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Elizabeth Warren on Trump’s trial and why ‘women win’ elections

Democratic 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., on Tuesday doubled down on her call to hear from witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial for President Donald Trump, as senators advance toward a critical vote on whether to subpoena more testimony.

“If the president’s people are so confident that what the president has done is not a problem, then why can’t we have witnesses and documents?” Warren said in an interview with PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff. “I’ve never heard of a trial where you can’t have witnesses and you can’t have the documents.”

Over the last week, the Democratic House managers and members of Trump’s legal team have delivered hours of arguments for and against the president’s removal from office after he pushed Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden in exchange for U.S. military aid. While Democrats argue Trump violated his oath of office and jeopardized national security, Trump’s defense team say the president’s actions do not amount to impeachable offenses.

If “the shoe had been on the other foot,” if Ukraine had offered to dig up dirt on Trump’s political rivals in exchange for aid, “we would call that bribery,” Warren said. “It kind of comes down to common sense on this.”

With six days remaining until the Iowa caucuses, the impeachment trial has kept Warren off the campaign trail. Despite the lost time, Warren said “some things are more important than politics.” Warren added that she’s committed to seeing the trial through.

More highlights from the interview:

  • On her standing in the polls: A week before the Iowa caucus, recent national polls show Warren’s support slipping. This comes as the Des Moines Register endorsed Warren on Sunday. “I really don’t focus on polls and haven’t from the beginning,” Warren said. “What I feel when I’m out in Iowa, is I feel how many people truly are off the sidelines and in this fight.”
  • On tensions between Warren and Sanders: Warren’s relationship with her friend and fellow 2020 presidential competitor Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., made headlines after a CNN report relayed details of a private conversation during which Sanders reportedly told her a woman can not beat Trump. “I’ve said what I’m going to say about this,” Warren told Woodruff. “I’ll tell you this: I’m in this fight because I believe that I’ve got the best chance to win.”
  • On a woman’s chance of winning: Warren also addressed whether some voters are concerned about a woman’s chances of winning the White House in 2020. “There were a lot of people worried that a Catholic could never win in back in 1960,” Warren said. A lot of people worried that an African American couldn’t win in 2008. But we are a better party than that. We are a better country than that.”

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now we are — want to talk with someone who's been a juror in this impeachment trial.

    She is Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. She also, as you know, is one of the Democratic candidates running for her party's presidential nomination.

    Senator Warren, thank you very much for being here.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.:

    Thank you. It's good to be here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, what do you make of the main defense now that the president's team has put forward that, frankly, even if he did what he's accused of doing, having a phone call with the president of Ukraine, asking them to look into the Bidens in return, possibly, for aid, that's not impeachable; in fact, nothing that the House alleges is impeachable?

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren:

    So, look, I think it just kind of comes down to common sense on this.

    Think about if the shoe had been on the other foot, and if what had happened is, the president of Ukraine had called and said to the president of the United States, you know, we need more aid, and that the president of Ukraine would be willing to dig up dirt on a political rival in return for getting more aid.

    I think we'd all look at that and say, that's bribery, right?

    And what happened here — at least, this is what all the evidence shows — is, instead of it starting in Ukraine, it started in the United States, with the president saying to the president of Ukraine, we will release military aid and make an invitation to the White House if the president of Ukraine will dig up dirt on a political rival of the president of the United States.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, do you think this would have been a stronger case if it had been bribery, instead of abuse of power?

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren:

    Well, it seems to me that that really is. It's technically not bribery, because it didn't initiate in the same place.

    But I think that's the heart of what we're talking about. Is a president entitled to make decisions that are decisions about our foreign policy, about our national defense, about using taxpayer dollars for purposes of trying to promote himself politically or economically, for his own personal benefit?

    And I think the answer to most Americans, regardless of your political party, is, no, that's not right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What about the other argument they made at the beginning of their presentation, and then at the end again today, and that is, this is something that should be up to the American voters; this impeachment process is taking place just months away from the next presidential election; it's not up to the Senate; it ought to be up to the American electorate?

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren:

    Well, you know, I kind of have a couple of feelings around that.

    The first is, remember exactly what has been alleged here. What's been alleged is that this is a president who was trying to interfere with an election, right, not just something else going on fraudulently, but trying to interfere with an election.

    And that is exactly what everyone, I believe, is trying to protect, the integrity of the election process.

    Also, if the president's people are so confident that what the president has done is not a problem, then why can't we have witnesses and documents? Why can't we see the e-mails that were passed back and forth?

    Again, I think fair-minded people all across this country just want to see a fair trial. And I have never heard a trial where you can't have witnesses and you can't have the documents.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Of course, all this is happening while and you other — a few other people are competing in the Iowa Democratic caucuses, which take place on Monday.

    Essentially, I hear you saying you think it's a good idea to have witnesses, even if it means you sit in that chair in the Senate longer, and you can't get back to Iowa.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren:

    That's right.

    Look, there are some things that are more important than politics. This is only the third impeachment of a president in the history of the United States.

    I took an oath of office to uphold the Constitution, and the Constitution is pretty clear. No one is above the law, not even the president of the United States. The way we hold him accountable is through impeachment.

    I took an oath, and I will be there as long as that trial needs me.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let's talk a little bit more about that — the caucuses, about what's happening in Iowa and New Hampshire.

    The polls are showing, right now, you're slipping, Bernie Sanders is rising. How do you explain what is going on out there?

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren:

    So, it's funny you would say that. I really don't focus on polls, and haven't from the beginning.

    I thought what you were going to start with is, I just got endorsed by The Des Moines Register.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, you can bring that into the question, but..

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren:

    And I have been endorsed — right. And I have been endorsed by The Storm Lake Times.

    What I feel — and that's all I can tell you — when I'm out in Iowa is, I feel how many people truly are off the sidelines and in this fight.

    People all across Iowa — and that's true whether we're in cities or rural Iowa — understand that, for decades now, we have had a government that works just great for giant corporations, works just great for billionaires, works just great for the whole lobbying class.

    It's just not working for them. And when you have got a government that works great for those at the top and not for everyone else, it's corruption.

    And we have a chance in 2020 to turn that around. And that's why I think so many people are in this fight. People want to make this happen. That's how we're going to beat Donald Trump.

    I talk about what's gone on for decades. Donald Trump has taken corruption to new lows. We're going to draw the distinction between a corrupt president and someone who is willing to stand up to those corporations.

    That's how I'm going to beat Donald Trump in November.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In this campaign, you are seen as competing for a lot of same voters, many of the same voters as Senator Sanders.

    He's come after your campaign. We have seen some criticism, some flyers that were out there for a while. There was what happened in the last debate a few weeks ago, where the two of you clearly ended up in some sort of disagreement over what he had said about whether he had told you that a woman could win.

    Have you spoken with Senator Sanders about all this? Where does that stand?

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren:

    So, look, Bernie and I have been friends for a very long time. We have worked together on a lot of the same issues. I have said what I'm going to say about this.

    But I will tell you this: I am in this fight because I believe that I have got the best chance to win.

    You know, a lot of folks have asked the question, can a woman really win? And the world has changed since 2016. Once Donald Trump was inaugurated, you may remember what happened the very next day, biggest protest rally in the history of the world.

    Women turned out and said, wow, I'm going to get deeper into politics.

    So, what happened? In 2018, we took back the House. We took back statehouses around this country. Why? Because of women candidates and women who got out to support and help make sure that Democrats got elected.

    What the data show are that women candidates have been outperforming men candidates in competitive elections since Donald Trump was elected. Let's face it: Women win.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But you still have, Senator — it's clear from talking to voters a lot of them still believe that they're worried that, if a woman is the Democratic nominee, she won't be able to defeat Donald Trump.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren:

    Look, there were a lot of people who worried a Catholic could never win back in 1960. A lot of people worried that an African-American couldn't win in 2008.

    But we are a better party than that. We are a better country than that.

    The Democrats stepped up and said, we're going to nominate the person we think would make the best president of the United States. That's exactly what they did. And they changed America.

    This is our chance to change America in 2020.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator Elizabeth Warren, thank you very much.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren:

    Thank you. It's good to see you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Appreciate your joining us. Thank you.

    And to you, our viewers, please continue to tune in to our special live coverage of the impeachment trial, when it resumes tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

    Check your local listings for that, and then online on our Web site or on YouTube.

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