Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Klobuchar Tours Iowa Ahead of Caucuses, Impeachment Trial; Democrats Demand Docs After Explosive Email Shows Ukraine Aid Frozen 90 Minutes After Trump Call; House GOP Leader Repeats Discredited Claim FBI Spied On Trump's Campaign. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired December 23, 2019 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: The senator is trying to cover new ground, as she stakes her presidential hopes on the heartland.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Brianna Keilar. Wolf Blitzer is off today. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Tonight, Democrats are ramping up demands for the president's impeachment trial, pushing for new documents, as well as witnesses. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is seizing on the release of what he calls explosive e-mails that show Ukraine aid was frozen only 90 minutes after the president's infamous call with the Ukrainian president.
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell is signaling there won't be any progress in impeachment trial negotiations until next year.
I will get reaction from Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to CNN senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju.
And, Manu, will Democrats get the witnesses and documents they want?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Democrats have been demanding at least four witnesses to come forward in the Senate trial.
Chuck Schumer made that very clear in the multiple conversations that he's had with Mitch McConnell and public statements that he's had as well. Those four witnesses include John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, and also other key figures who are part of the inquiry that the Democrats have pushed forward in the House who refused to come forward in the aftermath of the White House blocking their testimony.
Now, today, Chuck Schumer intensifying his demands, asking for documents to be turned over to the Senate, because he said that would provide more information for senators to consider as part of the trial going forward. And what bolstered his case, Brianna, is the revelation that, over the weekend, we saw an e-mail from Michael Duffey, a top official at the Office of Management and Budget at the White House, someone who discussed the withholding of military aid just 90 minutes after that phone call between Trump and President Zelensky of Ukraine in which Trump urged Zelensky to open up that investigation into the Bidens.
Now, earlier today, what Chuck Schumer made clear at a press conference in New York is that he says that if Mitch McConnell does not agree to bring forward these witnesses or provide the documents, he's going to force votes on these matters on the Senate floor during the trial.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We, at the very minimum, will require votes from all 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 going to going to want to vote to withhold evidence in such an important trial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, but Mitch McConnell -- what Schumer wants first is to cut a deal with Mitch McConnell. It's part of the rule that would set the procedures for the Senate trial.
And he wants a deal to include an agreement on witnesses and documents first. Mitch McConnell is saying that is not what we're going to agree to first. First, let's begin the trial. we Will worry about those issues later. And he made that clear today that he would not agree to those demands that Schumer's seeking up front.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): What we need to do is to listen to the arguments, have a written questioning period, and then decide whether we need witnesses or not. We haven't ruled out witnesses.
We have said let's handle this case just like we did with President Clinton. Fair is fair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: But, ultimately, it could be up to 51 senators on the floor. As you know, Brianna, that's what would be required to vote to compel witness testimony if Schumer and McConnell cannot reach a deal.
Schumer can force those votes. That would be means he would need four Republican senators to break ranks and join with 47 Democrats. Now, right now, Republican senators are signaling they're going to be in line with the president. We will see if that changes in the weeks ahead.
KEILAR: So, right now, with Speaker Pelosi saying she's not -- she wants certain concessions, right, for sending over these articles of impeachment to the Senate.
But is this a strategy that's really working for Democrats?
RAJU: Well, it sounds like this is probably something that will -- the speaker will eventually send over the articles.
It does not sound like she's going to hold onto these articles forever. The expectation on Capitol Hill is that the trial is going to start. It could very well start in January. But this back and forth is going to play for some time because Democrats want to highlight what they consider is a process that is broken by not agreeing to these witnesses and documents going forward.
And I can tell you, Brianna, in talking to Democratic Congress -- lawmakers in the House, particularly freshmen who reluctantly got behind an impeachment inquiry, then voted -- took this politically toxic vote to impeach the president that could hurt them potentially in their reelection runs, they don't want to keep this issue in the House.
They want to push it into the Senate, deal with it in the Senate. And Nancy Pelosi knows her caucus better than anyone else. So expect it's only a matter of time before Democrats transmit these articles over to the Senate, once the Senate details what kind of process that they will have and then they can criticize Republicans for not doing what they want.
KEILAR: Yes, kick that toxic can to that other side of the Capitol.
Manu, thank you so much.
The Trump White House is downplaying new details about the order to freeze Ukraine aid, as the president continues to rail against his impeachment.
Let's head now to the White House and CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta.
And, Jim, the president is in Florida, but he's there under this cloud of impeachment here in D.C.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Brianna.
And even though President Trump has already been impeached and is spending the holiday down in Florida, critical new information, as Manu was just talking about, is still coming to light in the Ukraine investigation.
Democrats are seizing on these new e-mails that show that the administration mandated that a freeze be placed on military aid to Ukraine just 90 minutes after Mr. Trump hopped off the phone with the leader of that country.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Playing golf down in Florida, President Trump is teeing off on Democrats who are still holding up an impeachment trial in the Senate, tweeting: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gives us the most unfair trial in the history of the U.S. Congress, and now she's crying for fairness in the Senate and breaking all rules while doing so. She lost Congress once. She will do it again."
But Democrats aren't ready to give the president a mulligan, pointing to new administration e-mails discovered by the Center for Public Integrity. In the e-mails, budget official Michael Duffey orders a hold on military aid to Ukraine roughly 90 minutes after Mr. Trump had his infamous phone call with the leader of that country.
Duffey writes: "Based on guidance I have received and in light of the administration's plan to review assistance to Ukraine, including the Ukraine security assistance initiative, please hold off on any additional DOD obligations of these funds, pending direction from that process."
He goes on to say: "Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute direction."
Democrats now want Duffey to testify.
SCHUMER: If there was ever an argument that we need Mr. Duffey to come testify, this is that information. This e-mail 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?
ACOSTA: In a statement, an administration spokesperson insisted the freeze was in place before Mr. Trump's call, saying: "The hold was announced in an interagency meeting on July 18. To pull a line out of one e-mail and fail to address the context is misleading and inaccurate."
MARC SHORT, CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: So, yes, there was a delay. There is nothing new in these e-mails about the timing truly, Chuck. There was a lot of e-mails and back-and-forth exchanges about timing of this. The aid was released.
ACOSTA: The president is also playing defense with a key part of his base, evangelical voters, after the publication "Christianity Today" doubled down on its criticism of Mr. Trump as an immoral leader, writing in a new post: "It is one thing to praise his accomplishments. It is another to excuse and deny his obvious misuses of power."
Republicans see the criticism as an outlier among the Trump faithful. A group of evangelical leaders released its own letter slamming "Christianity Today," saying: "Your editorial offensively question the spiritual integrity and Christian witness of tens of millions of believers who take seriously their civic and moral obligations."
The president was also keeping his eye on younger conservatives at the Turning Point USA Conference over the weekend, but Mr. Trump also spun up some major falsehoods when he mocked the use of windmills, claiming they contribute to climate change and that almost none are produced in the U.S.
Wrong on both counts, as wind is one of the cleanest sources of energy and creates American jobs.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I never understood wind.
I know windmills very much. I have studied it better than anybody. I know. It's very expensive. They're made in China and Germany mostly. Very few made here, almost none.
But they're manufactured. Tremendous -- if you're into this -- tremendous fumes, gases are spewing into the atmosphere.
ACOSTA: Now, in just the last hour, the White House announced a new role for one of its top aides, Robert Blair, senior adviser to acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
Blair is one of those witnesses, those four witnesses who have been requested to testify by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. The White House says Blair will work on communications policy for the administration, in addition to advising Mulvaney.
But, Brianna, this is very interesting. Anything that happens good or bad to any of these potential witnesses in the impeachment inquiry, that is obviously going to get a lot of attention here in Washington. I suspect that will happen with Robert Blair as well -- Brianna.
KEILAR: All right, Jim Acosta, thank you.
And joining me now, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan.
Thank you so much for being here.
REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): Good to be with you.
KEILAR: So, in light of this newly uncovered e-mail that shows -- I mean, the new thing, despite what Marc Short said, is that the phone call ended between President Trump and President Zelensky of Ukraine, and then, 91 minutes later, there's this hold that's put on $300 million in military aid.
How important is it, in light of that, for lawmakers to be able to call new witnesses at the Senate trial?
DINGELL: So, what the impeachment is in the House is in a prosecutor reading charges.
The Senate trial is very important, because that's where you have the trial, as we know, where the facts are brought out. The White House refused to let the chief of staff, to let the national security adviser, people that had critical information, testify before the House.
The Senate needs to get all of the facts. These are new facts. So that will be evidence that should be made available to the senators. And I think that many senators on both sides of the aisle are concerned about this fact, as they have learned it today.
KEILAR: So, is it -- and that's something you feel in general, or is that -- is that greatened by what you have heard about in this e-mail?
DINGELL: You know, I'm going to say this, that, for me, for where this started last summer, when everybody was screaming, you got to come out for impeachment, I was reluctant. I didn't think it was crystal clear what the issues were. And I was worried about how divided this country is.
I'm still worried about how divided this country is, but when a Republican-, President Trump-appointed inspector general found an urgent threat to our national security that was credible and that we needed to pay attention to, that's what my oath of office is.
This is more information. Maybe the inspector general had access to this information that the White House was blocking from becoming public in the House. But it adds further evidence to what we already had about the seriousness of what -- of the danger to our national security.
KEILAR: Senator Lindsey Graham has just tweeted here in the last few minutes.
He said: "If she refuses," meaning the speaker, "Senate Republicans should take matters into our own hands. We are in charge of the Senate, not Pelosi or Schumer. Speaker Pelosi's actions," which are withholding the articles of impeachment," are an affront to the Constitution, the Senate and denies President Trump his day in court."
What's your reaction to that?
DINGELL: So, let me say several things.
First of all, the Constitution does not say how quickly or when it's got to be transmitted. It says that we impeach and the Senate holds the trial, no time frame, no how its processed.
Two, under President Clinton impeachment trial, which was both houses Republican at the time, the president, President Clinton, was impeached on December 19. And the managers were not appointed until January 6.
So the time frame is no slower than what was during the President Clinton impeachment.
I think that the speaker, the majority -- the Senate majority leader, the minority leader are having discussions. They want to make sure that there's a fair trial. And let's see what happens when the Senate returns.
I don't think Senator McConnell is going to go to Kentucky and not do anything about this, because I think people are going to talk about -- they want to see this trial. They want to hear more facts.
KEILAR: She's also trying to highlight what she sees as a rigged system, with Mitch McConnell at the helm of that.
It's very possible she's not going to get a whole lot for withholding the articles of impeachment. So, in that regard, this is somewhat different than the Clinton impeachment. I mean, she's making a play for something. Do you have any concerns about that?
DINGELL: I think what she's trying to do is to make sure that it's a fair trial.
Senator McConnell immediately said that he had already made up his mind, not hearing the facts -- that's not a fair trial -- and that he was going to do with the White House said. That leads anybody to be concerned about, are we really going to follow what's in the Constitution?
So I think I'm going to let her take the lead on this, Senator Schumer. I'm not involved in these day-to-day negotiations.
But I think it's fair -- she doesn't even know what kind of managers -- who the manager should be to appoint, until we understand what kind of trial is going to be held and what the rule of the game -- the ground rules are going to be as that trial takes place.
KEILAR: And I just want to be clear, I'm not I'm not defending what Mitch McConnell said about being in consultation with the White House.
DINGELL: No, no, I know that.
KEILAR: But, as it turns out, during the Clinton impeachment, there were investigators, Democratic investigators, who were very much in touch with the Clinton White House.
Is it -- is it...
DINGELL: But nobody publicly said they had already made up their mind and they were going to do what the White House said.
KEILAR: So, let me ask you that, because -- so is it OK to basically be impartial, as long as you don't publicly admit it?
DINGELL: Well, I think that, quite frankly, people were more impartial. And I'm not going to point fingers. I know I was. I know that I had
an enormous -- the most political pressure I have ever had, until the impeachment came along, and President Trump took his shot.
But -- and I did what I thought was right. It would have been so easy for me to have called for impeachment last summer. And I think that that's what's going to happen in the Senate.
I think that the majority leader, who's going to be responsible for setting up the ground rules, should at least try to work with the leadership to make sure it's a fair hearing and bring everybody together.
I think it's a long time between now and January 6. It's a long time between now and January trial. And I trust -- actually, Senator McConnell as well -- I trust these leaders to know that they have got to negotiate with each other, and they have got to get these ground rules set.
But once the -- and I'm leaving it to Speaker Pelosi and Mitch -- Senator McConnell to get this worked out. Maybe I'm naive and have trust, but I don't want to undercut what their negotiations are.
KEILAR: I want to ask you about freshman members.
So many of your freshmen came in by winning in these purple or even reddish districts. And here they are. There's a number of them, and they had assurances, as they got on board with impeachment sort of reticently, that this was going to move along quickly.
Now the articles are being withheld. And I'm -- it's so clear they feel like this is a hot potato they want to get over to the Senate. What do you say to them? How would you counsel them when they have these concerns?
DINGELL: Well, the first thing I say is what I just said to you a few minutes ago, that, during the Clinton impeachment, they didn't go over there until January 6.
We all have to go back home. We have got to talk to the people that we represent. There was an enormous amount of pressure on -- I have got two -- Elissa Slotkin and Haley Stevens, who I'm very close to.
And I talked to Haley every day the couple of weeks going into the impeachment as the facts were there. So, the same with Elissa Slotkin. She's got a military background.
And we all take that oath of office. And quite frankly, that oath of office we take is something we take very seriously. We take it to defend the Constitution, to defend our democracy.
And if it means we lose our seat, then some things are worth doing. But I have seen them both. We all went home as soon as -- we couldn't wait to escape here last Thursday -- and have talked to our constituents.
Some are angry, but a lot of people, quite frankly, even in the period -- well, I had some extenuating circumstances.
DINGELL: But I was stunned at the number of people who came up to me to say that they didn't like -- they were not for impeachment, wished that we hadn't, wished -- but they wanted to see the facts now.
And I do think that the way that some of this is playing out has people -- there's some polling that we're seeing today that people want to see what the facts are. They want to see the chief of staff, the national security adviser, now people from the Pentagon testify. They want to have a better understanding.
KEILAR: You said you had some extenuating circumstances.
The president took a shot at your husband, who passed away earlier this year.
And I don't want to ask you specifically about that back and forth. And there's even been defenders on the president's side of what he said. It was indefensible, what he said about your husband.
One of the things that sort of struck me, as someone who has lost someone very important to me in the last few years, was what you said about the holidays, and how it's a very tough time when you have experienced loss.
It's between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And I think -- I do think that's something a lot of people connected with.
DINGELL: It's the truth.
The president might have done me a favor, because I have been so busy, I don't have time to -- my method of coping is staying busy and just keeping myself numb.
But I don't think -- I'm a different person since he's died. The people that have lost people who have talked to me, I have been very open about how I feel. I'm somebody that doesn't think I have to be perfect.
But you can't -- and it's the little things. It's -- I wasn't going to celebrate Christmas, and then I was in buying presents. And I'm used to always him a sweater when the sales start. And I go to do it, and I'm -- he's not there. Or you go to the grocery store to get his favorite.
It's the little things. And I had breakfast this morning with someone that lost his wife. And last Christmas was his first Christmas. And he told me everything I was feeling was normal, it was going to be terrible, and the second Christmas was still going to be hard.
KEILAR: Yes. DINGELL: So, to everybody that has had -- loved somebody, be it a
spouse, like me, a parent, a close friend, it is hard.
And that's why I'm trying to tell everybody, if we can take something good from this, little random acts of kindness, reaching out to somebody, just telling them you care, be nice, thinking before you speak, maybe something good can come of what was just not a nice night.
KEILAR: Thank you so much. Really appreciate you coming on.
DINGELL: Thank you. Happy holidays.
KEILAR: Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, happy holidays.
And just ahead, we have more on the stalemate over the president's impeachment trial and when either side might blink.
And as the Trump administration is battling House Democrats in court, a new warning that the president could be impeached again.
KEILAR: We're following new moves by the Justice Department fighting to prevent House Democrats from obtaining secrets from the Mueller grand jury and testimony by former White House counsel Don McGahn.
I want to bring in CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez to talk about this.
And this is a battle really between the president and Congress. Tell us what's going on and also what the consequences could be here.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I mean, this is a pitched battle at this point, because the president believes that he can give absolute immunity to people he says are his closest advisers, and that Congress can't even have them respond to subpoenas.
Now, a court has -- a judge has already ruled saying, no, presidents aren't king. They can't just do that.
But, still, the Justice Department is insisting in new court filings overnight that the president and the Congress should resolve this, that the courts have no role in this.
Here's a little part of what the House is responding in response to that argument. They say -- quote -- "If McGahn's testimony produces new evidence supporting the conclusion that President Trump committed impeachable offenses that are not covered by the articles approved by the House, the committee will proceed accordingly, including, if necessary, by considering whether to recommend new articles of impeachment."
So, it looks like what they're saying is, we could impeach him again, we could add new articles, so this is not over. The Justice Department has been saying, this is irrelevant now, the court should just stay out of this. They have kind of thrown a bunch of arguments up there so far.
The courts aren't buying it so far.
KEILAR: So he could be impeached again, or an article added? How would that even work?
PEREZ: You know, that's a great question.
Look, politically speaking, we don't think that this is where I'm going to go.
PEREZ: But these are arguments that the House is making, because they're saying, look, there are still things that we're doing. There's still an investigation ongoing.
You notice Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff have said that this is not over. Just because we're on a speedy timeline doesn't mean this is over. And so that's one thing that they're sort of holding as a possibility sort of dangling over the president's head.
KEILAR: And to make their point, right, to make their case.
PEREZ: And to make their point.
KEILAR: All right, Evan Perez, thank you.
Just ahead, the Democrats just issued this new threat in the battle over documents of witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial. Is that strategy going to work?
And are Christians losing faith in the president after a popular evangelical publication said he should be removed from office, or are they not?
KEILAR: Tonight, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer is trying to put more muscle behind his new demand for evidence in the president's impeachment trial.
He's threatening to force Senate votes to obtain documents detailing the Ukraine pressure campaign. And Schumer says that newly released e- mails discussing stalled military aid to Ukraine bolster his case.
Let's bring in our analysts to discuss this.
And first to you, Sam Vinograd. This new e-mail, it's pretty interesting, because what it shows you is, the phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky wraps up, and 91 minutes later, the aid, the military aid, to Ukraine is held. How significant is this?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, there are only a handful of officials that could have given the order to Michael Duffey, the official in the e-mails, to actually move forward with freezing the aid.
We know that, on July 18, OMB officials briefed members of the interagency and verbally communicated that the freeze was coming. But Michael Duffey waited until 91 minutes after the call to actually move forward with the formal implementation process.
The only people that could have really signed off, literally, on moving forward with that freeze are Mick Mulvaney and perhaps John Bolton. They're refusing to testify.
It does appear that something, on July 25, the day of the call, jogged President Trump's memory.
Now, I have been in pre-briefs with the president. Things like security assistance come up. So, President Trump may have asked for a status update.
But I don't want us to lose the forest for the trees here. When the aid was frozen is important, but the real question is why.
And what is also in this document is the interagency scrambling after the effect to find a justification for the aid freeze.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: Michael Gerhardt, when Democrats say that this email bolsters their claim that they need more witnesses, they need more documents, what do you say?
MICHAEL GERHARDT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think they're right. This is -- what has happened with this revelation is that the Democrats concerned about trying to interview these witnesses whom the president has ordered not to testify, that concern is even more acute than ever before.
So, clearly, Mr. Duffey has information that's relevant to this. There is no question, he was instrumental to the delaying of the aid. At the same time, only a few people could have ordered that, as Sam points out. And the problem with respect to impeachment is that the refusal to allow him to testify is part of the cover-up.
So we're seeing all of this in real-time. The White House refusing to allow this person to be interviewed yet we are discovering this person has quite relevant evidence.
KEILAR: David Swerdlick, how much pressure does this put on the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell as -- I mean, Nancy Pelosi is trying to exert pressure on him. What she's really trying to do is highlight that Republicans don't want all of the answers that they could possibly get.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right, Bri. It does put a little bit of pressure on Senate Republicans. Speaker Pelosi, as you say, is holding back the articles as a way to force the negotiations, and right now, you have Senator Schumer, the minority leader in the Senate, sort of saying, look, we're going to force votes on calling these witnesses, even though they realize that they're going to be ultimately outvoted.
But there is a danger for both sides to overplay their hand. Speaker Pelosi played her hand well on the House side. But now, she's up against Senator McConnell, the leader of the Republicans in the Senate, who is as good of a tactician and has iron control over his caucus, as she hers. So both sides are at risk of going too far, too fast.
KEILAR: It is quite the match when you are talking about folks who are very savvy and good at what they do.
Jackie Alemany, with Mitch McConnell saying, look, he's not necessarily ruling out calling witnesses, what he's saying is he just wants a written questioning period first and then to decide. Do you think that Mitch McConnell would ever actually agree to having live witnesses?
JACKIE ALEMANY, AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST POWER UP: Well, it remains to be seen just how far the Senate majority leader can push the envelope here. Clearly, Chuck Schumer has calculated that the best path forward is to apply as much public pressure as possible on Mitch McConnell. And I don't know if this is necessarily just about leveraging the desired parameters of the trial. I think Schumer has calculated that this is politically beneficial to Democrats. Mitch McConnell is looking out for his Senate majority at the end of the day.
There is a lot of trepidation amongst the some of the more vulnerable senators right now who don't want to be put on the record voting against having witnesses or having documents. That would be something that could be potentially damaging to their re-election campaigns.
An ABC News-Washington Post poll that came out last week showed that while Republicans are overwhelmingly against impeaching the president, two in three Republicans believe that there should be a fair trial and that the president should allow those witnesses who previously blocked from testifying come forward in a Senate impeachment trial.
KEILAR: And, Michael, that is one of the issues, is you have a situation where Senate Republicans, Chuck Schumer could force and votes, and then you have Senate Republicans who then will be on the record as voting to hear from more witnesses, get more documents and possibly then not get those things and then be in a position where then they have to vote to exonerate or not to convict President Trump. And you could say, well, how were you able to do that when you weren't able to get the evidence from the guy you're supporting? GERHARDT: That's right. So the Democrats at this point, I think, have made a smart move for them, which is to point out the relevance of this witness. There is no question this witness is relevant to the proceedings that went on in the House and to any trial that ought to go on in the Senate.
At the same time, the Senate majority leader's request, having questions in writing, for example, reflects his desire to keep really strong control over what gets said and how it's said. When there are written answers to questions involved, there is almost no meaningful cross-examination that's possible. And in that situation, a witness can evade the question or not answer it directly and there is no real comeback that's possible for anybody who wants to question that witness further.
KEILAR: Jackie Alemany, I want to ask you about a prominent evangelical Christian magazine. You're familiar with this, Christianity Today. Last week, they called for removal of the President Trump. And now though, you have a group 200 evangelical leaders who are pushing back on the magazine, which has lost some subscribers, though it says has gained three times as many as its loss.
This is what this letter says. Your editorial offensively questioned the spiritual integrity and Christian witness of tens of millions of believers who take seriously their civic and moral obligations.
It not only targeted our president, it also targeted those of us who support him and have supported you, because, Jackie, 80 percent of the evangelical Christians in the last election supported President Trump. I mean, does this really move the dial or is this something that just strengthens them in favor of President Trump?
ALEMANY: That really remains to be seen. But at the end of the day, there is no doubt about it, white evangelicals are a cornerstone of the president's support. I think that's why you also saw Brad Parscale and the Trump campaign scrambling to roll out an evangelical rally in Miami next week.
I think this also -- this inter-tension debate that is playing out also shows that it's not a monolith. The white evangelical support for Trump, it varies from person to person. And so for the president to continue to go forth and say that he has the complete support of white evangelicals, it's a bit disingenuous.
But I think this publication is a relatively small publication. There has been quite a bit of pushback that it doesn't necessarily represent, as you just pointed out, the majority of white evangelicals. But at the end of the day, either way, Trump really does need this support.
KEILAR: Yes. It's centrist and most white evangelicals are actually not. They're more to the right. So thank you so much to all of you for a wonderful discussion. I appreciate it. And just ahead, a top Republican refusing to let go of the debunked claim that the spied on the Trump campaign.
And CNN is on the bus with 2020 Democrat Amy Klobuchar, as she tries to rev up her make or break campaign in Iowa.
KEILAR: As Republicans defend the president after impeachment, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy is brazenly returning to a debunked conspiracy theory that the FBI planted a spy in the 2016 Trump campaign. McCarthy twisting the truth about the Justice Department inspector general's report that found no evidence of any illegal spying on the Trump camp.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (D-CA): Well, if you pause for one moment and read this I.G. report by Horowitz, here is the FBI, they broke into President Trump at the time, Candidate Trump's campaign, spied on him and then they covered it up. It is a modern day Watergate.
And you've got Democrats who aren't willing to even look into that. That is the area that we should be looking at. It is a modern day coup, the closest this country ever came to. But the only way you can compare this to is Watergate. They broke into his campaign by bringing people into it. They have been trying to cover it up for the whole time.
Now, the question rises, just like Watergate, who knew, when did they know it and how high did this go up?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Now, none of that is true, to be clear.
Let's talk about this with Jim Baker. He's the former top lawyer at the FBI. He's now a CNN Legal Analyst.
He's repeating a lot of disinformation. I think it's pretty clear, I've covered Congress, I've covered Kevin McCarthy, I don't think he actually believed what he's saying. I think he knows what the truth is and what's really in the I.G. report, but tell us what the inspector general's report said, not what Kevin McCarthy is saying.
JIM BAKER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It didn't say anything of what leader McCarthy just said. So it didn't establish that there was a break-in or a coup or spying on the president. What it established was that for the key investigative decisions, the I.G. found no evidence that there was any political bias or improper motivation that caused people to make those decisions.
And I'm talking about opening the main investigation, opening the sort of sub-investigations on the various individuals, seeking the FISA, receiving and using the Steele Dossier information or using the human sources. So it's just not true that there was a break-in, a cover-up or spying on the political campaign.
KEILAR: One of the findings that was incredibly alarming and made you wonder what was the FBI doing, but it also gave credence to how, I guess, objective this report was and what you just named about the findings that you can sort of hang your hat on that was that the I.G. did find significant misconduct by FBI officials who were working on FISA applications. They were doing stuff they shouldn't do, right? And, clearly, it was these -- these were mistakes.
I wonder if you think they made mistakes and it just opened them up for the hits from McCarthy and Trump.
BAKER: It was being used for that purpose. And the errors and omissions that the I.G. reports on are clearly unacceptable, period. And I'm not defending them and that's not how the FBI or the Justice Department should be operating in front of a federal court, let alone the FISA court, right?
It's just -- but it's being used for this purpose but it doesn't show what it is that they purport to show. The president didn't accuse us of making mistakes or bad management or something like this. He's accused, as leader McCarthy just said, of instigating a coup. Well, the I.G. didn't find that. That is just false.
KEILAR: There is a credibility issue now with the FBI. Whether you think that it is fully deserved or not, I wonder what you think it requires to build that credibility back up for the bureau.
BAKER: Well, part of it is -- part of the reason that I decided to speak out earlier this year was that I just got sick of this false narrative.
And I thought, well, somebody who was there at time, somebody who was there at the top of the FBI -- -- and I'm aware of what was going on and I know that this was all false.
And so, I'm speaking up.
Director Wray has to speak up and he is, and he is speaking up and speaking out on these matters and I give him full credit for that.
And so, people within the organization, supporters of the organization from the outside, it's not a perfect organization. There are people in it who make mistakes but if doesn't mean that we did the kinds of things that we're being accused of.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: There is another investigation into basically the exact same thing, right? This though is being headed up, sort at the behest of Bill Barr and it's being done by John Durham, a hand-picked prosecutor. He's already indicated that he disagrees with the findings of the inspector general's report and he basically says that he disagrees or indicates he disagrees with the finding that the investigation was properly predicated.
So that is pretty huge. And talking to analysts, I think this is what they're expecting to find. They're expecting to hear something from Durham that totally contradicted what is in the I.G report.
What do you expect about what you're expecting to hear and if Durham may have uncovered some misconduct that the I.G. might have missed that may look bad for --
BAKER: Well, I doubt that.
BAKER: Yes. I mean, the I.G. looked -- he said he looked at a million documents, interviewed a hundred people, turned over every rock. So, I don't know what Mr. Durham is going to find at FBI or the Justice Department that the I.G. didn't find.
And my understanding what they were disagreeing about was whether -- they don't disagree about the facts or that there was not political bias, it seems. What they disagree about is whether, well, were the facts sufficient to open a full investigation or just a preliminary investigation. But it doesn't seem that at least what we know so far that Mr. Durham somehow found the coup that the I.G. couldn't find.
KEILAR: It is the subjective question, does this hit the mark, right?
BAKER: Yes, exactly.
KEILAR: All right. Jim Baker, thank you so much. Appreciate your insights.
BAKER: Thank you.
KEILAR: Just ahead, CNN goes one-on-one with Senator Amy Klobuchar as the 2020 Democrat hits road in Iowa.
And Boeing CEO is forced out as the 737 MAX crisis grows worse.
KEILAR: We're exactly six weeks away from the Iowa caucuses and Senator Amy Klobuchar is looking to pick up momentum. The Democratic presidential candidate sitting down for an interview with CNN senior national correspondent Kyung Lah.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Midwest is not fly over country to me. I live here.
I hope you saw the debates. Some of you.
(APPLAUSE) KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senator Amy Klobuchar believes now is her upswing. The Minnesota moderate crisscrossing 27 counties in Iowa.
KLOBUCHAR: Hurry up. Get on the bus.
LAH: From rural to suburban venues.
KLOBUCHAR: We have 40 some days left. We have this incredibly important impeachment hearing. I don't know when I could come back.
LAH: As the Senate trial looms and the clock ticks.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, everybody.
This will be our 79th county.
LAH: Inside of the Klobuchar campaign, their come-from-behind strategy is meet Iowans face-to-face.
KLOBUCHAR: It is one of the counties that Obama won and then Trump won.
LAH: And chip away at the moderate candidates polling higher.
(on camera): When people in those rooms say why should I, when I have a new person like Pete Buttigieg or someone who is tested like Joe Biden, why should I consider someone like you?
KLOBUCHAR: I think I'm the right package. I like to joke that 59 is the new 37 to Mayor Pete. That I'm someone that is in between the ages. I am a new generation of leader.
LAH (voice-over): An argument of her Midwest experience sharpened from the debate to the stump.
She's won in Trump districts, urban and suburban and rural. So when they heckle --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you going to pay for it?
LAH: She'll tangle to appease them.
KLOBUCHAR: And the question was raised in the peanut gallery about how we pay for things. I actually outlined how I'm going to pay for every single thing that I have proposed.
I don't think that Donald Trump has some kind of monopoly of votes in rural or suburban America not for a second. And you saw a lot of suburban and rural voters that voted for women, they voted for Democrats, including independents and moderate Republicans. So the evidence is there. That people want to check on this guy.
LAH: The hard part, getting Iowans to decide.
JEFF BUTLER, IOWA DEMOCRATIC VOTER: I like Pete and I like Amy. They've always been my top two.
LAH (on camera): What is going to push you to decide?
BUTLER: I get to meet Amy tonight.
LAH (voice-over): After he's listened to her --
BUTLER: I probably went from 50/50 and now I'm 70 percent for Amy.
LAH: We did find a number of voters pledging to caucus for Klobuchar, including Judith Anderson, won over just this week.
JUDITH ANDERSON, IOWA DEMOCRATIC VOTER: Her sense of humor and relating to people directly was a wonderful experience.
LAH (on camera): And did the debate have anything to do with it?
ANDERSON: Oh, Lord, yes.
LAH (voice-over): But overwhelmingly, many were like Jan Norris.
JAN NORRIS, IOWA DEMOCRATIC VOTER: How many have I seen? One, two three, four, five ,six, seven, eight --
LAH: There are just so many to choose from, she says.
LAH (on camera): Seventeen candidates?
NORRIS: I've personally heard speak, yes.
Amy is definitely in the running.
LAH: Do you feel you're running out of time as far as making a decision?
NORRIS: Oh, no. February 2nd, maybe February 3rd.
LAH: That is when you'll make a decision in.
KLOBUCHAR: Thanks, you guys.
LAH (voice-over): So, for the candidate working on an upset, the slow grind continues.
Kyung Lah, CNN, Council Bluffs, Iowa.
KEILAR: And tonight, a dramatic shake up at Boeing after a disastrous year. The company CEO Dennis Muilenburg has been forced out. Boeing has been reeling from the grounding of what had been the best-selling commercial jet, the 737 MAX following two deadly crashes and just days ago the company announced plans to halt production of the aircraft as it struggles to resolve safety concerns.
Next, Eddie Murphy's SNL comeback 35 years in the making.
KEILAR: It was like an '80s flashback weekend as Eddie Murphy returns to "Saturday Night Live", giving the show its biggest audience in nearly three years. Murphy briefly appeared with other iconic African-American comedians, Tracy Morgan, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and current cast member, Kenan Thompson.
Then he revived some of his unforgettable characters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDDIE MURPHY, COMEDIAN: This is the last episode of 2019, but if you are black, this is the first episode since I left back in 1984.
Hi, boys and girls. It is your old pal, Mr. Robinson. So much has changed since we last spent some time together. My neighborhood has gone through so much. It is gone through something called gentrification.
Can you say gentrification, boys and girls? It is like a magic trick. White people pay a lot of money and then, poof, all of the black people are gone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They say your neighbor paid $300 for pole dancing classes.
Oh, Reverend Jones?
MURPHY: What a shame. Why spend good money on classes when you could do that for half the price in my basement.
What is going on here? I want to sit down.
It is Gumby. They know who the hell it is. I'm Gumby.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing here?
MURPHY: What am I doing here? And the question, Michael Che, is how 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 skit from the top. I'm the one that made that Eddie Murphy a star.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: I'm Brianna Keilar.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.