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Trump Vindictive at Impeachment Acquittal "Celebration"; DNC Chair Calls for Recanvass in Iowa as Chaos Ensues; Sanders Declares "Strong Victory" in Iowa Amid Buttigieg Tie; Trump Attacks Faith of Romney & Pelosi During National Prayer Breakfast; "Salt Lake Tribune's" George Pyle Discusses Utahans' Divided on Romney's Impeachment Vote & Trump's Attacks on Romney's Faith. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired February 6, 2020 - 13:30   ET

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


[13:30:00]

ALEXI MCCAMMOND, POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS: He talked about Mitch McConnell, who he really feels kept the Republicans in line throughout this process.

Is just goes to show that he has a stronghold over the Republican Party, which sends a clear message to someone like Mitt Romney, who did what he thought was right by following the facts and voted against President Trump and was the lone Republican to do so.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And to hear Mitt Romney explain it, it really comes from a genuine place of conviction, where he searched his soul. He said essentially that he was looking for a reason but he couldn't.

And part of that was because he had really an oath to God that he couldn't move past that without feeling he was breaking that to acquit the president.

I was struck by what a dark place this was in this speech. Other speeches in history strike a somber tone, a retaliatory tone, strike a forward-looking tone. This was dark, Nia..

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, it's surprising. Not surprising that the president can be vindictive, can be petty, can be -- you know, frame himself as the victim and air grievances all the time.

But it felt like a rare moment, right, where he could have some focus on a forward-looking message for the country, borrow from some themes in the hope from the State of the Union. Republicans certainly received that very well.

But here he was talking about Bill Clinton, talking -- or Hillary Clinton, talking about the FBI agents, Lisa Page and Peter Strzok. So it was very, very bizarre. In some ways, a missed opportunity.

Listen, he spent a lot of time yesterday having to look at Mitt Romney on screen all day and give that very passionate address where he talked about his faith. He, really, in some ways, it dismantled the Republicans arguments about removing the president from office.

So here, this was just a long and rambling speech.

As I was watching it, I was like this was sort of like a session with your therapist, right, where you're on the couch and you're kind of talking about the internal emotions you're having. Because that's what it sounded like, he's very emotional.

Listen, he's not going to get over the Mitt Romney thing. That was very deeply wounding to him. He prizes the fact that he's been able to keep Republicans together.

The fact that Mitt Romney has strayed from the Republican pack in aligning himself with -- not aligning himself with the president, I think this is not something he's going to forgive.

KEILAR: I'd argue it's more of a Dear Diary.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: Or certainly you're not getting your money's worth. Because a therapist might interject in the middle of that.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: This was more of just a -- this was just a monologue.

John Harwood, you cover him day in, day out. What struck you?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This is a very disturbing tableau for the country. It was dark because he's made clear that his mind is dark.

This is someone who is in deep psychological distress right now. Self- pitying, insecure, angry. He said almost plaintively at the end, when he was reading a text from Strzok to Page, where he said, I'm a good -- I'm not a bad person. He was sort of imploring people to accept that view of him.

When Kaitlan and Alexi said, he thinks I did nothing wrong, that sentence stops with the word "I." Because, with Donald Trump, if he did it, it's not wrong. He doesn't recognize abstract concepts like right and wrong, like morality or immorality, like true or false. He recognizes what is good for him in the moment.

And what has happened, what Mitt Romney has done by casting that vote, what Nancy Pelosi has done, has felt very, very unpleasant to him. He said impeachment is a very ugly word.

By going after Romney, the other part of it that that I think is striking is, the entire Republican Party reduced to sitting there applauding this rambling disordered set of remarks.

And one of the reasons it is an uncomfortable moment for them is that Mitt Romney, when he gave that speech, said, I've looked at the facts, I've come to the conclusion, I can't avoid this. He stripped naked the rationalizations that they have used for their votes.

Remember, they started off saying, once the whistleblower broke, they started out saying, well, it obviously would be terrible if there was a quid pro quo, but there's no evidence of a quid pro quo.

Now, when we got to the end of the process, Ted Cruz told the White House lawyers, well, we all know it was a quid pro quo. And what they're saying is, yes, it was a quid pro quo, they proved that case, but it's not that big a deal.

They were starting from the end point of protection this president and Romney has shown that the calculations behind that are pretty hollow.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He's the victim here.

KEILAR: Yes.

BORGER: This is how he sees himself. He's the victim in all of this. He has done nothing wrong.

And as you point out, John, lots of Republicans are now saying, well, the call was appropriate, he thinks, but not impeachable. He said, there's nothing wrong with it.

He is the good guy. They're the bad guy. And that is the way this campaign is going to be run. Make no mistake about it. No matter who his opponent is, the world will be divided into good and evil.

[13:35:15]

And most of the country, I don't think, is in the good and evil thing. I think the country looks at politicians and says, well, there are some good things he says and there are some bad things she says. I don't --

(CROSSTALK)

HARWOOD: Most of the country is against it.

BORGER: Yes, that's right. But people don't see people as black and white. And

MCCAMMOND: He's playing on the inherent tribal tribalism. But I think a lot of people feel, since President Trump was election, and feeling what a lot of people are feeling --

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAMMOND: -- bubble up, you know, when Obama was president.

The interesting thing, when we think about what John was just saying about this is, let's think back to the conversations I know all of us at this table had with other reporters when President Trump was elected in 2016.

We were wondering whether or not he would leave his mark on the Republican party by way of policy or by way of settling personally scores.

He has certainly introduced a number of policies that have been controversial and will leave a mark on the property. But he is fundamentally changing the Republican Party because he is so concerned about with settling personal scores.

And to John's point, thinking about himself and how everyone around him relates to himself and what's good for him.

But it is really something that many Republicans who were sitting in that room cheering are going to have to deal with whenever President Trump leaves office.

HARWOOD: They must know, deep inside, he could care less about the Republican Party.

BORGER: Or them.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

HARWOOD: Or any of them individually.

(CROSSTALK)

HARWOOD: As soon as any one of them crosses him, he will cross them.

BORGER: Right.

HARWOOD: This whole idea of loyalty, the president's value on loyalty, he values loyalty to him.

BORGER: And only one way.

HARWOOD: That doesn't go two ways.

KEILAR: That became very clear in these remarks today.

All of you, stand by, if you will. We have a lot more on this.

Plus, we're getting breaking news in from Iowa. The head of the DNC is now demanding a recanvass.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:41:08]

KEILAR: Just in, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee is asking for a recanvassing in Iowa after days of uncertainty and growing concerns about the accuracy of Monday's caucus.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny and Ryan Nobles join us now.

First, Jeff, tell us what you're learning here. JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, no question

this announcement from the chairman of the Democratic National Committee has blindsided Iowa Democratic Party officials. They were not given a heads up that he was calling for a recanvass of these results.

In fact, we were led to believe that almost all of the results were coming within the next few hours or so.

But let's take a look at what the chairman of the Democratic National Committee said a short time ago on Twitter.

He wrote this. He said, "Enough is enough. In light of the problems that have emerged in the implementation of the delegate selection plan, and in order to assure public confidence in the results, I am calling on the Iowa Democratic Party to immediately begin a recanvass."

He followed that up by explaining what that is. It's basically reviewing all these sheets, the tally sheets that were used in the 1700 locations across Iowa on Monday evening. Essentially, that's exactly what has been going on. They have been looking through these and reconciling them.

But there are some quiet concerns among some campaigns that they don't believe the math is being done correctly.

So this is something that's underscoring that there certainly have been tensions between the Democratic National Committee and the Iowa Democratic Party.

Because the fact of the matter is, for the last 48 hours or so, the DNC has been on the ground here in Des Moines running this show. That's one thing the chairman didn't mention there.

But I'm told he was trying to sort of ease some concerns in fighting, potentially, between individual candidates and he was the one to ask for a recanvass here.

So the question is, what does this mean, how long does it go. We're not sure, quite frankly. The Iowa Democratic Party has not responded at this point.

But we should say that they are still in the beginning phases or the ending phases counting all those precincts. They had about 53 precincts left of about 3100, so they were almost there.

A key to all of this is those satellite caucuses that we saw on Monday evening. And Bernie Sanders is doing better than expected or better than rivals in there.

So a recanvass, it sort of has shades of Florida, the recount. But we should point out it is different than that. It is simply going after and reviewing those worksheets filled out by party officials -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Reviewing of the worksheets.

Jeff, thank you.

And, Ryan, Bernie Sanders just held a news conference there in New Hampshire, which is where you are in Manchester. What did he say?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Essentially, Brianna, he said this recanvass in Iowa doesn't really matter because, in his mind, the voters have had their say in Iowa. Sanders pointing to the fact that he won the popular vote on both the first and second ballots.

And he also made the point that, regardless of what happens with the state delegates equivalence, which we should say is how we determine a winner in Iowa, it could end up with both he and Pete Buttigieg having the same exact number of delegates that head to the Democratic National Convention.

And listen to what Sanders said. He essentially said they had a victory in Iowa. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): I want to reiterate with you so we're clear. You had 180,000 people voting and eight candidates. When you win the popular vote by 6,000 votes, that is a pretty good victory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: So, essentially here, Brianna, it seems pretty clear that the Sanders campaign is ready to put Iowa in the rearview mirror. They certainly like to have a clear, unquestioned win, but they do believe they did very well there.

And they see their strength growing as they head to these states down the calendar, including New Hampshire, Nevada and especially California on Super Tuesday.

Iowa will linger in the background. The Sanders campaign is ready to turn the page. South Carolina on Saturday. The question is, what's in the back of the voters' minds. Does the result Iowa really matter that much? That's something we may not learn until Tuesday night in New Hampshire -- Brianna?

[13:45:07]

KEILAR: Ryan, thank you so much, reporting from Manchester.

I want to bring in Gloria Borger and Alexia McCammond again.

It's interesting, as Jeff Zeleny reported, that there are some campaigns quietly saying they don't believe the scoring has been done correctly. They're throwing into question the legitimacy of the results we've seen so far in Iowa.

I think it's important to state that this does matter, especially when you're talking about Pete Buttigieg, who, at least right now, is the apparent only winner.

BORGER: Right. And Bernie Sanders is saying that's not the case, it's going to wind up being a tie.

But if you're Pete Buttigieg, you want to use Iowa to springboard you to other states. Particularly, New Hampshire where he's not doing well yet, and to raise money. And that's what Iowa is all about.

He could have used it but he didn't get the opportunity to use it. I mean, he had a victory speech. We all recall that night. But when there's a discrepancy here, he can't use it the way he really would have wanted to use it.

Conversely, I think, in a way, ironically, it kind of helps Joe Biden. Because if it's murky and muddy, his bad showing doesn't seem to be in the headlines. He can just go on to New Hampshire.

But it really does hurt somebody like Pete Buttigieg.

KEILAR: Certainly.

MCCAMMOND: I think that's right about Biden. Especially he admitted yesterday that he took a gut punch in Iowa

BORGER: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAMMOND: Who knows the result of that.

But to your point about Pete, he's been the media's candidate, so to speak, throughout this entire race.

And that's part of Lis Smith's strategy as senior advisor, to get him get him in front of every audience possible, whether it's a podcast, an interview with a paper, some blog a lot of people haven't heard about.

But now he's not getting those media headlines that he was the decided winner coming out of Iowa. He gave that victory speech afterwards and headed to New Hampshire. But it was sort of a blip on the radar.

Whether or not this will affect anyone's fundraising remains to be seen. Pete Buttigieg has done an amazing job of fundraising so far.

But it does matter because this is the state that his campaign was poised to take, unlike New Hampshire, unlike Nevada and South Carolina --

BORGER: Sure.

MCCAMMOND: -- where there are more people of color in those states than Iowa and they're still sort of figuring out how to attract those voters.

It will be interesting to see if anyone in these other states cares about what happened in Iowa and helps Pete Buttigieg maintain that momentum in this subsequence voting states.

KEILAR: How do you read what the DNC is doing here? Look, on one hand, I mean, such a debacle what we saw in Iowa. But at the same time, it is what it is at this point in time. Now the DNC is weighing in.

Does this really quickly because we're running out time --

(CROSSTALK)

Clean up.

KEILAR: Clean up.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: Does it hurt anyone any more than the debacle did?

MCCAMMOND: I think the DNC is doing everything they can to work hand in glove with the Iowa Democratic Party. I think a lot went wrong after they were trying to overcorrect for the issues that voters brought up from 2016.

And hopefully, Troy Price, from the Iowa Democratic Party figures it out soon --

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: I think it hurts Iowa. The question is, will you ever see an Iowa caucus again or any caucus again in the Iowa Democratic Party?

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: I spoke with someone from the DNC who told me that they hoped this could be the end of the caucus situation.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: They're not alone.

KEILAR: All right, Alexi, Gloria, thank you so much.

We have more on the president's rambling and vindictive ceremony after his acquittal, calling his perceived rivals "evil and vicious." Stand by for that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:51:52]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First went through Russia, Russia, Russia. It was all bullshit.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: So in the vote to acquit or convict the president, only one Senator broke with his party, Utah Republican Mitt Romney, who said guilty on the first article, abuse of power. Making him the first Senator in history to vote to convict a president who was a member of their party.

Now, Romney said he leaned on his faith and his oath to God to make that decision.

President Trump deriding Romney for citing his faith when he spoke just minutes ago at the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: And then you have some that used religion as a crutch. They never used it before. An article written today, never heard him use it before. But today, you know, it's one of those things. But you know, it's a failed presidential candidate.

Right at the beginning, he knew we were right, Mike. And I appreciate it very much. Just fantastic. And say hello to the people of Utah. And tell them I'm sorry about Mitt Romney. I'm sorry, OK?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Now, even at the usually somber National Prayer Breakfast earlier today, Trump took a shot at Romney's faith as well as Speaker Nancy Pelosi's.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I don't like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong. Nor do I like people who say, "I pray for you," when they know that that's not so.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): He can say whatever he wants. He can say whatever he wants. But I do pray for him, and so sincerely and without anguish, gently. Like how I pray for everybody else.

I thought what he said about -- what he said about Senator Romney was particularly without class.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: This is George Pyle. He's with us. He's the editorial page editor for the "Salt Lake Tribune."

Thank you so much for coming on, George. We really appreciate it.

GEORGE PYLE, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, "SALT LAKE TRIBUNE": Sure thing.

KEILAR: So the "Tribune" has come out and really supported Romney this morning in an editorial. It says this, "All Utahans, all Americans regardless of politics, ideology, and religion should be duly impressed with Romney's decision to follow his heart and his conscience and his God in doing the right thing when doing the right thing was difficult."

Take us sort of behind the scenes here. Can you tell us why the "Tribune" decided that this was an important moment to speak up?

And do you think that the people in Utah, which, of course, voted for President Trump, not overwhelmingly, but certainly more than the write-in candidate or Hillary Clinton, do you think that folks in Utah are going to agree with you?

PYLE: I think it's going to be very divided as it has been throughout. As you mentioned, President Trump won only a plurality of the vote in Utah when Republicans always carry Utah.

Mitt Romney is very well thought of in Utah. He's given credit for saving the Winter Olympics when scandal was about to destroy it, and it was in trouble after 9/11.

[13:55:06]

He came back to Utah and basically Orrin Hatch, the Senator for a long time, said, well, I'd step aside if Mitt Romney replaced me. So Mitt Romney replaced him.

At the same time, there's an awful lot of support for the president in the political class in Utah, in the legislature, and the people who are running for governor.

There's presently no provision in Utah law to recall a U.S. Senator. There's now talk on our Capitol Hill of creating such a provision.

There's talk in the legislature today of passing some kind of censure against Senator Romney because he didn't vote with the president on this matter.

KEILAR: That's very illuminating.

So then to this point, I wonder, because you heard what the president said about his faith, which, of course, is Mormonism, which is the predominant faith there in Utah. How is that going to play with voters in Utah?

PYLE: I don't think it's going to help the president any in Utah. And we're supposed to call it the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints now, all the time.

KEILAR: Thank you.

PYLE: It is still the dominant religion here. It is less so than it was 20, 50 years ago, but still -- and especially in, again, in political circles, the dominant faith.

Mitt Romney has always been very open about the fact that that is his faith. He's held office, lay offices in the church in Utah and in Massachusetts.

He didn't specifically mention that denomination in his speech, but he talked about the importance of his relationship with God and taking an oath before God and having to fulfill that oath. And that is obviously important to him. There's no reason to believe that's not completely genuine.

You would think that would help him here. But, again, somehow among the political class in Utah, the president remains very popular. Loyalty to this president is important.

The other Senator from Utah, Mike Lee, four years ago, was running around the national -- the Republican National Convention trying to head off a Trump nomination. Now he's his Utah campaign chairman and is totally in the tank.

KEILAR: That's a very good point as we saw at this event today at the White House.

George, thank you so much. George Pyle, with the "Salt Lake Tribune." We appreciate it.

PYLE: Sure, anytime.

KEILAR: Joining me now, we have CNN political commentator and host of CNN's "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED," S.E., Cupp joining me.

S.E., what did you make of just everything that we saw the president say just moments ago?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & CNN HOST, "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED": Well, it was a strange odyssey into the darkest, deepest recesses of the president's mind, and it was an uncomfortable one. But it was also an entirely predictable one.

And you know, for people like me, who have been saying for months now that impeachment will come with a cost, I think impeachment was worth pursuing. But it will come with a cost. This is what the cost was going to be, that Trump was going to reframe his impeachment as a victory. And that's ludicrous.

But of course, that's what he was always going to do. And he's going to spend the next six months saying exactly what he said today. It's vicious. It's absurd. And it's really divisive. But it's probably going to be a very powerful message going into his re-election among his supporters.

Let me just say about Mitt Romney, Mitt Romney is not the problem with the Republican Party. Donald Trump, Steve King, and Roy Moore are the problem with the Republican Party. A party that supports those folks and not someone like Mitt Romney. And history will remember that correctly.

KEILAR: Do you think -- I mean, I think I kind of know the answer to this question. But some of the Senators who voted for acquittal said they felt the president has learned his lesson. And then, clearly, we see, no, it's still the perfect call and there was no sense of lesson learned from this address he gave.

CUPP: It was a copout. I don't even believe that any of those Senators believe that, that you could make an argument to acquit this president based on the evidence or what they thought was lack thereof.

But to say, I think he's going to be fine without the punishment. He did the crime, but the punishment doesn't -- he doesn't need it because he's going to have learned his lesson? That was a copout.

That was about saying I feel good about this. I feel OK. I can sleep at night doing this because I think he's going to prove me right. He was never going to prove you right. He was always going to prove you wrong.

You, and you alone, have to live with the decision that you made.

KEILAR: S.E., thank you so much. Really appreciate you being on with us.

CUPP: Thanks.

KEILAR: That is it for me.

"NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

[14:00:00]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right, Brianna, thank you so much.

Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You are watching CNN. Thank you for being with me.