in Florida. There was going to be a permanent asterisk next to his name. I mean, not really.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR, "INSIDE POLITICS": He was a two-term President.

TAPPER: Yes.

KING: And so we've had three successive two-term Presidents which is actually an anomaly in American history, so we'll see if we have another one. Look, how will this impact Trump's reelection we do not know?

His approval ratings are on the way up. If you ask people how they feel about the economy and the direction of the country right now, those numbers are on the way up. If you're an incumbent President there is a trajectory out there that you say, this is good for me.

Does he overplay this? He's going to play up his base, he is going to say he was especially if Democrats vote to acquit him, he's going to say it was a bipartisan acquittal after a witch hunt. I think how he reacts is actually an interesting challenge for this President because we know he'll want to boast and brag.

At the same time, if he can just say, as President Clinton tried to do, you're right, light for a long time it was a rough few months, but he came out of that saying, yes let's try to get things done, let's try to move on, we have a strong economy can we do things? He didn't get much done actually in the second term because of the polarization.

But how Trump responds to this, I think, is important. But as you try to figure out will it impact this election there are so many other factors that come first. Who are the Democrats going to nominate? Should it animate the Democratic base?

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination, should you be able to animate your base by saying, he got off, the only way to get him is to turn out and vote in November? You can make that argument but between - Iowa is Monday, the Democratic race is a mess right now. I'm just meant it's very competitive I don't mean that was a bad thing. But we just don't know.

TAPPER: Yes. I mean, Gloria, I think it's possible that the most impact, the biggest impact there could be from the vote on witnesses is -- because there were never going to be 67 - there were going to be 67 votes in favor of removing the President from office -- is on Democratic attack ads against Senator Cory Gardner in Colorado, Martha McSally in Arizona anyone else, really?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Tillis. TAPPER: --and Tillis in North Carolina to a lesser extent joining her institute of Iowa and that to a lesser extent, but generally speaking I don't really see necessarily having a huge impact?

BORGER: No I don't, either. And I think you know I agree with John. It's a long time, and we don't know who the nominees are going to be, but I also think that the conventional wisdom was that if you go for impeachment in the Democratic Party, it's going to kill you.

You can't -- you can't go for impeachment. Nancy Pelosi at the beginning didn't want to impeach. She thought it wasn't a good idea unless the public was behind you, et cetera, et cetera. I think now it could be a wash.

It gives the Democrats a talking point to use against this President, and you've already heard Chuck Schumer using it. And you have Republicans now on the record -- you just heard Toomey and you heard Lamar Alexander saying what the President did was wrong.

TAPPER: Inappropriate.

BORGER: Inappropriate.

TAPPER: That's the word they used. Well, there is a big difference --

BORGER: And I'm wondering --

TAPPER: Inappropriate is about what a ten year old does.

BORGER: Well, and I'm wondering if by the end of whenever this ends if you're going to have a couple more Republicans come out and say that - of course in the House none of them did. Not one, none of them.

But I'm wondering whether you're actually going to have Republican come out, maybe it is Mitt Romney who knows? And not that that would matter to a lot of Republican saying it was wrong inappropriate not perfect and Democrats can use that as well so I think this is more of a --

KING: And what does John Bolton say when he does come out?

[12:10:00]

BORGER: Exactly that's another good point.

KING: When the book comes out what does John Bolton say?

BLITZER: You know Santorum you're hearing these reports Manu was just reporting it others are reporting it that even if the Senate were to vote today against witnesses against more evidence? They might delay the Republican leadership until next week may be Wednesday after the State of the Union Address a final vote on acquittal.

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Yes I don't given this President I don't think you let this thing sit out there. If you were Mitch you got to look very Republican leader I've ever worked with. If you got the votes in the Senate you vow.

And so I don't think - and I think it would be unlikely that they're going to vote at 4:00 in the morning depending when they end tonight, which might be 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. If all the time is used, it will be 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning before all the time is used.

So they're not going to vote in the middle of the night. The question is whether you vote on Saturday or whether you try to have the Senators, the four Senators who were on the ballot in Iowa, wait here till Monday and not get the chance to go back. So there is a lot of different--

BORGER: Or go back to Iowa over the weekend.

SANTORUM: Maybe go back to Iowa over the weekend, who knows? I mean it all depends on--

TAPPER: A lot of this is just the Republicans trying to get the Democrats to go along with a very quick ending and quick vote on impeachment articles of acquittal.

SANTORUM: That everything is always - always said all the tough votes in the Senate are always taken on Thursday night. Why because Senators want to go home for the weekend. They'll delay and delay and then everything happens on Thursday night. Why because it's all personal same thing here.

BLITZER: Super Bowl on Sunday, Iowa Caucuses on Monday, State of the Union Address on Tuesday. We have got a lot of stuff going on. And also there is breaking news right now. "The New York Times" reporting that President Trump told John Bolton, his Former National Security Adviser, to help his Ukraine pressure campaign much earlier than previously known standby we have details.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:15:00]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: As the Senate gets ready to potentially acquit the President; there are new details right now on what Former National Security Adviser John Bolton will alleged the President did in the Ukraine pressure campaign. I want to go to Kaitlan Collins who is at the White House.

So Kaitlan "The New York Times" is reporting new details about the President being at the center of this all this. What have you learned?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. "The New York Times" is reporting that in early May, which is about two months before that first phone call that the President had where he that asked about those investigations to the Ukrainian leader.

They say in early May there was a meeting in the Oval Office with President Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Mick Mulvaney the Chief of Staff and Pat Cipollone the White House Counsel who is now leading the President's defense on the Senate floor, where President Trump instructed John Bolton then of course at the time the National Security Adviser to connect Rudy Giuliani with the new President and it said "To ensure that Mr. Zelensky would meet with Mr. Giuliani who was planning a trip to Ukraine to discuss the investigations that the President sought in Mr. Bolton's account.

And according to this - this is where in based off of that unpublished manuscript of course which has been at the center of the news this week, and according to "The New York Times," Bolton never did make that call.

But Anderson, this is significant because it places an event with not only the President's top Advisers being involved in the President seeking this pressure campaign on the new Ukrainian Leader just shortly after he was elected. The timing of this is early May.

But also of course it is the first known indication of this before that call that the President had in July where you could see where he brought up the Bidens, he brought up that debunked theory about Ukraine interfering in the election.

And of course this is his National Security Adviser John Bolton now writing that he did not take the President up on those instructions to connect Rudy Giuliani with the new Ukrainian Leader. Now of course Anderson the questions that are going to be asked coming out of this is why did the President wait until there was a new President in Ukraine to make this instruction?

Had he had any interaction like this before, because you know that was one of those questions that the White House Counsel the Deputy White House Counsel could not answer this week when Senators posed that question.

They asked, had the President brought up this corruption investigation he wanted involving Ukraine and the Bidens before Joe Biden said he was going to start running for office entering the Presidential Race and of course any earlier incidents with the previous predecessor in Ukraine.

And of course those are going to be the questions that are coming out of this. And you have to look at the timing of this report coming on the day when we're just moments away from these Senators getting back together on Capitol Hill to debate this motion about whether or not they're going to introduce new witnesses and new documents in the President's impeachment trial.

And I've also got to say, we were speaking with White House officials this morning who felt good about Senator Alexander's statement that he was not going to vote for witnesses. But they had been really gun-shy this week after on Sunday when "The New York Times" published the first account of this manuscript of John Bolton.

And they were essentially worried that some other surprise could come their way, so they were not going to essentially start counting their chickens before their eggs hatched about the President getting this fast acquittal. So they were already a little pessimistic and now you have got this another report landing just moments before these Senators are going to go on Capitol Hill.

COOPER: And just to clear that Pat Cipollone was in the room as well?

COLLINS: Yes, that's really significant, because of course you remember Jerry Nadler said that Pat Cipollone should recues himself from all of this because he was a fact witness. That's something the White House laughed off at the time when he said it.

I believe it was last week, and now this is saying that Pat Cipollone was in the room with Mick Mulvaney and Rudy Giuliani and of course John Bolton. The other significant part of that is that Mick Mulvaney has been saying any time the President was conferring with Rudy Giuliani; he stepped away because he wanted to protect that attorney/client privilege.

This is John Bolton saying no Mick Mulvaney was in the room with Rudy Giuliani, Pat Cipollone and myself as the President was giving me these instructions about calling the Ukrainian Leader so that's also notable because that is a denial that Mick Mulvaney issued just again this week after the first account of John Bolton's book came out talking about Mick Mulvaney being involved in the center of a lot of this.

[12:20:00]

COLLINS: So those are two striking figures, Pat Cipollone and Mick Mulvaney and this new account in "The New York Times" puts them a lot closer to it than they had been previously.

COOPER: Kaitlan Collins, from the White House. Kaitlan thanks very much. Here with the panel.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Can you imagine what an absurd situation we are in right now? John Bolton has written a book. He's given speeches for money in Texas last night just talking about this. Thanks to Maggie Haberman's excellent reporting, we have some scraps of what he knows.

But John Bolton, who is available and willing to testify, we're not hearing from him. So instead we're sort of like digging in the -- you know, prospecting for gold, trying to find out what John Bolton knows when he could be a witness just telling what he knows. The whole thing is a disgrace.

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: At the same time, the President's lawyer is arguing that we shouldn't hear from John Bolton and that we shouldn't read his manuscript, and now it's clear he's an interested party. He's not just covering up for the President, but he is also covering up for his own participation and his knowledge of this scheme.

ROSS GARBER: Taking a step back from actually hearing from John Bolton, there is a manuscript. It is in writing. It has been submitted to the White House, and at least two Republican Senators have expressed an interest, Lindsey Graham and Senator Lankford, have expressed an interest in getting that manuscript.

And we're relying on Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times" to tell us what's in pieces of the manuscript. And it's very significant. Rudy Giuliani is the President's Personal Lawyer. He's acknowledged he had no official role, personal lawyer, and he's there in the Oval Office with officials, at the White House including the White House Counsel.

TOOBIN: And there's no conceivable argument that that conversation is privileged, because the only thing that's privileged is conversations between Rudy and the President with no one else present. Mick Mulvaney being present, Pat Cipollone being present certainly vitiates any claim that that conversation would be privileged.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And remember Pat Cipollone is the man who a few days ago told us all we need is the constitution and common sense here. Well, either one would indicate that this is something that is part and fodder for a trial, and actually having.

And remember this is the same person who has been arguing as the office of the White House Counsel represent there which is supposed to be for the actual office not the office holder legitimacy of the President long term.

Is the one who was saying that it was Adam Schiff in part who should not be here because of a conflict of interest? And how many times that we have now seen, over the course of the impeachment inquiry from Devin Nunes is handling of it until now, the idea of interested parties who are very, very vocal about how this trial should go.

About what information should come in and what should not come in, only to find out later that they themselves were self-interested, and that's frankly the whole crux of this entire impeachment.

NAFTALI: And absurdity is not simply that Mr. Bolton or Ambassador Bolton could testify. It's the absurdity of Republican Senators who know they have been lied to, disrespected by the President's representatives and are so wrapped up in the politics of the moment; forget the consequences for their institution in saying nothing.

COOPER: So where does this - I mean these drips will continue to come out. To your point, Ross, there is a manuscript. Would there be any effort to just try to obtain the manuscript?

GARBER: The manuscript -- this book is coming out. The book is coming out. Bolton is going to be selling the book, so Bolton is going to be doing interviews. There is a ton more information that's going to come out. Kaitlan asked some very good questions about this meeting. I've got a lot more questions about this meeting, and we're going to get some answers.

TOOBIN: But remember, the National Security Council has not approved this book yet.

GARBER: Not yet. TOOBIN: So - well I mean not yet. You trust that this will be a good faith review of this book, not an attempt to shut down the book just like they have shut down the testimony?

COOPER: Are you implying that the President might put pressure on, like, the low-level people who are reviewing this book?

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I'm shocked that you would suggest such a thing. Oh, my goodness. How will the President's lawyers react to this today during the closing arguments? Do they even need to since they're just about done? Will it impact Republican votes for new witnesses and much more on the breaking new stand by

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:25:00]

BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news right now. New details from "The New York Times" about what is in that book coming out from the Former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

TAPPER: And this account once again puts President Trump at the center of the Ukraine pressure campaign just hours before we expect the Senate to acquit him on the articles of impeachment.

One of the reporters who broke the story, Maggie Haberman, from "The New York Times," is on the phone. Maggie, tell our viewers what you've learned.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK TIMES": Sure, thanks for having me. Mike Schmidt and I are reporting that John Bolton, his new manuscript for this book that he's trying to publish that the White House is trying to stop, at least for now.

He describes a discussion in early May in the Oval Office that included Mick Mulvaney, the White House Chief of Staff, Pat Cipollone, the White House Counsel, Rudy Giuliani, the President's personal lawyer, and John Bolton.