Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

Impeachment Managers Finish Presenting Case, Trump Lawyers Next. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 11, 2021 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: There are some people, some Republicans in that room, that are going to do what they think is right.


I think Mitt Romney is a good example of it -- of that. But there are, I mean, I think if it were secret ballot, let me put it that way, if it were secret ballot, would there be a different count? I mean, you cover these people.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, no, that's a good question. I -- you probably both have been asked that question a lot. I have too. What about secret ballot? Can -- this is, you know, a trial that they put on and they decide the rules of. Maybe they can just make it anonymous and that could change the outcome.

TAPPER: Like an actual jury.

BASH: Like an actual jury.

And the question, of course, is that it isn't an actual jury.

TAPPER: Right.

BASH: It isn't anything else like we see anywhere else in the country. It is unique. It is a political exercise, which has its own rules, again, that they create. And they all realize that part of being an elected official means you have to be accountable to the people who elect you. And, you know, this is a pretty big thing to be accountable for.

Having said that, you know, it does defy logic that, again, these people who sat through this testimony, sat through the arguments for two straight days, but much more importantly, lived through it, can say, you know what, I'm going to, you know, hang my hat on the constitutionality argument. I'm going to hang my hat on whatever other legal or political excuse is out there for me to do.

TAPPER: And one other thing, Abby, I don't think we've talked a lot about, but it certainly was relevant during the two-month period leading up to January 6th, which was how individual election officials and judges and governors and secretaries of state, how they were going to act knowing that if they did anything to cross Donald Trump, A, their careers might be in jeopardy. And B, their lives might be in jeopardy.

And this is something we haven't talked about but has to be on the mind of every juror especially the Republican ones for whom President Trump really has a particular animus when it comes to feeling betrayed. That if they vote to convict Donald Trump, they might have to essentially go into hiding. Because a lot of these incited supporters of the president might wish them harm.

PHILLIP: And watch out for that argument coming from the president's lawyers tomorrow, perhaps the day after. They signaled, the president's lawyers signaled, a couple days ago that one of the cases that they're going to make against conviction, and against these impeachment proceedings, is that this would enflame anger and division.

Effectively saying you're going to rile up the mob again if you do this. It's, in a lot of ways, a veiled threat to everyone in that room, but it's particularly focused on the Republicans who are in the position to change the course of how this goes.

And I think they are cognizant of that. You've heard many Republicans like Marco Rubio and others making that argument themselves. That they are worried about the consequences of not allowing this behavior to go unchecked but of the consequences of saying to the president -- President Trump's followers, this is not acceptable.

That's the reality of the situation. They're not -- you know, there have been many Republican officials who have exhibited a lot of courage and bravery over the last several months and said, you know what, the country is worth more than just my own ability to be reelected. Very few of these people are in the Congress right now.


PHILLIP: And that's just a fact. They are worried about being reelected. They don't want to have a tough fight. They don't want to fight at all. They just want to cruise back in to another six years. And they will if they stick to the, you know, the party line with standing by Donald Trump.

TAPPER: That's very interesting and troubling argument that we've heard a number of times. Basically, the "appease the terrorists" argument which in foreign policy is something that conservatives and Trump supporters laugh at.

BASH: Never mind foreign policy, but the American justice system, right?

TAPPER: But the idea of, like, don't go after Qasem Soleimani in Iran --

BASH: Right. TAPPER: -- because if you do that, there will retaliations. The argument is you do what you need to do, you don't do what you're afraid the terrorists are going to punish us for.

BASH: No question.

TAPPER: And, Anderson, it's interesting that we're now hearing that, except the threat is from American terrorists.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I thought it was also very interesting, Jamie Raskin, we'll talk about this with our legal team right now, to hear right now -- Ross, I mean, to hear Jamie Raskin at the end positing questions, questions that they would have asked President Trump, former President Trump, if he had agreed to come and answer them, essentially, daring the -- or getting the former Trump's -- former president's attorneys to answer those questions.

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think what he's doing is saying that, you know, they laid out the case. They've done it methodically. They've done it completely.

And based on what's there, they're saying the Senate has enough to convict and if the president has anything else, if he has evidence to undermine anything that the managers said or introduced, now is the time to bring it and he's sort of leaving that out there for the Republican senators so that they notice and so that the managers will come back to that if the Trump lawyers don't do that, that the Trump lawyers didn't and probably won't come back with evidence.

COOPER: One of the things also we were talking about before we came on camera which I think is really important to emphasize is how the argument of jurisdictional issues are over.

GARBER: Yeah. Anderson, this is something we've been talking about for days. And we saw coming. That because, you know, we talked a lot about that Belknap case from the 1800s where jurisdiction was decided but then a whole bunch of the senators who voted no on jurisdiction, then went and voted not guilty, that was something that the managers had to deal with, is this notion that because some of the Republican senators -- because almost all the Republican senators found no jurisdiction, when time comes to reach a verdict, they're going to vote not guilty because of that.

Representative Raskin --

COOPER: Which gives them basically a fig leaf. They don't have to then acknowledge or deal with the actual crime.

GARBER: They don't have to deal with the facts. Representative Raskin is saying no, no, no, you can't do that. Jurisdiction was decided. It's decided by the entire Senate. The Senate has jurisdiction.

The next question you're going to be asked is was Donald Trump guilty or not guilty on the merits? That's the decision that you need to make. You can't avoid that. The jurisdictional issue is over. And it's an argument that he has to

make. I don't know how successful it's going to be, but it's an important argument.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it was important from a political point of view to put it before the country to say the Senate voted on this.


BORGER: He said that -- that let's not get caught up in a lot of outlandish lawyers' theories here. That's been decided.

And so what he was saying to the Senate is, you can't hide behind that anymore. You can't say, well, I'm not going to decide Donald Trump's guilt or innocence here. I'm not going to vote to convict because I don't think we should be here in the first place which is what you hear from a lot of senators on the Republican side and he's saying to them, that's not a question before you right now. That's over.

Now you have to vote aye or nay and I think it gets --

COOPER: It doesn't stop them, though --

BORGER: Of course not.

COOPER: -- from using that excuse if they choose to.

BORGER: No, but I think he puts it out there not for them. But for everybody watching to say, okay, they have to decide whether, in fact, Donald Trump willfully, you know, inspired the violence at the -- at the capitol.

COOPER: Laura, some of the questions that Jamie Raskin was saying that they wanted to ask the president, why, Mr. President, did you wait two hours to say, stop, or any form of stop, why did you do nothing to send help for at least two hours? Why didn't you condemn the violent insurrectionists that day? And if a president incited a violent insurrection against our government, would that be a high crime?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: And none of those questions are meant to be rhetorical, but they're meant to linger. They're meant for the defense team to actually address these things. They know they planted some seeds.

And it's up to the defense team to actually address them or they will become trees, full-fledged trees. And possibly actually be enough to persuade some to say, look, all of the different exit hatches have been closed off by this -- the impeachment managers' eloquence and their methodical approach to this particular case. They -- please give me a reason that I can say acquittal. They're going to be begging with their eyes and attention span hopefully for that moment.

But those seeds have now been planted, Anderson, as is this overarching theme of, look, they're likely going to argue that the Democrats are trying to scapegoat Trump, they want a reason to punish somebody for the tragedy of an insurrection but he's not the guy. They plant the seed of, well, you were a sacrificial lamb here. He was spending you out essentially to be slaughtered for lack of a better term, either politically or actually by these insurrectionists.

These seeds have been planted in their minds. The defense is going to have to do a much stronger job tomorrow of trying to chop down the trees that are growing than they did on that very first day. As you said, the idea of saying, hey, that's off the table now, the idea of jurisdiction, they don't have a judge to keep them focused and say you cannot talk about these things.


They're going to try too do down that road of distraction. But those senators know if they voted already in favor of this being constitutional to go forward, to have jurisdictional issues and also know they're now on trial as well. Their choices they make are as much about the future of democracy as what president -- then-President Trump -- did.

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And Jamie Raskin was explicit about it. When he addressed the jury, he said, Senators, America -- so as the trial has gone on, they have built out the idea that it's not just Donald Trump who's on trial, given the strength of the evidence, the power of the pattern, Neguse was masterful in marshalling all the points that filled the gap we were talking about in the last panel. Was Donald Trump acting knowingly? And now they're turning to America to put these senators on the spot if they don't do the right thing.

COOPER: Yeah. One of the things he ended with, part of it what Gloria quoted which is about sort of don't get caught up in lawyer-ese (ph), use your common sense.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Yeah, they made a very, very, very compelling case.

You know, John, we might say if we were watching basketball, almost a slam dunk kind of case. That Trump incited an insurrection, in their words, against the nation he swore an oath to protect and must be convicted. Then they said, not only convicted but then disqualified from ever holding federal office again.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just a damning detailed, compelling, overwhelming case, presented over a couple days, largely on the basis of the president of the United States, the former president of the United States, in his own words and his own tweets, and the words of the thugs and the rioters, the insurrectionists who stormed the capitol, a little more than a month ago.

The president's lawyers get their chance tomorrow. They can try to swing the pendulum back. You would have to have your ears blocked -- just have to be decided you aren't going to listen to not, based on everything we've seen, just take the last two days, never mind the constitutional question, the last two days of the prosecution case to come away with the idea. They built the predicate that the president used this language for a

long time. The president was in touch. The president should have had full knowledge. He would have to have his head in the sand to not have full knowledge that his words motivated his people.

He invited them here. That is not in dispute. The president set the date for this rally, repeatedly reminded his supporters and urged them to come. We saw the president at the rally.

I think the powerful point they kept trying to make was, and then the president who swore an oath to the Constitution watched and did not say stop, did not say go away, did not criticize them, called them actually patriots and said, I love you, our journey will continue.

So, a very compelling case put together. Great teamwork, if you're just watching, as someone who covered courts years ago, great teamwork by the prosecution. Sometimes things can get lost when you hand things off.

The managers presented an overwhelming case. Those Republican senators now have to hope that the president's lawyers can come in and chip away on the facts. Not on the process, but on the facts, because if they can't chip away on the facts, it's going to be hard.

We saw the president -- former president -- in his own words. We heard the thugs in their own words, saying he sent us here. We're fighting for him.

So, but let's -- we owe them the open mind of seeing what they can do in their presentation tomorrow. If they can't chip away at the fact, then I think Gloria made this point, this is choosing time for these Republican senators. They understand, crossing Donald Trump complicates their politics, so what's more important to them? Their power? Or the principle? Their career? Or their country?

That is the choice they may have to make as shortly as Saturday if this continues on the pace it's on.

BLITZER: Because the insurrectionists -- very compelling moment is when the House impeachment lawyer, you know, managers, they really used the video to show that these insurrectionists thought they were simply obeying marching orders from the commander in chief that that's what they -- that they thought that's what the president at that time wanted them to do and they wouldn't be punished for that. More than 200 now have been criminally charged.

KING: And so, a good lawyer, and you see this happening, a good lawyer will say, and you saw when one of the president's lawyers left the proceedings today and gave interview on Fox News, he teed this up. They are going to make the case -- well, he didn't call the Proud Boys. They saw something on Twitter. That's how they translated it.

He didn't call the woman who said Trump sent me. She saw something on Twitter and that's how he translated. You can't blame the president for that. That's why the managers spent so much time to go through the four

years to say that the president, there's plenty of evidence, over four years, the president has to know when he says these things, people act on them. So, just to chip away at that direct argument.

BLITZER: Our special correspondent Jamie Gangel is working her sources.

What are you hearing, Jamie?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, to John King's point about having ears blocked, I've spoken to a number of Republican sources today, one is a former Trump administration official who said, all I can say is what I say every day.


If this isn't an impeachable offense, what is?

And then the source went on to say, if these managers can't convince you, you are not listening or you don't want to listen.

So, that speaks to what John was saying about, you know, will they have their ears open?

The other thing, and John touched on this as well, is about the future of the Republican Party. And I spoke to a senior congressional Republican who said to me that this trial is going to tell you the future of the Republican Party -- at least for the next couple of years. Is this the party of Trump? Or are these Republicans willing to break and move forward?

They know that donors are leaving the party. They know voters are leaving the party. They know that members are leaving the party. But to the point we've been discussing, these senators want to stay in power. They want to get reelected.

I think an interesting question will be, Wolf, what about those who've decided to retire? What about those who may have four years or six years down the road? Will any of them be listening? Wolf?

BLITZER: We'll find out in the next couple days.

All right, Jamie, thank you. Jake, back to you.

TAPPER: Thanks, Wolf.

Now that the House impeachment managers have concluded their opening arguments, the Trump legal team will begin with their defense of the former president tomorrow.

And our correspondents are getting some new details about the Trump team's plans right now and reaction to the case presented by the House impeachment managers. Kaitlan Collins is at the White House for us. Pamela Brown is here in Washington. Jim Acosta is near Mar-a-Lago where President Trump I believe was golfing earlier today. Kaitlan, let's start with you. What are you hearing about the case

that the Trump defense team plans to make tomorrow?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, expect it to be a lot shorter than what you saw from Democrats, who took a lot of their time. You saw today they finished up earlier than what we saw in the last impeachment trial. But they did take -- or they took up a good portion of their time breaking it up from yesterday and today.

We are not likely to see that from former President Trump's team. And I'm told that they expect to finish their arguments by tomorrow. There'd been some questions about that because, of course, one of his attorneys had actually requested a delay of the trial so he could observe the Sabbath. He said now that he's not going to need to have that delay but he'll just not participate in the proceedings at that time.

But I'm told that they expect to make their arguments and finish them up by tomorrow. That would then punt us and move us on to the question session of this with the senators.

But, of course, the question is, what are they going to say when they actually get on the floor? Because they're following what we've seen from these impeachment managers, this methodically, carefully laid out timeline and reconstruction of what the president said and what actually happened.

And what we're seeing from the attorneys and talking to them on Capitol Hill today is that they're going to say that there's no direct link between what the president was saying and what those rioters and insurrectionists actually did.

Whether or not that's a successful argument that they can make given what you just saw laid out by House impeachment managers and the people that we've seen who have actually been indicted say that they did what they did because of President Trump's comments.

It could be a tough argument for them to make, Jake, but that's what we're expecting as of this moment.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.

Pamela, you're hearing that the president's lawyers height not take the entire time that they have allotted.


I mean, it could be as short as three to four hours. So, much less time than they're allotted. And what they've been doing is they've been pulling together more videos, looking for videos specifically of high-profile Democrats like Chuck Schumer. They're planning to use a video of Chuck Schumer in front of the Supreme Court when he said the conservative justices would pay the price when it came to an abortion case.

They're trying to make the case, they will try to make the case, rather, as of now, that there's hypocrisy with the Democrats

Now, it's worth noting that, of course, nothing happened after Chuck Schumer said that. Unlike with Trump, he was talking about go fight and so forth, then you saw the riots on January 6th. But as Kaitlan pointed out, Trump's lawyers will try to argue he never intended for those rioters to go inside and take over the Capitol -- Jake.

TAPPER: Uh-huh. All right. Pamela Brown, thank you so much.

Jim, you're in Florida with the former president.


TAPPER: What are you hearing?

ACOSTA: Yeah, Jake, you're right. He was out playing golf earlier today at his golf course in West Palm Beach. But in the meantime, he has been wanting to see more lawyers who are supportive of his cause out on television. Told by a source familiar with former president's thinking that he wants to see more legal voices out there defending former President Trump.

And in addition to that, Jake, I could tell you I talked with one of the president's attorneys for his impeachment case, Bruce Castor. I asked Bruce Castor what is going to take place tomorrow. He didn't offer a whole lot of details but he did say that they are streamlining the presentation that they're planning to make in order to keep things short.


And in the words of Bruce Castor, quote, we are cutting to shorten the case.

So that gives you some indication as to where they are right now in terms of the strategy. It seems like they're thinking less is more at this point.

And I asked Bruce Castor whether or not they are still confident, they remain confident, that the president will be acquitted in all this, that there won't be enough Republican senators to join with the Democrats to convict the former president. And Castor replied, quote, very.

And so, while, yes, this was a devastating case put on by the Democrats, the video was highly charged, highly emotional, and I think even, you know, sparked some emotion on the side of pro-Trump lawyers, pro-Trump advisers that we're speaking with, the Trump impeachment team believes at this point there's really just no way that the president's going to be convicted at this point. Just looking at the raw numbers in terms of where Republicans look like they're going to end up in all of this, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jim Acosta in Florida, along with Kaitlan Collins and Pamela Brown. Thank you so much. And we should talk about the fact that they seem so confident, the

Trump team. It's because they already have 44 Republican senators who voted to say that they don't think this trial is constitutional. The idea that you're going to have 17 Republicans total vote to say that he should be convicted even though so many of them already said they don't even think this trial should happen doesn't make much sense.

BASH: Right, which is why the fact that we are going to see such an imbalance of firepower between what we've seen over the past few days and what we're going to see tomorrow is probably not going to be of that much of a consequence because they are speaking to a jury that has almost all made up their minds. I'm not here to say that things couldn't change drastically if something happened. But it's unlikely that is going to happen.

And, by the way, that is in part why I am told by people close to the president they're trying to keep him -- not that he has much of an avenue outside because he doesn't have Twitter, but trying to keep him on the golf course. Trying to keep him occupied.

And, you know, he's certainly working the phones talking to his friends. But the hope is he just tries to -- they get him to keep as quiet as possible to get through a case which his allies say over and over again, in private, I think maybe they said in public, they don't thinks that there's a chance that he can lose.

PHILLIP: I mean, maybe the best thing that could have happened to Trump's aides is that he's not on Twitter anymore. Because you can imagine what he would be saying throughout this hearing.

BASH: No question.

PHILLIP: I mean, his lawyers, the strategy on the Trump side, is likely going to be to kind of phone it in. They don't really need to say anything. They want to probably do no harm to where they already are, which is they think a majority of Republicans, a vast majority of Republicans in that chamber, are going to vote to acquit and it's not going to be -- I don't think we should expect our socks to be blown off tomorrow by the case that they're going to make.

I mean, think about the fact that the constitutional case was supposed to be the stronger of the two cases in the first place. And it was so incredibly weak that even Republican senators came out of that session saying, that was terrible. How could you possibly listen to that? And believe that this was unconstitutional?

So, I think this next segment which is going to actually be on the substance, is where they have even less of a leg to stand on. It's not going to be anything spectacular. But it just goes to show they don't think that this process is actually about the senators taking in the information and processing it and making a decision. That's a real shame, but that's how they're viewing it from the Trump side.

TAPPER: I would be surprised if we didn't hear from the Trump lawyers the argument that when it came to the last impeachment Democrats said you have to have witnesses. BASH: Yeah.

TAPPER: You got to have witnesses or else it's a sham. There's all this language. We ran it a few days ago from Harris -- now-Vice President Harris, from Chuck Schumer, et cetera.

Now, the argument, of course, is that the last impeachment was about something that went on behind closed doors. And you needed witnesses whereas all of this took place in front of all of us. We all saw it happen, basically in real time. But I would be surprised if Trump team didn't bring that up.

PHILLIP: But to be fair, I mean, when you look back at the presentation that we saw over the last few days they presented Ben Sasse, other members of Congress, who had pertinent information who if they were called to testify would have been asked about those very same things. It's just out there, in the public sphere. That's one of the things I think Democrats are going to look at.

BASH: I meaning it wouldn't hurt it they could have gotten witnesses. They did ask for one witness.

TAPPER: Donald Trump.

BASH: The defendant.

TAPPER: And he turned it down.

BASH: And he turned it down. Which was interesting that Jamie Raskin at the very end posed the questions he would have asked him.

But, look, this is something that the Trump defense team is going to try to avoid when if comes to a lot of the substance.


We're going to see a lot of what-about-ism, we're going to see a lot of videos of Democrats at rallies being fiery and the question is going to be will that matter? And will they actually be able to with a straight face suggest that what those Democrats were doing is even close to akin to what we saw the president do at that rally and then most importantly, did not do when the riot started.

TAPPER: Yeah. No, certainly, Democrats have said stupid things at rallies, violent sounding things, threatening things. But have they launched a campaign that was eight months long to try to discredit an election that culminated in violence that a lot of people feared. I don't think that has happened.

But we'll see what they present tomorrow, when the Trump lawyers get their say.

Up next, what President Biden has to say about the Trump impeachment trial so far. Our coverage continues.

We're going to take this quick break. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)