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What Trump Has Done In Week Since Acquittal: Firings, Attacks, Revenge; Trump Says Bloomberg Is Democratic Candidate To Beat; Waiting To See If Clyburn Endorses Biden In S.C.; Support For Stop-And-Frisk Could Hurt Bloomberg With African-American Voters; S.C. African- American Vote A Challenge For Buttigieg; Trump Suggests Military Should Punish Impeachment Witness Vindman; Trump Warns Senators On Iran War Powers Resolution Vote. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired February 12, 2020 - 13:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: It's been one week since the Senate acquitted President Trump on two articles of impeachment and, since then, he has unleashed his anger and taken a number of retaliatory actions.

Joining us, CNN Politics Reporter and Editor-at-Large, Chris Cillizza.

Chris, walk us through this wild week of pushback from the president.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Brianna, it's only been eight days, nine-ish, since the president was acquitted, a week since the Iowa caucuses, and we are already in all this.

OK, let's go. Target centers. A picture of Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney attacked by the president, said he's not a real Republican and jealous because he lost in 2016. We can put a picture of Doug Jones, from Alabama, the Democrat, or Joe Manchin, the Democrat from West Virginia, both of whom votes for Donald Trump to be convicted and he has attacked both of them.

I still cannot believe this happened. Last Thursday, Donald Trump holds a ceremony at the White House with a group of Republicans, including mostly elected leaders in the party, all praising him and holding up the Trump acquitted, attacking Nancy Pelosi and others as evil. Suggesting that both Mitt Romney and Nancy Pelosi use religion as a crutch and don't actually believe it.

Then Friday night. Just as I was out to dinner with my family, Donald Trump fired Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vindman and the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, as well as, I'll not, Alex Vindman's twin brother, who had no involvement other than being related to Alex Vindman. Both testified, not against him, but simply testified in the impeachment hearings.

We learned earlier this week, Bill Barr, at the attorney general's office, has an open door to Rudy Giuliani, who we know, if you listen to his Twitter feed or many of the many interviews he gives, is continuing to look around Ukraine for things he believes to be problematic for Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

Speaking of Joe Biden, we get to Republicans in the Senate, launching reviews into Joe Biden's conduct and Hunter Biden's conduct in Ukraine.

I will note there's zero evidence of wrongdoing on behalf of former vice president of the United States in 2016 vis-a-vis Ukraine or Hunter Biden, who had a seat on the board of a natural gas company in Ukraine.

We get here. As we were prepping for the New Hampshire primary last night, Donald Trump, on Monday night, tweeted he thought Roger Stone, former Trump advisor, his sentencing, seven to nine years, was too harsh and suggesting via Twitter that maybe Roger Stone would get a break.

He is the president. He has pardon power. That led to the resignation of all four of the federal prosecutors involved in the prosecution of Roger Stone.

I will remind you, Brianna, this is all since Donald Trump was acquitted last Wednesday. If you thought what Donald Trump had done in the previous two years was something, stay tuned. This has been just in the last seven days -- Brianna?

KEILAR: It's hard to get out of your head Susan Collins saying she believed the president learned a lesson.

Let's take a look at what she said to Manu Raju.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In light of the president's actions, do you think there's any lessons he learned from being impeached?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): I don't know which actions you're referring about. I want to make very clear that I don't think anyone should be retaliated against. In all the years since George Washington was our first president, we have never removed a duly elected president.


KEILAR: You said the president learned his lesson. Did he learn any lessons?


CILLIZZA: I wonder if you wonder this? They knew when they said he learned his lesson. I don't know if they foresaw what we've seen over the last week. That was a really bad defense.

You knew there was no way Donald Trump was going to turn into someone who showed contrition and sort of simmered down after being acquitted in this impeachment trial.

CILLIZZA: Yes, that is, I think, a disaster call for Susan Collins, who is already in trouble in her re-election race. The toughest race she's ever had in Maine, this fall. That quote won't help. When she says, I don't know what actions Manu is referring to --

KEILAR: That's right.

CILLIZZA: -- it's right here.

KEILAR: It's hard to believe that, Chris, because when she said, I don't know what actions you are referring to and then turned about to say she doesn't think people should be retaliated against. So clearly, she knew what actions.

CILLIZZA: Right. It's obvious, if you're a sitting U.S. Senator, it would strike me as odd if you were unaware some of this going on with the president of your party -- Brianna?

KEILAR: I think she's probably aware of most of it.

CILLIZZA: All of it.

KEILAR: All of it.


KEILAR: Chris Cillizza, thank you so much.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

KEILAR: Really appreciate it.

Out of all the Democratic candidates vowing to beat President Trump this November, the president says Michael Bloomberg is the one to beat. Hear why.

Plus, retribution for Lieutenant Colonel Vindman. President Trump hints at the military taking action against one of the key witnesses who testified under subpoena, we should mention, in his impeachment trial. Can anyone reign in the president?



KEILAR: Right now, billionaire presidential candidate, Michael Bloomberg, is preparing to take the stage for a campaign rally in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Super Tuesday state begins early voting in the Democratic primary today.

And Bloomberg was not on the ballot in New Hampshire last night. He's also not on the ballot in the next two, Nevada and South Carolina.

President Donald Trump has plenty to say about the Democratic contenders, including what he thinks about facing Bloomberg. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Frankly, I'd rather run against Bloomberg than Bernie Sanders. Because Sanders has real followers, whether you like him or not, whether you agree with him or not. I happen to think it's terrible what he says. But he has followers. Bloomberg is just buying his way in.


KEILAR: With me is Brittany Shepherd, national political reporter for "Yahoo! News."

Thank you for joining me on the show for the first time.


KEILAR: You have been following Bloomberg quite a bit. His support is rising. His spending is crazy, $128 million in Super Tuesday states. And he's gotten the endorsements of some key figures, Georgia Congresswoman Lucy McBath, whose core issue is gun control. He got the support of New York Congressman Gregory Meeks, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

How important is it that he gets these endorsements when you consider one of his liabilities is Stop-and-Frisk in New York?

SHEPHERD: Brianna, it's exactly that. If he wants to win the Democratic nomination, he has to get Democratic voters of color, especially black voters. Right now, his polling with black folks is kind of low. And he needs to prove that he is electable.

I hate to generalize about black voters but the one thing I can say is they're very practical and they will only vote if they feel their vote matters and they're being spoken to.

These surrogates, these endorsements, especially, especially when Jim Clyburn has not come out and endorsed -- we'll get to that in a second -- really positions Mike Bloomberg to placing, look, don't take it from me, take it the people who think my record, Stop-and-Frisk aside, is good for black America.

KEILAR: Clyburn. Why about Clyburn?

SHEPHERD: There was a conversation Jim Clyburn would endorse Joe Biden really early and then the fish fry happened and we're waiting, then around Halloween, and then we're waiting and waiting.

Joe Biden already kicked off his South Carolina tour, even though Nevada is still a week or so away. We're still waiting for Jim Clyburn to endorse. So you wonder if this firewall in South Carolina is as strong as Biden's camp is saying it is.

KEILAR: No, that's very interesting. Let's talk about Pete Buttigieg now. Let's talk about the challenges. He's out of Iowa and New Hampshire. He had so much time to go county to county and put in the work. South Carolina is going to be a problem for him. What is the road forward?

SHEPHERD: Even today we saw his campaign is doubling down in South Carolina. They're aware that's where his weak spot is. He can do great in these all-white states. And he raised a lot of money and did well in Iowa and New Hampshire. But he has to prove to these voters, who feel wronged, he can be there.

There's a bunch of staff there and they'll be dropping more ads there, having a bigger digital presence. You wonder, in the last hour, if you can close the gap.

But again, if Joe Biden is bleeding support in that area, these campaigns will try to snatch up as many of his people as possible.

KEILAR: If Joe Biden is not a clear winner in South Carolina by a mile in South Carolina, what do you see for him?

SHEPHERD: It's difficult to see an earnest path to the nomination. You never know where these things will go. But he has been saying, since day one, Iowa may not be great for me, New Hampshire may not good for me, but South Carolina, we will clean up. We'll see if those promises are delivered.


KEILAR: Super Tuesday, he needs to clean up. But you have Mike Bloomberg pumping in all this money.

SHEPHERD: Oh, Mike put in a pile of cash. Because of impeachment and because of how the early states were positioned, Mike Bloomberg said, I don't need that, I'll blanket the airways in these Super Tuesday states. And he has a serious advantage when it comes to exposure.

KEILAR: Brittany, thank you so much. Brittany Shepherd, with Yahoo!, we appreciate it.

SHEPHERD: Thank you for having me.

Next, the commander-in-chief hints at the military taking disciplinary action against a decorated soldier for testifying against him in an impeachment trial. How will the military react?



KEILAR: Two days after President Trump was acquitted by the Senate on two articles of impeachment, he fired two of the key witnesses who testified against him.

This included Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. He is a decorated soldier. He's a Purple Heart recipient. And Vindman told lawmakers during his testimony that he reported

concerns about Trump's July 25th phone call with the leader of Ukraine to the top National Security Council lawyer within hours of the call.

Now Trump is hinting that the military may take further action against the ousted lieutenant colonel, ousted from the National Security Council, we should say, and he was escorted out of the White House last week.

Let's listen.


TRUMP: And so we sent him on his way to a much different location, and the military can handle him any way they want.


KEILAR: Now, joining us now is retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. He's also a CNN military analyst.

And I wonder, when you hear the president say that, the military can handle him however they want, do you think he's really giving the military discretion or what do you think he's saying?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it certainly, Brianna, sounds very ominous to me.

When you look at all the different possibilities that could happen in a case like this, they can handle it the way they want, giving that kind of a road map, if you will, to the military, an unscrupulous commander could potentially find a way to punish Colonel Vindman for being a whistleblower.

And that, of course, would throw a lot of things off balance.

KEILAR: Let's just put into context how Vindman -- really what his place is in terms of how well he's done as military officer, right? OK. He is on loan to the NSC or was on loan to the NSC. They don't send the slouches over to do that, right?

LEIGHTON: That's right.

KEILAR: They send their best over.

LEIGHTON: That's right.

KEILAR: And he's going to a senior service college, right? He's going to the war college. So that's a sign that he's doing well.

LEIGHTON: Absolutely.

KEILAR: So we will know if he's going to be punished, right?

LEIGHTON: Absolutely. For example, if he were, all of a sudden, not to go to the war college, that would be an indicator that something has happened to his career or that would stymie his rise to the next rank, which, in this case, would be colonel.

KEILAR: Colonel. It seemed like that is where he's headed right?

LEIGHTON: Absolutely. Every indication. And like you mentioned, nobody goes to the National Security Council staff if they haven't performed well in previous assignments.

So this guy is a high performer. This guy is somebody who has done all the right things. He, of course, has sacrificed, being wounded in Iraq. He has done everything that he needed to do to get to the level that he's at.

And to discard him, you know, like a piece of trash, would be a very, very bad thing for the country and for the Army.

KEILAR: Big picture, what's the message this sends to the officer ranks?

LEIGHTON: Well, it's very dangerous because, right at this point in time, a lot of officers may be dealing with inspector general issues of another type at a much lower level, and they will become much less willing to come forward and to actually say something against wrongdoing if this comes, you know, at full circle like we think it might.

It's a very bad thing to have happened.

KEILAR: That's a very good point.

While I have you here, I want to ask you about something the president tweeted. He said, "It's very important for our country's security that the United States Senate not vote for the Iran war powers resolution."

This is going to begin debate in the Senate. They're expected to vote this week as you know.

He added this, that, "Democrats are only doing this as an attempt to embarrass the Republican Party."

And we have to note, just a fact-check on that, this is actually a Republican effort. You actually have two folks who normally side with President Trump on the Republican side who are supporting this.

What's your read on all of this?

LEIGHTON: You know, with the war powers resolution, both people in the Republican Party as well as in the Democratic Party have looked at this and said, you know, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that we've been operating under really started in the wake of 9/11. That authorization should not be used if we go against Iran.

So I think what the president is saying in this particular case is it would be premature to have a war powers resolution or something -- a resolution of this type that says, hey, Iran, you're a target at this particular point in time. And he actually has a point here because, if we actually say, OK,

Iran, you're next, that not only tips our hand, potentially, if the president is, in fact, planning something -- and I'm not saying he is.

But the other point of it is that, if we put a resolution like this out there, it is really something that may not be in concert with actual military planning that is going on now.


KEILAR: Colonel, as always, thank you so much. Colonel Cedric Leighton, we appreciate it.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Brianna. Always good.

KEILAR: Just in, the Iowa Democratic Party agreeing to conduct a partial recanvas of the caucus results after the Buttigieg and Sanders campaigns challenged them. The party says the recanvas will last two days.

A Democratic lawmaker grilling the Federal Reserve chairman after he was seen at a lavish party with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. See what happened. And we will talk live with her.