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CNN Live Event/Special
House Impeachment Managers President Case to Convict Trump; Soon, Trump's Attorneys Will Argue Against Constitutionality of Trial. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired February 09, 2021 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): Indeed, does anyone in this chamber honestly believe that, but for the conduct of President Trump, that a charge in the article of impeachment that that attack at the capitol would have occurred, does anybody believe that?
And now his lawyers will come before you and insist, even as the capitol is still surrounded with barbed wires and fences and soldiers, that we should just move on, let bygones be bygones, and allow President Trump to walk away without any accountability, any reckoning, any consequences. That cannot be right.
That is not unity, that's the path to fear what future presidents could do. So there's a good reason why this Article of Impeachment passed the House with bipartisan support. The principles at stake belong to all Americans from all walks of life. We have a common interest in making clear that there are lines nobody can cross, especially the president of the United States.
And so we share an interest in this trial where the truth can be shone, and where President Trump can be called to account for his offenses. William Faulkner famously wrote that the past is never dead, but this isn't even the past -- this just happened, it's still happening.
Look around you as you come to the Capitol and come to work. I really do no believe that our attention span is so short, that our sense of duty is so frail, our factional loyalty is so all consuming that the president and provoke an attack on Congress itself and get away with it just because it occurred near the end of his term.
After a betrayal like this, there cannot be unity without accountability. And this is exactly what the Constitution calls for, the framers original understanding, this chamber's own precedent, and the very words used in the Constitution all confirm unquestionably, indisputably that President Trump must stand trial for his high crimes and misdemeanors against the American people.
We must not -- we cannot continue down the path or partisanship and division that has turned the Capitol into an armed fortress. Senators, it now falls to you to bring our country together by holding this trial. And once all the evidence is before you, by delivering justice. Thank you.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Senators, Mr. President. To close, I want to say something personal about the stakes of this decision whether President Trump can stand trial and be held to account for inciting insurrection against us.
This trial is personal indeed for every Senator, for every member of the House, every manager -- all of our staff, the Capitol police, the Washington D.C. Metropolitan police, the National Guard, maintenance and custodial crews, the print journalists and T.V. people who are here and all of our families and friends. And I hope this trial reminds America how personal democracy is, and how personal is the loss of democracy too.
Distinguished members of the Senate, my youngest daughter Tabitha (ph) was there with me on Wednesday January 6. It was the day after we buried her brother, our son Tommy (ph). The saddest day of our lives. Also there was my son-in-law, Hank (ph) whose married to our oldest daughter, Hannah (ph). And I consider him a son too, even though he eloped with my daughter and didn't tell us what they were going to do.
But it was in the middle of COVID-19.
But the reason they came with me that Wednesday January 6, was because they wanted to be together with me in the middle of a devastating week for our family. And I told them I had to go back to work because we were counting electoral votes that day on January 6. It was our constitutional duty.
And I invited them instead to come with me, to witness this historic event -- the peaceful transfer of power in America. And they said they heard that President Trump was calling on his followers to come to Washington to protest, and they asked me directly would it be safe? Would it be safe? And I told them, of course it should be safe; this is the Capitol.
Steny Hoyer, our Majority Leader, had kindly offered me the use of his office on the House floor because I was one of the managers that day and we were going through our grief.
So Tabitha and Hank were with me in Steny's office as colleagues dropped by to console us about the loss of our middle child, Tommy. Our beloved Tommy. Mr. Neguse and Mr. Cicilline actually came to see me that day. Dozens of members, lots of Republicans, lots of Democrats came to see me. And I felt a sense of being lifted up from the agony. And I won't forget their tenderness.
And through the tears I was working on a speech for the floor when we would all be together in joint session. And I wanted to focus on unity when we met in the House. I quoted Abraham Lincoln's famous 1838 Lyceum speech where he said that "of division and destruction ever come to America, it won't come from abroad but will come from within, " said Lincoln.
And in that same speech Lincoln passionately deplored mob violence. This was right after the murder of Elijah Lovejoy, the abolitionist newspaper editor. And Lincoln deplored mob violence and he deplored mob rule and he said it would lead to tyranny and despotism in America. That was the speech I gave that day after the House, very graciously and warmly welcomed me back.
And Tabitha and Hank came with me to the floor and they watched it from the Gallery. And it was -- when it was over, they went back to that office, Steny's office, off of the House floor. They didn't know that the House had been breached yet and that an insurrection, a riot, or a coup had come to Congress.
And by the time we learned about it, about what was going on, it was too late. I couldn't get out there to be with them in that office. And all around me people were calling their wives and their husbands, their loved ones to say goodbye. Members of Congress, in the House anyway, were removing their congressional pins so they wouldn't be identified by the mob as they tried to escape the violence.
Our new chaplain got up and said a prayer for us and we were told to put our gas masks on. And then there was a sound I will never forget, the sound of pounding on the door like a battering ram. It was the most haunting sound I ever heard and I will never forget it. My chief of staff, Julie Tagen (ph), was with Tabitha and Hank locked and barricaded in that office. The kids hiding under the desk, placing what they thought were their final texts and whispered phone calls to say their goodbyes.
They thought they were going to die.
My son-in-law had never even been to the Capitol before. And when they were finally rescued over an hour later by Capitol officers, and we were together, I hugged them and I apologized. And I told my daughter Tabitha, who is 24 and a brilliant Algebra teacher in Teach for America now, I told her how sorry I was and I promised her that it would not be like this again the next time she came back to the Capitol with me.
And you know what she said? She said, Dad, I don't want to come back to the Capitol. Of all the terrible, brutal things I saw and I heard on that day, and since then that one hit me the hardest. That and watching someone use an American flag pole with the flag still on it to spear and pummel one of our police officers ruthlessly, mercilessly, tortured by a pole with a flag on it that he was defending with his very life.
People died that day. Officers ended up with head damage and brain damage. People's eyes were gouged. An officer had a heart attack. An officer lost three fingers that day. Two officers have taken their own lives.
Senators, this cannot be our future. This cannot be the future of America. We cannot have presidents inciting and mobilizing mob violence against our government and our institutions because they refuse to accept the will of the people under the Constitution of the United States. Much less can we create a new January exception in our precious beloved Constitution that prior generations have died for and fought for so that corrupt presidents have several weeks to get away with whatever it is they want to do.
History does not support a January exception in any way. So why would we invent one for the future? We close, Mr. President, and reserve our time.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I ask unanimous consent -- I ask unanimous consent. There will now be a 10-minute break. I ask unanimous consent, the Senate recess for 10 minutes.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): Without objection, so ordered.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Democrats have just gaveled for a 10-minute break.
Let's discuss what we've just seen while we wait for the Senate to reconvene.
Abby, let me start with you.
I think it was very powerful, that video montage they put together that seemed to proceed through time, although there weren't specific time stamps on events from the rally to the violence, making the case that Donald Trump got what he wanted.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR, "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY": And preemptively refuting some arguments we are likely to hear later on when the president's lawyers make their case, which is that the idea that the president could not have incited the riot because the riot started before he finished his speech is untrue.
As the video laid out, people who were in attendance at the president's rally before the riot were listening to his words and then repeating back to him, "We have to take the capitol."
And repeating those words, saying, "We are listening to Trump," your boss, saying that to the capitol police officers who were on the stage.
So the video seemed to lay out that the president's words encouraged people to leave the rally event, even before he finished his speech, to begin storming the capitol.
And then it lays out, and I think really, you know, damning detail how the president at various points encouraged the rioters, repeatedly saying to them, "I love you," in a tweet hours after the riot had occurred, saying, "Go home in peace. Remember this day forever."
Those are the kinds of comments that, not just the comments in the rally itself but everything that preceded after it, that I think is part of the argument here that Democrats are making. It wasn't just any one or two words in that context. It was everything
that happened also during and after the riot.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And it was the facts, but it was the feeling.
It's hard -- we can't see the Senators on the floor, but obviously, the whole point of that presentation -- and it was incredibly powerful -- was to lay out the facts and the timeline with the video, but to make them feel and to make them remember.
Because, as we said before, they're jurors. But they are also witnesses. And they're also victims. They were there.
And the notion of anybody listening to that and watching that, and for all of them reliving it, and not being moved by it and not thinking twice about it is -- I can't even imagine.
Then on the constitutional question is the fact that Jamie Raskin, after he played that video, went through and explained the genesis of impeachment and the discussion at the Constitutional Convention about how and why impeachment would be in the Constitution.
And said it actually came from the U.K. and from people who were tried and convicted after they left office. I thought that was fascinating.
And, again, hard to imagine even the Republicans who are looking for a political out with the constitutionality question can -- they have to think twice listening to that.
TAPPER: Maybe. I'm not sure they have to think twice about this.
TAPPER: Because honestly, I have to say, five people are dead directly from that day. There have been at least two or three suicides subsequent, two of them, of police officers.
So people -- I mean even Kevin McCarthy, who is one of the most sycophantic public officials, has said Donald Trump bears some responsibility for that day.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, much more aggressive in his criticism.
Even with that, with dead people, I have to wonder, what if the crowd actually had gotten to Mike Pence. What if this had gotten even worse?
Abby, we were talking about this earlier.
Five people killed that day. Dozens more maimed for -- you know, injuries, wounds they're going to have forever. Three fingers lost, an eye lost, brain damage. What if a member of Congress or Vice President Pence, god forbid, had
been killed? I honestly don't think that anything would be different on the floor of the Senate.
PHILLIP: Yes, I tend to agree with you. Because, when you listen to what Republicans are saying, none of them are actually grappling with what happened. They're just -- just a step before that they're saying, we should just give him a pass for this one thing. That's just --
TAPPER: A mulligan.
PHILLIP: Literally, one Republican Senator called it a mulligan.
TAPPER: -- a mulligan.
PHILLIP: -- called it a mulligan.
Let's just move forward. They keep talking about this idea of unity.
But the really simple constitutional idea that Jamie Raskin and the other impeachment managers put on the table today that is it doesn't require you to be a lawyer or attorney to understand,
It is that if you are the president of the United States, if there's such a giant loophole in the Constitution that allows you to get away with whatever you want in the final weeks of your term, that is something that is a profound problem for this country. It's because it effectively means you can do whatever you want.
Jamie Raskin said very clearly, he said, it is in these moments that this principle is needed the most. He says that -- that it is -- that it would impeach -- "The impeachable offense is when you need it the most -- it's precisely when you need it the most because that is when elections are attacked."
That is the idea here, that if you want to stay in office -- if Republicans are correct in this, if you want to stay in office, you can do whatever you want in the last three weeks. There are no consequences.
BASH: That's exactly right.
And also, kind of to take that a step further, especially given the fact that the current thinking at the Justice Department since Richard Nixon has been that presidents can't be indicted for crimes.
Because the whole point is they need to be tried by the Senate. They need to be tried by the House and the Senate, I should say, through the impeachment process.
So if there's no recourse for a president after he leaves office, even if he does something in January, that January exception he was talking about, then does that mean that there are -- that there's a way for the president to be tried in a regular court of law? I would imagine that his lawyers are going to argue the answer is
absolutely not because presidents should be treated differently. So then, it's a "which is it" question?
PHILLIP: You can't have it both ways.
TAPPER: And, Anderson, it's an interesting thing because we are used to Republicans posturing about law and order and accountability.
And here we have House Republicans a few days ago saying Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who spewed all of these bigoted, insane conspiracy theories, saying she should not be held accountable for things she said before she was elected.
Now, the Senate Republicans are basically saying President Trump should not be held accountable for the things he said after he was elected, after he left office, which just begs the question: When are you held accountable for what?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Any watching of the video that was played just today in the Senate chambers, after watching that, the president's supporters who were attacking the capitol, the former president of the United States cannot claim to be a law-and-order president when you have the crowds chanting, "Kill the blue."
COOPER: We saw them hurling insults and fists and objects and the American flag and a hockey stick at officers. And as you said, and gouging out an eye, but also lost three fingers. And one officer was killed. Two others have died by suicide.
Any claim by them that they are lovers of law and order, it rings hollow, certainly after seeing that.
I want to bring in Ross Garber, Norm Eisen and Laura Coates for legal analysis and constitutional analysis.
Ross, Representative Jamie Raskin was extremely, you know, focused on the constitutional argument, going back in history. But also making it a very personal argument in a very emotional way at the end.
And he talked about this January exemption, which, when phrased as he did, it does seem moronic to believe that there should be a magical exemption for the month of January where a president can do anything they want and get away with it.
ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Let me say this. I could -- I could argue about the law, but what we just saw was a master class in advocacy, you know, from all of the managers.
Anderson, you and I spent time together during the first Trump trial and I was very critical of the advocacy in this trial. This really was a master class. They started off, they reminded everyone why we were sitting through
this, why this was happening. And I think they did it that very effectively.
And then they marched through the law. They talked about the Constitution. They talked about the history. They talked about the precedent.
And then they brought it back again, back to something personal. And then they widened it out and talked about why this was so significant, that it was about the country. This was a master class.
As to that specific point, I think, in some ways, it's not the best point to make. Although, they spent a lot of time, you know, talking about that. Because the worst thing that's going to happen to Trump in this, the worst thing if he's convicted, is disqualification. That's it.
And I don't think that's, you know, a particularly effective deterrent for presidents.
And also, you know, the thing that I think probably would be a deterrent exists. There's the criminal law. And if Trump committed a crime, as is alleged, he potentially has to answer for that in the criminal system.
COOPER: Laura, what did you make of the presentation?
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I was blown away by the end and Congressman Jamie Raskin talking about the description of what it was like for people, what it was like in the room from where it happened, from what their perspective was so compelling.
And it complemented so well the video evidence that really brought us back.
Remember, when we all watched on January 6th, we were watching in disjointed fashion. We didn't see it in this grand scheme of things and the timeline of the president's words and his reaction and what his unique position was. It was very, very compelling.
And it brought me back to one point. There was a question that was raised by Congressman Cicilline. It's rhetorical. And he said, but for President Trump's conduct, do any of you really believe the insurrection would have happened?
And I wish we could have panned the actual crowd there in the audience because I think it's you'd be hard pressed to say, yes, it would have happened anyway. It was inevitable.
And that question is going to linger through the course of the trial and a presentation of evidence. But for this person's conduct, but for the behavior, but for the statements, but for his actions, would we even be here today?
And that's the core question that will have to be answered. And, frankly, they did a very compelling job of doing so.
Of course, the flip side, the defense is going to argue, I think quite well at one point, that if you're talking about, as Ross described, that -- that removal is no longer possible, then you're asking for them to disqualify and potentially usurp the role of the voter.
And then we back to the idea of, well, who is stealing the vote now. So it's going to be a bit circular going forward. I'm eager to hear what their defense will be.
But I've got that question in my mind. But for Trump, would we be here? I think the question and the answer is no.
COOPER: Norm Eisen?
NORM EISEN, FORMER COUNSEL FOR HOUSE DURING TRUMP'S FIRST IMPEACHMENT: Well, Anderson, it was a powerful presentation. The art of trial law is the art of surprise.
And they didn't just argue the abstract constitutional issues. They put on that visceral video. Three points of view there that animate what we're doing here.
You have the perspective of Trump. You heard his words. You have the perspective of the rioters, those horrifying scenes. And the perspective of the members of Congress, including those same Senators.
And the personal touch reminding us that when we talk about defending America, when we talk about rule of law, when we talk about the constitution, we're talking about human, beings like Congressman Raskin, Lead Manager Raskin's daughter, Tabitha.
The humor when he brought us to such poignancy and then reminded us that her husband, Tommy, who was also there, had eloped and everyone laughed. That catharsis is part of drawing people in emotionally.
I thought that was very, very powerful at the end to animate the constitutional principles.
And Anderson, they clearly are not just talking to these Senators. They are talking to the American people.
And it's not just Donald Trump who is on trial. It's the Republican Senators who are on trial in the eyes of America.
Will they do the thing? And I agree with you, there's no constitutional basis not to try an ex-president. I'll take exception to Ross. I think disqualification is powerful here to protect the country.
Will those Senators do the right thing? Will they yield to the power of law and the Constitution, to the power of emotions, the human beings who make America great? That's what this trial is about.
EISEN: So high drama as we begin today.
Wolf -- I want to go back to Wolf.
One of the things Representative Raskin said was that House members were taking off their identification as they were leaving because they were afraid that someone in the mob would recognize them as a member of Congress. That's an extraordinary detail.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Yes. They wear these little pins to show that they are a sitting member of the House of Representatives or a United States Senator.
And it's hard -- when we watched all of this, Anderson, it's hard to believe this was actually happening right here in the United States of America.
And I know people are watching not only across the country right now, but they are watching all over the world.
And, John, when people around the world and, of course, here in the United States, saw that powerful video, how it had been put together, reminding everybody what actually happened on January 6th, it was an amazing moment for these House impeachment managers but also for the country.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And for the world. It was a violent attack on America's democracy. And the vehicle for it was one of the shrines of our great democracy, the capitol building.
The emotion of that, it's traumatic. A lot of people watching that are probably upset again. A lot of people in that building who were there that day, that very day, including our colleagues, are reliving pain, are reliving fear.
But it's necessary because it's such a powerful piece of the evidence of this trial going forward.
But I think, as the lawyers were just discussing, it was just an excellent connection by the House managers in their case there.
Number one, the history, back to the Constitution and the framers. Remember, it's the Republicans who often say read "The Federalist Papers."
It's the Republicans who often say we're constitutional conservatives. It's the Republicans who often argue what the Democrats try to do are afoul of the framers.
What a powerful presentation, quoting the framers and quoting history of past impeachments, and saying we have every right to be here, every reason to be here. This trial must go forward. A very high bar for the president's lawyers on the history. A very powerful presentation on the facts, what happened that day.
And often, when you cover a trial, when one of the attorneys brings up emotion, it's because they can't argue the facts and they are trying to take you over here with you emotion.
The connection of a powerful factual presentation that was legitimate, visceral, painful, evocative emotions I think really made a strong case.
Now we'll hear the president's team try to argue it back.
But, again, I'll come back to this question. The burden in the procedural votes is on the Republicans.
What is your argument against what you just heard to say that this is not -- you can decide -- you haven't decided on your verdict vote yet. But what is your argument against holding a trial? What is your argument against that?
And, again, I'll come back to, if this is not the way to air it out, have a vote, will the former president be held accountable? If this is not the way, what's the alternative? Speak.
BLITZER: And what was also so powerful was that these impeachment managers are -- especially Joe Neguse, the congressman from Colorado -- they brought in conservative legal scholar opinions that it is, in fact, constitutional to have a trial of a former president of the United States.
And these are impressive legal scholars, the conservative ones, who are making the case, the case for the House impeachment managers, that it is constitutional.
KING: Both in prior days and in the current day, including Jonathan Turley, who the -- the first Trump impeachment trial, was part of the Trump defense, if you will.
And then I thought it was trademark -- it's sad but trademark -- that the House Democrats were showed -- shown and proved -- they didn't allege this, they proved it -- that, in the president's lawyer's -- former president's lawyer's brief, they took another constitutional scholar out of context. They misrepresented what he said.
And that very scholar had tweeted it. And the Democrats essentially turning to the president's team to say, even in your brief, you do something that was trademark of the Trump administration, you lie, you take somebody out of context.
BLITZER: You know, Jake, let's see how the Republican -- the president's -- the former president's lawyers now rebut all these. They have got a tough challenge right now because the House impeachment managers made a very, very powerful case.
TAPPER: Yes. In fact, let's go to Manu Raju who covers Capitol Hill for us. He's
speaking to Republican Senators in the hallway, getting their views of what they just heard.
Manu, what are you hearing?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot of Republican Senators, who I'm talking to, their minds are simply not changed.
They came into this believing this was an unconstitutional proceeding. They are still of the view that this is an unconstitutional proceeding.