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CNN Live Event/Special
Soon: Impeachment Managers Present Their Case Against Trump; Prosecutors in Georgia Open Criminal Investigation of Trump Call. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired February 10, 2021 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. You're watching special live CNN coverage of the historic second impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And I'm Jake Tapper. Day two of the trial starts about an hour from now. The House impeachment managers make their case first. They have up to 16 hours to do so.
The advantages are clear, but so is the steep challenge. Democrats promise to preview never-before-seen security footage that plainly shows the extreme violence they argue was encouraged and incited by then-President Trump's fact-free campaign against the election results.
The impeachment managers will say that the video of the insurrection will lay a powerful foundation for their case against the former president, a case they do not expect will take up all 16 hours available to them.
All 100 Senate jurors witnessed the capitol attack in one way or another, but that jury includes 50 Republican senators, some who, along with Trump, perpetuated that big lie, some who acted as shells for president Trump as he tried to toss aside democracy.
BLITZER: Big question today for House Democrats, will their prosecution of the former president include witnesses? Another big question, what will the president's defense look like?
This morning, there is rare consensus across both aisles that the president's legal team blundered its way through their opening presentation, rambled, disorganized, embarrassed, terrible. Those are how Republican senators label the performance of the president's two lawyers and their performance reportedly enraged the former president.
TAPPER: Also breaking news into CNN this hour, prosecutors in Georgia have opened a criminal investigation into then-President Trump's phone call to election officials there. In that call, the president tried to strong-arm officials to, quote, find sufficient votes to reverse his loss in Georgia. We'll have more on that in a moment. Meanwhile, while six Republican senators agreed with Democrats that
this impeachment trial is, indeed, constitutional, it is now up to the House managers, Democrats, to convince Republicans to actually convict Donald Trump. And those first arguments will begin soon.
CNN senior Washington correspondent Pamela Brown joins us now.
Pamela, how do we expect this to play out today?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's going to be a longer day today than what we saw yesterday. All the focus is going to be on the house impeachment managers. They have up to 16 hours to present their case today and tomorrow. The max is eight hours a day, and, as you pointed out, they don't have to take all that time and they very well may not take all that time.
And then on Friday, you have Trump's defense presenting up to 16 hours. So they have Friday and Saturday to make their case, and then there will be four hours for questions. This will be written questions from the senators, and if there are no witnesses, there could be closing arguments as soon as Sunday really -- Saturday or Sunday, the earliest possible vote on conviction if they do not call witnesses.
That is still an open question, whether or not that will happen. So this sort of the lay of the land of what we can see over the next few days and when this trial could essentially wrap up, Jake.
TAPPER: And what do we expect to hear in their arguments, the Democratic House impeachment managers?
BROWN: Well, we're going to be hearing a little bit more of the same from what we heard yesterday from the impeachment managers, that Trump singularly responsible for the insurrection after months of pushing the big election lie. Trump's speech as president is not protected as free speech. That's another big argument that we expect to hear from the impeachment managers. And also they're going to argue that former officials are subject to impeachment.
So, basically, we're going to hear more building on the case of what the impeachment managers made yesterday and also more video that we haven't seen yet in terms of the riot on January 6th.
TAPPER: All right. Pamela Brown, thank you so much -- Wolf.
BLITZER: As House impeachment managers, Jake, present their case, there are still holes in the details of what happened back on January 6th that are under investigation.
Our senior political analyst John Avlon is joining us.
John, how could the unanswered questions factor into the argument we're about to hear today?
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, as you say, there are still so many outstanding questions even one month after the attack. We might see some of them begin to be answered today in the defense.
Let's take a look at some of them. First, the question of the National Guard. Was there resistance?
We know the Pentagon put unusual restrictions upon the request for the National Guard upon the D.C. commander. We know it took an hour and 15 minutes to deploy the guard after the first request came in. And we also know that it wasn't Donald Trump who did it reportedly. It was Vice President Mike Pence. So, was this -- what was the reason for these restrictions?
Second of all, what was Trump's mindset during the attack? This gets to questions of intent. You know, Trump's lawyers pushed back on the idea that he did not take action, saying he immediately acted upon reports of the attack.
But that contradicts what people in the White House have told reporters. Even Liz Cheney, the congresswoman, his tweet calling Mike Pence a coward after the attack occurred raises real questions of culpability and incitement. Getting to that question could be key and that could require witnesses.
Third, and this is off people's radar. But one of the organizers of stop the steal, Ali Alexander, a Trump activist who've been retweeted by the president many times, alleged in a video that three members of Congress, Gosar, Brooks and Biggs coordinated with, schemed with him to promote this rally. And in his word, he said we four schemed up putting maximum pressure on Congress as they voted. What's the truth to that?
And, finally, I think the real questions about how rioters got maps of the capitol. People like Representative Jim Clyburn expressing real concern that rioters were able to find his private office so quickly. Local FBI reports we now know coming out the day before warning that some rioters were coming ready forward and armed with maps of the capitol. How did they get them? And does this indicate any coordination among vigilante groups in advance of the attack.
All these and more are questions the American people deserve answers to. We'll see if we start to get them today.
BLITZER: Yeah, they are important questions. Let's see if we get answers.
John Avlon reporting for us, thank you very much -- Jake.
TAPPER: Wolf, a key question as Democrats prepare to begin their prosecution, will they call witnesses? Think back to the first Trump impeachment trial about a year ago, and the main Democratic complaint, because the Republicans controlled the Senate at that point, centered on the inability to hear from people who could testify to the president's alleged crimes. This is what Democrats were saying a year ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Can't we take one week to hear from these witnesses? I think we can. I think we should. I think we must.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: You cannot be acquitted if you don't have a trial. You don't have a trial if you don't have witnesses and documentation.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: Nothing substitutes for direct testimony and cross examination of eyewitnesses who saw the gravamen of the charges against the president.
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The rest of America knows you cannot have a fair trial without the production of available witnesses who have relevant evidence.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): You know, there has never been an impeachment trial in U.S. history, not just for president but also for federal judges that have been impeached, that didn't have witnesses. That's what trials are about.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): I am very distressed that Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, wants to have a so-called trial but does not want to bring up witnesses.
SEN. TAMMY BALDWIN (D-WI): The Senate must support testimony from relevant witnesses with firsthand knowledge about President Trump's conduct.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): In order to be able to have a fair trial to reach a just conclusion, it's absolutely essential that we allow the witnesses to testify in the Senate, subject to cross examination so that we can, in fact, know the truth.
SCHUMER: What is a trial with no witnesses and no documents? It's a sham trial. And that's why we feel so strongly that there ought to be witnesses and documents.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Well, it's a very compelling group of arguments that it's a sham trial if you don't have witnesses. But we don't know if Democrats now in charge of the Senate are going to call witnesses for this impeachment trial.
Here with me to share their analyses, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, as well as CNN senior political analyst Abby Phillip.
And, Dana, let me start with you.
You just heard the Senate majority leader and the vice president of the United States in those clips, a year and change ago, saying it's a sham trial, it's not a trial if we don't have witnesses. We still don't know if the House Democrats, and the Senate now controlled by Democrats, are going to call witnesses. What gives?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We still don't know. You're right. You know, what gives is that no matter what party you are in, you're not impervious to thinking something is different when the shoe is on the other foot. That's just the reality of Washington. I don't care where you stand. You have to admit that is the case.
Having said that, the argument that I've heard from some Democrats is that what gives is this is different because of the nature of the crime that Donald Trump is being tried for in the Senate, and that is that every one of these senators were effective witnesses to what happened in terms of the violence at the capitol. What we don't know is really at the core of whether or not Donald Trump is culpable enough to be convicted is what he was saying not just in public which they showed in their video yesterday, but in private. So to call a witness who was with the president, who was in touch with the president.
You know, that would make sense, to bolster their claim that this was spurred by President Trump, and that is an open question whether or not they'll even try, even though we know they would be unlikely to actually get them to come.
TAPPER: Abby, listen to this, because, I mean, as Dana points out, some of these -- some of these senators, all these senators to one degree or another were witnesses. Some of them could actually, I mean, testify theoretically.
Take a listen to Republican Senator Ben Sasse who voted to proceed with the impeachment hearing. This is him talking to Hugh Hewitt about that day.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. BEN SASSE (R-NE): He wanted chaos on television. I don't have any idea what was in his heart about what he wanted to happen once they were in the capitol, but he wanted there to be chaos. I'm sure you've also had conversations with other senior White House officials as I have.
HUGH HEWITT, RADIO HOST: I have.
SASSE: As this was unfolding on television, Donald Trump was walking around the White House confused about why other people on his team weren't as excited as he was as you had rioters pushing against capitol police trying to get into the building.
HEWITT: That said --
SASSE: As it was happening, he was delighted.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
TAPPER: He was delighted.
Now, President Trump's attorneys both in briefs and yesterday on the floor said he never wanted the insurrection. He was, quote, horrified -- delighted and horrified are pretty much opposites.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's an explosive allegation that was made by a sitting United States senator who I would hazard to guess is not making it up. I actually do think it is -- it behooves Ben Sasse to elaborate on that and to provide information.
I mean, this is an impeachment hearing. It's a really critical moment for this country. And granting anonymity to his source in this case doesn't seem warranted given the gravity of the allegation that is being faced right now.
And so, there is a question about whether people like Sasse who have inside information based on conversations that he had that day, can share more about those conversations.
But we also know about other phone calls that were happening from the White House to -- trying to reach members of Congress. The president and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, trying to reach Senator Tommy Tuberville and not successfully reaching them, in the midst of the chaos, that actually does speak to the question of the president's mind set in the middle of the riot.
When the president's lawyer -- the former president's lawyers saying he was horrified by this, why was he then making calls to members of Congress asking them to continue to hold up the vote to certify the election? I think those are the points -- witnesses can continue to put that information out there. But it's already there. Those senators who witnessed those things have already said it publicly. They could say it again in the context of a trial.
But I think it speaks to why Democrats believe that all of this evidence not only was witnessed by people in the chamber, but has been publicly revealed already and is critical to piecing together the timeline here that pushing toward the president -- President Trump's alleged culpability in this issue.
TAPPER: And, Dana, to hear even Republicans talking about the president's lawyers yesterday and their shambolic performance. You would have thought it was Lionel Hutz who actually presented the defense.
You have reporting on the feedback and the fallout.
BASH: Yeah, and the fallout is that the president was not happy, which is understandable because the performance was atrocious by any standard, and what the president's legal team and more broadly the political team working with them are doing right now. They're scrambling to make more videos, to collect more footage and make more videos of Democratic who they say, for example, didn't concede right away or used the word "fight" when speaking at a rally or a protest. And the reason for that is because, A, they think it is more powerful,
especially in response to the incredibly powerful video that the Democrats had yesterday and will have again today, but also more poignantly, because they want that to replace the meandering and rambling arguments from the Trump legal team which they realize were just a disaster. And so that's going on.
The other interesting thing I heard is that, as the president is very unhappy, he is being reminded that you get the legal team that you pay for, A, because part of the reason he lost his legal team a couple weeks ago is because he wasn't willing to pay them appropriately. B, you get the legal team that you deserve in the sense that he had been pushing them to make the argument that the election was stolen. The original legal team said, we're not doing that.
They didn't do it yesterday, but this is the kind of thing that the president is pushing people to do, which is why he ended up with a team that wasn't exactly gangbusters.
TAPPER: And, Abby, on the point that Democrats have called for violence before and Democrats have used the word "fight" in speeches before, I mean, I think it's fair to say that Congresswoman Maxine Waters is somebody who a few years ago during child separation, she said something very fiery about get in the face of Trump administration officials and push back which is not the same thing as go and fight at the capitol. It raised a lot of eyebrows.
But it wasn't followed by a bunch of people in Maxine Waters t-shirts storming Sarah Sanders at restaurants and attacking. That didn't happen. If it had, then I'm sure Congresswoman Waters would have been criticized, but it didn't.
David Schoen, President Trump's attorney, kind of touched on this yesterday in a discussion on Fox. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID SCHOEN, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: They're using rhetoric that's just as inflammatory or more so. The problem is they don't really have followers, you know, their dedicated followers. And so, when they give their speeches --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So, his argument is -- he concedes there that Trump's language was inflammatory, his word, inflammatory. But he says Democrats don't have the kind of supporters who are willing to follow the inflammatory speech into a violent conclusion. I'm not sure that's the strong argument he thinks it is.
PHILLIP: Yeah, I'm not sure what more there is to say. I mean, the reality is, he's actually making the case that the impeachment managers are likely to make, which is that it's the context of what he said, not just the words in abstract. But in the context of this particular day in which Trump was saying to his supporters you can help stop this, and that's what they ended up actually doing.
And that's different from, you know, Democrats saying Trump should be impeached and there was a woman's march shortly after the inauguration in which people peacefully marched in the streets. They didn't march on the capitol and break in. And there's a big difference between those two things.
And then beyond that, what was said after the riots were occurring? The answer is nothing. Nothing was said.
That's not my word for it. As you saw in the video yesterday, several of the president's former advisors and supporters were pleading with him to say something. He didn't say anything. So, it's the context, not just the words.
David Schoen made probably -- the impeachment managers would probably like to take that case from him and use it today because that's exactly the point --
BASH: And you could make the argument that the more rabid your supporters, the more responsibility you have to keep them in check.
BASH: Almost as if it has been proven years ago that he had a supporter willing to mail pipe bombs to Democrats and to members of the media, he should have at that moment realized, boy, I really have a hold on some of these people, I should be really super responsible with my language.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Yeah, that didn't happen. Jake, thanks.
Now to the breaking news. CNN just confirmed that prosecutors in Georgia have launched a criminal investigation to former President Trump's January phone call to the Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger ordering him to, quote, find votes.
Now, here is part of that recorded phone call.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: So, look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COOPER: CNN chief domestic correspondent Jim Acosta is near Mar-a- Lago.
So, Jim, you've seen the letter from D.A. What does it say?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Yeah, Anderson, I mean, this is what the president -- the former president really has to worry about, right, because it does seem at this point that it's a fait accompli that he's going to be acquitted in this trial because there just aren't going to be enough Republicans to vote to convict.
What he has to be worried about and when you talk to sources close to him and talk to him, they say what he's worried about is being prosecuted outside this impeachment case. And this Georgia case is a prime example of that, Anderson.
This is a quote from a letter from the Fulton County prosecutor to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who had the infamous phone call with the former president on January 2nd. Keep in mind that was four days before the capitol siege. And this is what part of that letter says.
It says: This investigation includes but is not limited to potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local governmental bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election's administration.
And, Anderson, it's worth reminding our viewers, the president at the time was not just trying to pressure Georgia election officials. Remember, he was talking to a whole host of state and local election officials across the country.
He was talking to governors. He was talking to lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Michigan and so on, trying to put pressure on those various different states to overturn the outcome of their elections in their states.
And so, I think this could just be the beginning of what may be a whole slew of very serious legal problems for the former president moving forward. I'll recall what we were talking about yesterday, Anderson, and that is, I talked to a source who has spoken with the president about some of these recently. The former president is concerned about what may happen to him in a criminal court proceeding after this impeachment inquiry is over.
And so, while this may seem like, okay, the Republicans aren't going to really go against the president here because they're worried about their own political skin, the former president has a lot bigger things to worry about after this impeachment inquiry is over, and this Georgia case appears to be a prime example of that -- Anderson.
COOPER: Jim Acosta, appreciate it. We'll check in with you throughout the day.
Let's talk to our legal team here.
Laura Coates, is the president exposed here?
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, the former president certainly is. He is by his own admission, by his own words. When he was actually the president of the United States, he was protected in part from his own self-inflicted wounds, by the idea of there being a rule against indicting a sitting president.
Now, you have somebody who, by his own admission, was trying to interfere with the election, gave the numbers that he wanted. He is persona non grata to the people in Georgia who he would normally be able to take shelter under because even if he were friends with the governor who normally could give pardons in Georgia, it's not the governor who hands out pardons, it's a state board who does it, independent of the governor himself.
And so, you have him now being possibly indicted by his own words. He's got misdemeanors or felony exposure for his own statement. And it's all part of what's going to come in the presentation of the impeachment today about the big lie.
This is part of that factual predicate. It's not a wonder now why he doesn't want to testify, because all of those words could be used against now citizen Donald Trump.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Can I just remind people that the election in Georgia was recertified three times? And now the president is going after Brian Kemp, the governor, saying that, of course, he was promoting illegal counting and didn't want to recount over and over again, and the president just couldn't believe it because Joe Biden is the first Democrat to have won Georgia since 1992.
COOPER: Ross, what do you make of the potential legal case against the president in Georgia?
ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah. So, he -- normally what the defense would be is, I wasn't trying to pressure him to do anything other than do his job, count the votes. The problem with that is he gave a number. He didn't say, hey, look, I think your numbers are off. Here is the number we've come up with.
What he said was, and we heard it on the call, here is the number I need, here is the number I want. That undermines the defense, because I think there are two defenses we're going to hear a lot from the Trump camp related to a lot of things. One is the one we keep hearing which is this is a partisan exercise. We're going to hear that in Georgia because the local prosecutor is a Democrat, we're going to hear it's a partisan exercise.
And the second is, hey, what you think was happening in Trump's head, and we'll hear a lot about that over the next few days, is not true. And the problem with this Georgia phone call is we heard what was happening in his head. He said it out loud.
COOPER: It's also fascinating that had it not been recorded, we wouldn't know this. It was only recorded because Brad Raffensperger knew who he was dealing with and he didn't release it until the president lied about what was said on the phone call.
So, I mean, again, this is, Norm, a problem for the president of his own making.
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Anderson, these very clever house impeachment managers and their adept counsel, including the lead counsel, Barry Burke, who loves to talk about trial magic, worked with him on the last impeachment. Put some trial magic as if they looked into a crystal ball into today's criminal announcement in Georgia in the article of impeachment because it talks about the Raffensperger call.
And here is how it fits together. The president will hear in this two- day presentation, had a long pattern of inciting insurrection. It didn't just start on January 6th. He whipped his mob into a frenzy for months.
And when he called Raffensperger and said, I just want to find 11,780 votes which is one more than we need to win, he was trying to get more fuel for that incitement.
It was part of the pattern. To those like Ross who favor the idea that you need an actual ordinary crime as part of the pattern of high crimes -- that's not my view. But even for those impeachment constructionists like my friend across the table, here is an actual crime. This is a bookend to the criminal investigation in New York that the D.A. has mounted against Trump.
The walls are going to keep closing after the impeachment.
COOPER: Let's go back to Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Anderson.
New reporting just in to CNN on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his mindset on this day two, as another Republican colleague breaks ranks, to vote that the trial is, in fact, constitutional.
Plus, we're now learning that the Trump Justice Department resisted a request for a search warrant involving the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. We have new information. Stand by.