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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Soon: House Managers To Argue Trump Obstructed Congress; Attorney: Tape Of Trump Demanding Ambassador Be Fired Has Been Turned Over To House Intel; Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) Discusses About Republicans Not Voting For Witnesses But To Acquit President Trump; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) Is Interviewed About McConnell's Effort To Vulnerable Republicans. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired January 24, 2020 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR, "INSIDE POLITICS": The Trump base saying, no, no, look at this, not this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Erase history.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right. A lot happening so far. Good working with you.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Thank you so much.
BLITZER: We'll do it again. We got a lot going on over the weekend. In the meantime, Erin Burnett picks up our special coverage.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. Welcome to our special coverage of President Trump's impeachment trial. You've been watching House Democrats. They've been using the final hours of their opening statement to make the case that President Trump obstructed Congress. They're putting a moral compass on all of this. It is their last chance to make their case before Trump's team steps onto the floor of the Senate and take center stage tomorrow morning.
Now, we are in a very brief dinner break. That trial is set to resume any minute as it has every night this week. During this hour, we're going to bring that to you as soon as it resumes. I want to go straight now, though, to Phil Mattingly who is on Capitol Hill.
And Phil, you were there in the chamber today, in that pen where reporters are able to watch and observe. You have been talking to senators throughout the day during the breaks and what are you seeing and hearing?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Erin, I think one of the interesting elements right now is people are looking forward, not that they're looking past the presentations but there's an understanding that there's a very big vote coming up. And that will be the vote after the two presentations and the senator questions as to whether or not the Senate will proceed to consider subpoenas for witnesses and documents. And what you've seen over the course of the last four or five days is
Republicans led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell really kind of get behind the idea that, look, any subpoenas would be problematic on executive privilege grounds. If you're going after the President's top advisors, former top advisors, it would not only elongate the trial, but it could also raise major precedent issues.
And I think what's been interesting to me, Erin, throughout the course of this day is you have seen Democrats recognize the reality and I'm told this was recognized that this idea that Republicans have been talking about has taken hold inside the conference and could endanger Democrats' possibility of getting the votes for witness later.
And so you have seen very strong pushback, a concerted effort in press conferences by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, by Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment manager. And you've also seen it dovetail on the floor. Remember, today's discussion, today's presentation was largely in part about Article Two, the obstruction of Congress piece.
MATTINGLY: And you've heard Democratic managers repeatedly make the case on the need for subpoenas on the opposite side of the precedent spectrum, saying if you don't do this, think about what it would mean in the future if a president can just say at will, I'm not going to comply with anything.
I just spoke with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer a short while ago during this break. He said he believe that what the Democratic managers had done on the floor decimated the Republican argument that has really taken hold the last couple of days. We'll see if that's the case, but it's just a concerted effort by Democrats right now to push back, Erin.
BURNETT: And also we're going to go to Senator Sherrod Brown and get his reaction to your reporting in just a moment, Phil. But you have some breaking news on some new evidence that I understand the House now has.
MATTINGLY: That's exactly right. Joseph Bondi, the lawyer for Lev Parnas, a Rudolph Giuliani associate who's avidly turned over a bunch of information to the House Intelligence Committee has also now turned over a recording. A recording that was reported earlier by ABC News that purports to show President Trump at a dinner in 2018 saying explicitly get rid of her, directly talking about Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.
Obviously, she has played a major role throughout the course of this impeachment hearing. The House Intelligence Committee, according to Parnas' lawyer now has that recording. Democrats have been talking about it throughout the course of the day. Schumer just a short while ago said if nothing else, it shows that the President is 'vicious' and how he treated people.
Keep an eye on this. People are going to be talking about this and certainly hearing about this going forward. The House Intelligence Committee, obviously, run by Adam Schiff, the lead manager, now has the tape according to Parnas' lawyer.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Phil, who will rejoin us as he learns more.
I want to go now straight though as promised to Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown. Senator Brown, let me just give you a chance to react first to what Phil was just talking about here. This new information of the president extensively at a small dinner talking about Marie Yovanovitch in what Senator Schumer describes as vicious way trying to get rid of her.
House Intelligence Committee now has this. Obviously, it would not go to the Senate. Is it necessary that the Senate get it?
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): Well, it's necessary the Senate get witnesses and get documents and information. I'm not a lawyer, but I know enough about trials the American public does. You have the House managers, the prosecution, we have the defense, the President's lawyers and you have witnesses and information and documents. And that's what the President says this is all hearsay, but he won't let us talk to people who are in the room who sat with him maybe when he said that about the very honorable ambassador, longtime public servant ambassador to Ukraine.
I mean, all of this stuff comes out and Mitch McConnell does he wants to get this trial over with. He doesn't want the truth to come out and fundamentally, the President cheated. He got caught. He tried to cover it up. That's sort of the story of what happened.
BURNETT: So you heard Phil talking about Senator McConnell making a lot of progress, convincing Republicans not to vote for witnesses in part because he's been putting this argument out.
But key witnesses are going to plea executive privilege. This is going to become months long drawn out process. Guys, you got a lot of information, so forget the witnesses and that that's been effective. Are you concerned, Senator Brown, about getting enough votes from Republicans to move forward with witnesses now?
BROWN: Of course, Erin. You know that's just the newest excuse they've now filed to say no. I mean, Donald Trump doesn't want witnesses, therefore, the new information and documentation, therefore, Mitch McConnell who is Donald Trump's lap dog doesn't want information and witnesses, therefore 52 other relatively spineless Republicans don't want witnesses, don't want information. They're scared. They're scared.
I mean, I talk to Republicans all of the time quietly, individually.
BROWN: Many of them tell me that Trump is a liar. A few of them said Trump is a racist. But they're all afraid of him. They're afraid he'll campaign against him in their state. They're afraid he'll attach a nasty nickname to them.
I mean, in this chamber it's a little like the Iraq War when I was in the House 15 years ago, fear does the business and Republicans are afraid of what Donald Trump will do. And the fundamental question, though, is if we go ...
BURNETT: So you're saying Republicans you know believe, that have told you directly that the President of the United States is a liar and a racist are going to vote for his acquittal and not for witnesses?
BROWN: It's true. Well, I don't know. I hope not. I hear them say things like that. I mean, the fundamental question really, ultimately, Erin, is that if we vote not guilty, if the Senate doesn't convict and remove from office, what are Republicans going to do to those that voted for acquittal, what are they going to do to stop the President from doing even more of this lawlessness?
I mean, they all know in their hearts that he broke the law. He will then be unleashed. He'll be vengeful. He have gotten away with it. What are they going to do? What are we all going to do? Well, I know what the media will do, you'll continue to try to expose wrongdoing, but what are they going to do to rein in this president the next eight months, win or lose the November election? What are they going to do a rein in this kind of lawlessness that clearly will have been rewarded, because he 'got away' with it?
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Senator Brown. I appreciate your time tonight.
BROWN: Always. Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. And my panelists are here with me. I've got a group here in New York, David Axelrod also joins us from Chicago tonight.
Scott, let me give you a chance to respond to what he was just saying. He's saying that he has Republicans he's friends with that talk with this - we'll say privately, the President of the United States, Donald Trump is a liar and is a racist and that he still believes that those people who he has respect for may vote to acquit, may not vote for witnesses.
SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: You know what I find amazing about Democrats in the Trump era? They complain all of the time about the things Trump does, including things like saying many people tell me and here is Sherrod Brown on TV tonight, oh, many senators tell me. But it's funny, they never name names. They never are able to produce any evidence of this or tell you who said it.
I think he has gone - frankly, when his colleagues hear that, my suspicion is they're going to be pretty rankled that he called Mitch McConnell a lap dog. He said things about what Republicans is saying on the floor.
BURNETT: He did call Mitch McConnell lap dog. JENNINGS: To me, if you're trying to convince Republicans to vote for
witnesses, is that the right answer?
BURNETT: Joe, what do you make of that? And also I add to that Dick Durbin, number two.
JOE LOCKHART, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes.
BURNETT: Obviously, a Democratic Senator in charge of sort of whipping votes. His comments today was, "Mr. Schiff was phenomenal." He told The New York Times referring to witnesses, "But I'm skeptical he moved any votes."
LOCKHART: Yes. And I think it goes to what Senator Brown was talking about which is the fix may have been in from the beginning. That it didn't matter what Democrats said, it didn't matter how compelling their arguments were. But you're not going to move them because this is all about politics.
I think Adam Schiff made the point brilliantly last night when he talked about the President puts his personal interest in front of the country's and by the subtext of that was, senators, I plead with you not to do the same thing. I plead with you not to put your personal party interests in front of the country's.
And if it turns out that the fix was in and that they weren't listening and that nothing could change their mind, then Schiff is right about not only the President but about the Senate.
BURNETT: So Ryan, this also comes down to this crucial question because there's a big vote. And when Senator Brown or Phil was saying they realize there's a big vote, they're not talking about to acquit or not to acquit. They're talking about witnesses, which has become a proxy for will you take a stand at all as a Republican senator.
So the reporting, of course, is that Mitch McConnell has made a lot of inroads on vulnerable Republican votes, it could be Cory Gardner or Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Mitt Romney in saying, you know what, they're going to take executive privilege and this is going to be wrapped up for months. Guys, don't do it. It's not worth it. Is there any legal basis for executive privilege?
RYAN GOODMAN, CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, JUST SECURITY: So there's not a very strong legal basis for it.
And in fact, the Senate decide the matter and it wouldn't be litigated. So that if the Senate decided to issue the subpoenas and the Chief Justice, in fact, sent those subpoenas, it would be the final word. There's a Supreme Court case about this in Nixon v. United States, Judge Nixon, which said that the Senate sets its own rules and courts won't review it. So it's not like it will be litigated in a certain way. They really are the final word.
And then, the second is, politically speaking, you're imagining a scenario in which a majority of the Senate, including the bipartisan majority, vote for subpoenas, the Chief Justice signs the subpoenas and sends it to John Bolton. That's an enormous amount of pressure on John Bolton to comply and he's not under directive from the President because he's a private citizen.
So there are multiple ways in which it doesn't even need to get to the situation of executive privilege being invoked, because the Senate is so powerful in that moment. And then if he comes, then it's just invoked for particular questions that he might be asked.
BURNETT: Right. Which, let's be clear, doesn't include talking about a drug deal, because that wasn't a conversation with the President of the United States. I mean, we can go through so many of the things he would be asked about in the case of John Bolton, specifically, that would not involve the President directly.
Anne, the question is, are Republican senators going to hear and understand this? These are the facts. This is how it would be. It wouldn't fly. But yet they're being told by Mitch McConnell, oh, my gosh, it's going to get stuck here in the gears and we're not going to get anywhere.
ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. I mean, I agree with Ryan's analysis completely and I think that executive privilege is not a bar for these witnesses coming forward. And I would even argue that once they come forward, I would argue that there's a pretty strong basis to say that they need to talk because this is an impeachment. Congress is at the height of its power in an impeachment.
And so really, it is almost in some ways a smokescreen to get people to step back to think, well, this will take us two years. It will carry on a long time and it will not be resolved when nothing could be further from the truth. The question you're asking, though, is can that penetrate and can that get through to the four senators and the other senators.
And in part, it's complicated because it's not a normal trial. The rules are just up in the air. The rules are sort of what they say it is. And so I do really ask this question of if nothing about what they're saying is true, but does that matter and I think we'll know pretty soon.
BURNETT: People also hear what they want to hear and they hear what gives them license to do what they want to do. That's a human frailty of everyone. Please stay with me. I want to bring in now Democratic Senator 2020 candidate also Amy Klobuchar who has been in that room.
Senator, great to speak with you.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: We're just having a conversation right now about executive privilege and the reporting, of course, is that Senator McConnell has been very effective at getting some vulnerable Republicans to be afraid of it and think that it could lock this up for a long time, and therefore they shouldn't bother voting for witnesses. What is your feel of where your Republican colleagues are on this issue?
KLOBUCHAR: I think that Adam Schiff and the other House managers have been incredibly effective in terms of saying to them one; you know he did this, you know what he does, many of you have said it before yourself. Secondly, why are you here.
And I always think to myself, are they just here to buy their chair at the end of their time as Senators and have it in their office and have a trophy on the wall. I just don't think so. I think that they are here to do the work of the people and to defend the constitution.
And some of the most effective arguments, I was thinking of each of the senators, I was thinking of Senator Romney, who was a Republican nominee for president who has a sense of patriotism as he listens to what this president did to hold up aid to a fledgling democracy and emboldened Russia. I was thinking of Senator Grassley when Representative Demings, a former police chief made the case for whistleblowers and how this President had attacked the whistleblower a hundred times, something that Senator Grassley has devoted his career to.
And I was thinking of some of the other Senators who have really focused on transparency and you look at the whole cover up that was involved here that was focused on today. There is just overwhelming evidence here that would lead any sane person to say, I want to know what happened in the room where it happened. That is the Hamilton musical and we know there are people like Bolton and Mulvaney that know a bunch of stuff, that were sitting in the rooms and we should have them testify.
BURNETT: And I want to ask you, I'm not sure if you're aware, Senator, we're now aware that the attorney for indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas has now said he's turned over a tape. It's an audio tape from 2018 to the House Intelligence Committee. ABC News first reported this.
This is a dinner. Trump is at the dinner. Parnas is at the dinner. Another indicted Giuliani associate is at the dinner and Trump reportedly says get her out tomorrow. I don't care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out, OK.
BURNETT: Do it. He's talking about Ambassador Yovanovitch.
KLOBUCHAR: Right. I had heard about that and that to me is the most chilling because I know her personally. I went with Senator McCain and Senator Graham to Ukraine and spent four days with her and she is the most dignified, esteemed public servant.
And to think of those words that we know that he said on the phone call when he said things are going to happen to her to a leader of another country and now having this come out just bolsters the case. This was a threat against an American citizen, a threat against esteemed ambassador, a career diplomat.
And as Adam Schiff said at the end to the senators, you think he wouldn't do it to you, because he did it to her.
BURNETT: Senator, I want to ask you one more question. A source close to your colleague and your former 2020 rivals, Senator Kamala Harris, who of course has been in the room with you every day this week as well tell CNN tonight she's actively considering the possibility of endorsing former Vice President Joe Biden ahead of the California primary which is, of course, on Super Tuesday. What's your reaction?
KLOBUCHAR: I will deal with it when it happens. She and I got to be close friends during the campaign. I was with her family the day before Thanksgiving and we'll see what she does. I will remain her friend no matter what.
But I will tell you this, I have more endorsements of legislators and former legislators in the state of Iowa than anyone else in the race. I was just endorsed by The New York Times along with one of my colleagues, as well as The Quad-City Times, which is an important newspaper in Eastern Iowa. And we are building support and going up in the polls with each and every week.
So I feel very good about our efforts. My daughter and husband are there right now along with the Olympic gold medal curling coach, who came down to campaign for me. I mean, you can't have a bigger celebrity than that, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Senator Klobuchar, thank you very much and, of course, I know I've seen your daughter in charge of your Twitter.
KLOBUCHAR: All right. Yes.
BURNETT: Thank you for your time.
KLOBUCHAR: All right.
BURNETT: And I want to get back to my panel. They're obviously heading back in the room at the end of this dinner break. David Axelrod is with us from Chicago as well.
David, I just want to give you a chance to respond to what I felt were two very different presentations there from Democratic senators. Amy Klobuchar trying to appeal to, perhaps, somebody watching like Chuck Grassley or Mitt Romney. Sherrod Brown showing his frustration that he feels with his friends who are Republicans who we feel is he's worried are going to let him down. Both of them genuine, which do you think is more effective?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I'm not sure either is effective, because I think there are other pressures at play here. I think, obviously, you heard Scott say, well, they're not going to respond well to what Brown said. I don't know if that's true or not.
I suspect that their thought processes are being influenced greatly by what they see from their colleagues on TV, although I'm sure they don't like to be embarrassed. But here's my thought, Erin, I think the Democrats managers have made, the House managers have made quite an effective presentation on all aspects of this case. I think the obstruction presentation today was devastating.
But it also may be that they have made their own situation harder in terms of getting these witnesses, because first of all McConnell's strategy is clearly to kind of wear out his people and say, do you really want to hang around here for a few more weeks dealing with this and hear the same case over and over again. And the second thing is the case is so effective. They don't want any witnesses to make the vote to acquit the President even more difficult.
BURNETT: All right. Stay with me. We are going to take a brief break. As I said, we're waiting for the Senate to return at any moment. They're in the midst of a very brief dinner break, 30 minutes, so we're going to we're going to squeeze in a couple more moments if we can before they head back in. This is the Democrats' last chance tonight to make their case before Trump's team takes to the Senate floor.
And we are learning new details right now about the White House strategy. We'll be back in a moment.
BURNETT: Breaking news, we are standing by for President Trump's impeachment trial to resume at any moment. They are scheduled literally any second to end this dinner break and begin once again.
Democrats are in their final minutes here to make the case that President Trump obstructed Congress. They're using more understandable words to describe that, cover up what they're calling it. This is their third and final day of opening arguments, so tomorrow is Trump's team's turn.
And I want to go to Kaitlan Collins who's at the White House. So Kaitlan, a few crucial hours tonight left for Adam Schiff and his team and then there will be other voices. They will not have that stage to themselves. Team Trump will take over, day one. What are you hearing about what we'll see?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, first, it's going to look a lot different than what you're seeing from the Democrats over the last several days where you've seen them go for stretches of long periods of times where they have to take things like dinner breaks. We are not going to see that tomorrow. They're actually going to start a little bit earlier in the morning around 10am.
And according to the President's legal team, Erin, they're only going to go for about two to three hours where Pat Cipollone, the White House Counsel and Jay Sekulow, the President's outside attorney, are essentially just going to provide the overarching arguments of the President's defense. Then they say they'll take a break. The senators will be able to leave Washington. Then they'll come back
on Monday and they say that's when they're going to provide the bulk of their argument.
Now, it's curious that they're not going to do a long stretch of it on Saturday since the President wants his argument out there. But the President made clear this morning, he thought that Saturday is the death valley of television ratings and essentially he wants his story to be heard. And he doesn't think that's going to happen if they present most of it on Saturday. So that's where you're going to see them wait until really on Monday to get to that argument.
And two things we should note that when we had a briefing with the President's legal team earlier, they did not say if they will still file a motion to outright dismiss the case once their arguments are done. That's something that is still an option. They would not rule that out. And, of course, they said they are going to bring up the Bidens, which they say is because the Democrats brought up the Biden family. But, of course, it was never really in question if they were going to.
Erin, the big question now is how this new evidence that's emerging about Lev Parnas and this tape that he says this recording of the President is going to affect all of this, whether or not it will. And right now they have not been answering questions here at the White House about whether or not they're concerned about it.
But we should note the President is doing an interview and they just released a clip of it from Fox News Tonight, where essentially he's being asked, were you relying on Lev Parnas, this indicted associated Rudy Giuliani's, to get rid of your ambassador. Of course, that's referring to Marie Yovanovitch.
He says, "No, no, but I have a lot of people and you know he's somebody that I guess based on pictures that he goes to fundraisers, but I am not a fan of that Ambassador." Of course, her removal is central to all of this impeachment, so the question going forward is going to be whether or not this plays a big factor in all of this, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Kaitlan, thank you very much. And obviously, we are learning more about this tape which he says get rid of her, get rid of her tomorrow. Take her out. OK. Do it.
Ryan, what do you make about this? It's apparently an audio recording off of phone video.
GOODMAN: Right. We haven't heard it yet. It's only just what ABC has printed. But I think it's pretty damaging in the sense that the President has said since he said it on TV live that he didn't know Lev Parnas. And here's the situation in which if this is accurate, that Lev Parnas is telling him the Ambassador's bad news. She doesn't like you. And on that basis, he turns on and says let's fine her. So either one of two things, he has a relationship with Lev Parnas who
can say that to the President and the President would actually, on that basis, seem to respond ...
BURNETT: Respond and listen, yes.
GOODMAN: ... or it's the opposite, which is not very favorable to him, either. That somebody that is a nobody as a hanger on or who goes to these parties and whatnot has said something to him and has poisoned his mind in that moment and is such a low level person that he doesn't even know and he still responds that way.
So either way it doesn't look good. But there's a lot of evidence that does suggest that Parnas was totally implicated in this, was working with Giuliani has his right hand person in Ukraine. So it's more of the former that is probably what's going on here.
BURNETT: Right. Because to your point, Anne, let's just remind people what Trump has said, his defense against Parnas' allegations and Parnas produced a letter from Rudy Giuliani to the President of Ukraine saying, I want this meeting. I want it right away. I only need 30 minutes, there's something specific to talk about. Full knowledge and consent of the President.
The President's response to all this has been like who's that Parnas guy. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know Parnas other than, I guess, they had pictures taken which I do with thousands of people, including people today that I didn't meet, but I just met him. I don't know him at all. I don't know what he's about. I don't know where it comes from. I know nothing about him.
He's trying to probably make a deal for himself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I mean, at the very least this tape with Parnas at a table would expose that to be and I'm just letting everyone know Mitch McConnell is walking back in, so we'll be going in there in just a moment as soon as he gavels back in.
It shows what the President just said here to be false.
MILGRAM: Right. That's true. It shows what the President said is false. It also corroborates what Lev Parnas said recently, which is I was at this dinner, I told the President that she was bad mouthing him. Ambassador Yovanovitch was bad mouthing him. And he said, "Get rid of her."
So a lot of it is corroborating what Lev Parnas has said before. But I think you're right, the bigger point is that the President has disavowed knowing him. I personally don't think it's going to play a huge role in the impeachment trial for a number of reasons. We already know about it. It's, again, corroborating what Lev Parnas has said, but right now there's so much focus on Ukraine and these other pieces.
MILGRAM: Parnas is not on the witness list. So I think at this point it's relevant and the Democrats may talk about it, but I don't think it's going to be (INAUDIBLE) ...
BURNETT: I mean, I guess, Scott, there's this one point about it that goes to what is not new information, but it is yet again stuck in people's faces, which is if Parnas is at this table and this is all on tape and we've got to hear the whole thing, it would show what the President said there is just a blatant lie.
JENNINGS: Yes. Look, I'm not going to defend getting Rudy, Lev and Igor the goon squad involved in this operation. I've criticized it many times. It's the worst thing he's got going for him. I would say presidents get to pick their ambassadors. So if he doesn't want the ambassador of the Ukraine ...
BURNETT: Right. He's allowed to fire her.
JENNINGS: ... he can fire and pick somebody else. And that doesn't mean he went about it the right way in this case. She seemed like a very good public servant to me when she testified. I have no doubt that she loves her country and has served her country well. It still doesn't change the fact that the President gets to pick their ambassadors and it also doesn't change the fact that having people like this involved in this is a terrible idea. There's official government channel, if you want to change your ambassador, use those. So I'm not going to defend these guys.
LOCKHART: Listen, I think this story, I don't know, stretches credibility beyond its limits. Scott, you worked in the White House, I worked in the White House and you don't get to sit down with eight or nine people with the President and talk about foreign policy and talk about it in a way where the President is making a decision in the room and telling senior government officials who were at that dinner with him, he wasn't in there by himself, I want to fire that ambassador.
Again, it is possible the President is telling the truth, it is not likely. And if he's not telling the truth, it gives so much more weight to this conspiracy to what was going on. Remember, the ambassador was being surveilled by people involved in this. These are two indicted people.
LOCKHART: And so I think it does and I take one exception to something that Anne said. This is politics and something on a printed page is important. Something on an audio recording and the President's voice has a persuasive power to change the dynamic.
I'm not saying it's going to, but I'm also not willing to ...
BURNETT: There's a difference between the printed word and --
LOCKHART: I'm not willing to dismiss it at this point as not being something that catches a little bit of fire and starts, you know, changes the narrative a little bit.
ANNE MILGRAM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The bigger piece here is that I think this is going to continue to happen. This is one example of a piece of evidence that is going to leak out or come out in some way and that there's going to be other evidence similar to this. And it may come out within the next week, it may come out within the next year.
LOCKHART: Or it may come out in the next year which is a big issue with Republicans which is when they take the vote not to do witnesses, they then own that. And every piece of evidence is going to be an ad in their campaign saying you decided to silence this.
BURNETT: And this all comes, David, as we are, you know, moments away from really the last uncontested commentary, right? So, this is a very big moment for the House managers, particularly Adam Schiff who has been the leader and clearly perceived as such.
So, what does he need to do tonight? And again, thinking that he's got an audience in that room and he's also got an audience tonight watching on national television, that he's not going to have again in the same way?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think he's going to have to make the same case he made last night which is -- and especially after the obstruction case is are you as a legislative body, as a coequal branch of government going to slit your own throat here and surrender your own power to a president a give him unlimited reach to do whatever he pleases in his own self-interest, even when it jeopardizes the country?
I think you're going to hear more of that. He's effective in that way.
But let me say one thing, Erin.
AXELROD: I was in a focus group this morning for the institute of politics at the University of Chicago with Chicago Democratic voters and it was chilling to hear them talk about this because impeachment didn't even come up. No one volunteered it for 80 minutes into the focus group.
And you know, we're right in the middle of the trial. When it came up, they said, you know, it's terrible what he did. The case has been proven. But we know how it's going to turn out. So, we're not really that interested. We're ready to move on. And I think that's what Mitch McConnell and the president and the
White House are banking on, that they can take the hit here, buffalo their way through this, and that the public will move on. And it's a cynical calculation, but it might not be the wrong calculation.
BURNETT: Well, it certainly at this point doesn't seem like it's the wrong one, not from any Democratic senators are saying, it's the calculation they're making, Scott.
Does it, though, move, you know, people like Mitt Romney? I understand that doesn't get you to removal, right? We're not even talking about that. Are there going to be some votes of people who say, you know what? I'm not OK with it?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know if there will be votes that say what you just said. I think there will be statements. I think there will be many senators -- I heard Rob Portman this morning say I'm not in favor of a lot of what the president did here but I'm not going to throw him out of office over it.
JENNINGS: So, I think you're going to hear that from a lot of people. It goes back to the idea the only choices you gave us were acquit the president or throw him out of office. We may have varying degrees of discomfort with what happened but we're not going to throw out a president for the first time in U.S. history over this thing. We don't think it rises to the level.
LOCKHART: But there's one other option here which is -- and I think it goes to David's point about people not being interested. I'm not sure they're not interested. They're just not expecting anything. The other option is voting him out --
BURNETT: All right. McConnell is -- sorry, he's gaveling them back in for this crucial evening session. Let's listen.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I've spoken with Congressman Schiff and his team. It looks like we've got a couple more hours.
(SENATE IMPEACHMENT TRIAL)