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CNN Special Reports
Trump Back In Washington, White House Counsel Drafting Multiple Strategies For Impeachment Trial; Graham Threatens To Change Senate Rules To Start Impeachment Trial; Interview With Sen. Ben Cardin (D- MD); Iraqi Parliament Calls to Oust U.S. Troops; President Trump Threatens Iraq With Sanctions If U.S. Troops Are Expelled; The Trial Of William Jefferson Clinton; Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) Reacts To The Impeachment Stalemate And Iran's Threats. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired January 05, 2020 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: A good Sunday evening to you, I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: And I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. We are gearing up for a major week in Washington. We're happy to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is CNN's special report, "THE IMPEACHMENT OF PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP."
At this very moment, the President is arriving back in Washington where he is facing two trials, one in the Senate over his impeachment and the other as Commander-in-Chief as thousands of U.S. troops deploy to the Middle East amid new and increasing threats from Iran.
SCIUTTO: President Trump has spent the last two weeks at his Florida resort, sheltered from the day to day Washington and instead, surrounded by friends and informal advisers. But it is apparent via his Twitter feed, and the unofficial polls we're told he has been giving to Mar-a-Lago, the looming impeachment trial is front of mind.
He spent the last two days playing golf as well.
At this moment, it is unclear when the Senate trial will begin. You'll recall that Speaker Pelosi has yet to send over the articles from the House to the Senate.
SCIUTTO: But if Senator Lindsey Graham has his way, we could be just days away from history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): The sooner this trial is over, the better for the American people. And so, what I would do if she continues to refuse to send the articles as required by the constitution, I would work with Senator McConnell to change the rules of the Senate so we could start the trial without her, if necessary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: We'll see if that happens. Let's go straight to our White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins and our congressional correspondent Manu Raju.
Good evening to both. Thank you for being with us ahead of what is sure to be a big week as everyone gets back to Washington.
Kaitlan, let me begin with you and your new reporting on how the President and his aides have been preparing over the holidays for this Senate impeachment trial, you know, however it comes to be. What are you learning?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are some questions, Poppy, about whether they've been preparing enough for what's to come, but, of course, there are still questions about what is even to come.
President Trump just got back to the White House just a few moments ago. He didn't speak to reporters and instead, went straight into the residence. But he is coming back to a Washington that's very different than what he was expecting when he left to go to Florida a little over two weeks ago.
He and aides thought he was going to be coming back ready for this trial to start nearly immediately where the President hoped he was going to be vindicated. Yet, now, he's returning to a Washington where the articles of impeachment have still not been sent over to the Senate.
There are still questions about what that trial is going to look like or when it's even going to start. And that has left questions still back here at the White House, one of those being, what is their strategy going to be? We've been told by multiple sources, instead, the White House Counsel's Office has been left to essentially draft multiple avenues of strategy right now because they don't know what that trial is going to look like.
But our sources are telling us that the biggest obstacle still facing the President and the biggest unanswered question really is who it is that's going to represent him in this trial. We know the White House Counsel Pat Cipollone is still expected to take the lead, but the President has made clear he also wants his outside attorney, Jay Sekulow, to play a big role in this.
And there are still questions about which House Republicans or if some people from the outside like a Trey Gowdy figure, for example, are going to come on and play roles in that, whether it's publicly or behind the scenes in that impeachment trial.
One thing we should note is Pat Cipollone, the White House Counsel, was initially expected to go down to Mar-a-Lago to help the President start drafting and making these decisions.
But instead, he and other White House -- you know, attorneys largely were absent from Mar-a-Lago, stayed back here on the second floor of the West Wing, working from here, interviewing people who could play a role in that trial instead of going and -- down there with the President where you saw he was golfing multiple days, often seen with people like Alan Dershowitz, Rudy Giuliani, Lou Dobbs, Senator Lindsey Graham, figures like that who have been a big outside influence on Trump.
SCIUTTO: Yes, and also big, big cheerleaders for the President.
Manu, you cover the Hill. The key demand from Democrats is to get witnesses in this trial, particularly the witnesses the White House blocked from the House portion of this, witnesses who -- we know from e-mails that have been discovered by journalists as opposed to by the House inquiry the last of couple of weeks, you know -- had direct knowledge of the President's involvement here. Are there going to be witnesses in the Senate trial based on what we know now?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It seems unlikely.
RAJU: Because Mitch McConnell, who's controlling this process, he has most of his conference in line. It does not seem that there are enough Republicans who would defect and break with Mitch McConnell right now.
Because what the -- Chuck Schumer wants is four witnesses upfront. He wants Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton, two of the four, to come testify -- and Mike Duffey, who was mentioned in some of those e-mails that you're referencing -- in addition to documents.
He wants his agreements come -- cut upfront. What Mitch McConnell said, no, let's wait until later, let's deal with the opening arguments first on this trial, then we can discuss witnesses at that point.
Now, that is something that Democrats don't want to agree to because they believe McConnell will move quickly to dismiss the case or move to acquit the President without getting any witnesses to come forward first.
So as a result, what we're seeing is Nancy Pelosi withholding those articles of impeachment and waiting for an understanding of how -- what that process will look like in the Senate. And the big question is when Nancy Pelosi will, in fact, send those articles of impeachment over to the Senate.
Now, one of her top confidantes, Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee Chairman, was on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" today. Jake Tapper asked him directly about when those articles would be sent over, and he indicated they would not be held on to indefinitely.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON
INTELLIGENCE: One success that this has already had is flushing out McConnell, showing that he is working in cahoots with the President.
There are both Democrats and Republicans who are now having to go on the record and say, do we want witnesses? Do we want to see the documents? Do we want the American people to hear the evidence? Do we want a real trial, or do we want a coverup?
It's clear, I think, from the President and Mitch McConnell, they don't want a trial anymore. They don't want witnesses. They don't want documents. They don't even want -- Jake they don't even want a verdict. They want a dismissal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, interestingly, he was asked directly, well, when do you think those articles are going to be sent over? He said he didn't know because he said this is the Speaker's decision. And that just shows you how tightly she's controlled every step of the way throughout the impeachment process all along.
So we'll get a better sense when she comes back to Washington this coming week, when she talks to her members, how much pressure she's under, will she -- what signal she gives when she talks about this publicly. But at the moment, that's a guessing game here in Washington.
SCIUTTO: Just quickly, so you don't think -- and again, this could change, but that there are votes among Republicans to call witnesses. But are there votes for dismissal? Because that's a separate question.
RAJU: That is a separate question. And the question is going to be when they get to that point, will there be enough senators to vote to dismiss? All you only need is 51 senators to dismiss that case.
RAJU: But that means if three senators decide to break ranks that they need to hear more arguments --
RAJU: -- that could lead to more pressure to bring in some of those witnesses. So this is going to take some time to play out, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Manu Raju, thanks. Poppy?
HARLOW: All right, thanks, Manu. Thanks, Kaitlan. We appreciate the reporting.
So former Republican House Investigative Counsel Sophia Nelson is with us. Also former adviser to four U.S. presidents, both Democrats and Republicans, David Gergen joins us this evening. And CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. Good evening, one and all.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi.
HARLOW: Thank you for being here on a Sunday night. Gloria, let me begin with you. OK, let's rewind two weeks because it seems like forever ago before. Hopefully, all of you got a little bit of a holiday vacation in.
But it did seem to many, I think, that Speaker Pelosi held the leverage, held more cards, says, you know, I'm not transmitting these articles you to in the Senate until we get what we think is a fair trial. So much has transpired since then, including McConnell saying, great, I don't want a trial anyways, and then the strike on Soleimani. So does she go into this week with leverage?
BORGER: I think it's really not so much a question of leverage, Poppy, as it is a question of what is she heading into.
BORGER: I think that -- I think that she and Chuck Schumer are working in tandem. I was just e-mailing with a Democratic leadership aide. They're on the same page about this, they want to try and get the witnesses that they believe they deserve.
I think they also believe that the news that transpired over the last couple of weeks about the question of the President's involvement in the holding-up this money for Ukraine can now be potentially explored. And so, she didn't walk into -- she didn't want to walk into a dark room. She wanted to put some lights on and say, OK, what are we heading into?
As Schumer said earlier today, you know, McConnell could have called -- if she had given him the articles, he could have called for a vote of dismissal and tried to do it immediately before Christmas. So I think they're trying to sort of deal with the caucus, look at the terrain they're heading into.
And so, as Manu was saying earlier, I don't think she's going to hold onto these articles forever. I don't think what's going on in Iran is going to affect them, one way or another, affect her decisions or the Democrats' decisions, one way or the other. So they're taking a little bit of time, but I don't think they're going to delay it indefinitely. I think she knows that, at some point, they've got to go over there.
SCIUTTO: Sophia, on the question of evidence and witnesses, the fact is, since the House impeachment inquiry closed, there has been new evidence, some from unredacted documents which show a direct line to the President. You know, that this was under the direction of the President that this aid was withheld.
Politically, what risks are Republicans at from -- on their end for pushing away the possibility not just of witnesses but of considering new evidence that's been exposed since the close of the House impeachment inquiry?
SOPHIA NELSON, FORMER REPUBLICAN COUNSEL FOR THE HOUSE GOVERNMENT REFORM AND OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Well, a couple of things. One, I think that Nancy Pelosi was brilliant in what she did. I said this right before the holidays and I'm going to stick with that position. She did force a process of sunlight.
Now, we have those e-mails. We have that "New York Times" article you were referencing, Jim, about Mulvaney and Bolton and Pompeo and others telling the President, hey, you need to go ahead and send this aid, withholding this is not a good idea.
And I think that what this is going to come down to is a few things. One, how much is the public actually paying attention, particularly in those Senate districts that are up for re-election in 2020?
Because that's really what Mitch McConnell is going to be looking at, the winds of does public opinion shift one way or the another in those districts where he has vulnerable people like Collins and others? Does he have to give them some wiggle room to either vote with the Democrats to allow some witnesses or do whatever?
I think that's what they're looking at, at the moment. But to your point, every trial that any citizen in this country faces -- and by the way, this is not like a criminal trial. This is different, this is a political trial. And I think that's a distinction that the American people need to understand.
It's not like the trial if I did something wrong and I got indicted by a grand jury and I have to go and they do jury selection. It's very different. This is a political process. But I think Republicans are going to have to walk a very fine line about motions to dismissive, et cetera.
I also disagree, I do think they're going to get witnesses. And I think they're going to get witnesses the way the Senate handled the Clinton impeachment, which is, if they can survive these motions to dismiss, if the Republicans don't have those votes, I think, ultimately, if they get that far, they may have to cave in to allowing a Mulvaney, a Bolton, or others, if they testify.
NELSON: It just depends. I think that they're going to follow the Clinton model, and I think that's what -- if you're paying attention to McConnell, he's backed off his really aggressive position and says, well, let's go to the Clinton model --
NELSON: -- and we can vote on witnesses later.
SCIUTTO: Interesting, yes.
NELSON: So don't be surprised if they get witnesses.
HARLOW: You make an interesting point. But, David Gergen, the key difference here when Schumer was asked about that this morning by George Stephanopoulos, he said there's a -- it's very different than the Clinton trial this time around because those witnesses who were deposed in the middle of it had already spoken, right, for you had the Starr report, et cetera.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
HARLOW: So he says this is different. On one side, you have Schumer saying that he thinks that they will be able to get four Republican senators on their side to vote for witnesses. Ideally, for the Democrats, they want -- you know, going into this thing.
On the other side of it, you have Lindsey Graham now saying he is going to lobby McConnell to just go ahead and start it without even holding the articles, without the articles being transmitted. I mean, that doesn't sound like anywhere near an agreement.
GERGEN: No, they're very -- they're very far apart at this point. I mean, I just have a different perspective on this. And that is that something dramatic has happened in the last couple of weeks, and that is that the country is now on the brink of a possible war in the Middle East. And I think that ought to be -- you know, we ought to take that very seriously.
I must tell you, in White Houses I've been in, if you've got two crises underway at the same time, it's very hard to manage, and you can bungle a ball, you can make big mistakes.
For all those reasons, I think it's important for the country for Nancy Pelosi and McConnell to sit down and work this out and to some -- to some reasonable agreement that allows something about witnesses or ensures some degree of fairness in this thing and get it done. Let's not play games of the kind that Lindsey Graham has put forward.
I do think, in addition, if we do not work this out, what you're going to see is what we've been seeing the last two weeks, last four weeks -- actually five weeks from the Iranians. And that is the North Koreans and others are going to do -- commit mischief and probe and try to find the weaknesses in the U.S.
And they're going to push us, and we're -- and we're going to -- and then you're going to be worried about looking weak. And it's going to be -- it can have a larger conflagration.
GERGEN: I really think that the country needs to be seriously focused on what's going on in the Middle East. Get this other thing done in a reasonable way and move on. SCIUTTO: Gloria Borger, is there any constituency seriously --
constituency now on the Hill, McConnell, other Republicans, perhaps, to delay an impeachment trial in consideration of the fact that you have an international crisis at hand right now?
BORGER: No. I mean, look, everyone's just coming back into town. I have not heard that.
And I would agree with David that, in a way, it's in everyone's effort to get this -- interests to get this moving because you do have other issues that you need to deal with. You don't want to put off impeachment if you think it's not going to take forever. If it's going to take a week or two, then do it.
I think it's also fluid right now. You're in a situation, as David pointed out, where you don't know what's going to happen tomorrow with Iran, and Congress has to act to that. You have Congress reacting already to the -- to the President's tweet this evening about a response to potential Iranian action.
So there's a lot of issues they have to deal with, but I do not expect Democrats to say, oh, never mind, we're not going to deal with this. They're just -- they're just not going to do it -- do that.
I do think, however, that timing has to be taken into consideration. Maybe Nancy Pelosi hands them over by the end of this week and they get going next week, and they can agree on witnesses, as David points out.
You know, it may be in the best interests of the country for them to do something together when it comes to impeachment and how they're going to proceed.
SCIUTTO: You know, and in all this, we should not discount the possibility -- well, we know that Iran is watching events in the U.S. through Tehran. And this is as the President is arriving back from his vacation.
Does Iran look for opportunities in the midst of this to strike at what it perceives to be a vulnerable moment, Poppy, right?
SCIUTTO: You know, the President standing -- I mean, standing on the Senate floor on trial.
SCIUTTO: Is that when they strike? I mean, these are -- these are open questions at this point, but serious ones.
HARLOW: Absolutely, serious ones. You see the first lady, the President, their son, Baron, coming back to the White House after two weeks -- two-plus weeks of holiday in Mar-a-Lago. OK, thank you, one and all. We appreciate your expertise. We know
it's going to be a busy few weeks ahead.
Still ahead for us this hour, the Iraqi parliament, with a critical vote, voting to end the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. What does that actually mean going forward? We'll take you live to Baghdad.
SCIUTTO: And President Trump says that his tweet should serve as official legal notification to Congress of any future military action against Iran. Up next, I'm going to speak to a Democratic senator, Ben Cardin, if that's sufficient as far as the constitution is concerned. CNN's special live coverage continues after a short break.
SCIUTTO: The U.S. Senate, back in session tomorrow. And Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Friday that nothing moves forward on the President's impeachment trial until the Speaker of the House does her part, which is handing over the articles of impeachment from the House.
We want to speak now to U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, Democrat from Maryland, who will soon be sitting as a juror of the President in this trial. Senator, thanks for taking the time this evening.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): Jim, it's good to be with you, thanks.
SCIUTTO: First off, your Republican colleague, Lindsey Graham, said today that he would push for a rules change in the Senate to allow the trial to get started without the articles. Do you consider that a serious threat?
CARDIN: No, I don't. We really need to come together, the Majority Leader and the Democratic leader, with rules that are fair to all sides, to the House managers, to the President, that allows for the necessary witnesses to be heard by the United States Senate.
We need to do that in a bipartisan manner to show that the United States Senate is conducting a fair trial. So that's what needs to happen.
And I think the reason why Nancy Pelosi hasn't acted to date is that because there hasn't been that assurance that we're going to be hearing from the right witnesses that know what happened and that we have a process that can be signed off by both the Democrats and Republicans.
SCIUTTO: But what evidence is there that you will get what you want, those witnesses here? Mitch McConnell still commands the majority. You would need four, I believe, Republicans to break with their party to demand those witnesses.
Given that you -- unless you've heard from your Republican colleagues they're willing to do that, given that we don't -- we haven't seen at least public evidence of that, is it time to send the articles over? Because, I mean, it's just not clear what leverage the House Speaker has here.
CARDIN: Well, I think we have to move forward, and I think Nancy Pelosi understands that. But the United States Senate, its reputation is very much on the line here. We have an opportunity to show the nation that we will give the President his opportunity to present his defense, that the House managers will have their chance to present their case, and that the Senate will act as an impartial jury.
That's how we're supposed to act, but how can you do that if you don't hear from the witnesses that have the direct information about the President's involvement with the President of Ukraine?
SCIUTTO: Just so I'm clear here, you say it is time to send them over. Are you saying that, this week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi should transmit the articles from the House to the Senate so you can begin consideration?
CARDIN: Well, I think two things should happen. I think we should get the articles this week, but we also should have an agreement on hearing the witnesses that are necessary and the documents that need to be presented. I think both need to go together. So, no, I'm not suggesting that Nancy Pelosi act without knowing the circumstances in the Senate, but we shouldn't --
CARDIN: We should act now.
SCIUTTO: OK. I want to move on to Iran because, of course, tension is brewing there.
SCIUTTO: You have an enormous amount of experience with foreign affairs. No one's going to say that Qasem Soleimani is a good person. He committed horrible acts, responsible for 603 deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, many more wounded. But for next steps, do you believe President Trump has a plan for where this standoff with Iran ends?
CARDIN: Jim, I really don't. He certainly hasn't shared that with Congress as he is required to do. We all understand, in our national security interests, we need to find a diplomatic way to deal with the Middle East. A war with Iran is not in our national security interests. And yet, this administration has driven us further and further away from a possible diplomatic solution.
This -- the President has isolated America rather than isolating Iran when he pulled out of the nuclear agreement. So we have really serious issues about America's national security, and that should be paramount. So, no, I don't think the President has a game plan.
SCIUTTO: He tweeted today what he said was legal notice, that his tweets should amount, in effect, to legal notice to Congress of the possibility of future military action against Iran. As a sitting U.S. senator, does his tweet qualify as required notice?
CARDIN: No, absolutely not. The law is pretty clear about the consultation requirements for -- by the President with Congress. And the fact that the Congress is the -- has sole authority on going to war and that there is no authorization for the use of military force authorized by Congress against Iran.
So the President does not have that authority. He's acting now on the statement that there is an imminent threat against the United States, and yet he has not articulated that imminent threat. So, no, the notification issues are not adequate.
SCIUTTO: As you know, before I let you go, Trump -- President Trump, other officials, have implied or said straight out that there was a threat to U.S. forces in the region. Do you believe U.S. forces are safer today than they were before Soleimani was killed?
CARDIN: I think there is a much higher risk of a confrontation with Iran today than prior to his death, so I think there's higher risks today for our national security. And as we're seeing, we're already sending more troops over to that region. That's not the answer. The answer is to find a diplomatic answer and not to go to war.
SCIUTTO: Senator Ben Cardin, thanks so much for joining the program tonight.
CARDIN: Thank you.
HARLOW: All right, so the President is back in Washington tonight. You just saw him arriving with his family at the White House. This as the situation on the ground in Iraq becomes more perilous, the Iraqi parliament just voting today to end U.S. troop presence there. What does that actually mean? We're live in Baghdad, next.
SCIUTTO: Tonight -- and look at these pictures here. This is the body of Qasem Soleimani back in Tehran. This, after the U.S. killed Iran's top general, a powerful political figure there in the country as well, with a drone strike, saying he was an imminent threat to Americans in the region.
And, Poppy, I have to say, watching this here, it's a remarkably similar scene to when Ayatollah Khomeini died. His funeral procession was very similar. It gives you a sense of, in Iran, at least, how revered a figure Soleimani was.
HARLOW: Yes. Absolutely right, the shadow commander. And for how long? For decades. Iran vowing swift retaliation. The military adviser to the supreme leader saying today, Iran's response will be military and, quote, against military sites.
SCIUTTO: You can be rest assured tonight that U.S. commanders in the region, focused on force protection there. HARLOW: Yes.
SCIUTTO: President Trump is also threatening action, tweeting, in part, if Iran strikes any Americans or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites, some at a very high level and important to Iran and the Iranian culture.
Now, I spoke today to two senior officials serving in this administration who say there is widespread opposition to attacking cultural sites. And, Poppy, that's because, well, a number of reasons, one being it's against international law.
HARLOW: Right, it violates that U.N. resolution that the U.S. signed, agreed to, just a few years ago.
HARLOW: Let's bring in our senior national correspondent Arwa Damon. She joins us from Baghdad. And, Arwa, the fact that, today, Iraq's parliament voted to end U.S. troop presence in Iraq, can you explain to us what that actually means?
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was a fascinating session in the sense that you did have a quorum that was achieved. But that was mostly because Shia parliamentary representations went, the vast majority of Sunnis and the Kurds did not. And it was the caretaker Prime Minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, who was actually making the case that parliament should vote to end foreign troop presence.
He said that given all of the developments that had taken place, Iraq could no longer guarantee the security of foreign forces within its own land and that they could not, ultimately, protect themselves. It clearly seems as if the government has made a calculation that given how much of a physical battlefield Iraq is becoming already between the U.S. and Iran, it is perhaps in Iraq's best interest to ask foreign forces to leave since that is the easier option than trying to disentangle itself from Iran, both politically and militarily.
What happens next? Well, that is what we're going to have to wait and see. Does the government actually take the move and ask foreign forces to leave?
The Prime Minister spoke with the French President and already said that relevant Iraqi government bodies were beginning to take those steps at this stage.
SCIUTTO: Arwa, you've covered Iraq for a long time, and you know, as well as we do that oftentimes Iraqi politicians will say in public, yes, we want them to go but in private, hey, please stay. The country needs you, you know for security.
We understand that President Trump has just told reporters that the U.S. might sanction Iraq if it does follow through on this threat. Do you sense that now the moment is truly different, that there's a ground swell of political support there to follow through on a threat, let's be frank, Iraq has made before, but not followed through on in the past?
DAMON: The dynamics here have changed completely. Even Iraqi politicians who are pro the U.S. staying here are finding it very difficult to speak out in light of what happened.
I mean, look, this targeted killing is not just being viewed as a violation of Iraq's sovereignty. It is also being viewed as an act of aggression against Iraq itself.
That being said prior to this parliamentary meeting, there were other proposals being put forward, attempts that would perhaps see the U.S. stay here, exactly, because the country is still fighting against a threat against ISIS. And we all know what happened the last time the U.S. withdrew, when the Iraqi Security Forces weren't capable of handling the situation. ISIS came to be.
This withdrawal, if and when it happens, is giving ISIS a win without ISIS having to actually do anything. There are great concerns about that. But right now, no politician really has the political capital to be able to stand up and say, hey, American forces should stay especially because so many now point out that President Trump a while ago said that U.S. forces were here not necessarily for the fight against ISIS, but to actually spy on Iran.
SCIUTTO: Yes, well, and we know the criticism that Trump laid on President Obama for withdrawing troops from Iraq, of course that helped lead to the rise of ISIS there with U.S. troops forced out.
First of all, thank you, Arwa Damon. Great to have you on the ground there. And Poppy, you have to wonder if this were to be followed through on, then President Trump had opened himself up to criticism that he allowed the ISIS fight to be subjugated, right or stopped by the consequences of this?
POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Yes. Absolutely. We will have more on that and what the President just said, ahead.
Also up next, a look at the last Senate impeachment trial of a sitting President. Our Wolf Blitzer will join us to talk about his CNN special report, "The Trial of William Jefferson Clinton."
SCIUTTO: We may forget in the deluge of news, but this is the third presidential impeachment in U.S. history, the last one just 21 years ago and curiously, lawmakers and counsel in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton made some of the exact same arguments as today particularly on the question of quality witnesses.
Oftentimes, folks back then making the opposite argument today that they did back then. Wolf Blitzer here with me. We're looking forward to your special coming up nine o'clock Eastern Time tonight on this.
One question, for viewers who either did not witness it. We've got young viewers out there who don't remember it, don't remember the details of it, or do, tell us what tonight's Special is. How is it going to walk them through it, but also connect it to what's happening today.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: It is really timely because it goes through the impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate of Bill Clinton, and many of the arguments, as you say, that Democrats were making then, Republicans are making now and vice versa.
And they decided, when all was said and done, that they would open the formal trial in the U.S. Senate with arguments from both sides.
The House managers in that particular case, the Republicans would make their case why the President of the United States who had been impeached in the House should be convicted and removed from office.
And the President's lawyers made the opposite argument that yes, he did some bad things, but it's not worthy of being removed from office, and they decided to hold off on the sensitive issue of witnesses until after the opening arguments and then they decided they would call some witnesses, the Republicans wanted three witnesses, basically, but they would do it in private and then release excerpts in the course of the trial.
SCIUTTO: So they -- I mean, crucially they did allow witnesses in the trial then.
SCIUTTO: Different potentially, from what we see here. You know, folks will often say, you know, no time has been more partisan than today. And then there's a lot of evidence of that, but I remembering covering that impeachment, it was pretty darn partisan back then as well.
BLITZER: It was very partisan. I was the CNN White House correspondent, so I covered it from day one in January of 1998 when we first heard the name, Monica Lewinsky until the following January 1999, when there was a real Senate trial. So I mean, it was intense that whole year.
SCIUTTO: But is it fundamentally different today? Because there were some folks from each party who went to the other side, and the fact -- I mean, there were Democrats who voted for Clinton's impeachment in the House, and there were Republicans who voted against it.
Do you -- I mean, is today fundamentally different in that it is purely bi-party lines?
BLITZER: It's much more partisan today, although it was, you know, pretty partisan then, as you'll see in this one hour documentary later tonight, and it will -- You know, for those of us who actually lived through it, it will bring
back a lot of memories. You've lived through it and I lived through it. We will remember a lot.
But for those who didn't really pay attention then or who weren't even born then, they'll learn a lot about the procedure in the Senate, how this unfolds.
SCIUTTO: Yes, I remember moments there like remember when the Starr report came out? I remember reading that live on the air and --
BLITZER: I got to do that.
BLITZER: And my mom wasn't very happy with some of the words I was saying.
SCIUTTO: Yes, there was some colorful language. Wolf Blitzer, we're looking forward to it tonight. That's coming up at nine o'clock Eastern Time.
BLITZER: Thank you.
HARLOW: Yes. It's going to be a fascinating report. Okay. That is ahead.
Also, of course, Congress comes back to work on Capitol Hill this week with impeachment at an impasse. Will Speaker Pelosi transmit those Articles of Impeachment to the Senate this week? Or will Senate Republicans move forward with the trial without them.
Republican Congressman Mike Johnson joins me on that and of course, Iran, next.
HARLOW: All right, this week Congress returns from recess to a changed world. The U.S. is now staring down the potential for war with Iran, while at the same time the impeachment standoff picks up pretty much right where it left off.
One Senate Republican, Josh Hawley will try to use the impeachment stalemate as grounds to push it aside, vote to dismiss the Articles if they are not sent over from the House quote, "for lack of prosecution."
But now Iran threatens to overshadow all of that. Louisiana Republican Congressman Mike Johnson is with me. Good evening. Thank you for joining me.
REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): Hey, Poppy. Great to be with you.
HARLOW: Let me just get your reaction to something that President just said literally a few moments ago on Air Force One, reacting to Iraq's Parliament voting to basically expel to try to push out all U.S. troops from the ground in Iraq.
The President just said on Air Force One quote, "If they do ask us to leave, we will charge them with sanctions like they've never seen before." Quote, "It'll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame." Is that a good idea?
JOHNSON: We are waiting a briefing to Congress when we get back, and we're looking forward to getting all the information. Of course, the President is privy to all the Intel that we as Members of the House don't have yet. He has the full scope and the full picture.
Look, I'm not sure exactly what's going to develop with that. We saw and watched with interest what Iraq did today, and those developments are important. We have to be very careful about our actions going forward because we don't want to further destabilize that region. These are --
HARLOW: Would further sanctioning Iraq -- would slapping sanctions potentially harsher than on Iran on Iraq, would that in your assessment further destabilize the region?
JOHNSON: Well, it depends on what those sanctions are and how they're administered. I mean, there's a lot of factors that we don't have, your viewing audience doesn't have tonight, and that frankly, we won't until we get back to Washington and get these Intel briefing.
So I'm looking forward to that. I know the other Members of Congress are as well. In the meantime, you know, I trust that the President is doing the right thing.
HARLOW: Congressman, do you believe as the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has argued that the world is safer today, because Qasem Soleimani has been taken out?
JOHNSON: I heard that statement and I agree with it. Look, Soleimani was a known terrorist, a murderer. He killed thousands of people, hundreds of Americans. And when the Secretary of State and our Intel says that he had further attacks planned on Americans and others, I think that it's beyond dispute that we are a safer world without him in that position.
Of course, there are consequences. Of course, there's fallout. We'll deal with that as it occurs. But I think a strong America is good for the whole world. And we have shown that we're strong on this issue, and I think that's welcomed by most Americans.
HARLOW: I ask you because history has shown us that often when you take out the head of a terrorist organization that the threat does not go away. And we now have the State Department that has ordered all Americans to leave Iraq immediately.
We have thousands of additional U.S. service members going to the region after Soleimani was taken out and you have D.H.S. bracing America for the very real likelihood of a cyberattack from Iran. So how is that a safer world this Sunday night, as you and I are talking? How is it safer in this moment with those responses?
JOHNSON: Iran has been effectively on the attack against the U.S. for 40 years. They've been chanting "Death to America" in the streets. The interesting development there, though, is that the people are now turning against that.
JOHNSON: There's been a great tide and uprising that I think has been welcomed in the West that we've seen that develop and I think there's a lot of instability there on the ground.
You know, we've always been at odds with Iran. We always have been. It's always -- every briefing we get from the Pentagon, from top military officials to Congress, they list Iran at the top two or three threats of things that we have to watch for.
So this is nothing new, and taking out Soleimani because we had the Intel apparently that showed that he was plotting even further worse attacks against innocent people and American citizens.
Look, I take the Secretary of State and the President at their word. I think it was a necessary action. And of course, we have to deal with the fallout from that. Actually, we'll see what happens.
HARLOW: The President, as I'm sure you saw, overnight, tweeted that if Iran strikes any Americans or American assets, the U.S. has, quote, " ... targeted 52 Iranian sites, some at a very high level and important to Iran and Iranian culture." Here's how Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen responded to that. Listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): You just heard the President of this morning talk about targeting Iranian sites, including cultural sites, which is in fact a war crime, if the President was to carry that out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Do you agree with him that it would be a war crime? It certainly would be a violation of the U.N. Resolution 2347 that the U.S. and the whole Security Council agreed to, you know, two years ago, would it be a war crime?
JOHNSON: I agree with what Secretary of State Pompeo said this morning very clearly on the on the morning talk shows. He said, we are going to follow the law. We will follow international law and all of these --
HARLOW: You know, I saw all of those interviews that he did, but I'm just asking you, do you believe that as a violation of that U.N. resolution, it would be a war crime?
JOHNSON: Look, I don't know. I think it depends on the circumstances. It depends on which sites. It depends on, you know, the conditions and I don't think that we can make that call as a hypothetical.
I think it really is a hypothetical question about a hypothetical set of facts that we don't know. I do take great solace in what the Secretary of State says, our State Department is committed to following the law and I think we will.
HARLOW: I don't know how hypothetical it is, given that it is a statement from the President. But let's move on to the other development, which is what's going to happen in the Senate this week.
Is there going to be an impeachment trial of the President? Is Pelosi going to hold on to the Articles? Given the developments in Iran, do you believe the Senate should hold an impeachment trial for the President right now?
JOHNSON: I do. I agree with many of the sentiments that have been said on your program this evening. I've been watching what has been said. These are consequential times. These are delicate times.
I think that impeachment is a huge distraction from this very important issue that's going on in the Middle East, and I think we should get about that trial and put it behind us.
You know, I hope that Nancy Pelosi will transmit the Articles over there. Remember that the language of the resolution that they passed, the single party impeachment that they passed to the House said that it had to be exhibited in the Senate.
It's not an if-or proposition, it says it in the document that they drafted, that they're going to exhibit it. So I think it's time to do that.
HARLOW: So you would like the trial to start -- final question then would be -- as you know, a recent "Washington Post"/ABC poll showed that actually, about two in three Republican voters want the President to allow his aides to testify and I wonder if you're among the 64 percent of Republicans in this country who want to hear in a Senate trial from Mick Mulvaney? From John Bolton? From Duffy? From Robert Blair? Are you among them? Do you want to hear from those witnesses?
JOHNSON: I don't have any problem with that. I don't think the White House does either. There's nothing to hide here. They have an ironclad case and they're ready to try it.
And look, I think the sooner we get to that, the better. I do think we should follow the --
HARLOW: I am sorry, I got cut. What did you say? You don't think the White House has an issue with it? The White House is blocking this.
JOHNSON: No, no, they're not blocking the witnesses at a Senate trial that hasn't come up yet because it hasn't been decided. What Leader McConnell has said is that --
HARLOW: They have blocked them throughout the House investigation, but you do want to hear from them in a Senate trial? Is that what you're saying?
JOHNSON: Poppy, we can talk about why the White House has not turned them over in the House proceeding. It was a sham. And I'd go through all the details of that. You don't want to belabor the point tonight, I know.
What I'm suggesting is that Leader McConnell is right to say that we should follow the only real precedent that exists in the modern era and that's the Clinton impeachment trial, which Senator Schumer voted for, those rules, which says that you decide which witnesses to hear, after the first two stages of the trial.
JOHNSON: Each case, or each side puts on their cases. The senators get to ask questions through the Chief Justice who presides over the trial, and then you determine what if any witnesses are needed and under what circumstances. That's the only procedure and the only precedent that exists. And that's the one that ought to be followed.
I think it's very reasonable for Leader McConnell to take that position.
HARLOW: We'll see what happens. Everyone is going to be back on Tuesday. Mike Johnson. Congressman, thank you for being here. We'll be right back.
JOHNSON: Thanks, Poppy. Good to be here.
HARLOW: You've got it.
HARLOW: All right, as Congress returns from vacation, how are voters across the country actually viewing the impeachment of the President and the impending Senate trial?
SCIUTTO: CNN National Correspondent, Miguel Marquez has been covering the story and finding that in voting states around the country, they're paying less attention than folks here in Washington.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The vast Phoenix suburbs, impeachment, barely a blip on the radar for some Democrats here.
MARQUEZ (on camera): Do you and your colleagues, your friends, do you talk about impeachment or politics?
SHAYNA ORTEGA, RECENT COLLEGE GRADUATE: Not particularly, it just depresses us.
MARQUEZ (on camera): Do you follow impeachment closely?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not so much. I've watched videos here and there, but I wouldn't say like I'm an avid listener.
MARQUEZ (voice over): Many Republicans here view it is pure politics and a rallying cry.
MARQUEZ (on camera): Do you think it will motivate more Republicans to come out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, for sure.
ROBERT MOTUSH, TRUMP SUPPORTER: It's a waste of government money. It's -- they just wasted $29 million on that Mueller thing. So now what are we going to waste? More money?
MARQUEZ (voice over): The Grand Canyon State and it's 11 electoral votes now a full-on battleground.
Once reliably red, it is now trending purple. In 2012, Mitt Romney won it by nine points. Donald Trump in 2016. bested Hillary Clinton by only three and a half points. And in 2018, Democrats flipped a House seat in a longtime Republican senate seat.
Arizona not only a battleground for President --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am listening to my constituents --
MARQUEZ (voice over): But in 2020, another epic Senate race that could decide control of the chamber.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've decided that I'm launching a campaign --
MARQUEZ (voice over): Republican incumbent Martha McSally and her likely Democratic challenger, Mark Kelly have already raised tens of millions of dollars and the race could be the most expensive Senate contest of the cycle.
Christie Black, mom to Angela and Luke left the Republican Party in 2016 because of Donald Trump.
CHRISTIE BLACK, FORMER REPUBLICAN: I definitely didn't feel like his moral character was that of a President.
MARQUEZ (voice over): Now an Independent, she plans to vote Democratic in 2020, but is concerned impeachment will tip the balance.
BLACK: I worry more is it will fire up the Republicans, that maybe people who are feeling a little more wishy-washy, you know, not feeling real confident with President Trump that they will feel a renewed sense of wanting to defend him.
MARQUEZ (voice over): Steve Ellis IT consultant by day, musician by night voted for Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016.
MARQUEZ (on camera): Does he have your support in 2020?
STEVE ELLIS, OBAMA AND TRUMP VOTER: No.
MARQUEZ (voice over): He says he'll vote Democratic in 2020. But thinks impeachment is only fueling an already angry and divided country.
ELLIS: Get it done. Get it done and move on. Because I don't think anything positive is going to happen out of it either one way or the other. And it just makes us as a country look like we're a little unstable.
MARQUEZ (voice over): Impeachment, not changing many minds, but raising questions and concerns about how it will play with voters in battleground states.
MARQUEZ (on camera): Now, most people I spoke to said that they don't think it's truly going to change many minds. If you like Donald Trump going into it, you're still going to like him. If you didn't like him, impeachment is not going to change much.
But they do say there's a small number of people in the center that both parties in places like Arizona are going to go after hammer and tong. Arizona and Wisconsin, those 11 electoral votes in Arizona could be critical to which party takes the White House. Back to you, guys.
SCIUTTO: Well, no question. It's a big issue. I suppose, we don't know how it's going to affect people's minds when they step into that voting booth in November this year. Miguel Marquez, thanks very much.
HARLOW: Thank, Miguel. Still ahead, Senator Lindsey Graham gives the House Speaker an ultimatum of sorts, send those impeachment Articles to the Senate or we'll take matters into our own hands.