Impeachment Trial Analysis From Both Sides of the Aisle

Democrats and Republicans are laying out their opening arguments for and against the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, a process that will last several days in the Senate. Two former chiefs of staff from both sides of the aisle, Danny Weiss and Jonathan Burks, join Christiane to discuss why communication is not working between the two parties.

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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: As this process unfolds, I just want to ask you first and foremost, first to you, Jonathan Burks, without, was that wise of President Trump right in the middle of a contentious battle over evidence and witnesses and all the rest of it to say we’ve got it all and they don’t have any of it?

JONATHAN BURKS, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO HOUSE SPEAKER PAUL RYAN: Well, you know, I think it really speaks to a moment we’re in where there’s such intense hyper partisanship that each side is we lost the ability to communicate with each other. And so you know, the President and the President’s team are communicating to the President’s base, just as the Democrats and the House Managers are communicating almost entirely to the Democratic base. And so it’s just one of those things where we don’t have a very good dialogue across that’s to convince anybody who isn’t already in one’s camp.

AMANPOUR: Right. That may be, but I mean, given that this is a trial, I mean, it’s not a trial-trial is we would know it in a court, et cetera. But it is a trial. I mean, that could be used against, right? I mean, one of the Articles of Impeachment is about obstructing Congress.

BURKS: Well, what I took him to the mean by that he has it all is that they have all the best arguments. I didn’t take his comment to mean that they had, you know, some materials they’re withholding from Congress. But you know, the President says a lot of things that — he is a relatively undisciplined speaker and so that’s just one of the realities of politics in D.C. today.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me then turn to you, Mr. Weiss, an undisciplined speaker. Do you think it was wise and can the Democrats make hay out of what the President said regarding the evidence?

DANNY WEISS, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: I would not. If I would have been as Attorney, I certainly would not have recommended that he say that, no. My interpretation of what he said is that, in fact, he knows exactly what occurred. He and his team at the White House have all the evidence, and they have kept it from the Congress, and therefore you have the charges of obstruction of Congress. So I think he was referring very specifically to the information and materials that he is preventing the Congress from having and that’s what the, you know, the second Article of Impeachment is about. The president is an undisciplined speaker, but it’s interesting. Sometimes, he is brutally honest. Like when he said to the Russians, if you have Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, you know, turn them over. And when he asked China to investigate Biden and when he asked Ukraine to investigate Biden, so sometimes he can be brutally honest even though, he’s been found to be President who’s lied, probably more than any other President in our history.

About This Episode EXPAND

Danny Weiss and Jonathan Burks offer their perspectives on the Senate impeachment trial. João Doria, governor of São Paulo, Brazil, joins the program from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to discuss the climate crisis. Poet Reginald Dwayne Betts tells Michel Martin how he discovered the power of words while incarcerated.