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CNN Live Event/Special
Senate Votes To Acquit Donald Trump: 57 Voted Guilty, 43 Voted Not Guilty; McConnell Suggests Trump Could Be Prosecuted Criminally; Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) Is Interviewed About The Lack Of Republican Vote To Convict Donald Trump; Louisiana GOP Censures Sen. Cassidy After Vote To Convict Trump. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired February 13, 2021 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: And that is such a profoundly dangerous thing because what's left? If not, if the impeachment process, if impeachment, that constitutional remedy is no longer really going to be applicable in some way going forward in the course of American history, that raises a real concern about how Presidents are held accountable by a co-equal branch.
And I will just say, it is going to require a change in our politics. I mean, that was -- the whole problem with this impeachment trial was that -- talk about a rigged election? I mean, our politics, our tribalism, our broken political system rigged the jury well in advance.
I'm not suggesting it had to be that way, but that's the reality of what these House Managers walked into when they started --
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm just pulling this up because you used the word "tribalism." And this is a big part of the beginning of the statement that Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska made about why he voted to convict and he said, "If we were talking about a Democratic President, most Republicans and most Democrats would simply swap sides. Tribalism is a hell of a drug. But our oath to the Constitution means we are constrained to the facts."
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: And can you imagine a more --
CHALIAN: Should mean.
PHILLIP: Right, should mean.
BASH: He said we are, but yes.
PHILLIP: Can you imagine a more -- a more important reason why one should put tribalism aside. I mean, this case was fundamentally about a sitting President being accused of inciting an insurrection to stop the transfer of power from him to someone else. That is at the core of democracy, and yet the tribalism is still there and it hasn't been resolved.
In fact, maybe it has even been exacerbated by this trial. You heard in Donald Trump's statement, or, you know, Donald Trump put out a statement today that basically said, this is just beginning for me. I'm not going anywhere.
He's not going anywhere and he is going to use this as, you know, this is a warning that I think many Republicans had, he is going to be vindicated by this acquittal, but he is not going anywhere and is going to be a force to be dealt with.
BASH: That's exactly right. And Wolf, he is not going anywhere, in part because he's got the House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, who apparently said, do you know who you're dealing with? I'm not using the expletive. Then following that, by going down to Mar-a-Lago in the hopes that he will help Republicans in the 2022 election.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Yes, it was an amazing few days. And Dana, just stand by for a moment because for those of us -- for those of you who are just joining us, this is CNN's special live coverage of Donald Trump's second impeachment trial.
And as you saw moments ago, the Senate voted to acquit the former President of the single Article of Impeachment, the vote 57 to convict, 43 to acquit. Seven Republican senators voting with all 50 Democrats to convict Trump, 10 votes short of what is needed. You need a two-thirds majority, 67 votes in the Senate for a conviction.
I want to bring in our chief domestic correspondent, Jim Acosta. He is down in Florida near Mar-a-Lago. He is in West Palm Beach and our Chief White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins. She is, of course, over at the White House.
Jim, what was the former President's reaction to the acquittal? We know he issued a statement?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, not surprisingly, Wolf, they are declaring victory, and the former President's statement makes that very clear. And I can read you a portion of it, we want to put it up on screen. It says, "My deepest thanks as well, to all of the United States senators and Members of Congress who stood proudly for the Constitution. We all revere and for the sacred legal principles at the heart of our country, we have so much work ahead of us. And soon we will emerge with a vision for a bright, radiant and limitless American future."
A couple of things from that portion of the statement, Wolf, one is obviously the former President is signaling, he is not leaving the scene and he makes it very clear in other parts of this statement that he plans to be coming out soon to make some kind of announcement, perhaps to give some speeches to indicate his future political plans.
Does that mean he is running for President again in 2024? We have no idea. Does it mean he is just going to siphon more money from his political base? That's possibly the more likely scenario.
The other thing we should point out, Wolf, when the President says in the statement, that he reveres the Constitution. I mean, honestly, Wolf, what we've seen over the last several months is a President who does not revere the Constitution. He's been hugging the American flag and violating the Constitution over these last several months.
I will give you a couple of different reactions that I'm getting from people inside Trump world. I talked very briefly with Bruce Castor, the President's defense lawyer, asked him was he disappointed in the fact that seven Republican senators voted to convict the former President, Bruce Castor said quote, "A win is a win."
And so it doesn't matter what the ultimate outcome is for Bruce Castor and the rest of this defense team in terms of the numbers, they were able to get the former President acquitted in this Senate impeachment trial.
The other thing I will tell you when talking to a longtime Trump adviser, about one of the more damning parts of this trial, and that is it was basically established that the former President did nothing when his Vice President Mike Pence was in danger up on Capitol Hill on January 6. He essentially threw his Vice President under the bus.
I asked a longtime Trump adviser about this and this Trump adviser said, "The devil is a saint, when compared to Donald Trump." Wolf, I mean, even inside Trump world, there are people who know this President's character, they know who he is. And to have a longtime Trump adviser say something like that, I think, you know, establishes that even inside his own circle of advisers, allies and associates, there are some major questions about this man's character -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, there certainly is. And also in the statement, he once again said, this is another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country.
Kaitlan, I understand you're hearing that despite the acquittal, the former President is still very much worried about his legal future.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He is, Wolf, and privately he has expressed concern that he could be charged related to the January 6th rally. That's when he -- or riot I should say. That's what he has told multiple people. That's in part why he has been so quiet ever since he left the White House.
We have hardly heard from the President, only really, in these written statements. He does not have access to his Twitter account and one adviser to the President told me that is directly related to that, is that he is concerned that charges could happen and they could be awaiting him.
And so when you saw Mitch McConnell come out to try to explain his acquittal vote and he very strongly implied that the legal system should take care of Donald Trump saying that he was practically and morally responsible for that riot, that really does get at the heart of a big concern for the former President.
It's something that Liz Cheney has said as well, implying that there could be a prosecution in Donald Trump's future related to what happened on January 6th and the role that he played in it.
And the reason that's so significant, Wolf, is because that gives cover if those do happen, because of course, if you see the President's statement here that Jim was just talking about, the former President said that this is another continuation of the witch hunt that's likely what he would use if he were to be charged.
But here are two top Republicans saying that this is what they believe should be the way to handle Donald Trump, to handle the role that he played in that were clearly condemning his conduct.
And so we should note that the acting D.C. U.S. Attorney was explicitly asked if they were considering charging someone like Donald Trump, and he said that everything is on the table when it comes to this, anyone who played a role in that if they felt they could bring charges against them, they would.
And so whether or not this happens, of course, it remains to be seen. We don't know. But we are hearing from multiple people. This is a real concern for the former President that he could be charged related to this, and clearly some Republicans think that this is a viable option.
BLITZER: Yes. And we did hear from the Senate Minority Leader, Kaitlan, Mitch McConnell saying that he has very much suspect in the criminal justice system. He is not immune. He's a private citizen right now. He's a former President.
So he potentially -- he could face criminal justice charges down the road, and I'm sure, as you correctly point out, he is very worried about that right now.
He did say, Kaitlan, and I'm just anxious to get your thought. He did say that his patriotic and beautiful movement to make America great again has only just begun. So he clearly thinks he has a political future ahead of him.
COLLINS: He does, and he knows that the influence that he wields because after Jamie Gangel broke that reporting last night talking about just how angry and heated that conversation was, as this riot was ongoing between Kevin McCarthy, of course, the top Republican in the House and former President Trump, remember McCarthy went down to Florida three weeks after that and sought access to Trump's donor list because he knows he is going to play a big role in 2022.
It's not really just the donor list that Kevin McCarthy would want. It's the President's seal of approval to try to help get Republicans to take back the House.
And so what I'm told we should expect in the immediate future is that former President Trump is going to be going overseas to give paid speeches. He is likely to hold domestic rallies here at home targeting those that he believes have crossed him politically. You can get some of those Republican senators from today could be on that list, those that voted to convict him.
And so that's what we should see in the future. I am told we'll likely see more of former President Trump in the weeks to come. He won't be playing as much of a behind the scenes role, as he has been for the last few weeks. So whether or not we hear from him in person on this that still remains to be seen -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Excellent reporting. Kaitlan, thank you very much. Jim Acosta, excellent reporting from you as well.
You know, John King, I don't know what he is planning on doing, the former President of the United States, but he clearly thinks he has a political future ahead of him.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He clearly does. And this begins the next chapter. Those who are continuing to enable the former President and those like Mitch McConnell, who want to somehow exorcise him from the Republican Party, our hope, somebody else, a prosecutor or financial trouble, or something else takes him off the battlefield.
Remember, as he was promoting his big lie, he also lied to his supporters, asked them to send him a bunch of money to fight the elections, to contest the elections. He took that money with him in a PAC. So he does have tens of millions of dollars that he has at his disposal now to wage retribution, as Kaitlan just said, against the Liz Cheneys of the world, against probably the seven Republican senators, at least those who are still on the ballot there. So we'll watch this play out.
KING: It is an open question as to how long he can hold power in the Republican Party, but on this day, Wolf, 17 votes: 10 in the House and seven in the Senate of 261 Republicans of the United States Congress, 211 in the House, 50 in the Senate, 261 of those Republicans sided with Donald Trump on the question in the House to impeach or in the Senate to convict.
So the spell is not broken. Make no mistake about it. Kaitlan just mentioned Kevin McCarthy going down to Mar-a-Lago and kissing the ring.
The same Kevin McCarthy, we heard was on this phone call, asking the President to call this off and essentially being told to go away by Donald Trump and yet Kevin McCarthy still voted on the night of the insurrection to uphold the big lie, voted against impeachment, went to Mar-a-Lago. You don't need to know anything more else about Kevin McCarthy and how he believes he cannot become Speaker. He cannot win the majority back in two years without Donald Trump's help.
Lindsey Graham, who remember, right after the insurrection said "I'm done with Donald Trump." Well, he issued a statement yesterday saying he looks forward to going to Mar-a-Lago to talk to Donald Trump to hope that he'll be a team player in 2022.
So welcome to the next chapter, which is what next for Donald Trump? But it is important to note, this is the largest bipartisan impeachment vote even though it was just 10 Republicans in the House and seven in the Senate, and Donald Trump has twice been impeached.
Yes, he has twice been acquitted, but he has twice been impeached. There's nobody in the history books with that distinction. And the evidence presented by the managers was so overwhelming that Mitch McConnell who voted to acquit came to the floor and essentially said they made their case, but there's a technicality. I can't vote to convict this.
Rob Portman, another one who voted to acquit. I was just reading his statement where he says I am not defending the President. I'm not standing by the President. What the President did was reprehensible. And he essentially agrees with the Democrats that the President did that.
So a lot of these Republicans who voted to acquit are hiding behind a technical argument that they do not believe the Senate had jurisdiction over a former President. This chapter again is closing, but there's a new one opening.
BLITZER: Only four Presidents in American history have been impeached. And to two of those Presidents were Donald Trump.
BLITZER: He's been impeached, not once, but twice. He is going to have to live with that. He is going to also have to live with the fact that his four-year term as President ended with January 6th, the very violent insurrection that occurred up on Capitol Hill, a dark day in American history.
KING: And his party and those who stood with him are going to live with it as well.
BLITZER: Yes. And he's also going to live with the fact that Biden got seven million more votes than he got in the last election, even though he doesn't like to acknowledge, in fact, he likes to acknowledge, he got almost 75 million votes. Biden got seven million more votes.
Erin, back to you.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right, Wolf. So you know, John posing the question, so what next for Donald Trump? And that's a big question legally as well here. Right now you have impeachment. The political process now concluded with an acquittal.
Let's bring in former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Preet, I really appreciate you taking the time. So this is the question, you know, when we heard Mitch McConnell and of course, we've called out his hypocrisy. But he did say in his speech that the former President is quote, "Still liable for everything he did, and that he hasn't been held to account yet." That's the big question.
What is Trump's legal exposure for January 6 at this point?
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So I think that's a real question. You know, we've been having all these arguments with respect to the Senate trial, and the procedures and whether the rules of evidence apply and what due process is and what the elements are, and there are no rules in the Senate. If the D.O.J. was going to think about bringing charges with respect
to the January 6th insurrection, they are going to have to do a lot more than what the House Managers did, notwithstanding the fact that the House Managers did a terrific job.
You're not going to be able to prove your case by bringing in newspaper articles, or by using hearsay, or by making certain kinds of arguments that are of a political nature. That can't happen in Federal Court and the D.O.J. wouldn't authorize that.
So I think it's a little bit more of an uphill battle, even though the trial in the Senate for political reasons was an uphill battle. But I think they will probably take a serious look at it.
The leadership of the D.O.J. is not installed yet under the Biden administration, and as someone pointed out earlier, Merrick Garland has a confirmation hearing coming up soon, probably he will not answer any question, so as not to prejudge the issue of criminal exposure for Donald Trump with respect to January 6th, but I think it's a very open question and they'll probably at least look at it.
BURNETT: So I guess that -- look, it is Biden's D.O.J. and I know you say well, we don't know what Merrick Garland will do. He's not going to want to talk about it, but it is Biden's D.O.J. and I say that in the sense of wherever the facts may lead you, there is going to be the political question that's going to be put out there, right?
So does what McConnell said give cover to Merrick Garland, the Biden D.O.J., to go after Trump at all?
BHARARA: Yes, that's a good question. I think that the platonic ideal for an Attorney General and for the Department of Justice is that in the same way, you don't make your decisions based on what the President says, even if it's the President who appointed you.
And in the same way, you don't pay attention to political winds, you do what is right and proper, and just under the law and the facts, you don't take into consideration the fact that a Senate Majority Leader for whatever reasons he chose to make those statements notwithstanding his vote in the other direction, you don't take those into account.
Will it make it easier if they choose to open an investigation Perhaps bring a prosecution? Yes. But, you know, speaking of the ideal universe, you're not supposed to care what politicians think about prosecutions or failures to prosecute.
BURNETT: But it's -- but you're saying that you think it's a steeper hill to climb? I mean, definitionally, obviously, with a criminal definition of say, an inciting an insurrection. But how would you see this? Would it be worth pursuing criminal charges for whoever may have the jurisdiction to do so against the President?
BHARARA: Well, I think you have to pick a threshold question of whether or not you pursue the investigation, and then obviously, the next distinct phase is you decide to bring charges or not bring charges, and there are probably other things aside from incitement to insurrection.
There is you know, seditious conspiracy. There are a whole bunch of other things that you can look at. But I think the threshold question is, do you open up the inquiry? And do you start asking questions of people who are around Donald Trump?
Do you start gathering other evidence? Do you start interviewing people who might have some understanding of the President's knowledge and intentions on that day? We had allusions to that. We had, you know, press reports about that at the Senate trial, but you'd have to do that in a much more rigorous I think, and concrete way to decide whether or not a charge is okay.
Now, it's also possible that you could do a preliminary sort of, you know, internal deliberation to decide, for reasons that would be known to them that you're not going to pursue an investigation because there was an acquittal in the trial in the Senate and we've been down that road already. I don't know if those will be the considerations that Merrick Garland and his team will consider.
But the first question is, do you open a new investigation? And then it depends on how the investigation unfolds.
BURNETT: All right. So then, there's the January 6th issue and then just going through all the other things for Trump, there's the investigation in Georgia from the Georgia Secretary of State. There's the Fulton County District Attorney in Georgia, also looking into Trump's actions to overturn the vote count in Georgia.
There's the Manhattan attorney for looking at tax fraud, insurance fraud and various other things for the Trump Organization, and there is the New York Attorney General, Letitia James, looking at the asset inflation, and things that Trump may have done to sort of lie about his net worth to try to get deals done.
Those are the main ones that we know are out there. Do you think, Preet, that any of these are truly significant threats to President Trump?
BHARARA: I think the most significant threat comes from the Manhattan DA's office because their investigation is further along. It definitely is a criminal investigation. They don't do civil, you know, lawsuits.
So President Trump's liberty is in jeopardy, unlike it was at the Senate impeachment trial. And you know, they are good lawyers there. You don't know for a fact if it'll end up in a prosecution or not. But they've been spending a lot of time. They've done a lot of documents, they won a lot of court victories and they are serious about going about these kinds of investigations.
So I would say the biggest jeopardy to Donald Trump is in Manhattan.
BURNETT: And just you know, taking a step back, Preet, because you obviously, you know, as a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, you know New York so well. You're very familiar with Donald Trump.
He is someone who has skated past the law for his entire career. Is there anything in any of this that makes you think the outcome will be different?
BHARARA: Now, you can't predict. But, you know, sometimes when you tempt fate, I'm not speaking as a lawyer here, but just as an observer of human history and life, and you cause yourself to be scrutinized by lots and lots of different people just like the people around Donald Trump by the way, all these people who have been convicted of crimes around Donald Trump probably would have skated also because the spotlight and the scrutiny wasn't upon them.
And when you have so many different people in so many different places taking a look, and you have so many different things that he has done at some point, luck runs out.
BURNETT: All right, Preet, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
BURNETT: That's Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Let me start with you, you know, he's just going through some of the other things here. It's not just inciting insurrection, which Mitch McConnell gave his personal opinion that this didn't reach that legal standard. But that's Mitch McConnell's personal opinion.
Preet also mentioning seditious conspiracy and other things. What other things? What ones are the biggest threat to Trump or do you think he just never sees charges?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So the Justice Department really is going to be the key player here and we're at a moment of truth for the Justice Department because we are coming off with four years of unprecedented politicization of D.O.J. by Donald Trump and by Bill Barr in particular.
Now, we have a new D.O.J. in place. President Joe Biden has said, I will be hands off. He needs to make good on that. It will come to Merrick Garland to make this decision.
Now, Preet said correctly, the first step is: do you open an inquiry? I'll go a step farther and say, yes, you have to open an inquiry into the President's conduct regarding January 6. You need what we call predication, which just means you need some basis of fact that could be a crime.
And I think even Mitch McConnell gave us that much in his remarks.
Now, do you get to a charge? That's going to be a question for the prosecutors based on all the facts?
BURNETT: Right, and of course, you know, we should note, yes, there's going to people who are going to say it's political. But Joe Biden so far has said, getting rid of those attorneys as everybody does when they come in office, but keeping the one looking into Hunter Biden and John Durham, of course, he's looking into the origins of the Russia investigation.
So, so far, making it clear, it's already started under Trump's people, not going to interfere.
But Laura, when you hear what Preet said, do you -- do you think that there will be charges?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think there's going to be investigations and the ones that are already happening in terms of the finances, in terms of New York, Fulton County may or may not pan out. They may have made some missteps by doing early interviews prior to having witnesses. I don't know how that's going to pan out, ultimately.
But the idea here is, remember, the D.O.J. is going to prioritize the most violent and nefarious crimes before they look at issues that are going to be perhaps or can we guarantee a conviction.
There are hundreds of people right now who are being charged with actually carrying out the insurrection, and you can bet that the majority of them based on what the defense has said, based on what McConnell has said today, based on what the House Impeachment Managers said, they are pointing to following their ringleader who they thought the President of course, then Trump.
And so he is going to be the undercurrent of all of these hundreds of investigations. So not looking at him as a factor in any of these leading to an investigation would be absolutely odd to do so. And so he's going to be a part of it, regardless if it's him, who is the direct actual defendant or not.
But remember, there's other people at that rally. The impeachment touched President Trump. What about Congressman Mo Brooks? What about Don, Jr.? What about Rudy Giuliani? All of these things are going to be part of the conversation in terms of what criminal activity or criminal charges could be brought for all those people as well.
BURNETT: And yet, it seems that the best place to hold him to account was the place that just failed to do so, Ross. Just to be clear.
ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, yes. And I've been representing public officials for four decades. The way I size it up, if you were my client is unless something new comes out, unless something big comes out, you know, I wouldn't be so worried if I were him about, you know, charges related to this insurrection.
And by new and big, I mean, you know, there are all these investigations, there are going to be prosecutions, you know, the people who are prosecuted, in most cases, they are going to plead guilty, many of them might be very interested in cooperating.
And so unless there's, you know, something that, you know, to bring it up the chain to Trump, I wouldn't be that worried about that. If he were my client, I'd tell him, you know, stay away from the Oath Keepers. Stay away from you know, anybody who was involved.
I would be worried about, you know, concern for him about the New York investigation.
BURNETT: The New York investigation.
GARBER: I think that's where his real exposed is.
BURNETT: Fraud, insurance fraud, we're waiting for the Supreme Court's final ruling on taxes and things like that.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, you know, yes, I'd be more worried about the New York investigations. First of all, you have a President of the United States who has made it very clear that he does not want his Congress to spend its life, or his justice department to spend its life investigating Donald Trump.
Now, he has said things like that before January 6th, I presume that is still the case. You're going to have a huge investigation, a 911- style investigation into January 6th in Congress, you need to see what comes out of that.
BURNETT: For sure. Right, right.
BORGER: But the one thing I would say, if Donald Trump were your client, the reason you would be nervous is that you don't know what he is going to do next.
BORGER: And you know, never underestimate that and that possibility that Donald Trump could yet again, cause trouble.
BURNETT: Oh, and he has and we are already emerged with wait until you hear from me next, right? Just quiet --
BORGER: Well, he is already --
BURNETT: While we get through this, and now, it is -- already.
COATS: And don't forget, civil liability. I mean, a lot -- I mean a lot that we are talking about the criminal context of things, but civil liability is a really big thing in terms of it's a lower standard of proof, essentially, in order prove your case.
It's not the idea that we think about, did he meet the criminal standard, et cetera. It's about whether this person contributed essentially to somebody's death, somebody's maiming, they're gouging. We're hearing about fingers being gone, destruction of property, a whole host of things.
So there could be, and of course, don't forget what happened in Georgia in terms of the investigation and the Fulton County is talking about one thing, but that telephone call to Raffensperger, there are election fraud related and interference related things as well.
So he's not out of the woods. But you're right when you say, you're talking about trying to hold a President accountable. Impeachment was what the founding fathers did. But all is not lost.
BURNETT: But what about when you look at Officer Smith who was there that day and shot himself and killed himself on his first day back at work? He had been injured with a head injury that day.
Could his wife say -- she has already said if he didn't go to work that day he would be alive? Is his family, as someone who could try to hold for President Trump accountable?
HONIG: It's such a terribly tragic situation. I think the question is going to be can they show some causal link between Donald Trump's actions and the injury, and one thing that I think is really important, the impeachment that just concluded will absolutely provide leads to prosecutors?
If I am a prosecutor, I'm thinking, well, I'm going to subpoena McCarthy and Meadows. Right? And by the way, they're not going to have some senate voting against that --
BURNETT: And you're saying you can actually do that and get them to get them to -- and get the information from them, this would not have happened in the Senate trial.
HONIG: Yes, a criminal subpoena. They will not be able to fight off a criminal subpoena. There's going to be no Senate there to, you know, to come to their rescue and potential leads for potential civil litigants, people who might sue because they want -- they claim that they sustained damages based on this conduct.
So that impeachment trial is going to have long legs in the court.
BURNETT: So could we, Ross, hear from Kevin McCarthy? What Jamie Raskin was saying -- and they made their case without witnesses, but will the American people hear from some of these people who have such crucial information from that day?
GARBER: It depends what Congress does. I mean, you know, the process Elie is talking about is a grand jury process where testimony would be in secret? And, you know, Elie is a much more aggressive prosecutor than I think most, and the notion that, you know, a new leadership at the Department of Justice for one of their first acts is going to be to go start, you know, issuing Federal grand jury subpoenas to senior Members of Congress.
I don't know, I think it's unlikely BORGER: I wouldn't hold my breath about that. I mean, that is why
actually, Judge Merrick Garland is such a perfect person to head the Justice Department now, because he is so well-respected on both sides of the aisle and he is in a very tough position.
But I don't think people are going to say, you know, you're doing this because you hate Donald Trump.
BURNETT: Lindsey Graham, certainly will, but you know, that is Lindsey Graham. He will say that about anybody.
BORGER: I mean, I have to say that, let's forget about Lindsey Graham. But, you know, the notion that he and others say that all of this is driven by some hatred and I think that's one thing I sort of took away today from those 43 people, the Republicans that Lindsey Graham and others are saying, you know, this is totally driven today by hatred of Donald Trump.
And I think the more investigation you do about this, that will not stand up to history and what drove this is going to be investigated and re-investigated, and those statements will be proven to be completely and utterly false.
COATES: It's also likely that they may wait to do any prosecution and there was the criminal side until after a congressional investigation gets done, because they don't want the same issue they had with say, the Mueller report where you had the prosecutors chomping at the bit wondering about the subpoena versus what's going to happen in the criminal report.
COATES: And the investigation, et cetera, so that might be something similar to that. And again, the idea and the quest for truth and full transparency, and what precisely happened, we still have yet to see the full accounting, although they did meet their burden of proof, I think, you still don't have all the information about what took place.
So a bipartisan commission in Congress designed to give that information might be the precursor to any criminal prosecution at the Federal level. Because until you have that, you're stepping on toes, it's about who is going to take the lead. And you're going to have the same issues about whether the Members of Congress will respond to the bipartisan commission versus the criminal prosecutors not wanting to talk to one over the other.
It might be more prudent to wait until that investigation takes place, and that might be the out for Garland and Biden et cetera.
BURNETT: And there will always be the historical irony that the greatest speech indicting President Trump will be Mitch McConnell's. Just to say that.
All right, Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Yes, it was a tough speech, but then he voted to acquit. All right, standby. CNN's Manu Raju and Jeff Zeleny, they are both up
on Capitol Hill for us. That's where they've been nonstop.
Jeff, you just had a chance to speak with one of the former President's lawyers. What did he say?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, we did. We spoke with Michael Vanderveen.
He was the lawyer who was making most of the closing arguments today, and of course putting this in perspective how quickly this has all gone.
It was two weeks ago this evening when the President parted ways with his first legal team and there has been a mad scramble to find new lawyers and to get them up to speed.
So he has been on this case less than two weeks. One question hanging over all that is he being paid for his services or not? We know the former president has long history of not necessarily paying all his bills, so that has been a question what is the arrangement of his payment. I asked him if he was being paid. He said, "I am being paid." But he would not elaborate beyond that.
In terms of the actual matter of the case, he said the former president felt vindicated. He felt vindicated. But asking him about those seven Republican senators who voted to convict along with all Democrats, he pushed back on that. He called them politicians doing what all politicians do.
So he certainly was not very respectful of their positions in that respect, but he said he would not answer our questions if he will keep representing the former president going on in the future here, but they certainly feel vindicated. And he also had some rather blistering words for the House impeachment managers.
But we should point out here, Wolf, Republican senators as well as all Democratic senators have largely praised the work of House impeachment managers. There's no question they presented a more thorough case, but the Trump team has just been on the job now for less than two weeks. Again, two weeks ago this evening is when the President blew up everything and changed his legal team on the fly, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. And the lawyer you spoke to, Michael van der Veen, clearly emerged as the lead Trump attorney during the course of these five days of this trial.
Manu, you were up there at the news conference when the nine House managers, they had a chance to make some statements, answer reporters' questions, but all of a sudden in a surprise, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made an appearance. Tell us about that.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And she bashed Republicans in the Senate, calling them cowards, going after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for not bringing the Senate back in January to try Donald Trump in his final days in office, given that ultimately, Mitch McConnell decided to acquit Donald Trump because he's a former president. But McConnell at the time said there was not enough time for a trial.
But Pelosi wasn't having any of it, she went after them and she also made clear that they would not move forward with another form of punishment on Donald Trump, such as centering the former president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): All these cowardly senators who couldn't face up to what the President did and what was at stake for our country are now going to have a chance to give a little slap on the wrist. We censure people for using stationery for the wrong purpose. We don't censure people for inciting insurrection that kills people in the Capitol.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: And this had been a debate behind the scenes for several days now, whether or not Democrats should move forward with another form of punishment. And Pelosi had been mum about what she wanted to do, making clear that censoring Donald Trump is completely off the table.
And Wolf, one reason why is the Democrats now want to focus on the Biden agenda, this could be a distraction of sorts if they were to continue to focus on possibly censoring Donald Trump. And also what could be a distraction was the possibility of moving forward of witnesses in this impeachment trial. That is one reason why Democrats did not move forward today.
Wolf, if I'm told that Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware warned Democrats, House Democratic impeachment managers not to move forward with witnesses because he said it got bogged down the Senate, Republicans could move forward and the Trump team could push forward, endless motions could drag out the trial and that can distract from, of course, the effort to pursue the Biden agenda.
Ultimately, it's the Democrats that looked at possibly two witnesses, including John Katko of New York, a Republican who had voted to impeach Donald Trump, I'm told. But they decided, of course, not to move forward that in large part because they want to move on with Donald Trump. The impeachment vote is over, trial is done, now they want to focus on the Biden agenda, Wolf.
BLITZER: The Democrats, the House managers, they clearly wanted Trump convicted. But beyond that, they also wanted to disqualify him from ever holding federal office again. I take it the disqualification issue has now gone away since he was acquitted.
RAJU: Yes, no question about that. Actually, Tim Kaine of what Virginia had proposed an idea to censure Donald Trump but also disqualify him to the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. That's an idea that really did not pick up much steam. Some Republicans such as Susan Collins of Maine suggested she was open to it, but Democrats thought it was too weak.
They thought that going forward to the conviction of Donald Trump via the impeachment trial was the way to go. But now as you heard what Nancy Pelosi said, that is not on the table either. So Donald Trump looks like will not be subject of this anymore punishment.
But I can tell you the Democrats are pushing for it, thought it could have put Republicans in a very difficult spot because Republicans could not rest on that process argument that led to the vote to acquit Donald Trump because they couldn't say, well, you can't try a former president in an impeachment trial.
Now it's a completely different form of punishment. But as you heard from the Speaker, she does not even want to go that route.
They're signaling they're done with this portion of dealing with Donald Trump and his actions ahead of January 6th.
BLITZER: Yes. We'll see what Trump decides to do in the coming weeks, months and years if he wants to try to run again for president in 2024. All right. Manu, excellent reporting. Thank you very, very much.
President Trump once again acquitted in this, his second impeachment trial. But what kind of precedent does this set for the future? More of our special coverage coming up right after this.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We're back with our breaking news coverage. President Trump acquitted by the U.S. Senate on the charge of inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. The vote was 57 to 43 with seven Republicans joining me Democrats and voting to convict.
And joining us now is one of the managers of the impeachment process, Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California. Thank you so much for joining us, Congressman. Seven Senate Republicans, as I mentioned, as you all know, voted to convict the former president, but still 10 short, what's your reaction?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Well, today we prove to 57 bipartisan senators and the court of public opinion, Donald Trump guilty of the greatest crime ever against our Constitution. And Dana as someone who stood in that room and presented to those senators, the number of senators who said guilty today did not match the number of senators I watched over days who were concerned and moved and bothered by what Donald Trump did.
I can't explain why they could not find the will to say guilty, but I think the American people forever know just who Donald Trump is and what he did not do when we needed him.
BASH: And we heard the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, not just appear through body language that he was upset about what happened and then he effectively agreed with the argument that you and your fellow managers made. He had that big speech condemning Trump's lying and conspiracy theories, saying that the former president was practically and morally responsible for provoking the January 6th attack.
What was your reaction to that, given the fact that he didn't vote that way, he voted to acquit setting a process argument?
SWALWELL: Well, we needed words, we needed more than words, we need to deeds and for the seven who voted guilty, they did the right thing. They followed the evidence. For Leader McConnell, he gave the president a loophole and, again, I think the American people know what the President did and he'll be held accountable in other forms, whether it's civil or criminal liability, but we did our job.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Earlier this morning, the Senate voted to call witnesses which was a little bit of a surprise, including Republican Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler. But her statement was instead admitted into the evidence.
I think a lot of people are wondering why not just start there, why didn't the House managers just asked to admit that into the evidence and avoid the perception that the Democrats backed down from this request for witnesses after what seemed to be pressure from both sides of the aisle?
SWALWELL: So Abby, actually last night we wrapped up, we were in a meeting and we saw the CNN reporting that Jaime Herrera Beutler had made this statement that Donald Trump told Kevin McCarthy these rioters are acting like they care more than you do. So wanting to have a complete record, because we felt strong about our case at that point, we were going to call Ms. Herrera Beutler. But the defense counsel ultimately said, we'll just put the statement in the record.
And we also saw what should also be noted, Mitch McConnell this morning said he was going to acquit the President on jurisdictional grounds. So that was telegraphing to us that we could have called god herself and we still would not have received the votes from Mitch McConnell. So we didn't need more witnesses, we needed more spines.
PHILLLIP: So you're saying that you would have called Herrera Beutler had McConnell not made that statement? Is that what you're saying?
SWALWELL: No, what weighed on us was that the issue in our case with Republican senators was not a lack of witnesses. It was a lack of courage. They were looking for a loophole and off ramp and they were using the jurisdictional issue. And when you look at the statements from the 43 who voted not guilty, they're not saying well, the Democrats should have brought more witnesses. They're saying no matter what, we found this proceeding to be illegitimate.
And so we weren't going to go for months in the courts, chasing subpoenas and witnesses if they're never going to come around to do it anyway.
PHILLIP: Do you feel like on the substance, though, of what Congresswoman Herrera Beutler put forward that ultimately there were many more of your Republican colleagues who knew about that conversation with Kevin McCarthy and about the Trump call and just chose not to speak up about it?
SWALWELL: Well, actually, I give a lot of credit to Adam Kinzinger and others who voted with Herrera Beutler. But she showed a lot of courage and what she saw match the timeline that we put forward, which was that the President had knowledge about Mike Pence, the threat to Pence, the threat to the Capitol and instead of doing something, sending in the guard, calling off or condemning the rioters, he took great delight in it and showed scorn to Kevin McCarthy, because McCarthy wasn't with him.
BASH: I want to follow up on something you said a little bit earlier about the former president being potentially prosecuted for criminal or civil liability. Talk more about that. First of all, where do you think and how do you think that could happen. And secondly, I guess as part of that question is do you want the Biden Justice Department to pursue charges?
SWALWELL: The Biden justice department should just follow the law and I quoted Churchill in the trial. And as it relates to accountability, this is not the end of accountability for Donald Trump. It's not the beginning of the end. It may be this trial, the end of the beginning.
But you have criminal proceedings taking place in Georgia, Manhattan, who knows, for some of the Federal exposure the President has and, of course, all of the civil cases that were suspended because he was president will now come home to roost.
BASH: He said that they should follow the law, but you just spent a week laying out what could be a roadmap for them. Should they take that roadmap and pursue that?
SWALWELL: Again, I'm no longer a prosecutor. I was briefly able to put that hat back on for this trial. But I want these prosecutors at the Department of Justice, again, to just be independent. If they need cooperation from us, I know that we would want to help in any way we could to give evidence that they may not have, but it really has to go back to an independent Department of Justice.
BASH: Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you so much for joining us.
SWALWELL: My pleasure. Thank you.
BASH: Thank you. And very interesting that he sort of put that out there earlier about pursuing criminal and civil charges. And obviously, there are a slew of other issues that our friends on the legal panel have been talking about separate and apart from what happened leading up to it on January 6th that have been on hold when it comes to the former president. But it's pretty clear that they, the House managers, even though they
can't say that now because they're not only politicians, but Democrats who don't want to mess things up for the Biden Justice Department and its independence, think that they could use it.
PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, there's obviously a body of evidence. But I have to say, there's probably a lot more that needs to be uncovered and we heard our legal analyst talking about this.
I think the outcome of this impeachment hearing may very well have been that there are some open questions that are left unanswered about what transpired particularly on the day on January 6th that need to be answered and perhaps could be answered if some of these witnesses are compelled to come forward in a way that they weren't compelled this time around, because there were no witnesses, because the House managers didn't believe that they could get anyone with knowledge of the situation to agree to come forward in a timely fashion.
So that's where, potentially, some of these legal, these criminal charges and civil liabilities could come into play.
BASH: David, I want to switch gears and talk about the politics of ...
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: The outcome of this trial.
BASH: ... right, exactly.
CHALIAN: Which is a real political fallout.
BASH: The fallout for the seven Republicans who voted yes.
CHALIAN: Yes. We've seen the 10 House Republicans have voted to impeach. We've seen all the kind of trouble they've had at home. Liz Cheney has had trouble at home and Adam Kinzinger and now we're going to see it with this Senate seven Republicans. How does their home political environment sort of deal with this break from the President?
We're getting one clue in Louisiana tonight, the executive committee, the Louisiana Republican Party put up this one sentence statement. "The executive committee of the Republican Party of Louisiana has unanimously voted to censure Sen. Bill Cassidy for his vote earlier today to convict former President Donald Trump on the impeachment charge."
Well, there you go. In case you didn't know whose party this was, it is still very much Donald Trump's party. In case the 43 votes didn't indicate that, here you have the Louisiana Republican Party taking on one of its own senators, one of its two senators who runs on their party line, who is a representative of the Louisiana Republican Party and the executive committee within hours.
CHALIAN: I mean, just like within hours voted to censure Bill Cassidy for what he says is a vote of conscience that he delivered here today. This is the grip and we see it in state parties throughout the country. State chairs, state executive committees very much in full support still of Donald Trump and they're not all that interested in tolerating anybody who sways from that.
BASH: It is remarkable how quickly they did it. I mean, the expectation, given what happened to most of the Republicans in the House with their Republican Party chairs and party affiliations back home. But the fact that this happened, what, like three hours in Louisiana, he was already in hot water because he voted that the whole trial in and of itself was constitutional.
PHILLIP: And, of course, as Nancy Pelosi said, you censure someone for using the wrong stationery. I'm not sure that there are real consequences to any of this. It's just a statement of disapproval. But I do wonder, I mean, so many of these state parties are hanging their hats on Donald Trump at this moment. Do we have much evidence that Trump is a winner on the ballot going forward when he's not on the ballot?
PHILLIP: Look at what happened in Georgia. They lost those two seats. And as you said, David, they lost them after tying themselves into knots to Donald Trump. So this is going to be the question going forward. Yes, they are sticking with him because that's what the republic base wants, but when it comes to the ballot box, he's not on there anymore. What will that mean for Republicans?
BASH: Yes. That's exactly right, which is a large part of the genesis or the impetus behind Mitch McConnell's speech today, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Good work. Let's discuss the historic perspective right now.
CNN Presidential Historian Douglas Brinkley and Tim Naftali are joining us right now.
Tim, this is the second acquittal for Donald Trump in a Senate impeachment trial. What's the impact of this moment and give us the historic perspective?
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, this is not like the acquittal that he had in 2020. In the case of this trial, the leader of Republicans in the Senate said that the house managers prove their case.
Indeed, Mitch McConnell has said that former President Trump was morally and practically responsible for an insurrection, which I believe is the same as saying of a seditious act. In 2020, only Mitt Romney said that the House managers had proven their case. So we have just witnessed a more bipartisan rebuke of a president than was the case a year ago.
NAFTALI: But here's the problem.
NAFTALI: We are in a political crisis, because we also heard from Republicans who admitted the President had engaged in a seditious act and yet voted to acquit him.
BLITZER: Including Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader.
Doug, the President was acquitted now for the second time, but this was, as Tim pointed out, the most bipartisan impeachment vote in history. So what effect will this have on the former president's legacy?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, Donald Trump's legacy is in tatters. He's beyond dented. He's wrecked. He's at 25 percent in the polls, but about three quarters of the American people want nothing to do with him.
It will always be known January 6th as the Trump insurrection in many ways as we're talking right now, Wolf, it's the opening salvo of insurrection studies. The House Democratic managers, particularly Jamie Raskin did a fantastic job of setting the tone and the tenor and developing the video information of the guilt of Donald Trump.
Any sane person watching what happened this week knows Donald Trump is guilty in the same way during the O.J. Simpson trial you knew they were. And there is blood on Donald Trump's hands. If you see a portrait of Donald Trump, if you don't see blood on his hands, it won't really be a portrait of him.
So this is what his presidency is going to be remembered for the double impeachments, the lackluster response to the pandemic and the fact that he was the leader of what will be known in history as the Trump insurrection.
BLITZER: Tim, we did have a one rather surprising vote to convict Trump today. That would be Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina. Does that make him the first person to impeach a president in the House and then convict a different president in the Senate. How remarkable is that?
NAFTALI: What's remarkable about it is the fact that Rich Burr could change his mind. Everybody or many people who have been talking about the Belknap case, that's the last time that the Senate tried a former official. One person did change his mind, similarly, only one though.
First of all, thinking the Senate didn't have jurisdiction, then when the Senate gave itself jurisdiction, voting on the basis of the evidence to convict Secretary Belknap. That's what Burr did this time. That shows that in his case, Sen. Burr was willing to be a juror, which meant listening to the evidence and deciding on the basis of the evidence what's the right thing to do and he did the right thing.
But he's alone. He is alone, because near him was Mitch McConnell who had already decided that Donald Trump was guilty, but also believed that he had a technical out so that he didn't have to make the tough choice. And that's the difference between Richard Burr and Mitch McConnell.
BLITZER: Yes. That's an important difference. Doug, we now have the second impeachment of former President Trump in the books. But we also still have millions of Americans out there who actually believe his big lie, see the 2020 election as a fraud. Have we ever been this divided before?
BRINKLEY: Not since the civil wars our country been this divided. But we're facing an epidemic of conspiracy history. There are millions of Americans that think Neil Armstrong didn't go on the moon. There millions of Americans that think Texas is about to break away from the union and create its own nation.
So we have an education problem in this country. We have a social media problem.
And we've had a President of the United States, Donald Trump, that promoted disunion, xenophobia, racism and that chickens have come home to roost for our country, but also for Donald Trump. He is now a one termer. He is an ex-president. We are going to be dealing with Joe Biden's administration.
And when Merrick Garland gets confirmed, which it looks like he will as the Attorney General, very likely there will be continued investigation into Donald Trump in addition to all of the cases you've been talking about on CNN, in New York, Florida and Georgia and on and on.
So Donald Trump is not out of hot water. I will not be celebrating in Mar-A-Lago here. It was a shameful performance by, I think, his defense lawyers and the House Democratic managers won the day in the court of public opinion.
BASH: Douglas Brinkley, Tim Naftali, guys, thank you very, very much. And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Our coverage of today's historic impeachment trial continues next with Pamela Brown right here on CNN.