Return to Transcripts main page
CNN RIGHT NOW
Impeachment Witnesses Brace For Fallout; Nadler Says House Will "Likely" Subpoena John Bolton; Collins Says She'll Vote For Acquittal Because Trump "Learned His Lesson"; Soon, Romney Will Speak On Senate Floor About His Impeachment Vote. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired February 5, 2020 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Christine, thank you for joining us. Christine Pelosi.
CHRISTINE PELOSI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST & CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC WOMEN'S CAUCUS & DAUGHTER OF REP. NANCY PELOSI: My pleasure. Thank you.
KEILAR: A key Democratic leader announcing today that the House will likely subpoena John Bolton, the president's former national security advisor.
This, as CNN is learning those who testified against the president are bracing for the fall-out after the acquittal.
Plus, Susan Collins says she will vote to acquit the president because she believes he's learned his lesson.
KEILAR: In a matter of hours, President Trump is expected to be fully acquitted by the Senate. As we get closer to that happening, the witnesses who put their careers on the line to testify in the impeachment investigation are bracing for fallout.
Let's bring in CNN's Kylie Atwood. She to about half of the 17 witnesses. And she's here along with CNN legal analyst, Carrie Cordero.
Nearly half, about half of these witnesses. What did they tell you, Kylie?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, I spoke to them alongside a few of my colleagues here at CNN. The general consensus is they feel deflated. Essentially they had to go forth, they felt it was their duty to provide this testimony, most of them under the order of subpoena.
And now what? Now, it has turned into a partisan battle and that is going to be the determining factor, as we expect the president to be acquitted later today. They are feeling a bit frustrated with the fact they went forth. They
are folks used to be hidden in the cloak of diplomacy. They are diplomats out in the field doing their jobs. And now they are known as public folks who have come forth and told what they knew about this situation.
I want to read to you what one of these folks who provide testimony said. They said, quote, "All the carnage for something that doesn't mean very much. Our domestic political battles have just trampled over what our national interests are."
They are hopeful what they have done will not hurt them in the long run. But they are fearful that if President Trump is reelected, there would be retaliation.
Of course, that would be complicated. There would be a lot of bureaucracy involved and there would be a lot of pushback. But it is something that they're worried about.
KEILAR: I wonder if they have cause to be worried for that, even though they should be protected, Carrie.
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I think there's a difference between what they might technically be protected from, from a legal perspective.
In other words, are these people in the civil service or State Department employees, for example, who were detailed to the White House or from other branches of government, detailed to the White House? Their civil service protections should protect them from, for example, being fired without cause.
But that's very different, I think, than what we might see and the practical consequences, which is, how will it affect in a soft way these people's career, especially if they were people mid-career, which several of the witnesses were.
Some might be able to retire. But others were really in the prime of their career, on special assignment, which really is a promotional opportunity if they were working at the White House.
Now, what are they going to do in this political environment, in environment within the executive branch, and how will that affect their careers? I think those practical effects might be very different.
KEILAR: Carrie and Kyle, you are going to stay with me. We have more ahead with you.
Speaking of witnesses, we're now learning what might happen with John Bolton, the president's former security advisor, who has refused to testify up until this point. We'll have that next.
[13:43:05] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But do you think it's likely the subpoena will be issued to him?
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): I think it's likely, yes.
I think when you have a lawless president, you have to bring that to the floor, you have to spotlight that. You have to protect the Constitution, whatever the political consequences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: That was the House Judiciary chairman, Jerry Nadler, speaking about the former national security advisor to President Trump, John Bolton.
Let's talk, Carrie, about what this will look like. How might this play out?
CORDERO: The big question, if the House were to issue a subpoena to John Bolton, will he honor it. That's really the question. They did not issue a subpoena before the impeachment trial because his lawyers said he would challenge it and that would be litigated extensively. Then, he said he would respond to a Senate subpoena.
So from a principled perspective, there really is no reason at this point for John Bolton to challenge a House subpoena, if they were going to issue it. But it's really an open question.
KEILAR: Do you think we will hear from him? Because clearly he was more game to talk to the Senate than the House?
ATWOOD: He was. But that was under the guise of an impeachment trial, which will now be over. It's not necessarily the case he will comply with the subpoena because he was doing it for the sake of impeachment. This will not necessarily, as we understand it, be for an impeachment investigation any longer, right?
CORDERO: He clearly has facts to provide --
ATWOOD: Yes, right.
CORDERO: -- that are relevant to the House's Ukraine investigation into the Ukraine matter, which, as I take it from Congressman Nadler's statements, is still an ongoing investigation.
So the House could take the position that they have a responsibility to get to the bottom of what is happening, irrespective of the fact that the Senate is probably going to vote to acquit this afternoon.
ATWOOD: I think it's interesting that, behind closed doors last night, he spoke to some folks and said that he supported the witnesses who did provide testimony as part of the House impeachment investigation. But he himself hasn't provided that testimony. That is one thing that
has really frustrated some of these diplomats that I spoke with, who did provide that testimony.
They say he's trying to have it both ways. He is dangling out information but not, you know, coming forth and providing what he knows.
These are diplomats who really have a sense of responsibility. None of the folks we spoke to regret providing any testimony, and they are frustrated that John Bolton never did.
KEILAR: He will certainly sell books, though. That's something to think of, he has an upcoming book.
KEILAR: Kylie, Carrie, thank you to both of you.
Moments from now, Senator Mitt Romney will be speaking about how he will vote on impeachment.
Also, as we await the next batch of results from Iowa, the 2020 candidates are already focusing on the next big vote, New Hampshire. What to expect from that state's primary, next.
KEILAR: In a matter of hours, we expect the Senate is going to acquit, vote to acquit President Trump on articles of impeachment. It looks like this is going to be split along party lines.
Democratic Senator Doug Jones was seen as a potential swing vote. Maybe he would vote to acquit. Then, a short time ago, he announced he will reluctantly vote to acquit.
Senator Susan Collins was one of two Republicans who voted to call witnesses and seek documents in the impeachment trial. Today, though, she will vote along party lines despite saying the president's actions in asking Ukraine to investigate his political rival were, quote, "improper and demonstrated very poor judgment."
Collins explained her decision in an interview on CBS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): I believe that the president has learned from this case.
UNIDENTIFIED CBS CORRESPONDENT: What do you believe the president has learned?
COLLINS: The president has been impeached. That's a pretty big lesson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: That seems hard to believe considering the president's repeated stand on his call with the Ukrainian president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That call was a great call. It was a perfect call, a perfect call.
That call was perfect. It couldn't have been nicer.
Impeachment for that? When you have a wonderful meeting or you have a wonderful phone conversation?
Absolutely perfect phone call.
The conversation was perfect. It couldn't have been nicer.
If you look at that call, it's a perfect call. It's congenial. There was no pressure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Let's talk about this now. I'm joined by CNN Political Commentator and "Daily Beast" Senior Columnist, Matt Lewis.
OK, he learned his lesson. And Susan Collins isn't the only person who's saying this.
MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. No, this is actually -- there are several Republicans who have essentially made this same argument. Lamar Alexander made basically the same argument, bad but not impeachable, but he'll learn his lesson. Murkowski made basically the same argument.
It's not just Collins. It's absurd but not just her.
KEILAR: Do they know it's absurd, do you think?
LEWIS: I think they do. Maybe they're hoping deep down he will have learned his lesson. But that is the triumph of hope over experience, right? There's literally nothing in Donald Trump's not just political life but just his life in general that would lead you to believe that he learns.
I mean, first of all, all he does is win. Thanks to enablers like Collins, he keeps winning. Why would he change? But he has never backed down. He's never admitted -- he's never apologized. It's deny, deny, deny. This is his M.O.
It's hard to imagine that they really believe it.
KEILAR: I wonder, because the president's behavior isn't particularly surprising. And we look back to how Robert Mueller testified before Congress, and it was the very next day that we saw this call made. He also unlike Bill Clinton, didn't come out after this process, we certainly don't expect he will, to say, hey, I had bad judgment, I did the wrong thing, to try to kind of move past this even with an acquittal.
LEWIS: I'm just, with remembering back in 2015 and 2016, when he said he never asked God for forgiveness. Donald Trump said that, right? Bill Clinton, comparatively, maybe it was phony, maybe it was sincere, was much more contrite.
You know, it's one thing to do bad things, but you can't really forgive people if they haven't confessed and admitted to it. Donald Trump says it was a perfect call.
There's no reason these Senators should believe that he's going to somehow correct going forward.
KEILAR: We're going to see Senator Mitt Romney, who's been a critic of the president's, speak on the Senate floor here soon. What are you expecting?
LEWIS: I don't know.
Look, I think the trend that we're seeing is Democrats like Doug Jones and Republicans like Susan Collins are sticking with their team, right?
I mean, if you're a Republican, you might be moderate, but you'll never be better than a Democrat if you're a liberal voter, right? And if you're a Democrat, you might be a moderate, but you'll never be better than a Republican to a conservative voter. So there's an incentive to stick with their team.
Will Mitt Romney be the one guy to stand up? Maybe. He doesn't need this job. He's rich. I don't think he's up for re-election for, like, four years. And yet, I don't have a ton of confidence in Mitt Romney.
I hope that Mitt Romney does the right thing, which is to vote guilty. He obviously should be impeached for this.
KEILAR: We will see. We'll be watching along with you.
Matt Lewis, thank you so much.
We're expecting more results from the Iowa caucus. That's any moment now. So will Pete Buttigieg be keeping his lead? Where will Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren finish? Where will Bernie Sanders be? Stand by for that.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you for joining me. It is good to be back.
In just a couple of hours, a monumental chapter in our nation's history and the Trump White House will officially be closed. Take a look with me. Live pictures from the Senate floor where lawmakers are expected to acquit President Trump on those two articles of impeachment, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. That happens a little later today.