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CNN Live Event/Special
U.S. Capitol Security On High Alert For Trump Impeachment Trial; Soon: Trump's Historic Second Impeachment Trial Begins; CNN: Trump Asking About Potential Exposure To Criminal Prosecution; Soon: Trump Lawyers To Challenge Legality Of Putting Ex-President On Trial; GOP's Kinzinger To Republicans: Convict Trump To Save America. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired February 09, 2021 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WHITNEY WILD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But it's important to know that they are looking for any signs that this security posture in the district is capable of handling anything that may come their way. And then finally they are very concerned as you point out that the threat is continuing here in the nation's capital. And they're highly concerned by that Kate.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Whitney, thank you very much. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Kate Bolduan, CNN special coverage of the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump starts right now.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is CNN special live coverage of a historic moment in America, the second impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And I'm Jake Tapper. This Senate convenes at 1pm eastern about an hour from now. Today Senators become something like jurors and the case before them. They witnessed former President Trump faces a single charge incitement of insurrection, spurring a horde of radical right wing terrorists to breach the Capitol.
The Mayhem left five dead that day including U.S. Capitol police officer, Brian Sicknick in one of the darkest days in modern history for America's democracy.
BLITZER: The trial starts with debate and then a vote on whether the proceeding against the former president is constitutional. The source says that citizen Trump is telling former aides and advisers that he's convinced the Senate will acquit him. The former president's lawyers that dismiss the impeachment effort as a witch hunt a political revenge campaign and what they call Trump derangement syndrome gone awry.
TAPPER: Democrats conversely paint the terror attack on the seat of U.S. democracy as the logical and heinous conclusion of a month long campaign by Donald Trump and his allies including some Republican Senate accomplices to cast doubt on the election results. They say the president has no defense and the evidence of his
misconduct is overwhelming. Today's historic trial the first time a former president faces impeachment. And the first time a president faces a second impeachment will follow strict rules that have been agreed upon by parties, the impeachment managers and Trump's defense team. Soon as Pamela Brown joins us now to explain. Pamela explains to us how this is going to play out.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well Jake today is all about the constitutionality of this trial. You're going to have four hours of debate on the constitutionality. As you pointed out Republicans and Trump team have argued that it's unconstitutional to try to have this trial because Trump is now a private citizen.
And then you have the Democrats, the impeachment managers who have argued this is about accountability. The constitution allows for Trump to be held accountable for his actions inciting the riot when he was president. So you're going to hear that debate today.
And then there'll be a simple majority vote to proceed given the breakdown in the Senate. We do expect it to proceed after that vote.
BROWN: Go ahead?
TAPPER: Go ahead Brown.
BROWN: Yes. And then after that you have up to 16 hours on each side to present. So you're going to have the impeachment managers and then you're going to have Trump's defense team presenting for hours for Senators, questions after that as we know from the last impeachment trial and 2020. Those are written questions.
And if witnesses are requested there'll be two hours of debate on whether that can be allowed in a vote still unclear. That's going to be a request from those impeachment managers. And then we'll be up to four hours of closing arguments evenly divided. Jake.
TAPPER: And Pamela to our viewers this might feel a little familiar because we just went through a similar process last year. Walk us through some of the significant differences.
BROWN: Well there are a lot of differences. I mean first of all this is historic. As you pointed out in the opening the fact that a former president is being that there's an impeachment trial. And for a number of other reasons you look at the differences here.
And 2020 you look just at the breakdown is different. You had 53 Republicans, 47 Democrats in the Senate this year. Look it's 50-50. So that's a big difference from the last time and the articles are different. Last time abuse of power obstruction this time just one article, incitement of insurrection and a big different drill.
So going to notice this time around is who is presiding over it last time for tradition for the constitution Chief Justice John Roberts. Well now we're going to have President Pro Tempore, Senator Patrick Leahy presiding over this. And so there are a number of differences aside from just the historic nature of what we're about to see with this impeachment trial.
TAPPER: Of course one key similarity they need 67 votes to convict, 67 votes a tall order. Pamela Brown thanks so much. Wolf?
BLITZER: A very tall order. Indeed the house of patriot managers will use video footage to make the case then President Trump incited the violent insurrection on Capitol Hill on January 6. The nine House Democrats serving as impeachment managers were selected by the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
And the group plans to push back on the Trump legal defense team and Senate Republicans who argue that putting a former president on trial is unconstitutional. The group will also cite that Trump's month's long campaign alleging widespread election fraud is the cause of the deadly riot. Our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is up on Capitol Hill. Will we find out today on Manu if the managers intend to call witnesses?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is still an open question Wolf. I am told by multiple Democrats that one reason why they have not said whether or not they are going to call witnesses of their preserving that option in case. And Trump's team has said something that requires them to call witnesses to rebut any of the arguments coming from the former president's team.
So that is one reason why that is unresolved, but the moment they are not requesting witnesses. And that means that this could be a relatively speedy trial. We could see a final acquittal vote happened in the Senate Sunday or Monday after the arguments take place.
Now we also expect there to be new evidence presented by the house democratic impeachment manager's new video footage showing what happened during those the insurrection. And the argument by Democrats that Donald Trump's incited these in these insurrection as they were listening to his words, they're going to show video.
And also court filings to document their evidence and their view that Donald Trump was the reason why these protesters, these demonstrators, these riders came to Capitol Hill and left a scene of deaths, death and destruction.
Now what Pamela noted today is going to be a debate about the constitutionality of this case. Then afterwards we're going to get into the debates about the merits. One of the things that Democrats are going to try to convince Republicans is to keep those two questions separate focus on the mayor and the constitutional aspect today. There'll be a vote that will be dispensed with then focus on the merits.
Their hope is they can convince Republicans ultimately to vote on the merits and believe that Donald Trump should never hold office again. Of course it needs 17 Republican Senators to join all 50 Democrats to convict then a later simple majority vote to borrow from ever serving an office again.
But Wolf I can tell you in talking to Republican Senators, they still believe is unconstitutional. There's very little they can do to change their minds. And in the one of one Republican Senator, Oklahoma's James Lankford telling reporters yesterday there's probably not anybody in this building whose mind is not already made up.
And one top Republican Senator Roy Blunt told me he will vote he thinks is unconstitutional. And he's probably going to vote the same way on the ultimate vote to acquit Donald Trump. So you can see the high hurdles facing Democrats, but nevertheless they're telling me today Wolf they expect to lay out a "devastating case" to make the case that this is essentially a violent criminal act incited by the president.
BLITZER: And very quickly Manu this trial is going to go on not just the rest of this week but Saturday and Sunday as well. Is that right?
RAJU: Saturday for certain the question will be whether or not the Trump team decides to use all 16 hours of their arguments. They could decide to yield back some of that time which is why we could see this vote come really quickly potentially as soon as Sunday to acquit the former president.
BLITZER: All right Manu thanks very much. Anderson, over to you.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Wolf, Donald Trump's defense team plans to argue it is unconstitutional to put a former president on trial. And that the former president did not incite the deadly mob assault on the Capitol on January 6, despite telling the crowd of supporters to fight like hell. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Sources tell CNN Trump does not believe there will be enough Senate Republican votes to convict him and he feels he'll be acquitted after 45 GOP Senators voted last month to declare the proceeding unconstitutional. But the former president is concerned about his potential exposure to criminal prosecution after the trial is complete.
And with me CNNs Chief Domestic Correspondent Jim Acosta. So what did the former president's attorneys plan to present?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: Anderson I think a lot of the arguments that we're going to be hearing from the president's defense lawyers during this impeachment trial is essentially what we're going to be hearing today. And that is that it is unconstitutional to try and convict somebody who was out of office, somebody who is a private citizen.
That is what they're going to be resting most of their case on. They're also going to be arguing as we've been hearing over the last several days that they view what President Trump, former President Trump said on January 6 was a protected speech.
And that he was not trying to incite any kind of deadly insurrection at the Capitol even though that is exactly what unfolded. Anderson one of the things that I'm also hearing is that and you just mentioned this a few moments ago is that former President Trump believes he's going to be acquitted in all of this.
He does not believe there are going to be enough Republican Senators who are going to convict him vote to convict him at the end of this process. But there are other matters on the former president's mind.
I'm told by a source familiar with his thinking source familiar with some of these discussions that the former president has been having down here at Mar-a-Lago that Trump is concerned about the potential for criminal prosecution after this impeachment trial wraps up. And that he is concerned about facing charges and unrelated criminal matters that have nothing to do with the deadly insurrection that happened on January 6.
Now we did see the former president's office respond to some of this reporting out there that authorities down in Georgia are looking at charging or at least investigating whether to charge former President Trump as it relates to that phone call that he had with the Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
ACOSTA: During that phone call Trump was asking about how he can go about obtaining 11,000 votes so he could overturn the results in that state. That is one matter that his office down here Mar-a-Lago has responded to his advisor Jason Miller put out a statement saying that there was nothing inappropriate about that phone call.
And that of course a secretary of state should expect to have those kinds of phone calls. But Anderson getting back to this other news that we're reporting, I am told by a source familiar with Trump's thinking that he has been reaching out to aides associates allies to gauge what they think might be his potential exposure to other unrelated criminal matters after this impeachment trial is over.
And so if and we expect the president to survive - former president to survive this impeachment process, not being convicted to be acquitted at the end of all this. He does have other legal troubles that he's concerned about moving forward. Anderson?
COOPER: What do we know about how involved the former president has been with his defense with his new attorneys? And I mean is he going to be watching the proceedings this week?
ACOSTA: Yes, we do expect him to be watching some of the proceedings that Trump would not be Trump if he were not glued to cable television and watching some of this unfold. He's addicted to it just like he was addicted to his twitter feed when that was still up and running.
But he has been having discussions with his attorneys on a regular basis Bruce Caster, David Schoen. But we're also hearing Anderson that other attorneys have been brought on to the case Michael Van Der Veen and another attorney Julianne Bateman.
These two attorneys have been coming on board to essentially you know, I guess, augment the president's legal team because it is only at this point for up until this point was only two attorneys. Trump as we all know has been accustomed to larger legal teams.
In the past there were a whole slew of lawyers who worked on his first impeachment trial, and they're now beefing up it sounds like beefing up the legal team. Just at the last minute here as this next impeachment trial, the second impeachment trial is about to get underway. Anderson?
COOPER: Jim Acosta thanks very much. Jake back to you.
TAPPER: Thanks Anderson. Joining me now CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash and CNN Senior Political Correspondent Abby Philip. Dana, let me start with you. Today is going to be a focus on the constitutionality of it. And the truth of the matter is that according to the nonpartisan congressional research service, most scholars who have looked into this say that it is constitutional.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
TAPPER: You know these Republican Senators, well; you cover them all the time. How many do you think that say it's unconstitutional are actually saying it because of the merits they actually feel that way?
And they've studied it and looked into the trial, former secretary of war for Ulysses S. Grant, et cetera. And how many are just looking for an off ramp so they don't have to take a position that would go contrary to Trump?
BASH: The latter is the majority; I think it's fair to say. And we just have to look at the fact that it's pretty clear that even before these Senators had the opportunity to study that, I mean, they all have Google like we do. But for the most part they're looking for an off ramp, a desk to hide under, you know, a process out. That's just the way it is.
There is pushback on that. And not just from Democrats, but from some lawyers in the Republican Party who are saying that's just not true. Chuck Cooper, Charles cooper who was a lawyer for John Bolton who is a very well respected lawyer in Republican circles wrote this op-ed over the weekend saying absolutely not this is wrong.
It is wrong to say it is not constitutional; it actually is constitutional to try a former president. So you know we'll see if at the end of today which is the day that both sides are going to make arguments about the constitutionality, whether anyone is swayed. But I think for this particular argument you nailed it with your question. It is political. TAPPER: And then the rest of the debate will be about after the
constitutionality issue is over. In future days we'll see a lot more about what President Trump did, what he did not do. And one of the things that's so interesting in reading the brief offered by Trump's attorneys is they make declarations that are just contrary to the facts that we all saw play out.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
TAPPER: Like such as Trump's intention was not to stop the counting of electoral votes.
TAPPER: Of course it was he said it he tweeted it. That was the whole point.
PHILLIP: Yes. And if you read the briefs, it's really it highlights the art of omission. That if you just ignore all the things that he said and did on the day of the riot and in the days leading up to the riot, it will all just make sense. And this will be totally fine and acceptable.
But if you take into consideration the things that the president did actually say tweeted during the riot, a tweeting about Mike Pence failing to do what he wanted him to do which was overturned the results of the election.
PHILLIP: Tweeting to his supporters basically a statement that said this is what happens when you don't give the election to me effectively. Those were all things that also happened on that day and are completely ignored in this brief.
So you're going to see, I think the president's, the former president's lawyers presenting this very rosy picture of that, that rally that happened right before the riot in which you know, former President Trump was talking about how these were all patriots and how they love America.
And that they should go peacefully down Pennsylvania Avenue. But it is the entirety of the picture that I think is what has led to this moment. It's not just what he said in brief snippets on that morning, but also the totality of it. What he wanted his supporters to do was to stop the constitutional process.
And specifically to send a message to his vice president and to members of congress that this process could be stopped by his own support. BASH: And one thing you mentioned omission, one of the other interesting things that is not in the president's lawyers very lengthy brief that they put out yesterday is the election was rigged.
BASH: And you know our reporting is that the former president's first set of lawyers quit in part because of money dispute. But also because Trump was insistent on them putting in a brief the election was rigged, which they said that is not true. Mr. Former President.
TAPPER: Well speaking of - go ahead I am sorry.
BASH: No, no, just to add to that, I was told this morning by a source who talks to former President Trump that he still believes or he still wants to believe that the election was rigged. But on this particular issue he was beaten down by the people around him saying it is not in your interest to put it into this brief before this impeachment trial.
TAPPER: Just to underline the fundamental contradiction of so much of this argument. They don't call him former President Trump.
TAPPER: In the brief.
TAPPER: They call him President Donald Trump as if he is still president because his spirit is brittle. And they don't want to offend him by calling him former President Trump.
At that same time they are making the argument that he cannot be impeached or convicted because he is a former president and not the current president. So I mean none of it makes any sense. But you know this is what we've been dealing with.
PHILLIP: Just as a reminder, he was impeached as a sitting president.
PHILLIP: He might just be tried as a former president, which I think is an important distinction that we'll have to keep in mind as we go through these arguments this--
TAPPER: Yes absolutely. And the focus today of course is going to be on the constitutionality of it. Dana and Abby stay with us. Wolf?
BLITZER: Guys, thank you. Moments from now Senators will begin to arrive in the trial will begin. Plus security right now at the U.S. Capitol on very high alert all of this week during the trial. We're going to take you there for an update. And more of the riots suspects are not blaming the president.
We should say the former president for bringing them to the U.S. Capitol how their own words will be used against Trump. This is CNN special live coverage.
[12:20:00] BLITZER: In about 40 minutes or so the second impeachment trial of
Donald Trump is set to begin Senators will relive the terror of just a few weeks ago; when pro Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol sending lawmakers running for cover. That threat of violence continues to grip the nation's Capitol right now with the U.S. Capitol building the entire complex under truly extraordinary security.
Let's go to our Crime and Justice Correspondent Shimon Prokupecz who's over by the Capitol gates for us right now. Shimon this enhanced security goes way beyond the national mall.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It does. So Wolf we're here outside the Capitol. I want to show you some of the fencing here that continues surrounding the entire Capitol. You could see the razor wire here. This is still all over the Capitol, the complex surrounded with this fencing.
And then you can see also Wolf the National Guard still here you see some of the military vehicles and then further over here to over my right. National Guard troops still lining the perimeter of the Capitol. So for blocks really this entire area still closed off.
This Wolf is one of the checkpoints to get inside the Capitol. We've seen lawmakers come in here with security. Of course lawmakers also have extra security. There's a lot of concern over threats that some of the lawmakers have received. The impeachment managers also have extra security.
Of course officials here taking nothing for granted as we are going to continue to see this stepped up security here at the Capitol, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, I've been in Washington for a long time. I haven't seen security around the U.S. Capitol complex the Capitol, the house and Senate office buildings. I haven't seen this. I don't think ever Shimon will get back to you. Let's hope it's quiet up there.
One of the house members who did vote to impeach Trump now urging Senators to convict the former president to save America. That plea is coming not from a Democrat, but Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger. He was one of the ten House Republicans to do so.
In a Washington Post op-ed article Kinzinger writes this and I'm quoting, "this isn't a waste of time." It's a matter of accountability. If the GOP doesn't take a stand the chaos of the past few months and the past four years could quickly return. The future of our party and our country depends on confronting what happened.
So it doesn't happen again. Impeachment offers a chance to say enough is enough. The congressman told CNN earlier today. He worries about the president and acquittal in the Senate would set.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Instead what we've had for the last four years of president that's focused on division stark is stoking the darkness and everybody's heart. And I fear what happens is there will be another president someday that sees that as a model and decides he or she is going to emulate that. And that's frightening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Our Chief National Correspondent John King is with me. As he always is, let's discuss what we just heard from Kinzinger. Do you think he's really changing minds of some of his fellow Republicans?
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: He has the courage to try. The Senate trial will be the first test. He was one of ten, as you noted, that's just shy of 5 percent, 5 percent of the 210 House Republicans who were willing to say this president, former president now must be held accountable. They chose to impeach him.
So here's the question for Senate Republicans don't hide behind the constitutionality argument, don't hide behind the ridiculous argument that he's gone now. Because or that he lost the election and he's gone now, because he did all this after the election.
Will there be a conversation about accountability? If you want to make the case we do not believe he should be convicted in this impeachment trial. What is your alternative? And I think Congressman Kinzinger, Congresswoman Cheney; those ten raise a critical point for the Republican Party.
Because they are of the belief and there's plenty of evidence to support it that where has the Republican Party gone in the four years of Trump. They have supported denial, supported conspiracy, supported fiction, supported fantasy, supported a big lie, many lies, but the biggest one at the end and attack on our very democracy?
So if you don't want to convict him, what is your accountability? Where is it? And I think that's a fascinating conversation that Congressman Kinzinger is willing to have, he's willing to help lead. The question is where does it go?
The next installment of that is what happens over the next several days in the United States Senate. How many Republicans vote again that this is not constitutional? And then do Republicans have an open mind? We all sit here today saying there are not the 17 votes to convict. OK, it's the beginning of a trial; they take an oath to have an open mind as to the Democrats. But they take an oath to have an open mind if you say I will not vote to convict, you're not doing your job.
So that's my biggest question. What is the accountability if not a conviction? OK stand up; make a case to your constituents, to your Senate colleagues and to the country. This is the wrong accountability. Here's the right accountability that is completely missing from the Republican Party except for the lonely people like Congressman Kinzinger and the ten in the house and some around the country. But this is - the Republican Party is on trial here to not just Donald Trump.
BLITZER: Kinzinger, you and I know him. We've spoken to him on many occasions. He's a courageous guy. He's a military veteran served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He says he's received tens of thousands of messages of support from his constituents not all of them, but many of them. Most of them have been supportive. But that's not the case with a lot of the other nine House Republicans who voted to impeach the former president.
KING: They're being censured by state parties. Some of them are getting threats of violence and worse death threats. And many of them will get primary challenges. It is likely someone will primary Liz Cheney, there's likely somebody will primary Congressman Kinzinger.
That is one of the places this will be litigated the first jury if you will, the first court is the Senate this week, this case will be litigated there. And then this civil war, this who do we want to be? Who do we stand with?
Who are who do we try to push to the sidelines which Congressman Kinzinger, Congresswoman Cheney trying to push Donald Trump to the sidelines that will be litigated in the 2022 midterm elections in the Republican primaries, it will be litigated again in 2024.
That is what a lot of Republicans are worried about. You heard Congressman Kinzinger talking about another future president down the road. They're worried that once again they are empowering and enabling Donald Trump to be - to remain a giant political force in their party.
He is of the belief Congressman Kinzinger and those other ten, that that's cancer. That that's a toxic - toxic cancer in the Republican Party and it must shed that. But the Senate vote will be the first test in that Wolf and then we're going to be at this for the next several election cycles.
BLITZER: I want you to listen to what Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said today trying to make the case move on. It's old news. There are other priorities right now including COVID. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): Here's the problem. And I've said this already beginning today at 1 o'clock and for the next seven or eight days the U.S. Senate is not going to be focused on that. It's going to be focused on the impeachment trial of a president that's no longer in office.
And this impeachment trial I'm asking how many people is going to get vaccinated because of this impeachment trial? None. How many people are going to find a job because of this impeachment trial? None. We are going to spend a week focused on something that is not going to help anyone with the thing that matters in this country the most right now. And that's a terrible thing. That's a waste of our time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What did you think of that?
KING: Number one, he's on the ballot in 2022. Just pure and-- BLITZER: Re-election.
KING: Pure and simple on the ballot in 2022. And if he runs for re- election, he wants to stay in the former president's good graces, the guy who was mocked his little Marco back in the 2016. Primaries like many of those people who were mocked by the president who then called him a cancer on the Republican Party, who then said if he was elected he would destroy the Republican Party.