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GOP's Romney Casts Guilty Vote Against Trump On Abuse Of Power; Senate Acquits President Trump Of Impeachment Charges; Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) Is Interviewed About Impeachment, Mitt Romney, Trump To Make Statement On Impeachment Victory Tomorrow; Buttigieg Retains Lead As Iowa Updates Count; New Backlash Against Limbaugh Honor At State Of The Union. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 5, 2020 - 17:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:00:06]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to the viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you are in the "Situation Room" and we are following breaking news. The U.S. Senate has just voted to acquit President Trump for the two articles of impeachment passed by the House of Representatives bringing his historic trial to a close.

But in an unprecedented move, Republican Senator Mitt Romney broke party ranks and cast a guilty vote on the abuse of power charge becoming the first U.S. senator in history to vote against the president of their own party in an impeachment trial. The vote on the charge of obstructing of Congress fell strictly along party line.

Lets go straight to Capitol Hill, our Congressional Correspondent Phil Mattingly is joining us. Phil, the trial is now over. History has been done as far as this trial is concerned and the President of the United States remains in office.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that's exactly right. A divisive chapter in U.S. history has come to a close. One, in a Senate trial that reaped at the vines (ph) not just of this institution, the U.S. Congress, the presidency but also the country and the whole.

The reality is, in the end, it is what we all expected from the beginning. The President would be eventually acquitted, acquitted on both charges, both articles of impeachment sent over by the House of Representatives, but not without a few blips along the way, obviously a lengthy process from closed door hearings, public hearings, inquiry, investigation and trial. And eventually today, for the first time, a Republican officially saying he was on board to remove the President. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITT ROMNEY, (R) UTAH: My faith is at the heart of who I am. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential. I knew from the outset that being tasked with judging the President, the leader of my own party would be the most difficult decision I have ever faced. I was not wrong.

The grave question that the constitution tasks the senators to answer is whether the President committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a high crime and misdemeanor. Yes, he did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Now Wolf, that pause you heard from Senator Romney was not audio issue, that was the emotion, the emotion of the moment. A moment that is really, I've been told tearing at him for several weeks now in a very different place from the vast majority of his Republican colleagues. He was in a different place when he ask for witnesses, for subpoenas for documents, that was rejected.

Now moving forward on one article of impeachment to vote guilty to convict President Trump to remove him from office. I can tell you behind the scenes for weeks the Republican conference has been in a very different place than Mitt Romney. Some of them has initially telling him to stop in closed door meetings. But Romney making clear today, without telling Senate leadership or any of his colleagues before hand that he would go forward and vote guilty on the first article of impeachment.

Still Wolf, the bottom line remains this, the President has been acquitted of both articles of impeachment, the President remains in office. And I think the big question now here on Capitol Hill is what happens next. This is an institution that clearly has been in a bad place over the course of the last several weeks.

And I don't think there's any sense from Republicans or Democrats I've been speaking to that it's going to get any better any time soon. One thing they know for sure President Trump will remain President Trump, and they'll have to figure out what happens in the next stages in the weeks and months ahead, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Absolutely right. Phil Mattingly in Capitol Hill, thank you. Let's go to the White House right now, our Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta is joining us.

Jim, this is the outcome the President's team expected obviously, but the Mitt Romney's guilty vote certainly caught at least some of them by surprise.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And it sounds like the President wants to crow about this. And check out this tweet that the President just put out in the last several minutes, it's his first response to being acquitted in the Senate impeachment trial. It is one of his favorite trolls. It is a video mock up of a "Time" magazine cover that shows him staying in office forever and ever. That is vintage Trump, that's how he wants to respond to all of this. And I suspect you're going to hear that sort of tone from the President when he comes out in due time. The White House at this point saying he's not expected to come out and talk to the press this evening, obviously Trump being Trump that could change.

But already, because of the vote cast by Mitt Romney, Republicans are sounding off, including the President's own son Donald Trump Jr., and we can put this tweet up on screen. There are some in the Republican Party who are vowing retaliation. "Mitt Romney is forever bitter that he will never be potus," Donald Trump Jr. tweeted, "he was too weak to beat the Democrats then he's joining them now. He's now officially a member of the resistance and should be expelled from the GOP." That is from the President's son, Don Jr.

[17:05:02]

The other thing we should point out is that the White House was caught off guard of Mitt Romney's decision earlier today. He was announced as the President was welcoming the Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido over here at the White House, Wolf, we were supposed to go inside the Oval Office of a photo-opportunity with the President at that very moment it was called off. The White House insisted it was not because of Senator Romney's decision to vote to convict the President on one of those articles of impeachment.

But, Wolf, one of the things that Mitt Romney did today besides showing to many Americans that this was a profile in courage and that there is still room for mavericks here in Washington, he did rob -- the Republicans did rob the Presidents of a key talking point. They have been saying all along that this was a partisan impeachment exercise that is obviously no longer the case given what Mitt Romney did today. Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta, at the White House thank you very much.

Let's get some more on all the breaking news right now. Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island is joining us. He's a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us. And you -- as you fully appreciate, you just cast what will likely be two of the most significant votes of your Senate career. You voted to convict the President of the United States and remove him from office. What does the gravity of this moment, Senator, mean for you?

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI): Well, I think that for me and I suspect for most of my colleagues, we're glad that this is over. It has been an unseemly ordeal. It has not been the Senate's finest hour. I think we fell down on our very basic responsibility of conducting a proper trial. And the result was preordained and I hope that we can put it behind us, because this was unfortunate moment in the Senate's history.

BLITZER: Your colleague Republican Senator Mitt Romney, he joined Democrats in voting to convict the President of the first article, abuse of power. When you address the Senate you said the impeachment in your words, ran into a partisan wall. I'd like to, you know, explain what you meant by that?

WHITEHOUSE: That on our side, there was never going to be votes for a proper trial, there was never going to be votes for witnesses, there was never going to be votes to bring forth the evidence waiting in boxes for us in Trump administration offices. They did not want the evidence, because they knew what it would say. The vote was preordain. Everything about this was about as unlike a real trial as you could want.

BLITZER: From the outset, it seemed highly unlikely and almost impossible given the political climate that 2/3 of the Senate, 67 senators would vote to remove the President from office. Do you still think with hindsight it is wise for the Democrats to pursue impeachment and if you do, why?

WHITEHOUSE: On facts like these, I think the House had no choice. The facts are essentially unrebutted and they reveal extraordinarily damaging and wrongful conduct by the President of the United States. The fact that there was going to be a partisan wall that this ran into ought not to discourage the House and the performance of its duty. We all have our separate duties, and I don't fault the House for going forward.

BLITZER: Were you in the Senate when Mitt Romney spoke, because as you heard, he got pretty emotional at one point talking about his religious, his faith and why he decided to do what he was doing?

WHITEHOUSE: No, I was following it in my office, and I have read his remarks, and they were well crafted and thoughtful and touching remarks. I think back to John McCain casting his legendary no vote, the thumbs down on the Obamacare vote.

And when he returned to his seat what you saw was Republican senators gathering around him. They had to hate the vote, but they gathered around the man, and I hope that my Republican colleagues, although they may hate Senator Romney's vote, will realize that this was a question of conscience for him, and gather around and support him as a man rather than feeding him alive to the banshees of the right wing on social media.

BLITZER: You heard him say he's -- he knows he's going to be attacked now for that vote against the President of the United States. And he says he's ready for it.

WHITEHOUSE: The far right can be extremely hostile and vindictive. And I'm afraid that Mitt Romney is going to be the target of a lot of abuse in the weeks ahead. I wish him well and I hope his colleagues can support him through the ordeal.

BLITZER: And he was -- he's clearly worried about family as well.

Do you worry, Senator, that the President's acquittal will embolden him as we head into the 2020 election? WHITEHOUSE: I think that there is little doubt that it will. I'm more concerned about our body. Senator Murkowski said in her remarks that she hopes with this, we have hit bottom, and we'll begin to bounce back.

[17:10:06]

The alternative is the analogy that Winston Churchill used about the stairway down to a dark gulf that goes down and the carpeting ends and soon the flagstones break beneath your feet. I don't know if we're going to rebound or if we are on a downward march led by Mitch McConnell into a very dark gulf for the Senate. I hope not. I hope Senator Murkowski is right.

BLITZER: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, thanks so much for joining us on this important very historic day.

WHITEHOUSE: Thank you.

BLITZER: All right, and to our viewers stay with us, we're going to have much more in the fallout from the impeachment vote. Will the failure to remove the President from office embolden the President or potentially can it rein him in?

Also, there's breaking news we're following, there are updated results we're getting from the Iowa caucuses, we'll share the new numbers with you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:15:14]

BLITZER: All right. The breaking news we're following, the U.S. Senate just acquitted President Trump on both articles of impeachment brought by House of Representatives. And the surprise Republican Senator Mitt Romney he voted guilty on the first article of impeachment, abuse of power. Let's bring in our correspondents, reporters, and analysts.

And Gloria, the President of the United States just tweeted, we were anticipating he would be making a public statement. Let me put it up on the screen. There you see it. "I will be making a public statement tomorrow at 12:00 p.m. noon from the White House to discuss our country's VICTORY," all caps, "on the impeachment hoax!" So, he's getting ready to make a statement tomorrow.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He is, and obviously he thinks that this is kind of like a political campaign, so you claim victory. And he's obviously still thinks it's a hoax, and I am sure he is upset that he cannot claim that the Republicans were completely united on this.

And I think the big question is how is the President going to react to this in his speech. We saw that he just tweeted a meme about his presidency lasting forever like a monarch. And I just hope he is a little bit more magnanimous in this talking about moving the country forward and all of the things that he might still be able to do with members of the Democratic Party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you new here?

BORGER: No, but, well, can I get to the but? Can I get to my -- my but would be that, I'm not holding obviously my breath obviously, is that good? OK.

BLITZER: Because Jeffrey, you remember it and I remember it, and John King remembers that when 21 years ago when President Bill Clinton was acquitted, he was impeached in the House of Representatives, acquitted in the Senate. He went out and made a statement, once again say how sorry he was for what he did. He apologized. But then he went on to say, now we must all get together --

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: -- work together to move on.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: And that was then, and things are very different now. Donald Trump is a very different person than Bill Clinton. I'm sure both of them would be very happy to hear me say that. But, you know, the way that Trump has approached this whole impeachment process is diametrically opposed from Clinton.

I mean, you know, I always seize on the notion of perfect. You know the President didn't say his phone call to Ukraine was appropriate, was defensible, he said it was perfect. I don't know anyone in the world who talks about their behavior as perfect except for President Trump.

So, you know, the thing that is just to me the most frankly contemptible of the political votes that have come today are the Republicans whose senators who say the President has learned his lesson that he will not do this again. Look, you can think he was right, you can think he was wrong, but if anyone thinks that Donald Trump is chastened by this, tune in tomorrow at noon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at the tweet.

TOOBIN: Yes.

BLITZER: John King, it doesn't look from his tweet that he just posted when he speaks about our country's victory on the impeachment hoax.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It does not look like that from the tweet. It does not look like that from his campaign statement which says he has been totally vindicated. There's a bit of a counter view in the President's tone last night in his state of the union speech where he did not mention impeachment, and he focused on what he wants to view as his campaign roadmap, some issues he wants to highlight.

I know Democrats have a quite, you know, want to fact check his speech and fight with the impeachment, the President's tone last night was very different from what you see in that tweet. The challenge is when he makes his first remarks and he steps out there to the American people, what does he want to say?

This is something -- if you want to do the short term politics in impeachments, there are other factors, the improving economy, people feeling better about the economy. But the President's standing during the impeachment proceedings has gone up. His political standing with the American people has gone up.

Does that mean this will help him in November, nobody knows that. We have no idea what the political clime is going to look like. But what he says out of the box is important.

At this time the Democrats are having a natural divide, a fight over who to pick as a nominee. Republicans are united behind the President with the exception of Mitt Romney. What does he want to say to his party, to this town and more importantly in the re-election year to the American people? It will be interesting.

You're right, every bit of history tell you he's going to fight and he's going to punch, but let's see.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting and John makes a good point, Nia, that over these past few months of impeachment, his job --

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes.

BLITZER: -- approval numbers have gone up. And to our -- now for him, the highest it's been since he became President 49 percent --

HENDERSON: Yes, his Gallup Poll.

BLITZER: -- of the American public approve of the job he is doing according to the new Gallup Poll, 50 percent disapprove, 94 percent of Republicans approve of the job.

HENDERSON: You know, those are great numbers for the President. You saw him last night deliver that, you know, almost an hour have state of the union address where he laid out his accomplishments.

And listen, they're real accomplishments in terms of the unemployment rate, the stock market, some of the things he's been doing in some of these different communities, opportunity zones, on foreign policy as well. And it was received by lots of Republicans, made some Democrats nervous, made some Democrats angry as well because of some of the fact-checking issues with it, and some of the untruths.

[17:20:20]

But listen, you know, we'll see what he does. You know, this is what we -- you know, we look forward to seeing what the President says tomorrow, but we know, you know, president on prompter is one thing and president on a campaign rally is something different, the president on Twitter is something different as well. I'm interested to see how he handles the Mitt Romney news. He has gone after Mitt Romney in the past. Does he start to do that today, tomorrow, or going forward in the future? Because he always likes to have an enemy and Mitt Romney looks like a lot -- BLITZER: We're going to talk about this. Everybody standby. But Alan Frumin, you're the former Senate Parliamentary and step back for a second. Give us the historic impression you have from this moment.

ALAN FRUMIN, SENATE PARLIAMENTARIAN EMERITUS: Well, the Senate was on trial here. There's no question about that. I continue to go back to the fact that the result was for ordained but the process wasn't. And the Senate's decision not to have live witnesses I think will hunt the Senate for years.

Two of the President's counsels I believe made a compelling case for witnesses while arguing against witnesses. Pat Cipollone in person, in the flesh, was a different creature than Pat Cipollone on paper. And Patrick Philbin also, in his demeanor, just begged for the fact that in order to assess the argument to be made by an individual, you must have that person before you, flesh and blood.

Adam Schiff, likewise, in his closing arguments which I think will go down in history as a speech to be studied for generations. His demeanor as well as his words spoke volumes. So to me, the Senate needed to make the decision to bring live people before the chamber either depositions, videotaped or actually before the Senate itself. Number one.

And number two, the Clinton impeachment trial began with a caucus of 100, hopefully. There was no such bipartisanship at any point during this trial. I know I'm being naive here in hoping, just hoping at some point that there will another caucus of 100 as senators look at what they've been through, and what they have or have not contributed to public civility, and decide that we can do better. The Senate can do better. The Senate must do better, this country needs it.

BLITZER: Everybody stand by. We have a lot more to discuss and we will. We're following all the breaking news. The impeachment trial of the U.S. Senate is now over, it's history, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:02:41]

BLITZER: We're back with our legal and political experts. Senator Santorum, I want to get your reaction, you are man of faith, Mitt Romney spoke of his faith in announcing why he was going to vote for one article of impeachment to convict the President and remove him from office. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I take an oath before God as enormously consequential. I knew from the outset that being tasked of judging the President, the leader of my own party would be the most difficult decision I have ever faced. I was not wrong.

The grave question that the constitution tasks the senators to answer is whether the President committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a high cream and misdemeanor. Yes, he did.

I'm sure to hear abuse from the President and his supporters. Does anyone seriously believe that I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What did you think?

RICK SANTORUM, (R) FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Look, I respect that. You've heard me say throughout this entire process that reasonable people can disagree on Article One as to whether the circumstances surrounding Article One was an abuse of power or rose to the level that the President should be removed. I think they there are arguments on both sides. I come down on the other side.

But the discussion that has not happened around this table is the fact that Mitt Romney who was perfectly willing to convict the President on an article of impeachment voted against Article Two, and this is where I think that the Democrats are going to have some accounting her, because Article Two was on its face ridiculous. No -- none of the folks running for president would ever as president countenance the idea that the President doesn't have the right to assert constitutional privileges and that in doing so, that the remedy is to go to court.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Rick, that's not Article Two sentence.

SANTORUM: But Article Two charges the President -- it's exactly what Article Two does. Article Two says the President doesn't have the right to contest that in a court, and that he has to turn everything over.

[17:30:00]

And I can tell you, Mitt Romney deserves credit. I know it will get a lot of credit and a lot of blame for the position it took in article one. Where was the heroic Democrat who stood up for article two, that didn't happen?

BLITZER: You know, and Laura, let me get to you. Article one was abuse of power. What the Senator is talking about obstruction of Congress, article two, and he says there was no case that's why Mitt Romney voted against convicting the President on abuse of power.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, frankly, I was always --

BLITZER: Excuse me, obstruction of Congress.

COATES: Certainly. I'm always been shocked that the Senate would disregard the idea that somebody was disrespecting a congressional subpoena. Because although there are three co-equal branches of government, it seemed as though the legislative branch was prepared on the Senate side to say, you know what, it's OK if somebody disrespects us. We'll call it an inter-branch dispute and we'll have to bring in another party.

I never understood why the senators would not have said, hold on a second, I don't know how I am going to ultimately vote, but if somebody from Congress sends you a subpoena, you better take heed to respect it as opposed to say, you know what, we're going to have to argue whether it's valid. I don't understand that wholesale of defiance, number one.

Number two, I thought it was a much easier to sell to do the obstruction based on having to prove the number zero, that's what's handed over, zero documents, zero witnesses. That's pretty --

SANTORUM: You have the transcript, the transcript.

COATES: Well, I'm not sure what you're referencing. You mean the callout that was not verbatim, that's not a called transcript. It's called actually a readout, but I'll finish the point for a second.

SANTORUM: A readout, transcript, whatever you want to call it. It's the only documentation that existed.

COATES: No, no, it's not -- well, sure, I could also hand you a bag of oranges and tell you it's responsive. If it's not what you asked for, it doesn't count, Rick.

SANTORUM: So that readout didn't count?

COATES: No, no. What I'm telling you is that you are like to confine this --

SANTORUM: Well, you said zero.

COATES: Hold on, does my voice offend you? I'd like to finish my point.

SANTORUM: No, but --

(CROSSTALK)

COATES: I'm going to finish my point. My point -- well, my point is this. When they were asked the questions about providing documentation, providing -- I mean, responding to a subpoena, providing witnesses, the idea of wholesale defying and saying, no, you got to battle it out, we'll have repercussions to a branch of government that wants to say nobody is above the law.

Imagine you yourself getting a subpoena at this point in time and saying, you know what prosecutors and police officers, no, how about that. You would like that not to happen. So in this respect, the Congress asked --

SANTORUM: Hold on, you cannot acquit an individual getting a subpoena to the President of the United States who has constitutional protections in the --

COATES: You know what, both -- SANTORUM: -- that he has every right to assert.

COATES: I agree that the President is in a different position that the average --

SANTORUM: Then why did you equate it to me?

COATES: Because the President actually has a higher burden as being the part of the executive branch whose job is to enforce the law than say the average person.

SANTORUM: That's just not true.

COATES: I'm a federal prosecutor.

SANTORUM: That's just not true.

COATES: I would laugh at anybody who would say, no, I don't have to respond.

BLITZER: All right, Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: The point, I think, Rick, that where we disagree is that everyone acknowledges that the President has the right to assert to an individual subpoena that this calls for inappropriate, you know, things that should not have to be disclose.

What article two was about, was about the wholesale refusal to participate in any sort of fact-finding by Congress, no documents, no witnesses provided for, and the infamous eight-page letter written by Pat Cipollone saying we choose not to participate in this inquiry. That's what article two is about, and that's why it was --

SANTORUM: So instead of litigating the arguments, which I think are arguably, you can make a case on either side. The question -- the point is, no Democrat decided that it was maybe appropriate to step forward and say, you know what, maybe like Mitt Romney, we need a profile in courage to say maybe I should stand up to the party on this one and they didn't.

COATES: Senator Santorum, one point, though --

TOOBIN: Maybe they thought it was the right thing to do.

SANTORUM: But that's not how it's depicted when Republicans vote with the President. It's, oh, you're afraid of the President and you're walking in lock step. You can't have it both ways.

COATES: Let me just say this -- let me have point, because you asked about the phone call. One thing that's always misconstrued over the course of this impeachment is that it all came down to whether a call was perfect. But the presentation of the evidence, whether you were convinced or not, and clearly you are not, was about a pressure campaign. And confiding it to a phone call is really disingenuous and does not actually get to heart of the matter. BLITZER: We're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to discuss. The White House press secretary saying it was a sham impeachment attempt. It was manufactured impeachment article. It was a witch hunt based a series of lies. We'll have more on that. There's other breaking news we're following as well in Iowa where Democrats have just updated the vote count from the caucuses.

[17:39:12]

BLITZER: All right, there's breaking news in Iowa right now where Democrats have just updated the count from Monday's caucuses. Let's go to CNN's Jeff Zeleny. He's still in Des Moines after all of these days. So what's the latest, Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are getting new information this afternoon as the recount or count initially continues. And the Iowa Democratic Party is now reporting that 86 percent of the precincts are in.

Let's take a look at these numbers. Pete Buttigieg is still in the lead where he has maintained that ever since this recount began yesterday. He is at 26.7 percent, followed by Bernie Sanders at 25.4 percent, Elizabeth Warren 18.3 percent, Joe Biden 15.9 percent, Amy Klobuchar trailing just slightly at 12.1 percent.

[17:40:00]

So, Wolf, what has been happening here throughout the day is really a systemic process of verification, going through those preference cards one by one, validating them and verifying them with those tally sheets from all of the sites across Iowa. As you know, some 1,700 separate sites across Iowa. So they've been going out to gather the information and, you know, just making sure it's all accurate. I'm told they've been working out of the Des Moines law firm going through all of this.

But, Wolf, now one thing that's clear, the DNC, the Democratic National Committee is in charge of this operation. One adviser here told me, "The DNC is running the show," and that is creating some tensions between the Democratic National Committee and the Iowa Democratic Party.

Of course, it's all around the app. That app that was used simply broke down. It simply did not work and it led to all of this. So Wolf, all of the precinct chairs and other officials here we've been talking to say, why didn't they do this? Why didn't they do it the old fashion way by calling the numbers in by telephone that has worth fine for years and years?

So still, so many questions here about why this happened, but it is all leading to a questions about why that app was purchased in the first place. So no answers on that yet, but that is something that is going to be discussed for quite some time to come.

Now, Wolf, the question, when are the final results going to be known? Now, it's at 86 percent. When does it reach 100 percent? I am told that there is no exact time estimate for that. They think it could come soon likely within the next 24 hours, but we will just have to see.

But Wolf, it is significant that Pete Buttigieg still in the lead here. So, it's a victory without question for him, because Bernie Sanders, of course, was running four years ago here and was expecting a run away victory. And Wolf, still, Joe Biden in fourth place. His advisers know that will not change. So that certainly is a disappointment for him.

BLITZER: You're making an important point that app system clearly was a disaster, but the backup phone system didn't work either, so you got a double problem right there. All right, Jeff Zeleny in Des Moines.

You know, John King, these are the state delegates, which is the all- important number. We're looking at the percentage of state delegates. Pete Buttigieg is still ahead over Bernie Sander and Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, 86 percent of the precincts reporting, that's a significant number.

KING: It is a significant number. It's not the final number. The delay is going to cause suspicions. It's certainly causing frustration within the campaigns. The Sanders campaign has been saying they believe that as more results came in, the first down, if you remember, was 62 percent, we're now up into 86 percent.

The Sanders' campaign has said it believes it's going to catch up. Now that you're at 86 percent, that's most unlikely to happen, almost mathematically impossible. But even as we've been waiting for results today, the Iowa Democratic Party at one point put out results and then quickly had to tweet out, oh, we made a mistake. We're going to update them. That does not inspire confidence in the middle of this process. That's one issue.

And the other issue is for the candidates. As we wait to get to 100 percent, the candidates have now moved on to New Hampshire. Pete Buttigieg has, he believe, some momentum, he has some bounce. His campaign says they're getting a ton of visits to the website and raising money, not at the proportion that would have happen if he was declared the winner on Monday night or even if he was declared to be, you know, have any results and he was declared in a neck and neck with Bernie Sanders, with Joe Biden in fourth and Elizabeth Warren down in, you know, a far distant third.

So this has impacted the campaign. It's hard to say in a long term how much so, but you do know this, the one thing we did see today, Pete Buttigieg is more confident, Bernie Sanders is hoping New Hampshire is going to support him as it if four years ago, Joe Biden understands the problem he has.

He went after Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg by name today saying if Sanders is the nominee, Democrats down ballot, they're going to get crushed because he's called the Democratic socialist, he probably calls himself a Democratic socialist. And he essentially said Mayor Buttigieg was a small-town mayor, cannot be president, and he said he's been critical of the Obama administration. So that tells you Joe Biden understands he's got a problem. BLITZER: And very quickly, the popular vote, we're looking at the state delegates with 86 percent of the precincts reporting. Do you have any information -- here's the popular vote. Let's put it up there right now. And you see in the popular vote that Bernie Sanders have very, very slightly ahead of Pete Buttigieg. Sanders is going to make a big point out of that if it stays like that when 100 percent of the precincts are in.

KING: That's come down a little tiny bit. He was -- in the first results, Senator Sanders was 1,390 votes, I think, it was 13 and change, then it was 1,150, 1,100 didn't change. Now, that's what, 900 votes there as see. That's come down a little bit.

Again, Senator Sanders pushed for these rule changes. It used to be we just got the state delegate equivalence, that's what they released in the caucuses because that's the prize. You get delegates to the state conviction, then those delegates go on to the national conviction. That's how you pick a nominee. You know, you get a majority of conventions and delegates.

Senator Sanders pushed for this to make a "more Democratic." Because of this mess, there's going to be another conversation. The most important thing is this year's nominating process. Who are Democrats going to nominate to go up against President Trump? But once Iowa was in the rearview mirror, there's going to be a conversation within Iowa and the national party about whether they're going to do this again in four years.

BLITZER: It's interesting, Gloria, because whatever happens, when 100 percent of the precincts are in, good news for Buttigieg, Sanders out of Iowa.

[17:45:01]

Bad, very bad news for Joe Biden, two-term, eight years vice president, the President of Barack Obama, and he is not doing at least with 86 percent of the precincts reporting, not doing well.

BORGER: And he has admitted it now. I think on election night he was kind stunned by what it occurred. And so when he gave his speech, it was hard to figure out actually what he was thinking. But now, in a fundraising appeal in both publicly, he is admitting in not so many words that they were shellacked.

And it's -- his real problem, and John, you know so much about this, is when you look at the entrance polls. How can you win when your support of younger voters is low single digits? I mean, what was it, 6 percent or something like that?

KING: It was single digits, yes.

BORGER: Very hard and it really hurt him. Whereas, Pete Buttigieg seemed to have an appeal across all age groups.

KING: And there were a ton of caucus sites across the state where Joe Biden was not viable. HENDERSON: Right, we saw that.

BORGER: If you look county by county, Pete Buttigieg is leading or tied in 64 of the 99 counties in Iowa. What is that tell you? That tells you the depth and the breath of your organization. You have -- you're getting -- you have the most people in some, but you're coming in second place and others where you're viable and you're picking up delegates.

The fact that a sitting vice president could not be viable in so many precinct sites is an organizational problem. He called it a gut punch today. It's -- that's a warning set (ph). That's one contest, but it is a warning set.

HENDERSON: And what does this going to mean for his money, right? He went into Iowa in some ways with money problems. He comes out of Iowa with more money problems. What is this mean going forward? He's looking at that southern firewall of African-American voter. He's not as popular with the African-Americans as Hillary Clinton was or Obama was, so he's got to figure this out.

BLIZTER: He's got some problems. Right now, stay with CNN, by the way, for the last Democratic Presidential Town Halls before the New Hampshire primary, which is next Tuesday. The live two-night event begins later this evening at 8:00 p.m. Eastern with Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer.

Coming, the uproar over President Trump's decision to honor Rush Limbaugh during the State of the Union speech. Stay with us.

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[17:52:07]

BLITZER: New backlash to President Trump's decision to award Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, to say this is controversial is putting it mildly. Rush Limbaugh has a huge following and one of the reasons for that is that he's so controversial. But some members of Congress, civil rights leaders and others are simply outraged tonight because of Limbaugh's long history of divisiveness.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

TODD (voice-over): In dramatic fashion for the first time ever at a State of the Union address, a president awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rush Limbaugh, thank you for your decades of tireless devotion to our country.

TODD: For some members of Congress like Cedric Richmond, who've worked for years to bridge racial divides, the award of the nation's highest civilian honor to radio host Rush Limbaugh in their chamber was a gut punch.

REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D-LA): This would just be one bad time in America's history where we placated and pandered to racist and dividers.

TODD: For decades, Limbaugh has been accused of a work (ph) race- bating, of appealing to the worst of American's prejudices, often directing his most incendiary remarks toward African-Americans.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons.

TODD: President Obama was a frequent target, Limbaugh playing a provocative song on his show.

And Limbaugh was one of the early proponents of one of the most infamous false attacks on Obama, which was heavily promoted by Donald Trump.

TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIA: Rush Limbaugh was at the center or at least was a contributor to the conspiracy theories about President Obama, the specious and harmful argument that President Obama had not been born in the United States and therefore was an illegitimate president.

TODD: And what riles Congressman Richmond is the company Rush Limbaugh now keeps.

RICHMOND: When you think about the people who have received this award, it is people who bring people together, who fight for a cause of unity and justice and then we just give it to somebody who is stoked and is a blatant racist.

TODD: Limbaugh now shares a Medal of Freedom with civil rights icons Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, and Rosa Parks who President Clinton recognized after bestowing the award on her at a State of the Union address in the middle of his impeachment.

Limbaugh also drew criticism for comments about women, including his remark about a female Georgetown University student who campaigned for access to birth control.

LIMBAUGH: What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right, makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.

TODD: Limbaugh later apologized. President Trump does have the prerogative to give the Medal of Freedom to whoever he chooses and plenty of other recipients have been controversial. It should also be noted that Rush Limbaugh has an enormous following and just revealed he has late-stage lung cancer. But historian Tim Naftali believes at in this moment in this political climate --

[17:55:08]

NAFTALI: I think the President has tarnished the award by giving it to a very divisive figure in a reality show moment, in the State of the Union, at a time when this country desperately needs healing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: I asked Congressman Richmond if he'll launch a protest against the award to Limbaugh or launch an effort to have that award revoke, he said there are too many other important issues he has to concentrate on and he doesn't want to give this any more attention. We did ask the White House to respond to the criticism over the Limbaugh award, we never heard back from him. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you. The breaking news continues next. President Trump acquitted of both impeachment articles.

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