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CNN Live Event/Special
House Impeachment Managers Present Case to Convict Former President Donald Trump; House Managers Chronicle Trump's Pressure Campaign to Overturn Election. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired February 10, 2021 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): The president wasn't just coming for one or two people or Democrats like me. He was coming for you, for Democratic and Republican senators. He was coming for all of us just as the mob did at his direction.
In addition to going after Senators and members of Congress, President Trump also pressured our Justice Department to investigate the false claims that the election was stolen. At the president's direction, Attorney General William Barr, a loyal member of the president's cabinet authorized federal prosecutors to pursue substantial (ph) allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities.
Bill Barr pursuing these allegations sparked an outcry, 16 assistant U.S. attorneys in the Trump administration urged attorney general to cease investigations because they had not seen evidence of any substantial anomalies. That means they did not find any evidence of real fraud.
Attorney General Barr pursued investigations anyways, and after his investigation this is what he found, "we have not seen see fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election."
Two weeks later on December 14, the electors voted to give Joe Biden 306 electoral votes and ensured his victory. The following day Bill Barr resigned. Attorney General Barr has loyally served President Trump, he had never publicly come out against the president. But for Bill Barr, making up election fraud claims and saying the election was stolen was a bridge too far.
Bill Barr made clear that attempting to overturn (ph) election results crossed a line. According to a news report, Bill Barr, the highest law enforcement official in the land told President Donald Trump to his face, that his theories of election fraud were, "bullshit."
When Bill Barr resigned, his former Deputy Jeff Rosen took his place. President Trump initially tweeted about Mr. Rosen that he was an outstanding person when he announced that he would become acting attorney general. But when Rosen took over, President Trump put the same pressure on him that he had done with state officials, members of Congress, U.S. Senators and his former attorney general. President Trump reportedly summoned Acting Attorney General Rosen to the Oval Office the next day and pressured Rosen to appoint special counsels to keep investigating their election, including unfounded accusations of widespread voter fraud and also to investigate Dominion, the voting machines firm.
According to reports Mr. Rosen refused, he maintained that he would make decisions based on the facts and the law, and reminded President Trump what he had already been told by Attorney General Bill Barr, that the department had already investigated and, "found no evidence of widespread fraud."
But President Trump refused to follow the facts and the law, so the president turned to someone he knew would do his bidding. He turned to Jeffrey Clark, another Justice Department lawyer who had allegedly expressed support for using the Department of Justice to investigate the election results.
Shortly after acting Attorney General Rosen followed his duty and the law to reopen - to refuse to reopen investigations, President Trump intended to replace Mr. Rosen with Mr. Clark, who could then try to stop Congress from certifying the Electoral College results.
According to reports, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone advised President Trump not to fire acting Attorney General Rosen. Department officials had also threatened to resign en masse if he had fired Rosen.
President Trump's actions time and time again make clear that he would do anything and pressure anyone if it meant overturning the election results. We watch President Trump use any means necessary to pursue this aim, feverishly grasping for straws and (ph) retaining his hold on the presidency. But all his efforts prior to January 6 kept failing.
And finally, in his desperation he turned on his own vice president. He pressured Mike Pence to violate his Constitutional oath and to refuse to certify the oath (ph). President Trump had decided that Vice President Pence who presided over the certification could somehow stop it.
As Pence will (ph) later confirm, the vice president does not have that power in the Constitution. And President Trump never tried to explain why he thought the vice president could block the certification of election results, he just began relentlessly attacking the vice president.
Publicly, President Trump attacked Pence on social media and at rallies - getting his supporters to believe that Mike Pence could stop this certification on January 6. Here is what (ph) President Trump said in Georgia on January 4.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: And I hope Mike Pence comes through for us, I have to tell you. I hope that our great vice president - our great vice president comes through for us. He's a great guy. Of course, if he doesn't come through I won't like him quite as much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LIEU: Behind closed doors President Trump applied significant pressure to his second in command. Multiple reports can affirm that President Trump used his personal attorneys and other officials to pressure the vice president.
Trump reportedly told almost anyone who called him, to also call the vice president. According to reports, when Mike Pence was in the Oval Office, President Trump would call people to try to get them to convince the vice president to help him. And President Trump kept repeating the myth that Pence could stop this certification, to his base to anger them - hoping to intimidate Mike Pence.
On the morning of the rally on January 6, President Trump tweeted, "all Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States," and in all caps he wrote, "and we win. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage."
President Trump later went on to attack Pence nearly a dozen times in his speech at the Save America march. Privately - in-person before Pence headed to oversee the joint session on January 6, President Trump again threatened Pence. "You can either go down in history as a patriot," Mr. Trump told him according to two people briefed on the conversation, "or you can down in history as a pussy."
As a veteran, I find it deeply dishonorable that our former president and commander in chief equated patriotism with violating the Constitution and overturning the election. You will see and hear the consequences of President Trump's repeated attacks on the vice president, the chants of traitor (ph) and the chants of hang Mike Pence.
Thankfully, Vice President Pence stood his ground like our other brave officials stood their ground. He refused the president and fulfilled his duty on January 6, even after the Capitol was attacked - even after he was personally targeted, even after his family was targeted.
Vice President Pence stood strong and certified the election. Vice President Pence showed us what it means to be an American, what it means to show courage. He put his country, his oath, his values, and his morals above the will of one man.
The president had tried everything in his power to seize the - everything in his attempt to seize power from the rightful victor of the election. President Trump's extraordinary actions grew increasingly more desperate. You saw him go from pursuing claims in the courts, to threatening state and local election officials, to then attacking members of Congress and the Senate - to compromising our Justice Department, and then to attacking the Republican vice president. These brave public servants were being pressured by our commander in chief to overturn the results - some of them and their families got death threats. Thankfully, at every turn our democratic processes prevailed and the rule of law prevailed.
It was only because all of these people stayed strong and refused President Trump that our republic held fast and the will of the electorate was seen through. And at this point, President Donald J Trump ran out of nonviolent options to maintain power.
I began today by raising the question of how we got here. What you saw was a man so desperate to cling to power that he tried everything he could to keep it. And when he ran out of nonviolent measures, he turned to the violent mob that attacked your Senate chamber on January 6.
As you cast your vote after this trial, I hope each of you will think of the bravery of all these people who said no to President Trump because they knew that this was not right, that this was not America.
RASKIN: Next, Representative Stacy Plaskett of the Virgin Islands will show, in quite chilling detail I should say, how President Trump was well aware of the threat of violence on January 6, and how he welcomed and amplified his supporter's plan for insurrection against the union.
I should say as Lead Manager, this a moment of special pride for me because Representative Plaskett is not only the first delegate ever to be on a team of impeachment managers in American history, but she was also my law student at American University's Washington College of Law.
And I hope I'm not violating and federal educational records laws when I say was an A student then and she's an A plus student now. Stacey Plaskett.
PLASKETT: Thank you so much. Height. Mr. President, distinguished senators, I am Stacey Plaskett and I represent the people of the Virgin Island of the United States. Over this past weekend my 11-year- old daughter, I overheard her telling one of my sons, mommy doesn't seem really nervous about the impeachment trial. To which that son, sounding like an older brother said, Talya you'll learn that most of the time mommy really seems to have it under control.
Now we know as parents that's not always the case, but I've learned throughout my life that preparation and truth can carry you far, can allow you to speak truth to power. I've learned that as a young black girl growing up in the projects in Brooklyn, housing community on St. Croix, sent to the most unlikeliest of settings and now as an adult woman representing an island territory speaking to the U.S. Senate.
And because of truth I am confident today speaking before you because truth and facts are overwhelming that our president, the President of the United States incited a mob to storm the Capitol, to attempt to stop the certification of a presidential election. My fellow managers have shown and will continue to show clear evidence that President Trump incited a violent mob to storm our Capitol when he ran out of non violent means to stop the election.
Once assembled that mob at the president's direction erupted into the bloodiest attack on this Capitol since 1814. Some of you have said there is no way the president could have known how violent the mob would be. That is false. Because the violence, it was foreseeable.
I want to show why this violence was foreseeable and why Donald Trump was different than any other politician just telling their fighters, their supporters to fight for something. The violence that occurred on January 6, like the attack itself did not just appear.
You'll see that Donald Trump knew the people he was inciting. He saw the violence that they were capable of and he had a pattern and practice of praising and encouraging that violence never ever condemning it.
And you'll see that this violent attack was not planned in secret. The insurgence believed that they were doing the duty of their president. They were following his orders. And so, they publicized it openly, loudly, proudly. Exact blueprints of how the attack would be made.
Law enforcement saw these postings and reported that these insurgents would violently attack the Capitol itself. This was not just a comment by an official to fight for a cause, this was months of cultivating a base of people who were violent, praising that violence and then leading that violence, that rage straight at our door.
The point is this, by the time he called the cavalry of his thousands of his supporters on January 6, an event he had invited them to, he had every reason to know that they were armed, that they were violent and that they would actually fight.
He knew who he as calling and the violence they were capable of and he still gave that marching orders to go to the Capitol and quote, "fight like hell and stop the steal." Make no mistake, the violence was not just foreseeable to President Trump, the violence was what he deliberately encouraged.
As early as September Trump set the precedent that when asked to denounce violence he would do the opposite and encourage it. Now if the president had only said something once about fighting to stop the steal and violence erupted there we would be no to know he intended to incite it or saw it coming.
But just as the president spent months spreading his big lie of the election, he also spent months cultivating groups of people who following his command repeatedly engaged in real dangerous violence. And when they did, when the violence erupted as a response to his calls to fight against the stolen election, he did not walk it back. He did not tell them no. He did the opposite, the opposite. He praised and encouraged the violence so that it would continue. He fanned the flame of violence and it worked.
You'll see this over time. These very groups and individuals whose violence the president praised helped lead the attack on January 6. And that's how we know clearly that President Trump deliberately incited this and how we know he saw it coming.
There are many examples where the president engaged in this pattern and I'm just going to walk you through a few of them. Let's start with the President Trump's incitement of the Proud Boys.
Many of you have heard of this group, which since 2018 has been classified by the FBI as an extremist organization. Since that classification the group has repeatedly engaged in serious acts of violence, including at pro Trump rallies. And one such act on September 7, the Proud Boys attacked a man with a baseball bat and then punched him while he was down on the ground.
On September 29, during a presidential debate, President Trump was asked specifically if he was willing to condemn white supremacy and militia groups, if he was willing to tell them to stand down and stop the violence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: But are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups...
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sure.
WALLACE: ... and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities, as we saw in Kenosha and as we've seen in Portland?
TRUMP: Sure, I'm willing to do that...
WALLACE: Are you prepared to specifically...
TRUMP: ... but...
WALLACE: Well go ahead sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLASKETT: Let's hear now the president's response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Do it sir. Say it. Do it. Say it.
TRUMP: You want to call them -- what do you want to call them? Give me a name. Give me a name.
WALLACE: White supremacists and...
TRUMP: Go ahead, who would you like me to condemn?
WALLACE: Proud boys and white supremacists...
TRUMP: Proud Boys, stand back and stand by...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLASKETT: When asked to condemn the proud boys and white supremacists, what did our president say? He said stand back and stand by. His message was heard loud and clear. The group adopted that phrase, stand back and stand by as their official slogan. They created merchandise with their new slogan which they wore proudly across their backs at Trump's rallies. And they followed the President's orders. You'll see more about this later in the trial but you'll see in these photos to the left Dominic Pezzola and to the right William Pepe; two of the leaders of the group heading to the Capitol on January 6.
They were later charged with working together to obstruct law enforcement. As we go through this evidence I want you to keep in mind these words by President Trump when asked to condemn violence, stand back and stand by. And see example after example of the kinds of people like the Proud Boys who he had standing by on January 6.
By October, as my colleagues Mr. Castro and Mr. Swalwell showed you, Donald Trump was escalating his big lie that the only way he could lose the election was if it was rigged. So as Election Day neared his supporters were frustrated and they were angry. They were prepared to ensure his victory by any means necessary. One of these violent acts was on October 30, sometime after 12:30 P.M. a caravan of more than 50 trucks covered in Pro-Trump campaign gear confronted and surrounded cars carrying Biden/Harris campaign workers and a Biden/Harris campaign as they were travelling down Interstate 35 from San Antonia to Austin.
According to witnesses this caravan repeatedly tried to force the bus you saw and you see in that video to slow down in the middle of the highway and then to run it off the road. What that video you just saw does not show is that the bus that they tried to run off the road was filled with young campaign staff, volunteers, supporters, surrogates, people. As the Trump supporters closed in on the bus a large black pickup truck adorned with Trump flags suddenly and intentionally swerved and crashed into a car driven by a Biden/Harris volunteer.
News of the event went viral on social media. The President of the United States in a campaign saw his own supporters trying to run a bus carrying his opponent's campaign workers off the highway. To physically intimidate people in this country campaigning. Here was his response the next day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): Three, two, one go. Welcome to the red kingdom.
(UNKNOWN): Red kingdom.
(UNKNOWN): Welcome to the...
(UNKNOWN): Red kingdom.
(UNKNOWN): Red kingdom.
(UNKNOWN): Welcome to the place where we run it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLASKETT: The President of the United States tweeted a video of his supporters trying to drive a bus off the road. You'll recall in that first video that I showed you there was no sound. Well the one that he tweeted had a fight theme song placed to it that the President, the President put that music to that video. And he added at the top "I Love Texas".
By the next evening that tweet that he did had been viewed 12.6 million times. And it wasn't just a tweet. On November 1 at a Michigan rally with a sea of supporters the President talked about that incident again. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Did you see the way our people they you know they were protecting this bus yesterday because they're nice. So this bus - they had hundreds of cars, Trump, Trump. Trump and the American flag, you see Trump and American flags.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLASKETT: The President made a public joke of violence against campaigners in an American election. He made light of it. This was not a joke. In fact it was so violent, it put so many people in harm's way that the FBI investigated the incident and the criminal responsibility of those who attacked these campaign workers. Now our President Donald Trump could have said, OK, I didn't realize how bad that was. This was very violent, please stop. But he didn't.
He saw the investigation and made a statement in defense of his supporters attack on the bus writing quote, "In my opinion these patriots did nothing wrong." Engaging in violence for him made them patriots to Donald Trump. For anyone who says Donald Trump didn't know the violence he was inciting I ask you to consider his supporters tried to drive a bus off the highway in the middle of the day to intimidate his opponent's campaign workers.
And his response was to tweet the video of the incident that had fight music, joke about it and call those individuals in that incident patriots. And once again Donald Trump's praise worked to incite them further. Emboldened by that praise they remained ready to fight, ready to stand back and stand by. This link is not hypothetical.
Just like we saw with the Proud Boys showing up in full force on January 6, Donald Trump's encouragement of this attack made sure his supporters were ready for the next one. The caravan bus attack had been organized by Trump supporter named Keith Lee. Leading up to the attack on our Capitol of January 6, Mr. Lee teamed up with other supporters to fundraise to help to bring people to Washington D.C. for that day.
The morning of the attack he filmed footage of the Capitol, pointed out the flimsiness of fencing and then addressed his supporters before the attack saying quote, "As soon as you all get done hearing President y'all get the Capitol, we need to surround this place." During the attack he used a bullhorn to call out for the mob to rush in. He later went to the Rotunda himself and then back outside to urge the crowd to come inside. These are the people that President Trump cultivated who were standing by.
I'd like to look at another example. After the election on December 12, Trump supporters gathered in mass to protest the stolen election in D.C. It was billed (ph) by his loyalist as the second "Million MAGA March". The rally was organized by Women for America First. The same group that you'll see later secured the permit for the January 6 rally. And who else was there? The Proud Boys standing by.
Donald Trump did not attend that rally. But he made sure to make clear his supporters throughout the day how he felt about the event. At 8:47 A.M. he sent out a tweet. "We have just begun to fight." And then the rally began. And Donald Trump's allies who spoke at the rally carried on his message of the stolen election and the importance of fighting to stop the steal.
Here's Nicholas Fuentes, a commentator who had organized a "Stop the Steal" rally in Michigan with Trump supporters.
FUENTES: In (ph) the first "Million MAGA March" we promised that if the GOP would not do everything in their power to keep Trump in office then we would destroy the GOP.
And if we (inaudible) in Washington D.C. for a second "Million MAGA March" we're done making promises. It has to happen now, we are going to destroy the GOP.
(APPLAUSE) (END VIDEOTAPE)
PLASKETT: Those words, that was Trump's message, destroy anyone who won't listen. Who won't help them take the election for Trump.