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Senate Prepares As Pelosi Poised to Name Managers, Send Articles; British PM: Could Replace Iran Nuke Deal with "Trump Deal"; 2020 Democrats Flood the Iowa Airwaves with Ads. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 14, 2020 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: The Senate now speeding up its impeachment trial preparations. And it is clear the president will not get the quick dismissal he has suggested in recent days. The bigger question is whether the Senate trial will allow new witnesses and new documentary evidence. It's now clear there are enough Republicans, it would take four who are open to joining Democrats in calling for new trial witnesses. But open to having witnesses is not a guarantee there will be witnesses.

The Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to set that question aside until after the prosecution and defense make their case, and then senators get to ask questions.

CNN's Lauren Fox has been speaking with the key senators as she works the story up on Capitol Hill. Where are we and how likely on the witness question?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, John, you make a very key distinction. Wanting witnesses or being open to witnesses is very difficult than ultimately voting on individual witnesses, like Mick Mulvaney, like John Bolton, the president's former national security adviser. There are a lot of questions about whether or not ultimately there will be four Republicans willing to break ranks and vote with Democrats on witnesses like Bolton and like Mulvaney.

So, let me walk you through who some of those potential Republicans are. One of them, of course, Susan Collins up for re-election in 2020. She told me yesterday she tends to like more information not less. Then you have people like Lamar Alexander. They're retiring. He is a senator who has said that he would be open to witnesses but he doesn't want to make any decisions until after the trial gets started, until after the House managers have made their presentation and the White House's defense counsel has made their presentation.

So that's where things stand, John. Whether or not there's going to be enough Republicans still remains to be seen.

KING: Lauren Fox, interesting couple days ahead as we do this. Let's come back into the room. I just want to give you a flavor of how this plays out in the sense that you can say you're open to witnesses, the question we have to ask then is, which senator said it, what is their calculation, how loyal to McConnell, are they on the ballot next year, and so on and so forth.

Here is John Cornyn. What is he saying?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want witnesses or not?

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): Sure. There are different forms of witnesses, Bill. I just don't believe that it's likely to be necessary after both sides have a chance to present their case and the senators have a chance to ask questions. I don't think the facts are that disputed.



KING: Meaning yes, but no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I'm not going to vote for any witnesses.

PAUL KANE, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: So power-free, he's from the last impeachment trial, it depends on what the definition of a witness is.

Look, there are some Democrats who think, actually, that there is kind of a dead zone here between they'll only get two or three Republicans for witnesses, meaning no witnesses at all, or something will happen in the trial and it will become very clear politically that they need to bring in some witnesses. So you're over 40 or more who are like, OK, bring on Bolton or bring on somebody to clear things up.

KING: But here's the -- I'm going to say the trump card, forgive me, that Mitch McConnell will have.

KANE: Yes.

KING: If we get to that point and he wants to just let's shut this down, we're done, let's do it all base on the evidence presented during the House impeachment proceedings and then during the actual Senate trial which will be, they'll have video clips and the like from the House impeachment proceedings and documents. Mitch McConnell's point, OK, you really want John Bolton, the four Republicans who could make the difference and give Democrats the votes. If we give them that, if you do that, the next person in this room is going to be Rand Paul. And he's going to say, I want Hunter Biden. And if I give you John Bolton, what am I going to tell him because this is the case Rand Paul will make.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): My point of view has been all or none. If they do not allow the president to call all the witnesses he wishes to call then I'm not for just sort of selectively saying, oh, to be judicious, we should let the Democrats call the witnesses they want. They had their chance. I think if we want to have a fair trial and have witnesses from everyone, that would include Hunter Biden, Joe Biden, and really the whistleblower.


KING: Ruh-roh.

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Yes. Well -- so, it's interesting because Mitch McConnell is playing his cards very cautiously here. He's not saying there will be witnesses but he's not ruling it out either. He's not saying there won't be witnesses because there are some uncomfortable members in his caucus who don't want to make that argument frontally that a John Bolton or a Mick Mulvaney, both of whom had very direct involvement in the central issue that the president is being impeached for should not testify.

What if they don't testify? What if the Senate makes no effort to call them and then they write tell-all books a year, two or three down the road. How does that make the Senate look?

JULIE PACE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Or in John Bolton's case, they're writing a tell-all book right now.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and the difference between Mick Mulvaney and John Bolton as John Bolton has said that he will testify if he is subpoenaed. And the White House might block that, we don't know going down the road. But the fact that he's willing, I think does ratchet up the pressure even a smidge on some of these Republicans that might be on the fence.

KING: And just for those of you planning your weekends, John Thune, the number two in the Senate Republican leadership -- am I right, number two?


KING: Number two. All the preliminary trial stuff could happen this week. Meaning the House sends the articles over, we expect tomorrow night sometime, then we could have the senators passing the resolution on their rules, doing the swearing-in, getting ready, not the -- none of is actual testimony and other presentation is expected until next Tuesday after the MLK holiday, but we could have a -- because it's Thursday, Friday, or -- and/or Saturday spent on the preliminary warm- up to this trial.

KANE: Yes. And, you know, after that there'll be a couple more days where I believe it's about motions and briefs, some pro forma sessions. So there could be one final weekend in Iowa, a full weekend for those 2020 candidates.

PACE: That's key. They're --

KANE: That's what they're hoping for. PACE: By Tuesday, all of those senators running for president might essentially be locked in Washington. Extraordinary right in the lead- up to caucuses.

KING: So we're done with the exceptions of Sunday or late at night if you want to go out and come back. All right.

Up next, we shift to the global stage. Iran wants to take President Trump to court.



KING: Topping our political radar today, Iran says it wants to prosecute President Trump in an international court. This over the killing of its top general. Iran's official news agency reports a criminal lawsuit is in the works against the president, the United States government, and the U.S. Army. A spokesman for the Iranian judiciary tells the news agency, Tehran considers the U.S. military strike an act of terrorism and it says President Trump personally confessed to ordering that act.

The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he spoke to President Trump about the need to de-escalate tensions with Iran. In an interview with Global News, the prime minister said without that latest escalation of tensions, 57 Canadians who died when Iran mistakenly shot down that Ukrainian jetliner would still be alive.

And France, Germany, and Britain have triggered the Iran nuclear deal's dispute mechanism which amounts to formally accusing Tehran of violating that agreement. Iran has back off its commitments under the so-called JCPOA since the United States abandoned it back in 2018. The European power said they simply couldn't let the violations continue. Britain's foreign secretary says a diplomatic solution within the current JCPOA guidelines is the best way forward. The prime minister though, Boris Johnson, not so sure.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The problem with the agreement is from the American perspective. It's a flawed agreement, it expires, plus it was negotiated by President Obama and it has made -- from that point of view, it has many, many faults.

Well, if we're going to get rid of it, let's replace it, and let's replace it with the Trump deal.


JOHNSON: That's what we need to see. And I think that would be a great way forward.


KING: He thinks that would be a great way forward. Is it a realistic way forward given that Iran and the Trump -- Iran would have to come to the table and negotiate. Even if you just left it alone and change the language to put Trump's name instead of Obama's name.

PACE: Two major flaws with what Johnson said there, one, there is no Trump deal. The only Trump proposal right now is to renegotiate what Obama negotiated, but he hasn't laid out what that deal would look like, he doesn't say anything about what the U.S. would give to Iran in order to try to entice them to the table.


And then to your point, Iran has to be willing to engage in another round of diplomacy, and despite some talk from the Iranians about how they would be open to that. They also haven't backed that up with any reality.

KING: The administration says a, to Hamas and Hezbollah ballistic missiles, other mischiefs in the region would all have to be on the table. That was left out of the JCPOA.

KANE: And I don't think Congress wants to tackle something this weighty in an election year. I mean, there's just -- they're trying to finish up impeachment and a couple of other things and trying to cool things down for the year not tackle something like this.

KING: We shall see.

Coming up, the 2020 Democrats flooding Iowa's airwaves. Their messaging, next.



KING: Just 20 days now to the Iowa caucus, so as you might expect, if you live on Iowa, turn on the TV, you are being inundated with ads from the candidates. Here, just a taste in recent days.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump knows Biden will beat him in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, the states we need to take back the presidency. It's why Trump can't stop talking about --


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So when candidates say we can't guarantee healthcare for all, make college affordable for all, remember, America is best when we strive to big things.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Republicans and Democrats have been rewarding big donors with cushy ambassadorships like this for years. It's Washington corruption at its worst. When I'm president, that stops.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Workers have to work multiple jobs just to hold on to what they've got, I am running to be a president for the guy who's up early scraping the windshield on his way to the first of his jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know exactly who I'm supporting for president.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She knows how to get things done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She does not back down from hard problems.

TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When he calls himself a billionaire businessman who's good for the economy, I'll remind him, I'm an actual billionaire with a B and he's a fake billionaire with a capital C for conman, crook, and criminal.


KING: Those are the six candidates who'd be on the debate stage tonight. No, please. Please. I'm interested in what you're going to say.

KUCINICH: No, I just -- that last capital C. Anyway, but, you know, economy, corruption, readiness. I believe Biden was really the only one to really mention Trump and to really draw that contrast and start with corruption with the C, B, yes. The fact that those are the themes they're focusing on, I think, informs you with what Iowans care about. But those -- that the fact that those are the themes that they're focusing on, I think informs you what Iowans care about. But, you didn't see a lot on healthcare specifically which the --

KING: Just the Sanders.

KUCINICH: The map that I'm looking at in your head.

KING: No, it's interesting, I always watch -- a couple weeks ago, several of the candidates switched to climate ads, and I was asking, what's going on in the data. Why are this -- these things don't happen by accident. Something in their polling or something in their data feeds that they get tells them to do it.

You mentioned Bernie Sanders talked about healthcare in his ad. Joe Biden is electability, they go on and on. Pete Buttigieg talking about jobs. If you look at the top issues search by county inside Iowa, the gray you see on the map, that's healthcare. There's a lot of health care on that map. There's a lot of healthcare -- a huge concern.

The yellow or goldish color, that is unemployment, jobs related. And so, it's always interesting to watch. We'll see where we are 20 days from now when we know who wins Iowa and what move (INAUDIBLE). We'll go back and look at this from -- with a more, you know, CSI perspective if you will.

But it is interesting, Elizabeth Warren pushing corruption, Joe Biden pushing electability, Sanders and Buttigieg trying to be more issue- specific. It appears to be what people are talking about. PACE: Healthcare is I think one of the issues that we're going to hear through this entire campaign, and Democrats are still trying to figure out where their party needs to be on this. It's a very active debate within the party right now on ex -- building and expanding on ObamaCare versus doing an overhaul and moving for Medicare for All. And it was just fascinating to see Trump -- we're talking about this on the break, Trump weighs in on healthcare claiming that he is the one that saved pre-existing conditions. Completely inaccurate but it goes to show how the healthcare debate politically has shifted where pre-existing conditions, a central part of ObamaCare is now so popular in both parties.

KING: And that a day or two after, the administration begs the Supreme Court to wait and not deal with an ObamaCare case this year. They don't want to risk losing before the election.

We're just showing what Iowans is searching for in terms of the issues. In terms of the Democratic candidates in the last week, look at this from Google, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders searched the most, their names searched the most by Iowans. Michael Bloomberg is not even on the ballot in Iowa. He was third there.

This doesn't necessarily mean anything, it could be someone who likes Biden searching his name, it could be someone who doesn't like Biden searching his name, but it is interesting in the race as we get closer.

KAPUR: Iowans probably wondering Michael Bloomberg not on the ballot, not contesting Iowa. Why is he not? Everyone comes to Iowa, it's an unusual thing to do but he's obviously taking an unusual strategy.

The two ads that really capture the heart of the Democratic battle are the Biden ad and the Bernie Sanders ad. Biden is all about electability, all about Trump, I can make this man go away, look no further. Bernie Sanders' aspiration progressive talking about JFK, he had flashes of FDR in that which, you know, Bernie Sanders is very much in the mold of FDR with the (INAUDIBLE) of a Larry David I would add.

KING: That's good, I like that.

Let me sneak this one in, it's a Twitter question we got, it relates to where we just talking about in Iowa here. This is from Kenneth Sorkin. "As Democrats drop out, how important will their endorsements be of the remaining candidates? What about the devout followers? Where will their support wind up?"

We talked about this earlier too. When the senators are stuck here for the impeachment trial, some of these people who dropped out, Castro, for example, I think Elizabeth Warren might be saying, hey, Julian, can you get to Iowa for me.


KANE: Yes, I think they'll play key roles in either geography or their own bases. So Castro could be a big player for her in Nevada where he could go and there is a large Latino workforce out there that will be part of the Nevada caucus. A Cory Booker endorsement would be probably the biggest I think so far of those that have dropped out of the race especially if somebody was looking for African-American support.

PACE: Kamala Harris.

KANE: Kamala Harris, both of them. Yes.

KING: We will watch as we go.

Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. See you back here this time tomorrow. Brianna Keilar starts after a very quick break. Have a good afternoon.