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STATE OF THE UNION
Iowa Set to Vote; Interview With Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg; Interview With Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA). Aired 9-10a ET
Aired February 2, 2020 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): First in line. Tomorrow night in Iowa, Democrats weigh in on the 2020 election for the first time.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This fight is our fight. That is how we win.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we stand a great chance to win in Iowa.
TAPPER: Who is on the fast track for victory, and who is at the end of the road?
And final pitch. Democrats make their closing arguments about who can beat President Trump.
JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You got to able to represent the whole country.
PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is no time to take the risk of falling back on the familiar.
TAPPER: Former Mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg joins me live from Iowa next.
Plus: case closed? President Trump now on a track for a Senate acquittal, even as many Republicans say his Ukrainian call was not perfect.
What is the political fallout of the Senate trial?
SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA): I'm really interested to see how this discussion today informs the Iowa caucus voters.
TAPPER: I will speak to Republican Senator Joni Ernst exclusively in moments.
TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in beautiful Des Moines, Iowa, where the state of our union is ready to hear from actual voters through actual voting.
We join you this morning from the campus of Drake University in Des Moines just one day before Iowa Democrats kick off the 2020 presidential election and a contest that will help determine who faces President Trump this fall.
The Iowa caucuses are just the first major political event in a hugely consequential week. In Washington, the president is set to be acquitted by the Senate on those two articles of impeachment. That's on Wednesday, but not before the president delivers his State of the Union address the day before, Tuesday, with several lawmakers who hope to unseat him in the audience.
Beating President Trump this November has become the all-consuming focus of Democratic primary voters, but they disagree on how best to do it. Tomorrow night, Iowans will gather at caucus sites to try to decide.
And my first guest today went from a virtual known to becoming one of the top Democratic contenders.
Former South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and 2020 presidential candidate joins me right now.
Thanks so much for being here. Really appreciate it.
BUTTIGIEG: Good to be with you.
TAPPER: I want to start with impeachment.
Speaker Pelosi appeared to question the legitimacy of the Senate's verdict. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Will he be emboldened because the Senate will have acquitted him?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Well, he will not be acquitted. You cannot be acquitted if you don't have a trial. And you don't have a trial if you don't have witnesses and documentation and that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Well, as a matter of fact, you know, an acquittal is an acquittal, whether she likes it or not. She's making a political argument there, obviously.
Will you see the verdict as legitimate now that the Senate has opted not to have new witnesses?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, I think she's right that a trial without witnesses is not much of a trial.
TAPPER: Without new witnesses. There have been witnesses.
BUTTIGIEG: Yes, but they didn't call witnesses to speak, when we knew that there was information.
And, by the way, why would a president who is innocent go to these lengths to suppress evidence? Of course, we know why. And we know what's going on, on the floor of the Senate.
And my concern is that that is so exhausting that it may have the effect of discouraging and turning off a lot of Americans about our process right now.
But, as upsetting as what's going on in the Senate is, the thing that I'm always reminding voters of, especially in these closing days of the Iowa caucuses, is that, yes, the Senate is the jury today, but we are the jury tomorrow, and we get to send a message at the ballot box that cheating, lying, involving a foreign country in our own domestic politics, not to mention abuse of power more broadly and bad administration, that that's not OK, that we can do better.
And the good news is, I'm seeing a majority of the American people not only agreeing that this president is not serving this country well, not only agreeing on what we're against, but, even more than that, agreeing on what we're for, which is making sure that this economy actually works for us, making sure that we take steps to keep this country safe, restore the credibility of the United States.
There's a powerful American majority ready to move forward. And that's what I'm seeking to mobilize in this campaign.
TAPPER: Is an acquittal legitimate? Is it a legitimate verdict of acquittal?
BUTTIGIEG: I mean, it counts by the procedures of the Senate, but I don't think that it has the legitimacy of vindicating this president, because it's very hard even for Republican senators -- and I will be curious to see what they say on television today -- very hard for them to actually look a voter or a camera in the eye and say that this president is a good leader for the United States of America.
TAPPER: Speaker Pelosi also says those Senate Republicans you refer to -- quote -- are "accomplices" to the president's cover-up because they didn't call new witnesses.
Accomplices to the cover-up, do you agree with that? That's pretty strong language.
BUTTIGIEG: Yes, they're going out of their way to protect this president, as if they have forgotten that, when the story is written of their time in power and in office, this is probably going to be the first sentence of it.
Look, there's a -- I think a lot of reason to believe that, deep down, many of these senators know better, but the only language they seem to respond to is political power.
And so I think the only shockwave that will reunite them with their conscience is a thumping at the ballot box for Donald Trump and those who supported him.
That's why it is so important right now, beginning tomorrow evening here in Iowa, that we have a candidate, a nominee, a campaign that can deliver, that can bring together that American majority that is ready for something completely different from a presidency like Donald Trump's.
TAPPER: Well, let's talk about something completely different, because you have been talking about Vice President Biden in terms of what he offers vs. what somebody newer like yourself does.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUTTIGIEG: I have seen Vice President Biden making the case that we cannot afford to take a risk on somebody new right now.
I believe, at a time like this, the risk we cannot afford to take is to turn to the same Washington mind-set that has brought us to this point, and expect that to work against a president like Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: It sounds like you do not expect that, if Vice President Biden gets the nomination, that he will be able to beat President Trump.
BUTTIGIEG: Well, I certainly think that I am better positioned to beat Donald Trump than any of my competitors.
TAPPER: Do you think Biden can win?
BUTTIGIEG: What's that?
TAPPER: Do you think Biden can win, can beat Trump?
BUTTIGIEG: Look, I'm going to support the nominee of my party. And I'm hoping that it will be me.
TAPPER: But I'm not asking that.
I'm asking, do you think he can do it? Do you think he can beat Trump? Or is he going to -- will turnout not be sufficient?
BUTTIGIEG: Here's my concern.
If you look at the lessons of history, over the last-half century, every time that we have won, every time my party has won the White House, it has been with a candidate who is new in national politics, who doesn't work in Washington or at least hadn't been there very long, and who was opening the door to a new generation of leadership.
I think that's... (CROSSTALK)
TAPPER: Carter, Clinton, Obama.
TAPPER: They're fresh -- fresher faces.
BUTTIGIEG: That is the best way to win.
And at a moment like this, why we -- why would we take a chance on anything else? Let's put together the best campaign to beat Donald Trump.
TAPPER: Speaking of taking a chance, your campaign also sent out an e-mail this week warning your supporters about the fact that Bernie Sanders is rising the polls.
It said that -- quote -- "Bernie is surging." And it added -- quote -- "We have to beat Donald Trump. And we cannot risk nominating a candidate who cannot."
Why can't Bernie Sanders beat Donald Trump?
BUTTIGIEG: Look, I think a politics that says that you're either for status quo or you're for revolution leaves most Americans out.
Most of the people I'm talking to are on board with big changes. As a matter of fact, one of the historic facts about America today is, for example, we have a strong American majority that is ready to see the public sector step up and ensure there's no such thing as an uninsured American, just not crazy about the idea of kicking people off their private plans.
And it's one example of issue after issue where we have a chance to energize a powerful majority. We can't afford to polarize it at a moment like this.
And it's just not true that you would have to choose between the status quo or a total revolution. There's another way. And that other way happens to be what most Democrats and what most Americans want.
TAPPER: So, you think Bernie Sanders would lose to Trump, because he's too revolutionary?
BUTTIGIEG: I think that -- I think that I would have a better chance of defeating Donald Trump.
TAPPER: Well, in terms of bringing people in, you have been struggling -- we have talked about this before -- over your ability to win over voters of color.
A new national poll this week puts you at zero percent among black voters -- this is the Quinnipiac poll -- vs. 49 percent for Vice President Biden. Amidst all this, "The New York Times" reported this week that staff members of color on your campaign say they feel disrespected, because some of your senior aides don't listen to their concerns, their ideas.
Do you think you bear any responsibility for that on your campaign?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, if you look at that story, it actually talks about the proactive steps that our campaign took to make sure that staffers of color are heard and to make sure that we have a diverse campaign.
More than 40 percent of the staff on our campaign are people of color doing a phenomenal job and need to be supported and deserve to be supported. So, we have taken steps that maybe, in history and in historical campaigns, haven't been done, creating conversations and spaces for workers who are facing the challenges that I think any person of color in the workplace today is dealing with and making sure we're responsive to this.
TAPPER: What was your personal reaction when you read that story? I mean, were you upset? Were you hurt? Did you reach out to people on your staff of color who -- who -- to see what their concerns are?
BUTTIGIEG: Yes, my focus was to make sure that -- that members of the staff, especially staff of color, felt supported, because they were bringing their experience and their perspective to this campaign.
And we're a better campaign because of it.
TAPPER: After you were recently asked about choosing a running mate, you said -- quote -- "I want to make sure that there is the diversity there in terms of background, racial and gender diversity."
That sounds like you're committing to choosing, as a running mate, a woman of color. Am I reading that right?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, I don't want to say anything that would disqualify anybody from being considered.
But what I will say is that a top consideration, not only for a running mate and for a vice president, but in building a Cabinet, is making sure that we have the gender, racial, professional, and regional diversity to really reflect this diverse country that we are.
TAPPER: One of your closing arguments in Iowa is that you can win over Republican voters.
I know a number of your precinct captains are former Trump voters, something like 40-something. But Republicans are -- have been seizing, including in a new Trump ad, on a statement you made, saying -- quote -- "Anyone who supported this president is at best looking the other way on racism."
You have also said that on my show. That's almost 63 million Americans who you're painting with a pretty broad brush. Do you regret saying that at all?
BUTTIGIEG: No, I'm very concerned about the racial division that this president has fostered.
And I'm meeting a lot of voters who are no longer willing to look the other way on that, looking for a new political home. And I think it's one of the reasons why we have seen so many people -- in addition to the die-hard Democrats who are coming to our events, we're seeing independents and a remarkable number of people who tell me they are those future former Republicans that I like to talk about in our campaign.
And it's not that I'm pretending to be more conservative than I am. It's that we can agree -- if we don't agree on everything, we can at least agree on turning the page and moving past what this president has done to this country.
And as we recruit precinct captains, as we reach out one more time to caucus-goers, as we mobilize nationally, anybody who supports the vision of this campaign, folks I'm asking right now to go to PeteforAmerica.com and support us financially to make sure that we can go the distance, we are building the coalition capable of not just ending the Trump presidency, but leading America beginning on that first day when the Trump presidency goes into the history books.
As we face challenges the likes of which our country hasn't seen, now is our chance to do something about that and look to the future.
TAPPER: And you got your Web site address in there also.
BUTTIGIEG: Part of my job.
Thanks so much.
And I want to note, you -- I -- we appreciate you coming and taking our questions.
Vice President Biden has yet to do a Sunday show interview. You have done -- and I can't even count how many times you have agreed to do interviews, just -- so, thank you for taking our questions. Appreciate it.
Coming up: Joe Biden said she spilled the beans on what the Ukraine scandal may really be about for President Trump. Iowa Senator Joni Ernst joins me live next.
Plus, there's one more day of campaigning before Iowa voters weigh in, and the candidates are taking advantage of it.
Stay with us.
[09:15:44] TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper, live from Des Moines, Iowa.
Worlds are colliding this week, with the president's impeachment trial overlapping the Iowa caucuses.
My next guest, Senator Joni Ernst, said last week that she was interested to see how one might influence the other. She pointed to criticism during the trial by the president's defense team of Joe and Hunter Biden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERNST: Iowa caucuses are this next Monday evening.
And I'm really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters. Those Democratic caucus-goers, will they be supporting President -- Vice President Biden at this point?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Biden has seized on her remarks, saying that the senator revealed more than she meant to.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: She spilled the beans. She just came out and flat said it.
You know, the whole impeachment trial, for Trump, is just a political hit job to try to smear me, because he is scared to death to run against me. And he has good reason to be concerned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Joining me now, Ohio Republican Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa. She served in the Army National Guard and retired as a lieutenant colonel.
And she has a new opinion piece in "The Des Moines Register" taking on the Democratic presidential candidates ahead of the caucuses.
Thanks so much for being here, Senator. We appreciate it.
ERNST: Yes, thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: So, former V.P. Biden's chief strategist, Mike Donilon, responded to your comment.
He said: "We welcome your panicked admission of who you know would win this battle for the soul of our nation. Please keep it coming, because this validation from you is the best we can get."
Is Mike Donilon right?
TAPPER: Are you focused on Biden because you think he poses the greatest threat to Trump?
ERNST: No, I think that, in -- in that conversation we were having with reporters the other day, it was quite evident the House managers brought up Vice President Biden and his son Hunter and Burisma over 400 times in their opening argument -- 400 times in their opening arguments.
TAPPER: The Democrats did that?
ERNST: The Democrats did that.
And then the president's White House counsel spent a number of hours laying out the -- the situation with Burisma.
So, I was just pointing out that Iowa has very smart voters, very educated caucus-goers. And if they're paying attention to all the dynamics with the candidates, that might be something that they would take into consideration.
TAPPER: The Republicans have been defending President Trump, saying his pressure campaign with Ukraine had nothing to do with electoral politics, had nothing to do with Biden's campaign.
I'm wondering if you think that, by linking them, you undermine that argument at all?
ERNST: I don't think it undermined at all.
I think that, again, what we have seen is the Democrats presenting their case. And I think it just really did show that there was something of concern with Burisma. And so I think that -- excuse me -- the Democrats can -- can follow that. They will make that decision as they go to the caucuses tonight.
But I do think, overall, there is a corruption issue in Ukraine. We have pointed this out for years. I know...
TAPPER: Not necessarily about the Bidens, you're saying. Just in general, there is a corruption issue.
ERNST: Not necessarily. In general, in general, there is a corruption issue there.
And, of course, the president honed in on that and -- and took that issue on. But, again, you know, we want to see how this influences our caucus-goers tomorrow evening as they head out to their polling places.
TAPPER: But that does seem to undermine the argument that this wasn't about electoral politics, given that you're saying you want to see how the mention of Joe and Hunter Biden -- and we should point out, there is no evidence that anybody did anything illegal regarding the Bidens and Ukraine.
And Joe Biden was carrying out U.S. policy.
But it does -- it does seem to suggest that you think that this could have an effect.
ERNST: I think this does. Whether that was the intention or not, now everything is tied together.
So, the information about the Bidens is out there. And so now it is up to the American people to decide, you know, was that a good choice for Hunter Biden to be on that board, especially at a time when his father was trying to ferret out corruption in Ukraine, having his son working for the most corrupt oligarch in Ukraine?
TAPPER: You voted against a motion to hear from new witnesses on Friday.
So did Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. But they also have said that what President Trump did, asking Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, was inappropriate and wrong. Both of those Republican senators said it was inappropriate and wrong.
Do you think it was inappropriate and wrong?
ERNST: I think ferreting out corruption is absolutely the right thing to do.
Now, if he was tying it to other things, that's -- that's the president. It's probably something that I wouldn't have done, but focusing on corruption absolutely is...
TAPPER: He didn't bring -- he didn't mention corruption in that call, though, as you know. He just mentioned Joe and Hunter Biden and Burisma. And then he mentioned this conspiracy theory about Ukraine interfering in the election in 2016.
So, again, probably not something that I would have done. It's out there. He's done it.
TAPPER: So, because -- so it was wrong?
ERNST: He's done it now.
The president has a lot of latitude to do what he wants to do. Again, not what I have done, but certainly, again, going after corruption, Jake...
TAPPER: So, you're saying it's not perfect. I get that. But, like, if it's not something...
ERNST: Maybe not the perfect call.
TAPPER: If it's not something you would have done, why wouldn't you have done it? Because it was wrong? Because it was inappropriate? ERNST: I think, generally speaking, going after corruption would be the right thing to do.
TAPPER: No, but going after the Bidens.
ERNST: He did it -- he did it maybe in the wrong manner.
TAPPER: In the wrong manner.
ERNST: But I think he could have done it through different channels.
Now, this is the argument, is that he should have probably gone to the DOJ. He should have worked through those entities, but he chose to go a different route.
TAPPER: Assuming President Trump is acquitted on Wednesday, and assuming you're going to go to acquit him...
Are you confident that he won't do this again, that he won't try to get another foreign country to look into a political opponent, whether it's Elizabeth Warren or Pete Buttigieg or someone else?
ERNST: I think that he knows now that, if he is trying to do certain things, whether it's ferreting out corruption there, in Afghanistan, whatever it is, he needs to go through the proper channels.
ERNST: So, again, using the DOJ and other international organizations to get to that corruption.
So, the vote that will likely come on Wednesday will likely be a vote of acquittal. And the argument is...
TAPPER: And you're going to vote to acquit?
ERNST: Yes, I will vote to acquit, because, again, whether you like what the president has done or not, we can argue this up one side and down the other all day.
Does it come to the point of removing a president from office? I don't believe this does. I will tie it back to Obama and his hot mic moment with a former president of Russia, where he said -- he literally said, give me some space in my election. Oops. OK. Talking about elections.
TAPPER: But he was talking about missile defense.
ERNST: And -- and, yes, but a missile defense that the Congress wanted him to build up, make much more robust to protect American citizens.
And President Obama chose not to do that, as long as the Russians gave him space in the elections. That, nobody brought up for impeachment.
So, the very -- very fact that, because aid was held for about two months, because there wasn't an official White House meeting, people are wanting to impeach this president, what President Trump did, it -- it doesn't rise to the level of what President Obama did.
TAPPER: But you do say it was in the wrong manner.
ERNST: It was in the wrong manner. I will agree to that.
TAPPER: You wrote a new -- you wrote a new op-ed that criticizes Democrats for what you call socialist policies, the Green New Deal, the Medicare for all.
I just -- I'm curious, because I have heard a lot of conservatives talk about the multibillion-dollar, they have described it as payoffs to farmers, including up to almost a -- I think almost $800 million here in Iowa, that that is socialism, in the same way that Medicare for all would be socialism.
How come you don't consider payoffs from the government to farmers who are struggling because of the president's trade war, how come that's not socialist?
ERNST: Well, it's all tied together.
Again, because those farmers would be trading overseas -- and now we have seen these trade deals done. I'm really excited about that, another huge win for the president with USMCA and the phase one China deal, great for our farmers.
But our farmers would have been trading, seeing those commodities sold overseas. The government was working on these trade deals. So, we are getting tariffs in from those other countries. So that is what is going to those farmers.
TAPPER: But you know that new numbers show farm bankruptcies jumped 20 percent last year. Crop prices, even after these trade deals, are still falling.
Hasn't the president made things tougher for farmers?
ERNST: Well, I think they have made it better in the long run.
And a lot of our farmers -- if you ask Iowa farmers, is the president doing the right thing, they will say yes. And we know we need to tighten our belts. So, yes, there were a number that really had to tighten up this last year, the year before.
But what I heard from one farmer, she said, you know what? I'm tightening my belt. Things are tougher right now, but I know in the long run this is going to be better for my grandchildren. They won't have to struggle with China cheating us the way we have experienced in the past.
[09:25:05] So, one gentleman from the Iowa Soybean Association, he put it very well. He said that, you know what? The hurt we're feeling right now is no different than the hurt we felt five years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago from China.
So, if we can get this right and have a better future, then they were willing to go through that short period of hurt, so that we can do better for our children and grandchildren.
TAPPER: Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa, thanks so much for being here.
ERNST: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: We always appreciate seeing you.
ERNST: Yes, welcome to Iowa.
TAPPER: Thank you. I love being here. You know that.
How -- coming up: How will the Iowa caucuses shape the Democratic race?
All the latest from the campaign trail, what it means for tomorrow night -- next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are going to win, because we are the campaign of energy and excitement.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, in politics, talk is sometimes very expensive. Especially if you don't tell people how you are going to pay for what you are promising them.
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We got to be ready for a different approach in our politics today.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We got to do this together, because our number one job is beat Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: 2020 candidates making the final case to Iowa voters just one day before the all-important Iowa caucuses. Let's discuss.
Let's start with you, Brianne. What are you expecting to see tomorrow? I mean, the last "Des Moines Register" poll had Sanders in the lead followed by a clump of Biden, Buttigieg and Warren and kind of vying within the margin of error for second place and followed by the other candidates. Who do you think has the best ground game?
BRIANNE PLANNENSTIEL, CHIEF POLITICS REPORTER, DES MOINES REGISTER: Well, one thing that we have really seen consistently over the last six months or so is that these top candidates really have stayed in the top four. They've solidified into this top tier even though there has been some volatility. And so to your point, it really can come down to ground game and to how organized these campaigns are in the state of Iowa.
And so Elizabeth Warren was the first person to come in and build out that ground game, hire up some top staff, open up field offices. So she has had the head start for more than a year so her team truly is organized. They're ready for this moment. We have seen other people come in Pete Buttigieg -- Bernie Sanders has a lot of momentum right now so all of those things can factor in tomorrow night.
TAPPER: And what do you -- Congresswoman, you have endorsed Joe Biden? Correct?
REP. CINDY AXNE (D- IA): Correct.
TAPPER: So I understand that your bias is pro Biden, but you've also -- you are also a participant in the Iowa caucuses. You've also been an Iowa voter for a long time. What are you seeing?
AXNE: Listen, I totally agree that ground game means a lot right here in Iowa, but I think we're going to have great turnout across the board. Folks understand how important this election is. When I am out visiting in my district over the 16 counties it is health care, putting more money in your pockets, those kitchen table issues. They're going to come out and vote for somebody caucus, for somebody who can deliver on that.
TAPPER: And now, Jen Psaki, we were at the legendary Des Moines steakhouse 801 last night and we heard from a Biden canvasser that was rather disappointed in the ground game operation they had set up. They didn't have, let's just say they were ill-prepared.
JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's right. And, look, energy and enthusiasm matter. I was here for John Kerry and here for Barack Obama, and you could feel it in the room, you could feel it in the auditoriums across the state, but what matters most is what happens on Monday night. And what these organizers who are actually precinct captains, they're Iowans, what they do in the first round to get people in their corner, and then what they do in the second round to convince their neighbors who are supporting candidates who aren't viable to come their way.
So that wasn't a great sign to hear that story for Biden, but I am most interested in who is -- has the best precinct captains and the people who are ready for what's going to happen in the room on Monday night.
TAPPER: Although, Scott Jennings who will join us later, a Republican who was here I think to canvas for -- or the help Jeb Bush's campaign back in '16, he pointed out that when he came to the Iowa caucuses, he walked into a room, people were saying we've never had a turnout like this, and it is a bunch of Trump people, a bunch of Trump supporters and some Cruz supporters, but the Trump people were there not organized, just propelled by his message.
ANDREW GILLUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, and there's clearly a lot of energy right now on the Sanders' side, and we have seen it coming into today's conversation. But the truth is that for 25 months, it has been basically between Biden and Sanders. The numbers have gone up and down in those two directions, and so I wouldn't underestimate regardless of -- went into the steakhouse and I will forgive you for no invite but I wouldn't--
TAPPER: (INAUDIBLE) to each other.
GILLUM: I wouldn't underestimate what it may mean for Vice President Biden to have folks show up even if they are not unorganized, even if they're not as familiar or accustomed to the caucusing process and still be there throughout on his behalf. You've also got a lot of undecideds that are out there.
GILLUM: What do they decide when they go into these spaces?
TAPPER: I think almost half. I think 45 percent say that they are not fully committed.
PSAKI: And that's why that room is so important.
GILLUM: That's right.
PSAKI: If people are trained, if they're ready whether it's the Bernie Sanders approach or the Elizabeth Warren or the Joe Biden approach, they can bring those people in their corner. That is why this is going to be a wild ride.
GILLUM: And I don't think that this is going to be very different than what we have been hearing up to this point which is people want a person who can beat Donald Trump.
GILLUM: And so at the end of the day, I think that's what's going to play in that room more than anything is who can beat Donald Trump.
TAPPER: And there is always wild cards, one wild card, former nominee Hillary Clinton who said disparaging things about Bernie Sanders in a documentary and then again in a podcast, and this is the response from Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, one of Bernie Sanders' surrogates on the campaign trail speaking in Iowa.
Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you guys remember last week when someone by the name of Hillary Clinton said that nobody -- we are not going to boo. We are not going to boo. We are classy here.
REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): No, I'll boo. Boo.
You all know I can't be quiet. No, we are going to boo. That is all right. The haters -- the haters will shut up on Monday when we win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So, Congresswoman Tlaib expressed regret for her comments. What do you make of this all?
AXNE: These are my colleagues. I greatly respect the work that they do. I'm really disappointed with what I believe the divisiveness is in this country across multiple platforms. I hate to see something like that that's going on within our own party. I find it to be disrespectful.
Certainly Hillary Clinton was a pioneer for women running for office, and for standing up for our Democratic values that are important for this country. I don't think that that kind of behavior is something that Iowans like to see, and I certainly know that Iowans believe in the term Iowa nice.
We want to support our neighbors. We want to be on a good relationship with them, even though we may not agree with them, while we are sitting in the room and it can be contentious, that type of behavior doesn't go over well in Iowa.
TAPPER: What do you think as an Iowa reporter?
PLANNENSTIEL: Well, I think this does a lot to energize Bernie Sanders' base. I mean, you heard the crowd in that room there. They clearly responded to this, but it is a turn off for some of the other people who may still be thinking about supporting him to the point that 40 percent of Iowa caucus goers are still undecided, they are looking at all of these things that are playing out and trying to decide can I support this person.
And Iowans remember what happened after 2016 and how divisive it was, how fractured the party felt at that point and they're trying so desperately to avoid that again. And so I think some people look at this as a warning sign.
TAPPER: All right. Everyone stick around. We've got more to talk about.
Coming up, how is the Senate impeachment trial playing out in the 2020 presidential race. You might be surprised. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That is what I am asking you to do for me in these next two days to understand that I'm going to have to go back to Washington again to vote.
WARREN: I have been in Washington for a long time locked down, and I need to get to a lot of places around Iowa today and the next day.
SANDERS: (INAUDIBLE) two days. When you are in Washington and in an impeachment trial, you forget these things. So two days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Democratic senators pulling the double duty around the caucuses. Let's discuss.
And, Jen Psaki, you have worked on presidential campaigns before and this -- I mean, just to be frank this sucks for the four Democratic senators that they can't be Iowa for the Iowa caucus.
PSAKI: Completely facts. Just to take your theme there. And it really stinks for people like Amy Klobuchar who had some momentum coming into this. We'll see what that impact is, but it also stinks for the person who wins because coming out of Iowa caucus, one of the most valuable thing is the media coverage you get and the momentum, and the excitement, enthusiasm.
President Trump perhaps smartly put his State of the Union on Tuesday the day after the Iowa caucus, and then Wednesday is the impeachment vote, so they're not going to get coverage and the momentum that they would typically get coming out of a win.
TAPPER: Now there have been some conspiracy theorists saying that all the schedule including the delaying of handing the articles of impeachment from the House to the Senate helps Vice President Joe Biden and former Mayor Pete Buttiegieg because it does hurt Warren, Klobuchar, Michael Bennet and Bernie Sanders.
GILLUM: Yes. I don't buy it. I don't buy into that. That will take some -- a lot of planning and strategery.
But I will say I've got to agree with Jen that probably this delay has done the most damage to Amy Klobuchar. I mean, she had a couple of endorsements that were key that she could have come into the state and really rode off of, and I think that much of the momentum probably has been stilted quite a bit.
That being said, we're going to move very quickly into a whole different news cycle as we go forward and the real question will be is it center most Democrats back on who can beat Trump. I think this impeachment process is going to focus more of us on, all right, we didn't win that battle, the country didn't win that battle, now, how do we get to brass tacks. The only way to defeat this president is not going to be through holding him accountable to the law, but by beating him at the ballot box in November, and who is best positioned to do that.
TAPPER: You heard Senator Ernst both at the Senate and again today on stage talk about how she thinks it's likely that the impeachment fight has hurt Joe Biden who you endorsed for president, Congresswoman. Do you agree?
AXNE: Absolutely not. Listen, Iowans are smart. They're going to see right through this.
This is a complete and utter lie. It has been proved false. We all know that Joe Biden and Hunter Biden are in no way shape or form guilty of anything.
Iowans are smarter than this. That's the one thing I do agree with the senator on. They are smart. They're going to see right through this. They're going to see folks who are standing up for our democracy. Our senators who are taking this on to make sure that we protect our constitution. That's what they're going to be focused on, not the story that has been made up about Joe Biden. And you know what? I think it's actually going to make his case even stronger for why he should be president.
TAPPER: What do you think, Scott, the Republican on the stage here?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, if it were made up, Joe Biden wouldn't have promised to not do it again if he gets elected president.
TAPPER: In terms of having relatives on boards.
JENNINGS: Yes, absolutely. And, look, I've never said -- I don't know if the Republicans are saying that they did anything criminal, but the appearance of a conflict of interest is obviously been what is driving this conversation. I don't know that this has hurt him.
I don't know that it has helped him. I think his biggest danger looking forward is the expectations game.
Coming out of Iowa if you don't win -- if Joe Biden doesn't win and he finishes third or fourth or if finishes behind Mayor Pete, then, you know, he is not winning right now in New Hampshire, and so, it is a long time until South Carolina which has sort of been the firewall for him.
So I actually think the biggest story for me on him coming out is does he live up to expectations, then he'll have to spend a whole week fighting off is the campaign doomed if he doesn't do well.
TAPPER: There are electoral consequences obviously beyond the presidential race, because there are a number of senators up for re- election in November. We were talking before I think it is likely that Democrats will try to use their votes against new witnesses, against Cory Gardner in Colorado and Martha McSally in Arizona, Thom Tillis in North Carolina. In addition, there are several Democrats who represent red states, Joe Manchin from West Virginia, Krysten Sinema from Arizona though she's not up reelection, and Doug Jones from Alabama that we don't know how they're going to vote. What do you think about that?
JENNINGS: Well, if any Democrat votes to acquit the president on either charge that will be a great gift to Donald Trump to have a bipartisan acquittal after there was a bipartisan opposition to the House vote on impeachment in the first place.
I think the one I am watching frankly is Doug Jones. He's on the ballot. He has a small chance for reelection in Alabama and probably not a large change, but whatever number that is drops to zero or less than zero if he votes to convict the president. And so if you are the Senate Republican math watcher, winning in Alabama is vital to holding the Senate majority. And if watch Dough Jones essentially destroy -- is he has a five or 10 percent chance of winning, if that goes to zero, you feel a lot better about your shot of holding the Senate if you know Alabama is in the bag.
AXNE: Listen, I hope that every single senator does their job and upholds our constitution. The facts were proven in the House impeachment inquiry that this president tried to use congressionally authorized funding and withheld aid to Ukraine for political favor so that he didn't have to face his toughest opponent Joe Biden.
I hope that our senators will stand up just like every single one of us front liners have done who flipped the House and gave us the majority. We didn't get into this because we wanted honorable in front of our name. We got into this, because we know that we have a corrupt Washington that needs to do the right thing, stand up for what is right all the time, not for what is politically expedient.
If you do your job of being a good representative to the people that you serve and you uphold our republic and our constitution, you will come back to your seats. I will never buy into the fact that people will do something that is politically expedient. And I certainly hope that our Democratic senators uphold the constitution and protect our country.
TAPPER: All right. We're going to leave it there. Thank you so much. Really appreciate everybody being here.
Although President Trump seems to be headed for an acquittal in the U.S. Senate that does not mean that the trial will not have a long- lasting impact. That is next.
TAPPER: Welcome back. With President Trump expected to be acquitted of the articles of impeachment this week House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is arguing that since the U.S. Senate votes on Friday against hearing from any new witnesses President Trump will not be truly acquitted if and when the Senate votes to do so. Of course, Speaker Pelosi means this is a political opinion not as a matter of law. She's saying that an acquittal without new witnesses and documents will not be a legitimate exoneration.
As a matter of law and the constitution she's wrong. Polls suggest most Americans however think what the president did regarding the pressure campaign with Ukraine was an abusive of power. And it is not just the American people that think that. Dive into the many statement issues by Republicans, calling President Trump's actions wrong and inappropriate.
Look at all those comments and it's clear a majority of the Senate disapproves of what the president did. But ultimately those disapproving press releases or comments on Sunday shows will not be remembered by history. The president's acquittal however will.
Though Democrats will talk a lot about how the Trump presidency is forever stained by impeachment you can take a gander of how many Democratic national convention primetime speaking slots were given to President Clinton after his impeachment.
The real question now is what might this acquittal mean as a precedent? Can American presidents now use their power to encourage foreign government including those that rely on U.S. aid to investigate that president's political opponents? Many witnesses called by the House Democrats noted their concerns about Hunter Biden's contract with Burisma but the activities of plenty of other spouses, children and siblings of politicians rise to the level of looks fishy.
The "New Yorker" magazine reported that President Trump -- quote -- "helped build a hotel in Azerbaijan that appears to be a corrupt operation engineered by oligarch tied to Iran's Revolutionary Guard" -- unquote.
What might a Democratic president do with this new essentially accepted political tool and that fishy sounding news? And don't forget the less discussed investigation the president was also pushing Ukraine to conduct. A matter zero U.S. intelligence agencies believed is legitimate that Ukraine not Russia was behind the 2016 election interference campaign. A false belief that the president's former Homeland Security adviser has called a debunked conspiracy theory. Wacky (ph) (INAUDIBLE) from the internet is not unique to the far right elevating those conspiracy theories to the level of investigative credibility that is now also a precedent.
One of the things we as a nation have learned in this era of the disruption of these norms is how much of the behavior of our leaders depends upon the honor system and now our nation gives this president and all future presidents these new political tools. They're on the honor system not to use them. That of course requirements that they all have a sense of honor.
Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us. Tune in to our coverage at the Iowa caucuses starting tomorrow starting at 4:00 p.m.
"FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS" starts next.