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Senators Aren't Sitting for Impeachment Trial; Trump "Reality Check." Aired 7:00-7:30a ET

Aired January 23, 2020 - 07:00   ET



NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: I should point out, this has wider ramifications too because we've asked the White House for comment on whether Donald Trump feels that it's bad that the Saudi prince may be connected to hacking an American CEO's phone. Also, too, for suggestions where they might be upset that his son-in- law Jared Kushner's communicating on WhatsApp with the Saudi crown prince too. No comment from that at all here.

There's one slight issue here. Saudi Arabia says the whole thing is absurd and you have to ask whether one of the most affluent, connected, influential, wealthy men in the world, the Saudi crown prince, would be silly enough to click send on a video like that without perhaps realizing its implications. An extraordinary story here but one with very deeply serious implications.

Back to you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Nick, thank you very much for that.

The Senate impeachment trial getting ready to begin once again. Will senators actually listen? Their record so far on this, not good.

NEW DAY continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

BERMAN: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY.

And if you are sitting down for this, you're accomplishing something that several U.S. senators apparently could not, because while the president of the United States is on trial, some U.S. senators, despite being required to be in chairs quietly as prosecutors present the case, they can't pull it off. They can't sit there and pay attention. Our people inside the Senate chamber say Senator Rand Paul was focusing intently on a crossword puzzle, not so sneakily hidden between his papers. Apparently the clue for 45 across wasn't, senator who does his freaking job.


BERMAN: House managers resume their case against President Trump in a matter of hours. They are hoping to convince at least four Senate Republicans and the American people that the president abused the power of his office to help his re-election chances, that he needs to be removed. The Democrats spent nearly nine hours laying out their evidence yesterday. They often used the president's own words against him.

CAMEROTA: I know when you say "freaking" to fasten my seat belt, John.

BERMAN: John Roberts, ooh, he's really upset that I used such harsh language. Not so -- the senators can leave. They don't have to listen to the impeachment trial. But if they are mean, he's going to crack down.

CAMEROTA: We're going to get more into this because we have more color about what some of the senators are doing while they're supposed to be sitting down listening.

So the fight continues over whether the Senate will hear from witnesses. Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer says he's optimistic. He says he believes that Democrats are, quote, making gains every day in their push for witnesses and documents.

And what about that vague possibility that was tossed out of a witness swap to get Joe Biden or his son Hunter on the stand? Well, leading Democrats, including Joe Biden, say that they would not go for that.

And President Trump broke his own record yesterday. He sent 142 tweets and retweets. Again, that is a single day record for his presidency.

BERMAN: More tweets than any president in history.

CAMEROTA: It's true. That is true.

Joining us now, CNN political analyst David Gregory, CNN political commentator Karen Finney, she's former spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign, and CNN "EARLY START" anchor Laura Jarrett.

Great to see all of you.

Laura, our CNN reporters who are tasked with watching the Senate chamber while all of this unfolds have provided us with some interesting color, in that some senators, certainly not all, but some senators are out of their chairs, they're huddling in the back together. They've even left the room for some stretches of time to go to the Senate cloak room, which is an adjacent room where they can talk, they can use their cell phones. And so it appears that some are not actively listening. In fact, they're actively not listening to the case as laid out.

And, I mean, what's interesting is that this is, according to some of them, the first time that they will have heard this case play out. And I want to just read for you what Senator John Kennedy said, because it was really interesting. He says, I know the House proceedings were heavily reported, but I think most, if not all senators, are hearing the case by the prosecution and the case by the defense for the first time. He stressed that he was learning new things by listening to the arguments. If you polled the United States Senate, he said, nine out of ten senators will tell you that they have not read a transcript of the proceeding in the House and the tenth senator who says he has is lying. That's according to "The Washington Post."

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": And I think we assume, because they are U.S. senators, that they have been paying as close attention to this as we have. They've been following it minute to minute, that they were watching all of the hearings over the summer. But I think, you know, candidly, he was right. He was -- he was speaking the truth.

And the question is whether it's going to change their minds, right? It's -- the question is whether listening to all the facts, as Adam Schiff so methodically laid out yesterday, is going to have any effect, or whether they're just letting it wash over them, they're just sitting there drinking their milk, eating their candies and it's all for naught.

BERMAN: The Senate holds itself in such high esteem, right?


This is the upper chamber. This is the place where they are six year terms. They're not supposed to be susceptible to political vagaries. They're supposed to be up to the job of sitting in a chair, OK? It's, what, two hours at a time before you get a break and you get to go have coffee, you get to go have dinner, you get to go have your cell phone.

CAMEROTA: We do it for three.

BERMAN: Yes, we do it for three.

And the reason this is so appalling, not just because, again, they hold themselves in such high esteem, such high esteem that you can't say mean words or the chief justice will rebuke you on the Senate floor, is that the president's on trial for this and it is their constitutional duty to weigh the evidence and make a decision.

And John Cornyn, who used to be the number two on the Republican side, he said this. He said, certainly senators are struggling to try to see why we have to sit here, sit hearing the same arguments over and over and over again.

They have to sit there, David, because it's their job, because it's their job. And when they're not sitting there and listening, and when you hear the argument being made that, oh, it's boring, that doesn't lend credence to the fact that they're taking this seriously.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and I think it ties into what Adam Schiff's argument was. And it was a key part of the argument, which essentially was, what do we do about this kind of conduct by the president? Does it create a precedent? And if the world's greatest deliberative body, even if not well earned, doesn't remove, doesn't send a message to future administrations that, well, this was the precedent and Congress essentially validated this behavior by saying things like what Senator Cornyn said, which is, why are we here? This has not met the threshold for what he described, Cornyn elsewhere described as the nuclear option of the Constitution.

And I think you're hearing more and more of that, is that whatever you may think of the president's conduct, although Republicans won't give any quarter (ph) on this, it certainly does not warrant impeachment and removal from office. And they're saying that certainly by their conduct in some cases, by their indifference or by tuning it out.

CAMEROTA: Karen, some senators, we should say, do get an A for attendance, and they are important senators.


CAMEROTA: So the ones that our reporters have watched be in their seats, be attentive, be focused are Senator Susan Collins, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Senator Elizabeth Warren. I'm sure there are others, but those just jumped out at me.


CAMEROTA: And so what do you -- tell us what struck you from yesterday.

FINNEY: You know, I thought that they -- the Democrats used video very well to bring the witnesses that we heard from during the House proceedings into the room. Remember when they -- when these folks testified, Colonel -- Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, these are thoughtful, credible people who essentially corroborated what we knew from the whistleblower's report. And so this was really the first time to weave the whole narrative together, but also to use the video, not just to use President Trump's words -- not just against him but to point out what was important, at what moment in terms of what he was saying, because he says so much, but also that these witnesses corroborated the narrative. And, again, you can't deny how credible, for example, Ambassador Taylor was. I thought that was very effective.

And I think, to David's point, I hope -- I think part of the goal was to highlight for -- as -- in the repetition, you know, places where they really wanted the senators to try to pay attention. Maybe it didn't work, but that was the goal.

BERMAN: Let's do two things here. First, I want to play some of what the Democrats did using, in this case, the president's own words, a little video representation of that.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): A rally in Florida, he said the following.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.

Then I have an Article Two where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.

Well, we're fighting all the subpoenas.

I'd love to have Mike Pompeo. I'd love to have Mitch. I'd love to have Rick Perry and many other people testify.


BERMAN: It's interesting hearing the president in his own words.

And, according to some, it was effective. Lindsey Graham -- and I think we have this picture also -- Lindsey Graham, the senator from South Carolina, told Adam Schiff after -- this is them bumping into each other in the hallway after. He told Adam Schiff that he did a good job. That he made a compelling presentation. Now, it's interesting how Senator Lindsey Graham would know because according to our people watching the trial, he was one of the senators who was gone for long periods of time.

CAMEROTA: Some stretches. I don't know how long.

BERMAN: Oh, no, he was gone. I mean he was gone from the chamber repeatedly over there. So maybe someone told Lindsey Graham that Adam Schiff was good.

The other thing that Adam Schiff did, and he did this in prime time last night, was he tied the case against the president to the other case right now, which is getting the evidence and getting witnesses who have not yet testified.


I want to play some sound for you where he's talking about a memo that Ambassador Bill Taylor wrote to the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, in the summer about everything that went on.

Listen to this.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Taylor sent that cable on August 29th. Would you like me to read that to you right now? I would like to read it to you right now, except I don't have it, because the State Department wouldn't provide it. But if you'd like me to read it to you, we can do something about that. We can insist on getting that from the State Department.


BERMAN: We can do something about that. That might be the only thing that he can do something about, Laura, because they're likely not going to convict the president. The issue at hand is, are they going to get the full Republican votes for that (ph).

JARRETT: And I think this is where you see they're speaking to two different audiences. They're speaking to the moderates in the room, so the Lisa Murkowski's who are dutifully taking notes, who they're hoping to persuade might at least be open to the possibility of witnesses or documents.

But they're also speaking to the American people at home to signal, even if we don't go -- get those documents, you should be interested. And this is the cover-up argument, right? And so he can throw out a little bit of just something like that, as sort of tantalizing, to get people to think, well, what else is behind there?

I think the question for the Adam Schiffs of the world is, do you really want witnesses or is it better if you actually don't get any?

BERMAN: That's a --

JARRETT: Is your -- is your argument actually better if you don't have to own this at all and you can go into this election saying this entire thing was a sham and look at how we know it because we didn't get a single witness.

CAMEROTA: It'll certainly make it shorter if they get -- if that's the scenario.

David, I thought it was interesting to hear the president again there in the sound that we just played say he would love to have Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appear and talk because just yesterday Mike Pompeo said that he would be happy to do it.

So listen to this shift in his tone.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: If I am legally required to testify, as I've said before, I'll be happy to do it.


CAMEROTA: That's -- that's what -- that's what John Bolton has said. So it sounds like we have agreement. Maybe it's time for them to come in.

GREGORY: Well, I think the president's impulses are to fight and to take part in anything that's televised. I think that is a fundamental rule with him.

And there's a reason why he's tweeting so often, because he can do something that Republican, you know, senators can't do, which is actually, you know, interrupt the proceedings with his take. His lawyers can do it during breaks and they've certainly not hesitated to do so.

But I think he wants to jump into the fray and have this argument. You know, when you have no witnesses, it is like a trial with -- because these are not opening statements, these are arguments. So you can have arguments, no witnesses, and you have lawyers, or in this case managers, drawing conclusions for a jury. And that does change the proceedings a lot without seeing evidence being challenged along the way, which is what would happen in a trial.

But I do think it's important to remember that these senators, there's still a chance there could be witnesses. I think it's slim, but there's a chance. But we are in an election year. And so these are compelling cases that are being made against the president and there will be an affirmative defense his lawyers say. And all of this is playing out in front of a public that's about to go vote in Democratic primaries and caucus and certainly then in the fall. It'd be hard -- you'd be hard pressed to think it's going to be top of mind by November. But the question of the president's judgement and his approach to the office are certainly being debated here without a filter.

BERMAN: Karen, the issue of the Bidens possibly testifying, mostly Hunter Biden, is more prevalent now than I think it even was a few weeks ago. Democrats, you know, there are more discussions about it, even though they deny they would ever offer that deal. And Joe Biden being forced to talk about it more than he has before in saying, no, no, no, it just won't happen, it won't happen, it won't happen.

I guess my question is, have Democrats allowed this to be more of a discussion point, even, than is good for them?

FINNEY: Well, I think they're certainly trying to shut down the idea that that is even an appropriate equivalent, right? They've made the point that this is a false equivalence.

And, actually, this is a place where I think Schiff did a good job of using the Republicans' own words against them, which was, remember, during the House proceedings, the Republicans said we -- you know, they don't have any witnesses who have direct knowledge. And so part of what was happening yesterday as Schiff was laying out these, you know, information gaps, he was pointing out, well, we could if you -- if you would just ask. And I think that part of the that argument you're going to continue to hear with regard to the Bidens is, they have no direct knowledge of what this is really about.

And, again, they have to keep bringing it back to, this is about the actions of the president of the United States around his abuse of power and how he tried to then cover that up with regard to Ukraine and having this investigation, this fake investigation. And so I think they're going to continue to say Hunter Biden, Joe Biden have nothing to do with that.


They have no material knowledge. They have no direct evidence that they can present as they both continue to block that idea and push forward to try to raise the stakes about the witnesses that they want to see and the information that they want to hear.

BERMAN: Interesting you use the word material there because the president yesterday was boasting, we have the material --

FINNEY: Right. BERMAN: They don't have the material. Interesting choice of words given that they're withholding all this evidence that the House wants.

OK, thank you very much.

President Trump, as you just heard, said he's open -- claims he's open to the idea of witnesses testifying in the impeachment trial. But he said things before and done others. "Reality Check," next.


CAMEROTA: Donald Trump, as you know, is all about the love for the things that he never ends up doing. At least that's what John Avlon tells us in our "Reality Check."


Hi, John.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's what the record would suggest. And this might surprise you, but Donald Trump is a lover, not just a fighter. And it's not just for brutal dictators like Kim Jong- un.




AVLON: Because now our president says he would love to buck his own advisers and finally let senior aides testify.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'd love to have Mick go. I'd like to have Mike Pompeo testify. I'd love to have Rick Perry.

I would rather interview Bolton. I would rather interview a lot of people.


AVLON: Now, this sounds a lot like something else Trump said he'd love to do just last month.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would love to have Mike Pompeo. I'd love to have Mick. I'd love to have Rick Perry and many other people.


AVLON: And that's not the only thing he'd love to see at his impeachment trial.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'd sort of love to sit right in the front row and stare in their corrupt faces. I'd love to do it.


AVLON: Not everybody's idea of a good time. But transparency and cooperation with Congress isn't the only thing Trump says he loves. He also said he'd love to run against Oprah.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wouldn't we love to run against Oprah? I would love it.


AVLON: And Elizabeth Warren.




AVLON: Even Bernie Sanders back in the day.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would love -- I want to run against Bernie.


AVLON: But of all the things Donald Trump says he'd love to do, maybe he's mentioned these two the most, releasing his tax returns --


AVLON: I would love to do that.


AVLON: And testifying before Robert Mueller.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would love to speak. I would love to. Nobody wants to speak more than me.


AVLON: But wait, you say, as much as the president says he'd love to release his tax returns, that hasn't happened yet. And what about testifying before Robert Mueller? Well, that never happened either. Instead, it turned into sanitized, written answers carefully reviewed by lawyers.

So, what happened to all that love? Well, it turns out the things Donald Trump says he'd love to do the most are actually the things he does the least. But in true Trump fashion, it's not his fault. He'd love to let senior aides testify, but --


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a national security problem.

I call it national security for national security reasons.

It's a national security problem.


AVLON: Or impeachment witnesses at all.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Senate's going to have to answer that.


AVLON: Or the Mueller investigation.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have to always be careful when you answer questions with people that probably have bad intentions.


AVLON: And, of course, his tax returns.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would love to give them, but I'm not going to do it while I'm under audit.


AVLON: And that one's the giveaway, folks, because nothing prevents on American citizen for releasing their tax returns while they're under audit. But don't take my word for it. Just ask the IRS.

So, wait, you say, are you suggesting the president might actually hate to do all the things he says he'd love to do? I'd love to tell you otherwise, but when Trump's accounting firm or Congress or state attorney general tried to fulfill Trump's unrequited love for releasing his taxes, he responded by fulfilling another long-time love and sued to stop them.

And, of course, the Trump White House has made it very clear they don't think new witnesses are such a lovely idea. But if it really is the president's deepest desire, he could just direct his legal advisers to offer it up. Did you know love -- if you want to know how much Donald Trump doesn't really love to introduce new evidence? Listen to what the president plays his trump card by saying the quiet part out loud.


AVLON: We have all the material. They don't have the material.


AVLON: And I'm sure Democrats would love to have the American people see that material.

And that's your "Reality Check."

BERMAN: So are you suggesting, John, or what are you suggesting when the president strings words together like this and said these things out loud?

AVLON: I'm suggesting that when the president says yesterday he'd love to have his senior aides testify in the Senate trial, that he might not be telling the truth.

CAMEROTA: Curious.

All right, John, thank you very much for that "Reality Check."

So how are the Democrats doing in prosecuting the case against President Trump? Are they changing any minds? Well, Republican Senator Rick Santorum and Democratic strategist Paul Begala have some strong thoughts on that, next.




REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): If you'd like to know what John Bolton had in mind when he thought that Zelensky could favorably impress the president in Warsaw, we can find that out too. Just for the asking. In a document called a subpoena.


CAMEROTA: That was Congressman Adam Schiff emphasizing the case for calling witnesses in the Senate trial and getting new documents.

Senate Republicans who have been open to witnesses say they will consider the issue after opening arguments are concluded. Joining us now with how the Democrats are making their case, we have

CNN senior political commentator Rick Santorum. He's a former Republican senator who was in the Senate during the Clinton impeachment trial. And CNN political commentator Paul Begala. He was the counselor to President Clinton during that impeachment trial.

Great to see both of you.

So, Senator Santorum, I'll start with you. How do you think the Democrats are doing? How do you think Adam Schiff is doing? Particularly on that moment where he says, if you have any questions about this, if you'd like to hear more of this conversation, we can do that if we call witnesses and get documents that have been blocked.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the fundamental problem here is one that was identified by Nancy Pelosi at the beginning of this process, Jerry Nadler and many others, Chuck Schumer in the last impeachment round, which is, you're not going to be successful unless you have a bipartisan impeachment, unless you have convinced the American public that there's something seriously amiss here that causes this draconian step of actually removing a president, particularly removing a president a few months before an election.

CAMEROTA: Right, but what about the idea that --

SANTORUM: And they just haven't met that burden.

CAMEROTA: Hold on, just getting more information. That's all I'm asking, just getting more information, wouldn't that maybe help getting a bipartisan feeling?

SANTORUM: Again -- again, the answer is -- the answer is no. The fact -- the basic facts of this case are known by the American public, certainly known by members of Congress. They may not know every, you know, salacious detail. But the reality is, they know what the case is here. And there is a big -- I hate to say it -- so what, that this doesn't cut the mustard. This isn't a serious enough thing. This is a -- in many cases, a mall-administration case at worst, which is something that the founders didn't believe is -- are grounds for impeachment.

So it -- even if they -- we assume that what Adam Schiff said was completely correct, which I don't because it's not.


But even if you assume everything, you take every inference that they want to make, the response by the -- by Republicans overwhelmingly is, sorry, this isn't enough.