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Impeachment Process A Charade, Says White House Legal Team; Resolution For The Trial Procedures Not Yet Released; Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) Is Interviewed About President Trump's Senate Impeachment Trial; Trump Lawyer Criticized For Shifting Stance On Impeachment; Poll: 69 Percent Say Senate Trial Should Include Witnesses; Senate Releases Text Of Resolution On Rules For Trump Trial. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired January 20, 2020 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And a reminder, the historic impeachment trial of President Trump begins tomorrow. Tune in to CNN for special coverage all day. And our coverage on CNN continues next.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, charade. President Trump's legal team submits a lengthy brief to the Senate blasting the articles of impeachment, calling them invalid and a charade, the process deeply flawed and urging senators to reject the case quickly.
Crime committed? One of the president's most high profile lawyers is forced to defend himself on whether a crime is necessary for impeachment. He didn't think it was when Bill Clinton was impeached.
Impeachment poll, about half of Americans now say the Senate should vote to convict President Trump and remove him from office in our exclusive new CNN poll that's just been released.
And Senate rules, we're looking at the arcane rules of a presidential impeachment trial governing what senators can and can't do during the proceeding that starts tomorrow. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you are in "The Situation Room."
On the eve of President Trump's historic trial, his lawyers are calling on senators to swiftly reject the two impeachment articles the House filed against him. In a brief submitted to the Senate, they call the case flimsy and the process a charade.
Meanwhile, House Democrats are responding to this weekend's White House impeachment brief saying that President Trump's assertion that the impeachment articles are constitutionally invalid is "chilling and dead wrong."
And Democrats are angry that the resolution detailing the trial procedures has not yet been released. A spokesman for the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is declining to comment or explain why he has not unveiled the proposal yet.
Today, both the House impeachment managers and President Trump's lawyers did a walkthrough of the Senate chamber to see the physical arrangements for what will be only the third presidential impeachment trial in American history.
We will talk about that and more with Congressman Gerry Connolly. He is a member of the Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to our chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta. He's already in Davos, Switzerland where the president is heading tonight. Jim, on the eve of this truly historic trial, President Trump is about to leave the country.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Wolf. The president will be trying to escape his impeachment trial when he arrives here in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Mr. Trump's legal team is already urging Senate Republicans to quickly dismiss the case against the president who has been asking associates in recent days why is this happening to me.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Before his impeachment trial has even begun in the Senate, the president is seeking a ruling of case dismissed. In a 110-page memo blasted out by the president's defense team, Mr. Trump's attorneys write, "All of this is a dangerous perversion of the Constitution that the Senate should swiftly and roundly condemn."
ROBERT RAY, TRUMP IMPEACHMENT TRIAL ATTORNEY: And this will be the argument from the president's defense team that this is an impeachment that is fundamentally and constitutionally flawed. Never in our history has there been an impeachment of a president without even an allegation that a crime was committed.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The president's lawyers go on to argue that it was just fine for Mr. Trump to ask the leader of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden during their July 25th phone call adding, "It also would have been legitimate to mention the Biden-Burisma affair," all but making the case that it's okay for a president to welcome foreign interference in an election as Mr. Trump did in front of the cameras.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Biden because what happened to China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Over the weekend at his Florida resort, a source close to the White House told CNN Mr. Trump was asking friends, "Why are they doing this to me?" His allies are trying to assure him he should receive a speedy trial that's over in a couple of weeks.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): His mood is to go to the state of the union with this behind him and talk about what he wants to do for the next rest of 2020 and what he wants to do for the next four years. He is very much comfortable with the idea this is going to turn out well for him.
ACOSTA (voice-over): But sources tell CNN one of the president's high profile attorneys, Alan Dershowitz, needed some convincing to sign on to the trial team that included a phone call from Mr. Trump to Dershowitz' wife.
Dershowitz is on the defensive himself changing his story on whether a crime is necessary for a president to be impeached. Compare what he said during the Clinton impeachment.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, COUNSEL, TRUMP LEGAL TEAM DEFENSE: So certainly it doesn't have to be a crime. If you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of the president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty, you don't need a technical crime.
ACOSTA (voice-over): To what Dershowitz is saying now.
DERSHOWITZ: No, I haven't changed. I am saying you don't need a technical crime, but you need criminal type behavior. That's the position I have taken over time.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Democrats aren't buying any of it in Mr. Trump's case.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: There is ample evidence, overwhelming evidence any jury would convict in three minutes flat that the president betrayed his country by breaking the law.
ACOSTA (voice-over): One top Democrat is warning that portions of the intelligence community are holding on to some evidence that could damage the president.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The NSA in particular is withholding what are potentially relevant documents to our oversight responsibilities on Ukraine, but also withholding documents potentially relevant that the senators might want to see during the trial. That is deeply concerning and there are signs that the CIA may be on the same tragic course.
ACOSTA (on camera): Now, the president's advisers wanted Mr. Trump to take this trip to Switzerland so the public still sees him as doing his job and doing portions of his duties like the speech he'll be delivering at the World Economic Forum here in Davos tomorrow.
But sources who have spoken to the president in recent days say he is distracted by this upcoming impeachment trial and that he's been telling people around him he still cannot believe this is happening to him, Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta in Davos, Switzerland for us. Thank you. Let's go to Capitol Hill right now. Our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly, is joining us. Phil, both the House managers and the president's legal team, they have been up on Capitol Hill today preparing for the trial. What are you learning first of all about how tomorrow will kick off?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that's right. Both sides getting walkthroughs today from the Senate floor and also a recognition that 20 hours from this moment the Senate will have officially gaveled into session to consider in earnest only the third impeachment of U.S. president in the course of the United States' history.
Now, here's what we know up to this point, what will be happening at this moment starting about 1:00 p.m. tomorrow. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will introduce his organizing resolution, essentially the rules of the road for at least the first portion of the trial.
Once he introduces that resolution, bot the House managers and the president's defense team will each have an hour to debate or argue for or against the merits of that resolution.
After that completes, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer will have an opportunity to offer amendments to that resolution and, Wolf, this is crucial because it will be the first opportunity for the U.S. Senate to consider and vote on the idea of subpoenaing witnesses and documents.
Now, Schumer and Democrats have made it clear from the outset they want in this initial resolution subpoenas for documents and witnesses. McConnell has rejected it at every turn and has lined up all 53 Senate Republicans behind his idea to consider that later in the trial.
So, we expect those votes to fail, however, we do expect those votes to occur at the outset of the trial. Still, there is a lot we don't know about what's actually going to happen tomorrow. Keep in mind Wolf, we still haven't seen the initial organizing resolution from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Now, behind the scenes it's worth noting this, McConnell, even though he declared several weeks ago that every single Republican was behind him on that resolution, has been working a lot intensely I am told, with moderates on one side, conservatives on another, trying to make sure that the entire conference stays together on what the final language looks like.
Language, McConnell has said repeatedly, would be very similar to the rules of the road for the 1999 Senate impeachment trial. So, we are still waiting to see what that actual resolution looks like. And Democrats have made very clear, the fact that it is not public yet the fact that they have not seen it.
In fact, Wolf, I am told Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and McConnell have not spoken at all about this nor have their staffs leading to a lot of uncertainty going into the day. One thing to keep in mind, Wolf, senators cannot speak on the floor during a Senate impeachment trial. However, they do have the option of deliberating. If they decide they want the deliberate, it would take 51 votes and Wolf that would essentially shut the Senate down. It would take place in closed session.
We don't know whether or not that will occur, but it is certainly an option. One of the many things we're still trying to figure out as while we know the trial is starting tomorrow, we know the resolution will be voted on tomorrow.
We know amendments will be considered tomorrow. There is still a level of fluidity here that just simply hasn't changed yet and likely won't until we hear from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tomorrow, Wolf.
BLITZER: And we'll be covering it every step of the way. Phil Mattingly, up on Capitol Hill. Thank you. Let's get some more on all of this. Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia is joining. He is a member of both the Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. The 110-page --
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): Great to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: -- the 110-page memo defending the president calls the case against him and I'm quoting now, "a dangerous perversion of the Constitution." What's your response to the president's legal team?
CONNOLLY: I think that's projection. I think the dangerous, you know, precedent here is the president's behavior and the enabling behavior of his advocates in the Senate and the House.
Donald Trump is a clear and present threat to the constitutional form of government and that's why he was impeached.
BLITZER: The president's attorneys also argue that it was in the national interest, their words, for him to ask the Ukrainians to investigate the 2016 election. How should the House impeachment managers, the seven of them, rebut that argument?
CONNOLLY: I don't think that is a difficult one for the American people to understand or to have the managers rebut.
The idea that it was necessary and useful to U.S. national security to withhold military aid duly authorized and appropriated by the Congress to a country that is under siege from Russian militants and Russian military on the eastern part of its borders in order to get political dirt on a prospective political opponent who is not yet the nominee even I think perverts justice and abuses the office in a way that is unprecedented.
I think that's very clear to the America people. I think that's why your own polls shows strong support, I think, for proceeding and for even convicting and removing this president from office. BLITZER: Small majority is in favor of convicting and removing him
from office. We'll have more on that poll later. But do you believe, Congressman -- yes, go ahead. Make your point.
CONNOLLY: I was just going to say remember in August, that number was 36 percent. So that number, while it may be a small majority, it significantly grown in just a few months.
BLITZER: Do you believe Congressman that the Republicans ultimately will agree to allow witnesses during the course of the trial?
CONNOLLY: I think not doing that makes them look like they are whitewashing this whole affair and just going through the motions of the trial and that opens them up to the criticism that it was a sham trial and they were a rigged jury.
I think it's in their own interests to have witnesses, witnesses that were not available to the House when we were doing depositions.
BLITZER: But do you worry that might open up an opportunity for Republicans to call witnesses like Hunter Biden for example?
CONNOLLY: I think that it is a concern and I think it's a diversion, frankly, and a distraction because there have been no founded allegations that have been corroborated with respect to Hunter Biden or Vice President Biden.
And I think it's a distraction from the real issue at hand, the behavior of this president and his administration. That is what is on trial here.
BLITZER: But do you not -- I was going to say Congressman, you know that if the Democrats can call witnesses like John Bolton or Mick Mulvaney for example, the Republicans are going to want Hunter Biden.
They may want the whistle-blower. They may want the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff. You know the president has repeatedly said he wants to hear from them.
CONNOLLY: Yes and a number of his supporters in the Senate have called for that as well. The Republicans will have to negotiate with the Democrats on what if any witnesses are called. I personally believe that the case given to the Senate by the House is iron-clad.
I think it provides prima facie evidence of abuse of office, obstruction of Congress as charged and he ought to be found guilty. I don't think you need witnesses, but I do think witnesses would be helpful in augmenting the testimony and the documents provided to the Senate by the House.
BLITZER: Interesting. Now, the Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, he is the lead impeachment manager, as you know. He says that the NSA, the National Security Agency, is withholding potentially relevant documents on the Ukraine scandal. Do you believe the NSA is hiding damaging information about the president's conduct? CONNOLLY: I have no knowledge of that, Wolf. But I certainly trust
Adam Schiff as the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. I don't think he'd say that without foundation, without reason. That is very troubling. We can't have our intelligence agencies withholding key documents, key evidence during an impeachment process.
That is one of the most somber constitutional functions of the legislative branch can engage in. It obviously jeopardizes the executive namely the president and we need the cooperation of every agency of the federal government in this process.
BLITZER: Well, you have been in Congress for a while. How do you plan on getting your hands on those documents?
CONNOLLY: That's going to -- that's a longer question, Wolf. I mean, as you know, I believe we ought to be reviving what is called inherent contempt in which Congress enforces its own demands for documents and witnesses and subpoenas.
Unfortunately, there is not enough time to remedy that problem right now. This will have to be litigated and almost certainly not resolved before the impeachment is adjudicated.
BLITZER: We will see if you get those documents. Gerry Connolly, the congressman. Thanks so much for joining us.
CONNOLLY: My pleasure, Wolf.
BLITZER: Still ahead, we will have more on today's filing by the Trump defense team arguing the president has done nothing wrong and doesn't deserve to be removed from office.
Plus, more on the mood over at the White House and amid reports the president is asking associates why is this happening to me.
BLITZER: We are expecting fireworks tomorrow when the U.S. Senate meets to debate the rules and the procedure for Trump's impeachment trial. Let's bring in our experts to discuss what's going on.
Chris Cillizza, one thing that's going on is that Democrats are pretty angry right now that the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell still hasn't released the actual text of his resolution what he wants to see unfold.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes. I think one of the big contrasts that we'll see at least at the start of the trial when we compare it to Clinton was, remember, the Clinton impeachment rules were worked out by nature of a compromise between the two party leaders. So, it's and 100-0 approval. That's not what's happening here and it's not what's going to happen here. As a result, I think what Mitch McConnell is doing is holding the rules that will govern that first vote, the opening rules very tightly. Why? Because he feels confident he has 51 votes. He said that a week and a half ago.
And he doesn't feel particularly inclined to let Democrats pick apart anything that he is either in it or not in it. He knows they are going to do it once it's out anyway. This is the first step, Wolf, of what we'll be obviously it's on its Face.
It's a partisan process given what happened in the House, but this will not be the first time that we talk about Democrats being very frustrated at tactics Mitch McConnell is employing.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that, and correct me if I'm wrong since you know everything about this, but during the Clinton impeachment, you had effectively the same number of hours, but it was spread over more days.
And if Mitch McConnell wants 12 hours straight, what I would argue is that the Republicans feel it's okay if this goes on until the middle of the night. Nobody will be watching. So, that's kind of better and I would think that the Democrats would say, no, we're not going to do that.
BLITZER: Alan Frumin, you were the Senate parliamentarian for a long time. Walk us through why you think the Senate majority leader is delaying releasing the text of his resolution that would govern the course of the trial?
ALAN FRUMIN, SENATE PARLIAMENTARIAN EMERITUS: Mitch McConnell doesn't need the Democrats in any way, shape or form during this procedure. Impeachment trials are a majority-rule situation, which is unusual in the Senate. The minority party in the senate usually has leverage.
Outside of these trials there is always the filibuster. The minority has leverage. They have privileges. They have none of that in an impeachment trial. This is a majority-rule situation. All these orders, these resolutions are covered by a two-hour limitation, not of debate as we understand a bit of arguments.
The parties argue. The senators remain silent. So, the Democrats really have very few cards to play here. And Mitch McConnell really doesn't need them at all.
BORGER: But unless they are Republicans who say 12 hours is too much and we'd like to break this up a little bit. I mean, that is not impossible.
FRUMIN: Well, he needs a majority and the question is does he keep his troops in line.
BLITZER: You know, Elliott, this is the White House trial memorandum of President Donald J. Trump and the president's attorney's all signed it. They say this whole process, in their words, is a dangerous perversion of the U.S. Constitution.
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So Wolf, I was talking to a senior Democratic aide a little bit earlier who referred to that as the world's longest tweet, 110-page long tweet or whatever, because what it does is rehash a lot of the arguments. Some of them quite legally suspect about why the president ought not to be impeached.
So number one, the big thing is there is no crime so it is not an impeachable offense. Now, I think we'll talk about that a little bit later so let's set that aside. The big thing though is the president's powers under Article II of the Constitution entitle the president to have engaged in all of this behavior.
And what's been made clear frankly over 244 years of the nation's history, is that the president doesn't have unlimited power just on the base of the (inaudible. Being president ought not to entitle one to engage in a unlawful manner and it can't be a sword and a shield for misconduct.
And so, the framers were ultimately most concerned if you are read the federalist papers, with number one, corruption, and number two, foreign interference in our elections. Those are really the two things that seem to drive the federalist papers in what was behind the Constitution. So, a lot of that, they're playing a little fast and loose with the law, Wolf.
CILLIZZA: Everything Elliott said, in addition to that, this should not be surprising that this is the Trump approach because what has Donald Trump's approach to everything to which he is either charged with or accused of. Never did it, actually not only did I not do it, the people who are accusing me did it (ph).
I mean, this is -- he only knows full frontal assault at all times, right, constant forward motion, constant in (inaudible). So the fact that this is not a terribly nuanced legal argument should not surprise us. I still think we have to remember Donald Trump always plays with that outside audience, and he is not worried about the senate, but how people publicly perceive right.
He is not playing -- he thinks he's fine and to say he's not worried about the Senate. He's worried about how people publicly perceive it and that's why you're hearing this bunk about, oh, there is no crime. There didn't have to be a crime.
BORGER: Well, but the General Accountability Office said yes, there was a crime, but conveniently, the president's attorneys are saying well, you can't. That is not admissible effectively because it happened after the House brought over its -- voted on impeachment.
So, of course, you have to be able to talk about something because the General Accountability Office says it is illegal. Not that you have to have committed a crime, but if you are looking for the crime, there it is.
BLITZER: Everybody standby. There is a lot more we need to discuss. We're getting more information coming into the "Situation Room." We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We're back with our experts and our analysts.
And, Elliot, I want to play some clips for you. The -- one of the President's attorneys, Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard Law professor emeritus, he said one thing 21, 22 years ago about impeachment, another thing Sunday on "STATE OF THE UNION," and a third thing today. I want you to listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, ATTORNEY: So, certainly, it doesn't have to be a crime. If you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty, you don't need a technical crime.
The Framers intended for impeachable conduct only to be criminal-like conduct or conduct that is prohibited by the criminal law.
You need criminal-type behavior akin to treason, and bribery. It doesn't have to be a technical crime because at the time the Framers wrote the Constitution, there was no criminal code.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: It sounds very I voted for it before I was against it. But, look, here's the thing. If you notice the way they're framing, the way they're talking about this is this would be the first time that a president was impeached for something that wasn't a crime. Let alone the fact that through American history --
ALAN FRUMIN, SENATE PARLIAMENTARIAN EMERITUS: Yes.
WILLIAMS: -- dozens of federal judges and secretaries of war and so on have been impeached for offenses that were not crimes. And they don't get to have it both ways where they split up what the --
BORGER: Dershowitz does.
WILLIAMS: Well --
CILLIZZA: Including --
WILLIAMS: Right, well, if you --
CILLIZZA: Including, by the way, intoxication.
WILLIAMS: Right, and Dershowitz --
CILLIZZA: I mean, like --
CILLIZZA: -- you know.
WILLIAMS: You know -- you know, yes, he does if you want to twist the law and misrepresent to the American people what the constitutional standard was.
So if you read "Federalist 65," they talk about the distinction between -- Alexander Hamilton -- the distinction between courts and what courts do, what the Senate does, why the impeachment is housed with the Senate. Because they're not trying a crime. It's a different matter.
BLITZER: Alan, what do you think?
FRUMIN: Well, I am a process guy, but I know from history that people like Judge Pickering were impeached for being drunk.
FRUMIN: And according to his family, just crazy, so I don't believe it needs to be a prosecutable crime.
BORGER: So --
WILLIAMS: Well, I mean, it doesn't matter what we believe. The simple fact is these dozens of people actually have been impeached successfully for --
BLITZER: Well, let me read --
BORGER: Can we --
BLITZER: Let me read an excerpt from Federalist Paper 65."
BORGER: Which you just happen to have?
BLITZER: Which I happen to have.
CILLIZZA: In his pocket.
BLITZER: The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. BORGER: Right, and I don't understand Alan Dershowitz because this is
situational ethics, it seems to me. You believe one thing, and you say, very definitively, that it doesn't have to be a crime. And then, you say it has to be a crime.
This isn't like the Constitution has changed. The Constitution has not changed. The Constitution remains the same. So the way he is interpreting it is completely different. He's done a 180, and the only reason I can see is that he is in a different situation right now with Donald Trump.
And, by the way, Dershowitz has distanced himself from the actual defense of the President --
BORGER: -- trying to have it both ways there, too, saying, well, I had -- I didn't read the brief. I didn't -- I wasn't a part of the brief. All I'm doing is arguing the Constitution. Except he's argued the Constitution both ways.
BLITZER: And he's going to make that case, we're told, on Friday, assuming it goes as scheduled.
WILLIAMS: Right, exactly. And, again, if you look at that "Federalist" paper's quote, it's about the public trust. That is what the Framers -- that is what Hamilton was obsessed with. They -- we were getting away from kings and corruption --
WILLIAMS: -- when they -- when they founded the government here. And so, the idea that, now, this all needs to be about criminal offenses, which weren't -- the criminal code hadn't even been written at the time --
BORGER: Well, exactly.
WILLIAMS: -- the constitution was --
BORGER: Which Dershowitz said, yes.
BLITZER: Well, let me show you our new poll that just came out. Among other things, we asked this question, should the Senate trial include testimony from new witnesses? Sixty-nine percent said yes, 26 percent said no.
Should the Senate trial include testimony from new witnesses? Among Democrats, 86 percent yes. Independents, 69 percent yes. But look at this, even among Republicans, 48 percent said yes.
CILLIZZA: Yes. I mean, it's the hardest point that Mitch McConnell will have to sell. There's a reason that we already have four Republican senators at least making overtures that they would be in favor of witnesses.
Because, in any situation, if there were new information or new people to hear from, I think your logic, rational mind, would say, well, yes, I mean, it makes sense. Before we make a big momentous decision, we should hear from them.
That's the -- that's the piece that, I think, is going to be the most difficult for McConnell if they are trying to make this thing begin, middle, and end by February 4th, the state of the union. With witnesses, it's very hard to see how that happens.
So the question now is -- I think there's 51 votes for witnesses. The question is, which witnesses?
CILLIZZA: Are there 51 votes for, on the one hand, John Bolton and, on the other hand, Hunter Biden? Are there 51 votes for John Bolton and no Hunter Biden? That's the issue. I think there's more than 51 votes for the idea of witnesses, but the devil, as always, is in the details.
BLITZER: The big -- the big number is this one, should Senate vote to remove Trump from office? Gloria, a slight majority, 51 percent of the American public, according to the CNN poll, says yes, 45 percent say no.
BORGER: Right. And this number, you know, we used to -- we used to just ask the question, should he be impeached and removed from office? Well, now, he's been impeached, so we know that so the public is now asking whether he should be removed.
So it's a slightly different question from the one we have asked in the past, and that's a big number. And I think the public is not in a rush. The public wants to see witnesses. The Senate Republicans are in a rush.
BORGER: The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, is in a rush. He wants to get this done by the state of the union. The public is -- just wants to see witnesses as in most trials.
CILLIZZA: That's right.
BORGER: And so, they're -- the public is saying, look, you've got to be fair. Maybe they want Hunter Biden, too; we don't know. But the public is using a logic that says when you have a trial, you ought to have -- see some witnesses.
BLITZER: I suspect if the Democrats get witnesses, the Republicans will get witnesses as well. And this could then go on and on and on. CILLIZZA: And that would make it much, much longer. Remember, the
Clinton -- the Clinton impeachment trial --
BORGER: Five weeks.
CILLIZZA: Five weeks. Which is --
BLITZER: Five weeks.
BORGER: Five weeks.
CILLIZZA: And we're talking about two weeks --
CILLIZZA: -- before the state of the union.
BORGER: Now, if you're running for president and you're Democrat?
CILLIZZA: You're probably happy about it.
BORGER: Probably, right now.
BLITZER: All right, stand by, guys. No matter how President Trump's impeachment trial turns out, a new book argues he is fundamentally changing the presidency and corrupting the U.S. justice system.
One of the co-authors, CNN National Security and Legal Analyst, Susan Hennessey, she is standing by live. We'll discuss right after this.
BLITZER: All right, we have breaking news up on Capitol Hill. Let's quickly go to CNN's Phil Mattingly.
Phil, I take it the Senate Majority Leader has just released the resolution that he'll introduce tomorrow?
MATTINGLY: Wolf, he hasn't released it publicly, but CNN has obtained a copy of that resolution. A four-page resolution that essentially is the initial rules of the road for the Senate trial that will start in earnest tomorrow.
And I want to pick out a couple of things that are of interest to me. Remember, the Majority Leader made it very clear he felt these rules would be, quote, very, very similar to the 1999 impeachment trial rules, but there are a couple of exceptions here that I am keying in on at the moment.
The first is the idea that the two presentations between the House Managers and the President's counsel and the President's defense team will, like the Clinton rules, be 24 -- be given 24 hours to make those presentations. However, like we've reported over the course of the last couple of days, those presentations will have to be made within two days.
So, essentially, they'll have 24 hours. They will have, essentially, two sessions to be able to make those 24 hours count. Now, both sides can yield back, if they want to, any of their time, but that 24 hours will have to be presented over the course of two days, condensing a time schedule that, during the Clinton trial, took several more days than that.
The other thing I am keying on is the language related to witnesses. Now, Wolf, behind the scenes, over the course of the last several weeks, Senator Susan Collins, in the lead, along with Senator Lisa Murkowski and Lamar Alexander have been working very specifically with Majority Leader McConnell on language related to witnesses, essentially trying to secure an up or down vote as to whether or not the Senate will consider subpoenas for witnesses and documents.
Now, based on the 1999 rules, any senator could offer a resolution to try and call a witness. A simple majority vote would -- was all it would take. They did not have this specific language in that 1999 resolution. I am keying in on it here because it might have wide- ranging implications.
We're still just reading through the language right now, but, essentially, at the end of the two presentations between the House Managers and the White House defense team would come 16 hours of questions by the United States Senate senators. Each senator could ask questions if they wanted to over a period of 16 hours. That is also what they did in 1999.
But it is after that where there is new language here. In 1999, they had an option for a motion to dismiss. That is no longer in the resolution, something Republicans telegraphed as coming, saying there was no support for a motion to dismiss. They wanted to take this all the way through to vote on whether to acquit.
In its place is language related to the idea of the Senate taking an up or down vote as to whether or not to hear from witnesses and subpoena documents. What this would do is, after the Senate questions, after the 16 hours of Senate questions, the Senate would then move to four hours of arguments over whether or not to hear from witnesses and subpoena documents.
At the completion of that four hours, the Senate would then decide, by yays or nays, whether it, and I'm quoting here, shall be in order to consider and debate, under impeachment rules, any motion to subpoena witnesses.
Now, the interesting part of that is that is, essentially, the language that the moderates in the Senate, the same moderates -- Republican moderates the Democrats have been keying on, trying to bring over to their side to secure 51 votes to make witnesses and subpoenas for documents a possibility. This is what they have been fighting for, and this is in the resolution.
I think the big question now is, if that motion, that yays or nays, does not get a majority, if it essentially fails in the United States Senate, what does that mean about the ability for other senators to offer resolutions? Would that be considered outside the realm of the trial rules? We're still working to get some clarity on that.
However, based on this language, after that four hours of arguments on the idea of witnesses, the United States Senate will have an opportunity, on an up or down vote, simple majority rules, to decide whether or not to move forward on considering subpoenas for witnesses and documents.
Now, Wolf, if they do decide to consider the option of witnesses and documents in that up or down vote, it also makes clear here that any witness that is subpoenaed would be deposed before the United States Senate -- before they would actually come testify. Members from both parties would have an opportunity to witness that deposition before any of that information is actually introduced in the trial.
A little bit in the weeds here but I think these are both important things to keep an eye on. There are key differences from the 1999 resolution and what these differences will mean going forward. Obviously, a condensed presentation timetable for the House Managers and for the White House's defense team and then a very clear, extremely important up or down vote on whether or not to hear from witnesses and to subpoena documents that would come after the first two stages of the trial.
That is now locked in based on this resolution. We're still waiting -- Senate Majority Leader McConnell is actually in his office right now. We'll wait to see if he has anything to say when he departs the capitol later tonight, but this is the resolution everybody's been waiting for. We now have all four pages of it.
This will dictate the opening stages of the trial. This is what will be voted on likely tomorrow by the Senate in terms of what will actually happen next. And, Wolf, it's worth noting this is what Democrats will try and amend tomorrow.
Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, making it clear he will offer at least one, probably more amendments to make changes to this. But the moderates, the moderate Republicans, got the language they wanted in here as it relates to witnesses. What that means if it is adopted by the Senate or if it fails, I think, is a big question people are going to have to figure out as we start to work through the process of this trial, Wolf.
BLITZER: It gets a little complicated, but I just want to be precise, Phil, on this. So the opening arguments by the House Managers and the opening argument from the White House attorneys, they will each have, what, 12 hours, but they have to do that in one day each. Is that right?
MATTINGLY: So they will each have 24 hours total, so a total of 48 hours.
MATTINGLY: But they will only be given two days to use those 24 hours. So in the Clinton trial, they were each given 24 hours but they were given more days to actually utilize that 24 hours. I think it broke down to something between six to eight hours per day and stretched over a couple of -- a couple more days than just two.
And I think what's happening here is they're limiting the number of days in which that 24 hours can be used during those presentations. And, of course, Democrats have heard about this idea. They are opposed to this idea since they say this will essentially force a lot of this to be happening in the middle of the night to some degree, given the fact the trial starts each day at 1:00 p.m.
But this is what the resolution says. Again, it will take 51 votes to lock this into place tomorrow. But if all Senate Republicans stay together -- and they have made it clear they are behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in that endeavor and, obviously, the moderate Republicans getting their language on witnesses into this resolution should make that pretty much a sure thing at this point in time -- this should be the way that this trial goes depending on those votes on the floor.
And, again, to reiterate, Wolf, Democrats can -- this is amendable language. Democrats will try and change this language tomorrow, but they would need Republicans to join them, at least four, to be able to do so. And at least at this point in time, those four Republicans at this stage in the trial, the very beginning, simply don't exist. We'll see if that changes now that the resolution is out.
But I would note one other thing, and I think this is important to keep in mind, McConnell has been working a lot, assiduously, with his members over the course of the last couple of weeks to make sure that they were in line. To make sure, what he said a couple of weeks ago, all 53 Republicans are with him on this. To make sure they stayed that way.
So it's a pretty fair bet to assume this language wasn't going to be finalized and put out unless McConnell was confident all 53 Republican senators were with him, but we'll have to wait to see what their reaction and, obviously, what the Democrats' reaction is in the hours and days ahead, Wolf.
BLITZER: So -- you know, again, I want to be precise. On day one of the House Manager's opening arguments against the President, why he should be convicted and removed from office, day one, they'll do it potentially in 12 hours, day two in 12 hours. If they start at 1:00 p.m., they would go at least until 1:00 a.m. both days. And then the White House lawyers would have two days to do the same thing?
MATTINGLY: That's essentially the case. It means they could be able to split, is my understanding based on my initial read of this. They could split their 24 hours over the course of two days however, they would want to do it. And, of course, they have the option to yield back some of that time if they want to. They don't have to use all 24 hours, but they were given a max 24 hours and they would have to do that over the course of two days.
The assumption -- the running assumption over the course of the last couple of days, Wolf, since we heard that this was a possibility, was it would be done in two 12-hour segments by each side. So, essentially, four segments in total. But each side is going to have to decide how exactly they want to utilize the 24 hours they're given for their presentations.
BLITZER: All right, stand by. Gloria, what do you think?
BORGER: Well, I think that Mitch McConnell is clearly trying to condense the calendar to get this done by the state of the union, which is what the President has requested.
BLITZER: Which is February 4th.
BORGER: Which is February 4th. I also believe that there might have been some kind of tradeoff on that here with the moderates who clearly got what they wanted in this, which is the potential for allowing for witnesses who would be deposed first, which is what happened during the Clinton trial.
There is no motion to dismiss in this, which everybody kind of agreed would never pass anyway, but that doesn't preclude somebody from raising a motion to dismiss if they wanted to. So I think you can kind of see the tradeoff that was made here among Republicans.
However, it's really wild, as we were saying to each other, to think that the Senate is going to sit there for 12 hours, a lot of this taking place way into the wee hours of the morning, just to get this done to keep up with some schedule that has been invented by the White House so the President can have a state of the union address without -- you know, without being in the middle of this.
However, if there are witnesses, you'll never get this done by the state of the union anyway, so.
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: And, look, Mitch McConnell has gone all-in on the notion that this is going to be the same as the Clinton impeachment. That that was sort of the standard of fairness here. This fails pretty plainly by McConnell's own standard, forcing the presentation of the House Manager's case in 12 marathon hours that are going to stretch well into the middle of the night.
The American people are going to understand exactly what is going on here, which is that Mitch McConnell is hoping to exhaust the House Managers, to exhaust the Senate, such that whenever it actually gets to the point that they have the choice to maybe call witnesses --
BORGER: They'll be too tired.
FRUMIN: Right, and --
HENNESSEY: -- there are going to be incentives against that.
BLITZER: And -- go ahead.
HENNESSEY: He's also racing against other witnesses and other information that might come out.
BLITZER: And, Alan, you remember the Bill Clinton impeachment trial in the Senate 21 years ago. They also had 24 hours each side but over four days --
BLITZER: -- as opposed to over two days each.
FRUMIN: It was a much more humane schedule. This will test the guidelines that they -- they published to have senators remain in their seats for the entire duration of the trial. They expect them to be there until the wee hours. The assumption is that, no, they won't be there until the wee hours and that the Managers will give up basically.
BLITZER: And these guys are going to be tired if they're going to have to stay up until 1:00 or 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. I'm -- a lot of these senators, and I know a lot of them, they're not used to that kind of lifestyle.
WILLIAMS: I'm getting tired just reading about it. But, look, Wolf, this is a remarkable document to receive 18 hours before a major --
WILLIAMS: -- one of the three presidential impeachments in American history. And I think sort of at the core of this, and Phil talked about this, is these four or five vulnerable Senate Republicans.
The question -- McConnell's sole goal is protecting his Senate majority, and, in some way, he has seen that they are protected with what they've crafted here. Now, it will be interesting to see what kind of leash they have to votes on witnesses in a manner that bucks the party or so on.
But, really, Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, Joni Ernst, Martha McSally -- although, you know, we saw some funny business from her this week. But, really, they are at the center of this, and I think this document exists for their protection.
BORGER: I mean, what is the reason? Other than trying to push this through, shove this through, get it over with, what other reason is there to do things in 12-hour increments?
WILLIAMS: I mean, it's literally thumbing his nose --
BORGER: Totally, yes.
BLITZER: Well, it's clear that the Senate Majority Leader wants this all done, wrapped up, by the state of the union on February 4th.
HENNESSEY: Look, Mitch McConnell has made clear from the outset, this is not about fact-finding.
WILLIAMS: That's right.
HENNESSEY: This is not about the impartial administration of justice no matter what they said when they held their hand up for the Supreme -- the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court just last week.
This is about getting it over with as quickly as possible because they already know that the argument here and the argument that we saw in the President's briefs are the President didn't do it, and so what if he did. And they understand that that is going to be an ugly argument for the President to watch that play out in parallel with the very strong case the House has.
BLITZER: You are the Senate parliamentarian. What do you think?
FRUMIN: Well, I'm not here to speculate on people's motives. I do think this creates a rather strange physical endurance test. I'd be surprised if the senators stick around.
I do know, from my own personal perspective, that the staff has to stick around. And so, I look at this and think to myself, this is going to be a tough haul.
BLITZER: Yes, all right.
BORGER: Well, also, it doesn't seem serious to me. I mean, it seems to me, thumbing in -- whatever you want to say, it seems to me that Mitch McConnell is essentially saying to Democrats, OK, you asked for it, here it is. Here it is!
BLITZER: And here it is. We -- CNN has obtained this resolution that the Senate Majority Leader will be introducing with the rules for this Senate impeachment trial. Much more on the breaking news right after this.
BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're following breaking news on the President's impeachment trial. CNN has just obtained the text of a Republican resolution outlining the trial rules just hours before the Senate reconvenes to consider the charges against President Trump.