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Democrats Launch Pre-emptive Strike on Trump's Lawyers over Bidens; Biden Paints Trump as Threat in Iowa Ad; Biden Hits Campaign Trail as Democratic Rivals Sidelined for Senate Trial; Trump Complains about Defense Team's "Death Valley TV" Slot on Saturday; Pentagon: U.S. Troops Diagnosed with Brain Injuries after Iran Strike. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired January 24, 2020 - 11:30   ET



LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You want to lead with your trump -- forgive the pun -- but you also have to allow for the presentation of bad evidence that could present an Achilles heel for you.

Would I spend an exhaustive amount of time on the information? No?

But would I point out the very obvious element in the room, which is -- the president's argument is going to be, I was trying to root out corruption generally. "B" is for Burisma. Not really the Bidens. It wasn't about politics.

They have to get out in front and say, look, the president's explanation for his motivation is nonsensical and wrong. And I got to get in front of it.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It is difficult, though. There's -- you know, there's really no reason Hunter Biden should be on that board, other than he has the last name Biden.

So should Democrats acknowledge that, you know what, it is --


TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Of course. And, you know, one of the problems with our political culture today is that there seems to be a high price for just saying I made a mistake. And --


COOPER: No one -- that's allegedly a sign of weakness when in fact it is not.

NAFTALI: That is a sign of strength. After all, the National Archives messed up by playing with or altering a photograph in an exhibit and that's a bad precedent. You don't do that. Then they say we made a mistake. But we don't see that a lot in Washington.

Yes, I think that the Democrats should say, Vice President Biden, Hunter Biden, that's not a good thing.


NAFTALI: Wait, wait, wait a second.

Let's -- I don't -- I want that -- it is a bad thing, and then you focus on what an impeachment is about. Impeachment is about misconduct by the president.

Let's say Hunter Biden was corrupt. There are ways to investigate it. There's an FBI that you -- there are ways to do it and ways not to do it.

Richard Nixon thought that the -- some of the Democrats had made money and not paid taxes on it. He was wrong, by the way. Doesn't matter. What he did was he said, get him. He said, go after them. He didn't use the processes that existed in our government. He used his authority as president to go after American citizens. That's what this is about.


NAFTALI: That's what this is about.

TOOBIN: But facts matter. And the fact that Hunter Biden had this sleazy deal with Burisma, he was not qualified to get this job, and he got this job and made a bunch of money, that is not incriminating to Joe Biden.


I mean, the fact that there's no -- there's no evidence at all that Joe Biden --


TOOBIN: -- did anything wrong.


TOOBIN: There's a difference.

NAFTALI: Yes. But we're not talking -- we're not talking about guilt. We're talking about perceptions. And not only --


COATES: Two things, though. The issue about Joe Biden, the comparison -- if we get -- Republicans, you're welcome to comment on whether somebody's last name entitles you to something or not. There's a whole dynasty about that.

But the actual issue here for Joe Biden is whether or not he went to Ukraine and told a prosecutor that they should no longer be there because they're not investigating corruption and withholding aid as a result. You have to draw a distinct between whether what Trump is doing --


COATES: There's no evidence that what Joe Biden did was for self- interest and self-motivation as opposed to what Trump has been alleged and accused of doing, which is for his --


ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: But the no evidence of it, right? I think, in some ways, the sort of debunked no-evidence piece is almost the equivalent of the Trump perfect phone call.

I think what we're going to hear from Trump's lawyers is actually laying out the questions. The fact there's no evidence of it, I think what we might hear from the Trump lawyers doesn't mean that there's absolutely nothing to do it.


GARBER: Yes. They're going to say it justified the president's concern.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": This is the culmination of a three year climb up disinformation mountain. Three years ago today, the president claimed three to five million people voted illegally. That was a dangerous lie that he's kept on ever since.

This climb up this disinformation mountain, we're at the top of it now with this Biden story. And I hope news outlets, not just CNN, but the others have a backbone to stand up to these lies that we're going to be hearing about the Bidens.


COOPER: Coming up next, President Trump again claims he'll have Social Security -- or he'll save Social Security one day after threatening to cut entitlements. We'll have that and more in a moment.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: As the president's impeachment trial continues, we're 10 days away from the Iowa caucuses. And former Vice President Joe Biden just released a new ad in the state of Iowa, making a pitch it is, quote, "no time to take a risk."


AD NARRATOR: Every day he's president, Donald Trump poses a threat to America and the world. We have to beat him. Joe Biden is the strongest candidate to do it. He beats Trump by the most nationally and in the states we have to win. This is no time to take a risk.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Wow, saying the quiet part out loud.


TAPPER: Abby Phillip, I mean, I have never seen an electability argument that blatantly, at least in recent memory. He's basically saying, ignore the candidates you might like better, ignore the policies you might prefer, we can't take a risk, we have to defeat Trump.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Such a clear window into how this campaign sees what Iowa voters care the most about, which we've known for a long time his electability.

But this campaign has been, you know, about all kinds of different policy issues. They've gone so deep into some of these policy issues.

At the end of the day, we're 10 days out. Iowa voters want to know who is strong enough to defeat Donald Trump.

Joe Biden, you know, we have been talking about how he's come up in this impeachment hearing, and about how the president feared him. He's literally taking that argument and using it as a strength in Iowa.

And what the other candidates are now starting to do themselves also is make that counterargument, that they are, in some ways, the better to defeat Donald Trump than Joe Biden is.

I think that's how we see the candidates really duking it out in last few days. Who is the person who is the greatest threat to this president?

Because I just came back from Iowa. That's what a lot of voters who are undecided in the last few weeks are unsure about.

I had a voter tell me, a few days ago, I wish I could take all of these different candidates and put them together and make a super candidate, and then I would vote for that person.



PHILLIP: You can't do that.


PHILLIP: You have to pick one, coming up in the next couple of days. And I think for a lot of them it is a very difficult choice.

TAPPER: And, Senator Santorum, there's a counter electability argument made by supporters of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, which is, first of all, look at -- going for polls, going with the polls, like they did in 2016. But beyond that, that you need people to turn out. Bernie and Warren, the argument goes, are able to do that, they're

able to generate the enthusiasm that Hillary Clinton was not able to do at least in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Is that not an electability argument that is valid?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's clearly something I went after, a lot of other people who went after, who are not the establishment candidate, that we excite the base, this is -- every election is all about the base. Hillary didn't excite the base. We -- so absolutely.

The problem is, Iowa voters will look, I think, very levelheaded at this thing and say, yes, that matters but, yes, it is also a risk.

And, you know, Joe is not -- look, on policy, Joe is not that far away from where all these other Democrats are on policy. And he's moved, clearly moved to the left. And I think --

TAPPER: The whole party.

SANTORUM: Yes, the whole party. But Joe, in particular, has moved to the left.

Here is the thing. It highlights this, the good and bad for Joe Biden. It highlights that Donald Trump is worried about Joe Biden. If that -- if that -- to me, if I'm a Democrat thinking, I'll take Donald Trump's word - they've studied this as well as anybody, who the biggest threat to them is, and they think it is Joe Biden. That's the good news for Biden.

The bad news for Biden is, the narrative that is being talked about for Joe Biden during this impeachment, with Hunter and the swampiness, is not a good thing for Joe Biden. It is a chaotic mess for them.


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is interesting in the fact that, if the trial ends right before Iowa votes and the president gets off, in the view of Democrats, Democrats will be angry. How does that affect Iowa Democrats? I don't know the answer. But I think the timing is just -- it is another complication to a wide-open, crazy --


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It is one of the reasons that the Democrats, the managers felt they had to raise the conspiracy theories and debunk them. They knew that the Republicans were going to deal with it in presenting their case.

But if you were listening, you know, they debunked it. They debunked it. That could help Biden as well.

And I'm sure John --

(CROSSTALK) KING: There will be another side of that.


KING: There will be another side.

BORGER: But Biden was not surprised by what the Democrats did.


KING: The managers, the managers.


COATES: I think we know the Republicans will devote a lot of time to trying to take down Joe Biden --

KING: Absolutely.

NAFTALI: And now they have a reason to do so.

PHILLIP: There's one other element out there that I think is tricky for Biden. There's a sense in Iowa right now that voters are aware of the impeachment and they hate it. They hate the idea that this is just another symptom of the chaos and the dysfunction in Washington.

Some of the other campaigns are looking at this as an opportunity to say, well, we offer -- some of the campaigns, specifically Pete Buttigieg -- we offer a break from that from that Washington mentality. And if you're sick of impeachment as it is playing out in Washington, if you're sick of all the drama associated with it, here is a candidate who is outside of that system.

That's the argument that could work for Buttigieg or work for a Bloomberg, even an Andrew Yang. There are a number of candidates who could benefit from that argument.

SANTORUM: I think Buttigieg is the clear winner here. He's not involved with the mess being here in the United States Senate. And he is -- he's not Joe Biden, who -- again, pluses and minuses. But he has a chance to go out there, deliver his message, be the new fresh face. And I think this is a potentially big benefit.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Everybody, stand by.

There's more that is developing right now. The president complains about his legal team starting on a Saturday morning as we await day four of the impeachment trial that sets -- is set to resume.

We'll be right back.


[11:50:16] BLITZER: Just a short time from now, Senators will begin arriving for the final day of the Democrats' opening arguments. Then tomorrow, the president's legal team, they begin to make their case.

The president, though, is not very happy about the timing, saying that Saturday morning is, in his words, "the Death Valley of TV."

TAPPER: Ever the television producer, President Trump.


Let's talk about this.

John King, the president, you know, he is something of a showman. He knows about television. He knows about getting people's attention. If nothing else, you have to give him that.

Does he have a point or is this just how the system works?

KING: It is how the system works. Both of those are true. Yes, he has a point in the sense that he's annoyed, aggravated, angry that the Democrats will have, after today, three days of largely uninterrupted airtime, 24 hours to make their case. And they've made a pretty damning indictment of the president.

You can choose not to believe it, if you want. But if you go through it, including the president's own words, including all the people who defied the president's wishes and testified.

So if you're the president watching this, you can understand why he's foaming for his team to get up there and defend him. And he's right.

I don't know. We'll see what the viewership numbers are. Will as many people tune in on Saturday as during a weekday? By instinct, you would guess not. People going about their lives. Kids are at home and people have their weekends.

However, his team will get three days. There's been some talk that maybe the president's team won't take all three days. That I do not buy. They may have a shorter segment on Saturday.

The Democrats got three days. You know this president is going to tell his team, take three days, fight back hard.

BORGER: So have a shorter segment on Saturday --

KING: Right.

BORGER: -- and then come back on Monday. The Senators want to go home, anyway, right? So have a shorter segment and come back on Monday. And you'll do just what the Democrats did, and you'll save your best defender for prime time, which is what the Democrats have done with Adam Schiff.

And I think -- so the president can complain, but weekends occur. And people knew the timing of this going into this. Although, I think the Democrats planned it out this way and have given the Republicans a road map for what they ought to do when they make their best argument.


TAPPER: I have to -- go ahead.

COATES: I was going to say, if you're planning a presentation for Donald Trump, which we know this is what they have in mind, you want to make it as TV-friendly as possible. The bells and whistles. We know how the president consumes information. He's not one who necessarily likes to listen to a lot of speeches or people talking endlessly.

So that will be interesting to see how they tailor it to this president, who doesn't necessarily like the kind of presentations we've seen from Adam Schiff, two hours at a time.

And I do think the Democrats, I think, evolved from not as TV-friendly presentations to more sort of bells and whistles and videos. And I think there was news from Jim Sciutto that they're going to use a lot of videos in their presentation as well, the Republicans.

BLITZER: The Republicans, they want to get this over with as quickly as possible, right, Senator?

SANTORUM: Absolutely. I think the presentations by the House Democrats may have altered their plans. I think the idea was to get this thing done, don't take all three days.

I think everybody -- even after the presentation, they feel confident that they have the votes to end this. But I think the fact that they made an impressive multi-media show of this sort of gives them the sense that they have to respond to this. Not to win the votes in the Senate, but --

BORGER: For the public.

SANTORUM: -- for the public and for the president both.

So I think there was a chance they would not take all three days. They still may not, because, again, ultimately, the votes was what matters. And if the Senate says, get this over, we have the votes, move on, they may only take two days, but I think they're conflicted.

TAPPER: OK, we're going to squeeze in another quick break.

Coming up, we're going to discuss what the Democrats will do today in their very last day, their last chance to make their case before the Senate.


Stay with us.


BLITZER: Just in, we're learning -- get this -- 34 U.S. servicemembers have been diagnosed with what the Pentagon calls traumatic brain injuries resulting from that Iranian missile strike in Iraq at the Al Asad Airbase in Iraq.

Now, let's discuss this.

This is a significant development because, just the other day, the president of the United States was basically dismissing these injuries, headaches, not a big deal.

TAPPER: Yes. We didn't know exactly what the status was. We knew we learned several days after the attack that it actually had caused injuries to these troops and several of them had been medevac'd out of the airbase in Iraq, some to Kuwait, some to the airbase in Germany.

Then we heard from President Trump just Wednesday of this week in which he was asked, why didn't he acknowledge that several troops had been wounded when the Iranians struck back after the Soleimani strike. Here's what President Trump had to say.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things, but I would say -- and I can report it is not very serious.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You don't think a potential traumatic brain injury is serious?

TRUMP: They told me about it numerous days later. You would have to ask the Department of Defense. No, I don't consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries I've seen.