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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Trump Launches Twitter Tirade Against Dems & Impeachment After Calling For Unity & "Respect"; Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) Discusses About President Trump's Post Christmas Tweets; Trump Slams Dems Over Impeachment After Calling For Unity; GOP Senator "Disturbed" By Impeachment Trial Coordination Between McConnell, White House; Trump: McConnell "Has The Right To Do Whatever He Wants" For Impeachment Trial; Senate Impeachment Trial "Impasse" Continues Through Holidays As Pelosi And McConnell Stand Their Ground; Billionaire Candidates Overwhelm Dem Rivals in TV Ad Spending; U.S. On Alert After North Korea "Christmas Gift" Threat. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired December 26, 2019 - 19:00   ET

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


TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST AND WEATHER ANCHOR: Because everyone is trying to get to some of the ski slopes, the volume is big. So, again, heed the warnings of the advisories from the authorities, that is, try to stay off the roads. This rain is going to cause, I think, some big problems in some of the valleys and areas in Southern California in toward Arizona.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: All right. Tom, thank you so much.

SATER: You're welcome.

KEILAR: I'm Brianna Keilar. Thank you for watching. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, so much for President Trump's Christmas Day call for unity. He's on a post-holiday tear tonight.

Plus, the first Republican senator to take on the majority leader over impeachment is speaking out.

And high alert, U.S. officials puzzled over North Korea's Christmas threat. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, Trump ending the holiday with a less than cheerful Christmas rant, firing off tweet after tweet about impeachment from his Florida resort.

The President was only seen today out playing golf, but he clearly had a lot more on his mind, calling House Democrats in tweets hypocrites over impeachment. Then, calling the House Speaker crazy and once again trying to label impeachment a scam.

In total, tweeting 15 times today mostly on impeachment and sending more than 30 tweets since Christmas Eve. These attacks coming from the same president who said this in his Christmas day message. "While the challenges that face our country are great, the bonds that unite us as Americans are much stronger. Together, we must strive to foster a culture of deeper understanding and respect." That from President Trump.

Pamela Brown is OUTFRONT at the White House for us. So Pam, the hypocrisy of it all, my friend, the call for unity and then the tweets. It's clear this is weighing on him.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's absolutely right. President Trump's Twitter tirade standing in stark contrast, Kate, to this unifying message that he delivered on Christmas. In that statement, it is clear, Kate, the President is shedding the short live Christmas spirit by taking direct aim at Democrats especially House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, labeling her San Francisco district as filthy dirty, smearing her as crazy.

And remember he also attacked her just prior to Christmas with the baseless claim that she hates Republicans and his voters in that video conference after speaking with us troops. So the President is clearly agitated that Speaker Pelosi is holding up delivering the articles of impeachment to the Senate and deciding on impeachment managers until after it is clear what the parameters of the Senate trial are and there is no sign tonight of a break in that impasse that she has with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

So what appears to be playing out, Kate, is as a president freshly impeached by the House, eager for vindication in the Senate trial, in a tense break over the holiday, stewing over the uncertainty of what will happen next. Now, I did speak to a source close to the President's legal team who tells me the lawyers for the President here at the White House, personal lawyers, they are still busy preparing for an eventual Senate trial.

As this source said, it's not like lawyers are sitting around with nothing to do and I'm told that there are still serious discussions about having the lawyer Alan Dershowitz, along with some of GOP allies of the President play a role in the senate trial. But things are still fluid, the timing of this Senate trial is still fluid, so I'm told the only thing for certain in terms of the President's legal team is that Pat Cipollone, the White House Counsel will be leading the defense and the Senate and he'll be assisted by several deputies and also that the President's personal outside counsel will be playing a role, Kate.

BOLDUAN: The only other certainty is that the President will not be staying quiet throughout. It's good to see you, Pam.

BROWN: That is true.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much. OUTFRONT with me now Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia. Congressman, thanks for coming in.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): Great to be with you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Appreciate it. What President Trump is hitting on with some of his tweets is something that I have heard from other Republicans which is that the Democrats said there was urgency behind impeachment in the House, because the President presented national security threat. I mean, you have said that he posed a clear and present danger yet now real or perceived, Democrats are holding up the process in the Senate. What do you say to that?

CONNOLLY: Well, I think that the Speaker has reason to want to know what the institution, the House of Representatives is handing over to the other institution, the United States Senate, and what kind of fair trial they're going to organize. She's got to be bothered as most of us are, including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a Republican senator, by statements made by the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and by Lindsey Graham and a few others that have clearly showed they're anything but impartial.

If this were a normal trial and they were being looked at in the voir dire process for putting together a jury, they'd be dismissed from jury because they're not impartial. They have to take an oath. It's the only ...

BOLDUAN: But it's not a normal trial. You know that it's a political trial.

[19:05:02]

CONNOLLY: It's a trial, Kate. It's a constitutional trial. They take a second oath to be impartial. Why do you think they take that oath? It's not a game. It's not something to be dismissed.

BOLDUAN: Do you believe some of the Democratic senators in the Senate are impartial. Elizabeth Warren is going to be impartial, Bernie Sanders is going to be impartial on that?

CONNOLLY: I believe every senator has an obligation on the Constitution to look at the evidence presented and to conduct a fair and impartial trial and arrive at a hopefully fair and impartial verdict.

BOLDUAN: So let's talk about the process, because it is important. I want to play, you mentioned Lisa Murkowski, let me play something that she said about how Democrats ran the process in the House. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): Speaker Pelosi was very clear, very direct that her goal was to get this done before Christmas. If there was such urgency that it needed to be done before the end of the year, then for what purpose does she hold back on them at this point in time?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: We talked about that a bit, just now. But you have conceded that articles aren't going to be withheld indefinitely.

CONNOLLY: That's right.

BOLDUAN: Should there be at least some sort of timeline offered from the speaker here?

CONNOLLY: Well, I think she's being smart in A; creating some space for our Democratic leaders Schumer and the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to try to come together and agree to some rules of engagement as the Republican and Democratic leaders did in the previous impeachment trial. Secondly, she's got to be worried, as I've said earlier, about statements from the majority leader who said that they'll virtually be no distance at all between the Senate and the White House that he would be in full coordination, that trouble Lisa Murkowski, it troubles me and it probably almost certainly troubles Speaker Pelosi.

BOLDUAN: The Speaker does need to name the House managers at some point. She said in her letter to Democratic House members this week that the number of people who want to be managers is indicative of our strong case. Obviously, saying that there are a lot of people who want the job. Do you want the job, Congressman?

CONNOLLY: I'm going to leave that up to the Speaker. She has a long list of very able members. Obviously, I'd be honored if I were asked, but there are plenty of other members as well who are quite capable.

BOLDUAN: What are the qualities? What qualifies as capable? What are the qualities if you don't want to name anyone that you think is important in one of these House managers for this historic moment?

CONNOLLY: Good question. I mean, I think you've got to have a certain logical progression of thought that you can postulate in the Senate to make a very compelling case. I think you've got to be articulate. I think you've got to do your homework and be very disciplined in laying out the facts and the evidence of this case and hopefully persuading, if not members of the Senate, certainly the American public as to the gravity of the abuses of this president.

BOLDUAN: Do you want the Senate to interview Mulvaney and Bolton?

CONNOLLY: I think it would be useful if they did. I thought it was very disingenuous in the part of Mitch McConnell to say that the House now wants the Senate to do its job because they didn't interview them. Well, we didn't interview them because they would not cooperate with a subpoena or with a request to testify under White House direction.

In fact, there's a court case still pending, I believe, with Mr. Cooperman as to adjudication by a court, which do I abide by White House Counsel or a subpoena issued by the House of Representatives? So since we were not able to access their testimony, it's perfectly proper.

If the Senate wants to do a thorough job and determine innocence of guilt with respect to the charges brought to them in the two articles of impeachment, they should hear from those witnesses.

BOLDUAN: I guess it's still not clear if that would make them show up any more likely they would show up than if they did in the House. Regardless, Congressman, thank you for coming in.

CONNOLLY: My pleasure, Kate.

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT for us next, could key Republicans throw a wrench into Mitch McConnell's impeachment strategy of working with the white house?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MURKOWSKI: In fairness when I heard that, I was disturbed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Plus, the impeachment stalemate continues very clearly. Is Nancy Pelosi making mistake in delaying the Senate trial? And billionaire candidates spending outrageous sums on advertising. Is it worth It?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:12:53]

BOLDUAN: Tonight, is this the first crack in the GOP on impeachment? Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski saying that she's disturbed by what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is doing, after McConnell has declared that he is working in total coordination with the White House, listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MURKOWSKI: In fairness, when I heard that, I was disturbed. We have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT now Joe Lockhart, former Clinton White House Press Secretary, Karoun Demirjian, Washington Post Congressional Reporter and Michael Gerhardt, a Constitutional Law Professor who testified during the House impeachment hearings. Thanks for being here you guys. I really appreciate it.

Karoun, Murkowski knows her every word is being closely watched when she talks about impeachment. What is she actually saying here?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, this is a bit of a message to the GOP leaders that if we do this, we need to do this right. We cannot be working hand in glove, we need to do it fairly. There has been this dispute between the Democrats and the Republicans as to what is a fair trial.

And I think that for People in the middle like Murkowski, like Romney, like probably Susan Collins, who are representing an electorate that is not necessarily completely in one camp or the other on impeachment. They're saying, look, to say that we're working hand in glove with the President is fundamentally speaking not fair, whichever way you think the witness list questions should come down.

And so she's basically sending a signal to people like Mitch McConnell that she's not comfortable with this. Don't count on her to go along with just rubber stamping, whatever the Trump defense team wants to do.

So it's a signal that maybe Lisa Murkowski's vote is in play when it comes to determining who was going to be on the witness list, whether anybody will be testifying in front of the Senate. But I wouldn't go so far as to read that it's a signal that she's going to vote to convict the President or anything like that. There are a lot of interim steps and she's fundamentally talking about fairness, not guilty or not guilty of the President, ultimately,

BOLDUAN: There is a long road between here and there.

DEMIRJIAN: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Joe, from your perspective, is this significant coming from her?

JOE LOCKHART, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is and I think there are conversations going on among Republicans. It's very well known that they're behind the scenes, Republicans in the Senate have a lot of problems with Trump, but don't ever talk about it out loud.

[19:15:08]

BOLDUAN: That's true.

LOCKHART: So I think it is significant. If Mitt Romney had said this, Trump would have been all over, he's a never Trumper and all of that. Murkowski doesn't have that same public persona.

BOLDUAN: Also interesting now you put it that way that Trump hasn't said anything (inaudible) ...

LOCKHART: Well, he alluded to it in one tweet today talking about the Republicans Senate, the 51 Republican senators with McConnell.

BOLDUAN: Right.

LOCKHART: You can do the math, maybe he meant Trump, maybe he meant Murkowski. Let's not give him too much credit here. But I think the conversations that are going on are how do we roll this out with maximum pressure on McConnell to change. So the people to watch now, I think are in three groups.

Romney, he's in his own group. The six or seven vulnerable senators who are everyone from Cory Gardner to Martha McSally and then the retiring senators. And I think Lamar Alexander is key there.

So when they come back, it'll be really interesting to see if maybe Senator Alexander weighs in or Senator Romney or Senator Gardner. Because they only need four and I think more than anything, this is Murkowski telling McConnell, you can't do it this way. Come back with a better offer and we'll talk.

BOLDUAN: Well, that is interesting. Michael, it's not unheard of for McConnell to coordinate on some level with the White House that happened during Clinton impeachment, Joe knows. But where is the line?

MICHAEL GERHARDT, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA SCHOOL OF LAW PROFESSOR: Well, it's clear Senator McConnell has crossed the line. He's the first Senate Majority Leader in the history of the United States to declare in a presidential impeachment trial that he's going to coordinate everything with the President. That's a quote. He used the word everything.

And that's what makes this particularly unusual. We expect perhaps some coordination at some level, Senator Daschle, a minority leader at the time of the Clinton impeachment trial, coordinated with staff, a high level staff in the White House. But here, it sounds as if that Majority Leader will be in constant interaction, not just with the President, but with his top lawyer who will be there at the trial representing the President.

So this creates the atmosphere in which Senator Murkowski has come forward to say, hold on, we've got to rethink this. This doesn't look like a fair trial. It's not being perceived by the American people as a fair trial. Our job is and I think she's right about this, our job is to protect the institutional integrity of the United States Senate and I think that's what she's trying to do.

BOLDUAN: Karoun, let me play something that the President said over the holiday about the Senate impeachment process.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ultimately, that decision is going to be made by Mitch McConnell and he has the right to do whatever he wants. He's the head of the Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: I have to say, I was quite surprised that coming from a man who has often said that the only opinion that matters is his own. I mean, do you think Mitch McConnell is really driving this train?

DEMIRJIAN: Not by himself and I think that if he were driving the train by himself, he wouldn't have felt like he had to say that he's working hand in glove with the President. Mitch McConnell has had some influence over the White House. He certainly had many influence over the President's advisors. He's been able to pursue agendas that he cared about a lot in terms of judges and things like that.

But Mitch McConnell has not been the voice and the bully pulpit of the GOP since Trump took office and I don't think that that has changed radically overnight. I think that the fact that the President said that probably made both McConnell and Trump's legal team breathe a bit of a sigh of relief that he is at least publicly saying, OK, I'm deferring to the Senate Majority Leader on this. But the President has to follow that comment, that statement with the

discipline of making sure he stays on that message with his Twitter account in the days and weeks ahead. And also, it's clear that the President does wield influence here and that the congressional Republicans are responsive to that influence. That it's been the way it's been on every subject, that has been the way it's been to date on impeachment as well and it does not seem that just because the President has said this that that fundamentally changes that power balance.

But the fact that he said it does potentially give McConnell a little bit more ability to respond to these charges that he's just doing the President's bidding. The fact that the President has said no, it's OK, I'm going to defer to him.

BOLDUAN: Yes. All right. Guys, if you could stand by. OUTFRONT next, we're learning more tonight about what a senate impeachment trial might look and sound like, listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The senators will not be allowed to speak which would be good therapy for a number of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: And for all of us. And two billionaire candidates dropped $200 million on advertising alone. Is this spending out of control?

[19:19:48]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:23:12]

BOLDUAN: Tonight, holiday stalemate. Sounds glorious, right? No word from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on when she will send over the articles of impeachment or what Democrats want to see the Senate trial look like. And so far, of course, Mitch McConnell, not blinking.

But there are some very interesting things we do know already. Lauren Fox is out front.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER(voice-over): Six days a week in absolutely no talking. Those are the rules that could govern the Senate's impeachment trial.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCONNELL: We will have to convey in every day six days after out of seven at 12:30 or 01:00 in the afternoon. Senators will not be allowed to speak which would be good therapy for a number of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP) FOX(voice-over): The contours of the trial are still in limbo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We don't know the arena that we are in. We'd like to see a fair process, but we'll see what they have and we'll be ready for whatever it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOX(voice-over): But if all else fails, Senate rules from the past impeachment trials may serve as a model this time around. Once the articles are sent over, the rules dictate that a senate impeachment trial is to begin at 1 pm the following day and expected guests in the Senate Chamber Chief Justice John Roberts presiding over the Senate trial.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye ...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOX(voice-over): Once it begins, the sergeant of arms will issue a stark warning to senators to 'keep silence' on pain of imprisonment. Senators also are expected to take an oath vowing to 'do impartial justice before sitting in their desks for the trial'.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCONNELL: I'm not an impartial juror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOX(voice-over): There's no way of knowing how long a trial could last. Many Republicans have argued they prefer shorter one, without any witnesses even as the President has suggested he wants a more robust defense to clear his name.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Give president his day in court and let's get this behind us so we can talk about things that people really care about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[19:25:04]

FOX(voice-over): Also unknown who will play the role of the House managers. The Democrats who will make the case against the President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): The Speaker is waiting to understand what the rules of the trial are going to be, so she's appointing the right people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOX(voice-over): Once the trial is underway, if lawmakers have questions for witnesses or motions to offer, they would likely make them in writing to the Chief Justice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Senate will convene as a court of impeachment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOX(voice-over): And when it's time to vote on each article of impeachment, lawmakers stand next to their desks and answer guilty or not guilty.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Specter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not proved, therefore not guilty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOX: And Arlen Specter there making a very famous vote by saying not proven, therefore not guilty and that confuse the senate clerks for a moment, Kate. But so much of this is unknown at this point. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hopes to have control of all of his Republican members, but it only takes 51 votes for any of these rules to change and to really change the course of history, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Hope is the operative word on that one. Thank you, Lauren. I really appreciate it.

Everyone is back here with me. So Joe right now Speaker Pelosi on some level is leaving everyone hanging. No idea when the trial is now going to begin or what exactly it's going to look like or even what the definition of a fair trial is in the eyes of House Democrats. Is this part of a grand plan or do you think the Speaker is making a tactical mistake?

LOCKHART: No, I think she's effectively using leverage to keep the focus on whether they'll be live witnesses or not. If she had sent the articles of impeachment over, the trial would have started January 6th and we'd all have moved on to exactly who the House managers are and gaming out the trial. So it was very smart.

I think if you go back to 1999, I remember ...

BOLDUAN: Do you want to? Do you really want to?

LOCKHART: I really do. I really do. I really do. I remember distinctly we made what I thought was a great proposal to Tom Daschle saying, let's do this quickly. Everyone has been interviewed, no live witnesses and he said, I will consider it.

And then the chief of staff came into my office and said, well, they've told us to get lost. They're going to do it their own way. They voted a hundred for nothing and I said, well, what am I supposed to say. And he said, Just blast Daschle. And I was like, really, and he said, yes.

So the Senate has the ability to tell the White House to get lost. They did it in 1999 and they should do it again.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating. I mean, your rendition on this is always something that just draws me and tell me more, Joe. Karoun, Democrats in almost every interview that I've seen including with Gerry Connolly this evening with me are applauding Pelosi's approach here. From a watcher of Congress, is this further evidence of the tight grip she has on the caucus or does everyone do you think genuinely agree with her?

DEMIRJIAN: Look, I think that we saw discord play out within the House Democrats and over the course of the impeachment inquiry, over the course of choosing what sorts of articles they're actually going to file. They were not as united as they wanted to seem for a very, very long time at many turns on this road.

But they came to a point where ultimately when they took that vote in late December, they were all but two people on the first article, and three on the second and one of those people who did not stick with the party switched parties after that. So they've reached this point of cohesion. And frankly, their worst play at this point would be to have that start to fray and break apart at least publicly as they're trying to stand up to the Senate right now to guarantee that there can be a trial that considers their articles and their charges the way that they think that that should actually happen and do so by looking at witnesses as well.

So I think it's interesting that you're hearing - Pelosi as we've been reporting for years has quite an ability to count votes and work with the ranks of a party and both use carrots and sticks for doing that. But the fact that they went through this entire process and came to this point is I think why you're seeing so much unanimity in the voices that are talking about what her play is right here.

And also, I think, it's important to note that you're not hearing from the moderates who were kind of the last holdouts on the impeachment vote and everything else like that. They are kind of keeping their own counsel during this break and probably for the - if they're still harboring doubts, that's probably a strategic move to make sure that those questions are not being voiced at a time when it's important for everybody to kind of hold rank, until they figure out what's going on with this tug of war between the House and the Senate.

BOLDUAN: That's a great point. And Michael, though there is a lot that we do not know as Lauren was laying out in that piece, there are some very interesting rules that are already in place. Senators required to submit their questions for witnesses in writing. I don't know why I'm so fascinated by it, but I am. No matter how partisan this trial is, how formal is it likely to be?

GERHARDT: It is likely to appear to be quite formal. Keep in mind that Constitution says very little about the trial.

[19:30:03]

Of course, it's -- the Constitution says the Senate has the sole power to try impeachments. The Senate gives -- the Constitution gives the Senate the authority to devise its own procedures otherwise.

And then the critical thing to read, which I doubt many people have read are the actual Senate rules that pertain to impeachment trials. So, those rules, for example, provide that nothing in the Senate is going to begin until the articles are marched over to the Senate. So, all the talk about the Senate doing anything before the articles arrive is in complete contravention of the rules.

Beyond that, as you pointed out, there are requirements that senators put down. There are questions of writing. And the other critical thing to watch for is the resolution that gets passed at the front end of the impeachment trial. That resolution is what Joe is referring to earlier that was passed 100-0, and that resolution will dictate the basic procedure the Senate will follow. That's the thing to watch and that will inform everybody about what are the procedures that will follow very soon thereafter in the actual trial.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Fascinating.

So, Joe, when we think about the trial, one unknown still is who will be speaking for the president? We do know that Alan Dershowitz, Pamela Brown has been reporting this, has been informally advising the president's legal team and Trump was seen talking to Dershowitz, at a dinner on Christmas Eve, just a couple of weeks ago. Is Dershowitz someone that you could see tapping to speak to him in the Senate trial?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think if the president's goal was to make this into a reality TV program and a three-ring circus, there's no one better than Alan Dershowitz. The only one who'd be better is Rudy Giuliani, the other one who's been floated. Now, both of them are embroiled in their own legal disputes right now. Rudy being investigated by SDNY. Alan Dershowitz is involved in -- I think two people suing them for sexual assault as part of the broader Jeffrey Epstein case.

So, I mean -- I was trying to think of who the third rank could be and I guess you could bring in Michael Avenatti just to, you know, try to be bipartisan. But if his goal was to make fun of the process, you're going to see people like Dershowitz and Giuliani on the floor of the senate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Stand by to stand by I guess is the only thing I'll say to that. Thank you, guys. I appreciate it. Thanks so much.

OUTFRONT next, would you spend $100 million to get to 5 percent of the polls. Yes, I know your answer is, first, give me $100 million and then we'll talk about it. But that is what t least two billionaires have done already this cycle.

And U.S. military is on high alert for Kim Jong-un's Christmas gift. What is he sending?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:36:13]

BOLDUAN: Tonight, 2020 presidential candidates are trickling back on the campaign trail after a holiday break. Andrew Yang was in South Carolina tonight where if you turned on the TV and you likely did, he could very likely have been greeted by millions of dollars in advertising, not by anyone in the top tier, but from at least one of the two billionaires running.

Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg are spending a combined $211 million on television advertising already. That's more than seven times of the combined total of what all the other Democratic campaigns have spent on television advertising. Think about that.

OUTFRONT now, Patrick Healy, politics editor at "The New York Times" and a CNN political analyst, and Maria Cardona, Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator.

It's good to see you.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You too, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Do you see evidence yet that this kind of spending, this level of it is proving effective?

PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Some evidence, but not the kind that the candidates necessarily want. Tom Steyer, it's all short term. It's basically to bump up his poll numbers a little bit in order to get into the debates. He's done that.

But there's no really long term strategy or momentum that has developed for him. He's really burning money just to get, what? Ten, 11 minutes of air time on these debates.

Michael Bloomberg, on the other hand, is seeing bumps in the polls up to 5 percent to 7 percent, which is very fast. So that money is having an impact and even more important for Democrats, the party that's not raising a ton of money right now compared to Republicans, he is pouring money into these anti-Trump attack ads that as we know in 2015, Republicans were attacking each other. They weren't going after Trump until it was too late.

So, the key thing, though, that we don't know is whether the Bloomberg money will lead to a real national strategy on Super Tuesday, whether there'll be a payoff. Never been tried before. We just don't know.

BOLDUAN: And some have argued no one has been able to afford it before.

But to Patrick's point and just so our viewers can see, this latest CNN polling shows Bloomberg at 5 percent nationally, Steyer at 1 percent, but as Patrick points out in the early state polls, he has made it on to the debate stage. Both spending these enormous, honestly obscene sums of money and deploying it in two very different strategies, right? Steyer focused on early states, and Bloomberg focused on really only Super Tuesday states and beyond.

CARDONA: Right.

BOLDUAN: Do you see one candidate using this money better than the other?

CARDONA: Well, let's take a look at it and see the reasons why this is happening, Kate.

Mike Bloomberg is not doing the Super Tuesday strategy, and he's doing this out of necessity because he got in so late and he didn't see that there was a possibility for him to really make a play for the early states. And so, you know, while it's never been tried before, he is doing what he needs to do in terms of trying to make it as possible and as probable for him to get ahead in the Super Tuesday states.

But I think there's a couple of things going here. First one is that the message is not one that is consistent with Democratic Party messages, right? And that's what you're seeing from Sanders and Warren that are attacking these billionaires saying they're trying to buy your votes.

The second thing is that a lot of the voters aren't really clamoring for billionaires to have jumped into this race, and so a lot of people view their candidacies as simply vanity projects for them and that there's no real pathway and no real base for them to get to the point where they need to be.

And let's think about delegate, right? While there has been some increase in the percentages from a polling perspective, right? We're one month from Iowa, these candidates and I'm talking all candidates here need to start showing that they can at least get some delegates and that doesn't happen until you top 15 percent of support in any state.

[19:40:11]

BOLDUAN: Let's actually hone in on Iowa because I want both your take on something that -- "Politico" points this out, and I think it's really fascinating.

Maria, let me start with you. "Politico" is reporting that some Democratic insiders are saying that Bernie Sanders could win the nomination, and Dan Pfeiffer, one of the people quoted in the article, who, of course, is an adviser to former President Obama, this is what he says and is quoted as saying. I believe people should be taking him very seriously. He has a very good shot at winning Iowa, a very good shot at winning New Hampshire and other than Joe Biden, the best shot of winning Nevada.

You supported Clinton in 2016, you were pretty critical of Sanders, and the talk about Iowa, though, now it really does often overlook Sanders. Thirty-nine days to go to Iowa? How good of a chance do you think he has this time around?

CARDONA: I completely agree with Dan. I think that every other candidate who sees, obviously every other candidate as a threat and more so those that are at the top of the polls should see Sanders as a real threat because he has shown not just staying power, but bounce- back power, right? At the beginning, I think a lot of people to their peril kind of thought his time had been over, right? His time was 2016 that Elizabeth Warren was the one who was kind of eating his lunch and that her rise in the polls really put a dent into his supporters.

And that may have been true at the time and we are back full circle where he is the one showing the strength among the progressive base and I think a couple of people saw vulnerabilities for him were actually strengths. And we should absolutely take him very seriously, every any candidate should because anything is possible at this point.

BOLDUAN: I do think it's fascinating that the talk, especially in Iowa, is about Warren, it's about Biden, or even Pete Buttigieg. Why do you think about this? Why do you think Sanders has not gotten the attention that it would mean and a lot of scrutiny?

HEALY: Sure, one of my reporters, Sidney Ember, spent the last several weeks talking to Sanders supporters about who their second choice is and who their first choice is and the thing we hear over and over again is that all of the other candidates will name, like, two or three others. You'll hear over and over again that Sidney reported today is that all the other candidates will name like two or three others.

You'll hear Warren talk -- supporters talk about Buttigieg, talk about Biden. It's the Sanders supporters who say it's Bernie, it's Bernie. The problem is, it's Bernie or bust. But the good news for Bernie right now is those people are loyal. They're likely to turn out on caucus days, they're not going anywhere and there's enthusiasm there.

BOLDUAN: Yet again, can't wait for Iowa.

Good to see you, guys. Thank you so much.

CARDONA: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT next, U.S. officials puzzled by North Korea's threat. Is Kim Jong-un backing down?

And Latinos for Trump. Can they grow their support for the president?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll think about it. Thank you. Bye-bye.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:46:54]

BOLDUAN: U.S. officials puzzled after Christmas has passed without the, quote, unquote, Christmas gift threatened by North Korea. Officials had expected that to mean a missile test of some sort.

President Trump on Christmas Eve seemed to downplay the escalating tension this way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Maybe it's a nice present. Maybe it's a present where he sends me a beautiful vase as opposed to a missile test.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Kylie Atwood is OUTFRONT in Washington tonight.

Kylie, what are you learning?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes. So, Kate, U.S. officials are a bit puzzled because Christmas has passed and that Christmas gift that North Korea promised hasn't come. And as you said, they expected it was going to be some kind of weapons test by North Korea. That is what satellite imagery and U.S. intelligence indicated they were preparing for.

But the bottom line here is that the U.S. is still prepared for that to potentially happen and just because it hasn't happened doesn't mean that it won't. And U.S. -- CNN has learned that the U.S. has pre- approved a series of military actions that it could take. These are show of force actions. They're not direct military actions against North Korea and they're options that include things like U.S. aircraft, aircraft bombers flying over the Korean peninsula or military drills happening on the ground, and that is the reporting from the Pentagon, from Barbara Starr tonight.

So U.S. officials are still prepared for this possibility, but it is important to note, however, Kate that North Korea has carried out short-range missile tests over the last few months and the U.S. has done nothing in response.

BOLDUAN: That's a very good point. Thank you so much, Kylie.

OUTFRONT with me now, Ambassador Joseph Yun. He was President Trump's special envoy on North Korea. He was involved in the hostage negotiations that led to the release of American college student Otto Warmbier.

Ambassador, thank you for being here.

AMBASSADOR JOSEPH YUN, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR NORTH KOREA: Thank you. Good to be with you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

Are you surprised that Christmas is coming on and so far no missile test?

YUN: Well, I must say somewhat, but, however, I do think, if you look at the original statement from Kim Jong-un, he mentioned end of the year. So, Christmas, especially in Korea, is a little bit of a flexible concept. It does not end on December 25th.

So, I do still expect something could happen within the next couple of weeks, but also remember that early January is Kim Jong-un's birthday. So this period could extend, I would say, two or three weeks or so.

BOLDUAN: That's a very important perspective. But the harsh reality is nothing that the administration has done since that first summit in Singapore has stopped the North from continuing to build up its weapons program, its arsenal.

And earlier this week, the president's former national security adviser John Bolton said this. He said the idea that the idea that we're exerting pressure on North Korea is just unfortunately not true.

[19:50:05]

Do you agree with John Bolton?

YUN: I do agree with John Bolton. Most of the pressure you remember was in sanctions. And almost business definition, sanctions erode over time. And if they're not updated, if they're not strengthened, they will erode.

And this is especially true, because most of North Korean trade with China. Over 90 percent of North Korean trade is with China. And China has not really been enforcing those sanctions. And this is also due to U.S. trade war with China.

So there is no enthusiasm in China or Russia to enforce these sanctions. So, as a result, Bolton is completely right. Maximum pressure is no more. Sanctions pressure has eroded.

BOLDUAN: You mention the end of the year. I mean, the North has imposed like self-imposed deadline of -- at the end of the year for the United States to soften sanctions when it comes to the stalled nuclear talks. When the U.S. does not, what does that mean?

YUN: Well, it means that really, if you're looking at it from Kim Jong-un's point of view, that's his highest priority, to get at least some sanctions relief. And if that does not happen, he's going to react, and he is going to react I believe as Kylie has mentioned, most likely missile launch is one of them. And remember, this has been President Trump's big thing, there has not been an ICBM.

So, I do expect over the next few weeks, there will be some kind of provocation from North Korea. BOLDUAN: Ambassador, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

YUN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT for us next, the president's Latino supporters sticking by him, even though they admit it's a tough road to travel.

And on New Year's Day, be sure to tune in for the new CNN film "LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE ".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFED MALE: She came to Los Angeles.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, it's Linda Ronstadt.

LINDA RONSTADT, SINGER: I was 18 years old and we formed a little band. We called ourselves Stone Ponies.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: The L.A. scene was in gear, and then the whole damn thing broke loose.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: It was rock music, folk music, comingling.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: How can we define what this is going to be?

UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: Linda was the queen. She was like what Beyonce is now.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: She was the only female artist to have five platinum albums in a row.

RONSTADT: "I Can't Help It If I'm Still in Love With You" was a hit on the country charts, "You're No Good" was a hit on both the R&B chart and the pop chart. I became the first artist to have a hit on all three charts.

UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: She was the first female rock 'n roll star.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: "LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE", New Year's Day on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:56:47]

BOLDUAN: Tonight, President Trump's border chief promising Trump is close to delivering his promised wall. And while many Latino voters oppose Trump's wall, of course, one supporter in El Paso thinks he can help win over those same voters.

Nick Valencia is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAY BACA, CHAIRMAN, BORDER HISPANICS FOR TRUMP: Are you a member of Border Hispanics yet?

UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: No, I'm not.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ray Baca has his work cut out for him, as the chair of the Border Hispanics for Trump living in the Democratic stronghold of El Paso, his goal is to get Latinos to help reelect the president. But the odds are against him.

BACA: I'm with Border Hispanics for Trump. How are you? Have you heard of us?

VALENCIA: As the 65-year-old sees it, there are countless Latinos who support the president, but are afraid to admit it. He hopes to convince them their values are more in line with the GOP and Trump.

BACA: I look at President Trump as the one who most closely represents my values.

VALENCIA (on camera): People will hear that and say values? What values does the president have? So when you say that, what do you mean?

BACA: I mean supporting things that I support like being against abortion, being for limited government involvement, being for border security.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Indeed, support for Trump in Texas among Latinos has remained steady at 30 percent, according to a recent CNN poll. The unwavering support comes in the face of criticism over the president's rhetoric on the Latino community, which is critics at best see as offensive and at worst racist.

TRUMP: When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best.

VALENCIA (on camera): How can you still support somebody who they see as saying racist things against the Latino community?

BACA: I disagree. I really don't think he said things that are racist.

VALENCIA (voice-over): In August, 22 people were killed in a racist attack targeting Latinos in an El Paso Walmart. Baca says anyone who blames Trump because of his rhetoric and border policies s trying to make political hay of the shooting.

BACA: I just don't think you can hold a president or President Trump in particular, responsible for the actions of a single madman.

VALENCIA: Baca agrees with the president on most things, but not everything, mainly though he supports the idea of a wall. He questions the practicality of building one across the entire U.S./Mexico border, a signature issue for Trump and his base.

BACA: I see him with his faults, I see him warts and all. I don't want to spend $200 billion on a wall if you can do it for $50 million and solve the problem.

I'm Ray Baca.

UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: Yes, I remember you, Ray.

BACA: Well, good to see you. Good to see you.

VALENCIA: Tonight, Baca's pitch for Trump comes at an impromptu gathering of conservatives. But even in a friendly crowd, it can be a hard sell.

UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: I'll think about it.

BACA: OK. Bye-bye. Can't win them all.

VALENCIA: But there are already some unlikely voters he doesn't have to win over.

(on camera): President Trump was the first president you voted for?

BLANCA BINKLEY, EL PASO RESIDENT: Yes.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Originally from Mexico, 29-year-old Blanca Binkley became a U.S. citizen just five years ago. She plans on voting for Trump again in 2020.

BINKLEY: Oftentimes I'm asked but why or I feel like someone is going to throw eggs at me or I'm going to be shunned from the Hispanic community.

VALENCIA: Shunned by some, perhaps, but that's what Ray Baca and Trump are counting on.

BACA: We need to get our Hispanic brethren to quit voting Democrat simply because that's what they've always voted.

VALENCIA: Nick Valencia, CNN, El Paso, Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much, Nick.

And thank you so much for joining us tonight.

"AC360" starts now.

END