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Senate Impeachment Trial Against President Trump Begins Tomorrow; Richmond Residents Fear Another Charlottesville At Today's Gun Rights Rally; Auschwitz Survivors Bear Witness As Anti-Semitic Attacks Rise. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired January 20, 2020 - 07:30   ET



STEWART VERDERY, GENERAL COUNSEL TO ASSISTANT MAJORITY LEADER IN CLINTON IMPEACHMENT: A trial that was somewhat proforma, to be honest, and it didn't really get a whole lot of new information.

I think in this case you may see Republicans, in particular, trying to get things on the record that would justify their position on whether to call witnesses and go down the document road.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and force the senators to be succinct --


BERMAN: -- and those are two words you don't often hear in the same sentence.

VERDERY: That's true, that's true.

BERMAN: You are also looking for, as soon as tomorrow, some procedural --

VERDERY: That's right.

BERMAN: -- stunts. What kind and how?

VERDERY: Well, I mean -- you know, again, the rules are you can't speak but you can make a motion. And so there were motions during the Clinton trial that Chief Justice Rehnquist dealt with. And so, again, so far, we've been off to a fairly solemn start, and the Clinton trial certainly was solemn and there was not a lot of stunts or kind of antics.

But it's going to be very tempting, especially on the Democratic side, to really put the pressure on the Trump defense team, especially if you assume their argument is mostly going to be political. There might a little bit of legal defense, a little bit of factual defense.

But you saw their brief. It was about seven pages, mostly a political document. And how they respond if -- you know, a lawyer can make some kind of bold claim will be interesting. Can people actually sit in their chairs and follow the rules are they're expected to?

BERMAN: Yes, you note that six-seven-page response from the impeachment team --

VERDERY: That's right.

BERMAN: -- already indicates a political argument --

VERDERY: That's right.

BERMAN: -- not a legal one. We could get more legalities as today progresses. They have until noon to tell us more.

Now, as a former Senate staffer --


BERMAN: -- you talk about the fact that staff will be severely restricted or limited on the floor.

VERDERY: That's right.

BERMAN: What do you mean by that and what's the impact?

VERDERY: Well, you always see -- on the Senate, there's always a staffer kind of lurking under the right shoulder of most members when they're speaking. In this case, it's a very small number of people -- a couple per side working for the leaders on each side, and most senators are going to be unstaffed.

Now, there will be breaks and there will be times they can get messages delivered to them, but in many cases they're going to be on their own. Of course, they're going to be sitting there quietly for the most part.

The other thing that's interesting is it's a very tight facility and you're going to have the House managers and Clinton -- I'm sorry, President Trump's lawyers down in the well of the Senate right in front of majority leader McConnell and Democratic leader Schumer. It's a very tight fit and they've had to rewire some of the things to allow cameras -- allow computers and access to, potentially, deposition tapes and those kinds of things. So it's a very unusual spot on the floor.

If we get to the closed deliberations, which I assume we will in a few weeks, they actually turn off the cameras, they turn off the lights, they turn off the microphones. It's a very dark, very unusual un- Senate-like place.

BERMAN: So we now know who will be part of the president's --

VERDERY: That's right.

BERMAN: -- defense team and it includes Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz --


BERMAN: -- in addition to perhaps being an episode of "I LOVE THE '90S."

What does the president get out of that? What message, specifically, do those two men --


BERMAN: -- send to perhaps, I guess, Republicans?

VERDERY: I think star power, in particular. I mean, he's thinking this as a trial and so having these kind of legal heavyweights say that what was done was not impeachable and not convictable is -- it brings kind of credibility to his argument that this is not a -- not the kind of conduct that leads -- should lead to a conviction.

So I think it's, again, aimed at the American public. They know these people. They know Ken Starr, they know Dershowitz and it's kind of legal firepower. Again, less about the facts of the case or about kind of the arguing of our policy in Ukraine.

BERMAN: Drew Verdery, thanks so much for giving us kind of a --

VERDERY: Thanks so much for having me.

BERMAN: -- guidebook of what to watch tomorrow as this plays out before our eyes once the trial does begin in earnest. Appreciate you being with us.

VERDERY: Thank you so much.

BERMAN: Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Residents in Richmond fearing another Charlottesville ahead of today's big gun rights rally. We're going to speak with a journalist who has covered white supremacists extensively. That's next.



BERMAN: This is a tragic story. Two Honolulu police officers were shot and killed responding to a domestic violence call in Hawaii. Authorities say Jerry Hanel opened fire on three officers approaching the home. Officers Tiffany Enriquez and Kaulike Kalama were killed in the line of duty.

The Honolulu police chief says the families and police department are devastated.


SUSAN BALLARD, HONOLULU POLICE CHIEF: They left in the morning alive and they get notified -- you know, they come to the hospital and find out that their loved ones are no longer around. So, very emotional -- very emotional.

REPORTER: Do you know the officers personally?

BALLARD: I'm sorry?

REPORTER: Do you know the deceased officers personally?

BALLARD: I did. They were like my kids.


BERMAN: Police say the gunman shot at those officers and started a fire that burned seven homes. The suspect and two women remain unaccounted for.

HILL: The FBI has arrested several alleged white supremacists who were planning to attend today's pro-gun rally in Richmond, Virginia. An FBI official says there is a fair sense of worry about what could happen.

Joining me now is CNN correspondent Elle Reeve who, of course, was the journalist behind some of these disturbing images from Charlottesville back in 2017, and we have some of those -- just to -- just to remind our viewers.


WHITE NATIONALISTS (Chanting): You will not replace us! You will not replace us! Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!


HILL: Before a man plowed his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer at a white nationalist rally in 2017.

Elle, good to have you with us this morning.

There in Richmond, there is a lot of concern about what could be coming and who could be coming to this rally, which is why these arrests last week were so important. The FBI saying that three men arrested in Delaware, in their words, definitely had an intent to travel to Richmond and attack the rally.

What is the sense this morning in terms of who may be showing up?

ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, just to be clear, this rally is not organized by white supremacists. These are gun rights advocates.

The fear is that there are a small number of white supremacists who want to take advantage of this huge crowd and the large number of guns, and the heightened emotions to cause problems and do violence.

The group that they were -- the group that was arrested was called The Base. It's not clear how many people belong to it but they are very, very extreme -- like, even white supremacists think they're kind of nuts. They want to do violence to bring about the collapse of society so that regular people are more read to have a race war.


HILL: So that's what they are after. As you mentioned, this is a gun- rights rally. This is about legislation in Virginia.

Ahead of that, of course, the governor declaring a state of emergency, a ban on firearms and weapons as well.

How has that added to some of the tension in the state and specifically, in Richmond, ahead of this rally?

REEVE: Yes, there's been a huge amount of emotion on the Internet. The idea that they're taking guns away in Virginia is more important than, say, if it were happening in California or New York. Gun rights owners see Virginia as a long tradition of gun ownership and so if Virginia falls, they tell me, anyone else could fall.

HILL: Why is that --

REEVE: So that's why it's so important to fight here.

HILL: And what's your sense of -- as you point out, this one group that we don't know a ton about -- but this group, The Base, where people were arrested, according to the FBI, last week -- seven different people arrested.

Why is this rally attracting some of those folks?

REEVE: Well, it's a good place to recruit, right? There are people who are feeling radicalized, there's less trust in government. They're already maybe doing military exercises -- they know how to shoot.

The Base is a survivalist white nationalist organization. They are very focused on what happens with the collapse of society. Like, could they keep going? Could they gain power?

HILL: Your excellent reporting from 2017 -- obviously, a number of lessons learned out of Charlottesville not just by local officials but also in a broader sense across the country. And I know, as we mentioned, these arrests that the FBI announced last week, state and local law enforcement also really working together ahead of this.

What has changed in the last couple of years?

REEVE: Well, people take it seriously. People used to think it was just kids joking around on the Internet but now it's clear there are some people who want to bring that Internet commentary into real life and take action on it. There are tons of police here, there's lots of security.

You know, in Charlottesville, the night before that rally, the white nationalists could kind of run wild. They marched all over campus holding torches. You didn't see anything like that here in Richmond.

HILL: Is there a sense, too -- because you've covered this and been on the ground for these different events, are you seeing a difference in the conversations that are even being had online? I mean, as you point out, a lot of these groups are really trying to recruit online and they're trying to tap into those emotions. Obviously, law enforcement looking to follow that as well.

But is there -- do you have the sense that their reach has changed at all?

REEVE: That their what has changed?

HILL: That their reach -- in terms of the people that they're reaching or people who may be responding to --


HILL: -- their messages. Or even -- or even being perhaps bothered by their messages and contacting law enforcement about them.

REEVE: Yes. I would say that the people here at the rally, they're older. They're Facebook users. They're not into this, like, dark heart of the Internet that you would see with the people who were at Charlottesville.

Now, there is sometimes an attempt to cross those boundaries, but in general, the more extreme people are going after the younger crowd and they're on, like, 4chan and Reddit. They also use Telegram, which ISIS uses, because you can switch between a public chat and a private encrypted one.

HILL: Elle Reeve with the latest for us from Richmond. Elle, thank you -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Alexander Hamilton said that impeachable offenses include the abuse or violation of some public trust. The president's lawyers disagree with Alexander Hamilton, who was a guy, by the way, who helped write the Constitution. So how's that going to go?



BERMAN: So, Alexander Hamilton, who helped write the Constitution, says an impeachable offense is a violation of public trust. The president's lawyers say, essentially, Hamilton was wrong and unless you commit some crime -- actual statutory crime -- it's not an impeachable offense.

What's the reality here? CNN legal analyst Elie Honig joins us now with the answer -- sir.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: All right, so let's start with the start. You always with the United States Constitution. Now, this is the phrase -- this eight-word phrase -- "Treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors" is the single-most misunderstood controversial phrase in the Constitution. And for starters, if you put yourself in the mindset of someone who is just seeing this phrase for the first time, I think you could logically conclude there does have to be a crime. Treason is a crime, bribery is a crime -- high crimes -- crimes. Misdemeanor is a type of crime but you have to take a bit of a deeper dive here.

So let's talk about how -- about the actual articles of impeachment that we've seen in this case.

Now, the House of Representatives has impeached Donald Trump on two articles. The first one charges him not with any specific crime, but abuse of power relating to Ukraine. The second article charges obstruction of Congress. Neither of those things is a crime. There's actually no mention of any crime -- bribery, extortion, foreign election aid in the articles themselves.

HILL: And that's specifically what we're hearing from Republicans. This is part of the defense that we're starting hear, actually, from the White House. There is no crime and so how can any of this be?

HONIG: Exactly. By not alleging any crime, the Democrats have really left the door wide open to that exact argument by Donald Trump and his defenders.


In the brief they filed this weekend, Trump's team writes, "The articles of impeachment are constitutionally invalid on their face. They fail to allege any crime or violation of law whatsoever, let alone 'high crimes and misdemeanors,' as required by the Constitution."

And now we see Alan Dershowitz and Donald Trump, himself, out there making this argument to the public. Here's Alan Dershowitz, professor at Harvard Law School.


ALAN DERSHOWITZ, TRUMP IMPEACHMENT DEFENSE LAWYER: Criminal-like conduct is required. You need a crime. Without a crime, there can be no impeachment.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bribery and this and that. Where are they? They send these two things -- they're not even a crime. This is impeachment light.


HONIG: Impeachment light, it's a good line. And look, it resonates with the crowd there.

BERMAN: The problem -- the problem, though, is --


BERMAN: -- the history, and the problem is the facts, and the problem is what the framers of the Constitution and the people who wrote this intended.

HONIG: Exactly right. Look, it has superficial appeal but when you dig deep you see that that argument is completely unfounded.

Here is from the House of Representative's impeachment memo that was filed this weekend. They write, "These 'other high crimes and misdemeanors' need not be indictable criminal offenses. President Trump's conduct is the framers' worst nightmare." They focus, in particular, on the fact that it involves an election and it involves foreign interference.

Now, if you look back at the history, that gives us some real important insight. The phrase "high crimes and misdemeanors" -- the framers pulled that from British parliamentary practice in the 1700s. And if you look at that, in that practice they would impeach people for non-criminal offenses.

John, as you said, Alexander Hamilton tells us straight up impeachment is for political offenses that perceive from the abuse or violation of some public trust. And I think Adam Schiff and the Democrats have picked up on that as well.

Now, if you look further into the history we've had 19 prior impeachments for presidents and other officials.

And if you look at some of the things that public officials have been impeached for -- tyranny and oppression -- not good, not a crime. Favoritism, same thing -- definitely not a crime. Malfeasance and incompetency in office. And then, Berman's favorite, intoxication. You did say it before.

BERMAN: It's my favorite possible impeachable offense, not my favorite state to be in --

HILL: Right.

HONIG: That's right.

BERMAN: -- at least in the morning.

HONIG: That's all I meant.

HILL: Thanks for clarifying, J.B. It's very early.


HONIG: And if you look back at the prior presidential impeachments or near-impeachments, in the Andrew Johnson impeachment in 1868, he was impeachment for an article of impeachment for abuse of power, not a crime.

Richard Nixon -- the House Judiciary Committee passed an article of impeachment for abuse of power. He then resigned before he could be fully impeached.

Bill Clinton -- the House Judiciary Committee passed an article of impeachment for abuse of power. It was actually voted down by the full House.

But again, I think the precedent is pretty clear.

And as to the question, ultimately, who gets to decide again, we turn back to the Constitution -- the Senate, itself. "The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments." So much here is up to the Senate and what they want to do. They have the sole power and we're going to see them using it over the next couple of weeks.

BERMAN: People have to be very careful when they -- when they listen to Professor Dershowitz state something as a fact. History -- the law doesn't back up what he is claiming as a fact there.

HONIG: Yes, absolutely. It's important that we set it straight here.

BERMAN: All right, Elie. Thanks very much.

HONIG: Thanks.

HILL: Thanks, Elie.

This month marks the 75 anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz- Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp during World War II. Survivors are determined to bear witness, sharing their stories. All of this as anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise.

And I do want to warn you this next report contains graphic images.

CNN's Melissa Bell is live in Paris for us this morning with more. Melissa, good morning.


It is one thing visiting a camp like Auschwitz-Birkenau alone; it is something else entirely when you see it through the eyes of a survivor. Now, this month at that anniversary, a group of about 200 of them will be attending. But, of course, as that generation begins to disappear, the question is whether our global memory will as well.


ZIGI SHIPPER, AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU SURVIVOR: The screaming at night was just unbelievable. We still didn't understand why they didn't kill us and be finished. Why did we have to suffer so much?

BELL (voice-over): Zigi Shipper was only 14 when he arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau in the summer of 1944. Now 90, he spends most of his time speaking about what he saw, like the moment the doors of his cattle train opened onto the camp. Some went straight to the gas chambers. For the others, the suffering was just beginning.

SHIPPER: The guards came over to them and asked them to just put their baby down. She wouldn't do it. So they tried to rip that baby out of her arms and if they didn't succeed they shot the woman and sometimes the baby as well. Why kill babies? Why don't you give them enough food? I ask the children when I speak, I ask the grown-ups, tell me

something -- have we learned? And everybody says no.


BELL (voice-over): But these pictures had shocked the world 75 years ago. They were captured by Red Army soldiers as they liberated Poles, Russians, Romas, homosexuals, and Jews. Ninety percent of the 1.1 million people who died in the camp were Jewish.

BELL (on camera): This is both the scale and the depth of human suffering here that are really hard to fathom. However, what happened behind these fences is still within living memory, but only just.

With Auschwitz marking the 75th anniversary of its liberation and with the recent rise in anti-Semitic attacks both in the United States and in locations here in Europe, the question is whether collective memory can ever last longer than a single lifetime?

BELL (voice-over): These schoolkids are being shown around by Ginette Kolinka, a 94-year-old French survivor of Birkenau.

Isn't it difficult to come back, asked one student? No, she replies, my feelings never made it out of here.

NOLWENN JOURDAIN, STUDENT: Hearing it from people that have lived it, like, this was a living hell. They were tortured. You really have to be tolerant and accept people as they are because nobody deserves this.

BELL (voice-over): It is that message of broader tolerance that drives Zigi to speak as often as he can about what he saw.

SHIPPER: I said whatever you do, don't hate. Hate is the worst thing you can do. Never mind what nationality they are, what religion -- to me, everybody's the same. We are just human beings.

BELL: And yet, anti-Semitism in the United States is at near-historic levels according to the Anti-Defamation League. And worldwide, anti- Semitic attacks rose by 13 percent in 2018 according to Tel Aviv University.

SHIPPER: It's not for me that I'm worried -- for my children, for my grandchildren, for my great-grandchildren.

But you know, we mustn't give up. You've got to think it will change. You've got to -- but we need the people to do something about it and that's why we speak. We must not forget.


BELL: Now, when we spoke to Zigi on Friday, he was preparing to mark his 90th birthday with his children, his grandchildren, and his great- grandchildren. And he said to us what that means is that Hitler didn't win and that this time love prevailed over hate -- Erica and John. BERMAN: Yes, and the most important thing is memory. As long as the memory lasts, love will prevail over hate and the hate cannot win, which is why it's so important to have reports like this Melissa, from you, to remind people of what happened.

HILL: And to still hear from, you know, as she pointed out, to what Mr. Shipper said -- to still hear from them while we can --


HILL: -- because they are the best reminders.

BERMAN: Yes. And I will also say today is Martin Luther King Day as well. It is a time to talk about love and to talk about the effects that it can have on all of us.

Thank you to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" with Max Foster is next.

For our U.S. viewers, we have so many questions about how the trial of President Trump will actually go down. We don't yet know the rules. NEW DAY continues right now.


LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Rules for the president's impeachment trial still under lock and key just a day before the trial gets underway.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We will force votes on witnesses and documents, and it will be up to four Republicans to side with the Constitution.

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): I don't want this proceeding to be a circus. I don't want it to be viewed as a mockery or a kangaroo court.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): This seems to be more of a political or policy differences than actually a high crime and misdemeanor.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): His mood is to go to the State of the Union with this behind him.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): If there is ample evidence -- overwhelming evidence -- any jury would convict it in three minutes flat.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

BERMAN: Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Monday, January 20th. It is 8:00 in the east.

Alisyn is off. Erica Hill joins me this morning. Great to have you here.

HILL: Always good to be with you. BERMAN: Hopefully, you have some answers because no one else does, especially Mitch McConnell -- at least not yet. Uncertain before the Senate impeachment trial, which begins in earnest tomorrow. No one has any idea how the heck the thing will actually happen. Mitch McConnell has yet to propose the rules to the public, let alone the full Senate.

We do know he does not want any guarantee of witnesses, at least not initially. And multiple sources tell CNN that he's weighing limiting the number of days for opening arguments. Overnight, the Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer warned he might use procedural maneuvers to try to force votes on witnesses.

We do want to note it is exactly three years ago today that the president was inaugurated, swearing to protect and defend the Constitution.