Two days later I returned to the Senate to answer questions put to the lawyers by the senators. The first question to me came from Senator Ted Cruz. He asked whether a quid pro quo constituted an impeachable offense. My response was consistent with my argument two days earlier: I said that what “would make a quid pro quo unlawful is if the quo were in some way illegal.” If it was, it could constitute an impeachable offense. But if it wasn’t illegal or unlawful, the president’s political motives could not turn it into an impeachable offense. That was quite clear. Indeed, the next question from the senators was directed to the Democratic House Manager who was asked to respond to my answer. Congressman Adam Schiff, disagreed with my answer, but understood the distinction between lawful and unlawful. So did CNN. When they first showed my answer, they showed it in full, including my statement that a quid pro quo would not be impeachable so long as it was not “in some way illegal.” I then went on to say that if a president was motivated in part by his desire to be reelected, which he believes was in the public interest, that motive would not turn a lawful act into an impeachable offense.
But then CNN made a decision to doctor and edit my recorded remarks so as to eliminate all references to “unlawful” or “illegal” conduct. They wanted their viewers to believe that I had told the Senate that a president could do anything — even commit such crimes as “bribery” and “extortion” — as long as he was motivated by a desire to be reelected. That, of course, was precisely the opposite of what I said. And that is precisely the reason by CNN edited and doctored the tape the way they did: namely to deliberately create the false impression that I had said the president could commit any crimes in order to be reelected, without fear of impeachment.