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Trump's Defense Begins With Abbreviated Saturday Session; Sanders Gaining Momentum With Eight Days Until Iowa Caucuses. Aired 7- 8a ET

Aired January 26, 2020 - 07:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to a special two-hour edition of INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King.

To our viewers in the United States and around the world, thank you for sharing your Sunday.

And one-day break down of the president's impeachment trial building toward critical votes later this week. The president's team has the floor right now.

In their opening statement Saturday, the defense opened with a barrage against the Democratic prosecutors.


PAT CIPOLLONE, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: For all their talk about election interference, that they're here to perpetrate to the most massive interference in an election in American history, and we can't allow that to happen. The American people decide elections. They have one coming up in nine months.


KING: House prosecutors use their three days to paint a damning picture of presidential corruption. The president first pursuing re- election help from Ukraine, then withholding, stonewalling Congress when it demanded documents and witnesses.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): If right doesn't matter, it doesn't matter how good the Constitution is. It doesn't matter how brilliant the Framers were. It doesn't matter how good or bad or advocacy in this trial is. If right doesn't matter, we're lost.


KING: Whether minds are changing on the Senate floor is a big question and a giant decisive test of that will come later this week when the Democrats demand more witnesses and documents. The Democrats say those witnesses and documents are essential to getting to the truth. But most Republicans seem held bent on a quick resolution of this trial. Get it over. ASAP.


SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R-WY): Seems like Groundhog's Day in the Senate from what we heard from the managers yesterday and the day before. It is the same thing day after day after day.

SEN. STEVE DAINES (R-MT): I watched Schiff over and over again today repeat the same argument. It was like watching bad reruns of the Brady Bunch.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): Repetitive arguments over and over again based on little more than hearsay and the House Democrats' objections to Donald Trump being the president.


KING: With us this Sunday to share their reporting and their insights: Julie Pace of "The Associated Press", Michael Shear with "The New York Times", Paul Kane at "The Washington Post", and Seung Min Kim also with "The Washington Post".

The president's team took just two hours of their opening presentation Saturday. So, we do not have yet a full picture of the defense strategy. But the overview yesterday crafted with two clear goals. One, keep the president happy.


CIPOLLONE: You will find that the president did absolutely nothing wrong.

JAY SEKULOW, OUTSIDE LEGAL COUNSEL FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: The president had reason to be concerned about the information he was being provided.

Really intend to show overt next several days that the evidence is actually overwhelming that the president did nothing wrong.


KING: Goal number two, give Republicans something to cite. If they have to explain a vote to acquit or, before that, a vote to deny Democrats what they want, witnesses and new documents.


MIKE PUPURA, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: How do they try to overcome the direct words from President Zelensky and his administration that they felt no pressure? They tell you that the Ukrainians must have felt pressure regardless of what they've said.

PATRICK PHILBIN, DEPUTY COUNSEL TO THE PRESIDENT: The speaker had said articles of impeachment are going to be drafted and where there were no plans to hear from any fact witnesses. That's not due process. And that's why the president declined to participate in that process.


KING: It was low key. Most politicians or defense lawyers would take all their time. They decided against that. They want to make friends with the Senate, if you will. Give them a quick early day.

But was it effective in giving Republicans, if you want to say this is in dispute or they rushed the process in the House? Was it effective in giving Republicans a place to go, which is all this is about now? The president's legal strategy is do no harm, the math is on your side.

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: It certainly at this point seems to have giving the Senate Republicans some initial talking points, which they seem to be taking on. I think one of the bigger questions is where they go on Monday. The Trump legal team leaned in in previewing their defense to reporters, that they would bring up Joe Biden, they would turn to Hunter Biden. There are some Republican senators who are a little more uncomfortable with the trial taking a turn in that direction.

But certainly I think on two points, one, the defense of Trump on the substance that he did nothing wrong. That's a message directly aimed at the Oval Office and the occupant there.


But, two, this idea that I think a lot -- is a salient to a lot of Republicans, which is that Democrats are going to try to impeach Trump on something. This is what they've argued and this is what they say Democrats stumbled upon, and that this is purely politically motivated. For Republicans who take that home to their home states, I think, is a pretty good message.

KING: And part of it, if you listen to Jay Sekulow who has been the president's attorney throughout the Mueller report. He was playing to the president but also to Republicans. One of the arguments from Democrats is, you know, come on, it was Russia, not Ukraine that meddled. Come on. The president -- why is the president listening to Rudy Giuliani when he has this entire array of career established foreign policy officials?

Jay Sekulow going back to the Mueller report, going back to the president's suspicion about the FBI and the intelligence community, going back to the abuses. There were abuses by the FBI in the FISA court when it comes to Carter page saying, the president -- maybe you don't agree with the president. But he had to right to think these things.


SEKULOW: Here's the bottom line: this is part one of the Mueller report. Just six-tenths of a mile from this chamber sits the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, also known as the FISA court. The House managers in over a 23-hour period, kept pushing this false dichotomy that it was either Russia or Ukraine but not both.


KING: Now, if you go into the details, especially the president is very specific, he talks about the server. There can't be two Democratic security servers. Either Russia hacked it or someone else hacked it. There's no dispute that Russia hacked it.

So, you can run Mr. Sekulow through a fact check machine and you'll have problems. But for the president's political purposes and the Republicans' political purposes, effective or not?

PAUL KANE, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: It's effective. And Mitch McConnell is happy if they don't go too far into the conspiracy theory world, he want them to try to stay where they did for most of it where you just don't get into Ukraine, crowd strike, those things. He wants them to stick to, this is not an impeachable offense. Not something you can rule from office. Nine months away, we've got an election. As long as they stay at that level, McConnell will be happy and will be just appear somewhat dignified.

MICHAEL SHEAR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There's a delicate balance to it. I think the timing question. There was something somewhat powerful about having a two-hour approach, which they repeatedly contrasted with 20 to 1, 2, 3 hours that the Democrats took. There was something powerful about the idea we're going to be able to take that incredibly detailed, incredibly tedious presentation down in just a couple of hours.

On the other hand, there were some senators that we all talked to afterwards who were at least eager for a little bit more to hang this on, right? They do want to see a little bit more detail, a little bit more of a -- the meat of the White House defense so that when they go home to their districts, they can actually point to an actual defense.

KING: To that point, some of the bigger names that the president added to his defense team, we have not seen them or heard from them in the Senate trial. Just show you a few right here, Ken Starr, the former independent counsel in the Bill Clinton days, not too favored by Democrats, but a powerhouse lawyer in the president's view. Alan Dershowitz, the former Harvard law professor. Robert Ray, who succeeded Ken Starr as independent counsel. They will get the floor tomorrow.

Mr. Dershowitz says he's going to make a case that this does not rise to the constitutional test of impeachment. Mr. Starr, apparently, going to make a similar case, that it doesn't reach the historical bar for impeachment.

But the president -- this is -- you know, the president knows when you talk about the death valley of Saturday television, so maybe he wanted to save them for the weekday. He knows how important the first day was. By all accounts, he was pleased with his team.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Exactly, and I think you get -- what the defense said yesterday was kind of get the top line points out, what they wanted to say, you know, that the president did nothing wrong, that this is a way to, for Democrats to get in the way of the 2020 elections going on. Had to give the little tidbits for the Sunday shows today and it has a big preview or a show for Monday.

I think -- we don't expect the president's team to use all their time. But I would be interested to see what kind of argument they lay out. I mean, we haven't heard too much about -- for example about the Bidens. How much will the White House counsel team delve into that.

And we saw a little bit how the House managers tried to pre-butt that argument in their arguments. And Republicans saying, that gives us -- that gives us or that gives the White House team a clear explanation to go into them at length. Maybe those are the fireworks that the president is seeking on Monday. We'll have to wait and see tomorrow.

KING: And to that point, one of the things that -- you know, in a trial, you're the defense, you're trying to stir up reasonable doubt. So, the Democrats made their case, look how he withheld nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine. They made that out to be exceptional. They made a detailed with pretty damning evidence about Rudy Giuliani's role in Ukraine trying to get the investigations about people in the administration being startled and stunned.


When it happened, about some people raising questions whether it was legal.

Jay Sekulow, and, again, if you read the entire record, you might be suspect about this. But he is trying to create a safe place for Republicans. He says, yes, we froze aid to Ukraine. Not unique.


SEKULOW: President Trump has placed holds on aid a number of times. We just take basic due diligence to figure this out. In September 2019, the administration announced that it was withholding over $100 million in aid to Afghanistan over concerns about government corruption.


KING: If you go back and study the history, they are very different issues in how they were handled and how it was raised and how the government process worked.

SHEAR: But it was announced. That's the point.

KANE: Announced.

SHEAR: You know, whether it's the Central American countries or Afghanistan or other places, they announced it, they told Congress as they have a duty to do. I mean, I think there's a big difference. That's an example as you say, of Mr. Sekulow and the White House team giving Republicans a talking point. But it doesn't necessarily stand up under scrutiny when you actually

like look at the details.

KING: So the lead House manager, Adam Schiff, came out quickly with his team after to say --

SHEAR: I wouldn't say quickly. It took a half an hour in a hot room as he was once again, relitigating afterwards.


KING: His point was, the Democrats know the math here. They do not have the 20 votes, even if they kept all the Democrats to convict or remove the president. The only way in a miracle, is to first get witnesses and extend the trial. That is their main goal. He came out afterwards saying, you know, the president's lawyers did a good job but forgot some things.


SCHIFF: There's no mention of the president's chief of staff. What about Mick Mulvaney who admitted in a press conference just like this, of course, we did. It happens all the time. Get over it.

No mention of the president's chief of staff. Now, why is that? They said the House managers' goal should be to give you all of the facts. That is our goal. It's just not theirs. Because Mick Mulvaney has some of these facts.


KING: It's a very strong argument to make to the American people. There's a lot more we could learn if the Senate would demand the documents. But most of the senators at that point were gone. Are they listening?

KANE: Democrats felt after yesterday that that was the one thing that the White House legal team really made a mistake on. They were opening the door at several different points as they made their case, to oh, well, yeah, the way we can figure that out is if we call Mulvaney, if we call Bolton. They felt like they cracked the door open.

But we'll get into it in more detail. The witness question, the numbers aren't there yet.

KING: All right. That's where we'll come back to.

Up next for us, the prosecution case and the Senate math.



KING: The Democrats case against the president was relentless and yes, repetitive.


SCHIFF: President Trump solicited foreign interference in the U.S. election for one particular objective, to benefit his own re-election, to seek help in cheating in a U.S. election.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): No president has ever used his office to compel a foreign nation to help him cheat in our election.

REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): He is trying to cheat to win.


KING: Even Republicans who are solid votes for the president gave the Democrats high marks. But this late Friday was seen as an unforced error.


SCHIFF: CBS News reported last night that a Trump confidant said that GOP senators were warned vote against your president, vote against the president and your head will be on a pike. Now, I don't know if that's true. When I read that, I was struck by the irony, by the irony. I hope it's not true. I hope it's not true.


KING: A lot of people in the chamber said that a lot of Republican senators were visibly angered at that, including Republican senators who matter on the question of witnesses.

KIM: I will point out, though, later, that they were very angry at that. But, again, people like Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski that we're closely watching. They clarified later saying they might have lost me on that argument, but that's not going to matter at the end of the day for whether we vote for witness or not, and also from our reporting at "The Washington Post."

The president actually has taken a little bit of a hands-off approach to those four kind of swing moderate votes if you will because he doesn't have established relationships with Collins or Murkowski. He knows that that overt pressure on them directly does not matter. I think McConnell especially and particularly the White House and the president has been trying to give them space to make the decision that they will ultimate ultimately come to the end of the day on witnesses.

KING: All right. So, we look at every statement they make and try to see if something read into it. Susan Collins, I tend to like information and would anticipate I would vote for more. That would tell you she's a likely yes vote.

Mitt Romney, I think it's likely I'll be in favor of witnesses. I haven't made a decision.

Lamar Alexander, who's critical here, we're going to listen to the answers, study the record, then see if we need more evidence. And Lisa Murkowski: The House made the decision that they didn't want to slow things down by having go through the courts. And yet now, they're basically saying, you guys got to go the courts. We didn't. But we need you to.

That is the most telling, that she seems to be laying the groundwork. She would be key. There might be two. To get four, you need Lisa Murkowski at least. That would be three. And she seems to be, in that and other statements, making a case to say, you know what, no.

PACE: Four senators in this current climate for Republicans is really, really difficult. There's simply not a track record of Republicans taking a position opposed to the president or Mitch McConnell in this climate right now. You could see maybe one or two doing it.


Four to actually move forward on witnesses seems difficult.

And Murkowski's argument has some resonance within Republican circles. If you feel like these witnesses are so important, if this is something we really should have heard from, why not do it on the Democratic side? How could you have impeached the president without this level of information? It's actually not a bad argument.

KING: And so, the Democrats understand this. They know the math and they know loyalty, A, to the president and B, Mr. McConnell, the majority leader, probably more important as we forward here. So they're trying to almost guilt the Republicans, because they know that privately, a lot of Republicans don't like this. They don't like Rudy Giuliani running foreign policy. They don't like when they read the transcript the president says it's a perfect call.

Hakeem Jeffries is essentially trying to appeal to those senators saying, come on, you know better.


REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): In a perfect call, the president would not pressure a foreign government to target an American citizen for political, personal gain. In a perfect call, the president would not solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election. This was not a perfect call.


KING: Many, if not most Republican senators would tell you privately this was not a perfect call. That does not mean they're going to vote for witnesses when they get there, correct?

KANE: Yes. They've said it over and over. Mike Braun, a freshman from Indiana, has said that. That it wasn't a perfect call. It's not the way --

KING: Significant, Indiana. Mike Pence's home state, ruby red of presidential politics.

KANE: He doesn't go further in criticizing Trump too much, but he is very much on Trump's team. He's one of the senators who races down to the microphones when there's a break to try and join in on the Trump defense team.

So, it's just a high hurdle to get four. I just don't think you're going to get four unless you get 14. You have to have a real dam break to get there to get --

KING: Which is why. I mean, the Democrats get the math. Which is why Adam Schiff in his close was trying to anticipate. We had two hours yesterday. We'll have at least Monday.

My big question, will the president give up Tuesday, will he just take up one more day and give up a day of TV time and say you don't have a case so we're going to do this shorthand? But Adam Schiff trying to make the case, you'll hear a lot from the president's lawyers, please don't believe it.


KING: Those managers are just awful. They're terrible people, especially that Schiff guy. He's the worst. He's the worst. And exhibit A, he mocked the president. For a man who loves to mock others, he does not like to be mocked. Never mind I said I wasn't using his words before I said it and I wasn't using his words after I said it, and I said I was making a parody of his words.


KING: He was right in that in one of the White House presentations yesterday, right out of the bat, there was Adam Schiff at a hearing doing what he did say was a parody of the president. But mischaracterizing using slang in other words to give a more crass take of the call.

KANE: Yes. He knew that. He has made himself a central figure in this case. We were talking about this off air.

There was less than 23 hours of time of the Democratic side. He spoke almost nine of the hours, almost 40 percent of the time was him. He knew this was coming much he had to try and get ahead of it.

We'll see how much more they go into that and how much they tie this to the whistle-blower reaching out to his staff before filing the complaint. I think there's more to come on that.

KING: Yes, the more you make it political, the less likely you are to get Republicans to break. If you make it about the politics, not about the substance of the Democratic case, which was pretty compelling, then you shut down the witnesses.

We'll continue the conversation. Up next, two legal teams with very different arguments and approaches and what this trial could mean for future impeachments and Washington's balance of power. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


KING: First day of the president's impeachment defense was a low key but persistent assertion that the prosecution, the Democrats, were shading the truth.


CIPOLLONE: They come here to the Senate and they ask you, remove a president and they don't bother to read the key evidence.

PURPURA: The Democrats' entire quid pro quo theory is based on nothing more than the initial speculation of one person, Ambassador Sondland.

SEKULOW: President Trump has placed holds on aid a number of times. You didn't hear about any of that from my Democratic colleagues.


KING: CNN legal analyst and impeachment experts Ross Garber and Michael Gerhardt join us. Julie Pace with us as well.

Mike, I want to start with you.

If you run that through a fact check and a context machine, most of what we heard yesterday, you would have some serious flags. But as lawyers trying to create doubt or give Republicans a safe place to go, how did they do?

MICHAEL GARHARDT, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA: I think it's an understandable argument that the White House counsel is making. It's been pointed out already this morning but it's true, I think stylistically it was effective. And it's a good talking point.

But as you also point out, it completely lacks any factual foundation. It's not just Ambassador Sondland. It's a mountain of evidence that supports the point. The president deviated from congressional policy to freeze this aid and here's the key, to freeze it not because of some general concern about corruption. There's nothing in the record about a general concern about corruption. There's a lot in the record about the concern about Biden.

KING: It's an excellent point. There were some legal arguments put forward. It is without a doubt the president said, no, no, no, no, hell for every request for a witness, every request for documents in this impeachment inquiry. Democrats say it's beyond Nixon, it's beyond anything and it's clear obstruction of Congress.

The president's lawyer said we had every right too say no. Listen.


PHILBIN: They focus a lot on an October 8 letter from the counsel to the president, Pat Cipollone.


But they didn't show you an October 18th letter that went through in detail why subpoenas that had been issued by manager Schiff's committees were invalid. The House had not taken a vote to authorize the committee to exercise the power of impeachment, to issue any compulsory process.


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: This, Ross, has been a standard. The Republicans said this in the House. The Republicans will say it in the Senate. Now, the president's lawyers are saying, these subpoenas were invalid because they were issued before the full House authorized the impeachment inquiry.

Is there any legal basis for that argument?

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, they make a lot of arguments. These were sweeping denials of information.

The better argument, I think, is that the assertion of privileges and immunities by the White House with respect to subpoenas, including congressional subpoenas isn't new. Lots of administrations have done that. The last administration, the attorney general was held in criminal and civil contempt of Congress. So that piece is not new.

I was surprised, though, by the -- by the way the White House asserted these privileges and immunities. I was surprised they weren't more detailed and frankly, weren't more thoughtful.

KING: Well, we'll see if that comes up. We have two more -- again, two more days. We'll see if they use all two days.

One the things we learned last night watching Anderson Cooper who spoke to Alan Dershowitz. He says he's not really consulting with the team. He'll give them a draft of his brief, but he says, Michael, listen to this -- he says Congress has charged the president with abuse of power and obstruction.

Alan Dershowitz says, not impeachable.


ALAN DERSHOWITZ, TRUMP IMPEACHMENT ATTORNEY: I'm going to argue very firmly that those are not appropriate criteria. If they had put to the Framers, the framers would have rejected those criteria as too open- ended in the terms of Madison. It would turn America into a parliamentary-type democracy in which the president serves at the pleasure of the legislature, something none of the Framers really wanted.


KING: Solid, Michael or not? GERHARDT: Completely not solid. I'm really kind of surprised that

Alan would make that argument. In the law, we say does it pass the straight face test. And this one does not.

If you go back and look at the Constitutional Convention, read the comments there, read the comments in the ratification campaign, read the comments from great commentators like Justice Joseph Story. They all agree on one thing, abuse of power is the central concern in impeachment.

The reason why impeachment is in the Constitution is to check presidential abuse of power. Every example given by the Framers in the convention was presidential abuse of power. So to turn around and say, well it's not abuse of power lacks any factual foundation.

GARBER: I think the key question though, is how grave is the abuse of power. I think focusing on the heading abuse of power is the mistake. I mean, that is the question. Is it such a serious abuse of power that it affects the ability of the president to continue in office?

KING: Is it all -- do we ever see this? Is this an only team Trump moment? Alan Dershowitz says I'm not talking to them. I'll probably share my brief with them.

The president is on trial for impeachment. Alan Dershowitz is going to make a big constitutional argument and he's sort of like --

PACE: It's extraordinary. And we know from reporting that Trump really sought out Dershowitz to be part of his team. I think it will be interesting after Dershowitz gets up there and draws a distinction between what he's actually arguing for the Constitution and an actual defense of Trump, how Trump reacts if he's happy with that. Trump really wanted Dershowitz to play this role on television.

GARBER: And it will be interesting to see if Dershowitz sticks around for the Q&A question.

KING: That's a -- that's a great point there, whether they have the higher profile names, if you will.

Another issue here, we're obviously focusing on the here and now, the trial. Can the Democrats get the witnesses? Will the president be acquitted? Will there be a motion to dismiss? Will there be a motion to dismiss?

Adam Schiff, trying to play the institutional pride of the senators, he's trying to win their votes by saying, if you let this go, there will be a Democratic president someday and the balance of power in this town will be forever changed.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): If we're to decide here that a president of the United States can simply say under Article 2, I can do whatever I want and I don't have to treat a colloquial branch of government like it exists, that will be an unending injury to this country because the balance of power that our founders set out will never be the same. If you can't have the ability to enforce an impeachment power, you might as well not put it in the Constitution.


KING: Unending, Michael, is he right?

GERHARDT: I think he's right. I think there's a lot of dangerous ramifications from the president's arguments and the president's actions.

But let me zero in on one. Keep in mind the president of the United States ordered the executive branch not to cooperate with the congressional inquiry.


He told everybody in the executive branch, do not respond or comply with subpoenas. Don't cooperate in any way. And then the president turns around or his lawyers turn around and say, well, how come the House didn't have these witnesses? It's because the president ordered them not to be there.

So that's a really key element in the House's case. It's something, I think, that the White House lawyers basically misrepresented and Republican senators have to dance around.

KING: Under their breath, Ross, they say President Trump stretched the elastic in so many ways. But when he's gone, whether that's in a few months or whether that's in five years, it will snap back.

Do we know who's right?

GARBER: I don't think this will necessarily snap back. I think there will be a lot of lessons learned from these episodes, sure. We don't know what those are yet. It's still too early.

KING: All right. Michael and Ross will be back in the next hour.

Julie, I think, is leaving us soon. You have a flight to catch. Appreciate you being here.

When we come back, to 2020, eight days to Iowa and Bernie Sanders is smiling.



KING: First votes of the 2020 presidential race will be cast one week from tomorrow, and Bernie Sanders is making a statement.

Take a look. Sanders tops the field in Iowa with 25 percent. That's a poll conducted for "The New York Times" by Sienna College. Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren follow in the mid to high teens. Amy Klobuchar is 5th with eight percent. The Sanders effect is also seen in national data. This is CNN national polling, dating back to August. Sanders is the green line on the rise of late. In our poll, now ahead of former Vice President Biden.

A new "Washington Post" ABC poll out today has Biden in the national lead. But Sanders, if you see that, the only Democrat in striking distance.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you believe that health care is a human right, not a privilege, we are that campaign. If you believe that together we've got to fight in an aggressive way to save this planet for future generations from climate change, we are that campaign. If you believe that every working person in this country deserves a fair wage, we are that campaign.


KING: CNN's Abby Philip and Lisa Lerer of "The New York Times" join the conversation.

Lisa, I want to start with you, because you're on the ground in Iowa. You look at this "New York Times"/Sienna College poll. You talk to people in the campaigns. I do it from afar. You're right there.

Bernie Sanders, one week to go is holding the baton.

LISA LERER, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. This is -- look, this is for all the talk of Klo-mentum and -- which is Amy Klobuchar gaining in the polls, and Elizabeth Warren surged in the polls over the summer, really this is the time when you want to see those numbers start to go up. So, this is what every campaign hopes for here in Iowa. That you hit a week or so, ten days before the caucuses and those numbers start to trend upward.

It does look like Senator Sanders is consolidating support, certainly among the liberal wing of the party, in a way that could -- that puts him in a very strong position a week out in the caucuses.

KING: And so, we've spent a lot of time talking about, would Sanders and Warren split the progressive vote and allow one of the moderates to emerge. If you look now at some of the data, you could make the argument, that between Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar, you have three candidates, Biden has the most in the most cases, but three cases splitting the center. Bernie Sanders consolidating on the left.

Listen to the centrist in the last week of the Iowa campaign saying, please, come to me.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The next president is going to inherit a country that's divided.

We need a president who on day one is ready to be commander-in-chief. SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You can call

anyone in Minnesota you know, over 5 million job references, they will say I am hard working. I have people's back. I'm honest. I'm blunt. But I'm someone you can trust.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just imagine putting the chaos behind us, putting the divisiveness behind us, putting the tweets behind us. Wouldn't that be nice?


KING: Those are messages you could easily see against president Trump in a general election. Do they work in the last week of a primary, especially -- I'm fascinated by this. I don't know the answer -- when Democrats believe the president is go about to get off, if you will?

He was being impeached in the Senate -- I know impeachment doesn't play on big on the trail in the minute to minute arguments from voters. But they're going to watch the president in the end of this week, possibly, just in their view, get off.

Does that incite the passionate people who tend to be more Sanders?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is I think one of the big questions that I had when I was in Iowa last week. Where are the minds of Democratic voters? Do they want someone fighting tooth or nail or do they want someone who's giving them a little bit of a softer message, a sort of uniter in chief kind of message.

And I mean, I do think there's, first of all, Iowa voters are not as ideological as these polls would suggest. That Bernie Sanders' rise has as much to do with the sense that he has made the electability case, effectively, for Iowa voters as it is about his policies or about his approach to governance.

But I think what the moderates are trying to do, is they're trying to appeal to the voter who is not comfortable with the Sanders either temperamentally or policy-wise. They're also appealing to people who are more independent-minded, whether they are actually historically Democrats or not. And there are a lot of those voters in Iowa up for grabs.


And so, they're hoping that there are enough of those voters to kind of rival Bernie Sanders who after two election cycles now for a lot of Democratic voters, he's proven to them, he has some staying power. I think that's what's behind him rising in these polls and in the last few weeks.

KING: And so, Sanders rush from the impeachment trial to the campaign trail yesterday, had a couple of rallies in Iowa. Both of them he said, expect a lot to come out in the final week. He gets it. He's now ahead in this poll. Expect a lot to come after me.

This race has been gentle so far. I'm sorry. I've seen pretty tough races. And this one, yes, some differences over health care, differences over Social Security, but it's been pretty gentle so far.

Bernie Sanders says more could be coming. He is a Democratic socialist. He's not a member of the Democratic Party.

And listen to this interview with CBS. I suspect one of the other Democrats will bring this up. Bernie Sanders has a lot of plans. How do you pay for 'em?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The price tag for that is estimated to be $60 trillion over ten years. Correct?

SANDERS: Well, look, we have political opponents --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't know -- you don't know how much your plan costs?

SANDERS: You don't know. Nobody knows. This is impossible --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're going to propose a plan to the American people and not tell them how much it costs.

SANDERS: Of course I will. You know what health care costs -- one minute -- in the next ten years if we do nothing. It will be a lot more expensive than a Medicare for All single-payer system.


KING: Lisa, when I started covering politics, you had to answer those questions. In the Trump age, a Republican president, budget deficits going through the roof. Can Sanders get away with that? I suspect that will be one of the harpoons coming his way this week.

LERER: Maybe. But I have to say, as you point out, this has been a relatively gentle race. The only place where we've seen attacks is on the debate stage.

We don't see negative advertising. We don't see really candidates throwing very tough, sharp elbows at campaign events and there are no debates between now and the Iowa caucuses.

So, he may get a little breathing room. But it does seem, once you're top, you're always subjected to tougher scrutiny, and that is certainly coming Senator Sanders' way. But you also have this moment where you have a Democratic base that doesn't want to see Democrats ripping each other down. They really want to see a united front against Trump. And that makes it complicated for candidates to go after each other.

On top of it, Senator Sanders is someone that, historically, his opponents have a very tough time lodging shots on him. Think about Hillary Clinton. Her team never figured out how to go after Senator Sanders because if you go after him, you risk alienating liberals in the party and younger voters who are some of his strongest supporters.

KING: He's been able to use that, the anti-establishment candidate.

We're going to continue the conversation in a minute. Before we go to break, I just want to show, people, the voters are confused about this race, so are the editorial pages.

"The Des Moines Register" endorses Elizabeth Warren. "The Sioux City Journal" endorses Joe Biden. "The Manchester Union Leader" in New Hampshire endorses Amy Klobuchar. So, there's a split among editorial boards as well.

Coming up, how the 2020 candidates campaigned in Iowa while being stuck here in D.C. for the impeachment trial.

And politicians say the darndest things, Andrew Yang edition.


ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know who has figured out that I am the worst nightmare for Donald Trump in the general? Donald Trump. He has tweeted about every candidate in the field except for me. One, he knows his followers kind of like me. Two, I'm better at the Internet than he is.




KING: Turning now to some Sunday trail mix for more of the taste of the 2020 campaign. The Pete Buttigieg campaign is issuing a warning about Senator Bernie Sanders to its supporters. In a fund-raising email, the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor, cautioning, quote, Bernie Sanders is raising tons of money and Bernie Sanders, quote, could be the nominee of our party. Buttigieg insists that warning about Sanders does not mean he would not be able to win the support of the Sanders supporters if he were the nominee down the road.


REPORTER: If you secure your party's nomination, what will be your strategy to convince those Bernie or bust voters that they shouldn't be bust (ph)?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, the strategy I think will be to put simply remind folks what bust looks like, we're living in bust right through. And we need to remember that whatever differences we have across our big Democratic tent, at the end of the day, anyone in that tent is light years away from what we have in the White House, and I'm not going to take anyone for granted and I'm not going to write anyone off.


KING: The impeachment, of course, took several 2020 contenders off the road, most of this past week, so Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar brought the campaign trail to Washington with a, quote, "tele-town hall" where she told Iowa caucusgoers this.


KLOBUCHAR: I'm someone that's known for getting things done. And that's the number one thing you need to know. The second thing, as you look at the candidates, I am someone that has always won, all the way back to fourth grade. I won every race, every place, every time.


KING: Before heading to Iowa himself after the trial broke yesterday, Senator Bernie Sanders sent surrogates, the filmmaker Michael Moore, the Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Their message to voters -- listen here -- take a risk.


MICHAEL MOORE, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: We only win when we take a risk. That is how you win.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): It is a risk. I'm not here to tell you that what this is -- that this isn't risky. But what I am here to say is that when we hedge our bets, we get more of the same. And the same has not been helping any of us.


KING: It is unusual to have take a risk. You don't see that in on many bumper stickers. It's an interesting strategy.

PHILLIP: Yes, but it's necessary for, you know, for some people in this election because I think that's the biggest anxiety that voters have right now, is how can we be sure that any of these people are actually going to be able to beat Trump?

And Bernie Sanders right now is winning that argument based on what we're seeing in the polls. But a lot of people have anxiety about it, because he is a Democratic socialist, they understand what that label is going to be used in a general election.


And they're worried about it. But, you know, I think for Sanders, that's probably as good an argument as you can get because I think that voters are willing to take a risk if they feel like it's going to be worth it. Because they saw what happened with Donald Trump in the last election. He was not someone that anyone thought was electable and yet he did, in fact, win.

KING: Another busy day for the senators before they have to get back to Washington late tonight for the impeachment trial resuming tomorrow.

A second hour of INSIDE POLITICS is just ahead. Much more on the impeachment of the president. Plus, the latest on the 2020 race. A brand-new poll in New Hampshire. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)