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NEW DAY SATURDAY

Soon: Trump's Defense Team Delivering Opening Arguments; Attorney: Trump Caught on Tape Demanding Ambassador's Firing; Interview with Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI). Aired 8-9a ET

Aired January 25, 2020 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These house Democrats have made their case. The White House has been sitting back and watching, and now it's their turn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump tried to cheat. He got caught, and then he worked hard to cover it up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're trying to build a circumstantial case for quid pro quo. That's going to be a tough sell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A piece of tape that appears to have a conversation between the president and Lev Parnas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Take her out. OK? Do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Parnas has not just been blowing smoke. It would be a miscarriage of justice if the Senate shows no interest in what he has to say.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to a special edition of "New Day." It is Saturday, January 25th, 8:00 in the east. Now, it is President Trump's turn to lay out his case. This morning President Trump's attorneys will present their defense against two Articles of Impeachment. This morning's session is expected to be brief; just a few hours, with the bulk of their arguments coming Monday and Tuesday. The House Impeachment Managers, the Democrats, wrapped up three days of their side last night. One of their goals had been to convince four Republican Senators to support a vote for more evidence and hear from witnesses. Did they accomplish that?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well the debate over witnesses will continue until an eventual vote next week. There is new evidence coming out. New evidence just coming out. This morning, we're hearing in the president's own words from a dinner in the spring of 2018, the president can be heard speaking with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, the indicted associates of Rudy Giuliani and ordering someone to fire Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch to the Ukraine. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Get rid of her. Get her out tomorrow. I don't care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Joining us now, John Dean, CNN Contributor and former Nixon White House Counsel and Joe Lockhart, CNN Political Commentator and former Clinton White House Press Secretary. John Dean, the president's attorneys will begin to make their case today. They're upset it's a Saturday morning. They say it's just going to be a teaser of what we're going to hear on Monday because the president doesn't like the viewership on a Saturday.

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Death Valley.

BERMAN: What are you listening for this morning? Because the president doesn't like the viewership on a Saturday. What are you listening for this morning?

DEAN: What I'm listening for, is if we have a repeat of what happened during the amendment process and they dissembled. I found it stunning, the House managers corrected them repeatedly. There will be nobody there to check them this morning and we know a lot of their defense is based on misinformation so I'll be curious to see how that plays. Fortunately, I think the members of the Senate are educated enough to not really think well about that kind of approach, you know.

CAMEROTA: I guess, I mean except that obviously people are locked into their sides and to their own belief system and I think you pose a really good question, what does happen if they're not - if the president's lawyers are not fact-based, and we have some evidence to suggest that in the past they haven't been. If they don't tell the truth, so what happens over the next three days?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the entire presidency is not fact-based. We have "The Washington Post" cataloging 16,000 lies, misstatements, deceptions. So, and -- and I think the president has made clear, or the legal team has made clear in their comments that they are going to start from the place that it was a perfect call. I'm not sure, maybe they think it's a perfect call. My guess the president has told them, you better not say there's anything was wrong with it. So almost by definition, their defense is going to have to be based on misinformation because no one believes it was a perfect call. No one in the room believes it's a perfect call because it wasn't.

So I think what you're going to see is little bonfires starting, just throwing anything - and I think Adam Schiff did a very good job previewing them and then knocking them down which is...

DEAN: He kind of put them in boxes as to where they're likely to be. LOCKHART: But it's all based on misinformation and the tragedy is

there's no sense down there that there's any penalty for lying and if you're with Trump, you've gotten comfortable with that.

BERMAN: You know John Dean, this is not an actual trial in a courtroom, let's be clear about that. But if an attorney in a courtroom did say something that was provably false, factually false, in an argument, what would happen normally in a courtroom?

DEAN: A -- a judge would admonish and if it was repeated, contempt. Now what's happening now, theoretically, I was talking to another lawyer last night, Michael Gerhardt who is with CNN. We were talking about this very issue; there is a criminal statute that applies. These are lawyers in a federal forum, this (INAUDIBLE) Senate and there is a statute 18 USC 1001 which is the general false statement before federal officers and federal officials that theoretically could apply.

CAMEROTA: I mean there's a lot of things that theoretically could apply. As we heard, the Chief Justice was going to throw people in jail if they spoke.

BERMAN: There are parties in the back of the...

CAMEROTA: ... quiet. But, you know, sometimes those things don't come to pass. And Joe, as we've talked about so many times here in the morning, new evidence comes out all the time and last night there was new evidence that seems really important and it is this dinner conversation that is captured on tape with President Trump and Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, the two guys that the president has said he doesn't know.

We are told that the tape is more than an hour long. He does know them and he also is so upset by what they're telling him about Marie Yovanovitch which we don't believe was true. They were feeding him lines to their agenda. They wanted her gone because she was trying to bust the corruption that they were reportedly up to and he just wants her immediately orders that she be fired. So listen to this moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEV PARNAS, RUDY GIULIANI ASSOCIATE: The biggest problem there, I think where we need to start is we've got to get rid of the ambassador. She's still left over from the Clinton Administration.

TRUMP: The ambassador [ bleep ]...

PARNAS: Basically walk around telling everybody, wait, he's going to get impeached. Just wait.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really?

(Laughter)

PARNAS: It's incredible.

TRUMP: Get rid of her. Get her out tomorrow. I don't care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out, OK?

PARNAS: Excellent.

TRUMP: Do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: We haven't heard the full context of that tape. There will be more and it will at some point hear the full context of that and it will come out or the Senate could hear it now.

LOCKHART: Yes, the Senate could hear it now. The Senate could see the cable from Ambassador Taylor. The Senate could see the back and forth between Mick Mulvaney and the president and the OMB. Remember, Mick Mulvaney was simultaneous for running both of these places, it's a key thing. The Senate could hear from John Bolton. Why did you call it a drug deal, sir? Why did you call Rudy Giuliani a human hand grenade?

All of these things but the Senate is not likely to hear these because this came out last night, Adam Schiff made a historic and I think stirring and important speech about what our country is about. And what did we hear from Republicans? We heard them railing against one line in the speech about whether the president intimidates them or not. You know, it's just not on the level. They're not taking it seriously.

Schiff's Thursday night close I think will be what people remember which is the president can't be trusted to put America first and I think that extends to the Senate. This is a gut check for them, whether you're personal interest is that the Republican Party come first or America's interest. Right now, there's every indication that they'll fail that test.

BERMAN: As a piece of evidence, John, what does this tape reveal? The president has said he doesn't know Lev Parnas on this tape. That sure seems to be a lie. They're having a conversation.

DEAN: It certainly puts the lie to that claim but it also makes him sound like a mafia figure, take her out. You know, this is not just the normal way you talk about one of your ambassadors. I don't know if it's the first time in the sequence that he'd heard about Yovanovitch and what she was doing, didn't play ball with Rudy or whether this is part of the sequence. But it's just quite surprising conversation with a bunch of strangers.

BERMAN: Well, or not -- or not.

DEAN: Yes.

BERMAN: Either he's with people he knows or he's with donors who bought their way to a table...

DEAN: Yes.

BERMAN: ... and you wouldn't think that a President...

CAMEROTA: (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: ... of the United States with Russian money who works for a company with all this fraud guarantee or whatever it is and he's talking about firing ambassadors right in front of that.

DEAN: Right. It's - it's - the way he did it and the fact he did it, I guess shouldn't surprise us by now with Donald Trump.

BERMAN: but its - it's deeply troubling though if you look at whether he knew them before or whether they got there with their money or their corrupt partnership with Rudy Giuliani, we got a window into this tape that this thought in the president's head that Ukraine is somehow trying - is out to get me, drove U.S. foreign policy for a year and a half and maybe even longer and the President of the United States held up this aid because he believed that they had something - that they have wronged him and then took a further step and developed this, I'm going to get Joe Biden too.

This is going to be a twofer for me and that I think is the value of the tape. We knew this intellectually, but when we heard it, we thought this is what they're doing, this is real. How do senators say they don't want to hear more?

DEAN: We're going to hear more about Joe Biden in the coming days.

[08:10:00]

BERMAN: Yes.

DEAN: That's going to be...

BERMAN: On Joe Biden I have to make a point which is I think the Democrats should not say that Joe Biden is irrelevant to this. Joe Biden is at the center of this. The reason it's corrupt and impeachable and removable is the president tried to manufacture and bully an ally into disgracing Joe Biden. He's at the center of this. Without Joe Biden, I'm not sure we'd be sitting here today and they just need to ...

LOCKHART: And they may try to do during the trial what they try to generally in this scheme which is muddy him up.

CAMEROTA: And it might work in this trial because you have three unadulterated days with nobody else interrupting.

OK, let's move on to this new, just-breaking political news out of Iowa and it finds that Bernie Sanders has leapfrogged the pack. The numbers are interesting Joe. We have Sanders at 25 percent outside the margin of error. Pete Buttigieg in second, 18 percent. Joe Biden, 17 percent; Elizabeth Warren; 15 percent; Amy Klobuchar, 8 percent. What do you see?

LOCKHART: Yes, one of the great benefits of being here at CNN is you get to talk to people like Harry (INAUDIBLE) in the green room and we were talking about this yesterday. This, you know, this is an incredibly muddled field this late. But it feels like the last turn may have been for Bernie Sanders. And now it all comes out and all of the polls are based on the model of who do you think is going to turn out. So there's a poll last week that shows Sanders in fourth place but that poll says that only older people are going to show up, not younger people. I suspect this poll is more accurate, the younger people are going to show up and that Sanders is going to come out of Iowa with a pretty big picture.

BERMAN: T the question is the trend here. Clearly, Sanders is on the upswing and people have to start asking the question what happens if Bernie Sanders wins in Iowa and New Hampshire where he has won before and that's a real possibility. How does that affect the race going forward? Quickly, Joe.

LOCKHART: Well, I think that he has momentum, and there's not a lot of precedent for winning Iowa and New Hampshire and then losing. Two things, though. One is Sanders has never faced deep scrutiny as front- runner. He's benefitted from being in Washington and the Iowa race being frozen because he was the last one to have a good week.

Secondly, Sanders has never proven that he connects with African- Americans. A part of the base, he's going to run into that in South Carolina. He's going to run into is it, potentially, with a huge tailwind but that tailwind could meet a road block in South Carolina and then the race opens up again. And then Biden, Bloomberg, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, who knows, fun to watch.

CAMEROTA: Joe Lockhart, John Dean, thank you both very much for being with us.

So as the president's legal team prepares its arguments we are learning more about the fight over witnesses. Will enough Republicans vote to hear from them? A Senate Democrat joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:15:00]

CAMEROTA: Senate Republicans and White House sources tell CNN they are confident they will defeat a motion to hear from witnesses and see documents that the White House has been blocking in President Trump's impeachment trial. So where does that leave Democrats? We're joined now by Democratic Senator Gary Peters of Michigan. Senator thanks so much for being here. It's another busy day. We really appreciate you taking the time. So do you think that any of your Republican colleagues have been moved by the case the Democrats laid out?

SEN. GARY PETERS (D-MI): It's hard to say at this point, but I certainly think the House Managers laid out an excellent case. They brought an awful lot of evidence forward. They put it together in a very methodical way and it certainly is some very disturbing facts. So, I would certainly hope that my Republican colleagues would think that it's wise for us to have witnesses that can speak to this with firsthand knowledge.

You know, you think about what happens in our country all across America as trials are conducted. We have witnesses that are on the stand, under oath, giving the facts to jurors. We should expect nothing less in the United States Senate.

We hope a few Republicans will do that and quite frankly, I'm waiting to hear what the attorneys for the president have to say today but I would think that if they have witnesses that they think will help their case, they'd want them to testify, they'd want them to come forward. You know, under federal rules of judges if you don't bring a witness forward that probably tells you it would be an adverse witness so perhaps they're just telegraphing. They don't have a witness that can possibly bolster the president's case; it would all be negative.

CAMEROTA: What happens if the president's attorneys don't tell the truth today? What happens if they're not fact-based?

PETERS: Well, we'll be calling them I'm sure our House Managers will call that out. Actually, we've odd had Adam Schiff kind of lay out what he thought some of the arguments were going to be. He did that last night. Really, we'll get to the bottom, what I found in my time here is that it's during the question and answer period that we can really drill down to those facts. When the White House attorneys are done presenting their case, we'll have 16 hours of questions. I know I have many question, my colleagues have lots of questions. We're going to have an opportunity to really get to what's the essence of this case.

CAMEROTA: There's new evidence that has come out last night. There's a chunk of this audiotape, and it is reportedly of a dinner in 2018 between Igor Fruman, Lev Parnas, it sounds like Rudy Giuliani and President Trump and in it, you can hear -- I mean, we've only gotten a portion of it. ABC News secured this but we're told it's an hour and a half long and you can hear Lev Parnas beginning to poison the well against Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

And you can hear President Trump responding very angrily to what Lev Parnas is suggesting. Let me play a portion for you. MP responding very angrily to what MP responding very angrily to what Lev Parnas is suggesting. Let me play a portion for you.

[08:20:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEV PARNAS, RUDY GIULIANI ASSOCIATE: The biggest problem there, I think where we need to start is we've got to get rid of the ambassador. She's still left over from the Clinton Administration.

TRUMP: The ambassador [ bleep ]...

PARNAS: Basically walk around telling everybody, wait, he's going to get impeached. Just wait.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really?

(Laughter)

PARNAS: It's incredible. TRUMP: Get rid of her. Get her out tomorrow. I don't care. Get her out

tomorrow. Take her out, OK?

PARNAS: Excellent.

TRUMP: Do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Get her out tomorrow. Take her out, do it.

PETERS: Right.

CAMEROTA: Do you think that this should play some role in the Senate trial?

PETERS: You know, I think we've already heard evidence related to the president's involvement in moving the ambassador out. There's some other testimony from folks that came forward. But certainly, that's - that's the kind of things that need to continue to come out. When you look at the process as it occurs in courtrooms all across America every day. New evidence will come out even when you're in trial. New witnesses may come forward and you bring that forward. I mean the ultimate goal of all of this is to get to the truth - to have the facts to get to the truth and allow Senators to make a decision based on facts and based on the truth of the matter. And we should be about doing that. My Republican colleagues I would think would want that going forward. You want to have a fair trial. You want to be a legitimate trial that the American people believe that all of these facts and all this information that was aired out.

And when Republicans refuse to do that, it basically demeans the process and it certainly shows that we're not engaged in a fair process in an attempt to find the truth.

CAMEROTA: I think you make such an interesting point. In most courtrooms if a new witness comes forward or new evidence comes forward, that is presented into the record. I mean that's how we've all watched it on television unfold. That's how we've seen it in our own lives and so this is following a different pattern. While I have you, because you're from Michigan, there are three people in Michigan that are being tested and monitored because of the coronovirus.

PETERS: Right.

CAMEROTA: What do you know about or what do you fear is happening with this in the U.S. right now and in your state?

PETERS: Well we have to watch it very close. I think we're all concerned about that. The CDC is certainly on it. I'm the Ranking Member on Homeland Security Committee. This is a Homeland Security issue in terms of making sure we're protecting folks. I talked to the Chair yesterday. I think we're going to try to get more facts through that committee. We may even be doing a hearing going forward.

But this is something we have to watch very closely and I'm concerned about and we're going to be on it.

CAMEROTA: OK, Senator Gary Peters, we really appreciate you taking time to be on.

PETERS: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much.

PETERS: Thank you.

BERMAN: There was actually a new case of the coronavirus confirmed on the West Coast. So what is being done to stop the spread of the virus? We'll discuss next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:25:00]

BERMAN: Breaking news. "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that the U.S. government is preparing a charter flight to evacuate citizens and diplomats from the Chinese city at the center of the coronavirus outbreak. Meanwhile, the number of cases continues to grow around the world, including now confirmed patients in Seattle and Chicago. Joining me now is the Secretary of Health for Washington State Dr. John Wiesman and CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Dr. Wiesman, I want to start with you here. Can you give me an update of the condition of the patient in Washington State?

DR. JOHN WIESMAN, SECRETARY OF HEALTH FOR WASHINGTON STATE: Absolutely. Thank you for asking. The patient as of yesterday afternoon was in satisfactory condition, resting well in the hospital. We don't have a discharge date yet and I just want to thank the health care providers and the ambulance folks who got him to the hospital. Everything is going really smoothly with him and we wish him well.

BERMAN: How is he being treated at this point?

WEISMAN: He's being treated really well. He's in an isolation room being monitored for his health and public health folks have been interviewing him and things are going well.

BERMAN: And I understand he's being treated by a robot? What can you tell us about that?

WEISMAN: Yes so in these isolation rooms that we often use sort of mobile robots to help interact with the patient to minimize the health care provider interactions. Sometimes, they listen to the heart or blood pressure, allow the providers to talk with the patient while they don't need to be in the room. So, it's just a way to help prevent infection control.

BERMAN: Dr. Gupta is with us here as well and I know he has a question for you. Sanjay?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, doctor, thank you for joining us. Good morning. How do you know when this patient is going to be able to leave the hospital? What are you looking for and specifically how do you know he will no longer be infectious because people can be infectious even after their symptoms sort of go away?

WEISMAN: Right. Great questions, well, we have folks on from the Centers for Disease Control on the ground with us helping us and the healthcare provider take care for the patient. They're monitoring the patient for fever and other symptoms constantly and taking additional tests to see if we're still seeing the virus in any of his samples. So that's one of the reasons we're having him in the hospital. He's doing well but we want to make sure that we understand the course of this clinical disease given that this virus is so new.

BERMAN: Sanjay, I know you have a question about the timing of detection as well.

GUPTA: Yes, I mean I think that's one of the big questions, I know again we're dealing with something brand-new here, Dr. Weisman, the idea that someone, even before they start to develop symptoms, could actually be, as we call it, shedding the virus and spreading the virus.

Do we know that's happening? We know there's some 50 contacts now that are being monitored of this patient. How worried are you/were you that he was spreading this virus even before he became sick?

[08:30:00]

WEISMAN: Well it's a really good question. We know that this is a new virus and we are being really cautious in our approach to this so we don't' believe that you're infectious until you actually start developing symptoms and coughing. This is a sort of droplet spread. So when you cough or sneeze is what we believe the case to be and we're looking at other coronaviruses to see how this might actually be spread. But this is also why we have CDC here with us. Our 50 contacts as you mentioned, they're being monitored and we're going to be going through sort of additional medical monitoring of those folks to see what we can learn about potential exposures.

BERMAN: And Sanjay, I'm going to ask you the question that I asked you yesterday because it keeps haunting me and haunting the people I'm talking to here. Which is you see the actions being taken in China. You see these cities with tens of millions of people being shut off to the rest of the world. China is not known for its transparency and it just makes one wonder are there things the Chinese aren't telling the rest of the world about what they know about the dangers of this virus or conversely are the Chinese overreacting?

GUPTA: That's a really important point. Those are the two possible answers. Is this overly aggressive or are we seeing a response to something -- numbers and concern in China that we are not still completely aware of. Here's one way to think about it. China is acting in a sort of what we call a grade A fashion in terms of how they're responding to this virus but the numbers, if you were to sit down and calculate them are more of a grade "b," very concerning but wouldn't necessarily lead to this significant isolation, quarantine that's going on.

So my guess is, John, and I've been talking to my own contacts now, some of whom are very familiar with the situation in China that the numbers of people who are infected is -- is going to be much higher than reporting now. Part of that could be just that people haven't been tested yet. They haven't been confirmed yet or it could be that we're not hearing it.

We're hearing the numbers, I think around 1300 now roughly of people who have been diagnosed with the infection. If all of a sudden we hear that numbers have gone to a couple thousand or even 3,000 or something like that. I would not be surprised, John, given - given sort of the situation that we're hearing there and China's response to this.

I also wouldn't be surprised if we hear the numbers going up in other countries. In the United States there are currently 63 people who are under investigation in 22 different states. You know, most of them are negative. There are only two people who have been confirmed as positive so far. We're going to hear about a lot more people who are being screened in this way John.

BERMAN: OK. Dr. Gupta, Dr. Weisman, thank you very much for being with us this morning.

WEISMAN: Thank you.

GUPTA: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Well, the VFW is demanding an apology from the president. We'll tell you why, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:35:00]

CAMEROTA: The Pentagon now says 34 U.S. service members suffered traumatic brain injuries in the Iran missile attack in Iraq. President Trump had downplayed the severity of those injuries. Now the VFW is demanding an apology. CNN's Ryan Brown is live in Washington. What are they saying, Ryan?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the VFW is saying that the president - is asking the president to apologize for what they call his misguided remarks and they say that he owes an apology to U.S. service members. And they talk about how the issue of traumatic brain injury concussions has become a major concern for veteran's groups and the U.S. military.

In the last 18 years, a lot of service members have been in explosions and have suffered these effects from the shockwave and they don't manifest immediately. This is one of the reasons why initial reports from the ground were that there were no casualties in the attack but in fact, the shockwave, the blast had caused some 34 concussions or traumatic brain injuries to 34 service members, 17 of which were treated locally and have returned to duty. But the remainder of being treated in Germany and some have even flown back to the United States for additional specialized treatment.

Kind of underscoring that these injuries were in fact fairly serious because they do have sophisticated systems there in Germany, so the fact that they had to bring them back to the United States really shows how serious these injuries were. The president, though, seemed to call them headaches, when he made his remarks, prompting this call for an apology from the VFW, John.

BERMAN: All right, Ryan, thanks very much for that reporting. Really appreciate it.

We're waiting just a few hours from now for the president's defense team to begin laying out its case in the impeachment trial of President Trump. They've given some signals about how they might approach things, namely, the Senators in the room. John Avlon here with a reality check.

JOHN AVLON, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Guys, look, this is a jump ball moment in American history. Democrats have finished laying out all the evidence and today the president's legal team will begin making its case. But there's a debate going on behind the scenes in the Senate that's just as important as what's going on in front of the camera. It's whether the Senate will agree that facts and evidence matter or whether this will be the first Senate impeachment trial in our history to never have witnesses.

Now the vast majority of Americans believe that there should be witnesses but this is a Senate that has a habit of putting party over country. Now we're already hearing three arguments designed to convince Republicans and swing state Senators to become supine. And the first is the hassle factor. It's a slacker's argument that sitting and listening to an impeachment trial is just too hard. Listen to Senator Mazie Hirono.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): It is hard to listen to things you don't want to hear - truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: It may be hard to listen to things you don't want to hear, but grow up. Do your job. This is a Constitutionally-mandated responsibility and I'm sorry if it impinges on your sleep schedule or social life. Another one we're hearing though is maybe it's just too boring. Jimmy Kimmel did a great montage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are boring people to death.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is really boring.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Monotonous, dull, boring.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I fell asleep. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the American people are really bored with

this.

UNIDENTIFIED: Boring politician with bad haircuts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: Yes, up next, circular firing squad logic. Look, we all heard Republicans argue that Democrats don't get first hand witnesses. We know of course, that's because the president blocked those witnesses in an unprecedented stonewall strategy. But since the House vote, key players have come forward and said they would testify, including John Bolton, Lev Parnas. So now Republican Senators are arguing behind closed doors that if additional witnesses were called, the White House would block them citing executive privilege dragging the process on through the courts and extending the trial which is exactly why House Democrats didn't pursue witnesses that were being blocked in the first place because the court battles could have dragged on until even after the election. So this is self-serving circular logic that leaves all reasonable options closed.

So when Senator John Barrasso complains about Democrats...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R-WY): They're really not bringing forth new information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: You can't appreciate the absurdity of it all without knowing that he voted eight times against allowing new witnesses and documents along with all his Republican colleagues. Finally, the big one, fear. Fear, of course, is what President Trump told Bob Woodward was his definition of real power. The Trump White House routines threatens and bullies, extravagantly praising those who do the president's bidding and publically attacking anyone who breaks ranks.

Senate Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): They're scared. I talk to Republicans all the time quietly, individually. Many of them tell me that Trump's a liar. A few of them have said Trump's a racist but they're all afraid of him. They're afraid he'll attach a nasty nickname to them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: But even with fear being a constant corralling technique, a CBS report still stunned saying that Republican Senators have been warned, quote, vote against the president and your head will be on a pike. That comes from an anonymous source cited by Adam Schiff in his closing argument. There's a lot of pearl (ph) clutching in response.

This is "Game of Thrones" stuff. It's a language of violence designed to intimidate. A great presidential historian, Robert Caro said, power doesn't corrupt, power reveals. And what power has revealed in the Trump presidency is how quickly some adults can be bullied into abandoning their principles out of fear, laziness or partisan group thinking. And that's your reality check.

CAMEROTA: I know I can call that boring, John, no one on any side of this. Thank you very much.

All right. So today is President Trump's turn. He will make his case. What will his lawyers say about all of the evidence that's been presented about the Ukraine scandal? The bottom line, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:45:00]

BERMAN: We are just an hour away from a major stage in the impeachment trial of President Trump. His legal team will take to the Senate floor to begin his defense. Joining me now is Stewart Verdery, he's the former general counsel to the Republican Assistant Majority Leader in the Senate during the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton. So Stewart, you've been there before. What do you think it is that the president's lawyers need to start to do today?

STEWART VERDERY, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL TO ASSISTANT MAJORITY LEADER DURING BILL CLINTON IMPEACHMENT: Well, they're trying to hold 51 votes, that is what they need to get to the outcome they want. They can get there in different ways. They're having people say this is conduct I'm not that worried about. There are people that may say, I'm worried about it but it's not convictable and there may be people who say I'm worried about it, it's very distressing but I don't want the Senate to go through the hassle of witnesses that could end up projecting court battles over privilege and the like. So there's different ways to get to 51. Obviously, the House Managers made a strong case and now it's the president's team to essentially try to hold serve over the next couple days making their arguments.

BERMAN: How much pressure does it put on Republicans, anywhere from four to eight, who might - might - and eight is probably a very high number, might be considering voting to hear from witnesses. What kind of pressure does it put on them that around 70 percent of Americans say they want it. They want new witnesses. They want to hear the evidence that the White House has withheld and a plurality of Republicans at least, according to our poll, feel that way.

VERDERY: You know, it's going to be tough on some of them. It's tough to make the argument saying I don't want to hear more evidence. Mitch McConnell has a strong hold on the caucus and I think you haven't heard much about the negotiations of, you know, the typical Senate. We're going to have a gang, we're going to have a negotiation. We're going to have a rump (ph) group. You haven't heard much about that. People saying we're going to negotiate on a deal on witnesses.

But we've got a few more days and we'll see where this leads. I'm very interested to see in particular, does the president's team, do they introduce new evidence into the case? They obviously didn't cooperate with the House proceeding in large part. They did not produce many documents. They did not send up their key witnesses but they've got access to documents and if there's exculpatory evidence or new arguments, they may want to bring that up in the case.

Now it sounds like today may be kind of just a preview and they're going to wait until people are actually paying more attention on Monday and Tuesday to finish out the case but they have that right and that will put the Chief Justice as the presiding officer in a really interesting position. Does he jump in and say that's not relative to the case or the procedural objections. So far you've seen very kind of somber, by-the-book trial.

[08:50:00]

There haven't been people jumping up making objections. But if they go down that road of making new evidence or things bringing or trying to bring things in the case that haven't already been in the record, does the chief jump in.

BERMAN: Well, let me ask just bluntly, have you seen any signal either in the way he's behaved on the bench or the coverage about him and the writing about him from those who know him and know what he's thinking that he would ever insert himself into this?

VERDERY: It seems unlikely. You can tell he's kind of getting instructions from the Secretary of the Senate. But we'll see how this goes both in the period we talked about before about the president's defense team but also later next week you're going to have the question and answer period and he will have a starring role in that. I brought a prop here that will help with the Clinton trial. This is the question card we used during the Clinton trial. It's a small card here, 3 X 5 and you'll have Senators actually writing these down. Hopefully they have good handwriting, handing them to a clerk and handing to the Chief Justice to read.

This will be somewhat planned behind the scenes, of course, to have a coordinated approach on questions but the Chief is going to be handed a card saying and reading this. Again, if they're going to bring in things around the Bidens or other things about Ukraine and foreign policy or perhaps a Republican Senator wants to talk about the economy, does he allow those kind of questions when we get to that phase of the trial? Very interesting. You're right. He hasn't shown an activist role so far but he's still got his chance.

BERMAN: You should get that card laminated first of all. That's a piece of history right there. You don't want to get your egg fingerprints all over in the morning. Listen, John Dean, who has been through some processes of his own over the last several decades...

VERDERY: Right.

BERMAN: ... raised the possibility of what happens if the president's lawyers say things that aren't true and that's more than speculative because they have said things that are untrue at least in their initial presentation before the opening arguments. Again, in a normal courtroom, the judge would intervene or there would be an objection where the judge is asked to rule but this isn't a normal courtroom.

VERDERY: It is not a normal courtroom that's for sure. I have a hard time imagining that the Chief would get involved on things that are basically opinion. If they are just flat out lies, I can see an objection being made by the House managers or potentially by Minority Leader Schumer raising a motion but I think it would have to be something that's clearly not factual as opposed to an opinion around corruption in Ukraine or the president's rights on the legal side around privilege.

So I think it would have to be a pretty outlandish claim and I assume the president's lawyers are going to try not to create those moments that provide an opening for people to bring the Chief Justice into the fray.

BERMAN: Jay Sekulow gave a little bit of a hint, maybe he gave a hint yesterday or else he wanted people to think that he was going to talk about the Bidens. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY SEKULOW, COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: For the life of me, they've done it and why they opened up the door as wide as a double door on the Hunter Biden - Joe Biden - Burisma issue. I guess they figured that was their way of getting ahead of it. We will address it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: How much should he go into that do you think?

VERDERY: It's hard to imagine they won't go down this road because this has been the core of their defense for months now so it's hard to imagine they wouldn't at least try to spin that theory out a little bit. I -- you know, I think they're going to raise it and probably let it stand.

I think they're also likely to talk about how the president in general has been tough on Russia. The have the Ukraine and the aid that was eventually given and other means, they're going to try to position this as a tougher foreign policy than their predecessor and again, that ought to be fought out more on the cable news shows than probably on the floor. I don't think they will be arguing about the strength of foreign policy.

But again I assume they're going to drag the Bidens in. I am one who is skeptical that we're ever going to see Joe Biden or Hunter Biden diposed during this trial either behind the scenes or on the floor.

I just don't think we're going to get to that point and I think it's more likely if they end up with witnesses it's going to be a very narrow bunch and that the first article depositions that give some type of coverage to Republicans, I want to say that they did look into this a little further and then get the acquittal that I think most people expect.

BERMAN: Stewart Verdery, thank you as always for your help understanding this as someone who has been through it before; it is invaluable.

VERDERY: Thanks for having me.

CAMEROTA: OK, John, it's a big day.

BERMAN: Indeed.

CAMEROTA: CNN's special coverage of the impeachment trial of Donald Trump continues with Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:55:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer live in Washington alongside Anderson Cooper. This is CNN's special coverage of the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump. we're just an hour away from the critical next phase in the trial. This morning, the president's legal team begins their defense. They call today coming attractions of the full-throated arguments they plan to present starting on Monday and this follows three days of evidence given by House Impeachment Managers, evidence that they say makes