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THE SITUATION ROOM
GOP Source Says, Trump Extremely Pleased With Legal Team Today; White House Counsel Claims Democrats Locked Out Trump's Defense; Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) In Iowa Amid Break In Senate Trial; Buttigieg Campaign Sends E-mail Warning That Bernie Sanders Could Become The Nominee; Newly Released Video Shows Trump Demanding Firing Of Diplomat; Parnas Recording Shows Trump Talking With Indicted Businessman The President Said He Doesn't Know; Death Toll From Coronavirus In China Rises To 54. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired January 25, 2020 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM with CNN's special coverage of the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump.
Tonight, word that the president is extremely pleased with today's opening statements from his legal team, but some of his closest allies are actually a bit disappointed. A GOP source tells CNN they had hoped for a more fiery defense.
For one hour and 55 minutes, President Trump accused the Democrats of hiding evidence, attacked the credibility of the lead House impeachment manager, Congressman Adam Schiff, and repeated over and over that the president of the United States was completely innocent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY SEKULOW, OUTSIDE LEGAL COUNSEL FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: Are we here because of a phone call or are we here before this great body because since since the president was sworn into office, there was a desire to see him removed.
PAT CIPOLLONE, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: They're not here to steal one election. They're here to steal two elections.
It's about time we bring this power trip in for a landing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Well, what everyone expected, but it didn't happen was the public tarring of Joe Biden, a Trump legal source declining to say if the former vice president will come up next Monday or Tuesday even though the president himself has focused a lot on Biden for several months.
Let's get right to Capitol Hill. Our Congressional Correspondent, Phil Mattingly, is joining us. Phil, first of all, take us through the key points from these opening
arguments by the president's legal team.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. For nearly 24 hours, the president's legal team sat silently, unable to say anything, as Democratic managers presented their case. Today, they had their first chance.
And while it was brief, only two hours allowing senators to leave at a half way decent hour for the first time in a couple of weeks, they made central points that oftentimes sounded a lot like what you heard from their House colleagues during the impeachment inquiry over in that chamber. I want to walk through a couple of key points because you are going to hear them repeatedly over the course of the rest of the representation.
They started with the idea of the call transcript, July 25th call transcript, saying explicitly that the call did not condition aid on any specific White House meeting or investigations if you read it in its actual wordage. It also states that Ukraine repeated -- Ukrainian officials said they did not feel pressure when they were asked about it publicly.
Ukraine, the White House lawyer said also, was not aware of the aid holdup when the call on July 25th took place and they made clear that going through and showing video clips from the House hearings that no witness testified that investigations were directly connected to aid.
They also made clear the aid was initially released and a meeting was held at the sidelines of the U.N. between President Zelensky and Trump.
Now, to be clear, Democrats say there is a boat load of information surrounding those specific issues that make many of those points untrue or at least debatable at best and there has still not been a White House meeting between President Zelensky and Trump up to this point but that is where the White House settled on today making clear that that will be the core of their arguments in the days ahead, Wolf.
BLITZER: What's been the reaction, Phil, from some key lawmakers after these opening arguments from the president's legal team?
MATTINGLY: Wolf, I think one of the interesting elements is when you take those key points that you heard from the White House lawyers, is that Democrats took that and said, look, if that's your position, if those are the points that you believe are static, that are absolutely firmly in place, then you're actually making our case for us. And what is that case? That they need to hear from witnesses and they need to see documents. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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. 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.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Democrats making clear what they've made clear now for the better part of the entirety of the Senate trial, the push towards a vote on whether to consider subpoenas for witnesses and documents.
Now, that vote will occur after the White House team finishes its presentation and senators get 16 hours to ask questions of both sides. And the big question for Democrats is can they convince at least four Republicans to join the 47 Democrats in the Senate in order to get that simple majority they need to move on to that next step of considering subpoenas for witnesses and documents.
Here is the reality right now. Today, Mitt Romney, senator from Utah, said once again that he believes he will likely vote for witnesses. He will be a yes on that vote. Democrats need four. Obviously, they've been looking at people like Senator Susan Collins, who also said she is likely to vote.
But beyond that, I am told by a number of Republicans, Wolf, they believe they are in a good place to defeat that vote.
However, there are obviously still multiple days to come and those questions to watch before we'll get to see it live on the Senate floor.
BLITZER: Yes. And we'll see that vote, what, next Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday, but it's coming up. Phil, thank you very much.
Let's go to the White House right now where President Trump told a Republican source today that he is, quote, extremely pleased with what he saw today from his handpicked legal team, while we're also learning that some people close to the president were expecting something more forceful.
CNN's Kaitlan Collins is joining us from the White House. Kaitlan, what are you hearing?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, there are sources who say the president is pleased with how their performance went today. Of course, it was pretty brief, only two hours. And that was the first time we've heard from the president's attorneys formally since this inquiry got kicked off with Nancy Pelosi back in September when this whistleblower came forward with this complaint.
Now, there are other people who believe that they could have been more aggressive, and it's been essentially this kind of weighing debate here at the White House over how aggressive they should be because some people, including the president, want them to come out, have this full-throated defense while others say, no, you've got to know your audience here, it's 100 senators. And if you come out and you're essentially -- you know, this boisterous performance, it's not going to be something that they are really receptive to.
So that's the question going forward. And, essentially, their ultimate goal is to poke holes, sow doubt, and it's a Democrat narrative. And as you heard from Pat Cipollone today, they believe the burden of proof is on the Democrats and they told the senators in the room that they do not think that the Democrats met that during those nearly 24 hours of their presentations laying out the evidence against the president talking about this pressure campaign.
The question is going to be, and a lot of it has to be with the president's ultimate decision over how something went, it has to do with the coverage of it itself, and a lot of it could come tomorrow during those political Sunday talk shows that sources say the president watches incredibly closely. So he'll be watching to see and, of course, they are going to have sound from the Democrats' presentations, so that really could be a better sense of how the president sees all of this.
And, of course, Wolf, we still have at least one more day of a White House defense where you are going to see not only Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow and those other attorneys that we watched today, you are also going to see Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz. So it will be interesting how this defense all comes together once we see it a little bit longer than those two hours you saw today.
BLITZER: We'll see much more on Monday starting at 1:00 P.M. Eastern. Kaitlan, thank you.
Back with us right now, CNN White House Correspondent, John Harwood, and also joining us, our Political Correspondent, Sara Murray, and former Special Assistant to Robert Mueller, Michael Zeldin.
So what do you think of the tone, the presentation, the first two hours by the White House legal team today? Is that going to continue, do you think, Monday and potentially Tuesday? They still have 22 hours if they want to use up all that time.
JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I don't expect them to use up all that time. I expect President Trump is going to weigh in in the next 24 hours or so to tell the lawyers what he wants. As we discussed in the last hour, the temperate tone was a smart decision by the House lawyers.
Some of the points they were making were a bit irrelevant to the actual defense, saying things like, well, Adam Schiff's soliloquy at beginning of one of the hearings was fake. Well, of course, Schiff didn't say that he was repeating the president's words. He was saying he was describing their meaning.
They said that the senators were being asked to overturn the results of the election. Of course, they're not. That would make Hillary Clinton president. They are talking about the president converting foreign policy to his personal goals.
One of the challenges with Dershowitz is Dershowitz has tried to be the backstop and said, even if the Democrats prove their case, it's not worthy of impeaching the president. Donald Trump doesn't want to hear those words because he doesn't want to hear the suggestion that he did wrong, that they have proved that he did wrong. So exactly how they try to make that argument to deal with the softest Republicans while sticking to absolutely nothing wrong, that's going to be tricky.
BLITZER: Yes. That was the argument you and I remember it well from the Bill Clinton impeachment trial 21 years ago. Yes, he did some bad things and he's apologized. He's sorry. It's not worthy of impeachment and not worthy of conviction and removal. He was impeached, but he wasn't removed from the presidency.
Sara, Mitt Romney, the Republican senator from Utah, he says he's now likely to vote for witnesses. He says it's not final, he wants to hear more, but it's likely. We know that maybe there are one or two other Republicans, but they need four.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: They do need four, you know, and it's possible they may need more than four because to be that fourth person is a really difficult position to be in. You have to buck your party, you have to buck Leader McConnell, which we all know is an extremely uncomfortable place to be in and not a place that many of these folks have stuck their neck out to be in in the past. And so it's possible that you would only get those four if you had more than four, if more folks were looking to be moved in that direction.
And it's hard to see how they get there.
If they spend the next two days hearing from the president's defense attorneys, it's really difficult to see how that is going to move them closer to wanting witnesses. There's 16 hours of debate that they're going to have on the other side of this. I know everyone is looking forward to more hours of watching the Senate floor and want to hear more about the pitch for witnesses then. But right now, today, if anything, it seems like we saw more of these moderate Republicans moving away from where the House impeachment is.
BLITZER: Michael Zeldin, were you surprised that the Joe Biden name didn't even come up in the first two hours of the White House legal arguments?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes and no. I think it's a primetime argument and the president has been orchestrating this to make sure that his defense, which is essentially I was acting in the national interest, the Bidens are corrupt, I had a legitimate basis to ask Ukraine about them and therefore, this notion that I was acting in my selfish interest is not availing. And I think that they want to do that when they think there are more people watching than at 10:00 in the morning.
BLITZER: You wanted to make a point? MURRAY: No. I mean, I agree with that. I think some people would make the argument, don't broach the Joe Biden situation at all because this is essentially what got you into this mess in the first place. That's not the way the president is thinking about that. The president is thinking the Bidens are corrupt, I want you to make that argument, I want you to make the argument, I did nothing wrong, and I want you to do it in primetime.
HARWOOD: And to be clear, there is zero evidence that Joe Biden is corrupt, zero.
ZELDIN: But the point is that the Democrats argued that the president acted in his selfish, personal, political interest. To overcome that, they have to say, no, that's not true. I acted in the national interest. You may not like the way I do it, but that's my prerogative. And I entrusted Giuliani, as other presidents have entrusted private people, Vernon Jordan in Bill Clinton, and you may not like it, but I did it in the interest of the United States of America, and therefore, it's not an abuse of office.
MURRAY: And Jay Sekulow essentially said a version of that today. You may disagree with this president's policy priorities but he gets to set the policy priorities, so get over it.
BLITZER: What did you think of the effort -- there was a clear effort throughout this initial two-hour presentation earlier today to try to undermine the credibility of the lead House manager, Adam Schiff.
HARWOOD: Well, this is consistent with what President Trump has been doing for quite some time. It's a challenge to do that with a non- Trump Republican base people because Adam Schiff was quite compelling. The evidence is strong, but Adam Schiff has become the face of the Democratic case, and so that's why they're going to try to take him out. That's easier to do than going after the facts that Adam Schiff has presented.
BLITZER: I want to play a clip. This is the lead White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone, making this point, and then we'll discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CIPOLLONE: They're asking you not only to overturn the results of the last election, but as I've said before, 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I'm sure the House managers were anticipating that argument.
MURRAY: Yes, I think they were. And, look, as John pointed out earlier, this doesn't overturn the results of the last election. Hillary Clinton doesn't suddenly become president. It does become a very big day for Mike Pence if that would have happened. And when it comes to the next election, you can't have it both ways. And we have seen the president's team try to argue at both ways. They go to court and they say, you cannot prosecute the president in court, you cannot bring charges against the president. And then they go to the impeachment proceedings and say, how dare you try to impeach the president?
And I think one of them even suggested today that it was unconstitutional, which is laughable. This is the process with which we have decided as a country that we are going to hold presidents accountable. And it might be uncomfortable and you might think it's unfair and you might think he don't deserve to be here, but this is the mechanism we have devised and this is where we're at.
BLITZER: Everybody stand by. There's more news we're following. Also a very important programming note for our viewers, Lev Parnas' attorney, Joseph Bondi, he'll be on a special edition of A.C. 360 later tonight, 8:00 P.M. Eastern.
Still ahead, House impeachment manager Adam Schiff says the president's defense team attempted to deflect and distort the truth in their opening statements. Did they? We'll take a closer look.
BLITZER: After three days of listening to arguments from House impeachment managers, today was President Trump's legal team's turn to lay out their side. They sought to poke holes in the Democrat's case that the president abused his power, obstructed Congress and claiming that the president's team was locked out from the impeachment proceedings in the House. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CIPOLLONE: If you were really confident in your position on the facts, why would you lock everybody out of it from the president's side? Why would you do that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Joining us now to fact-check this, CNN's Daniel Dale. Give us what you can, Daniel, about this claim that we just heard from the president's legal team.
DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Wolf, there's some truth here, but I would call it mostly false. So here's the kernel of truth. Trump's lawyers were prevented from participating in the House Intelligence Committee hearings as part of the impeachment process. However, on the president's side were Republican committee lawyers who were permitted to question witnesses and Republican lawmakers who, of course, are very much on the president's side.
Then the process went to the House Judiciary Committee. The chairman of that committee, Chairman Nadler, made a formal request to Trump's counsel to participate, they declined that request. So they were invited and they said no. And so there is a kernel Trump's lawyers were locked out of part of the process but certainly not everyone on his side and certainly not Trump's lawyers from the entire process.
BLITZER: Another point that we heard from the president's legal team was that Ukraine did not know that military aid from the United States to Ukraine was being suspended, withheld. What about that claim?
DALE: This is a complicated one. We don't have all of the facts of this timeline. So Ukrainian President Zelensky, Wolf, is on the record saying that he did not know about the hold on the aid at the time of that July 25th phone call and we also heard testimony from some former senior U.S. official saying that the Ukrainians didn't bring up the hold to them until late August when it was reported by Politico.
However, we also had testimony from Pentagon Official Laura Cooper who said that her office got emails from the State Department telling them on July 25th, the day of the call, that the Ukrainian embassy was aware of the hold and we had a former Ukrainian deputy foreign minister telling The New York Times that Ukrainians were, in fact, aware in July. So we don't know for sure, but there is certainly more to the story than what the president's lawyers have said.
BLITZER: What about the White House legal team's claim that the aid was suspended or withheld in order to get European countries to provide more assistance to Ukraine?
DALE: So this is a subject on which Trump keeps being false. He keeps saying, European countries weren't giving Ukraine anything. It was all us. That is not true. According to the OECD and the think tank here in Washington, CSIS, European countries were the biggest contributor to Ukraine since Russia invaded in 2014.
On the issue of military aid, in particular, the U.S. has been the biggest contributor. But European countries have provided at least 15 billion worth of grants and loans to Ukraine since that year of 2014.
BLITZER: One of the White House lawyers, Mike Purpura, he made this assertion. Let me play the clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PURPURA, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: President Trump then turned to corruption in the form of foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking a foreign leader to help get to the bottom of all forms of foreign interference in our American presidential election.
SEKULOW: Mr. Schiff and his colleagues repeatedly told you that the Intelligence Community assessment that Russia was acting alone, responsible for the election interference, implying that this somehow debunked the idea that there might be interference from other countries, including Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Fact-check this for us.
DALE: Wolf, I don't have to because Trump's own appointed FBI director, Christopher Wray, fact-checked it himself in an interview with ABC just a month ago. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: We have no information that indicates that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 presidential election.
I think it is important for the American people to be thoughtful consumers of information to think about the sources of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DALE: So to the Trump team is teasing -- teasing us saying there's more to come on this Ukrainian interference story. We'll see what they come out with, if anything. But they've been teasing for a long time and haven't provided anything to contradict what Mr. Wray said.
BLITZER: Because it's clear that Ukrainian politicians, officials, they can make some public statements, write some op-eds, but that's very different than the Russian military intelligence agency directly interfering and hacking computers here in the United States to help one presidential candidate.
DALE: That's exactly right. I think Trump and many of his allies are trying to conflate two very different things, on one hand, an orchestrated, systematic, from the top effort to undertake criminal acts to affect an election, and on the other hand, individual people in Ukraine who had positions on the election on their own behalf.
BLITZER: And making statements and writing op-eds.
BLITZER: It's very different. All right, Daniel doing an excellent job.
DALE: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you very much.
We're just over one week away from the Iowa caucuses. The senators who were up on Capitol Hill for the impeachment trial, they're now back out on the campaign trail. We'll go live on the ground to Iowa. That's next.
BLITZER: With just over a week to go until the Iowa caucuses, the Democratic candidate are very busy right now making their rounds in the Hawkeye State this weekend. Nearly all of the major candidates are there today or soon will be, including Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, who are making their first trips to Iowa since President Trump's impeachment trial started.
CNN Business and Politics Correspondent, Vanessa Yurkevich is in Iowa. She's over there with the Pete Buttigieg campaign.
Vanessa, it's clear the Buttigieg campaign is worried about Bernie Sanders' dramatic rise in the polls Iowa on a fundraising new blast this weekend that warns if Sanders win in Iowa that he could potentially become the Democratic nominee. What can you tell us about that?
VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Well, Mayor Pete Buttigieg just wrapped up an event here in Fort Dodge, Iowa. But before he took the stage, his campaign sent out an email to his supporters with the subject line, Bernie Sanders could be the nominee.
Now, when I saw that, I was a little bit surprised. You have one presidential candidate essentially saying that another presidential candidate in this race could be the nominee.
I want to read you a little bit of that email that went out to his supporters. It says, quote, Bernie Sanders is raising tons of money. He's surging in the polls and he has dark money groups attacking his competitors. If things stay steady until the Iowa caucuses in just nine days, Bernie Sanders could be the nominee of our party.
And what that is suggesting, Wolf, is two things. One is pointing out sort of the obvious that Bernie Sanders is leading in the national polls, in the most recent CNN poll, but also in this New York Times poll that just came out today, Bernie Sanders is leading here in Iowa.
But the other part of this email is really suggesting to Pete Buttigieg's supporters that if they do not want Bernie Sanders to be the nominee, they have to come out and donate to his campaign. Bernie Sanders outraised Pete Buttigieg in this last quarter and they have to show up on caucus night.
But Wolf, really sort of an interesting tactic and a really interesting way to motivate Pete Buttigieg's base now just nine days out before this Iowa caucus.
BLITZER: Interesting. How's the Sanders' campaign, Vanessa, responding?
YURKEVICH: Well, the Sanders' campaign, a couple of the campaign staffers tweeting that they're very welcoming of this email because it sort of makes their point that Bernie Sanders is leading in the polls and that he's the one to beat. They said, hey, we welcome this. We welcome the fact that the Pete Buttigieg campaign recognizes that Bernie Sanders is the one to beat and the Sanders camp is now encouraging their own supporters to keep going, keep knocking on doors and keep donating to Bernie Sanders campaign, Wolf.
BLITZER: Vanessa, how's the Buttigieg campaign taken advantage of this past week with, what, four U.S. senators off the campaign trail because they have to sit and watch the Senate trial?
YURKEVICH: Yes. Wolf, while those senators have been in Washington, Pete Buttigieg has been to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and now back in Iowa again. His campaign tells me that they're going to try to average about five events every day next week while these senators are in Washington.
And Wolf, in just the past year since Pete Buttigieg has announced his candidacy, they've done 130 events here in Iowa, 25 of those in January alone. So clearly Pete Buttigieg trying to capitalize on the fact that he has more real estate in Iowa as these senators are having to sit it out this next week, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. The Iowa caucus is about a week from Monday. All right. Vanessa, thank you.
YURKEVICH: Nine days.
BLITZER: Vanessa Yurkevich on the scene for us. Thanks very much. Another quick break. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: The breaking news coming into CNN, now for the first time we're actually seeing the actual video of President Trump demanding the firing of the then U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Let's go to our White House Correspondent, Kaitlan Collins. She's following the story for us.
So Kaitlan, you've seen the video. What exactly does it show?
COLLINS: Well, Wolf, this is really interesting because we had gotten a transcript of this initially. Now, you're actually able to hear and see some of this dinner that happened with donors to the President in 2018 at his hotel just a few blocks away from the White House.
And what's important to keep in mind as you're listening to this is these are two men who were indicted on campaign finance charges, associates of the President's attorney, Rudy Giuliani. And he has denied knowing them saying, yes, maybe he has these pictures that you're seeing there with him. But, of course, he's president and he takes pictures with lots of people.
But now with this audio that goes for over an hour long, you're seeing that the President was at a pretty intimate dinner with these two men. You can hear their voices on the audio. It's not confirmed conclusively that it's them, of course, CNN wasn't at that dinner. But you can hear them and it sounds just like Lev Parnas who's been doing several interviews.
And listen to this exchange that the President had with him about the dynamics between Russia and Ukraine where the President is asking how long they think Ukraine could last if they got into an actual combat with Russia. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEV PARNAS, RUDY GIULIANI ASSOCIATE: They have everything there. They, just right now, are waiting for your support a little bit to make sure because obviously if they go on their own Russia won't let them do it. Because they'll cut off a lot of their revenue.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How long would they last in a fight with Russia?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not very long.
PARNAS: I don't think very long. Without us, not very long.
TRUMP: Without us.
PARNAS: Without us, yes. But Russia, also keep in mind, talks a big game, but they're not ready to - he's not - they're not ready to play.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: So, Wolf, there the President is asking essentially how long could Ukraine last without assistance from the United States. That's critical, of course, because what we are at the center of what we've been discussing all day is the hold on this military aid to Ukraine that, of course, you saw these officials come forward and testify Ukraine needed that aid to push back against a very aggressive Russia.
Now, also during this dinner that is, of course, when this conversation came up about Marie Yovanovitch, the ambassador from the United States who was in Ukraine and, of course, these two indicted associates of Rudy Giuliani's we now know were in on this pressure campaign to remove her.
And listen to how they're speaking to the President about her, he seems to not know who she is at some portions during this audio. But listen as this person, Lev Parnas, who's associate of Giuliani's is talking about Marie Yovanovitch making claims about her and claiming she bad mouth the President which before you listen to this, we should note she testified that that was not true that she was not bad mouthing President Trump.
But listen to the pause and how the President reacts and then he grows audibly agitated at what he's hearing from these associates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PARNAS: That's why you're having such, I think if you take a look, the biggest problem there, I think, where you need to start is we got to get rid of the ambassador. She's still leftover from the Clinton Administration.
TRUMP: What? The Ambassador to Ukraine?
PARNAS: Yes. And she's basically walking around telling everybody, wait, he's going to get impeached. Just wait, I mean ...
PARNAS: It's incredible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She'll be gone tomorrow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't remember the name (inaudible) ..
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So one of the things that will be - now that we have a secretary of state that's been this morning (inaudible) ...
TRUMP: Get rid of her.
TRUMP: OK. Get her out tomorrow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's one of the first things that we'll ...
TRUMP: I don't care. Ger her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excellent.
TRUMP: Do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: So you see first he says he's saying, "Oh, he's going to get impeached. He's going to get impeached." Which, of course, is not verified. That's what he is saying about her.
And then the people in the room laughed, Wolf, and they say, oh, well, she'll be gone tomorrow. And then about 10 seconds later, you hear the President chime in, clearly agitated saying, "Get rid of her." Of course, they did not get rid of her at the time.
That was in 2018. She remained on the job until 2019 when she was removed from her post and that has been at the center of the President's impeachment and now this impeachment trial that we're going through, but it's really notable.
And we should also note, the President also claims that Marie Yovanovitch refused to put his picture up in the ambassador in Kiev in Ukraine and she testified that that was not true, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. It was taking place over at the Trump Hotel here in Washington, D.C.
COLLINS: Yes. BLITZER: Kaitlan, standby while I bring back a John Harwood, Sara
Murray and Michael Zeldin.
John, how significant is this?
HARWOOD: Well, I think it's very significant and to me the most chilling part about it is that quote that Kaitlan referred to at the top, which is how long could Ukraine hold out in a fight with Russia. Remember, the Russia investigation by Robert Mueller, the Ukraine scandal are two sides of the same coin.
Russia was at war with Ukraine. Russia interfered in the election of the United States after the pro Russian Ukrainian leader had been ousted. The President withheld military aid from Ukraine in seeking these investigations.
That is something that if you're a diplomat or someone in the government in Ukraine, it's got to frighten you that the President in a cavalier way like that was talking about the possibility that Russia would move on Ukraine and wondering how long they could take it.
BLITZER: You think this is going to put, Sara, some increased pressure on some of those Republican senators to vote in favor of calling witnesses because, yes, Mick Mulvaney, the Acting White House Chief of Staff, they'd like him to testify. There's no doubt that they'd like the former National Security Advisor John Bolton to testify. But there's even been the talk that Lev Parnas should come and testify.
MURRAY: Well, I'm not sure that there are many senators who put a lot of weight into what Lev Parnas has to say. But this is not what Lev Parnas is saying. These are the President's own words and I think at a minimum, it has to give them pause about how much additional information is out there that they don't already know about.
I mean, one of the things that the President's lawyers said today that actually I think leaves the door open for more witnesses was when they said none of these witnesses had a direct conversation with the President where he said he was withholding security aid because he wanted these investigations. But we don't know if he never had that conversation with Mick Mulvaney or with John Bolton with Rob Blair, because none of those folks have testified and those are the witnesses, some of them, that Democrats want to hear from.
BLITZER: Michael, I want to play for you and for our viewers out there a little bit of the top of this video that was recorded at the Trump hotel back in 2018. Watch it closely and I think you'll see - there you see the President of the United States. It's very shaky. It's hard to see, but it certainly looks like the President of the United States right there.
All right. That's it. You saw that, right?
ZELDIN: Yes. I did see it.
BLITZER: So how significant do you think this is from a legal perspective?
ZELDIN: Well, from a legal perspective, what it undermines is the President's notion that he doesn't know who Lev Parnas is. That's a very small gathering of high dollar donors and they're talking policy, they're talking Ukraine policy. That is not something that you can credibly believe when he says I don't know this guy. So he knows this guy.
And then the two conversations together seem to indicate that they understand what is important with respect to Ukraine and that sets a predicate for what they're going to do later on. It's a year earlier, but it seems to me that this is like the beginning of the conversation that will see culminate in the July 25th phone call.
BLITZER: Kaitlan, the President has not repeatedly said and you've been covering him for a while. "I don't know the guy. I take pictures. I take pictures with a lot of people. They come up with me. I don't know the guy. Maybe he's a conman." What do you think? He's a groupie that just shows up at political fundraisers for the President?
COLLINS: Yes. He's called him a groupie. That's, of course, because they had those photos together. And by no shortage, I mean, Lev Parnas has a lot of pictures with a lot of people, pretty much everyone in Washington. You've seen him float them out on his Twitter account as all of this has gone on with the President, with Ivanka Trump. I believe there's one with Mike Pence, the Vice President.
There are several photos of him with a lot of people in this administration. But the President has denied knowing him saying, yes, we've taken a picture but we do not know each other well.
And Wolf, you see from the beginning of this audio just how small that room is at the President's hotel where they're having this dinner. And what the audio reveals as you're listening to this voice that sounds like Lev Parnas talking with the President is he says one thing.
He says that Marie Yovanovitch, the ambassador in Ukraine, who he refers to as a Clinton holdover. Though she's been in the administration or in working in government for much longer than just when Clinton was in office, says that she is bad mouthing President Trump and that she's saying he's going to get impeached eventually and people shouldn't worry about it.
On just that, the President seconds later says, "Get rid of her." So he's saying he doesn't know this person, but this person that he said he didn't know at this dinner, he took them at their word for what they were saying about an ambassador in the government, a career foreign service officer and then is saying to remove her from her post.
So that does put it in a new light with the President saying he doesn't know him and now he was just taking him at his word for what he was saying about someone really does leave a lot to be desired, to be explained by the President. BLITZER: And that's very important point, John Harwood. She's a very
distinguished diplomatic, a career foreign service officer, a career diplomat who first started working for the U.S. government back in the Reagan administration, served Republican presidents, Democratic presidents and in some very sensitive, delicate, dangerous spots.
HARWOOD: Exactly. And as the Parnas comment by suggesting that she had talked about Trump's impeachment and then Trump respond saying, "Get rid of her," it is not credible in the slightest that Marie Yovanovitch would have talked that way. High caliber professional diplomat do not talk that way about the President of the United States and she said she didn't and there's no reason that anyone should not believe that.
BLITZER: Up to this day she says she doesn't know why they removed her.
HARWOOD: That's right.
BLITZER: All of a sudden they said you better get out of there and get out of there quickly. Everybody standby. There's more news we're following right now. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: They are stories of hope from people who overcame an evil that was meant to destroy them. For our CNN SPECIAL REPORT VOICES OF AUSCHWITZ, I got to spend time at the death camp with a truly wonderful woman, Eva Mozes Kor, who was taken there when she was only 10 years old. Here's a preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER(voice over): We're looking here at the ruins of these gas chambers, these crematoriums.
EVA MOZES KOR, AUSCHWITZ SURVIVOR: Yes.
BLITZER: So, Eva, tell me what do you remember? You were just a little girl, 10 years old.
KOR: We knew from the smell, it smelled like burning flesh and burning hair. And the smoke was rising high above the structure. And we actually knew that most of our families probably ended up here. The other kids who were in the barrack, that first night we arrived, they said, "Look there. See the smoke and the flames? Your families must be burning right now there." And I said, "That's not possible."
Burning people, that is crazy.
BLITZER: So Eva, this was the barrack that you lived in something like this?
KOR: Yes. It was my home for almost nine months. So I entered the place. We went to the latrine, which was at the end of the barrack. There on the field latrine floor there are this scattered corpses of three children. Right then and there, I made a silent pledge that I will do anything and everything to not end up on the field latrine floor.
BLITZER: Eva, tell us what was going on in this building.
KOR: We used to be brought here three times a week. They would tie most of my arms to restrain the blood flow and give me a minimum of five injections into my right arm. The content of those injections, we didn't know then, nor do I know today. But after one of those injections, I became very ill.
Next morning, Dr. Mengele came in. He turned to the other doctor and then said, laughing sarcastically he said, "Too bad she's so young. She has only two weeks to live."
It was late in the afternoon, a woman running, yelling at the top of her voice, "We are free. We are free. We are free." And then at a distance, I could see lots of people they were all smiling. They gave us chocolate, cookies and hugs. And this was my first day of freedom.
My name is Eva Mozes Kor. I am a survivor of Auschwitz.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And very sadly, Eva Mozes Kor passed away last year. May she rest in peace. May her memory be a blessing. You can see more of her story when our CNN SPECIAL REPORT VOICES OF AUSCHWITZ airs tomorrow night right here on CNN 11 pm Eastern. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: All right. This just in to CNN. The death toll from the coronavirus in mainland China has now risen to 54. The U.S. government is arranging a charter flight to evacuate American citizens and diplomats from Wuhan. That's the city that has become ground zero for the new deadly strain of the virus.
In all, more than 1,700 cases have now been confirmed. Medical personnel will be aboard the flight to treat anyone with the virus and try to keep it contained. The U.S. has two confirmed cases of coronavirus, one in Seattle and the other in Chicago.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. Thanks very much for watching. Our special coverage of the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump, our coverage continues with a special edition of "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT." Thanks very much for joining us.