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CNN Live Event/Special
Soon: Historic Trial for Trump's Second Impeachment Resumes; Nikki Haley Criticizes Trump, Says He Has No Future in GOP. Aired 11- 11:30a ET
Aired February 12, 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: Hello and welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. You're watching CNN special live coverage of the history making event, the second impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And I'm Jake Tapper.
The president's legal team give their rebuttal starting just about an hour from now. Aides and advisers said they spent last night running the arguments past former President Trump, hoping to avoid a repeat of this week when a rather bumbling and befuddling presentation invited questions of basic competence from Senate Republicans and what we're told is outright fury from Mar-a-Lago.
The former -- oh, sorry, Wolf.
BLITZER: The former President Trump's legal team and his advisers, they hint that today's rebuttal will not last long, that potentially pushes the finish of the impeachment trial to tomorrow. We're talking about Saturday.
TAPPER: Republicans ran for their lives on January 6th when that taste MAGA mob breached the Capitol. Most say they were moved by the security camera footage that forced the nation to relive some of the horrors of that day.
But more remain unwilling to say that President Trump shoulders the blame for provoking, for inciting this terrorist attack.
President Biden this morning weighed in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm just anxious to see what my Republican friends do, if they stand up.
REPORTER: And you're not planning to speak with any of them about what to do --
BIDEN: No, I am not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: First, let's revisit what arguments Team Trump has to try to counter today.
CNN senior Washington correspondent Pamela Brown is here live with us in studio.
Pamela, break down for us the key pieces of the Democrats' case so far against Donald Trump.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, one of the main points throughout the presentation is that Donald Trump spent months spreading false election fraud claims.
Here is what Congressman Neguse said about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOE NEGUSE (D-CO): He was president of the United States and he had spent months, months using the unique power of that office, of his bully pulpit to spread that big lie that the election had been stolen, to convince his followers to stop the steal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: In addition, they focused on the new video that came out showing just the severity of the attack and the danger to high-profile politicians like Senator Schumer, Senator Mitt Romney and you see there where Eugene Goodman -- Officer Eugene Goodman told him to turn around and, of course, Vice President Pence who the rioters were going around saying they wanted to execute and hang and even so the president had tweeted out, former President Trump tweeted out that he lacked courage during all of that knowing the danger that the vice president was in.
So they wanted to focus on that as well. And then also they wanted to focus on Trump's role in terms of directing the rioters to go inside and take over the Capitol building. They claimed they were taking their direction from Trump.
Here is what one manager said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNIFER RYAN, AARRESTED BY THE FBI: Personally, I do not feel a sense of shame or guilt from my heart from what I was doing. I thought I was following my president, I thought I was following what we were called to do. He asked us to fly there. He asked us to be there. So I was doing what he asked us to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So that was one of many examples they used and then also, they argue that not convicted Trump sets a dangerous precedent. Here is what one of the managers said about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): I'm not afraid of Donald Trump running again in four years. I'm afraid he's going to run again and lose, because he could do this again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: And they also focused on counter Trump team's claims on First Amendment. Of course, team Trump said that that he was just exercising his First Amendment rights and here is what one of the managers said about why that wasn't the case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): The First Amendment does not create some super power immunity from impeachment for a president who attacks the Constitution in word and deed while rejecting the outcome of an election he happened to lose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: And they raised several key questions and we'll see how the defense team answers those questions today. One is, why didn't Trump tell supporters to stop the attack immediately? As we know, he initially tweeted attacking Pence and it wasn't until hours into the riots that that video was released by Trump telling them to go home.
Also, another question, why the delay in deploying the National Guard. As we know, this is been raised repeatedly. Why did it take so long for the National Guard to arrive on scene?
And also, they raised, how is there a constitutional argument when the Senate voted on that question on Tuesday. Of course, that is one of the key aspects of the defense team arguments, they claim that this trial is unconstitutional, they raise the question that Democrats -- the Democrats raised a question, that is already settled, why is that coming up.
Back to you -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Pamela. Thank you so much -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I want to turn, Jake, right now to what we could expect next in the impeachment trial of the former president of the United States. His legal defense team will begin presenting their arguments before the Senate and the nation indeed the world less than one hour from now and we're getting new details of their plan.
Our chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us right now.
Kaitlan, you're hearing I understand the former president's defense team expected to make this relatively brief.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Wolf, it is going to be I lot shorter than what you saw with Democrats who spread their arguments out over two days. This is expected to wrap up by today. Maybe about four hours of arguments is what we're expecting from the former Trump's legal team that is going to come out here.
And they're framing it as a day of redemption for the former president's legal team because, of course, on Tuesday, it was a widely panned performance by one of his attorneys at least, maybe both of them as well. So what they're framing it as today is when they are going come out and make the arguments in defense of the former president and his actions around January 6 and the riot and what led up to that.
So, you're going to see, likely, four attorneys on the floor from the president's team. That is David Schoen, who you saw this week. Bruce Castor, that is the one who gave the widely panned performance at the beginning when he said he wasn't expecting to speak and there's also Michael van der Veen and William Brennan as well, two other attorneys on the team.
Those are the only people that we're expecting to hear from. It's not clear that all four of these are going to speak but those are the ones who are on the agenda right now and they've got a slew of topics, Wolf, that is going to include videos of Democratic lawmakers they say using this inflammatory rhetoric. That's what Democrats have said will set up the false equivalency of what you can expect.
But they're also going to talk about the constitutionality of having this impeachment trial for a press president who is no longer in office. They're going to claim that his words were protected by First Amendment rights. They're also going to talk about a key line that he used in the speech on the ellipse the day of that riot, when he told them to go patriotically and peacefully to Capitol Hill.
Of course, Wolf, they're not likely to include the other statements that you saw the Democrats pointed to so many times this week. And so, we should note one other thing, wolf, as they've been preparing for this, the president has been complaining about his legal team every day this week, ever since they first got started on Tuesday. And last night just before everyone was leaving to go home from Capitol Hill, you saw three Republican senators who were closely aligned with former President Trump going into the room where his defense team has been working out of during this trial.
That was Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, and Lindsey Graham all going into there, raising questions because they are jurors in this impeachment trial and why they were going in there to talk to the president's defense team.
And now, I've learned that while they were in the room, Wolf, they were giving the strategic advice for the former president's defense team of how they should operate during the rebuttal today, trying to really help them frame their arguments for what it is going to look like, and obviously, that not only raises questions because they are jurors in this trial, but it really does show the unease in the president's world, the former President Trump's world, I should say, about how his legal team is going to do today.
Because he was very upset with how Bruce Castor performed on Tuesday, he's been complaining about him basically every single day since then.
So some of his allies clearly felt the need to go in there and try to give them advice for how they should proceed because those three Republican senators know the audience very well, and it is their colleagues. So we'll wait to see what is going to look like today but we are told that we should expect crisper, tighter arguments from the former President Trump's team because, of course, they certainly were not on Tuesday.
BLITZER: Yeah, they certainly -- they were pretty awful on Tuesday. So they have 16 hours, over two days to make the legal defense for the former president but everybody expected make three or four hours and I wouldn't be surprised if it is even less than that.
Kaitlan, thank you very much.
Anderson, over to you.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: We want to talk to our legal and political team here. We have Laura Coates, Gloria Borger, Norm Eisen, and Ross Garber.
Laura, so, three to four hours, we're expecting from this defense team. How much is focused on the -- this is unconstitutional, which is a fig leaf that Republicans could use without having to address the other stuff and how much trying to convince them that the president was not inciting a riot.
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think it is going to be a combination with the majority on that procedural issue, because that is the safe fig leaf for them, they would say, quit while you're ahead, not try to muddy up the waters by introducing things that the House impeachment managers have already essentially put to rest. It is very clear from the House impeachment managers' case, they have a very compelling case of a methodical approach by this president -- by the former president to engage in a big lie, to summon, assemble and instruct a mob.
If they focus on the idea of this is an exercise in futility, because he has already left office, he'll find more traction I think with the already receptive Republican senators. However, it is really nonsensical if you think about the reason that they're doing it, because they've already decided the issue of it being constitutional. It was a simple majority vote and they've gone through that hurdle, so to not address the merits is a way of dismissing what so many people across the globe are viewing as absolutely abhorrent behavior.
COOPER: Ross, one of the arguments they'll be making essentially is the what-about-ism. You know, what about the Democrats? ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah.
COOPER: I want to play something is that Senator Schumer said last year that they may point to.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won't know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Clearly, there is no insurrection there.
GARBER: I was going to say.
GARBER: The Supreme Court got raided right after he said that, right. So, yeah, it breaks down at that point.
But remember, the Trump lawyers are focused on two audiences. One are the Republican senators who were with them on that jurisdictional vote, trying to appeal to them, and they're trying to appeal to the Republican base and the Trump base. And , you know, clips like that are -- are red meat for those audiences.
And it is sort of this -- it is also a slippery slope argument. It is like, look, this is about free speech, it is about political speech, it is about, you know, the Trump lawyers will say, when the Democrats say this, nobody has a problem with it. When Republicans say it, well, now all of a sudden people have problems it.
So it is going to be that kind of slippery slope argument that almost borders on cancel culture.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It is just -- but what the house lawyers were talking about was not one speech on January 6th, they're talking about a president who, from the night of the election, was saying this is rigged, and --
COOPER: From even before the election.
BORGER: Well, before the election he predicted it would be rigged if he lost and after he lost he said it was rigged and talked about it and talked to Americans how your vote was taken away.
So the notion that they're going to play one stupid speech by someone compared to Donald Trump who the House attorneys really methodically laid out this whole case about how the president, the former president has been doing this for months it kind of a difficult case to make to the American public. And, by the way, the lawyers on the House side could say, wait a minute, has he admitted that Joe Biden is the free and fairly elected president of the United States? Did he ever tell those people inside to stop while it was going on?
They have a lot of really good questions to ask. Why did he wait so long, et cetera? So I so I don't think it works.
GARBER: It is a double-edged sword, but this is the kind of thing that I've been saying for weeks and months and years and so -- and so it shouldn't have surprised.
BORGER: At the rally.
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And the thing that the managers did so well, and it doesn't only speak, Ross talked about the audiences, it doesn't only speak to the jurors on both sides but to America, is the evidence that after those fighting words on January 6th, now what we've seen powerful evidence that the president doubled down through his inaction, through his action when he knew Mike Pence was under danger, he tweeted an attack on Pence.
He told the insurrectionists that he loved them. He perpetuated the big lie that had so inflamed them and that is the core of the case and it is a case to America now as Raskin said.
Laura, do you think that the president's -- the former president Trump's attorneys will take the questions which the house managers pose to them at the end of their presentation yesterday, which was as Pam Brown went through, what was the president doing during this time? Why didn't he speak out for several hours? Why didn't he condemn it that day? Do they address that or do you think they just try to ignore them.
COATES: I think they've got to address it. If they're prudent about their defense, they're go to have to be able to address -- they raise it in their briefs. It said that it is a lie that he was just sitting there twiddling his thumbs and clapping gleefully, and said there was a flurry of activity to try to counteract this attack by insurrectionists.
So, they've already raised this issue. Now it is their job to prove it and to undermine the case that said he was sitting there knowing that Mike Pence was leaving, calling him a coward, having it then be played on a megaphone and the delay, even his own son, I believe, Donald Trump Jr., did tweet something before his own father tweeted about trying to quell the crowd. So you wonder how he's going to address it.
The problem here, Anderson, is if they put it out there and certainly resort the actual claims, well, will there be witnesses there to show if there is a factual dispute? Who was is going to have the ultimate credibility ruling at that point?
And if both sides are saying, no, we did, who is going to be the one to resolve the dispute.
COOPER: Yeah. Let's go back to Jake -- Jake.
The House impeachment managers used Donald Trump's own words and tweets to argue the case that he incited the mob of his supporters to attack the Capitol on January 6th. The House impeachment managers emphasize that for months before the election, during the election, after the election, Trump tweeted conspiracy theories and misinformation and disinformation about alleged voter fraud in order to stoke anger among his supporters to convince them to come to Washington at the end there. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At 1:42 in the morning, our commander-in-chief tweeted, big protest in D.C. on January 6.
DEL. STACEY PLASKETT (D-VI): President Trump tweeted his Save the Date for January 6th.
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): He tweeted, it will be the greatest rigged election in history.
REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): President Trump tweeted, can you imagine if the Republicans stole a election from the Democrats?
REP. JOE NEGUSE (D-CO): The endless tweets.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Here with me to discuss, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash and CNN senior political correspondent Abby Phillip.
And, Dana, I have to say Jack Dorsey and the team at Twitter, in my view, and also all of the gang at Facebook, they did Donald Trump a huge favor by banning him. Because I cannot even imagine what he would be tweeting right now.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. There is a huge sigh of relief for those remaining people around Donald Trump that he can't live-tweet this. That he is spending time on the golf course and not finding ways to make his frustration known in public, because it would only hurt his case. And everybody around him knows that and they've been trying to convince him of that.
But, look, as much as we're going to hear today from his lawyers, the what-about-ism and sound bite after sound bite probably like the one we heard that Anderson played from Chuck Schumer and others from people from maybe from Bernie Sanders on down saying fight and so on and so forth, it isn't the same. But that is almost besides the point, because as we've been talking about now for several days, the Republicans are looking for a life raft and they just need the president's attorneys to provide one and they think that is their best bet. TAPPER: So, Abby, back to the point I was making before about the
tweets. The -- one of the reasons that it is a favor to Trump that he can't tweet or Facebook post because the legal team is putting forth arguments that are not true. They're just false. And everybody knows it.
For example, they intend to deny that Donald Trump was trying to interfere with the Electoral College vote and they wrote in this briefing February 2nd, it is denied that President Trump intended to interfere with the counting of electoral votes.
But look at Trump tweets.
Here is the former president on January 6th. States want to correct their votes, which they know was based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval. All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the states and we win. Do it, Mike. This is the time for extreme courage, trying to get the electoral vote reversed.
And he tweeted if Mike Pence comes through for us, we'll win the presidency. Many states want to decertify the mistake in certified incorrect and fraudulent numbers not approved by their state legislatures, which it must be. Mike can send it back.
The lawyers are arguing lies that Donald Trump, if he were tweeting, would be refuting in real-time, probably.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, and in addition to the tweets, there is the now infamous tweet during the riot in which he condemned Mike Pence for not attempting to over turn the results of the election and stopping the certification, which is what he wanted Pence to do in the first place.
If Trump had his Twitter feed right now, he would be tweeting throughout this.
And remember, in the last impeachment, he was tweeting throughout that impeachment proceeding.
PHILLIP: And was widely perceived to have been threatening one of the witnesses as she was testifying during that hearing.
TAPPER: That's right.
PHILLIP: So not only would he be tweeting things that contradict his own lawyer but he might be creating evidence for the impeachment managers to add to their case which is something that he typically does at moments like this.
One thing that I do think that we'll see with the Trump lawyers doing is hinging their entire argument on one word stated by Trump during the riot which was when he said, you should peacefully go down to the Capitol.
So the question is, will Republican senators hinge their entire vote for acquittal on one word out of the entire speech against dozens and dozens of words tweeted and said during, after and before the riot, before the rally, before everything that transpired?
BASH: And real quick, aside from that, which I think you're absolutely right, we're going to hear that word a lot today, Abby, is that even though they put up what you just put up on the screen in their brief, I have a hard time believing that they're going to lean into that argument when they're in front of the senators, because it is so specious. It is so specious. The idea that the president didn't really you know foment the big lie.
I mean, of course he did. My sense is that they're going to try to avoid substance for the most part as much as they can and talk about process and talk about -- try to put it in a context that, you know, won't be that legitimate but they're going to try.
TAPPER: We shall see. They don't have a lot to work with.
TAPPER: That's true.
BASH: No, that's probably why we won't hear from them very long.
BLITZER: Good point.
Coming up, a GOP divide. Nikki Haley criticizing Donald Trump and says that the former president has no future in the Republican Party.
Plus, three Republican senators talk strategy with Trump's lawyers the night before they present their case.
And this historic impeachment trial could wrap up as early as this weekend. We'll have a closer look at the time line, that's coming up.
BLITZER: The second Trump impeachment trial is exposing a Republican Party fracture over the former president of the United States. Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations worked for Trump as his ambassador, now she's saying her former boss should be exiled, exiled from the Republican Party, from Republican politics and I'm quoting her now: I don't think he's going to be in the picture.
She adds: We need to acknowledge he let us down. Haley told "Politico": He went down a path he shouldn't have and we shouldn't have followed him. We shouldn't have listened to him. We can't let that happen ever again.
John King is with us right now.
John, pretty powerful words from the woman who was his ambassador to the U.N. and had been pretty loyal to him.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And so every Republican has to make this choice. Trump has brought them to yet another crossroads and now is choosing time.
For the senators, it's vote to convict, and for people for Nikki Haley, who has ambitions to be president herself somebody, it's what do you do? Do you try to straddle or make a clean break? Do you say the insurrection was wrong, this was wrong, or do you say, all of it was wrong?
And frankly, Wolf, there is other stuff in there, I'll get a little bit ahead of us here, but there's another thing she said here. She said, you know, the person that I worked with is not the person that I have watched since the election.
That is a straddle. What you just read is a break. She'll have to choose which one she wants here. The person that I worked with is not the person I watched since the election.
The person she worked with was the candidate who said Mexico sends us its rapists, murderers. The person she worked with was the president who said there were fine people on both sides of Charlottesville. So, the president's allies often complaint of Trump derangement syndrome, and now, there are a lot of Republicans going to try to go through Trump rationalization syndrome.
Insurrection, election lie, bad, the rest of it pretty good. Let's try to keep his supporters.
You can't have it both ways. The person she worked with said some very reprehensible things. So, it will be -- watch her, watch the progression of all of these Republicans.
BLITZER: And she often defended him over the course of the past couple of years. She was really angry at the former president for going after the Vice President Mike Pence. Here's the quote from the "Politico" article: When I tell you I'm angry, it's an understatement. Mike has nothing but loyal to that man. He's been nothing but a good friend to that man. I'm so disappointed in the fact that despite the loyalty and friendship he had with Mike Pence, that he would do that to him. Like, I'm disgusted by it.
KING: That's an honest candid statement. Nikki Haley comes from the conservative wing of the party. When she was U.N. ambassador, she worked with Vice President Pence. Everything she says right there is true. Vice President Pence was as loyal as you could be to Donald Trump even at times when President Trump then was doing things outside of Mike Pence's box, outside of probably Mike Pence's comfort zone, Mike Pence stood by him. And, again, the House managers have tried to play this up in the
prosecution, focusing on how President Trump treated his own vice president when his life was at risk in the capitol building. That is a clean break. If you read through this wonderful article in "Politico", there are times when she's making a clean break, I'm disgusted, that's not how a good human being acts.
There are other times when she's in the straddle. And, again, whether you're Mike Pence, you might want to run in 2024, whether you're Mike Pompeo, you might want to run 2024, Nikki Haley, when Mike Pompeo became secretary of state, that's when she decided, there's no other job for me here, I'm going to get out and she got out of a time to try to protect herself if you will.
But every Republican, including senators who are going to cast a vote in the next 24 to 48 hours, this is the decision they are making.