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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) is Interviewed About the Impeachment Trial; Moments Away: Democrats Face Off in High-Stakes Debate; McConnell: Senate Impeachment Trial At "Impasse"; Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) Discusses About Moving Forward With Impeachment On January; Christianity Today: Trump Should Be Removed; Top Evangelical Magazine Founded By Bill Graham: President Trump Should Be Removed From Office. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired December 19, 2019 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WOLFBLITZER. You can tweet the show @CNNSITROOM. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, no deal. The House shut down for the year without handing the articles of impeachment over to the Senate and the Senate majority leader says fine with him, so what now?
And we are live in Los Angeles tonight where the Democratic presidential candidates are about to take the stage as a major evangelical publication founded by Billy Graham says President Trump should be removed from office. Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening to all. I'm Erin Burnett. Welcome to a special edition of OUTFRONT. We are covering two breaking stories this hour with major consequences tonight.
First, President Trump's impeachment right now hanging in the balance. The House is heading home, shutdown, no business until January without handing over those articles of impeachment to the Senate. This is just 24 hours after President Trump became the third President of the United States to be impeached and the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she wants Senate Majority Leader McConnell to explain what the trial will look like to agree on that before she hands those articles and the reins to him in the Senate.
Just moments ago, Mitch McConnell going to the Senate floor to fight back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): As of today, however, we remain at an impasse. We have the curious situation where following House Democrats' rush to impeachment, following weeks of pronouncements about the urgency of the situation. Urgent situation. The prosecutors appeared to have developed cold feet.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: At an impasse over the President's impeachment trial. A
trial that is looming tonight over the fight for 2020, because right now we are less than an hour from a crucial presidential debate the last debate of 2019 and everything is at stake. That is because there are now just 46 days until Iowa, until those first votes are cast in the caucuses there.
Chris Cuomo is live in Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University at the debates. It's going to air live Chris, of course, eight o'clock Eastern. And you're going to have a lot of senators on that stage behind you who are going to be jurors in this Senate trial.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Absolutely, Erin. The candidates actually are just about to start taking the stage behind us. Three of them will be jurors in any upcoming trial. Now, that may add a layer of shine or stink to them depending on which narrative on impeachment wins.
That said, the challenge tonight is not just to justify the past, but to pitch the best message for the future and to show why you are better than the others on this stage. The key attribute, of course, why you are the one to beat Teflon Trump, the most judgment proof politician within his party we have ever see.
Now, going into this, a lot of voters are still undecided. According to CNN's new poll, 51 percent say they could still change their minds. That means tonight has the potential to reshape the race for a few days, a week or more, Erin.
BURNETT: Well, Chris, it is important because we're coming into the holidays. This is sort of the last taste people are going to have in their mouths. We're going to be back with Chris in Los Angeles shortly.
First, though, I want to get to the latest on the historic impeachment trial. Manu Raju is OUTFRONT live on Capitol Hill. And Manu, what is the latest with McConnell's plan for the Senate trial?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're at an impasse, Mitch McConnell and the Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, about how the trial will be structured. The impact is this, the Democrats want witnesses agreed to upfront. They want the people who did not come before the House impeachment inquiry because the White House had intervened and blocked them from coming forward.
Mick Mulvaney, the Acting White House Chief of Staff, John Bolton, the former National Security Advisor, as well as others. They also want documents agreed to upfront. Mitch McConnell says that should not be part of the deal initially. They said they should do what they did essentially for the Clinton trial in 1999 when which they just simply has a bare bones agreement detailing the basic structure and then worry about witnesses later.
That's what Mitch McConnell is saying, but this is not going over well with Democrats. And Nancy Pelosi is saying that she will not transmit those articles from the House over to the Senate until she understands what the process is in the Senate. And with no deal both the House and the Senate are essentially gone until January.
So that means we may not get a resolution on this until the week of January 6th, the earliest. And Erin, the President also may be in a different spot than Mitch McConnell. President Trump apparently wants his day in court. That's according to Lindsey Graham who just met with President Trump.
And Mitch McConnell was saying that if the articles are never sent over to the Senate, that is fine with him. So if Democrats are looking for any leverage here, it could be the President's own demands for a senate trial. And we'll see how that impacts McConnell's thinking as talks continue between him and Chuck Schumer, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Manu, thank you very much. And OUTFRONT now the Assistant Speaker of the House, Democratic Congressman Ben Ray Lujan. And I appreciate your time. Thank you very much, Congressman.
So instead of holding a vote that would allow Democrats to send those articles of impeachment formally to the Senate for a trial, the House is closing up shop, holiday recess. You guys are gone till the week of January 6th. When will your party move forward?
REP. BEN RAY LUJAN (D-NM): Well, look, the House just concluded a couple weeks of business where we passed a package of legislation to lower prescription drug prices for the American people. We prevented a government shutdown. A big trade agreement was just passed this week as well, including articles of impeachment.
Well, I'm not going to get in front of Speaker Pelosi. I think she was abundantly clear last night and today, the ball is in Mitch McConnell's court. He has not set the agenda. He's not set the arena. That way we know exactly which managers and how many managers to get appointed to this.
And so again, we want some transparent from Mitch McConnell as does the American people and it's critically important that he move forward and work with leadership to get this done.
BURNETT: So he came to the Senate floor today. I know we had this closed door meeting with Chuck Schumer. They are at an impasse according to McConnell, no movement whatsoever on this issue of witnesses. And here is what Mitch McConnell says about Democrats, you guys, your party and how you're withholding the articles of impeachment. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: I admit I'm not sure what leverage there is and refraining from sending us something we do not want. We'll see whether House Democrats ever want to work up the courage to actually take their accusation to trial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: What do you say to Senator McConnell? He says you lack courage.
LUJAN: Erin, look, what we need is real courage from our Senate counterparts to have a fair hearing and for Mitch McConnell not to hide behind anything to come forward and actually present the parameters associated with the proceedings that we'll be taking place in the Senate.
Here's the other question, though, that Mitch McConnell somehow is trying to avoid. Last week he went on Fox News to proclaim that he was not an impartial juror. But here's the thing, when those impeachment proceedings began in the U.S. Senate, every U.S. Senator has to raise their hand to take an oath that they're going to be impartial jurors.
How is he going to be able to do that when he said he's already made his decision and in fact he's not an impartial juror. So again just enough with whatever's going on, on the side with Leader McConnell, get this set up. Set up the parameters. There's nothing to hide. Let's present this to the American people and move forward.
BURNETT: So he also made the point that you had all said this is urgent, this must happen, there's interference happening right now because Rudy Giuliani was in Ukraine, so everybody had to move very quickly. And yet now, obviously, you're withholding the articles and this could drag on for weeks longer because of that.
And just so people understand how important urgency was this as part of the Democratic argument, here are some of your colleagues, Congressman,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This is urgent.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Nothing could be more urgent.
REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA): We view this as urgent.
REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D-MA): Congress has no other choice but to act with urgency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Do you weaken your own argument by now saying you're going to withhold the articles and wait as long as it takes to send those articles of impeachment to the Senate?
LUJAN: Absolutely not, Erin. The President of the United States has been impeached. Those were the actions and the urgency associated with the abuse of power that we have seen coming from President Donald Trump. Rudy Giuliani who is fresh off of a trip to visiting with Ukrainian leaders and reporting back to the White House as they Continue to meddle. It's as if the President has returned to the scene of the crime.
What's important about this is to have a transparent and a fair hearing in the United States Senate and that's what Mitch McConnell is trying to confuse the American people with. Set the agenda, set the arena, set the rules so that way the House can conclude its business. Get the managers appointed and get those articles sent over.
But, again, I'm not going to get in front of Speaker Pelosi and it's clear, I think everyone agrees the ball is in Mitch McConnell's court. I just don't know why he's refusing to pick up the ball.
BURNETT: Thank you very much, Congressman. I appreciate your time tonight.
LUJAN: Thank you.
BURNETT: And we do have more breaking news right now. A major evangelical magazine founded by Billy Graham is tonight out with this op-ed. Literally coming out just moments ago, stunning. A calling for President Trump to be removed from office.
And let me just read one of the crucial lines. "We believe the impeachment hearings have made it absolutely clear, in a way the Mueller investigation did not, that President Trump has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath.
The impeachment hearings have illuminated the President's moral deficiencies for all to see. This damages the institution of the presidency, damages the reputation of our country, and damages both the spirit and the future of our people. None of the President's positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character."
Evangelicals obviously have been a huge part of Trump's base. A block that he relied on and counted on. This is the first time we've seen a crack in that support. Again, it's coming from Christianity Today. This is the editor in chief publishing this moments ago.
Kaitlan Collins is OUTFRONT at the White House. Kaitlan, this is significant.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It certainly is something, especially as you read through this not only saying that the President is grossly immoral. He's profoundly immoral.
Two lines also struck out to me, Erin, and that was that the President has dumbed-down the idea of morality in his administration. And then they talked about all of the words that were said about Bill Clinton when he was being impeached 20 years ago can almost be applied perfectly to President Trump.
That is something that the President will not like because, of course, he didn't want to be impeached, because he didn't want to be compared to Bill Clinton. So we should note, of course, this is founded by the late Reverend Billy Graham, his son Franklin Graham is a big supporter of the President. He's made that pretty clear. So it'll be interesting to see whether or not this has any effect on
the President's support from evangelicals. So far in the past things that President done has not had any kind of effect on that. The first thing that comes to mind, of course, is that Access Hollywood tape which did not drive a lot of those voters away from the President in the last election, so that remains to be seen.
In another Graham that we are speaking of, Senator Lindsey Graham was here at the White House tonight and he said he had a conversation with the President where he believed he was mad as hell now that that Senate trial could be delayed due to the fact that Nancy Pelosi has not delivered these articles of impeachment to the Senate yet. Something that was pretty clear today is not something that's going to be resolved anytime soon.
He essentially said that the President told him he wants his day in court and he wants it soon. And the idea that it's going to be delayed maybe fine with people like Mitch McConnell, not going to be good with people like the President.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Kaitlan, at the White House. And OUTFRONT now, CNN Legal Analyst, former Counsel to Senator Chuck Schumer, Elliot Williams, Joe Lockhart, who was President Clinton's Press Secretary during the impeachment investigation and the former Director of the Nixon Presidential Library, Tim Naftali.
So Joe, this comes out in Christianity Today. Mark Galli who is the Editor in Chief says, "We have reserved judgment on Mr. Trump for years now." And yet they come out, he should be removed from office. This is not an argument for impeachment. This is an argument for a full removal from the Senate, from a benchmark evangelical publication.
JOE LOCKHART, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes. It appears to be a big crack in the most solid voting block for Donald Trump. Donald Trump would not have been elected without evangelical support. Evangelicals are not monolithic as a group, but they have voted in a monolithic way and supported Trump in a monolithic way.
If they start fraying off and getting to, they are persuaded by the point of this editorial, that is a huge problem for Donald Trump. He cannot win without getting 90, 95 percent of the evangelicals. Losing 5 percent of them is a disaster for him.
BURNETT: Even, Elliot, if it is merely a turnout issue, right? We're not talking about say evangelicals may go vote for whomever the Democratic nominee may be.
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. So a couple of things here. Number one, we should be clear it's white evangelicals, because certainly the President's popularity both in 2016 and now with African-American individual community. Something I would also be concerned about or something I would think about is I still think and we were talking about this a little bit beforehand, the President is going to find a problem with that publication, pardon me I lost my train of thought for a second. BURNETT: I mean he could come out and say something personal about
the editor in chief if he wanted he could. I mean, that could backfire.
WILLIAMS: Right. I think people - I'm sorry, people will turn on the publication before they turn on the President. And so the problem will be with Christianity Today, not with Donald Trump. There haven't been many cracks in the support for the President among that white evangelicals.
BURNETT: No, there haven't. And yet, Tim, I read a key line, but I want to read another. He says, "The facts in this instant are unambiguous: The President of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the President's political opponents. This is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.
The reason many are not shocked about this is that the President has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women about which he remains proud.
His twitter feed alone, with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies and slanders, is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.
There is no ambiguity about it.
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: No. And this is really very, very interesting because this editor who doesn't have a reputation as a liberal evangelical is building on the legacy of Reverend Billy Graham. Billy Graham argued in the middle of the Nixon impeachment trauma, that the White House was guilty of situational ethics.
That was the beginning of the loss of support that Nixon felt among his base. It was Billy Graham who sent that signal. This is the same spirit.
BURNETT: So you see analogous (inaudible) ...
NAFTALI: Well, anybody who's running a publication founded by Billy Graham would have done his homework or her homework and known that Billy Graham participated in the public debate about impeachment regarding Nixon and made the moral argument at that time.
BURNETT: I mean, and Joe this comes here as - you're talking about a very important moment, right?
BURNETT: The Senate is about to get this, but they don't have it.
BURNETT: You've got it in a sense more time for people to - well, theoretically go into their corners, but perhaps there are some who may read this and think differently there.
LOCKHART: Yes. You made an important point about turnout. Karl Rove estimated after the George W. Bush drunk driving revelation came out, 4 million of their voters stayed home. That he argues that's why it was so close. That's why we were counting chats in Florida.
And I think the second thing is and, again, I don't want to infer motives here, but for a lot of evangelicals, all they really wanted out of Trump were judges. Let's remake the federal judiciary so that we can be stricter on abortion or outlaw abortion.
BURNETT: They got that.
LOCKHART: Yes. They've got it and it's done. And maybe now they are now reverting and being less transactional than they were before.
WILLIAMS: Just think of everything or nothing that has stuck to President Trump after three years and so many things have been - starting with the Access Hollywood tape and this is the instance or the personal conduct even before he was president, this would be the thing.
BURNETT: And yet it comes as you have this trial delay.
WILLIAMS: Yes, exactly. Yes.
BURNETT: I mean, is it a smart move, Elliot, for Democrats to do this? I mean, this is just coming in the middle of it, but for them to withhold these articles ...
WILLIAMS: Sure. One thing that resonated with the public at least along the way with the House proceeding was that the House Representatives with the President were engaged in a bit of a cover up. They use that term a lot, the President didn't allow witnesses from the administration, did not provide documents and so on.
And so if the House can tie the Senate to that, because the Senate will be conducting the proceedings then certainly that may resonate with the public. Now, they can't do it indefinitely and this can't go on for months and months and months. But certainly it'll stick with the public that Mitch McConnell is helping the President hide this story from you.
BURNETT: All of you stay with us. Next, the stage is set because you're going to have the Democrats taking the stage as this delay is happening, as this impasse is happening in Washington and as you have this major evangelical development.
So could attacking the frontrunner backfire on that stage tonight? We're live in Los Angeles and so are the candidates. And The Washington Post reporting at this hour that President Trump is pushing the conspiracy theory and it is that, it has been debunked by his own administration publicly, but he believes Ukraine interfere in the 2016 election. We have now found out who told him that that is the case, it's Vladimir Putin.
BURNETT: And welcome back to a special edition of OUTFRONT. We are just moments away from tonight's democratic debate and right now on the debate hall they are about to sing America the Beautiful, let's listen.
(AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL)
CUOMO: All right. Beautiful renditions. We're here in Los Angeles. The crowd is energized. More than 50 days until the Iowa caucuses. Let's break down the state of play. We got Van Jones, CNN Political Commentator, Host of THE VAN JONES SHOW. We also have Gloria Borger, CNN Chief Political Analyst, Dana Bash, CNN Chief Political Correspondent and David Axelrod, CNN Senior Political Commentator and former Senior Adviser to President Obama.
Axe, you had a good line when we first got here.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
CUOMO: You look at the stage.
CUOMO: You saw the seven and you said ...
AXELROD: It looks so bare up there, seven podiums, I don't know what to make of it. Listening to the chorus sing about brotherhood from sea to shining sea, I don't think we're going to see it on the stage tonight, because we're 47 days from the Iowa caucuses and it's getting serious now.
You've got people up there, one of whom is likely to be the nominee of the Democratic Party. But I don't think the person who's going to be the target tonight is necessarily going to be Joe Biden who's the national frontrunner. This is a sequential process and it begins in Iowa.
And the Iowa frontrunner right now is Pete Buttigieg, the Mayor of South Bend. I expect he's going to be the recipient of a lot of incoming tonight. It'll be interesting to see how he parries that.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So I was in Atlanta for the last debate where everybody thought that that was going to be the case, because he was ascendant. And his campaign was certainly preparing, he was preparing to take all of the incoming and he didn't.
It's hard to imagine that he's going to get that past twice, especially now because as you said, he is not just ascendant, he is in the catbird seat in Iowa and that is incredibly important for him and dangerous for the other candidates. Particularly somebody like Joe Biden.
I don't expect that Joe Biden is going to be that aggressive against Buttigieg. But he is in Buttigieg's lane, if you will, on the more moderate incremental side of the ledger.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: But you know who might, Elizabeth Warren, because ...
BORGER: ... Warren and Buttigieg had been facing off constantly now and picking on each other over issues like disclose your McKinsey clients, et cetera, which in the grand scheme of things are not really a big issue on the voters' list. But it'll be interesting if Buttigieg decides to take on Biden, not the other way around. Because Buttigieg kind of is the other moderate and he has to differentiate himself.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the sparring between Warren and Mayor Pete, she gets him on little stuff, he got her own big stuff. She's had to reposition. He said, look, the Medicare for All stuff is a bridge too far and she's had to reposition.
This guy is a kid. He's from a town nobody's ever visited and he somehow managed to get up on this stage and rearrange the molecules of this party to make a name for himself. You said this stage is going to kind of be a bear stage, it's also going to be a less colorful stage.
Up until now we've had so many different non-white candidates. It's been remarkable to see who would have thought three months ago that the only surviving person of color on the stage would not be Kamala Harris, would not be Cory Booker, would not be Tulsi Gabbard, it would be Andrew Yang.
BORGER: You would, because you like Yang.
AXELROD: You had all of the Yang stuff.
BORGER: Right. You were the Yang guy.
JONES: And I'm telling you, something is happening with Andrew Yang. I'll tell you what, his digital performance is unreal. He is growing and I think it's because people are tired. The fatigue in the country right now from the impeachment and all sorts of stuff has some people looking for fresh answers.
I just want to say nobody, except for me, would have said the surviving person of color would be Andrew Yang, and that says something.
BASH: He once said to me, it's all fun and games until Andrew Yang passes you on the polls.
AXELROD: Hold on. Do you have any more product placement you want....
CUOMO: And that was Trump-esque you just did.
AXELROD: The one person we haven't mentioned was also involved in that gang up on Elizabeth Warren on Medicare for All. That was Amy Klobuchar. She's kind of quietly creeping up in Iowa and New Hampshire.
JONES: It's a big opportunity for her.
AXELROD: And this is a big debate for her.
CUOMO: The move for somebody on this stage tonight is to coalesce all of the factions that aren't represented on the stage and that are necessary for any type of winning effort. It's interesting to see who spends less time on the person on either side of them and more reaching out to the audience to say I'm your best bet.
I think that's what the party is hungry for. We're out of time. Let's get it back to Erin in New York. That's the state of play here. Back to you.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right. And, obviously, it's going to be a very big night beginning moments from now.
More on the breaking news as well. President Trump has just weighed in on his own impeachment trial. And a Democratic senator from the state Trump won will soon have to vote on whether to remove President Trump from office. Is he willing to lose his job for his vote?
BURNETT: Welcome back to the special edition of OUTFRONT.
We have breaking news this hour: no deal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying moments ago the Senate trial is at a, quote, impasse. He says Democrats have cold feet and they're afraid.
As for the House, members have gone home. Speaker Pelosi refusing to hand the impeachment articles to the Senate until they get a, quote, fair trial.
OUTFRONT now, Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana.
And I appreciate your time tonight, Senator.
Impasse is the word that Senator McConnell is using tonight. Are you sure that there will be a Senate trial in January, that it's going to start -- I mean, January 6th is what people were expecting.
[19:35:00] Is that even on the table anymore?
SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): Look, I think the charges are serious and I think it's very, very important that we follow through with impeachment and have the trial. As far as the impasse and as far as negotiating, look, we've just had a day of great negotiations between McConnell and Schumer and Leahy and Shelby, and we got a bunch of bills passed today because people work together.
I think what people are sick of in this country is folks who tend to run to their corners and are very tribal instead of working together to get things done.
I think McConnell and Schumer are both professionals, and they can get together and negotiate and compromise and get to a point where we can have a trial that actually reveals all of the facts so we can make a decision, the charges against the president, I'll say once again are very, very serious charges. We should not be taking them lightly.
BURNETT: So, look, obviously, now they had this 20-minute closed-door meeting and Senator Schumer says he wants his witnesses and the majority leader went to the Senate floor, right in to say impasse and nothing is happening here.
He, look, McConnell is saying, Senator, that the precedent here is to not agree on witnesses before the trial. Now, he's made it very clear he doesn't want any witnesses. The president doesn't want any. So, we know where McConnell stands himself.
But he says the precedent is for the Senate to vote on witnesses once the trial formally begins and not to agree on it beforehand. Would you go along with that in any scenario, Senator Tester?
TESTER: Look, I think the best thing to do would be to provide some certainty to determine who's going to be there so that jurors can prepare for that testimony as it moves forward because I think there is preparation that the jurors need to do and in this case, the people who serve in the United States Senate.
I can tell you that Senator McConnell a few days ago said he was taking his cues from the president and the president told the House they weren't going to get any information, whether it was folks to testify or information that they requested.
Look, I want to give him a fair trial in the U.S. Senate. In order to give anybody a fair trial, you have to have the evidence brought on the table. It should be done the very transparent way, they should agree who's going to testify right now because it's a fairly limited number of folks anyway, and move forward with the trial that isn't -- isn't something that the American people wouldn't be proud of, and that our forefathers wouldn't be proud of.
You know, this isn't about Democrats versus Republican. It's about three co-equal branches of government. This is about the American people and how we move forward with our democracy. BURNETT: So, you know, obviously, if McConnell wins this round for
lack of a better word, I mean, if he gets no witnesses until the trial starts, then there could be a vote. We've identified seven Republicans who could be possible swing votes because you would need all the Democrats and you, of course, would need Republicans, as well, four Republicans, in fact, Senator Tester, to vote four witnesses and then you'd get the witnesses.
BURNETT: Go ahead.
TESTER: That's correct. I don't know that I can predict who's going to do what. I do think that there potentially is folks who may be surprises on the Republican side of the aisle that may say, hey, enough is enough. We need to get to the bottom of this because quite frankly, our democracy is depending on it.
The forefathers set up impeachment and it is a very serious situation to protect our democracy, to protect against monarchy. We need to get the evidence to make sure that doesn't happen.
BURNETT: You know, Senator, I know you are talking about having a fair trial and all the evidence in front of you. But President Trump makes so much of this -- you know, personal himself, right? When it comes to you, right? He went after you fiercely in the midterms. On Twitter, he called you, quote, very dishonest and sick, exclamation point.
And here's a little bit about what he said about you at a couple of his rallies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tester doesn't share your values.
Jon Tester will never drain the swamp because he happens to live in the swamp and he loves the swamp.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Is this personal for you in any way?
TESTER: No, I'm a little more professional than that and I could tell you that Montanans saw through all that baloney, and I'd be generous, but this isn't personal. This is about making sure that we don't have someone that abuses the office of the presidency.
The president is going to be the president. I'd like -- I wished he was a little more professional. I wish he'd understand what's going on out there as far as being the most powerful man in the world and how important that is as far as setting an example, but nonetheless, that's not what this is about, this is about making sure we didn't have the president that overstepped the powers of the office.
BURNETT: All right. Senator Tester, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much tonight, sir.
TESTER: You betcha. Thank you.
BURNETT: All right. "The Washington Post" is reporting, Tim, we have just -- we have just gotten this, that some former White House officials believe President Trump's view that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election which his own administration knows and said it's false and came directly from, quote, a meeting from Putin, a meeting with Putin.
And the article goes on, here's a crucial line, Tim -- one former senior White House official said Trump even stated explicitly so at one point, saying he knew Ukraine was the real culprit because, quote, Putin told me.
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes, that was a meeting in July of 2017 for which there is no official memorandum. It was a private meeting. There were no White House aides there. But apparently, after the meeting, the president was pushing ideas about the Ukraine having tried to over and undermine him.
If Putin did that, it explains a lot about the president's commitment at the moment to this ridiculous hoax about the Ukraine. It fits the pattern of the president preferring to believe Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence community. It's very troubling, but explains why he's the first president in history to be impeached for trying to involve a foreign power --
BURNETT: Joe, it is stunning. It is bogus theory. The only person who's been pushing it is Vladimir Putin and Russian intelligence services, OK? And President Trump who has refused to blame Putin directly and aggressively for the interfering listens to Putin?
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I'll quote two Democratic members of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who said all roads lead to Putin, all roads lead to Russia, and Jerry Nadler who are on the floor of the House yesterday said that, I cannot believe members of Congress are using Russian talking points.
Well, hundreds of Republicans have been using Russian talking points of this (INAUDIBLE).
BURNETT: This is a really stunning development tonight.
All right. Next, we are just moments away from the crucial Democratic debate and a new poll at this hour shows voters still have not made up their minds and we are what? Forty-six days away from Iowa.
We're going to go back to Los Angeles where Chris Cuomo is tonight.
BURNETT: And welcome back to a special edition of OUTFRONT.
We are just moment away from the Democratic presidential debate in Los Angeles, a debate that you can see right here on CNN at the top of the hour and it comes at a really important time.
A new CNN poll showing 51 percent of Democratic voters say they could still change their mind on who to support.
Which, Chris Cuomo who's in Los Angeles -- it's a pretty stunning thing and makes tonight so crucial, Chris, as we're, what? Forty-six days away from Iowa and a lot of people don't know who they're voting for.
CUOMO: Yes. Look, you make the right points, Erin. Days now are what weeks used to be. So much happens so fast, it cycles through, what sticks, what doesn't.
You know, that 51 percent number, an analysis is what they call the depth number. What is the depth of support? You have half of the party saying we're open to looking at somebody else that means it's a pretty open race.
All right, so let's talk to the people that actually know what they're talking about and everything I said comes from someone else next to me anyway.
So, Gloria, as we're looking up on the stage, so, Tom Perez, the head of the DNC, is there now. He is more fiery and passionate. We know that's the job. Before the debate, a guy comes up and he's like the comedian before the late-night show.
But he is all fire and brimstone.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
CUOMO: He is all Trump. He is all rejection of the America that this president is projecting. We don't hear much on that stage, though.
BORGER: Well, they're trying to differentiate from each other and they're all united in trying to defeat Donald Trump. I think what the viewers are looking for, and all our pollsters saying is what Democrats are looking for is somebody who can beat Donald Trump and that's one of the things that someone like a Pete Buttigieg or Elizabeth Warren has to talk about is their electability, their ability to beat somebody like the president of the United States.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not sure that you win that case by talking about your electability. You have to demonstrate it.
BORGER: Exactly, yes.
AXELROD: And part of it is by addressing things that are important to people. Impeachment got all of the news yesterday. This court ruling on the Affordable Care Act and the potential of the repeal --
CUOMO: Unconstitutional that gives it a chance of repeal.
AXELROD: This is what helped defeat Republicans all over the country in 2018 and I have to believe you're going to hear a lot about health care tonight. It's the number one issue for Democrats.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But I hope we hear about it differently than we usually do.
We have taken the number one weapon against the Republicans --
JONES: -- health care, and fired it at ourselves for six months in terms of saying, you know, Medicare-for-All versus this or that. I think ordinary people are very, very concerned that, you know, we could be in a situation under the continuing administration where healthcare gets worse and worse and worse. I don't think most people really know the difference between Medicare-for-All and public options. They just want assurance that our values will have us fight for them and we get so far in the weeds in these debates I think we forget that.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I hear what you're saying, but isn't this question about healthcare just emblematic of the question --
AXELROD: The divide in the party.
BASH: -- of where the party is, and what kind of candidate? And yes, everyone says they want the candidate who's going to beat Donald Trump, but nobody really knows what that means. They can make guesses, educated guesses that if you ask for -- if you vote for a nominee who wants incremental change to make Obamacare better and not, you know, somebody who says, I want government to take over and somebody who the president can say, oh, they're for socialized medicine, but it does go to where the party is, and what they really want.
CUOMO: So to that point, here's Perez. He just got a round of applause by talking about the list of things that they would change and do differently if they got. It raises the question, is the party in the place where each and all of you are suggesting it eventually needs to be which is one sole criterion. This man or this woman or some combination will beat this president because that's not the talk on the stage. The talk is my plan's better than your plan and the president --
BASH: And just that that particular issue is where they are fighting the philosophical debate.
CUOMO: But how do you win a fight if you are not standing across and looking at the right person.
AXELROD: I'm honestly not sure that this is the stage in an election campaign where you find that unity. These people are trying to different -- they're in market differentiation now trying to be the nominee, if later in the campaign, you'll see an effort to try and unify the party.
But one thing I'll say, that 51 percent number, one thing it means is there is real risk if you are a candidate and you get into a really fierce aside with another candidate. It opens up opportunities for other people on that stage and in that race.
We saw this in 2004 when Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean went after each other. John Kerry was like in sixth place, you know, around now, and Kerry ended up winning that primary because those guys took each other out.
CUOMO: But right now, you've got a race, your first state matters, especially for the Democrats, and you got somebody who in every national poll can't win, leading in Iowa. What does that tell you what the state of play is?
BORGER: Well, it's up in the air. That's what it tells you. You get into Iowa, look, Joe Biden has never won Iowa, so far as I can really.
CUOMO: Hold on, Gloria. Here are the introductions of the candidates. Let's take it. Here's PBS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, DEBATE MODERATOR: Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Former Vice President Joe Biden.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
And businessman Andrew Yang.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
The candidates are on the stage. They're going to remain here for a few minutes for photographs. We'll be right back with the start of the debate in a moment.
CUOMO: All right. We're going to be right back in 30 seconds. The Democratic presidential debate about to get under way, live from Los Angeles.
CUOMO: All right. We're seeing all the candidates. Former VP Biden sharing a kind word with Bernie Sanders, they're nodding respectfully to one another.
We're moments away from the sixth Democratic debate. Everybody is back with me.
Now, this is very official and very scientific, but the "through the Madonna mic" applause meter.
BASH: You're dating yourself. I'm very happy calling it --
BORGER: I call at it the Britney mic.
CUOMO: Whatever it is, Warren got big applause readings, mostly for Elizabeth Warren. And I think everybody after that was in a grouping.
JONES: I think that's right. We have gotten used to how phenomenal she is.
Elizabeth warren was written off for dead. She had slipped on 15 banana peels and she was supposed to be out of this thing and has come back as the leading woman in this race. She's extremely formidable.
I think what we talk a lot about topics and issues and stuff like that, there's a spiritual hunger in this country, though, right now, especially after this week, for somebody to bring us together. And I just want to point that out. If somebody, in a way that feels authentic, can just minister to the country, this has been a brutal week, it's been a brutal year, it's been a brutal three years.
Elizabeth Warren, that's the thing I think that she -- if she can add that, I think -- be consistent, but if she adds --
AXELROD: The challenge is her rhetoric is very much martial in tone. It's about fighting. There are different kinds of battles. She would say they're righteous battles.
But it is -- in a country that's weary of fighting, that is not necessarily helpful.
I will say, everybody says these debates don't mean anything. The fourth debate, we all agreed she ran the best campaign for the first nine months, then came the fourth debate, got hit on Medicare-for-All, and she's been -- she's been struggling since. She's lost altitude in the national polls in Iowa, in New Hampshire.
This is an opportunity to try and restart that.
BORGER: Well, I think the big choice for Democrats is whether they do want a kind of a revolution, which is something that Elizabeth Warren is talking about, Medicare-for-All, or whether -- and, David, you and I talk about this all the time, whether they're just so exhausted by Donald Trump that they are looking for some kind of stability in a candidate.
AXELROD: Well, stability and community is what Van is talking about.
BORGER: That's right.
AXELROD: I think the whole impeachment question actually has raised the stakes on the election. That could redound to Biden's benefit, because people may be looking for safety. If they assume that he is the safest choice to beat Donald Trump, he may --
CUOMO: How does he beat Trump? How do you articulate that? Why does Joe Biden beat Donald Trump?
AXELROD: He beats Donald Trump because he can -- and I -- this is the theory you would hear from them, that he can reach in to some of those -- he's culturally akin to some of those voters who voted for Donald Trump who are gettable. There's not a lot of them but there are some in a way that the other Democrats are not.
CUOMO: But, Dana, does he wake up the different constituencies of the Democratic Party?
BASH: Yes, I think so.
CUOMO: So that they'll come vote for him?
BASH: More than a lot of people -- when you're talking about the specific issues that he's appealing on.
But I think what, Van, what you're saying, and correct me if I'm wrong, is, we talk so much about how Democrats -- where are they going to go with their head, are they going to go this way or are they going to go that way. Presidents are also elected, and you know this more than any of us, with their heart and how people -- how they make people feel.
Even in the time of Trump, even in the era of Democrats saying let's just get this guy out of there, there's also a lot of the feel. Who on this stage, or maybe a candidate who didn't make this stage, is going to make Democratic voters feel like they like them, they think that they can restore character? Maybe that's Joe Biden. They can bring -- you know, bring a sort of message, that they want them in their living room every day.
JONES: I feel like it's a fix-the-system need. The system is broken, that's why we're in trouble, we have to fix the system. That's a Bernie Sanders for sure, that's an Elizabeth warren. There's also a heal-the-nation need. I think Pete --
AXELROD: That is how he has actually -- no, it's not just ideological. The way that he has made a move in Iowa is with 3 1/2 months of advertising about healing the country, about what we're going to do the day after Donald Trump leaves to pick up the broken pieces.
CUOMO: But you have to check three boxes. You have to check three boxes. You have to fight the good fight because this can't be a passive assault, that's contradiction in terms.
The second thing is that you have to reach out to -- the reason this president is Teflon isn't because of his charm, it's not his genius, it's not even his tactics. It's that he represents something to a lot of people in this country that's more important to them than everything's criticized for.
You have to tap into a little of that. Then you have to figure out how to have a heart that goes along with it.
AXELROD: Well, on your point, there are a lot of people in this country who do not feel this system works for them.
CUOMO: That's right.
AXELROD: And that they are disadvantaged by economic elites, cultural elites, that they're discarded, that they're disdained. He speaks to those people.
And Democrats, which Van and I were talking about this earlier, Democrats need to be aware of that if they're going to -- if they're going to get some of these people to walk across the bridge.
BORGER: But Democrats are looking for so much. On the one hand, they're looking for the pastor that you're talking about, Van, somebody who can minister, but they want somebody who can wear the gloves and then punch back. It's hard to find that in one candidate.
JONES: I think, I do want to say, watching Andrew Yang tonight, I know everybody likes to laugh him off, because he seems like a fresh start, he's like a reset button. He's talking about robots and other stuff and technology and these kind of things.
He might offer this party some relief from the back and forth we've been stuck in for so long. Let's just see what happens with Andrew Young tonight.
CUOMO: All right. They're getting ready here. We're just a minute. You know, you saw the little clock counting down there at the bottom of the screen.
So, look, if you take nothing else from the pre-game analysis in the last 30 seconds, it's that these Democrats have made this very hard on themselves. They're looking for a lot. And they're running against somebody who really only needs to keep pounding one message. Us, good. Them, bad. So you do have to wonder if the Democrats know what fight they're
getting into and what way to win it. So, 30 seconds left.
We see these two men in the middle here. Do we believe at the end of the night, Dana, it's one of these two we're talking about?
BASH: Maybe not.
BASH: I think it's more likely not, that you're going to see Elizabeth Warren there, that it could be her.
CUOMO: And time to expand the opening of that lens, because this is going to be a wide-open engagement tonight.
We are ready for the PBS "NewsHour" "Politico" Democratic debate, the sixth one, now.