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AT THIS HOUR
Sen. Doug Jones Speaks from Senate Floor on Impeachment Vote; New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair, Raymond Buckley, Discusses What Iowa Caucus Chaos Means for New Hampshire Primaries, the Democratic Race; Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) Discusses Impeachment, Doug Jones' Vote to Impeach, Trump's SOTU. Aired 11:30a-12p ET
Aired February 5, 2020 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEN. DOUG JONES (D-AL): Throughout the trial, one piece of evidence continued to stand out for me. It was the president's statement that, under the Constitution, we have Article two, and I can do anything I want.
That seems to capture this president's belief about the presidency. That he has unbridled power, unchecked by Congress or the judiciary or anyone else. That view, dangerous as it is, explains the president's actions toward
Ukraine and Congress.
The sum of what we've seen and heard is, unfortunately, a picture of a president who has abused the great power of his office for personal gain, a picture of a president who has placed his personal interest well above the interests of the nation, and in so doing, threatened our national security, the security of our European allies and the security of Ukraine.
The evidence clearly proves that the president used the weight of his office and the weight of the United States government to seek to coerce a foreign government to interfere in our election for his personal political benefit.
His actions were more than simply inappropriate. They were an abuse of power.
When I was a lawyer for the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission, there was a saying that the chairman of the Inquiry Commission, and one of Alabama's great judges used to say, Randall Cole. Judge Cole used to say about judges who strayed from the canons of ethics that the judge left his post.
Sadly, President Trump left his post with regard to the withholding of military aid to Ukraine and a White House visit for the new Ukrainian president.
And in so doing, he took the great powers of the office of the president of the United States with him. Impeachment is the only check on such presidential wrongdoing.
The second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress, gave me more pause. I've struggled to understand the House's strategy and their failure to fully pursue documents and witnesses and wished that they had done more.
However, after careful consideration of the evidence developed in the hearings, the public disclosures, the legal precedents in the trial, I believe that the president deliberately and un-constitutionally obstructed Congress by refusing to cooperate with the investigation in any way.
While I am sensitive to protecting the privileges and immunities afforded to the president and his advisers, I believe it's critical to our constitutional structure that we also protect the authorities of the Congress of the United States.
Here, it was clear from the outset that the president had no intention whatsoever of accommodating Congress when he blocked both witnesses and documents from being produced.
In addition, he engaged in a course of conduct to threaten potential witnesses and smear the reputations of the civil servants who did come forward and provide testimony.
The president's actions demonstrate a belief that he is above the law, that Congress has no power whatsoever in questioning or examining his actions, and that all who do so, do so at their peril.
That belief, unprecedented in history of this country, simply must not be permitted to stand. To do otherwise risks guaranteeing that no future whistleblower or witness will ever come forward. And no future president, Republican or Democrat, will be subject to congressional oversight as mandated by the Constitution, even when the president has so clearly abused his office and violated the public trust.
Accordingly, I will vote to convict the president on both articles of impeachment.
In doing so, I am mindful that, in a democracy, there's nothing more sacred than the right to vote and respecting the will of the people.
But I am also mindful that when our founders wrote the Constitution, they envisioned a time or at least a possibility that our democracy would be more damaged if we fail to impeach and remove a president. Such is the moment in history that we face today.
The gravity of this moment, the seriousness of the charges and the implication for future presidencies in Congress has all contributed to the difficulty with which I have arrived at my decision.
I am mindful, Mr. President, that I am standing at a desk that once was used by John F. Kennedy, who famously wrote "Profiles in Courage." And there will be so many who will simply look at what I'm doing today and say is it is a profile in courage. It is not. It is simply a matter of right and wrong. Doing right is not a courageous act. It is simply following your oath.
Mr. President, this has been a divisive time for our country, but I think it has nonetheless been an important constitutional process for us to follow.
As this chapter of history draws to a close, one thing is clear to me. As I've said before, our country deserves better than this. They deserve better from the president. They deserve better from the Congress. We must find a way to come together to set aside partisan differences and to focus on what we have in common as Americans.
While so much is going on in our favor these days, we still face great challenges, both domestically and internationally. But it remains my firm belief that united we can conquer them and remain the greatest hope for the people around the world.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that my full statement be printed in the record.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA): Without objection.
JONES: Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: You're listening right there to the Democratic Senator from Alabama, Doug Jones, a vulnerable Democrat in the upcoming election, explaining why he says he thinks he must vote to convict on both charges of President Trump in his impeachment.
Explaining his vote, of course, to the Senate and those present, but also very clearly to the folks back at home in Alabama. As I said, he's up in a tough re-election.
It was interesting, I thought, as he also made an appeal in his remarks in explaining his reasoning, made an appeal to the Congress, to the Senate, to get beyond the partisan divide.
We'll have much more on this as more Senators will be taking to the floor to explain their votes.
And the Senate will be holding its final vote as the president is expected to be acquitted later this afternoon.
Still ahead for us, though, as the chaos of the Iowa caucus continues to play out, how will it impact next week's New Hampshire primary? The Democratic Party chairman in New Hampshire joins me next.
BOLDUAN: Right now, in the race to 2020, the Democratic presidential candidates are crisscrossing the state of New Hampshire with new urgency, it seems, following the mess that was and is the Iowa caucuses right now. With still no final result there, the New Hampshire primary is just
six days away.
The candidate riding on the most momentum right now is Pete Buttigieg. He spoke with me last night shortly after learning of the first partial results, making clear that he is not taking anything for granted in New Hampshire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETE BUTTIGIEG, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER SOUTH BEND MAYOR: New Hampshire is a state that famously thinks for itself. It doesn't want to be told what to do and has a very strong independent streak.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Joining me right now is Raymond Buckley, the chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.
Thanks for being here.
RAYMOND BUCKLEY, CHAIRMAN, NEW HAMPSHIRE DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Thank you for having me.
BOLDUAN: So I have to ask, because after the problems that continue to play out with reporting out of Iowa, we do know New Hampshire has a completely different system. But are you ready?
BUCKLEY: Oh, absolutely. We have elections around the clock here in New Hampshire, so our primary is governed by our local election officials overseen by the state government. In the hundred years we've had the first-in-the-nation primary, we've never had an incident.
You know, I think that a lot of lessons were learned with the Iowa caucus. And I think that it's important that we look forward to the rest of the primaries and caucuses ahead to see if there's any issues that will pop up like that, that we can take care of beforehand.
BOLDUAN: You have many interesting dynamics on the ground in your state playing out in this cycle. You have Pete Buttigieg with momentum coming out of Iowa, Bernie Sanders who won the Democratic primary there in 2016, and another candidate from another neighboring state in Elizabeth Warren, and that's just to name a few of the dynamics.
What is your sense on the ground right now? Are Democratic voters -- are voters decided? Or do you think in large part they're still deciding who to vote for?
BUCKLEY: They are loving this. It is a magical week. To have all of these opportunities to choose from, not just the top four that you talked about, but Amy Klobuchar is here and Deval Patrick and Senator Bennet and Tulsi Gabbard. So many -- Andrew Yang. They're all here crisscrossing the state, showing up at events, doing things.
And the choices that the voters of New Hampshire have, it's just been amazing. So people have been very excited about that. All polling shows that still about 50 percent of the New Hampshire voters haven't made a final decision.
So look forward to an amazing couple days right up to Tuesday. We've got the two town hall evenings here on CNN that could -- you never know, an answer or a question could make a difference in one of the candidates.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. The timing is really quite important.
You mentioned lessons learned from Iowa. The fact that there still isn't a clear winner out of Iowa, what does that mean for New Hampshire? Do you feel more pressure? Do you feel more responsibility, something else?
BUCKLEY: Well, we always believe that we play an important role in this. But remember, the Iowa caucus was just a couple of days before the New Hampshire primary back in 2008 and everything went smoothly.
So I think that we'll have the results soon. I applaud the Iowa Democratic Party for taking this so seriously that they're going through all of the information and purposely going through it all to make sure that it's accurately counted so there's not a question.
And while it's taking a little bit longer than we thought it would, it's an entirely new system that was imposed upon them and they're working on it. And I think that, at the end, we'll be able to trust the results.
BOLDUAN: Let me play for you what the chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, who was in charge of the caucuses, said yesterday. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TROY PRICE, CHAIRMAN, IOWA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: The reporting of the results and circumstances surrounding the 2020 Iowa Democratic Party caucuses were unacceptable. As chair of the party, I apologize deeply for this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Do you feel for Troy Price or do you think he deserves the blame that's been coming at him?
BUCKLEY: Troy Price is a good friend and an amazing political organizer and leader. He has -- he did all that he thought he could do to try to make sure that the system worked. But I think that it was very courageous of him to get up and apologize, accept that responsibility.
BOLDUAN: That was after a full 24 hours of very little communication.
BUCKLEY: Well, still a lot of people -- we've got a president that doesn't accept responsibility for anything he does, so the fact that we've got somebody --
BUCKLEY: -- have accept that accepted responsibility --
BOLDUAN: You don't want to apply the what aboutism on this one, Raymond. You don't want to do that.
BUCKLEY: I think his statement and willingness to stand up and accept responsibility was remarkable.
BOLDUAN: Big week ahead for the New Hampshire Democratic Party. You are going to have very little sleep. But as you said, New Hampshire voters love this.
Thank you so much for coming on.
BUCKLEY: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Really appreciate it.
And a programming note. As Raymond noted just a short time ago, tonight kicks off two nights of an important CNN event, a series of town halls with the Democratic candidates, starting tonight with Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer, all facing questions from New Hampshire voters. That's here on CNN starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
BOLDUAN: This afternoon, after the months of investigation, weeks of hearings, days of debate, a divided Senate will bring to a close the impeachment trial of President Trump.
The Senate is expected to acquit the president on both charges, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the charges he faces. While the outcome seems all but certain there is still suspense left. How will some wavering Senators vote and why?
Democratic Senator from red state Alabama, Doug Jones, as we just saw, he just announced he will, in his words, "reluctantly vote" to convict President Trump on those charges.
Joining me now, another Democratic Senator, Chris Van Hollen, of Maryland.
Senator, thank you for being here.
You plan to vote to convict the president. What's your reaction to what you heard from Doug Jones?
SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): I do plan to convict the president on both charges brought by the House of Representatives.
I can tell you that Doug Jones is taking this process very seriously. I sit next to him on the floor of the United States Senate. He has been taking copious notes. He himself is a lawyer, a former prosecutor. He is doing his duty under the Constitution to look at the charges and render a judgment on what the remedy should be.
BOLDUAN: Do you have any idea how another one of your Democratic colleagues, Joe Manchin, is going to vote? We're told he's not going to --he hasn't said publicly until he will wait until he gets to the floor this afternoon.
VAN HOLLEN: I don't know, Kate. But I should say, regardless of the vote this afternoon, this process has been tainted and flawed ever since the United States Senate failed to do its job under the Constitution. That is to conduct a fair trial.
And when, for the first time in our history, you don't call a single witness or get a single document, that's not a fair trial.
I'm sure the president will claim that he has somehow been exonerated. I want to state very clearly, there's no exoneration and no vindication from a farce of a trial. I think many Americans will not accept the legitimacy of this outcome because of the tainted process.
BOLDUAN: Do you think it's a good idea -- I mean, Jerry -- it may not be over, if you will, in the broad sense, because Jerry Nadler told Manu Raju this morning he's likely to subpoena John Bolton. Do you like that idea at this point?
VAN HOLLEN: I think it's important for the country to get to the truth of what happened. We heard from Senator Lamar Alexander that he agreed the House proved its case on the article of abuse of power. But you still had many Republican Senators get up there and pretend that was not the case.
I don't think the House is interested at all in opening round two of impeachment. That's not happening.
But I do think the country deserves the truth. Republican Senators, when they voted to obstruct that process and become accomplices with the president in covering up the truth, has simply left open these questions that need to be answered.
BOLDUAN: Let me ask you about State of the Union. I noted, you had a pretty brutal assessment of the president's remarks. You said they were disgraceful, it was a mega rally, circus performance. Why did his address bother you so much?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, Kate, the whole purpose of the State of the Union address is to lay out the agenda for the country, to try to bring people together in a common purpose.
What President Trump did last night disrespected the entire process. He did treat this like one of this is campaign rallies. He never misses an opportunity to further divide the country.
And he also went out and made all these outrageous misrepresentations, some outright lies.
For example, he said he was really working to protect people with pre- existing health conditions, when, at that very moment, his attorney general is seeking, in court, to dismantle the law that contains those protections.
That was just one of many examples of a president who thinks he's the country --
VAN HOLLEN: -- when, in fact, this country is great because of its values and people.
BOLDUAN: It was very representative of the divided America and partisan politics we are living in at this moment.
Senator, thank you for coming on. I appreciate it.
VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: We will be right back, everybody.