Return to Transcripts main page


White House Counsel Presents Defense Of President Trump In Senate Impeachment Hearing; Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) Is Interviewed On White House Counsel's Defense Of President Trump In Impeachment Hearing; White House Counsel Argues Transcript Of Call Between President Trump And Ukrainian President Zelensky Shows President Trump Did Not Want Quid Pro Quo; White House Counsel Claims Ukrainian Officials Did Not Know Of Pause In Military Aid; U.S. Evacuates Citizens From Wuhan, China, Ground Zero Of Coronavirus Outbreak; Steven Spielberg Recounts Visit To Auschwitz. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired January 25, 2020 - 14:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer live here in Washington alongside Anderson Cooper. This is CNN's special coverage of the historic impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump. The president's defense team taking the spotlight today for their first day of opening arguments. The attorneys offering an abbreviated two- hour rebuttal to Democratic charges against the president. They repeatedly referred to President Trump's July 25th phone call with the president of Ukraine and described it as a good call, saying the president did absolutely nothing wrong.


PAT CIPOLLONE, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: We don't believe that they have come anywhere close to meeting their burden for what they're asking you to do. In fact, we believe that when you hear the facts -- and that's what we intend to cover today, the facts -- you will find that the president did absolutely nothing wrong.

They're asking you to remove President Trump from the ballot in an election that's occurring in approximately nine months. They're asking you to tear up all of the ballots across this country on your own initiative, take that decision away from the American people.

MICHAEL PURPURA, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: The fact that President Zelensky himself felt no pressure on the call and did not perceive there to be any connection between security assistance and investigations would, in any ordinary case, in any court, be totally fatal to the prosecution. The judge would throw it out, the case would be over.


BLITZER: The Democratic senators say the Trump defense team did something they did not intend to do by making the case for more witnesses and documents. Listen to this.


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY, (D-CT): The president's lawyers made a really compelling case for witnesses today. They said, well, you haven't heard anybody testify that the president told them, other than Gordon Sondland, to engage in this corruption. Well, that's because the White House isn't allowing the people that the president talks to on a regular basis, like Mick Mulvaney and John Bolton, to testify.

CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: They made a really compelling case for why the Senate should call witnesses and documents. They kept saying there are no eyewitness accounts. But there are people who have eyewitness accounts, the very four witnesses and the very four sets of documents that we have asked for.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: CNN Congressional Reporter, Lauren Fox is live on Capitol Hill. Lauren, I wonder what you're hearing from senators there today.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, Anderson, I will tell you that after this two-hour briefing presentation from the president's defense team, that Republicans are feeling very comfortable about where they are today. Of course, all eyes have been on whether or not Democrats can convince four Republicans to cross the aisle and vote with them on key witnesses, like John Bolton, like Mick Mulvaney.

You heard Democrats there making the case this is very compelling reasoning for why they need witnesses. Essentially the president's defense team saying no one has firsthand knowledge that the president was directing them to do anything. Democrats are saying this is a perfect opportunity, then, to interview people like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney.

But Republicans say they are very happy with the tone and tenor that the president's defense team gave today, in part because they felt like they were really targeting their message at some of those moderate Republicans, basically saying, you don't want to overturn an election, do you? This is too grave of an issue to basically take away the American people's ability at the ballot box. And Republicans say that is a very important art to convincing those moderate Republicans.

I talked to Roy Blunt, who is in Republican leadership, just a few minutes ago, and he told me, he thought the president's team essentially did the perfect thing today. They only spoke for about two hours, basically giving members an opportunity to go home, take a little bit of a rest, take a breather, come back Monday ready to hear a more robust argument.

Now, the tension has always been about whether or not the president's defense team is going to listen to the president, who wants this robust defense, maybe a little more fire and brimstone, in the room, versus Republican leadership, who have been telling the defense team, listen, what you need to do is go in there and convince people like Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, and Lamar Alexander that they don't need to hear from additional witnesses.

Now, the universe of Republicans who are going to be willing to support witnesses seems to be shrinking a little bit. Lisa Murkowski's comments last night saying she had concerns about Adam Schiff's closing argument essentially puts a little more pressure on Democrats when they are trying to find those four Republicans.

I've been also talking regularly a with Lamar Alexander, who is sounding a lot less like he is willing to hear from witnesses at this point, arguing that what he wanted to do was make sure the defense had a fair case, make sure that the House managers had a fair case. He feels very comfortable about where they are right now. Now, nobody is going to make any decisions until next week when that crucial vote on witnesses comes. Anderson?


COOPER: Lauren Fox. Lauren, thanks so much, appreciate it.

President Trump urged his Twitter followers to watch his lawyers present his defense. I want to bring in CNN's John Harwood at the White House. John, I'm wondering what the reaction is from the White House. Is the president is pleased with the team's performance? Have you heard?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we know he wasn't pleased that it took place on Saturday because he said so on Twitter. We are not sure if he was pleased with the rather low-key performance of his attorneys this morning, because he hasn't singled them out by name.

But we do know from his Twitter account that he was pleased with the overall message. He sent out a message a short while ago saying that any fair-minded person could see that he had been treated unfairly, this should never happen again. He retweeted Congressmembers who were making the same point, that the Trump defense team had done well.

Some of the main point the defense team raised were they asserted that Trump had never said that there was a quid pro quo, that the aid eventually flowed, that Trump was a better friend to Ukraine than President Obama had been. Now, at the same time, our colleagues on the CNN fact checking unit have pointed out that, in fact, there was considerable testimony that there was a quid pro quo, including from Trump's appointed ambassador Gordon Sondland, and the fact that the aid only flowed after the whistleblower had stepped forward.

Nevertheless, that was the case they made today, and they made it in a fairly focus and brief way. And I think, as we just heard a moment ago, that's something that, as Roy Blunt said, Republican senators can hold on to and use to justify a vote to block witnesses and to acquit if they are inclined to do that.

COOPER: We didn't hear from Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz today or Ken Starr. I assume that will be part of the presentation on Monday. HARWOOD: Monday or Tuesday, that's right. And Dershowitz of course

has the fallback position, which is that even if Democrats prove an abuse of power, Anderson, that that is not an impeachable offense.

The other question, I think, that surprised some of us today and is a question for Monday and Tuesday, as Lauren alluded to, is the president's defense team going to go very aggressively after Joe Biden, after the DNC server issue, these discredited theories that have been pushed by Russia.

The risk of that, of course, is that as Fiona Hill testified, that is Russian advocated propaganda. On the other hand, the president likes a robust defense, and which way the lawyers are guided is going to depend on some vote counting that I'm sure will be repeated over the weekend.

COOPER: John Harwood, thanks so much, John, appreciate it.

HARWOOD: You bet.

COOPER: Wolf, let's go back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Right now we are joined by one of the impeachment jurors, Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. Senator Hirono, thanks so much for coming in.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): Good to be with you.

BLITZER: So what did you think this morning?

HIRONO: I thought it was a very meager defense. And a couple of things I wanted to mention, because the Democrats have been very focused on the need for witnesses and more documents, and I know the president's team said, oh, the poor president, he has to rely on his defense, on the documents and evidence presented by the House. And why is that? Because the president did not produce a single document out of some 71 document requests.

And they also said, oh, by the way, we haven't heard from direct witness, people who were there. And why is that? Because Mulvaney and Bolton were told by the president, you're not going to testify. Those are two people who were there.

BLITZER: But do you think these lawyers today, the two-hour opening session, they got 22 hours to go over two days if they want to use it all. I suspect they won't be using it all. Do you think they at least today gave some of the more moderate Republican senators who may be on the fence right now an opportunity to support the president and vote against witnesses and documents?

HIRONO: I don't even know if there are any so-called moderate senators on the Republican side left, to tell you the truth, because the votes that were taken on Tuesday were a really good indication that they really don't want to hear from any witnesses.

BLITZER: So you think, senator, that Senator Susan Collins, for example, and some of the other more moderate senators that we describe as moderate senator, they have basically already made up their minds?

HIRONO: I think some of the senators, the Republican senators, are probably wrestling with their conscience. But what they know is they have a ferocious, vicious president who will go after them tooth and nail if they even step out of line.

BLITZER: So you're saying Lisa Murkowski is scared, Mitt Romney is scared?

HIRONO: I think fear is a really great aspect of what is going on with their assessment. That's my belief. And so this is the situation where courage is going to have to overcome fear, because it is only not just what the president's voters and supporter, there is a lot of money attached to supporting the president. Let's gets real here.

BLITZER: So on Monday, let's say the White House lawyers wrap up their opening arguments, and then they do questions, 16 hours Tuesday and Wednesday, eight hours each day if they want to use all that time. This whole thing, if they're not four Republican senator who are going to vote with the Democrats, it could all be over by next Thursday or Friday.


HIRONO: The thing is, Wolf, I don't think it is going to be over, because there is going to be evidence trickling in, information trickling in.

BLITZER: But the trial would be over.

HIRONO: The trial part, yes. And sadly, I don't think that we're going to find senators as courageous as, say, my good friends Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Donnelly, and Claire McCaskill, who in the Kavanaugh situation knew if they voted against Kavanaugh, they would be in trouble, and they were. So that was, to me, courage. I'm waiting for that.

But the signs are not good. But the way I look at it, this is not over. The president, by the way, when he gets exonerated, he will run around doing more of the same. And there is no question that this is a president who believes that he can do anything he wants under Article Two, and that means that he is going to feel totally free to shake down wherever else, find other pots of money he can do things with, and that is what is going to happen.

BLITZER: If he is re-elected?

HIRONO: If he is exonerated.

BLITZER: I assume he is exonerated --

HIRONO: He's going to have a couple more months.

BLITZER: If he is not convicted, if he's acquitted, he will have until November, January 20th of next year, but he might get re- elected. HIRONO: And there is that too, and there is a tremendous fear. And

that is why whatever evidence that comes out, whatever factual information that shows that this is a president who only cares about himself. And oh, the other thing that I have to write down, because I take excessive notes, but on this one, what a whopper, when his team said the president always had national security interests in mind when he did the hold. Is that why Mulvaney and Esper and others told him you better release the money? Is that why, because he had our national interests at heart? Give me a break.

BLITZER: Were you surprised that the White House lawyers made no significant mention of the Bidens at all today? We assumed that was going to be part of their arguments.

HIRONO: It is not over yet.

BLITZER: You suspect it will happen Monday?

HIRONO: They're going to find all kinds of ways to provide, to throw a lot of distractions at the wall, and the bottom line is, well, that if they have Dershowitz come in, saying, regardless, even if he did all of this, it is not impeachable, that means that you can abuse your power, it is not impeachable. And that is what I call, he did it, the so what defense.

BLITZER: It's interesting, because we're just learning from a well- placed Republican source, that the president is extremely pleased with the way his lawyers behaved during that two-hour opening argument today. If you were the president, would you have been pleased by what they did?

HIRONO: Anybody who says he did nothing wrong, I think that pleases the president. That's basically what his team said, he did nothing wrong, nothing to see here. And they point to the July 25th call, as though that's when the whole scheme began. And this notion that the president cared about corruption in the Ukraine, even as he was getting rid of the anti-corruption ambassador, Ambassador Yovanovitch, and even as he was praising the corrupt former prosecutor, and he really cares about corruption. Even if the DOD had already certified that they had met their issues related to corruption and the aid should have been released.

BLITZER: I assume you are going to be busy over the next few days.

HIRONO: I go on, Wolf, but I see my time is up.

BLITZER: Senator Hirono is a member of the Judiciary Committee and the Armed Services Committee. We have much more to discuss, but not today. We'll do it down the road.

HIRONO: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks, as usual, for joining us.

The president's defense team outlining six key points they say proves that President Trump did not commit an impeachable offense. But are the facts on their side? Stay with CNN's special coverage.



COOPER: White House Deputy Counsel Mike Purpura laid out six points he said are key to the president's defense in their opening argument today, in case you missed it. The first claimed there were no conditions on the aid the president withheld from Ukraine. Take a look.


MICHAEL PURPURA, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: The transcript shows that the president did not condition either security assistance or a meeting on anything. The paused security assistance funds aren't even mentioned on the call.


COOPER: So the counterargument to that is they're focusing solely on the transcript, as if that's the only communication.

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Which is not a full transcript.

COOPER: Yes, which is not --

BHARARA: And this is on page one of the not-transcript.

COOPER: Right, it is a readout of the call.


COOPER: What do you make of his argument?

BHARARA: Look, he is going as far as you can go, because there's no explicit conditioning. And I've said this a couple of times, I used to work with Mike, he is a great lawyer and a smart guy you never in life, unless you're the luckiest prosecutor in the world, get an explicit conditioning on tape or in the transcript that says if you do this thing for me, I will do that thing for you, or I will withhold this thing unless you don't withhold your thing.

What has happened is case after several times, I'm sure Mr. Purpura tried, you have common sense, and you have other evidence of the power differential and what the expectations were, and complaints that were made, and the actual fact of withholding of something, that went outside of what everyone else was counseling.

We keep talking about this evidence, is it important that the president of the United States was going outside of normal channels and that he was relying on Rudy Giuliani and talking to Lev Parnas and these other people. And they say he is allowed to talk to whoever he wants. To me that misses the point. The relevance of all of that is, if you're doing something that is in

the national security interest of the country and it is consistent with what the national security community thinks and wants and what everyone else in Congress says they want, and is voted for, and you then yet go outside of that, that is further supportive of the argument that you're doing it for some personal gain. And you're withholding the money for something that you want yourself, combined with his constant refrain, I want an investigation of the Bidens, an announcement of an investigate.

COOPER: I want to play one of the other arguments that the defense team making that there was no quid pro quo. Let's listen.


MICHAEL PURPURA, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: President Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials have repeatedly said that there was no quid pro quo and no pressure on them to review anything.



COOPER: This one I've never understood, Jennifer. Just common sense tells you Ukraine is still needing the United States. We are their biggest partner, as the president himself said, the rest of Europe isn't giving as much as the United States. They are still beholden to the Trump administration.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They are. And as Preet knows and as Mike Purpura know since we all did organized crime cases together, that's how it works. You hold something over someone, it doesn't have to be so explicit. You know what a threat is. You know when someone says I'm going to do this to you if you don't give me what I want.

COOPER: President Zelensky, it would not be wise for President Zelensky at this point to be saying yes, he was pressuring me, I felt very pressured. It makes him look weak.

RODGERS: He still needs to work with this administration, he may need to work with them another four years, there is no way he is going to try to come out and say that.

COOPER: It is not like the White House would be vindictive or anything to a country.

The president's defense team also claims that Ukraine didn't know there was a hold on the critical aid.


MICHAEL PURPURA, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: President Zelensky and high-ranking Ukrainian officials did not even know, did not even know, that security assistance was paused until the end of August, over a month after the July 25 call.


COOPER: Ross, what do you make of that argument?

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: See, I actually think the first three points really go to the notion that it's an impeachment trial, there is no firm burden of proof. There's nothing to require senators to convict beyond a reasonable doubt, or by clear and convincing evidence. But there's general agreement that the standard is very high and the House managers have that burden of proof.

And I think these first three points go to the notion that the Trump lawyers are saying, when you look at the evidence, they haven't actually met that standard. And yes, it may be true that in a certain of these things, you wouldn't necessarily expect to be explicit, but the Trump lawyers are being smart, they're pointing out that there aren't explicit this-for-that discussions, there aren't explicit words, and they're going to go into more detail next week. And their point will be, putting aside whether it is explicit or not explicit, even the circumstantial evidence doesn't add up. That's going to be their point.

COOPER: The president's defense team says there was no connection between the Ukrainian aid and any investigation into the Bidens. Listen.


MICHAEL PURPURA, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Not a single witness testified that the president himself said that there was any connection between any investigations and security assistance, a presidential meeting, or anything else.


COOPER: Gordon Sondland said he assumed and he believed the president, that's what the president wanted, but he himself said that the president didn't directly tell him, that's why they're saying there were no actual witnesses saying that they saw the president say this, or heard the president say this. The president's acting chief of staff admitted as much, that the president did, from the podium in the White House briefing room. Take a look.


MICK MULVANEY, INCOMING ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: This is a corrupt place. I don't want to send them a bunch of money and have them waste it, have them spend it, have them to use it to line their own pockets. Did he also mention to me in the past the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. But that's it. And that's why we held up the money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you just described is a quid pro quo. It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happens as well.

MULVANEY: We do that all the time with foreign policy. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: He later came back, had to issue a statement and kind of walking that back. Preet, the idea the Democrats have sort of jumped on what the president's attorney was saying this morning as the case for, as making the case for why you need to have witnesses, because there are people who have direct conversations with the president, Mick Mulvaney being one of them.

BHARARA: Look, as we have been talking about this over the course of the day, the Republicans have a good talking point, which is Adam Schiff says over and over again, and others say, we have an overwhelming case, overwhelming case, and yet we need more witnesses, and that has a powerful appeal.

Democrats have an equal and opposite powerful appeal, which is this is a trial. At a trial you have witnesses and you have evidence. And that every layperson understands as well, and it is especially compelling when you have a statement like that from Mick Mulvaney that you played without the chance to have him elaborate on it.

And then even worse, John Bolton, who may have been one of the people that Mike Purpura won't be able to say-- triple negative there -- but John Bolton maybe somebody who may be able to say what was in the president's mind, but he is not permitted to be called even though he says he is available and prepared to testify if he is issued a subpoena, and even though he has a book deal. That information is going to come out.

So the Democrats' other powerful point is, we might as well have the witnesses now because it is going to come out eventually anyway, and how is that going to look. So in some ways they win every way, they get the witnesses now which is good, they don't get the witnesses now, they come later, and every Republican senator who voted against having John Bolton testify maybe faces a consequence.


COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. Our special coverage continues. We will talk about the possible questions the senators may ask next week.


BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We're back with our special live coverage of the president's impeachment trial, his defense team wrapping up their first day of opening arguments, and they say they won't necessarily take their full three days, which means after that, it will be time for senators to ask both sides questions.

Alan Frumin, you're the former Senate parliamentarian. They'll be 16 hours potentially of questions where the senators will be able to ask both sides, the House managers as well as the White House lawyers, questions. Walk us through, first of all, how that will be implemented.


ALAN FRUMIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think this will be the fun part of the trial from the standpoint of those of us who enjoy process.


FRUMIN: The organizing resolution does provide for 16 hours of questions. At this time, it does not divide that evenly, so what that suggests to me is it's going to a grab bag, first come, first serve. The questions must be submitted to the chief justice in writing.

BLITZER: In writing, because the senators are not allowed to speak.

FRUMIN: Once again, the senators are supposed be mute. You're not supposed to hear them at all. So they're supposed to submit the questions in writing, and the chief justice is supposed to read them. Chief Justice Rehnquist had some fun back in the Clinton trial, first by imposing a five-minute limit on the responses to the questions, and he also got into it in terms of making sure that senators didn't try to sneak in debate in the forms of reservations of objections and parliamentary inquiries.

The chief justice in the Clinton trial did not get the credit that he deserved for maintaining order, for maintaining dignity, and also maintaining a sense of humor as the process wore on.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Will it say which senator asked the question when they submit them?

FRUMIN: Yes, yes.

COLLINS: It does.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And then you have to direct it to a certain attorney, correct? Or do you have to say the president's team?

FRUMIN: The senator-- it is up to the senator submitting the question.

BORGER: So you could just direct it generally and both sides could answer?

FRUMIN: Well, I don't think -- the questions would be directed to one party or the other.


FRUMIN: I don't remember questions being directed to a particular manager or a particular counsel. My recollection were that questions were directed either at the manager's generically or the president's counsel generically.

BLITZER: And so there has to be a question. It can't be a long statement with what do you think? FRUMIN: Once again, Chief Justice Rehnquist was on top of it. He was,

and I think in part on advice of our office, very mindful of the fact that senators are very good at speaking when they're not supposed to speak. Prefacing a question with a long preamble that could go on for hours, that's common Senate stuff. The chief was having none of it. And he, as I said, we were having none of it as well. We were very, very careful to make sure that senators stayed in their lanes and followed the rules strictly, as best as possible.

BLITZER: And they have to write out, with a pen, on a piece of paper, the question, right? They can't do it online or anything like that?

FRUMIN: Well, in 1999, we weren't online. They can't have their devices in the chamber. So I suspect this will be a challenge for those who are handwriting-challenged.

COLLINS: What about bipartisan questions? There was one in the Clinton trial, I believe. Do you anticipate there will be any bipartisan questions?

FRUMIN: Oh, that would be wonderful.



BORGER: You mean being asked by both sides, right? But I think there are question, for example, if you're going to ask about witnesses, you're going to want to ask both sides about Bolton and Mulvaney. You're going to want to ask the Republicans, well, why not clear things up and have John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney testify?

FRUMIN: I don't remember questions going to both parties. I do have a vague recollection that there were bipartisan questions going to one party or the other. But I have no recollection of a question being directed at both parties.

BLITZER: Earlier today, I want our viewers to listen to President Trump's defense team tell senators earlier today how it would be judicious and be considerate of their time for them to pay attention to the White House lawyers.


PAT CIPOLLONE, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I want to start out just very briefly giving you a short plan for today. We're going to be very respectful of your time. As Leader McConnell said, you heard the House managers speak for nearly 24 hours over three days. We don't anticipate using that much time.

JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Manager Schiff, Managers Garcia and Demings, relied heavily on selected clips from Ambassador Sondland's testimony. Automatic. I am not going to replay those. My colleague, Mr. Purpura, played those for you. It's clear. We're not going to play the same clips seven times. CIPOLLONE: Mr. Chief Justice, members of the Senate, I have good

news. Just a few more minutes from us today.


BLITZER: Well, they only spend two hours today. I think the opening statement that Adam Schiff made was two-and-a-half hours.


BORGER: The first very long day.

HENDERSON: And yes, it doesn't look like they're going to take as much time, and they kept saying over and over and over today how much time Democrats used. Listen, they had 24 hours, they used 24 hours, they got 22 more hours. Maybe they wrap on Monday, maybe they wrap on Tuesday, but we do know that this is a president, this is a party that wanted to get this over with, right?


So the idea that they're going to use their whole time, it doesn't seem like it, and they're sort of using that as a way, in some ways to ingratiate themselves to senators there.

BORGER: The burden was on the Democrats to make a case, so that's why they had to take a lot of time. And now the burden is on the Republicans saying we're not them and we really care about you, and so we're not going to take as much time and we're not going to waste your time, and I'm putting that in air quotes, waste your time the way the Democrats did, because we're more considerate of you. Now, that's knowing your audience, which is who are tired members of the Senate, obviously. But that doesn't make the case.

COLLINS: And the latest we heard from White House sources was they do expect to go for two days. So we don't expect them to come on Monday and make arguments and then go ahead on Tuesday. That could, of course, change. Things are fluid with this kind of stuff all the time, you never really know exactly what they're going to do.

But it does raise the question, because you heard nearly 24 hours of arguments from the Democrats, now there are two arguments of defense pushing back from the president's team, not on every point, of course, that the Democrats made, because of such a constrained time period, but now these moderate senators that they're counting on, debating whether or not they're going to vote for witnesses, are going home, and they do have until Monday to be thinking about these 24 nearly hours of arguments from Democrats, two hours from the White House. I wonder how, if that will affect --

BLITZER: If they want to use all their time, 22 hours, 11 hours on Monday, 11 hours on Tuesday, they're starting at 1:00, on Monday, could go way into the night. I suspect that will not happen.

Meanwhile, a lot of developments in front the camera. What about what you're not seeing? Up next, CNN takes you behind the scenes of the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump.

Plus, a new development in the global spread of the coronavirus, the U.S. now evacuating Americans from a Chinese city. We'll take you live to the region.



BLITZER: Our CNN reporters and producers, they have been our eyes and ears, basically, inside the U.S. Senate chamber. They're sharing us with the happenings we can't necessarily see on camera. Joining us now, three of them, Alex Rogers, Clare Foran, they're congressional reporters for CNN Politics, and Jeremy Herb, CNN politics reporter. Guys, thanks so much. I know you have been working hard, thanks very much for what you're doing.

Alex, first of all, tell us what you're seeing behind the scenes that we just don't necessarily see on television.

ALEX ROGERS, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Sure. I get to sit on the back left-hand corner, been in there the in the beginning of the trial, every day at 1:00 p.m. And we get to see what you guys don't get to see on camera. So we're on the Republican side, and we get to see the senators who are disaffected, who weren't really into the House managers' argument earlier this week, play with their fidget spinners, doodle pictures of the capitol.

And then later today, when the defense team gave their first argument, we saw them way more attentive, way more engaged, writing down notes that they thought that there was going to be a particular that maybe they would next week to figure out how they were going to vote.

BLITZER: There were a lot of efforts by the White House lawyers to really undermine the credibility of the lead House manager Adam Schiff. Were you looking at him? Were you trying to see how he was reacting to those attacks?

CLARE FORAN, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: I was in the room today when the, as you said, the defense team really started their kind of going after Adam Schiff and making him a central focus, bringing up video clips, playing statements that he has made in the past, tried to raise questions about his credibility, and it was a really intense moment in the room.

You have to remember it is very cramped in there. They have these tables set up for the president's defense team and the House managers, and it is all kind of tightly sort of squeezed in there. And so Schiff was sitting not very far away at all from the defense team, as they are making these arguments about him.

And he really seemed to be making a concerted effort to kind of turn his body toward the defense team as they were making these arguments and just staring at them without much of an expression. He wasn't portraying any emotion, but it was a very intense, unbroken gaze that he was directing towards them. BLITZER: Jeremy, when you're looking at some of the Republican

senators, four, five, six of them, that potentially could be the swing votes and vote with the Democrats in allowing witnesses to come forth, how they were reacting?

JEREMY HERB, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, absolutely. And the Republican side, while the House managers were presenting, you had a lot of movement of senators who weren't really paying attention, and they were getting up and out of their seats. That was not the case with Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. They were both sitting next to each other, there the entire time. Susan Collins was taking notes.

Murkowski, she would lean back in her chair, but she was absolutely watching the entire presentation. The others, too. Corey Gardner took a lot of notes. Lamar Alexander, he had some trouble sometimes at night, it kind of looked like his head was tilting forward, but certainly when he was attentive, he was also watching. So those key half a dozen or so Republicans, they are definitely the ones paying attention in the chamber.

BLITZER: Today, Alex, it was only two hours.

ROGERS: Right.

BLITZER: Not 10 hours or 11 hours like it was the other days. I assume no one was doing cross word puzzles and stuff like that.

ROGERS: Not today. I think one of the interesting points was when they pick up their pen. And so when Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski today picked up their pen, it was because when the defense argument was giving the points that this would not only overturn the results of the last election, but it would also take the president off the ballot for the next one. So to me the most interesting thing that I saw today was when the Republican senators picked up their pens and they thought to themselves, this is something I'm going to use next week.

BLITZER: And Clare, very quickly, just remind our viewers why they are not seeing wide shots of the U.S. Senate, and the 100 senators.

FORAN: Yes, well the way that the rules were set up for this trial, it's just -- the cameras are just focusing on whoever is at the front of the Senate making the argument. So whether that's the House manager, or the defense team, or the chief justice, when he does speak, which isn't very often, but he gavels into session and out.


But the cameras are not showing the senators, so this is really a rare glimpse that reporters that are in the press gallery are getting to see and kind of watch this unfold that the cameras and television audiences back home don't get to see.

BLITZER: These are Senate rule, not rules for the Radio TV Correspondents Association or anything like that. Guys, you're doing a great job for us, for our viewers, thanks to all three of you for coming in. I know you're working hard, but you're supposed to. The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo now responding to claims by a

reporter that he lashed out and cursed at her when she asked him about Ukraine.

Plus, new details about the deadly coronavirus outbreak that is prompting the U.S. to evacuate Americans right now out of China. Stay with us.



BLITZER: The president of China warns that the coronavirus outbreak is accelerating right now, as the U.S. government works to get American citizens out of China. The State Department leading a coordinated effort right now to evacuate U.S. diplomats and their families from Wuhan, which has become ground zero for the deadly virus. The source tells CNN that about 1,000 American citizens are living in Wuhan right now. The new strain of the coronavirus has already claimed 42 lives and infected more than 1,400 people around the world, including three people right here in the United States.

CNN's Steven Jiang is joining us now live from Beijing. Steven, what more are you learning about the arrangements?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well, Wolf, details are still being finalized as we speak. For example, they were still deciding between sending a narrow-body Boeing 737 and a wide-body 767, and the flight plane, as well as where this plane will be landing in the U.S. But a lot of this, of course, depends on what the Chinese authorities allow the U.S. to do this. But so far, according to the source, the Chinese have been very cooperative.

What we do know is the U.S. is pulling out about three dozen diplomats and their families from Wuhan and also offering a chance to buy a seat on this plane to any Americans in the city who have registered with the consulate, which of course is now closed. And this flight will be staffed with medical personnel to treat anyone with symptoms and also to contain the virus if needed.

And Wolf, the U.S. is not the only government doing this, though. South Koreans and the British, for example, are also making arrangements to pull their citizens out of the city, which is, of course, the epicenter of the outbreak. Wolf?

BLITZER: Very, very scary and worrisome development indeed. Steven Jiang, thank you very much. We will stay in close touch with you.

And 75 years after the last prisoner was liberated, the name still haunts all of us, Auschwitz. Tomorrow night I will take you to a place of unspeakable horror as well as unmatched heroism, and reveal it through the eyes of those who were imprisoned there and those who lived to tell their stories. Here is a preview of our special featuring the director of "Schindler's List," Steven Spielberg.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Walking these grounds changed Steven Spielberg's life forever, as it did mine.

I walked under that sign "Arbeit macht frei," "work makes you free." And then when I went to Birkenau and saw the crematoria, the gas chambers, it was a powerful, powerful moment.

STEVEN SPIELBERG, DIRECTOR: The second time I went to Auschwitz with my wife, a rabbi took us and we said a prayer. And he asked me to come over, near where the remains of the crematoria laid, and he said you could put your hand in this sort of like mud hole. And I did, it was very soggy, it had been raining, and I put my hand in there, and I brought my hand out, and there was wiped sort of bone meal all over my hands, because the remains of everyone over those years of mass murder rained back down on to the earth. And they're still there. And that's something I'll take to my grave.

BLITZER: We hear from four Auschwitz survivors. Anita was a celloist, a young girl. Martin was a tailor. Renee was also a designer in the making. Eva, she was a 10-year-old little girl when she was brought to Auschwitz. Why did they survive whereas others died? Just to say luck, that's not enough. It's not luck. It's more than that.

SPIELBERG: These survivors somehow hung on tenaciously to life. Whatever didn't cause their death -- disease, hyperthermia, murder -- somehow this group of kids made it out and were able to lead very, very productive and almost inspired lives. This is the last significant commemoration of the worst atrocity in, I believe, human history.


BLITZER: And you can hear more stories from survivors of Auschwitz, hear about the people who overcame the evil that was meant to destroy them. "The Courageous Voices of Auschwitz" airs tomorrow night, 11:00 p.m. eastern, right here on CNN.

Thanks very much for joining us. I will be back here later tonight for a special edition of "The Situation Room" starting at 5:00 p.m. eastern. Much more ahead as we continue our special coverage of the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump. Brianna Keilar is standing by right after a quick break.



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon, I'm Brianna Keilar live in Washington, and you are watching CNN's special coverage of the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump. Today the president's legal team delivered their opening arguments and a preview of their defense plan in just about two hours.