Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Soon Iowa Voters Caucus in First in The Nation Contest; Interview with Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) On Impeaching Trump; Jill Biden No Longer Considers GOP's Lindsey Graham a Friend; Rush Limbaugh Says He Has Late-Stage Lung Cancer. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired February 3, 2020 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00]

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Welcome back to our special coverage of President Trump's impeachment trial. We're also, of course, following the other big story today. It's just a matter of hours that we're going to have the first contest in the 2020 election, right, the Iowa caucuses.

Democrats in that key state are going to pick a challenger to face off with the President in November. Four of the contenders are not in Iowa right now because they have to be in Washington for the closing arguments of the impeachment the trial.

So let's go to Brian Todd in Sioux City with more on how these caucuses are going to play out tonight. Brian, how is it going there?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, it's shaping up to be a very exciting night in Iowa. The caucuses begin as you mention in just in a couple of hours. This place is going to be buzzing. We're going to show you how this going to work.

You know what Iowa so interesting and so much fun to watch and to cover is because it is a physical process. If you're a voter in Iowa, you're going to be moving around a lot at whatever caucus site you're going to go to.

Here, at the 6th Precinct in Sioux City, this is the Carpenter's Union training center. That's what it is on normal life. Tonight it's going to be something very different. Voters Are going to come in this small entrance here, then they register over

here. The new and changed registrations are going to be at that desk.

But then basically the evening is going to play out all over this room. They gather here to basically hear the rules of the road from the precinct chair here. He's going to kind of give them a layout of how the evening's going to play out, he's going to explain the rules.

Then that's where it really gets fun because that is the point where everybody breaks off into different groups. Each little corner of this room, each little section of this room is going to be marked off with a sign. Those signs are not up now.

These gentlemen back here are starting to prepare for that. They're going to be putting up the signs in a little bit. There's going to be a sign in each corner of this room for each candidate on the Democratic side. At that point, voters are going to split off and they're going to go to their corners, basically have themselves counted in the first round of the caucus.

They will fill out this side of this Presidential preference card. This is for the first round. See round one, right there. Name and address of the voter, preference for President of the United States, you sign it. Then they count all those votes in the first round.

But then if a candidate is not viable -- you're going to hear that word all night long, by the way, a viable candidate is one who has 15 percent or more of the vote in a caucus precinct. Fifteen percent or more in this room gets you to the next round. If you're at less than 15 percent, those votes will not count and you're basically not in the running anymore.

But the people who voted for those nonviable candidates then have an option. You can either say, well, forget it, I'm going home, I'm done, or you can go to another candidate. That's what makes the evening so dynamic. We're going to show the second round of voting as well. That's when people fill out this side of the card for the second preference for president of the United States.

That final vote is obviously what's going to be tabulated throughout the night. It's going to make this a very exciting process. Chris, and as I said it's physical. You've got to move around. You're going to show physically and you're going to be physically accountable for your vote and we're going to show it to people in real time. We're very excited about it.

CUOMO: Exciting for you, nerve-racking for people like me who have to try to keep it straight all night long because the rules are complicated and intricate and different this year.

TODD: They are.

CUOMO: So literally it's going to be moment by moment. This is a tough job for all involved tonight. Hey, quick question for you, Brian. Are you allowed to put doughnuts or pizza underneath the name of a particular candidate? Is that against the rules?

TODD: You mean like at a certain corner?

CUOMO: Yes, like if I want to get them to somebody's candidate, can I put food there to draw them? It's a joke, Brian, let it go.

TODD: That's a great question.

CUOMO: Let it go.

TODD: You know, I think --

CUOMO: Let it go.

TODD: OK. I'll let it go but I think you can do almost anything to woo a voter to your side is what I'm hearing.

CUOMO: I bet you, you can. I bet you there is some rule. But, Brian, thank you so much for keeping us in the loop. Got to keep it light before you have a night like tonight. It's going to be very tough sledding.

There are rule changes. Caucuses are different than direct-vote primaries. In fact, that's why the GOP does their process in Iowa.

[15:35:00]

Not just because they an incumbent President. They have different rules than the Democratic Party. You'll see them play out in real time tonight and there's no other place like it. It's first, but it's unique in a lot of ways.

All right now, Iowa was also part of the impeachment trial today. Trump Attorney General Jay Sekulow referenced the caucuses in his closing argument. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY SEKULOW, OUTSIDE LEGAL COUNSEL FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: There is nothing in the charges that could permit the removal of a duly elected President or warrant the negation of an election and the subversion of the American people's will.

That should be whatever party you're affiliated with. You are being asked to do this. When tonight citizens of Iowa are going to be caucusing for the first caucus for the presidential season, election season for the Democratic Party. Tonight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: All right. Let's bring in Susan Glasser now. Interesting, there's nothing in the Constitution about an impeachment not coming close to an election, and the House managers' argument is why it has to be right now is because they believe this President is a threat to the integrity of this election. He goes the other way.

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, that's right, in fact, you heard Zoe Lofgren one of the Democratic managers make this point. There's nothing that says that we can't have impeachment in an election year. That's not what the founders said and quite the opposite. We are actually doing this because it's related to an election.

Now, that being said, we talked a bit today about the Clinton impeachment. You know, any side whose President is under attack is going to make the argument that this is the capital punishment of the Constitution and that, in fact, we have a remedy and it's called letting the voters decide to that. That's been a staple I think in all impeachment arguments that we've had in American history. You know, what I found particularly notable about the President's defense team's argument today was actually just an incredible circularity of what they were saying.

Which was basically, well, the President did nothing wrong but we won't let you see the evidence but also there wasn't enough evidence in the House. I mean it was really sort of a dizzying thing. I can't imagine that any Senators found it persuasive. But when you have the votes, you don't have to be persuasive.

CUOMO: Well, if you have the votes but you sometimes have to worry about the truth. Daniel Dale, fact checker, reporter, journalist extraordinaire, truth is going to matter because it can come back to haunt because this is not over after this trial is over. What did you pick up on?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: There were at least a couple things, Chris, that struck me as misleading from the Trump side in what they left out. One of those things was a description of why Zelensky, Ukraine's President, never ended up with a White House meeting.

And Trump Counsel, Michael Purpura, basically said, look, Trump invited him three times, some stuff happened, they couldn't make it. And then he got this meeting in New York. Well, a couple things about that. At that meeting in New York, Zelensky said, thank you for the invitation for a meeting in Washington, but you forgot one thing. You forgot to give me date.

Now someone on Twitter, a former Obama appointee named Eric Columbus said, look, we all know that couple that invites you for dinner might say, well, we should get together sometime, and you know it's not a real invitation.

We have a lot of evidence from this impeachment -- all these proceedings that that is the kind of invitation Trump issued. And we have a text from envoy of Kurt Volker to an aide to Zelensky saying, assuming Zelensky convinces Trump that he will get to bottom of what happened in 2016, then we'll nail down a date. So all that stuff was left out by the Trump team.

The other thing I thought was misleading is what they left out about Mick Mulvaney's now infamous comments at that the October press conference. Purpura said Mulvaney in no way confirmed a link between investigations and the aide because he later issued a statement clarifying his garbled comments. He suggested this was like a one-word slip. Mulvaney said he made a brief error and he corrected it.

Look, Mulvaney was exceptionally clear at that press conference. He was asked over and over explicitly, look, Mick, what you just said is a quid pro quo. He said that's what we always do in foreign policy. So this was not a brief error that Mulvaney made.

CUOMO: Right and it will lived forever. Daniel, thank you very much. Go to Google, put in Jonathan Carl and put in Mulvaney and put in quid pro quo, and you will see the moment, you'll see his eyes. He was looking at this reporter and this is exactly what he wanted to say.

All right. We're going to take break. We're going to hear from a Senator to get his reaction to the President's closing argument, next.

[15:40:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Welcome back to CNN's special live coverage. I want to go back to Capitol Hill and Manu Raju standing by with a Senator as the closing statements just concluded -- Manu.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Senator Chris Coons of Deleware, thank you for joining us. You just came off the Senate floor, are you ready now to convict the President?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): I'm going to be making a speech tomorrow where I will lay out my decision and the reasons. Overall, I found the House managers' case compelling and I thought the closing arguments just made by Adam Schiff, who is the leader of the House managers, was quite forceful and quite insightful.

RAJU: One of the things they had been criticized for is not issuing a subpoena for John Bolton, of course, the Senate rejecting moving forward witnesses and documents.

Now that this is essentially over, do you think it's time for the House to move forward and subpoena John Bolton?

COONS: I'll leave that to the House, but they should do what they have to, to make sure that the manuscript and the testimony that John Bolton seems eager to give is open to the public.

[15:45:00]

Look, I have Republican colleagues who have made the announcement that they're going to vote to acquit because they want the people to decide in this fall's election.

For that to be coherent, they also have to make sure that our voters, the electorate get the information they deserve to know what really happened here, and a key piece of that is getting John Bolton. Whether he's testifying in front of the House, his manuscript is released or otherwise, we need to hear what John Bolton knows.

RAJU: Obviously, you're also a top surrogate for Joe Biden. In light of all things that have been said on the Senate floor, are you worried that the talk about Hunter Biden's role in Burisma is having a negative impact in any way on the former Vice President?

COONS: I was in Iowa for the weekend, I was at rallies that Joe spoke at in Cedar Rapids and heard about a terrific rally that he had in Des Moines and I was out in field offices in Iowa City and in Ames and elsewhere. I was with him last night. He's in very good spirits, he's optimistic, he's giving forceful and engaging speeches. The punch line of this whole impeachment trial was that President

Trump most fears Joe Biden, knows that he is the candidate most capable of beating him, and that's why this whole scheme to try and coerce Ukraine into cooking up a baseless investigation came about in the first place.

RAJU: If he doesn't end up as a first two finalists tonight, is that going to be a problem for him going forward?

COONS: A reminder to your viewers, Manu, is just how small a range of voters there is between first, second, third and fourth. We're talking about 10,000 people across a large state.

I'm optimistic he'll finish strongly, but frankly we should look at the first four. We should be looking at Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, to see really who's well positioned for Super Tuesday. I'm very optimistic about Joe's chances across those first four.

RAJU: Senator Coons of Delaware, thank you for joining us. Erin, back to you.

BURNETT: All right. Pretty significant there. I bet they're looking at all of those first four now. Just ahead, we're going to go back to Iowa, the first state where four Senators who were sitting in that trial are now headed before tonight's caucuses begin.

[15:50:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: It appears Senator Lindsey Graham's rhetoric about President Trump's impeachment may have ruined his relationship with long term friends. Those friends? The Bidens. Joe Biden's wife, Jill, telling CNN today that she no longer considers Senator Graham a friend, and is hurt and angered by his attacks on her husband and stepson Hunter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Lindsey Graham, the Senator from South Carolina whom I think you count as a friend.

JILL BIDEN, WIFE OF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE AND FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We did, yes.

BERMAN: We did?

JILL BIDEN: Well, you know, Lindsey -- I don't know what happened to Lindsey. And we used to be great friends and friends with John McCain. I mean we traveled together with the Foreign Relations Committee, and we've had dinner, you know, and now, he's changed.

BERMAN: You consider him a friend anymore?

JILL BIDEN: You know, it's hard when you -- I don't know, consider somebody a friend and then they have said so many things, so many negative things, and it's -- that's been a little hurtful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Late last year, Joe Biden told CNN his word, he's embarrassed for Graham over his willingness to do Trump's bidding. You know, Tim, what's interesting about this, there's a lot of levels of interesting, but one of them is Jill Biden, herself.

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes.

BURNETT: She has become more present than I think she maybe anticipated being, she said enjoys being on the campaign trail. But also much more barbed in her willingness to take something down than I think people expected. This

is not the first time we've heard her willing to say and call something out.

NAFTALI: Well, I mean, there must be a hugely personal part of this. We forget one part. This entire impeachment happened because Joe Biden became a candidate. It's not that that's what motivated the Democrats, that's what seems to have motivated the President.

You could imagine what it must be like for Jill Biden, because her family has been dragged into the center of the most important constitutional moment that a country can have, our country can have. So, I can imagine for her there's is a weird balance.

You know, these Senators usually socialize. We live in a very, very partisan Washington where I don't even think that the Senators socialize the way they used to. And what Jill Biden has just said that she's reflecting the nature of Washington today but also the effect on her family of this impeachment.

BURNETT: I mean, I think that there is that deep personal point, right. They've known each other for years and years, Decades, right, when you go back. And then all of the sudden, you are in a situation where Lindsey Graham is questioning Joe Biden's integrity. There's no other way to put it, daily.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes and I remember I think it may have been in their interview, their joint interview with Chris Cuomo. But they were asked, you know, you are about to get into a lot of mudslinging here, and are you prepared for that given what the family has gone through. You know the President's tweets, you know what he has said about other people, and other politicians, and non-politicians. And they said, yes.

So we are ready. We are ready, and it seemed as though they were ready for him, and they were ready for attacks and fights with the President. And maybe not so much those that they considered friends and family in the Senate. And so that's why this may be a bit more of a personal issue for them as opposed to just a tweet from the President.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, because it is about his family. I mean it's not just you know Joe Biden wants to raise your taxes or Joe Biden is a tax and spend liberal. It's about alleged misconduct by the family and that's much more hurtful to these people. They are contrary to a lot of belief, human beings, and they get mad and they get upset.

[15:55:00]

BURNETT: And just in, I want to make sure everyone knows here. Iowa Democratic Party spokesperson is telling CNN they are having technical issues with a mobile app that helps tally votes.

OK, obviously, when you hear something like that, you go, wait a minute. We're going to go there live. I'll find out the significance of that in just a moment. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Just in, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has just announced that he has been diagnosed with lung cancer. He describes it as late stage, he told his audience he's in the late stages, he is beginning treatment.

Rush, of course, has been hosting his show for more than three decades, and we wish you the very best, Rush, to recover and beat it.

Thank you for watching our special coverage of the Iowa caucuses starts right now.