Return to Transcripts main page
ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
White House Promotes Official Dems Demand as Impeachment Witness; Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) is Interviewed About the Coming Senate Impeachment Trial; Schumer Warns McConnell He'll Force Senate Votes For Docs, Witnesses Amid Standoff On Rules For Trump Trial; Schumer: I'll Force Senate Votes To Compel Docs In Trump Trial; Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) Discusses About Senator Schumer's Warning To Republicans; Graham: Senate GOP "Should Take Matters Into Our Own Hands" If Pelosi Doesn't Send Impeachment Articles; Dems Demand Docs After "Explosive" Email Shows Ukraine Aid Frozen 90 Minutes After Trump Call; Ukraine Aid Frozen 90 Minutes After Trump-Zelensky Call; DOJ Asks Court To Stay Out Of McGahn Fight; House Tells Court McGahn Testimony Is Vital. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired December 23, 2019 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
EDDIE MURPHY AS GUMBY: ... the hell are you going to put on a show and not have me in the show until now? I should have been in every damn sketch from the top. I'm the one that made that Eddie Murphy a star.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm Brianna Keilar. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, impeachment standoff. A top Democrat warning Republicans tonight he will force votes to compel witnesses to testify in Trump's impeachment trial. Will Republicans blink?
Plus, timing maybe everything. New details about the freeze on Ukraine aid. Is there more that you don't know?
And a battle over a former White House insider's testimony raising a new question tonight. Could the President be impeached again? Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening. I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight breaking news, Schumer's warning. The Senate Minority Leader holding a last minute press conference tonight telling Mitch McConnell he will force Senate votes on every witness and every document the Democrats are requesting if the leaders can't strike a deal ahead of the Senate trial.
A trial stuck in limbo as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi withholds the articles of impeachment while they negotiate the rules. Senator Schumer predicting today he'll have Republicans on his side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We at the very minimum will require votes
from all of the senators on each of the witnesses and about each of these sets of documents. And I don't think my colleagues, Democrat or Republican, are the one who's going to want to vote to withhold evidence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Senator Schumer wants witnesses like Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former National Security Advisor John Bolton to testifying. And now detailing that he wants documents that include internal emails and documents from the White House, the State Department and the Budget Office related to Trump's efforts with Ukraine.
Schumer's warning just hours after Senator McConnell reiterated he's in no rush to hold the trial, making clear he thinks the ball is in Speaker Pelosi's court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): It seems to be rather absurd position to say after you've impeached the President, you won't send the papers over to the Senate for the impeachment trial mandated by the Constitution. Look, we're at an impasse. We can't do anything until the Speaker sends the papers over, so everybody enjoy the holidays.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: But President Trump is contradicting McConnell tonight, saying that he's ready for the trial to begin right away tweeting this, "What right does Crazy Pelosi," he says, "have to hold this senate trial. None." He adds, "No more time should be wasted on impeachment."
But one Democratic lawmaker told me earlier, his money is on Speaker Pelosi on this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BRENDAN BOYLE (D-PA): I think that people who bet against Speaker Pelosi throughout her career have ended up losing a lot of money. I certainly wouldn't bet against the Speaker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Lauren Fox is OUTFRONT with us tonight. Lauren, this has now turned a stalemate to a war of words to, I don't know, some combination of both since they've gone on recess. So where does that leave the Senate trial tonight?
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, Kate, we have two weeks of recess before this would likely be resolved, which probably won't get fixed until January when lawmakers get back and can sort of hash out the details of what this senate trial would look like. Now, you're seeing some lines in the sand being drawn. You're hearing
from Schumer. The Democrats want witnesses and that they might force votes on witnesses. What I will tell you, Kate, is that the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has controlled the Senate. He is the one who will decide which votes come up and which witnesses get voted on.
Remember, his argument all along has been he wants the House managers to lay out their case. He wants the White House to have a defense for the President. Then, perhaps, they would vote on the articles of impeachment. That doesn't necessarily include any votes for witnesses.
So Schumer really trying to dig in here argue that this is about fairness. This is about the American people seeing the full story. But it's unclear whether or not he's going to win any points with the majority leader that way, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Lauren. Thank you so much. All right. Let's get more into this. OUTFRONT with me now Democratic Congressman from Tennessee, Steve Cohen. He sits on the House Judiciary Committee. Congressman, thanks for coming in.
REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): Merry Christmas to you.
BOLDUAN: Well, thank you so much. Do you think Senator Schumer's warning here could actually work about holding votes on every witness, holding votes on every set of documents? Do you think that gets him anywhere?
COHEN: Well, I think the issue needs to be brought to the public's attention that the leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell said that they wanted to get a quick trial, no witnesses, no documents, and acquit the President. That it would not be an impartial trial and he'll be taking an oath to say he will be an impartial juror.
There were others like Lindsey Graham that said the same type of thing and showing they wouldn't be impartial.
I think things will change. But if they don't, the Senate will lose. The United States will lose. Trump may get off. Trump will get off. But the reputation of the Senate and our system of government is at risk and I don't think Mitch McConnell will want to contribute to it, but he very well might.
BOLDUAN: Well, OK, so one of the things that you will want is witnesses to testify in the Senate. That's very clear. Senator McConnell today ...
COHEN: That's true.
BOLDUAN: ... seemed to leave the door open in talking about the Clinton model of impeachment that he would like to mirror this time around. Let me play for you what he said on Fox News. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: You listen to the opening arguments, you have a written question, period. And at that point in the Clinton trial, we had a decision about which witnesses to call. We haven't ruled out witnesses. We've said let's handle this case just like we did with President Clinton, fair is fair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: "We haven't ruled out witnesses." What do you say to that?
COHEN: Well, he hadn't ruled him out, but at the same time, he's very clever and when Jeff Flake stood up, it would have been the vote that would have stopped Kavanaugh from getting on the Supreme Court. McConnell got him to let the vote out of the Judiciary Committee and go to the floor where Flake didn't have the deciding vote and then Flake caved and Kavanaugh was confirmed.
McConnell engineered that and gave him the impression they would have some type of fairness, they didn't. So it's hard to take that idea to kind of like give me what I want and then I'll decide later what you want. That's not a very good deal for Speaker Pelosi. I have great confidence in Speaker Pelosi and how she's handling this and how she will handle it.
She is a master. I think she's the most phenomenal Speaker of the House probably in the history of the United States.
BOLDUAN: Well, on Speaker Pelosi, another thing that McConnell said today, Congressman, was that sooner or later Speaker Pelosi will have no choice but to send the articles of impeachment over. How is he wrong about that?
COHEN: Well, he's not wrong, I guess, politically, because the pressure will be there and Speaker Pelosi does not want this to go on for a long time and make people not remember how Democrats are protecting the protections that we have in the ACA for folks with pre existing conditions, how we're working to lower prescription drug prices and how we're trying to clean up the swamp in Washington and all of the other legislative agendas we've done, minimum wage and climate control, sensible gun laws.
We want to get to those bills that the American public cares about, 275 bipartisan passed bills are on McConnell's desk and he hadn't brought them to vote.
BOLDUAN: Right, but what does that have to do with it?
COHEN: So Speaker Pelosi wants that to come forward.
BOLDUAN: Speak to this. Yes. And Speaker Pelosi wants, obviously, the Senate trial to happen, so in the end, she's going to have to send it over. And in the end, McConnell says she's going to have to blink. And you're saying he's not wrong. COHEN: No, I think she'll eventually want to get around that. But at
the same time she's going to want to get some assurance that there will be a fair trial. Otherwise, it's going to be a sham and a sham trial doesn't really any way vindicate, acquit the President and it certainly does a disjustice to our system of government. Patrick Leahy wrote a great editorial today about the times, about the need for the Senate to act to protect the Senate's integrity.
BOLDUAN: Senator Lindsey Graham is speaking out tonight. He's actually kind of putting out there a different kind of threat, if you've got Schumer threatening votes, you've got Lindsey Graham tweeting that if Speaker Pelosi refuses to send over articles of impeachment and this is how he puts it, "Senate Republicans should take matters into our own hands. We are in charge of the Senate, not Pelosi or Schumer." What do you think that means?
COHEN: I have no clue because they can't do anything about impeachment until it's sent over. There are already holding 275 bills on the desk. I don't know what more they could do to kill legislation. Mitchell has said he's the Grim Reaper. They can't approve any more judges, they've already approved like 150 judges and some declared not qualified by the ABA. Just pathetic individuals who they voted for unanimously.
There's not much they can do. I can just say that I think John McCain and John Dingell are both looking down on Lindsey Graham and shaking their heads.
BOLDUAN: Well, so you say that you think that Speaker Pelosi will send over the articles in the end. Would you though support withholding the articles of impeachment indefinitely until you get what you, say, you're asking for in terms of procedure?
COHEN: I'll support Speaker Pelosi in whatever activity and action she takes.
I think that the longer it stays open, the more likely evidence will come forward that will have more grounds for impeachment possibly to come are more supportive information and it puts more pressure on the Republicans.
The public is not a fool. When the public sees like today that a document was released that said that Duffy, the OMB Deputy Director or whatever his position is, within an hour, an hour and a half of the phone call with Zelensky sent a message to say hold up on the military aid. And then he sent a note and he said, but keep this on the down low. He didn't use those terms. He said keep it on a need to know basis, because we don't want anybody to know.
Well, you really can't take what the actions of the President and the administration and see it in any other way than this was something they done that was wrong. Because if they were trying to do something right, if they're really trying to fight corruption, Trump would have tweeted it 20 times within an hour and he kept it on the down low. BOLDUAN: Well, not on the down low anymore. Let's see what that
document means and how many more documents if they are brought to light, what they actually will reveal. Congressman, thank you for coming in. I appreciate your time.
On that note, OUTFRONT next, a matter of minutes really. Newly revealed details about the timing of the freeze on Ukraine aid. Is it a game changer?
Plus, House Democrats are taking action today that could pave the way to impeaching President Trump again.
And President Trump promotes a key figure in the Ukraine investigation. Just days after he refuses to testify in the impeachment trial. We have the latest.
BOLDUAN: Tonight, 90 minutes, that's the amount of time between President Trump's call with Ukrainian president where he asked for an investigation into the Bidens and orders from the White House Budget Office to freeze nearly $400 million in security aid to Ukraine.
Sara Murray is OUTFRONT with much more on this. So Sara, what does this timeline mean?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it tells you that it only took 90 minutes from the time President Trump got off the phone with President Zelensky for the news to make its way to a Trump political appointee at the Office of Management and Budget that this money couldn't go out the door. And this guy's name is Mike Duffy. He's one of the witnesses that Chuck Schumer wants to testify in the Senate trial and he sent an email to select officials at OMB and at the Pentagon saying freeze this money.
But he also went a step further and he acknowledged that it was a sensitive request and encouraged everyone on the email chain to keep it closely held, an indication that he knew that this could be potentially problematic or at least raise questions among these other folks in these agencies.
BOLDUAN: So Sara, what is the White House saying about this?
MURRAY: Well, the administration has said it is reckless to tie this email and this decision to freeze the money with this phone call, even though they happen in such a tight timeframe. They also pointed into the fact that an OMB official was telling people July 18th, so days earlier that the plan was to freeze this money.
But it's telling, Kate, that none of these actual decisions, these actual moves, these official moves to freeze the funds happened until after President Trump spoke with President Zelensky.
BOLDUAN: That seems an important point. Good to see you, Sara. Thank you so much.
OUTFRONT with me now, Joe Lockhart, former Clinton White House Press Secretary, Karoun Demirjian, Washington Post Congressional Reporter and Constitutional Law Professor Corey Brettschneider. Thanks, guys, for being here.
So Joe, you see this timeline and you say what?
JOE LOCKHART, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You say for Schumer and Pelosi that Christmas came out a little early.
LOCKHART: Because the fact that this one document shows that there were people involved like Duffy and others who had to tell him to do this makes the case for why you need witnesses, why you need documents. I think this had begun to move away from the consciousness of the American people and this one document alone says, boy, I want to know more. I want to see the other documents. Most importantly, I want to see who told Duffy to do it.
BOLDUAN: Right. That's not clear in this document.
LOCKHART: And that's not clear, that a lot was redacted and you need to have Duffy come, raise his right hand and say here's what happened.
BOLDUAN: Karoun, let me play what Chuck Schumer said about this today. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHUMER: This email is explosive. A top administration official, one that we requested is saying stop the aid, 91 minutes after Trump called Zelensky and said keep it hush, hush. What more do you need to request a witness?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: So Schumer says that, but in, I don't know, in the very real sense with the Senate trial just around the corner, does this give Democrats more leverage? Joe thinks yes.
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, what it does, look, the aim of the game for Democrats has always been collaboration. They want to bring certain elements of this story to light. We did know before Duffy was involved in the decision. We knew he was the name on the order on July 25th. We knew that the other government officials had been told a week earlier and some knew that the State Department military funding had been held up before that.
But this puts a real hard document, a real sharp focused light on this episode, which was one of the gasp episodes during that whole march of witnesses through the House Intelligence Committee's impeachment probe. They are missing those moments right now. They need to revive them, so having this document comes out gives them a more focused - having it happened 91 minutes after the actual phone call creates, heightens the drama of it as well.
And it puts it back in the consciousness of both the senators and the American public as we are right now in this kind of tug-of-war between Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell who are quite formidable opposites to try to fight this out, as they're trying to argue about whether these individuals that didn't show up for the House's probe should have to show up for the Senate's probe. And this kind of revives all of that and brings that up to the forefront.
BOLDUAN: Yes. It put the spotlight back on. These names sound familiar, but then this is reminding folks of why they are important, why they're relevant, why folks keep talking about them. Quite frankly, Corey, lawmakers and, well, and all of us, we are seeing this email. We're seeing this document. We're learning about this because of a Freedom of Information Act request, not because the White House is willingly handing anything over because they were forced to. I mean, how do you think this fits into the impeachment case that has already been built?
COREY BRETTSCHNEIDER, IMPEACHMENT EXPERT AND CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, BROWN UNIVERSITY: I think that we had the smoking gun from the beginning in the form of the readout of the phone call. It was clear that the President tried to solicit intervention in our election. But what this is, is just going beyond a reasonable doubt. You don't need to show that the President committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt in impeachment.
It's a different standard. We're talking about high crimes and misdemeanors. And the stakes are very different than a criminal trial. But even if this was a criminal trial, we have more than enough evidence to convict.
And all this is doing is reinforcing what we knew from the beginning that the President tried to make a trade with the President of the Ukraine to influence our elections in return for aid, military aid and a meeting.
BOLDUAN: Significant says the constitutional expert on this one. I want to highlight one part of the email that Mike Duffy sent. He's the guy who oversees national security aid, right? He wrote this in part in his email on the holdup, "Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute direction."
You have been on the inside, when folks are writing an email like this, I'm just curious as to what are they saying? Does this leave room for interpretation, because what you hear from the White House today in response is that it is reckless to make the tie between the money and the phone call with this 90 minutes?
LOCKHART: Yes. I mean, the way for the White House to backup the reckless charge would be to show us all the emails, show us the unredacted emails, show us the whole evidence chain. They're not going to do that because it's incredibly incriminating for them. I think what we're finding out here is we know that the President committed or in my view a high crime and misdemeanor.
What we don't know is how deep the conspiracy was. We don't know who else was involved. We don't know who else has to be held accountable for this. This document signifies what is there and what they're hiding. And anyone worth their salt and knowing how to do communications, at this point, if there was nothing else there would put it all out.
And they put it all out tomorrow afternoon on Christmas Eve and we'd all forget about it. They're holding it back. They're staying in court not to protect some sort of presidential privilege, because there's way more incriminating evidence in here and that's why they're holding it back.
BOLDUAN: I think an important note in this, Karoun, is that this is all happening as Congress is away. They're away for two weeks. I can't say that this happens then in a vacuum, because it is happening in reality, though they're not in the capital. Does that change how this impacts things going forward?
Because I thought it was very interesting seeing McConnell speak out this morning and Chuck Schumer then speak out again today. And I am curious as what this intervening two-week period means when information like this is coming out, and if it is not damning, it is interesting and it is new documentation for folks to be able to actually put in their hands.
DEMIRJIAN Right. Anything new that you can put onto this fire tends to be helpful if you're trying to sway the debate one way or another. And the central debate right now is how is this trial going to go forward.
DEMIRJIAN Nancy Pelosi just has this bit of not having sent the articles over yet as leverage. It seems like eventually she's going to have to do that. But in this two week period in which nothing was going to actually concretely happen in the senate anyway, each piece of evidence seems to potentially help her case.
She needs to convince the public and she needs to convince more than two Republican senators that there's something to be looked at here. And there are Mitt Romneys and Susan Collins who cannot just vote to push ahead a trial that looks like it's preordained and wasn't fair.
Nobody's yet agreed on what the definition is of a fair trial.
DEMIRJIAN It's the agreement between both sides, right?
BOLDUAN: No, this is very (inaudible) ...
DEMIRJIAN It's very different for both sides. But, look, the President is a potential element here because he tends to tweet, he doesn't really agree with his lawyers or with Mitch McConnell. BOLDUAN: Yes.
DEMIRJIAN But having no witnesses, clearly he wants the Hunter Bidens and the whistleblowers of this world, not the Mick Mulvaneys and the Mike Duffys. But there's probably some GOP people in that mix, in the Senate, that would not go for just one side of the column of the witnesses that could potentially be brought forward. And if more of these pieces of corroborating evidence do come up, it puts more pressure on them to vote, to let certain witness come forward.
BOLDUAN: Let the process, at least, happen no matter what the outcome is actually going to be in the eventual end.
DEMIRJIAN It would be difficult (inaudible) ...
BOLDUAN: This reminded me of one thing that I wanted to ask you. Lindsey Graham, this tweet that he just put out that said if Pelosi refuses to send the articles over, the Senate Republicans should take matters into their own hands. Does that mean something to you?
BRETTSCHNEIDER: Lindsey Graham and Senator McConnell had been reckless in saying that they're not going to be impartial, that they're going to be political. And I think we have to remember it's really a threat to the whole process what Graham and McConnell were saying.
BOLDUAN: But can they move ahead if she doesn't send them over?
BRETTSCHNEIDER: They're going to take an oath, they're going to reconvene as a new body, that's the first thing that has to happen.
BRETTSCHNEIDER: Justice Roberts is there and he'll force them to take that oath and the oath is an oath of impartiality. And I think if they start to betray that, can they, they might try it, but we have to call them out that they're violating the Constitution's demand that they engage in an impartial trial. And there are questions about where the limits are, but they are way beyond them.
When they tell you, I'm not going to be impartial. That's how we know. They're not going to be impartial.
BOLDUAN: Well, there's two weeks until they get back and that's like a lifetime in terms of all of the things that might be happening in the intervening period. Thank you, guys.
BRETTSCHNEIDER: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: OUFRONT next, the battle over a key White House insider's testimony. How worried should the President be?
And a White House insider who was on the Ukraine call just got a promotion just days after Democrats requested he testified. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BOLDUAN: Tonight, the House Democrats saying they're open to impeaching President Trump again. The House Counsel pushing for testimony from former White House attorney Don McGahn in federal court. In federal court filing today, arguing his testimony is critical as it could lead to new articles of impeachment.
This comes as the Justice Department is arguing the court should stay out of the fight as impeachment is already going on. Shimon Prokupecz is OUTFRONT with much more on this. First off, folks are going to say a second impeachment, are you serious, but what is this all about?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: It's really about precedent, right? For Congress, this is all about being able to get information that they believe they are entitled to. And in fact, some federal judges and this is why this is now in the appeals process have sided with Congress saying that the President is not immune from the scrutiny that members of Congress have put him now, that he's under now because of the investigations in Congress.
So there are two things going on here. The first thing is that the Judiciary Committee which has been looking into the entire Russian investigation, also the obstruction of justice, the extension of the Mueller investigation, they still want the Don McGahn testimony. They still want Don McGahn to come in and testify.
Obviously, for Don McGahn he doesn't want to do that. He's waiting to hear how the courts ultimately decided.
But what makes him so important is that he was one of the most prominent witnesses in the entire Mueller investigation, certainly as it related to the obstruction issue.
He spent 30 hours with Mueller. So there is a lot of information that they think that he could provide. And they want this information because they say that it could help them in their process, certainly their impeachment, because of they say this shows that the president -- his past and previous interactions certainly when it comes to influence from foreign countries and also the obstruction issue. And so, they're saying they need this information. This is all now obviously in the appeals court. We'll see.
They do say, Kate, as you point out, that, listen, if there is information they could get regarding McGahn, that they could use that could potentially lead to more articles of impeachment, they would do that, politically, I don't know if that is going to happen. But certainly, the lawyers for Congress are suggesting that that could possibly happen.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Shimon, good to see you. Thank you so much.
All right. Everyone is back with me.
Corey, I don't know, heads are going to fall off with mort articles of impeachment coming forward. But before that happens, what do you think of this? That the House is saying they need McGahn's testimony because it could lead to new information that could lead to more articles of impeachment. Really?
COREY BRETTSCHNEIDER, IMPEACHMENT EXPERT & CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR: Look, I think we absolutely need another article of impeachment on obstruction of justice. Mr. Mueller outlined ten instances of obstruction of justice and the only reason why he didn't file criminal charges against the president is because there are Department of Justice memos that say, wrongly in my opinion, you can't indict a sitting president.
But Hamilton and others who supported that idea of immunity was a controversial idea even at the founding. People disagreed with it. His point was that the reason for the immunity is that impeachment has to come first. That it is a constitutional obligation to remove a criminal president so that he or she then could be tried after removal from office and the assumption is of course that would happen.
So, to me mind it is not only that they can do. They're obligated to do it. Because given the DOJ policy, this is the only way to hold the president account for obstruction of justice and ten instances outlined including one involving McGahn.
BOLDUAN: Fascinating. When it comes to the -- what is happening in court, there is like two things that are running into each other in conflict right now. You got the White House saying on one hand that Democrats should have taken their case to the courts first, before they move through the impeachment process. But now you also have the administration saying that the courts can't do anything and can't get involved because impeachment is going on -- already going on.
I mean, this seems to feel a lot like you can't have it both ways.
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, if you want to layer on one more bit of hypocrisy the White House argued earlier this year that the Congress wasn't serious because they weren't impeaching the president. Now they're arguing that you can't have the material because Congress is impeaching the president.
I think there is one other element of this that is on Nancy Pelosi's mind. McGahn is a stalking horse for John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney. I think that if they win this McGahn case, John Bolton has no excuse not to just go in. I think if he gets enough of his book written, which he's trying to do, he's ready to testify.
He wants to promote that book. He wants to be a star again in the country. But the McGahn ruling, I think, would give him that opening and my guess is Mick Mulvaney, who now knows he's going to be fired, the same. So again the -- I don't think we're going to see a second impeachment on obstruction, whether we should or shouldn't legally. But I think this is a stalking horse to get at other witnesses.
BOLDUAN: So go ahead.
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I was going to say more on Bolton because he's not currently in the administration. This is an open question even during the course of the impeachment inquiry. Would the rulings come in time to open the flood gates for the other people like Bolton, his deputy Charles Kupperman but if we're talking about what Corey's point, basically making the point that half of the house Democrats are making, right, that we should be doing obstruction of justice, too. This is a major debate. They made a decision not to because they thought they didn't have a absolute silver bullet legal argument to make that case and they stuck with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress and they punched on impeachment.
So, now, if they go back to that, they're kind of bringing in a way a potentially stronger and I want to put that in quotes because I want to take a side, but the GOP is saying abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, you couldn't actually bring those crimes in courts. Obstruction of justice, yes, you could. They didn't feel like they could go there on round and they wanted to keep it tight on Ukraine. If they go there they've taken the punch out of the punch in making it the second thing they do that much closer to November.
LOCKHART: But I think for end game for the Democrats are Bolton and Mulvaney to get them on the record under oath.
BOLDUAN: And you heard again and again today that Mitch McConnell wants to -- he said it many times before, but I heard it again today that Mitch McConnell wants the process to play out with -- the Clinton impeachment model.
He also, in saying that, he seemed to be leaving the door open to allowing witnesses. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We haven't ruled out witnesses. We've said let's handle this case just like we did with President Clinton. Fair is fair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Fair is fair. Do you think he's really open to --
LOCKHART: Well, listen, I think having Mitch McConnell talk about fairness, if he does that on the floor, he's going to hear two words over and over again, Merrick and Garland. He's broken through many Senate norms but he's grossly mischaracterizing the comparison between the Clinton trial and the potential Trump trial.
First and most importantly, everyone who needed to testify, testified under oath, including the president and including the president who gave a blood sample. There was no new information to gather. We still haven't scratched the surface here of the firsthand knowledge.
Secondly, when he says oh, well, we'll talk about what is -- there was an agreement in advance and this is how they got to 100-0 to open the trial and do this in two phases. But the agreement was not will we have witnesses, the agreement was we'll vote on which witnesses. And that he voted on and agreed on three witnesses and who testified on camera, on the record, didn't come to the floor.
McConnell is not making that commitment. In fact, McConnell is telling other senators they'll be no witnesses.
DEMIRJIAN: But the question is do they agree with him? Do the other senators --
BOLDUAN: And that is where I don't know if you call it leverage and that is where Chuck Schumer gets them to take the votes. Every senator does still have a vote, especially when it comes to this.
All right, guys. Thank you so much.
OUTFRONT next, are there Democrats who will side with President Trump in a Senate impeachment trial? A real question tonight. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DOUG JONES (D-AL): What I really want to see, though, is the full in the gaps. There are gaps.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: There are gaps. I'll ask one of the jurors what he thinks.
And Biden and Buttigieg going after the same voters. Who will they choose?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What does a guy do? I don't know. I'm really kind of torn a little bit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Breaking news. The White House official the Democrats want to question in president's Senate impeachment trial just got a promotion. Robert Blair, deputy to acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, he will lead now the administration's global telecommunications policy. The timing of it getting a lot of attention tonight. Let's go OUTFRONT now with Democratic Senator Bob Casey of
Senator, thanks for coming in.
SEN. BOB CASEY (D-PA): Great to be you with, Kate. Thank you.
BOLDUAN: I appreciate it.
So, President Trump giving Robert Blair a promotion and this is days after Senate Democrats, according to Schumer, put out this request for him to be a witness in the Senate trial. What do you make of it?
CASEY: Well, Kate, I think what year seeing here is that the president's refusal to acknowledge what has just happened. He's been impeached by the House of representatives and facing a trial in the Senate and that trial is going to be an opportunity to hear a range of evidence not only what I'm holding here which is one of the reports from the House, the House intelligence report, but also the report by the House judiciary committee as well as other evidence. I think we should have both witnesses that senators can hear from as well as relevant documents.
But it seems that president doesn't quite understand where we are. I would hope -- I would hope that his attitude going into the Senate would be one of openness and a willingness to put all of the evidence on the table. In no other words, if the phone call with the Ukrainian president was perfect, if there was nothing wrong there, then why don't we have every piece of evidence on the table for the Senate to make a determination and a trial about guilt or innocence.
BOLDUAN: So when it comes to the evidence to be presented at trial, one of your colleagues was asked about the case for impeachment just yesterday and he appeared to leave the door open to joining Republicans in voting to acquit President Trump. Listen and let me play Doug Jones, what he said yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: I'm trying to see if the dots get connected, to if that is the case, then I think it is a serious matter and I think it is an impeachable matter, but if those dots aren't connected and other explanations consistent with innocence, I'll go that way too. But what I really want to see is to fill in the gaps. There are gaps.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Do you think Senator Jones is leaving the door open there to acquitting the president?
CASEY: Well, Kate, all I can say is the way I'm approaching this trial. Every senator has to make a determination about how you prepare and how you approach it.
What I'm doing right now is going through this report that I just held up, the House Intelligence Committee report, this is about 200 pages of text and about 1,400 footnotes. Not that you would read every single foot note but the text is long.
The Judiciary Committee report is even longer. So number one, I'm going to do that preparation. Also do preparation by way of reading about the standard of proof, reading about the determinations we have to make in an impeachment trial, reading the history.
But then considering just the broad scope of this, the reporting that we've already seen from public sources when the witnesses were testifying all under oath by the way, it seems like everyone testifying against the interest of the president have been under oath, all of those claiming he did nothing wrong have not been under oath. That is interesting.
But I thought it was a textbook case of abuse of power. As soon as I read the transcript or the memorandum, the summary of the phone call, that frames it for me. But we still -- as jurors -- have to be impartial so that means you've got to review all of the evidence. I think the evidence would be greatly supplemented by or amplified by further testimonial evidence by witnesses and also by evidence in the form of documents.
And that's what Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is proposing and I think it is a reasonable request. I hope that leader McConnell will embrace it.
BOLDUAN: And there is time left since everyone is away on holiday to see that happen. So let's wait and see on that. While I have, I do want to ask you about North Korea. More specifically about what Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton is saying about it, telling "Axios" the following, that the idea that we are somehow exerting maximum pressure on North Korea is just unfortunately thought true. That is what he said in an interview with "Axios".
When you hear that coming from John Bolton, what do you say about U.S. policy toward North Korea tonight?
CASEY: Well, John Bolton was in the middle of this security policy. So he speaks from firsthand information. I would add that he's one of the people we should hear from in the impeachment trial because he also is firsthand information about the security matters there.
But with regard to North Korea, I think the problem here is the president doesn't seem to have a strategy -- a strategy that's calculated to lead to ultimately denuclearization of the entire Korean peninsula. That is a big goal. To get to that goal you have to outline a strategy for your administration and for the American people, and empower diplomats to do the hard work of negotiation, but we've got to make sure that there is a strategy and the president should make that clear to the president -- make that clear to the people of the United States as well as the world.
BOLDUAN: Well, John Bolton does not think the president is meaning what he says when it comes to North Korea policy, at least right now.
Senator, thank you for coming in.
CASEY: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT for us next, tough choice, are Democratic voters torn now between experience and youth?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A terrific decision facing me. And it won't be made lightly.
(END VIDEO CLP)
BOLDUAN: And what is it with President Trump and windmills?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I never understood wind -- and I know windmills very much. I'm studied it better than anybody. I know it is very expensive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg campaigning in Iowa today as he and Joe Biden find themselves in a fight for the very same voters.
Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Pete Buttigieg came to two, Cheri Schieb was sitting there in the front row, listening intently and capturing the moment. As he left, she gave am high five.
CHERI SCHIEB, IOWA DEMOCRAT: I want to high five you again. Thank you, Pete.
ZELENY: And smiled with satisfaction.
(on camera): So do you walk away from here committed or do you want to go see some of the others first?
SCHIEB: Well, Joe Biden is also if town tonight. And I'm going to go see what he has to say.
ZELENY (voice-over): Two hours later, Schieb and her sister Nancy were there, for an up-close look at Joe Biden. She admires and values Biden's experience.
SCHIEB: He's been there. So I feel good about that I'm really happy about that. I like him. ZELENY (on camera): But you loved Mayor Pete?
SCHIEB: I loved Mayor Pete. What does a guy do? I don't know.
I'm really kind of torn a little bit. I got to think about it and sleep on it. I don't know yet.
ZELENY (voice-over): Just before Christmas, Democrats are still shopping for presidential hopefuls in Iowa. Biden and Buttigieg are going after the same voters, literally, which brought both of them Sunday to the town of Perry, about 45 minutes outside Des Moines. For Democrats searching for a more moderate candidate, the choice is stark. The 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, delivering an optimistic message.
PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Even in this dark and strange time, I have never been filled with more hope.
ZELENY: Or a former vice president twice his age who offers the dark warning of the consequences of President Trump winning a second term.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we give him another four years, I believe he will permanently alter the character of the country at least for several generations.
ZELENY: Pat McPherson is torn, applauding Buttigieg's intellect.
PAT MCPHERSON, IOWA DEMOCRAT: I think he might be the one.
ZELENY: But later impressed by Biden's grasp on the world.
(on camera): So, just a couple of hours ago, you told me that you were going to sign on the dotted line for Buttigieg. Now you want to think longer.
MCPHERSON: I probably will go for Mayor Pete. There's just so much to be said for being able to hit the ground running on day one and it's going to be a huge task.
ZELENY (voice-over): While he's trailing Buttigieg in repeat polls, Biden is showing skills from a lifetime in politics also come in handy, to people of all ages.
BIDEN: Can I go ahead?
BIDEN: Got it. OK. OK. That may be the most intelligent thing you hear all night.
ZELENY: Pat Mundy liked the charisma of Buttigieg and worried that Biden may be too old. But after seeing him up close, in this moment, she said she changed her mind.
PAT MUNDY, IOWA DEMOCRAT: I made that comment he might be a little old before. But I'm a little old, too, and I'm in pretty good shape. And he looks like he's in dynamic shape.
ZELENY (on camera): So you have a decision facing you.
MUNDY: I have a terrific decision facing me. And it won't be made lightly.
ZELENY: For these voters, at least, looking for a moderate candidate, they're legitimately torn over Buttigieg's excitement and Biden's experience. The central question is electability. They have six weeks to decide that -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Jeff, thank you so much. They may not decide until that day.
OUTFRONT for us next. Why wind turbines have Trumps head spinning?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You want to see a bird graveyard, you go, take a look. A bird graveyard, go under a windmill some day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: What's on the president's mind these days? Wind turbines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have an economy based on wind. I never understood wind. I know wind mills very much. I've studied it better than anybody. And it's very expensive.
You want to see a bird graveyard, you just go -- take a look, a bird graveyard? Go under a windmill some day, will you see more birds than you've ever seen ever in your life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Ever. It's an issue he really can't seem to shake.
Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When it comes to windmills, President Trump loves to imitate them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never heard a windmill before, but I'm sure it doesn't sound like a cat in a dryer.
MOOS: President Trump insists on tilting at windmills, Donald Quixote some called him. But attacking without the benefit of scientific facts --
TRUMP: And they say the noise causes cancer, you told me that one, OK?
MOOS: And this is a president who claims --
TRUMP: And I know windmills very much. I've studied it better than anybody.
I know more about technology than anybody.
Nobody knows more about technology than me.
I'm a professional in technology.
MOOS: A professional who prefers sharpie on pages, whose desk that appears to be a no computer zone. A guy who struggled to get the speaker phone to speaker.
TRUMP: Enrique, you can hook him up. A lot of people waiting. Hello?
Do you want to put that on this phone, please? Hello?
MOOS: You know, you think a president would be a fan of wind power. It's one of those tried and true technologies rooted in the past, with some of his other favorites.
TRUMP: They say it's medieval a wall, it is medieval. So, is the wheel. Wheels and walls work, you know, there's something you can't beat.
MOOS: And yet, he keeps beating up on windmills --
TRUMP: I've seen the most beautiful fields, farms, fields, most gorgeous things you've ever seen. And then you have these ugly things going up.
MOOS: -- maybe the president has just had it with wind.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.