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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Trump Showing Increasing Signs Of Frustration Over Impeachment As He Repeatedly Slams Pelosi On Twitter; Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) Discusses The Back And Forth Between President Trump And Pelosi In Twitter; Biden Says He Would Defy Subpoena In Impeachment Trial; Source: WH Working On List Of Replacements For Secretary Of State As GOP Pushes Pompeo To Run For Senate; NYT: Newly Obtained Video Shows SEALs Calling Platoon Chief "Toxic"; Trump Championed Chief As "Great Fighter"; Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) Discusses About The SEAL Officer Championed By President Trump Described As Toxic And Crazy By His Fellow SEAL. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired December 27, 2019 - 19:00   ET

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


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Thank you so much for keeping an eye on that and bringing us that updated forecast. We really appreciate it. I'm Brianna Keilar, happy holidays and thank you so much for watching. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now with Kate Bolduan.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Trump's impeachment fixation. For a man downplaying the process, he sure talks about it a lot.

Plus, a new secretary of state. The White House working on a list of potential replacements for Mike Pompeo.

And the Navy SEAL championed by President Trump described by his own men as 'a psychopath'. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, Trump's increasingly frustrated on impeachment, taking it out on Twitter again today attacking the House Speaker as she continues to withhold the articles of impeachment from the Senate.

This tweet just hours after Pelosi herself tweeted, "The facts are clear and every witness told the same story, despite the President's attempts to cover it up." It's just the second time this week that Pelosi has taken it to Twitter to call President Trump out by name.

Trump, on the other hand, well, he can't seem to stop tweeting or retweeting attacks on Speaker Pelosi every day this week, 21 times so far. I know, you've been counting. He clearly isn't convincing Pelosi to engage and you know he's definitely not going to then take the Pelosi family advice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE PELOSI, EXECUTIVE CHAIR, DNC: We're probably one of the few families in America who did not talk about impeachment at the Christmas dinner table. As she says you have to put politics on the shelf. You can't obsess about things 24/7.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Pamela Brown is OUTFRONT at the White House now. Pamela, what are you hearing from there tonight.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, President Trump is growing increasingly agitated with the state of limbo over the Senate trial that he's been looking forward to for vindication, I'm told. He has settled into something of a routine during this first week of his holiday in Florida, firing off tweeted attacks against Speaker Pelosi for withholding those articles of impeachment from the Senate in between rounds of golf and mingling with family and friends.

He's also vented about his impeachment as he expressed holiday greetings to U.S. troops on Christmas Eve and spoke to conservative students last Saturday. And, of course, this all comes as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell continues to signal ambivalence about starting the trial. He says he's not anxious to move forward on the task despite the President's clear eagerness.

Meanwhile, Kate, we've learned White House officials have been coming and going from Mar-A-Lago, Presidential Senior Advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner arrived on Thursday. One source I spoke with said, and that signals that this holiday vacation where the President has really been stewing, playing golf, talking with other people looks to be turning more into a working trip.

And now that Christmas is over with, we've also learned Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney joined Trump last weekend. He will join him again this weekend. Eric Ueland, the White House Legislative Director, Legislative Affairs Director was in Florida earlier this week. He has departed. Interesting to note here, I'm told by a source that Pat Cipollone, White House Counsel, does not have concrete plans at this point to visit the President in Mar-A-Lago.

Of course, that could change as the end of the holiday congressional recess and the revival of the impeachment drama draws closer, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Good to see you, Pam. Thanks so much. OUTFRONT with me now, Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee from Michigan. He's a member of the Democratic leadership. Congressman, thanks for coming in.

REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: So there's more than 20 tweets coming from the President attacking the Speaker, just two tweets from her though about him. What do you make about this back and forth? That is very clearly obviously been much more forthcoming from Trump then back, I guess. BOLDUAN: Well, I guess a couple of things. One, if anybody is obsessed about impeachment, it's the President himself. I mean, even during this whole process, we've continued to legislate passing legislation on prescription drugs, on violence against women. Those are sitting on Mitch McConnell's desk.

We are doing the work that the American people want us to do. He seems to be singularly focused on either his golf score or on impeachment and nothing else. I also think that he has a real problem dealing with Nancy Pelosi. He knows that she's smarter than he is. He knows that she's far tougher than he is and I don't think he knows how to deal with her.

BOLDUAN: Do you think Pelosi is paying attention to what President Trump saying about her this week?

KILDEE: No. I mean, I know Speaker Pelosi pretty well. She's really not moved so much by what people think of her. She wants to get her work done. She stays focused on that. So I don't think she is moved by any of his criticism. And in fact, I don't think she's generally moved by the commentary about her in the first place. Her focus has been pretty singular and that is to get the work done that we need to get done.

Whether it's impeachment or these other very important issues that we've been able to move on in the House of Representatives, but that sit stalled in the Senate, because Mitch McConnell decided that he wasn't going to do anything for the American people because he wants to punish Democrats in the House, somehow.

[19:05:05]

I don't know how that equates to punishing us. The fact that he's holding the American people away from being able to get affordable prescription drugs, but that's his calculation, I guess.

BOLDUAN: I will say there are definitely bills waiting in the Senate, but there was bipartisan agreement on some very major things before you all left for recess. So there was some movement on some very must do items that I know was applauded by a lot of folks, as you guys were heading out.

You talk about she's not moved. She's not moved by ...

KILDEE: Yes, I mean, we kept the government open and ...

BOLDUAN: You know what? At its most basic, that is your job. So, everyone, thanks you for that.

KILDEE: Right. No question.

BOLDUAN: But when you talk about Pelosi not being moved, you have defended the Speaker in her decision to withhold the articles of impeachment. And you have said though also that the trial was never going to happen before January, but you've also said that the party can't wait forever.

So I am wondering what moves the Speaker in the end. No one has defined a line, the definition of fair trial has definitely not been laid out for anybody. How long is too long to wait here?

KILDEE: I think we have to wait until we have some assurance that the trial is not going to be some sort of a sham or a joke.

BOLDUAN: I mean, I'm talking extremes here like into February. KILDEE: And we've seen a little bit of movement - well, I mean,

that's certainly possible, but I'm not going to get ahead of the Speaker. We've been in the holiday season. We were really focused on keeping the government open, passing USMCA before we broke for the holidays. We don't go back into session till January 7th. So I think there is some time before we get into a period where people really need to be concerned about it.

But I will say this, the House is not some bystander to the Senate trial. I mean, the sense that many have is that the House has completed its work and now it's all in the Senate and so why would we have anything to say about what the Senate does. We have a lot of say about what the Senate does, because it's the House that brings the case that manages the case that goes before the Senate that essentially prosecutes this case.

And so we have to have an understanding what the rules will be before we can even appoint the impeachment managers so that we can put the right team on the field in order to deal with the sort of trial that ultimately the Senate is going to hold. So we have a lot to say about what the trial should look like, because we're going to be an important part of it.

BOLDUAN: Do you expect to get any guidance about what happens next or when during the rest of this recess or are you, Congressman, just expecting to return to Capitol Hill, January 6th, 7th and say, hey, guys, what's next?

KILDEE: No. I think there's obviously a bit of downtime for everybody here as we're home with our families and our constituents, but there's still a lot of work going on. And I don't think there's anything that prevents the Senate from sort of getting its act together and being more clear about how this trial is going to move forward.

BOLDUAN: OK.

KILDEE: We are beginning to hear that senators on the Republican side are uncomfortable, some of them uncomfortable with the way that Leader McConnell is handling this. I'm sure they're communicating that to them, to him and hopefully that'll have some effect on him.

BOLDUAN: I've been asking every Democratic congressmen and women that I've had on, do you want to be one of the House managers?

KILDEE: I really don't think that's a role that I'd be ideally suited to play. We have a lot of members who have a lot of experience as prosecutors. We have one very well educated constitutional professor as a member of the House.

BOLDUAN: Jamie Raskin?

KILDEE: So I have a lot of faith in the people. Yes, I think Jamie Raskin and I'm not advocating for anybody in particular, but when you look at the way Chairman Schiff has handled himself and people like Jamie Raskin and others who obviously have made big time attributions to the total conversation, I think we have an incredibly talented group that can prosecute our case.

But the specific group of members that would be assigned to that will in part have to do with the shape of the trial itself. If it's more about interrogating potential witnesses, then that would have an effect on who we put up as managers if it is a more of a philosophical or theoretical question of a constitutionality of this impeachment. Obviously, it's a different set of players.

BOLDUAN: And that's an interesting point. Congressman, thanks for coming in.

KILDEE: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: I appreciate it. OUTFRONT next, Joe Biden says he will not testify at Trump's impeachment trial even if he's subpoenaed.

Plus, the Navy SEAL who President Trump called one of our ultimate fighters described by his own men as toxic and evil in video we're seeing for the first time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy got crazier and crazier.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: And the White House working on a potential replacement for Mike Pompeo. Are the Secretary of State's days numbered?

[19:10:03]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:13:24]

BOLDUAN: Tonight, Biden will not testify. The former vice president telling The Des Moines Register Editorial Board today that when it comes to the Senate impeachment trial, he would even defy a subpoena if it came his way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The reason I wouldn't is because it's all designed to deal with Trump doing, what he's done his whole life trying to take the focus off him. This is all about a diversion and we play his game all of the time. He's done it his whole career.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Lauren Fox is OUTFRONT. Lauren, how is this likely to go over with Republicans on the Hill?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn't wanted witnesses from the beginning, Kate. Now remember, there was a little bit of a division between the President and McConnell when it came to this question of whether individuals like Joe Biden, like Hunter Biden, like the whistleblower should come and be live witnesses in the well of the Senate.

Many lawmakers were arguing like John Cornyn that that would lead to a circus like atmosphere on the Senate floor. But I will say the fact that Joe Biden is being so defiant here might lead some Republicans like Rand Paul who really have wanted witnesses to try to dig in.

We should note, of course, it takes 51 votes for any witnesses to be approved. McConnell has 53 Republicans, considering the fact that somebody would have to introduce this as a motion and actually vote on it, it's unlikely the votes would actually be there to call Joe Biden.

But I will tell you, that was a bit of contention between McConnell and President Trump. I'll also note that a couple of Democrats that I talked to said, Joe Biden would do great as a witness in the well of the Senate. So a little surprising that he's really digging in here and saying he'd even defy a Senate subpoena, Kate.

[19:15:04]

BOLDUAN: Yes. It is fascinating. Good to see you, Lauren. Thank you.

OUTFRONT with me now Karoun Demirjian, Washington Post Congressional Reporter and Patrick Healy, New York Times Politics Editor. It's good to see you guys again.

Karoun, Biden has taken this position before he said this, but I think this is the first time that he's kind of made this declaration once again since the President was impeached by the House. Is this going to stop republicans from asking for his testimony? What does this add to where this debate stands right now?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: It adds some drama to where the debate stands right now. But remember, we still had the top Republican Senator saying he didn't want to get into the wading pool of all of the witnesses to begin with. So we have a little bit of tension within the GOP as to whether you get into the witness fight at all. And if so, then yes, the President wants to see Hunter Biden and the whistleblower, potentially that brings in Joe Biden too.

But remember, fundamentally speaking, you've got the leaders of the GOP and the Senate not wanting to get into the witness pool at all. So the fact that Biden has said this now brings this debate back into the four, gives the Republicans who agreed with the President something to point at and say, wait a second, how come we're getting so upset about Trump with subpoenas when Biden is saying the exact same thing.

It potentially creates a little bit of a problem for Biden himself when answering questions about how he would conduct himself if he were president at a similarly partisan time and what his relationship would be like with Congress, especially when Congress potentially with subpoena a Biden administration for people to testify and for documents and witnesses.

But as for right now, how that change, it changes the debate about witnesses, I think probably it doesn't actually take away from what Mitch McConnell want to do that much because he wanted to avoid this altogether in the first place. And this is just all of the more reason not to get into a long drawn out fight, where you're going to have witnesses defying subpoenas in the Senate as well.

BOLDUAN: Biden said also today, Patrick, that he doesn't think the Senate is really going to move this direction and send him a subpoena anyway. But, I mean, when you campaign on the rule of law and that's something you say on the trail, if push comes to shove, do you really think that Biden would defy a subpoena in the middle of his campaign?

PATRICK HEALY, POLITICS EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: If there's an actual subpoena, they're going to have to answer that question, Kate. In a lot of ways, the exchange with The Des Moines Register Editorial Board is a back and forth right now. But if there's an actual subpoena and I think that what Joe Biden is probably hearing from Democrats on the Hill is that it's not going to get that far.

So he can focus his message now, five weeks before the Iowa caucuses, he can focus this on how it looks like a big diversion, partisan diversion from Republicans. The reality is ...

BOLDUAN: I'll deal with it when I have to deal with it, essentially.

HEALY: I'll deal with it when I have to deal with it. The articles of impeachment are against President Trump. He is the one whose conduct has to be answered for. Maybe there will be fact witnesses who are called before the Senate, but arguably those fact witnesses about the President's conduct are more like Mick Mulvaney and John Bolton.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

HEALY: Than they are about Joe Biden.

BOLDUAN: Right.

HEALY: And sort of hoping that the audience that he needs to be grappling and convincing on this, which are basically Iowa Democrats and independents to beat Elizabeth Warren, to beat Pete Buttigieg will care about that as opposed to the finer points.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Karoun, let me play a little bit more of what Biden said today. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: I'm very proud of the job I did. I never, never, never moved off of dealing with corruption there. Every single person thought that prosecuting journalists should be fired from the IMF to all our European partners and the people in the administration. But this is a technique he uses all of the time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Because he is a chronic liar and he had a lot to say about the lying and the diversions of the President in this editorial board. And he spoke to a little bit of what you were hitting on, because he says that if he would go in, if he would go in voluntarily, you kind of played it out, he basically spells out that it would be a circus.

He is not wrong there, but does this - again, I do wonder in the argument where congressional Democrats and Republicans are in this moment with witnesses being kind of at the center of this conversation, does this help or hurt Democrats in terms of the case they're trying to make on why witnesses are important to testify?

DEMIRJIAN: Look, there is a greater case here about whether the President obstructed Congress or not with the witnesses that were close to him, that is one of the two articles of impeachment.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

DEMIRJIAN: That they are making the case that look people when they are called they have to obey a congressional subpoena. But I think the democrats would probably be happy to not have that question include Joe Biden right now and keep that focused on Trump the same way Biden is saying let's focus on Trump. Because they want to talk about Trump's obstruction of Congress right now, since that's what the article of impeachment has to do it and not get messed up in the whole world of Biden in which there is a lot of nuance.

[19:20:01]

Yes, people have pointed a finger and raised eyebrows at what was Hunter Biden doing serving on that board. But I think by and large, people don't question that Joe Biden himself made decisions to benefit his son or that company.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

DEMIRJIAN: In fact, the decisions he seemed to be making when he was vice president pertaining to Ukraine would have done the opposite as far as disadvantaging that company and not necessarily helping out his son at all.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

DEMIRJIAN: But that has built the substance of the fact pattern about Ukraine that Democrats would have accused Trump of making a distraction, accuse the GOP of trying to basically counter message with Kremlin talking points, and they would love to talk about that, but they would love to keep the whole subpoena fight and the obstruction fight focused on Trump.

So Biden is right in a way and yet by making the statement that he would disregard a subpoena has kind of stepped into the same fray a little bit and given the GOP a wider, I guess, platform in which to (inaudible) ... BOLDUAN: Yes. But when asked directly, you have to answer the

question directly at some point and that's exactly what happened today.

DEMIRJIAN: That's true. Yes, exactly.

BOLDUAN: Also tonight, Patrick, we've learned that the White House is pulling together a list of possible replacements for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the event that he would as long rumored and talked about, speculated that he would leave the cabinet to run for Senate in Kansas.

On the list, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien and Deputy Secretary of State Steve Biegun. Josh Rogin of The Washington Post, he was the first to report out this list. What do you think is driving this?

HEALY: The party and President Trump's political needs in terms of keeping the Senate, the reality is that unlike in 2018 where the House was really in contention, 2020 it's all about the Senate.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

HEALY: And Kansas has typically been a Republican state.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

HEALY: Until 2018 when they flipped the governor's office, they flipped congressional seats. And the reality is that they need to hold that Republican Senate seat, because the Democrats have very competitive contests that could pick off Republicans in places like Colorado and Arizona.

So they need to keep the seat. Pompeo arguably would probably be the strongest Republican that could be put up for this seat. And while the Secretary of State is a very big and very important job, the reality is that there is a clock ticking on the President's first term. We don't know if they'll be a second term. So Mike Pompeo may be more valuable to the party overall in Kansas.

BOLDUAN: And looking for his own personal longevity in politics.

HEALY: Sure. There is that.

BOLDUAN: What? Never. Good to see you, Patrick. Thank you.

HEALY: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Karoun.

OUTFRONT next, video seen for the first time shows Navy SEALs calling their chief officer a 'psychopath'. The same chief officer who President Trump personally intervened to help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy was toxic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't let this continue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy got crazier and crazier.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: And there's no clear frontrunner in Iowa yet. Will, any Democrat breakout from the pack?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:26:17]

BOLDUAN: Tonight, toxic and evil. That's how Navy SEALs described their controversial platoon chief who President Trump protected and praised. You can hear the men in their own words in video statements made in 2018, portions of which were just published by The New York Times today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The was toxic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't let this continue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy got crazier and crazier.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Retired Special Operations Chief Eddie Gallagher was recently acquitted of murdering an ISIS prisoner, but he was demoted and rank for a separate charge of posing in a picture with the corpse. President Trump intervene to restore Gallagher's rank and went even further publicly praising him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He was a great fighter. He was one of the ultimate fighters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Again, a far cry from what Gallagher's own men said. Gallagher responding to the videos in a statement reading in part, I'll read it for you, "My first reaction to seeing the videos was surprised and disgust that they would make up blatant lies about me, but I quickly realized that they were scared that the truth would come out of how cowardly they acted on deployment."

OUTFRONT with me now Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. Senator, thank you for coming in.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Thank you. BOLDUAN: You oversee the military on the House Armed Services

Committee. Were you surprised by what you saw in these videos?

BLUMENTHAL: As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I was deeply disturbed. And frankly, these reports are absolutely repugnant likely to be regarded as so by the military itself, because in no way do they reflect the integrity, discipline, values of our military, not to mention our special operators. And they also reflect quite frankly the courage and concern of these SEALs who came forward.

Remember, the SEAL community and our special operators are intensely tightly knit and loyal. So it took tremendous bravery for them to come forward.

BOLDUAN: We have heard, of course, President Trump championed Eddie Gallagher time and time again. Do you think he was aware of these videos before he intervened?

BLUMENTHAL: Whether or not he was aware of his outrageous and reprehensible interference erodes trust in the command structure. And in the rule of law, he demonstrated a disregard for the Uniform Code of Military Justice and for the Geneva Convention which protects against war crimes and clearly there was sufficient evidence for him to avoid restoring Edward Gallagher's rank as well as allowing him to retire with full honors in effect,. his Trident pin.

And so what President Trump did was essentially demonstrate disrespect for the command structure and the rule of law and signal to the world that the military, the American professionals who really deserve our respect, should be permitted to operate outside the rule of law.

BOLDUAN: Well, then, Senator, I mean, Eddie Gallagher's case is closed. He was acquitted on the most serious charge as we know. Is there anything at this point that you can or want to do about it?

BLUMENTHAL: What I want to do very strongly and I hope my colleagues in the United States Senate will join me is reaffirm our respect for our military professionals who are all too often disregarded by the President. He did so in the withdraw in Northern Syria, in the politicization of our military at the border, on the immigration issues and to reaffirm our respect as well for the rule of law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice as it applies to our special operators.

[19:30:10]

They are literally the tip of the spear. Every day exposed to potential harm in the corners of the world whose names we can barely pronounce and they deserve our thanks, as do the SEALs who came forward because their bravery is also remarkable.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: And had more and more expected of them and more pressure put on them and more responsibilities put on them as the military leans on them more and the country does to do what is needed.

I also want to ask you about impeachment. Your Republican colleague, Senator Lisa Murkowski, she spoke out this week criticizing Mitch McConnell for coordinating with the White House. Have you heard similar from other Republicans?

BLUMENTHAL: I have spoken to a number of my Republican colleagues, and a number of my Democratic colleagues who are also in touch with Republicans, and clearly, Lisa Murkowski's statements reflect cracks in the McConnell wall as to whether or not our Republican colleagues act on misgivings that they've expressed privately and let alone expressed them publicly remains to be seen.

But what is striking and indisputable right now is that this idea is breaking through that Republicans are hiding that Donald Trump is covering up that Mitch McConnell is complicit in that cover-up. More than 70 percent of Americans want a full, fair proceeding including documents and witnesses. More than 60 percent of Republicans, and so, that message is breaking through.

And ultimately there is a court of appeals here. It's not a court of law. It's the court of public opinion and my Republican colleagues will have to face it, if not right away, eventually in November and they'll have to face history, as well.

BOLDUAN: First thing's first, folks need to find out what the trial's going to look like and when the trial will start and we'll be following your every word and move as you'll be sitting on the Senate floor this historic moment.

Senator, thanks for coming in.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT next, Democrats back on the campaign trail and in an all-out sprint to Iowa.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we are the campaign that can be in the best position to defeat Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: And the power of persuasion and prayer at the polls.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love that you're ready to get souls to the polls, amen!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:36:23]

BOLDUAN: Tonight, the top Democrats back on the campaign trail after a holiday break, making a big push with just 38 days until the first contest in the 2020 election.

Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren all talking to voters in the key early states today, and Sanders taking on his rivals directly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: So when you have candidates out there without naming them, you know who they are, who have voted for terrible trade agreements. You don't think Trump will be talking about that? I think we are the campaign that can be in the best position to defeat Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Best position to defeat Donald Trump.

OUTFRONT now, Joe Lockhart, former Clinton White House press secretary, and Abdul El-Sayed, former Democratic candidate for governor of Michigan. He supports Bernie Sanders.

It's great to see you, guys.

So, Joe, what Sanders said there, he says that his campaign says today is in the best position to beat Donald Trump. Do you see that?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he is certainly -- I think Joe Biden, if you look at the polls has him by a couple of point, but this is all within the margin of error. I think we've had a year of campaigning and not much has changed. I mean, I think if a year ago you'd said Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders were at the top of the polls everyone would nod their heads and there's been a lot of surprises. I -- my concern with Sanders is and it's the same with Warren is that I don't believe that Medicare-for-All is a popular position without the private health insurance that Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar are for. I think it polls very poorly, even among Democrats.

But, listen, both Biden and Sanders because they've been in politics as long as they have offer a wealth of ways to be attacked. So, Trump is going to attack Biden in a certain way. He's going to attack Sanders a certain way. I think they're both grown ups and can push back and can both credibly take on the president.

BOLDUAN: And if you just -- if you look at the head to heads and I'm admittedly a skeptic of head to heads, but I'm going to use them at this moment to make a point. If you look at the head to heads overtime, Sanders and Biden, they both beat Trump and I also say, we should also and it's noteworthy that Trump has been closing the gap since October.

Do you really think Biden can't beat the president?

ABDUL EL-SAYED, FORMER MICHIGAN DEMOCRATIC GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Look, I think any Democrat right now has a great shot at beating this president who has shown himself to be a fraud, a phony and a liar. But right now is do we want to go back to the ledge that we fell down in 2016 or do we want to rethink why it is that we lost that election so poorly?

Hillary was, in theory, the most electable Democrat ever to run for office and people are making the same argument about Joe Biden. That didn't work out so well for us. And the other point I would make is polls don't lead, people do. And one of the things about Bernie Sanders that is so crisp and so important is he's polling well among the electorate that is emerging, the people who stayed home for Hillary Clinton last time who are looking like they could potentially stay home for Joe Biden this time, we need to pull those people out of the polls. And those aren't the people that get polled in the polls that we're citing.

And so, it's really important to be focusing on the fundamentals. Issues like Medicare-for-All, Green New Deal, those are the issues that are going to pull out those young people from across this country, delivering the kind of win that we know we deserve and the mandate to cover that gives us the after front (ph) that we want so badly.

BOLDUAN: Here's the thing. We heard Sanders there in the intro saying I'm not going to name them. You know who they are. He also did call out Biden by name when he sat down with "The L.A. Times" editorial board. Let me read what you said, what he said.

[19:40:02]

LOCKHART: Yes.

BOLDUAN: He said: My God, if you are, if you're Donald Trump and you've got Biden having voted for the war in Iraq, Biden having voted for these terrible, in my view, trade agreements, Biden having voted for the bankruptcy bill, Trump will eat his lunch.

So, this is clearly a strategy. But how effectively I guess do you think Sanders can cut into Biden's electability argument?

LOCKHART: Well, I mean, I don't think it's his strongest argument. I think his argument about, you know, the Green New Deal, or, you know, emerging, I think those are all reasonable arguments. I think people take on in the Democratic party, take on Biden at their own peril. We've seen a number of candidates take them on directly and some of them are not in the race anymore and some of them have dropped back.

BOLDUAN: One of our friends called it the Biden boomerang.

LOCKHART: Yes. I think in this race Biden is the most dependable candidate at as far as support and he has the broadest based support. I look at Sanders as the most passionate support, but I think it's more limited than what Biden has.

But this is why we have the primary. I'm not going to -- you know, this idea that sort of has been going around in the last 24, 48 hours that Sanders had a resurgence is kind of silly. He never left. He was always -- and he's been -- he's been in a solid second place or at times first place in some of the important states. He is, you know, one of the top two candidates, and that's an enviable position to be in this close to the Iowa caucuses.

BOLDUAN: Abdul?

EL-SAYED: So, Joe, I'll agree with you that -- that he has never left, but we are seeing a steady momentum that really is about the kind ever ground game that he's been able to build both in 2016 and emerging into 2020. But here's where I'm going to disagree with you. The argument that Joe Biden is somehow dependable, I just don't -- I don't agree and when you talk to the kind of voters that the Democrats missed out on for so long, what's dependable is having held the same position for 40 years, standing alone when it was unpopular, only to find yourself surrounded by millions of people who know agree with you, on issues like Medicare for All, issues like the Iraq war, issues like Afghanistan, issues on regulation of banks.

And so, when you talk dependable, there's one way to say, well, he's been around for a while. Both of them have. But one of them has stood solid on the issues that he believes in and the other has been quite honestly a bit flakey and where he has solid is on its issues like mass incarceration which now he's starting to double back on realizing that some of his policies have created this epidemic that we're now dealing with today.

By the way, that's affecting the kind of voters that Democrats have been missing for the past two elections. We've got to stand right now on something. Donald Trump is going to be the Republican that we're up against. We know where he stands and we need a Democrat who stood up for his values his entire career.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Go ahead.

LOCKHART: It's -- I'm in the uncomfortable position of trying to be an analyst because I don't have a candidate and I appreciate strong advocacy like we just had, and I'm just not going to say anything about Bernie Sanders.

I will say looking at the field, you know, Donald Trump will have an easier time going after someone who is a self-professed Democratic socialist than he will going after Joe Biden. He will have an easier time going after a $20 trillion or $30 trillion health care plan that isn't popular, and that isn't going to happen.

I'm not saying -- you know, politics should be aspirational. You should say, here's what we should do, but as opposed to -- I think he'll have an easier time, but, you know, we'll see, and we'll all get out, and I hope support whoever the Democrats nominate.

BOLDUAN: And I will say, what I take away from this is, there's still a very interesting and important conversation to be had with 38 days to go to Iowa. So, tune in.

Good to see you guys. Thank you very much.

OUTFRONT next, the voters who could determine the outcome of the 2020 election, that's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:47:42]

BOLDUAN: Tonight, the fight for a crucial battleground state. Will Democrats miss the mark again?

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what we're fighting for, you hear me? Together in numbers we're strong.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A time- tested organizing tool.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Block by block.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your name?

Is the head of the household home.

LAH: With an eye to recent history in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm from Black Leaders Organizing for Communities.

LAH: Keviea Guiden and Sean Kendricks (ph) are canvassers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Out here working on a cold day.

LAH: Walking through a majority black neighborhood neglected for decades economically and politically.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Only way to fix the problem is to talk about the problem.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need change, you hear me? And all you got to do is get onboard and be a part of the change.

LAH: Their group BLOC hopes to increase black voter turnout in ignored districts in the critical swing state of Wisconsin.

(on camera): You don't see that every day?

BERNARD BONDS, MILWAUKEE RESIDENT: No. The only time I see people talking to is Jehovah's Witnesses come door to door in our block community. I'm just keeping it real.

I don't want to just hear what you've got to say. I want you to come show me.

LAH (voice-over): In 2016, Hillary Clinton didn't campaign in the state during the general election. In Milwaukee County, 43,000 fewer Democrats voted for her than Barack Obama in 2012. Lower Democratic turnout here helped Donald Trump statewide. He flipped Wisconsin by fewer than 23,000 votes.

REP. GWEN MOORE (D-WI): The surprise of the 2016 election is you actually have to campaign black people as well.

LAH: Wisconsin Congresswoman Gwen Moore warns Democrats cannot forget that lesson.

MOORE: We need to focus on those people who did not vote and to educate them.

PASTOR GREG LEWIS, SOULS TO THE POLLS: And I love that you're ready to get souls to the polls. Amen?

(APPLAUSE)

(LAUGHTER)

LAH: That's the mission of souls to the polls, in this first 2020 organizing meeting.

LEWIS: I want people to know and understand what kind of power we really have.

LAH: Pastors in Milwaukee using prayer.

LEWIS: Blessings are coming our way.

LAH: To find the votes that could sway a nation's election.

LEWIS: If you have the kind of power that you have in numbers and you don't use it, I just think that's a sin.

[19:50:00]

LAH (voice-over): How many voters are we talking about potentially?

LEWIS: Well, I would say like, 30,000, 40,000, in that area.

LAH: Just in the churches?

LEWIS: Yes, BLOC says what is different now, local lawmakers and unions are funding programs like theirs. From the community, affect the community.

KEVIEA GUIDEN, BLOC CANVASSER: Are you there?

This is the change. This is what change looks like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now I'm just out here trying to change and help my people now because I've known the pain they're going through.

LAH (on camera): And you're organizing locally here to get the power up there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct. To get our voice heard up there where everybody else is sitting around that big round table.

GUIDEN: In order for things to change, we need to get out and vote and let them know the importance of voting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: So take a look at your calendar. We're still many, many months out from November 2020, but BLOC is out there every day trying to reach people and talk to people. The reason why is they believe that you can't wait until your just a few weeks out from the election in order to get that excitement up. It is something you have to start now -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Great stuff. Kyung, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

OUTFRONT now, Brittany Shepherd, national politics reporter for Yahoo News.

It is great to see you, Brittany. There is a lot of lack of outreach or lack thereof to black voters this cycle. Are Democrats paying attention to the lessons of 2016?

BRITTANY SHEPHERD, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, YAHOO! NEWS: Well, many of the battleground communities say probably not. There is a conventional thinking that Democrats in every part of the voter electorate will vote for whoever because they don't want Trump in the White House. And I think that is a bit of flawed logic because many black communities not just this one in Milwaukee but across the country felt in 2016, there was a bit of they didn't show up, so we're not going to show out.

It is part of the why they didn't go to the high polls as in 2012 and 2008. So there is a bit of disenfranchisement but feeling that they are just left out of the narrative for Democrats completely.

BOLDUAN: So, look, Biden is -- there is a long standing relationship with Biden in the black community and black voters for sure. Have you made any other candidate making end roads to cut into that?

SHEPHERD: It's complicated because we're so early. And I do want to lay something down that black voters do not all think, like, hegemonically. They're not mono -- they don't think monolithically.

However, there are -- there is such a pathway into black voters to its youngest rung, and folks like Bernie Sanders are doing a really good job of getting in front of people with color. So I really think that he might have a potential there.

BOLDUAN: So interesting. Thank you. It's great to see you. Thank you for coming in.

SHEPHERD: Thank you for having me.

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT next, the singer who broke the mold.

(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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:57:25]

BOLDUAN: It is hard to overstate the influence Linda Ronstadt had -- has had on music across multiple genres. She was rock's first female superstar, but she was also a little bit country and a lot more.

Bill Weir previews "LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE".

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When it comes to range --

LINDA RONSTADT, SINGER: I've been cheated --

WEIR: -- and risk --

RONSTADT: Been mistreated --

WEIR: -- she's one of a kind.

RONSTADT: When will I be loved. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the winner is Linda Ronstadt.

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

WEIR: But how many mega stars risk opera on Broadway?

How many rock stars manage a smash hit album of Mexican folk songs or can hold their own with country goddesses like Emmy Lou Harris and Dolly Parton?

But for Linda Ronstadt those risks worked because they came from a heart, a heart full of childhood sing-alongs on the Mexican border.

RONSTADT: When I was growing up, I thought people sang in Spanish and spoke in English.

WEIR: She left Tucson for L.A. at 18. And it only took a couple of open mic nights at the troubadour to launch a rocket ride. Yet, she managed to stay grounded.

RONSTADT: Rock and roll stars ended up isolating themselves more and more. You know, thereby you're increasing your alienation and anxiety, and they wonder why it is miserable.

WEIR: But at age 63, after a lifetime of multiplatinum harmony, that amazing voice went away.

RONSTADT: I just lost a lot of different colors in my voice. It turns out I had Parkinson's. I still sing in my mind but I can't do it physically.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think she misses going on the road. I think she misses singing with her friends and singing in the living room with her family. There is just no one on the planet that ever had or ever will have a voice like Linda's.

WEIR: Thank goodness for the recordings.

Thank goodness for the range, risk, and reward of Linda Ronstadt.

Bill Weir, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Bill.

And be sure to watch "LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE" on New Year's Day, at 9:00 p.m., right here on CNN.

And thanks for joining me.

"AC360" starts now.