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Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg Neck and Neck in Iowa Caucus with Most of Vote Count Released; Mitt Romney Votes to Convict President Trump in Impeachment Trial; Romney Joins Dems in Vote to Convict on Abuse of Power. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired February 6, 2020 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Iowa claims they will have all the numbers this morning. We are waiting.

This is a number that has the Sanders campaign smiling, and they're putting this out intentionally. They say they raised $25 million in January alone. This comes as Mayor Pete Buttigieg is holding fundraisers in New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren is paring back advertising in Nevada and South Carolina. Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden addressed his disappointing performance at a CNN town hall last night. He says he could have done better in Iowa.

CAMEROTA: President Trump plans to make a statement today now that the Republican-controlled Senate acquitted him on both impeachment charges. The president, though, is already attacking Mitt Romney, the lone Republican senator who voted with Democrats to convict the president. Romney is now the only senator in American history to vote to remove a president of his own party. Allies of the president are also targeting Romney who was emotional on the Senate floor as he explained his vote.

Let's discuss all of this with CNN political analyst David Gregory, CNN senior political analyst John Avlon, and CNN political commentator Ana Navarro. David Gregory, I want to start with you. We haven't heard from you yet this morning. Let's start with what happened. Let's start with Iowa. Let's start with what continues to happen in Iowa. Let's start with the news this morning that there is now a tie in Iowa basically between Sanders and Buttigieg. And I know that you often talk about the ideological meaning of all of this, so can we draw any conclusions at this still early hour about which way Democrats at least in Iowa are leaning?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Iowa used tock a big event on the political calendar. Now it's more like a long weekend apparently with these results, which is just such a shame for all of the candidates. But I think what you showed in terms of the numbers, in terms of the results out of Iowa, says something about where we are. There's three candidates right now who we should be paying the most attention to. It's Buttigieg, Warren, and Sanders. Biden is a big story because he's been a frontrunner for so long, and so he's in this red zone of can he come back? But he's dealing with Sanders and Warren who are neighboring senators to New Hampshire.

And there's still this big question. These are the most liberal figures in the Democratic Party, and they are getting most of the votes. And then the Buttigieg with a very strong finish as an outsider candidate, perhaps more moderate compared to those other two, in a strong position. So I think that's what we focused on, the money, and now we focus on what happens in New Hampshire as this other important data point.

BERMAN: I just can't get beyond the fact that Monday there was no winner. Tuesday -- Wednesday it looked like Pete Buttigieg may have been the winner, or at least was winning, and now it's very possible within 20 minutes, John, Bernie Sanders could end up being the winner in Iowa.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The last 20 percent breaking really his way. Look, this has been a disaster from jump. You've got six months for candidates to devote the majority of their attention to this one. Citizens gripe they've only met candidates 15 times before they make up their mind, and we still don't have definite results.

The real focus should be on New Hampshire. What are the independent voters going to do? Which candidates will they break for? Bernie Sanders won big there last time. Does Buttigieg get a real bump?

BERMAN: But I think that's why it matters happened in Iowa, because how does it affect what's going to in New Hampshire right now?

AVLON: The two are not always correlated, but the momentum does make a difference, as Harry Enten has attested using history. Buttigieg has based a lot of his campaign on appealing on independents. That's a message that could and should resonate in New Hampshire. That said, two neighboring state senators, Bernie Sanders won last time around, and Joe Biden trying to get his mojo back and putting a lot of emphasis on the fact he's been doing well in South Carolina, but that is still a way away from momentum.

CAMEROTA: Ana, where does this leave former V.P. Joe Biden?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, Alisyn, I am from Florida. I'm in no position to criticize a state for not being able to count their votes.

(LAUGHTER)

NAVARRO: At least they've done it in three days. It only took us, what, two months?

Look, at this point, I think this is not only affecting the race, it's affecting the future of Iowa. This is a state that's known for one thing every four years. If you've got one job every four years, and you can't get that done correctly, you've really have lost your standing at this point.

Where it leaves the race, I think we're just going to have to live with the idea that generally, generally -- because who can trust the specific numbers, after all of this, who can trust the accuracy, the specific accuracy of Iowa -- generally Pete Buttigieg and Sanders came out on top. Then came Warren. Then came Biden. General terms. You're going to have to live with that, America, and go on from that. Turn the page and go on to New Hampshire.

[08:05:13]

BERMAN: But Ana, you were -- Joe Biden, there was a CNN town hall last night, a series of them, and there will be a series more tonight. And Joe Biden is trying to pivot off of Iowa. And I want to play some of Joe Biden last night, a more aggressive Joe Biden, because this resonated with you. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, let's put this in perspective. There are a total of, what, 44 delegates are going to come out of that, and it looks like it's going to break down somewhere between seven and 15 among the top four of us. You need 1,900 delegates to become the president of the United States, or to become the nominee. So I expected to do better, and I expected that our organization would perform better. But the fact is I'm happy to be here in New Hampshire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So Ana, that was him talking about Iowa specifically, but he had another bunch of moments, talking about his stutter, which we'll focus on a little bit later in the broadcast. He was much more aggressive in addressing Bernie Sanders, and more aggressive in some ways about talking to Donald Trump. What did you see last night, Ana?

NAVARRO: I saw a very open, very frank, very accessible and relatable Joe Biden. My one criticism, my big criticism of the Biden campaign, is that they have not allowed access to Joe Biden in the same way we've seen access to Pete Buttigieg, for example. Pete Buttigieg's press shop is so good. I've even learned how to say Buttigieg, or this is as good as it gets. And whereas Biden has been kept away.

Let Joe Biden be Joe Biden. Let him lose. Let us see the Joe Biden we saw yesterday emoting and talking in very empathetic terms about stuttering. I have a stutterer in my home. There is a young man whose name is Kenton (ph) who is very important in my life. I know how much this means. And so just let the man be him, and let him be able to touch people's hearts and be out there. Let him be out there more.

AVLON: Ana has made such an important point that I don't understand why campaigns need to relearn every four years. In 2016, Hillary's team tried to control the press and coverage, and Donald Trump was amazingly accessible. Look what the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has been able to do simply by being accessible. At the end of the day, the lesson always is with a candidate, let Biden be Biden. Let the candidate be themselves. And that's where you'll get the risk of intimacy where they'll really connect. GREGORY: But it's also the fact that Biden's team has positioned him

to cruise, to play rope-a-dope, not to be too accessible so he doesn't make mistakes and to just focus on Donald Trump. Well, guess what, you're going to have to fight for it if you want the nomination. There's a lot of energy on the Democratic side, and within progressive circles in the Democratic Party that you're going to have to contend with. You can't cruise. You can't just hug the president, President Obama, and then play rope-a-dope with the press and everybody else. So Biden has got to dig in and fight.

He's right about the perspective, but that's what you say when you're losing. The reality is that there is a big ideological split between the progressives of the party and this overall view of how do you beat Donald Trump? And is it a more moderate party or progressive party? Democrats are finding that out now every day, and out of Iowa you get to major storylines, which is Buttigieg and Sanders basically come out of there. I think Warren is muted for the moment, but she can rear back in New Hampshire, and then the struggles of Biden.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Ana, we want to talk about what Mitt Romney did yesterday where he broke with his party, he voted guilty that the president had abused his power. So Romney had spoken about how he understood that this would make him vulnerable to all sorts of attacks from all sorts of different corners. I don't know if he could have anticipated, though, the one that Don Jr., the president's son, put on Instagram because it's more vulgar than we can say for a family show right now. It invokes a term that the president used also. Also, it's the "p" word. I don't know. Your thoughts this morning on all of this?

NAVARRO: I really don't even want to spend any time talking about that little boy and his father and how inappropriate they are. I just want to say thank you to Mitt Romney because I've now heard his speech several times. And every time it hits me even more. As somebody who knows a lot of those senators, a lot of those Republican senators, it gives me -- it gives me sustenance, it gives me such hope to know that there's at least one Republican, only one, one, who hasn't sold out his principles, who hasn't sold out his convictions, who isn't trying to accommodate a president that wasn't a Republican until a few years ago and who has no compass, who has no principles.

[08:10:05]

And who are trying to accommodate him and all of a sudden crown him the emperor of the Republican party. To Mitt Romney, look, I have heard some of his colleagues say, oh, this was because of animus against Donald Trump. I call bullshit on that. You know why? Because I was team McCain, and we hated each other. We hated Romney. And those two men, because they were great men, John McCain and Mitt Romney, put that aside and became great friends before John McCain died. And I wish every senator had the freedom and the conscience that Mitt Romney has.

He is not like Lindsey Graham for whom being in the Senate is the be all of his life. He is not Marco Rubio worried about how he's going to deal with four children he eventually has to put through college. He is not some of my Republican -- former Republican friends who are worried about primaries. Mitt Romney is not worried about running for president again. Been there, done that. He is free to be Mitt Romney. He is free to exercise his conscience without having to bend himself into shapes.

And I really took seriously what he said about his religion and his faith being part of it and being a big motivator for his decision, because I know Mitt Romney. And he's not one that wears it on his sleeve. He's not out there tweeting Bible verses every single day and then violating those principles. He actually lives them. He lives them on a daily basis.

I also want to thank his wife, Ann, and his children, because he's got a very strong family who support him, who counsel him, and who I'm sure told him, look, it's OK. We know we're going to get attacked, and that's OK. We're willing to do it because we're behind you and because it is the right thing to do. So thank you to the one sole Republican with the guts and the intestinal fortitude to do the right thing for the country, not for himself, not for the party, not for a president.

CAMEROTA: It's hard to put a finer point on it than that.

BERMAN: David?

GREGORY: Yes, I think at the end of the day, people are going to have different views about whether this was the right decision. People will look at Mitt Romney cynically. But I think any of us who have covered him, who know him, know that he's a person of integrity. That's all you have to say.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, John.

AVLON: If you are too cynical to not be moved by what Mitt Romney did in contradiction to the fear-fueled suppression of people's real beliefs in the Senate, then either you've spent too much time in Washington or you should look into your soul.

CAMEROTA: John, David, Ana, thank you all. Great to talk to you.

NAVARRO: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: We have another series of CNN presidential townhalls tonight in New Hampshire. They include the frontrunners at the moment in Iowa, Pete Buttigieg and Senator Bernie Sanders. So it should be very interesting. Tune in tonight starting at 8:00 p.m. eastern.

BERMAN: It's very interesting, Mitt Romney made the speech in the afternoon. In the morning, he invited a reporter to come explain what he was about to do. An incredible inside look at how Mitt Romney came to make the decision he did to vote to convict the president.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:17:01]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I'm profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That's Republican Senator Mitt Romney talking about his vote to convict President Trump on the first charge for abuse of power.

Senator Romney is the only senator in history to vote to remove a president from his own party.

Joining us is McKay Coppins, a staff writer for "The Atlantic" who interviewed Senator Mitt Romney the morning before this vote.

McKay, thank you so much for being with us.

And you, over the years, I think have a greater insight into Mitt Romney than almost any other reporter. So, I love the fact that you're here.

When you were invited to his office yesterday, you knew it was to discuss the upcoming vote, but what did you think was going to happen?

MCKAY COPPINS, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Yes, you know, I had spent quite a bit of time with him last year as he entered the center profiling him for "The Atlantic". And on the one hand, I knew he was more liberated at this political moment than he has been throughout his entire career. He's not running for president anymore. He sees himself as kind of at the end of his career, thinking about legacy and history.

So, on the one hand, I knew there was a chance he would do this. But on the other hand, I had watched throughout the impeachment process as there was kind of this wrathful reaction from the right toward everything that Mitt Romney did that wasn't completely toeing the party line.

And I have to admit, you know, I'm a cynical Washington reporter. When I showed up in his office, I did half expect that I was going to find him there kind of, you know, calculating and cowed and ready to give me the list of excuses for why he was voting to acquit.

And in fact, I'll tell you this. I had -- I had set out two sets of questions to ask him. One if he was going to acquit, one if he was going to convict. And I was much more ready with the questions on acquittal because that's really what I was expecting.

So I think I was as surprised as anyone else was later when they actually watched the speech.

BERMAN: I think we were all surprised in certain ways watching it. I've covered Mitt Romney extensively also. And the part that most surprised me, we know he's a man of deep faith. But he is a man who, ironically, has had a complicated relationship discussing that faith in public over the years for various reasons.

So why do you think he leaned into it so hard when he made this decision, how he announced the decision?

COPPINS: Well, you know, a couple of things. I covered his 2012 presidential campaign. I share his faith. I'm also a member of the same church as his.

But I will say that in 2012, whenever I would write about that element of his character, that element of his campaign, he and his campaign strategist really tried to put me off.

[08:20:02]

BERMAN: Right.

COPPINS: This was not something that they wanted at the center of the election. He didn't want to talk about it. It was an inconvenience for them.

So, you know, I have to say, I was pretty struck by how open and candid he was talking about it. When I sat down with him, he was quoting Scripture, quoting Mormon hymns to me and, yes, he said, you know -- and here's what I think is at the center of it to directly answer your question. He told me that when I decided to run for the Senate and once impeachment became something that was on the horizon, I knew that I was going to have to swear an oath to God to be an impartial juror. And he talks about this in the speech.

And he told me, he said, I'm a religious person, you're a religious person, you understand that that's not something I take lightly. Swearing an oath to God is something that matters and means a lot to me. And so, I can't do this. You know, I can't just act out of partisan self-interest. I'm going to have to do what my conscience dictates.

And that was really the case he made to me and that's why he placed his faith at the center of this.

BERMAN: Yes, and at a basic level, that is what Mitt Romney is about. One of the most interesting conversations I had with him, comparing who had better baseball players, we were naming whether there were more good Mormon baseball players or Jewish football players, right?

But the public never sees that and he was extremely comfortable and eager and proud to discuss that.

I want to read one quote here that gets to the faith. Throughout the trial, he said, he was guided by his father's favorite verse of Mormon Scripture. Search diligently, pray always and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.

I was in contact with people close to the senator last night in Romney world, and they noted not just his faith but they did think that his father was probably very much on his mind as well.

So when you said that it was one of his father's favorite verses, that did strike me.

COPPINS: Yes, and I do think this is important context to understand Mitt Romney. You know, George Romney is a kind of major figure in political history but especially to mitt Romney, he looms large in everything that Mitt does.

George Romney famously, you know, broke with his party in the '60s over Barry Goldwater and his record on civil rights. He was kind of seen as this kind of maverick figure at the time, and I think Mitt Romney has always admired that. He's always respected that.

And I think, you know, throughout Romney's career, he has been accused of opportunism, of being overly calculating. And I think he's always wanted to be able to continue his father's legacy which he sees as being about principle over party and politics.

BERMAN: It was interesting. In the interview with you, he did admit he has made decisions based on politics over the course of his career, obviously, and he knew he'd be criticized, and he knew he was going to come under attack.

I don't know if he suspected the likes of Donald Trump Jr. would be posting vulgar words on Instagram, but he knew he was going to be attacked.

How did he feel about what was coming?

COPPINS: You know, he was kind of grimly resigned to it, but bracing for it. I mean, he told me, I know that the president and his allies are going to come after me. I know it's going to be fierce and loud.

I mean, even before he cast this vote, just because he hasn't been seen as part of the team, he told me he gets yelled at in airports. This past weekend, he was in Florida with his wife and somebody driving down the street shouted "traitor" out of the car window at him. So, he's been kind of experiencing this backlash already and he knew it would probably increase tenfold.

And, you know, he was ready for it. But I think he's at the twilight of his career. He's had a long business career. He's had a political career. He's run for president.

And he's in his 70s now. He may or may not decide to run for re- election in 2024, but he wanted to do something that would kind of cement his legacy and also, he said this in his speech, but he's thinking about this in terms of history. How these votes will be remembered. And he thinks he'll be vindicated.

BERMAN: Basically I'm paraphrasing here, he said, we're all footnotes in history but in this country, being a footnote in history not necessarily a bad thing.

McKay, it's a great article. People should read it carefully. And one other thing we need to get to talk about, but Mitt Romney said he was looking for off ramps the whole trial. He was looking for a way to acquit the president and he couldn't find it. That's so interesting. Great work. Thanks for so much coming on NEW DAY this morning.

COPPINS: Thank you.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Really interesting to get that kind of access and insight.

There is much more primary voting coming up as you know. Each one could produce vastly different outcomes. We have the forecast with Harry Enten, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:28:30]

CAMEROTA: We have new results from Iowa this morning. With 97 percent of the precincts now reporting, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders are tied neck and neck with just 0.1 percent separating them. Yes, there are candidates -- Harry is already chiming in.

The candidates are now looking ahead to the next primary and caucus states to see if they can make up ground in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Let's get the forecast with CNN senior politics writer and analyst, Harry Enten.

You were going to jump in.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICS WRITER AND ANALYST: This close, this close. This is what I was doing, Alisyn. This close.

It's so close right now in Iowa. And the truth is we have no idea who is going to win. We still have the satellite caucuses that need reporting. That is really what is closing --

CAMEROTA: When do we get the final numbers, Harry?

ENTEN: Look, I was expecting to get the final numbers on Monday night, so given that it's Thursday right now, you know, it seems like we're in the twilight zone, but they're coming. They're coming.

BERMAN: Your deep statistical analysis is it's really close.

ENTEN: Yes.

BERMAN: New Hampshire, we have polled the heck out of New Hampshire.

ENTEN: Yes.

BERMAN: There is no small northeastern state in the history of America that's been polled as much as New Hampshire has the last couple of months.

ENTEN: Yes, right, exactly. And so, we can look at New Hampshire because that's obviously occurring on Tuesday. And what we see right now is that Bernie Sanders is holding a lead there, fairly substantial lead.

Now, if you see Joe Biden in second place, he's at 18 percent, Warren at 14 percent, Buttigieg at 13 percent. I want to point out how white this state is like Iowa is. This is a state that Pete Buttigieg should be doing well and -- but here's the thing. This polling does not take into account what has happened in Iowa. And if we look at my odds, pre-Iowa and then with an Iowa bounce.

END