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CNN Live Event/Special

Senators Ask Questions in Donald Trump's Impeachment Trial. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 12, 2021 - 16:30   ET


REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): And after Wednesday's trial portion concluded, Senator Tuberville spoke to reporters and confirmed the call that he had with the president and did not dispute manager Cicilline's description in any way that there was a call between he and the president around the time that Mike Pence was being ushered out of the chamber, and that was shortly after 2:00 p.m.


And Senator Tuberville specifically said that he told the president, Mr. President, they just took the vice president out. I've got to go.

That was shortly after 2:00 p.m. There were still hours of chaos, carnage and mayhem. The vice president and his family were still in danger at that point.

Our commander-in-chief did nothing.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): Counsel for the former president?

MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN, FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP'S DEFENSE LAWYER: The answer is no. At no point was the president informed that the vice president was in any danger, because the house rushed through this impeachment in seven days with no evidence. There's nothing at all in the record on this point, because the House failed to do even a minimum amount of due diligence.

What the president did know is that there was a violent -- there was a violent riot happening at the Capitol. That's why he repeatedly called via tweet and via video for the riots to be stopped, to be peaceful, to respect Capitol Police and law enforcement and commit no violence and to go home.

But to be clear, this is an article of impeachment for incitement. This is not an article of impeachment for anything else. It's one count. They could have charged anything they wanted. They chose to charge incitement.

So that the question, although answered directly no, it's not really relevant to the charges for the impeachment in this case.

And I just want to clear up one more thing. Mr. Castro, in his first answer, may have spoke, but what he said was Mr. Trump had said, fight to the death. That's false. I'm hoping he misspoke. Thank you. SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Mr. President?

LEAHY: The senator from Minnesota.

KLOBUCHAR: Mr. President, on behalf of myself and Senators Casey and Brown, I send a question to the desk.


LEAHY: So, question from Senator Klobuchar, Casey and Brown to the House managers. The clerk will report.

SENATE CLERK: In presenting your case, you relied on pass precedence from impeachment trials such as William Belknap's impeachment. After what you have presented in the course of this trial, if we do not convict former president Trump, what message will we be sending to future presidents and congresses?


DEL. STACEY PLASKETT (D-VI): President Trump engaged in a course of conducted that incited an armed attack on the Capitol. He did so while seeking to overturn the results of the election and thwart the transfer of power. And when the attack began, he further incited violence aimed to his own vice president, even as demonstrated his state of mind by failing to defend us and the law enforcement officials who protect us.

The consequences of his conduct were devastating on every level. Police officers were left overwhelmed, unprotected. Congress had to be evacuated, our staff barricaded in this building, calling their families to say good-bye. Some of us, like Mr. Raskin, had children here.

And these people in this building, some of whom were on the FBI's watch list, took photos, stood laptops, destroyed precious statues, including one of John Lewis.


Desecrated the statue of a recently deceased member of Congress who stood for nonviolence. This was devastating.

And the world watched us, and the world is still watching us, to see what we will do this day, and we'll know what we did this day 100 years from now.

Those are the immediate consequences, and our actions will reverberate as to what are the future consequences. The extremists who attacked the Capitol at the president's provocation will be emboldened. All of our intelligence agencies have confirmed this. It is not House managers saying that.

There are quite literally standing by and standing ready. Donald Trump told them this is only the beginning. They are waiting and watching, to see if Donald Trump is right that everyone said this was totally appropriate.

Let me also bring something else up. I'll briefly say that defense counsels put a lot of videos out in their -- in their defense, playing clip after clip of black women talking about fighting for a cause or an issue, or a policy. It was not lost on me, as so many of them were people of color and women, black women. Black women like myself, who are sick and tired of being sick and tired for our children, your children, our children.

This summer, things happened that were violent, but there were also things that gave some of us black women great comfort, seeing Amish people from Pennsylvania standing up with us, members of Congress fighting up with us. And so I thought we were past that.

I think maybe we're not. There are longstanding consequences. Decisions like this that will define who we are as a people, who America is. We have, in this room, made monumental decisions. You all have made monumental decisions.

We've declared wars, passed Civil Rights Acts, ensured that no one in this country is a slave. Every American has the right to vote, unless you live in a territory. At this time, some of these decisions are even controversial, but history has shown that they define us as a country and as a people.

Today is one of those moments, and history will wait for our decision.

SEN. MIKE LEE (R-UT): Mr. President?

LEAHY: The senator from Utah.

LEE: I send a question to the desk.


LEAHY: The senator from Utah, Mr. Lee, sends a question on behalf of himself, Senator Hawley, Senator Crapo, Senator Blackburn, and Senator Portman, and the question is for the counsel for the former president. Clerk will read.

SENATE CLERK: Multiple state constitutions enacted prior to 1787, namely the constitutions of Delaware, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Vermont specifically provided for the impeachment of a former officer. Given that the framers of the U.S. Constitution would have been aware of these provisions, does their decision to emit language, specifically authorizing the impeachment of former officials indicate that they did not intend for our Constitution to allow for the impeachment of former officials?

VAN DER VEEN: Good question. And the answer is, yes, of course they left it out. The framers were very smart men. And they went over draft, after draft, after draft on that document. And they reviewed all the other drafts of all of the state constitutions, all of them.

And they picked and chose what they wanted, and they discarded what they did not. And what they discarded was the option for all of you to impeach a former elected official. I hope that's answering your question. Thank you.

SEN. ALEX PADILLA (D-CA): Mr. President?

LEAHY: The senator from California.

PADILLA: Mr. President I send a question to the desk question to the desk.

LEAHY: Senator from California submits a question for the House managers. The clerk will report.

SENATE CLERK: Having been on the front lines of combating the big lie for the past four years as California's chief elections officer, it is clear that President Trump's plot to undermine the 2020 election was built on lies and conspiracy theories. How did this plot to unconstitutionally keep President Trump in power lead to the radicalization of so many of president Trump's followers and the resulting attack on the Capitol?


CASTRO: Senators, Donald Trump spent months inciting his supporters to believe that the election was stolen. And that was the point -- that was the thing that would get people so angry. Think about that. What it would take to get a large group of thousands of Americans so angry to storm the Capitol.

That was the purpose behind Donald Trump saying that the election had been rigged and that the election had been stolen. And, to be clear, when he says the election is stolen, what he's saying is that the victory -- he even says one time, the election victory is being stolen from them.

Think about how significant that is to Americans. Again, you're right, over 70 million. I think 74 million people voted for Donald Trump.

And this wasn't a one-off comment. It wasn't one time. It was over and over and over and over again, with a purpose.

We're not having this impeachment trial because Donald Trump contested the election. As I said during the presentation, no one here wants to lose an election. We all run our races to win elections, but what President Trump did was different. What our commander in chief did was the polar opposite of what we're supposed to do. We let the people decide the elections, except President Trump.

He directed all of that rage as he incited the January 6th, the last chance -- to him, that was the last chance. This was certifying the election results. He needed to whip up that mob, amp them up enough to get out there to try to stop the election results, the certification of the election.

And y'all, they took over the Senate chamber to do that. They almost took over the House chamber. There were 50 or so or more House members who literally were scared for their lives up in the gallery. A woman who bought into that big lie died because she believed the president's big lie.

This resulted in a loss of one of his supporters' lives. A Capitol police officer died that day, other of President Trump's supporters. Two Capitol Police officers ended up taking their own lives.

Defense counsel, their defense is basically everything President Trump did is okay, and he could do it again. Is that what we believe? That there is no problem with that? That it's perfectly fine if he does the same thing all over again?

This is dangerous. He's inciting his base. He was using the claim of a rigged election. We have never seen somebody do that over and over and over again, tell a lie, say six months ahead of time that it's a rigged election.

There is a dangerous consequences to that, when you've got millions of followers on Twitter and millions of followers on Facebook and you've got that huge bully pulpit from the White House and you're the president of the United States. There is a cost to doing that.

People are listening to you in a way that, quite honestly, they're not listening to me and they're not listening to all of us in this room.

Now, I just want to clear up, the defense counsel made a point about something that I read earlier. Defense counsel suggested I misspoke. I just want to clarify for the record that the tweet I referenced, let me read you the tweet directly.

If a Democrat presidential candidate had an election rigged and stolen with proof of such acts at a level never seen before, Democrat senators would consider it an act of war and fight to the death. Mitch and the Republicans do nothing. Just want to let it pass. No fight.

So, Donald Trump was equating what Democrats would do if the election was stolen. He said they would fight to the death.

Why do you think he sends that tweet? Because he's trying to say, hey, the other side would fight to the death, so you should fight to the death. I mean, do we read that any other way?

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): Mr. President?

LEAHY: Senator from Missouri.

HAWLEY: Mr. President on my behalf and on behalf of Senator Cramer, I send a question to the desk. I send a question to the desk.


LEAHY: Senator Hawley on behalf of himself and Senator Cramer send a question for the counsel and House manager. And following our procedure, the first one to respond after the -- it's read will be counsel for the former president.

SENATE CLERK: If the Senate's power to disqualify is not derivative of the power to remove a convicted president from office, could the Senate disqualify a sitting president but not remove him or her?


SENATE CLERK: If the Senate's power to disqualify is not derivative of the power to remove a convicted president from office, could the Senate disqualify a sitting president but not remove him or her?

LEAHY: (INAUDIBLE) president has two and a half minutes.



But I can't let this rest. Mr. Castro attributed a statement a time before last that he was up here that Donald Trump had told his supporters to fight to the death. I'm not from here. I'm not like you guys. I was being very polite and given the opportunity to correct the record, and I thought that's exactly what he would do.

But instead what he did is he came up and illustrated the problem with the presentation of the House case. It's been smoke and mirrors and, worse, it's been dishonest.

He came up and tried to cover when he got caught, as they were caught earlier today with all of the evidence, checking tweets, switching dates, everything they did. And bear in mind, I had two days to look at their evidence. And when I say two days, I mean they started putting in their evidence, so I started to be able to get looking at it.

That is not the way this should be done. But what we discovered was, he knew what he was doing. He knew that the president didn't say that to his people. What he said was, if it happened to the Dems, this is what they would do. In his speech that day, do you know what he said? He said if this happened to the Democrats, if the election was stolen from the Democrats, all hell would break loose.

But he said to his supporters, we are smarter. We are stronger. And we're not going to do what they did all summer long.

So what he did was, he misrepresented a tweet to you to put forth the narrative that is wrong. It's wrong. It's dishonest. And the American people don't deserve this any longer. You must acquit.

LEAHY: Managers on the part of the House of Representatives have two and a half minutes.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD), IMPEACHMENT MANAGER: That was profoundly inaccurate and irrelevant to what the question is, so I'm going to get back to the question.

So under Article II, Section 4, a president who is in office must be convicted before removal. And then must be removed before disqualification. OK, but if the president is already out of office, he can be separately disqualified, as this president is. But these powers have always been treated as separate, which is why I

think there have been eight people who have been convicted and removed and just three of them disqualified. As you know, there's a totally separate process within the Senate for doing this. The Constitution requires two-thirds vote for conviction, but for disqualification, it's a majority vote. It's a separate thing.

So, people could vote to convict and then not to disqualify, if they felt that the evidence demonstrated that the president was guilty of incitement to insurrection, they could vote to convict, but if they felt they didn't want to exercise the further power established by the Constitution to disqualify, they wouldn't have to do that. And that could be something that is taken up separately by the Senate by majority vote.

SEN. ED MARKEY (D-MA): Mr. President?

LEAHY: The senator from Massachusetts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I send a question to the desk.


LEAHY: The senator from Massachusetts has a question for the House managers. The clerk will read the question.


SENATE CLERK: The defense's presentation highlighted the fact that Democratic members of Congress raised objections to counting of electoral votes in past joint sessions of Congress. To your knowledge, were any of those Democratic objections raised after insurrectionists stormed the Capitol in order to prevent the counting of electoral votes and after the president's personal lawyer asked senators to make these objections specifically to delay the certification?

RASKIN: So, thank you very much, Mr. President, for the opportunity to respond that.

The answer is no, we are not aware that any other objections raised in the counting of electoral college votes, either by Democrats or Republicans, and this has actually been a kind of proud bipartisan tradition under the Electoral College, it's because the Electoral College is so arcane and there's so many rules to it, I think that my co-counsel on the other side had some fun because I was one of the people who took, I think, about 30 seconds in 2016 to point out that the electors from Florida were not actually conforming to the letter of the law because there's a rule in Florida you cannot be a dual office holder. In other words, you can't be like a state legislator and also be an elector.

And so, that was improper form. But I think the vice president -- then-Vice President Biden properly gaveled me down and said we're going to try to make the Electoral College work and we're going to vindicate the will of the people. And that's pretty much what's happened, and nobody has stormed the

Capitol before or, as Representative Cheney, the secretary of the Republican conference, said, gone out and summoned a mob, assembled a mob, incited a mob and lit a match, as Representative Cheney said, this would -- that all of this goes to the doorstep of the president. None of it would have happened without him. And all of it is due to his actions.

That's the chair of the House Republican conference who was the target of an effort to remove her, which was rejected on the vote of by more than 2-1 in the House Republican conference when there was an attempt to remove her for voting for impeachment and becoming a leader for vindicating our constitutional values.

So, please don't mix up what Republicans and Democrats have done, I think, in every election for a long time to say there are improprieties going on in conforming with state election laws with the idea of mobilizing a mob insurrection against the government that got five people killed, 140 capitol officers wounded and threatened the actual peaceful succession of power and transfer of power in America.

If you want to talk about reforming the Electoral College, we can talk about reforming the Electoral College. You don't do it with violence.

SEN. KEVIN CRAMER (R-ND): Mr. President?

LEAHY: Senator from North Dakota?

CRAMER: Thank you. My apologies to the senator for Massachusetts for butting in. I send a question to the desk for the former president's attorneys.


LEAHY: The question from Senator Cramer is for the counsel for the former president. The clerk will read the question.

SENATE CLERK: Given the allegations of the House manager that President Trump has tolerated anti-Semitic rhetoric, has there been a more pro-Israel president than President Trump?

VAN DER VEEN: No, but it's apparent that nobody listened to what I said early earlier today, because the victorial (ph) speech needs to stop. You need to stop.

There was nothing fun here, Mr. Raskin. We aren't having fun here. This is about the most miserable experience I've had down here in Washington, D.C. There's nothing fun about it.

And in Philadelphia, where I come from, when you get caught doctoring the evidence, your case is over. And that's what happened.