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THE SITUATION ROOM

Schumer Calls For Four Witnesses to Testify in Impeachment Trial Including Mulvaney, Bolton; Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL) Is Interviewed About The Scenario Of The Impeachment Trial In The Senate; Boeing Suspends Production Of 737 Max Airliner; New Polls: Voters Split On Impeaching And Removing Trump; U.S. Envoy Urging North Korea To Restart Nuclear Talks. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 16, 2019 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[17:00:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Well, it's all the time we have. I don't know what happened to the time. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter @jaketapper. Tweet the show @TheLeadCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks so much for watching. We'll see you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, historic week. Partisan battle lines are drawn as President Trump stands poised to become only the third president in American history to be impeached, setting the stage for a trial in the Senate.

Out of line, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer slams Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for coordinating with the White House on the president's trial defense. And Schumer calls for top White House officials to appear as witnesses.

Twitter tantrum, President Trump goes on a social media rampage, venting his outrage at his looming impeachment and attacking those he sees as political foes, including the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former FBI Director James Comey.

And polling for impeachment, Americans speak out on the political crisis in new polls showing the country deeply divided over whether the president should be impeached and removed from office. I am Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

President Trump is just days away from becoming only the third U.S. president to be impeached by the House of Representatives. And now, Democrats are asking that four White House officials testify in the subsequent Senate trial, including the acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former National Security adviser John Bolton.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer making that request in writing to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and separately, blasting McConnell for coordinating with the White House on the president's defense, calling that and I am quoting now, "totally out of line."

We'll talk about that and more with Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel- Powell of the Judiciary Committee. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by. First, let's get the very latest on the march toward impeachment, our

Justice Correspondent, Jessica Schneider is with us. Jessica, with impeachment now a foregone conclusion, attention is beginning to shift to the president's Senate trial.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It is Wolf, and Democrats are attempting to draw the line, laying out what they want when impeachment moves to the Senate for a likely trial in January.

Top Democrat Chuck Schumer saying he wants to hear from four key witnesses who could offer firsthand insight into the president's delay in getting that military aid to Ukraine.

But of course, in the end, it all comes down to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and what the majority of Republican senators want.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer is pushing his demands of how he wants a likely Senate impeachment trial to proceed.

In a three-page letter to the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Schumer lays out the length for opening presentations from both sides, starting Thursday, January 9th, and says he wants Chief Justice John Roberts to issue subpoenas to four witnesses, former National Security adviser John Bolton, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Robert Blair, senior adviser to Mulvaney and Michael Duffey, the associate director for National Security at the Office of Management ans Budget.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): These four witnesses have direct knowledge of the facts, particularly in regard to the delay in the aid to Ukraine. I don't know what they'll say. Maybe they'll say something exculpatory about President Trump.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Whether witnesses are called, it will come down to what the majority in the Senate decide. With 53 Republicans, McConnell could completely call the shots if he secures support of all but two Republicans.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Everything I do during this, I am coordinating with the White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president's position and our position as to how to handle this. We all know how it is going to end. There is no chance the president is going to be removed from office.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Some senior Republican aides tell CNN their view is that the House is where witnesses should have been called and that there's no place for more witnesses at the Senate trial.

Majority whip Senator John Cornyn tweeting that, "Schumer should have talked to Schiff, Nadler and Pelosi. They dropped their demands for this testimony." Despite asking for those four witnesses, Schumer says Hunter Biden has nothing to offer in the impeachment proceeding.

SCHUMER: I haven't seen a single bit, a scintilla of evidence that Hunter Biden would add anything other than show, circus, distraction.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee has released its report to go along with the articles of impeachment against President Trump that will most likely go to the House floor for a vote this week.

The 658-page report explains the decision to charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress and succinctly lays out Democrats' overriding argument that "President Trump has placed his personal political interests above our national security, our free and fair elections, and our systems of checks and balances. He has engaged in a pattern of misconduct that will continue if left unchecked."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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SCHNEIDER (on camera): And Republicans also reiterated their case in the report with judiciary's top Republican Doug Collins saying that Democrats' actions are unjustifiable and will negatively impact future presidents.

Of course, now we await any meeting between Schumer and McConnell to see if they can come to an agreement. And Wolf, McConnell's spokesman says that a meeting will be planned soon to discuss the contours of the trial. McConnell tonight saying he will have more to say tomorrow.

BLITZER: We'll see what he says. Thanks very much, Jessica Schneider, for that report. Let's go to Capitol Hill right now. Our Senior Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju is joining us. Manu, is there any chance the Republicans will agree to subpoena the four administration officials?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's highly doubtful because Republicans are signaling that it is not the Senate's job. Talking to a number of Senate Republicans today, the message overwhelmingly is that the House should have pursued these witnesses in court.

Had the Democrats wanted to pursue these witnesses in court, the Republicans argue, they should have done just that, even if it had taken time. According to these Republicans, they say look, it is not a fact-finding job of a Senate trial to go after witnesses who have not testified prior to now.

They say they should review the evidence produced already by the House. And I just talked to the Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr. I asked him if he wanted to hear directly from John Bolton or from Mick Mulvaney.

His answer was, "No." So we'll wait to hear exactly what the response will be for Mitch McConnell when he does have more to say about this tomorrow.

But Wolf, the thing that could change the dynamics are that any four senators could break ranks on the Republican side if they so choose, side with 47 Democrats on the floor. And if a majority of senators vote to call these witnesses forward that could of course change the dynamics from the Republican leadership.

We're just not there at this moment, but that will play out in the days ahead, particularly in January when we get into the trial and if members decide they want to hear from the witnesses, perhaps that could change the dynamics, Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly could. All right. Democrats, meanwhile Manu, they are still fighting for details from Mueller's Russia investigation ahead of the impeachment trial. What's the latest on that front?

RAJU: Yes, the House filed a briefing in the federal appeals court case today demanding information, grand jury information related to the Mueller probe. The argument from Democrats is that it could actually help with the impeachment inquiry.

They're saying there's information relevant to the Ukraine case, a Trump campaign member had some discussions involved with some Ukrainians that could be helpful potentially to the overall case that the Democrats are building against the president.

So their argument in court is that they need the secret grand jury information now to inform the thinking on impeachment, but we are unclear to how the court will respond. They plan to hear arguments in the case next month, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Manu, thank you. Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.

At the same time, the White House is now responding to the Democratic call for witnesses in the president's upcoming Senate impeachment trial. Our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta is joining us from the White House. Jim, so what is the White House saying?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the White House, the official line here is that the president is unfazed by the likelihood that he will be impeached, but he is certainly not acting that way.

And the White House is responding to the demand from Democrats that new witnesses appear at the expected impeachment trial in the Senate, but the White House is saying that request for new testimony proves the president didn't do anything wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): With this week's expected impeachment vote hanging over him, President Trump is lashing out in all directions, defending his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who just wrapped up a trip to of all places, Ukraine.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He sees what goes on. He sees what's happening. He sees all of the hoax that happens when they talk about impeachment hoax or the Russian collusion delusion, and he sees it. ACOSTA (voice-over): The president has been on a social media

rampage, tweeting and re-tweeting attacks against his perceived enemies including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In a comment on a video of Pelosi posted by a GOP lawmaker, Mr. Trump tweeted that, "Nancy's teeth were falling out of her mouth." The president's chief allies are playing defense with Giuliani producing the results of his latest effort to dig up dirt on Joe Biden presented on the Trump friendly OAN Network.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: I know the element's cold. I remember judges charging juries.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Giuliani made jaws drop acknowledging to the "New Yorker" he was part of the push to oust the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, and that search for Biden dirt saying, "I believe that I needed Yovanovitch out of the way. She was going to make the investigations difficult for everybody."

GOP Senator Lindsey Graham isn't hiding where he stands in the upcoming trial in the Senate that would follow impeachment vote in the House.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I am trying to give a pretty clear signal. I have made up my mind. I am not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Graham is urging the White House to agree to the speediest trial possible.

GRAHAM: I tell the president somebody is ready to quit to sort of get out of the way.

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If you start calling the witnesses the president wants and they're going to start calling Mike Pence and, you know, the Secretary of State, Pompeo.

ACOSTA (voice-over): That's not what Senate Democrats have in mind, calling on at least four witnesses to testify, including acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former National Security adviser John Bolton.

SCHUMER: No one -- no one has given a reason why these shouldn't testify. If President Trump is so certain that he did nothing wrong, what is he afraid of? What is he hiding when he says Mulvaney or Bolton or the other two witnesses shouldn't testify.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president is also furious over the latest polls on impeachment, including one from Fox News that shows 50 percent would like to see Mr. Trump impeached and removed from office. One big problem for the president, the way he's attacked the impeachment process has raised serious questions.

Former FBI and CIA director William Webster, a Republican, posted an op-ed in the "New York Times" questioning Mr. Trump and Attorney General William Barr's attacks on FBI agents writing, "The aspersions cast upon them by the president and my long time friend, Attorney General William Barr, are troubling in the extreme. Calling FBI professionals scum as the president did is a slur against people who risk their lives to keep us safe." That was in reference to Mr. Trump's rally last week.

TRUMP: They've destroyed the lives of people that were great people, that are still great people. Their lives have been destroyed by scum. Okay? By scum.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (on camera): And the White House has tried to undermine the Democratic case for impeachment by wooing some endangered Democratic lawmakers in the House. The president was apparently able to persuade one Congressman, Jeff Van Drew to switch parties and join the GOP.

But other undecided Democrats appear to be staying put in their party and even announcing today that they will vote to impeach the president, not the kind of mass defections the White House was hoping for.

Now, as for Giuliani, the president was asked earlier this afternoon what he learned from his personal attorney after that trip to Ukraine. The president responded to reporters not too much. Wolf, that is not consistent with what Giuliani told "The Wall Street Journal" that he told the president he found more than you can imagine. That's not consistent, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point indeed. All right. Jim Acosta at the White House. Thank you. Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida, a member of the Judiciary Committee. Congresswoman, thanks so much for coming in.

REP. DEBBIE MUCARSEL-POWELL (D-FL): Thank you Wolf for having me.

BLITZER: All right. So you heard Chuck Schumer say he wants these four White House officials, current and former, to testify, Robert Blair, john Bolton, Michael Duffey, Mick Mulvaney. But House Democrats, and you're a House Democrat, you ultimately dropped your demand to hear from them because you thought it would take too long if there were subpoenas and court decisions. Was that a mistake?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: I don't think so, Wolf. I think that we had to move fairly quickly because if you remember, the inspector general brought this complaint, it was an urgent and credible complaint which is an imminent threat to our democracy and there's an urgency, which is why we could not wait for the courts, but we're going to continue demanding, you know, with the subpoena for Don McGahn to come and testify.

Now, the president has abused the power of his office by demanding a foreign government to investigate his political opponent, putting his private and personal gain before the interest of our country. So there's a national security issue here at hand. So I think -- but I think its fine. I think that I'm glad to see the Senate Minority Leader Schumer really taking a stance against Leader McConnell.

BLITZER: If inn fact these four individuals, these four officials, current and former testify, how important will that be?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: Well, if you remember, it was the chief of staff, Mulvaney, who said that, you know, quid pro quo, it is okay, that they do this all the time, and that's just not true.

So, we have video of him admitting that the president was asking a foreign government to interfere in our elections. That's one. And also, John Bolton in all of the evidence, and Fiona Hill testified, that he was very concerned, that he didn't want to be part of this drug deal is what he called it. So I think that it would be very interesting to hear from the two of them.

BLITZER: If the Senate Majority Mitch McConnell said, okay, these four, they could testify, but in exchange, we want Hunter Biden and some others to testify as well, would you go along with that?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: Look, I'm going to leave that to the Senate to decide, but I can tell you that what the Republicans have done very well is distract from the fact that the president of the United States has violated the law and has violated the Constitution.

And they throw around conspiracy theories that are completely debunked and they were doing that during the hearing last week and I actually called them out on it because I think that it is our responsibility as leaders, as Congress members to tell the American public the truth and not lie to them.

BLITZER: Do you trust the Senate, that the Senate will hold a fair trial?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: At this point, I am very concerned, Wolf. I have heard Senator Graham and Leader McConnell saying that they already know what they're going to do and haven't even conducted the trial. I personally believe that we may be in the beginning stages of a constitutional crisis.

[17:15:00]

If you have a separate branch of government acquiescing to the president of the United States, really violating the separation of powers, this is extremely concerning and very dangerous for our democracy.

BLITZER: On the political front, are you worried that this whole impeachment process could endanger some of your fellow freshman Democrats, right? You won in a Republican district, although Trump did not carry your district in 2016, Hillary Clinton did, but are you worried that some of your freshman colleagues might be in trouble if they go ahead and vote for impeachment, the 31 for example who did get elected in Trump districts? MUCARSEL-POWELL: I can tell you that I am so proud of some of my

colleagues who are patriots. I mean, Elissa Slotkin who served on the CIA, Abigail Spanberger also, Foreign Service officers who have served our country.

And for them, it is not about politics, it's not about party. It's about protecting our democracy. It's about their duty to protect the oath that they took to protect the Constitution.

So, I think that ultimately, their constituents are going to be very proud to see the representatives put our country before their political allegiance.

BLITZER: As you know, some of your fellow freshman Democrats, they want Justin Amash, a former Republican who is now and independent to be one of the impeachment managers in a Senate trial.

He was a very conservative Republican but he split with Donald Trump, with President Trump, and now some of your colleagues want him to serve as an impeachment manager. Do you agree that that should happen?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: I saw that. I don't know him personally. That's what I told my colleagues. So, I'm going to let the leadership decide on that. I know that they're going to make the right choices.

BLITZER: The concern that a lot of Democrats have is that not one Republican in the House of Representatives, forget about Justin Amash; he is a former Republican, not one is going to go along and vote in favor of impeachment. It will be strictly along party lines, although there may be two or three or four Democrats who vote with the Republicans.

MUCARSEL-POWELL: So I would ask my Republican colleagues if it is okay for the president of the United States to ask for foreign interference. They can't answer that question. I do want to speak with a couple of them that I think have been looking at all of the facts and all of the evidence.

And I wouldn't be surprised if one or two broke party lines and voted with us because again, what I'm seeing is that the Republicans in Congress here in Washington, D.C. are now the party of Trump. They're so loyal and they are engaged in a cover-up when the evidence has been so clear.

Wolf, we've had nine different hearings. We've had patriots come and testify. Trump appointees saying that it was very clear that the president -- it was a scheme that was going on for months now so.

BLITZER: Let me get your reaction to Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer. He just told the "New Yorker" magazine and you heard it, that he played a key role in getting rid of the U.S ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.

He told this to the "New Yorker." He said, "I believe that I needed Yovanovitch out of the way, he said. She was going to make the investigations difficult for everybody." How significant is that admission from the president's personal attorney?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: I think it's very significant, especially when you hear my Republican colleagues say that the president was just concerned about corruption. Well, Ambassador Yovanovitch, her main focus had been battling corruption.

And for Rudy Giuliani who is not a state official, he is the personal attorney of the president, helping him in this scheme, trying to remove a career diplomat who had been battling corruption is -- should be very telling to the American public.

BLITZER: Congresswoman, thanks so much for coming in.

MUCARSEL-POWELL: Thank you. Thank you.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much. There is a lot going on. Still ahead, there's more breaking news on Boeing's plans for its controversial 737 Max airliner. We have new information. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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BLITZER: All right. There is breaking just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. Word that Boeing now intends to suspend production of its controversial 737 Max airliner, the jet that's been grounded since a pair of fatal crashes. Our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh is here. She's got details. This is pretty stunning development.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: It is and it certainly is a change in tone, a dramatic shift in tone for Boeing because all along as we have been covering this story since this plane was grounded in March, they were very positive, very bullish that by end of the year, the FAA would approve these planes safe to fly.

But here we are today and Boeing just announcing that they will indeed suspend the production of this troubled 737 Max plane and they will suspend the production in starting in January. Worth pointing out first off, this is a big deal that they are doing this.

But they are saying this is a temporary pause in production. They are not doing away with this plane all together. But here's the problem that they found themselves in.

Last week in their meeting with the FAA, the FAA made it very clear that they were working on their own time line, not on Boeing's time line. And the FAA made it very clear that they would not clear this plane as safe to fly by end of the year.

Once Boeing realized that there really was no other way for them to go here because during this grounding, they have been continuing to build these planes. In their statement today, they say they have about 400 airplanes in storage.

[17:25:00] Well, they can't deliver those planes to airlines if the FAA has not certified this plane as safe. So they found themselves in a position where their backs were against the wall.

And so they will pause production on this plane until the FAA says this plane is safe to fly, and the regulator has already said that they don't expect that to happen until 2020

BLITZER: It's going to cost Boeing, what, billions of dollars.

MARSH: Oh, it's cost them billions of dollars. It's cost airlines hundreds of millions of dollars. So, it's been costly all around and this is clear that this issue will not conclude this year. This will go well into 2020.

BLITZER: Yes, about 350 died in those two plane crashes, that Boeing 737 Max. All right, thanks very much. I know you'll stay on top of this. Rene Marsh, reporting.

Coming up, we'll have much more on the political maneuvering going on right now over impeachment. The Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer wants witnesses to testify at President Trump's Senate trial.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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BLITZER: Here in Washington this afternoon, the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer demanded Republicans agree to hear from witnesses during President Trump's likely impeachment trial in the Senate. Schumer wants an agreement to call for testimony from, among others, the Acting White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, and the former presidential national security adviser John Bolton.

Let's bring in our experts and our analysts to discuss.

And, Gloria, Schumer claims that he thinks some of the more moderate Republicans will join him because the case is so strong. A simple majority one way or the other will determine if there are witnesses.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, and we don't know what those moderate Republicans will do. And don't forget, this is Schumer's sort of opening offer to Mitch McConnell. And we don't know what Mitch McConnell will say about it. He says he's -- we'll know more tomorrow. They're clearly negotiating in public, which is never a good sign.

I mean, when Trent Lott and Tom Daschle negotiated during Bill Clinton's impeachment, they did it privately. They didn't do it publicly. And the Senate agreed on the rules. They all met in the old Senate chamber, and they agreed on the rules a hundred to zero. That is not going to happen this time.

They agreed on the rules, by the way, and then, afterward, they decided about witnesses. That's not the case this time. So Schumer isn't going to get everything he wants. I think he probably knows it. Will he get any witnesses at all? We really don't know the answer to that.

And by the way, we don't know whether -- if they say, OK, you guys have to show up, what they would do. Would they show up? Would John Bolton show up? Could he plead the Fifth? He's got a court case pending on this very matter about compelling his testimony. So it's all very much up in the air.

BLITZER: The Republicans, they point out the Democrats in the House, they had their chance to try to get these witnesses to come in but they decided to not go with it because it would've taken too long to adjudicate in the courts.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. And in some cases, the Democratic argument for why they did that is because what they were doing was essentially the fact-finding part of this. The grand jury portion in which they collect as much as they can in order to bring charges.

What the Senate is doing is having a trial, and there are members of the Senate -- Senate who are saying we don't have enough information. They're wondering why -- you know, they're saying, I don't see enough evidence here to say whether this is an impeachable offense.

Well, the Democratic argument is that there is evidence out there to be gotten, and you can either try to go get it, or you can put your hands over your ears and say, I don't want to listen anymore.

So I do think it's a little bit of a different calculus because of what the Senate is trying to do. They have to try to come to a conclusion about this. Whereas what the House was doing was just collecting as much as they can to say, we think there's probable cause to move forward with an actual trial.

BLITZER: Will it make a difference if the Republicans say, you know what, we'll let these four witnesses that the Democrats want appear, but we want Hunter Biden, for example, to come and testify as well? The whistleblower, we want the whistleblower to come testify. Congressman Adam Schiff, he's got to testify. Would they start getting into a battle like that?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well, so what's important to remember, I think, generally speaking, Gloria touched on this. I think -- I think everyone seems to think or many people think that all of this is outlined in the constitution. It's really not.

The rules of how these works, witnesses being called, how everything is treated, timeline, it's all a Senate agreement that's set up just within the Senate. So is it possible? Sure. I think it's very unlikely that Democrats would agree to Hunter Biden or the whistleblower, just given what's happened in the House. There's a lot --

BORGER: A hundred percent unlikely.

(LAUGHTER) CILLIZZA: I mean -- yes, there's a lot of water under that bridge. I

don't think it's going to be a tit-for-tat trade-off. And my guess is -- Gloria mentioned McConnell said he's going to fill us in more tomorrow on this.

My guess is you will hear an argument that Manu and Phil and other folks reported on today, which is, essentially, the fact-finding part is now over, this is the trial. If you wanted more facts, you should have waited and subpoenaed these people -- well, brought the Justice Department and then subpoena these people in a way where there were penalties. And that, my guess is, they will end on that.

[17:34:57]

BLITZER: The strongest point that Schumer, Bianna, makes is that these four witnesses that the Democrats want to testify, they really have a lot of firsthand knowledge of what was going on between the President and Zelensky and the quid pro quo and all of that.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. They are witnesses who have firsthand accounts and are fact witnesses whose names were mentioned over and over throughout the hearings that we saw take place in Congress. And what you're going to hear from Republicans is, who cares, it doesn't matter.

And when we talk about comparing the two processes from today versus what we saw during Clinton's impeachment, let's not fool ourselves. It wasn't as if the times were a bipartisan utopia, but you at least had some Democrats who acknowledged that what the President did was wrong. Now, whether it was impeachable was a different argument to be had.

But you have a president today who consistently says that this was a perfect call, look at the transcript, I did nothing wrong. And you do not hear from -- I don't know of any House Republicans and -- well, we've heard from some Senate Republicans who have said that they don't like what the President had said and that the call was not proper.

But if it falls in line with what we've heard from the House and if the President speaks out angrily, if he's starting to sense that some senators, Republican senators, are not defending his actions, then this could go a completely different direction. I think Mitch McConnell senses that, which is why he wants this to end quickly.

BLITZER: You know --

CILLIZZA: And just --

BLITZER: Yes.

CILLIZZA: Just quickly to Bianna's point, Donald Trump has been doing a lot of this -- this paid work here for months, meeting with Republican senators. Not specifically about impeachment, but he has been working this.

You know, we -- the -- McConnell is saying he is going to closely coordinate and this gets a lot of attention, but Donald Trump has been having groups of Republican senators over for a while. If you don't think it never came up, like, hey, guys, if the House impeaches me, how are we feeling about -- of course, it did. So he has been doing a lot of work on that front to try to keep everybody aligned. Obviously, there are people who are on it --

BLITZER: You know --

CILLIZZA: -- Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, et cetera.

BLITZER: To convict and remove a president who's been impeached from office, you need two-thirds, 67 senators.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: There are 53 Republicans, 47 Democrats. To simply get witnesses, you need a simple majority of 51. So assuming all -- Gloria, all 47 Democrats are united, and you try to get some moderate Republicans to say, we want to hear from Mick Mulvaney, we want to hear from John Bolton, whether, you know, it's Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney --

CILLIZZA: Yes.

BLITZER: -- maybe one or two others --

BORGER: It could.

BLITZER: -- potentially the Democrats could win that fight.

BORGER: It could. I think the question is whether they're willing to cross the White House on that because it's clear that the White House is not going to want anybody to testify.

Unless the President -- I mean, the President originally, as we all know, wanted to put on a big show. I think they'd convinced him to kind of scale that back to a great degree and get it over with quickly. I don't know for a fact whether he has changed his mind or not. He has not told us that publicly. So conceivably, you could get some Republicans to go along with it, but I'm not clear about that.

PHILLIP: Well, the people --

GOLODRYGA: And the President has --

PHILLIP: Go ahead, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Oh, go ahead, go ahead. Sorry.

PHILLIP: The --

GOLODRYGA: Well, I was just going to say the President has also said that he, perhaps, one day would release his tax returns --

BORGER: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

GOLODRYGA: -- perhaps he would be open to have others that work for him testify.

BORGER: Right.

GOLODRYGA: And we know where that turn out.

CILLIZZA: He was going to sit down with Bob Mueller.

BLITZER: All right, everybody, stick around. Everybody, stand by. We have a lot more we're working on, including some new polls emerging right now showing where the nation's voters stand on impeaching President Trump and removing him from office.

[17:38:27]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: As the full House prepares for this week's historic vote on impeaching President Trump, new polls reveal voters remain split on whether he should be removed from office.

Our Political Director, David Chalian, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. David, where does the nation land on impeaching the President?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: What's amazing about these numbers is how much they don't change radically over time, Wolf. In the last 24 hours, we saw three polls come out.

Take a look here. You have the Quinnipiac University poll; 45 percent say impeach and remove. Forty-six percent say so in the NPR/PBS/Marist poll. Fifty percent say so in the Fox News poll.

What you see here is a pretty narrow band between 45 and 50 percent, and that's where we have been in this story on impeachment. It is nearly half the country who wants to see the President removed from office, but it's not a growing number. And the President's team takes some solace in that.

BLITZER: So what does this all mean, potentially, for the President's re-election campaign?

CHALIAN: You know, I think it's a little dangerous to think that there's going to be a huge impact. That presidential election campaign is nearly a year away. News cycles move really fast. It will be curious to see if voters have this top of mind.

But one clue that it's not having a huge impact right now? Take a look at these general election matchups that Fox did in their poll. Again, this election is not until next November, but you see here Donald Trump is anywhere from 40 percent of the vote to 45 percent of the vote, depending on which Democrat he is put up against.

That's about where he's been throughout this entire 2019. So his number has not moved all that much before impeachment, during impeachment, right now on the precipice of the vote.

BLITZER: And when the President sees this is a Fox poll, he is not very happy at all.

CHALIAN: Well, he doesn't love those numbers --

BLITZER: Yes.

CHALIAN: -- that show him trailing all the Democrats.

BLITZER: He certainly does not. All right, good work, David Chalian. Thank you very much.

CHALIAN: Sure.

BLITZER: Coming up, a new appeal to North Korea as tension with the Kim Jong-un regime grows.

[17:44:57]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The United States is now making a new appeal to North Korea to restart stalled denuclearization talks. CNN's Brian Todd is working this story for us. Brian, tension with the Kim Jong-un regime, it clearly has been increasing.

[17:50:03]

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. In recent days, we have seen tensions between the U.S. and North Korea that we really have not seen since 2017, including the name-calling.

The tension has intelligence officials and analysts worried about a possible missile or bomb test from Kim's regime, and America's top diplomat on North Korea is trying desperately to head that off.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Kim Jong-un's regime is getting an urgent direct message from America's top envoy to North Korea, Stephen Biegun, about 30 miles from Kim's border, making a blunt declaration about the stalled nuclear weapons talks.

STEPHEN BIEGUN, UNITED STATES SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR NORTH KOREA: Let me speak directly to our counterparts in North Korea. It is time for us to do our jobs. Let's get this done. We are here, and you know how to reach us.

TODD (voice-over): A key question tonight, while Biegun is nearby, could the North Koreans take him up on his offer and make real progress on nuclear talks that have gone nowhere for almost a year?

SOO KIM, FORMER ANALYST, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: I don't think they will because if you look at their negotiating behavior from, you know, even as far as Singapore, even back further, we haven't seen any verbal or any action-based North Korean steps toward denuclearization.

TODD (voice-over): In recent days, there have been moves and statements from Kim's regime that have been nothing short of hostile and provocative.

Within the span of a week, North Korea conducted two important tests at its Sohae Satellite Launching facility. In addition to launching satellites, this is a place where Kim has also supervised the tests of engines that could power long-range missiles.

A top North Korean general says priceless data, technologies, and experience gained in the recent tests will be fully applied to the development of another strategic weapon and that the North Koreans would use it for overpowering the nuclear threat of the U.S.

TODD (on camera): What kind of strategic weapon is he likely referring to?

KIM: Definitely something that's going to be bigger and longer-range than short-range missiles. Given what our missile technology experts have been saying, it's definitely going to be something on the range of an ICBM or perhaps even a nuclear test.

TODD (voice-over): North Korea's ambassador to the U.N. says nuclear talks with the U.S. are off the table. And Pyongyang has threatened to send a, quote, Christmas gift to the U.S., which analysts interpreted as a likely nuclear bomb or long-range missile test. There has also been a return to name-calling.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He likes sending rockets up, doesn't he? That's why I call him Rocket Man.

TODD (voice-over): The North Koreans responding with one of their favorite insults, calling Trump a dotard, an old man bereft of patience. Today, the President seemed to issue a subtle warning to the dictator over the possibility of another weapons test.

TRUMP: I'd be disappointed if something would be in the works. And if it is, we'll take care of it. But we'll see. We're watching it very closely.

TODD (voice-over): Some experts believe Kim is making a last push before his self-imposed year-end deadline for more progress on nuclear talks arise. But others say the latest aggression shows the Supreme Leader may never have been serious about giving up his nuclear weapons.

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN: NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": We've got to remember that nobody has ever enticed the North Koreans into good behavior. Not the Chinese, not the Russians, not the South Koreans. President Trump has tried that for a year and a half. Clearly, it hasn't worked.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Analysts say one of President Trump's few good options left to take the momentum back and to pressure Kim Jong-un into really giving something in nuclear talks is to tighten sanctions against North Korea more seriously, to put pressure on the Chinese banks that do business with Kim, to pressure the Russians and South Koreans to cut the flow of cash to the dictator.

At that point, analysts say, Kim might have little choice left but to get serious with Trump and really start to dismantle at least part of his arsenal, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, but, Brian, there's particular concern tonight about what kind of tests the North Koreans may conduct in the days ahead if, in fact, they do conduct a test.

TODD: Right, Wolf. The "New York Times" citing, tonight, U.S. officials and analysts saying that within a month, the North Koreans could test the re-entry capability of their long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles which could reach the U.S.

If they can ensure that those missiles can survive re-entry into the atmosphere after they're fired, that threat from North Korea is going to be more dangerous than it has ever been.

BLITZER: Very disturbing development indeed. All right, Brian Todd, thank you.

Coming up, as impeachment looms over President Trump, Senate leaders are battling over what his trial will look like. Will top White House officials be called as witnesses?

[17:54:41]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now, impeachment demands. Even before the House votes on articles of impeachment, the top Senate Democrat is laying the groundwork for putting the President on trial. Is there any chance Republicans will agree to his high-profile witness list?

Out of the way. Rudy Giuliani admits why he wanted the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine ousted, reportedly confirming it was all about protecting his hunt for dirt on the Bidens. Tonight, the President has nothing but gushing praise for his personal lawyer.

[18:00:03]