Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Trump Lawyer: Allegations From Bolton Book "Inadmissible"; GOP Senators Huddle After Trump Lawyers Conclude Arguments; Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) Is Interviewed About Issue Of Witness, Specifically John Bolton, John Kelly; Trump's Ex-Chief Of Staff John Kelly: I Believe Bolton. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 28, 2020 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Sounds awful. David Culver, stay safe. Thank you so much.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @jaketapper. You can tweet the show @theleadcnn. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. I'll see you tomorrow morning.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following the Trump impeachment trial, and the Trump legal team just wrapping up in three days laying out their case, and now a critical and very crucial unpredictable new phase as senators weigh whether to hear from the witnesses specifically former national security adviser John Bolton. As most Republican senators resist calling Bolton to testify, former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly now says he believes Bolton who claims in his draft book manuscript that President Trump told him aid to Ukraine was conditioned on the investigations into his political rivals including the Bidens. We'll talk about that.

And more this hour Senator Rand Paul is standing by to join us. And our correspondents and the analysts are also with us. First, let's go straight to our Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta.

Jim, critical new developments in the President's impeachment trial.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The President's legal team has wrapped up their presentation at Mr. Trump's trial. The President's lawyers took aim at the unpublished book from former National Security Adviser John Bolton calling it "inadmissible."

Aides to the President are nervous about the prospect of Bolton testifying at the trial and are warning the GOP senators that a nasty court fight over witnesses could last for months. But there is one former Trump administration official who believes Bolton's voice should be heard, and that is from the former Chief of Staff John Kelly.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAT PHILBIN, TRUMP DEFENSE LAWYER: Mr. Chief justice, i will yield back my time to John Sekulow.

ACOSTA (voice-over): On the final day of argument for the President's legal team, one of Mr. Trump's top lawyers, Jay Sekulow sounded the alarm that the impeachment trial is endangering the constitution.

JAY SEKULOW, OUTSIDE LEGAL COUNSEL FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: Danger, danger, danger. It is not a game of leaks and unsourced manuscripts.

ACOSTA: Sekulow then blasted away this weeks big revelation, John Bolton's unpublished book that claims Mr. Trump told his the National Security Adviser that aid to Ukraine would be on hold until investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden are announced.

SEKULOW: You cannot impeach a president on an unsourced allegation. I mean, that's what this evidence, if you want to call it evidence. I don't know what you call that? I call it inadmissible, but that is what it is.

JOHN KELLY, FMR. WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: John is a stand up guy.

ACOSTA: Now there are growing calls for Bolton to testify even from the former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly who said during a speaking event in Florida, "If John Bolton said it in the book, I believe John Bolton. So I think if there are people that could contribute to this, either innocence or guilt, I think they should be heard."

But the question is what should be done about it? Whether Bolton would be called as part of a witness swap proposed by some senators.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY, (R) UTAH: I'd like to hear from John Bolton. And I think the idea that's been expressed in the media about having each side being able to choose a witness or maybe more than one witness on a paired basis has some merit.

ACOSTA: Or if GOP senators will opt to request Bolton's manuscript to read it behind closed doors even though the book is still being reviewed by the White House.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD, (R) OKLAHOMA: So we can go through it, even what's going through the classification process, we can read all of it and see for ourselves if there is anything significant.

ACOSTA: White the President has rejected Bolton's claims, Democrats aren't buying it.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) MINORITY LEADER: There's been a steady drip, drip, drip of information, the truth leaking out in one explosive article after another.

ACOSTA: The President has told AT's (ph) pleased with his legal teams performance after his lawyers spent much of their defense attacking Biden's son Hunter and his time on the board of the Ukrainian energy giant, Burisma. That delighted some Republican senators.

SEN. JONI ERNST, (R) IOWA: And I'm really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters, those Democratic caucus goers. Will they be supporting Vice President Biden at this point?

ACOSTA: Biden argues that's been the point all along.

JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES: She spilled the beans. She just came out and flat said it.

ACOSTA: The President is also congratulating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after his aides barred a reporter from National Public Radio from covering an official department trip overseas. And apparent active retaliation for NPR's grilling of Pompeo on the Ukraine scandal.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That reporter couldn't have done good job on you yesterday. I think that you did a good job on her, actually. That's great. Thank you, Mike.

ACOSTA: The President tried to focus the publics attention on his new Mideast peace plan, standing with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Palestinian leaders who weren't present for the event and are already rejecting the proposal did receive a personal appeal for Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: I want you to know that if you choose the path to peace, America and many other countries where we will be there, we will be there to help you in so many different ways.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[17:05:11]

ACOSTA: Now as for the impeachment trial, the big question heading into the rest of the week is still whether there are enough Republican votes to call for witnesses like former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

A source close to the President's legal team says they are reasonably confident that witnesses will not be called barring any new bombshells. The President's lawyers are also predicting the President will be acquitted by the end of the week. But given the way things have been going the last few days, Wolf, that maybe optimistic. Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, lot's of uncertainty still. All right, Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you.

Let's go to Capitol Hill right now. Our Congressional Correspondent Phil Mattingly is with us.

Phil, Republicans are facing growing pressure to call witnesses like John Bolton. What are you hearing up there behind the scenes?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, just sheer minutes after the White House legal team close its opening arguments all Republican senators move behind close doors. Few (ph) members only meeting to talk about the next steps of the trial in central to that discussion. I'm told somebody inside the room was the idea of whether or not to move forward on subpoenaing witnesses and documents.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made very clear to his conference in several close door meetings that he does not believe it is a good idea. He believes there are multiple throwbacks to doing just that. And he presented that idea again behind close doors today.

Now Wolf, most Republican members coming out of that meeting were mum, saying they didn't want to talk about private discussions. But one member of leadership, Senator John Barrasso said the overwhelming consensus is it's time to put into the trial. That, however, doesn't mean that there aren't necessarily going to be four votes that the Democrats need to subpoena those witnesses and documents.

As we know, Wolf, there are two Republicans that's in firmly in the yes camp on witnesses and documents, senators Mitt Romney and Susan Collins. But what Republicans don't know at this point in time and what Democrats are still searching for is whether or not they can get two more. And Wolf, Democrats have not eased up on their pressure. Just take a listen to what Adam Schiff had to say earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) LEAD IMPEACHMENT MANAGER: We have prepared -- for John Bolton we have a lot more work to do to prepare now that we know more of what he is likely to say. But we will be prepared when the time comes. And at the end -- you know, I think at the most crucial is not the skill of his examination across examination, but rather letting the senators, evaluate his credibility, letting him the story and not tell it in a book.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Now Wolf, Chairman Schiff in that clip referring to the Ambassador John Bolton the revelations obviously shook Republicans for a period earlier in this week. But I'm told by several aides and senators that they believe the Republicans are moving more towards rejecting the idea of moving forward for witnesses and subpoenas.

As I said, it's something Mitch McConnell has pushed for. It's something the Trump administration and Trump legal team has as well. We'll have to see how it plays up. But right now, I'm told, momentum seems to be moving in the direction of Republicans defeating that vote when it occurs, Wolf.

BLITZER: Walk us through the timeline, Phil, of how the rest of this week will unfold.

MATTINGLY: Yes, Wolf, you can consider the first stage of the trial essentially complete. The presentations from the House managers and the White House defense counsel.

Here's what's going to happen next. Starting tomorrow there will be 16 hours where senators will be allowed to ask questions. They will ask eight hours per day, eight on Wednesday, eight on Thursday. They will each got a minute to ask a question or actually the Chief Justice will read their questions then the House managers or White House defense team will have five minutes to respond. They will alternate back and forth between Republicans and Democrats.

And the expectation right now, I'm told, is they will take all 16 hours for that process. And here's what that would set up, that would set up a Friday debate over witnesses between the House managers and the White House legal counsel. That debate would take four hours split, even the over two hours between each side at which point they can either deliberate behind close doors or they can move to that all crucial vote on witnesses.

If they end up defeating that vote, if Republicans get what they want, at least at the leadership level and defeat that vote, Wolf, it is very likely they will move quickly to try and move to that final vote whether to acquit or remove the President. The expectation at this point in time, it could happen as early as Friday night, it could happen on Saturday as Jim alluded to.

A lot of surprises, a lot fluidity in this process, so we're setting on any final date right now, but needless to say Republican leaders and the Trump legal team want to move quickly, Democrats would like to draw this out and hear more. That's the big question going forward, that witness vote and what happens after, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, if there are no witnesses, this trial could be over by the end of the week. If there are witnesses, it could go on for several more weeks.

Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now, Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, he's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us. I know that there was just a meeting that you and your Republican colleagues had with the Republican leader, the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is there an agreement amongst you, all of you on the issue of witness specifically John Bolton?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): You know I think one of the things that the House managers emphasize was their case was overwhelming and that they had everything they needed to convict the President. So, it would seem that we either believe or we don't. If we believe them that their case is overwhelming they should need more witnesses.

[17:10:13]

But as far as bringing in Bolton I think we need to ask, is he disinterested or neutral or dispassionate witness. And I would say that he is a witness very interested in making a lot of money right now. Month ago he was against testifying, now that his book complete and available for $29.95 he's all for testifying. So I think we have to take with a grain of salt his testimony if he were to come in.

I think that probably will be 51 votes. I don't have any inside knowledge. It's just my estimate. But I think there will 51 votes against hearing more witnesses. We've heard dozens of witnesses, hundreds and hundreds of pages of documents and hundreds of hours of repetitive testimony. I don't know what more we could hear.

We use everything we could possibly hear and if people think that somehow the President did ask Bolton to do it, they are welcome to make the judgment. He's going to say it publicly anyway, he has already said it. So I think we have enough to make a judgment.

BLITZER: Well, do you think Senator, that John Bolton, the former National Security Adviser to the President, if he is subpoenaed and he comes in and testify under oath he would lie in a -- during a Senate impeachment trial?

PAUL: I think it's not so much about lying. It is so much that he is changing his attitude towards executive privilege and executive power.

For his entire life he has been an advocate for virtually unlimited executive power, that's been one of my complaints about him, unlimited executive authority. A month ago he was against, you know, divulging private conversations he had with the President and now he's for it now that he has a book out. I just think that has to be considered and examining what his motives are with this.

Whether he lie or not, I don't know. What I can say is that Professor Dershowitz said last night that even if the President asked the aid to be delayed for, you know, the fact that he wanted an investigation of corruption, that's not an impeachable offense. I've been saying for months now the actual legislation that gave the money to Ukraine commanded the President to examine whether or not the country of Ukraine was making progress on corruption.

BLITZER: Well, what if the demand as John Bolton is suggestion in his draft manuscript is not necessarily the overall issue of corruption, but that the Ukrainian government had to announce an investigation into the Bidens.

PAUL: I guess the way the law is written, it says corruption. It doesn't say corruption unless that corruption involves somebody that might be running against him. So this has been the fallacy of the talking points of the Democrats for months and months. They think the rule should be written that OK you're allowed to investigate corruption, you're allowed to withhold the aid for corruption unless that corruption involves the Democrat. No one could write a rule that way.

They've been saying to the local Republican sheriff, you're allowed to go after crime unless you're Democrat opponent son commits a crime. That's sort of a crazy notion of the way we would write laws.

BLITZER: Some of your Republican colleagues want to at least read Bolton's manuscript before making a decision. Now you dismissed that idea. Would you be open to private deposition of John Bolton under oath without necessarily going into public testimony.

PAUL: I think the question is whether or not the President pause on foreign aid is an impeachable offense. President Obama paused foreign aid twice, once to the Egyptians and he never gave the military aid to the Ukrainians. He also gave aid to el-Sisi, a general who took over Egypt in a military coup. All of these things, I think, were against the will of Congress and yet nobody talked about impeaching President Obama.

I specifically had a vote to withhold the aid to Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood, when they took over in Egypt, I lost 86 to 13. So the will of the Senate was not to stop the aid and President Obama stopped the aid. Now I think stopping the aid was a good thing, but it was against the will of Congress, it was against the law. Restarting the aid was against the law and yet nobody wants to talk about whether President Obama obeyed the law.

BLITZER: But it's one thing to stop U.S. foreign aid if a country is doing something inappropriate, if they're dealing inappropriately for example with their own people or taking steps that are counter to U.S. national interest, then any president of United States is fully authorized by Congress to go ahead and suspend that aid. In this particular case, the alligation of Bolton and others are making is that the aid was stopped for political purposes because the President want a so-called dirt of Joe Biden.

PAUL: But over the last 24 hours we've heard from the President's team say over and over again the President was concern with too many things, burden sharing that shouldn't just be always us doling out money. And I've heard him public and in private dozens and dozens of time rail about all the money we give away to people, and he was concerned about corruption, not only the corruption of the Bidens and I think Hunter Biden making a million dollars a year while his dad is getting the prosecutor fired does rise to the level of corruption, but he was concerned with general corruption.

[17:15:07]

And when you ask the witnesses that Adam Schiff brought forward, he hand selected witnesses and would allow no the presidential witnesses. But each one of his witnesses said that yes the administration had been reviewing corruption not just of the Bidens, but corruption overall in Ukraine.

There is not a person in the State Department who won't tell you that the Ukrainians have had a corruption problem when they had Russian influence and when they've had Western influence. You name it. Any of the last half dozen presidents in Ukraine have had allegations of corruption. It's an ongoing problem and the President was concerned about it.

BLITZER: The former White House Chief Staff, retired General John Kelly says, he believes John Bolton over the President for all practical purposes. What does that say about the President that his own former White House Chief of Staff doesn't necessarily trust him on this? PAUL: I think disappointing and it shows, I guess, bad judgment in picking him in the first place. I think it was also a bad judgment to get John Bolton. I opposed the picking of John Bolton for a policy reason, because I think he wants war in too many places and things, regime changes. It's just a walk in the park. And so I've always been opposed to that sort of pro war caucus kind of mentality of Bolton and his compadres, but I don't know. I'm disappointed in the whole thing.

I do think that the President's team made a good point that you shouldn't impeach a president over policy differences. All of these people in the bureaucracy of the State Departments hate the President because he's an unorthodox. They hated him talking to North Korea. They hate him offering to have talks even with Iran in the midst of all of this.

Should they hate this unorthodox approach to things? They're used to sort of this interagency consensus developed by bureaucrats and talking points. And then they can't believe that the President didn't use his talking points.

And so this is what it is. It's a bureaucracy pushing back against the President, but that should be decided in election. If people don't like President Trump and they don't like the historically low unemployment we have, they can vote for another president. But impeachment, this is ruining the country, because what's going to happen is impeachment is now going to be the tool of any simple majority that doesn't like a president of the opposite party.

BLITZER: But I know that you got to run, but do you believe there will be 51 votes for John Bolton to testify?

PAUL: I think that I'd say eight chances out of 10 that we have 51 votes. That's my estimate.

BLITZER: All right, Senator Rand Paul, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.

PAUL: Thank you.

BLITZER: We have much more ahead on the Trump impeachment trial. Plus, we'll also have the latest on the investigation into the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:21:54]

BLITZER: President Trump's attorneys finished their impeachment trial presentations this afternoon and senators will submit written questions to both sides starting tomorrow. The big question is whether there are enough votes in the Senate to call witnesses especially the former National Security Advisor to the President John Bolton. Let's get some insight from our experts.

John Kelly, the former White House Chief of Staff Retired General, Susan, says, if John Bolton says that in the book, "I believe John Bolton," how significant is it? He is basically saying Bolton is telling the truth.

SUSAN HENNESSEY, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY ATTORNEY: Yes, it's significant anytime somebody in Trump's orbit to tell us the truth about, you know, who they believe and that the President is actually lying. But let's be clear here, there is not a single person in the United States Senate who genuinely believes that Donald Trump is telling the truth and John Bolton is lying. They just don't.

And so the idea that what they're asking us to believe is that somehow they're taking the word of Donald Trump, somebody who has been documented telling over 15,000 lies in the course of his office over John Bolton who is willing to testify. Saying that he will come forward and give his account under oath, frankly it is little bit insulting to our intelligence.

So I think what we see happening right now is that Republican senators have been sort of using this space of implausible deniability pretending as if the record doesn't clearly establish all of these various witnesses, all of this documentary evidence that there was in fact a quid pro quo. John Bolton has just made it significantly harder for them to do so. And so now, instead of pretending as though well, we just can't quite see the linkage, they have to move on the plan B --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

HENNESSEY: -- which is to suggest somehow that John Bolton is making this up.

BORGER: Well and there's a plan C.

BLITZER: Where is this heading on?

BORGER: Well, there's plan C, which is maybe the President said it, but it doesn't matter because Alan Dershowitz threw them a bone last night would say we're waiting for and hoping for arguing that it doesn't matter, because you have to have a criminal offense to be impeached which most constitutional scholar, you know more about this than I do, would disagree with.

But suddenly, after emerging last night from Dershowitz's testimony, they're saying, oh right, we don't have to decide about whether we believe Donald Trump is telling the truth or whether we believe John Bolton is telling the truth, because it doesn't matter.

BLITZER: Because even if Bolton were telling the truth, Dershowitz said it doesn't matter.

BORGER: It doesn't matter. So they move to that plan now.

HENNESSEY: We should be clear though, that is an absurd constitutional argument in its phase. It is contradicted by the overwhelming majority of constitutional scholarship. And it's a contradicted by basic common sense. So Charles Whack is sort of a lead scholar on this.

BORGER: Yes. HENNESSEY: He said, well imagine if the President went to Saudi Arabia because he wanted multiple spouses and he was just going to conduct the office by mail. His passport was in order. He wouldn't be committing a crime. Would anybody argue that's not an impeachable offense? Plainly no, the argument is hold to no one.

BLITZER: Laura Coates, listen to the President's private attorney Jay Sekulow argue against the Bolton manuscript. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEKULOW: What we are involved in here as we conclude is perhaps the most solemn of duties under our constitutional framework. The trial of the leader of the free world and the duly elected President of the United States, it is not a game of leaks and unsourced manuscripts. That's politics unfortunately and Hamilton put impeachment in the hands of this body, the Senate, precisely and specifically to be above that fray.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[17:25:31]

BLITZER: And he went on to say that the Bolton manuscript in his word was "inadmissible." Is it really inadmissible?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No. Well, here's the issue here. He paints himself into the corner, because essentially he makes the case where you know how to avoid having leaks or unpublished manuscripts or unsourced manuscripts be a problem? You have the person who actually wrote it, be available for cross-examination and questioning which at the heart of hearsay.

It's all about being able to cross-examine or test the credibility of the person who is saying it. Not to play a game of telephone where one person is interpreting and conveying information which does lead people to believe that there's a credibility issue or that perhaps it would say, it was not actually intended.

You can streamline that whole process which is what this is all about by having that very witness come in and testify. And of course, they're saying, well there's no reason to have this person if there is a manuscript available, but that's no substitute for cross-examination and no substitute when the Presidential administration and the tenure of President is at stake.

BLITZER: You know, Alan, how would a Bolton deposition in the Senate actually work?

ALAN FRUMIN, FORMER SENATE PARLIAMENTARIAN: If they follow the model in the Clinton trial, there will be presiding officers one each recommended by each of the two leaders. They will serve as the presiding officers at these depositions. The managers on the part of the House and the President's counsel will be able to examine the individual being deposed. The individual being deposed was provided with a right to have counsel. And there were some stipulations with respect to the guidelines for the subject matter that would be in play. And I noted in the resolution authorizing the depositions in the Clinton trial, there was a stipulation that provided for matters outside the record to be available provided that they were in the press which I found somewhat curious.

BLITZER: Interesting, yes, because I remember the Clinton trial, the three witnesses who were called were all deposed on videotape and then they ran excerpts of the -- those videotaped depositions during the course of the trial. So that potentially could be an example that they would use this time as well.

And we're going to have a lot more on the impeachment trial of the President of the United States right after this.

[17:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're back with our experts. And, Gloria, we're getting some reporting from our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, that a source has told her that President Trump's legal team could not definitely answer whether -- when pressed, whether the team actually has been briefed on former national security adviser John Bolton's manuscript.

BORGER: Well, that's interesting information because, of course, when the manuscript was first written about in "The New York Times," the Republicans in the Senate were outraged and were calling the White House and saying -- and the attorneys there, saying did you know this before the trial started, and they said they did not.

I think the question is -- as they continue to fight against Bolton's testimony, what everyone wants to know is what else is in that book. And does the White House have more information about what is in that book? And is that why they are continuing to press against Bolton testifying, or is it just because they don't think he needs to testify?

I think if they have some information about what is in that book, I think the Democrats are going to want to say, well, we need to have it, too.

BLITZER: Because if you have top-secret security clearances like the President's national security adviser clearly would have and you decide to write a book, you're under obligation to submit the manuscript to what's called the Records Management Directory at the White House. And then, they have career professionals review it to make sure no classified information is included.

HENNESSEY: Right, so it's a process called prepublication review. So you have an obligation to safeguard classified information no matter what. We can rest pretty assured that John Bolton, who wants to publish this book, would not make the mistake of including classified information.

But whenever you sign a nondisclosure agreement and obtain your security clearance, you agree that anything you publish, you will allow the government to review it in order to ensure that there's no classified information in that. It's one of the reasons why we saw John Bolton's lawyers coming out immediately afterward, saying we submitted this manuscript as part of the prepublication review process and essentially pointing the fingers at the White House and saying if there is a leak here, it came from you.

Now, keep in mind, that pertains to the actual manuscript itself. John Bolton is at liberty to tell the stories about what's in that manuscript. There is no prepublication review obligation for that, and there -- all he has to do is protect classified information. So that may seem like a distinction --

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: He can come here tomorrow, Wolf, to talk to you.

BLITZER: Yes.

HENNESSEY: He absolutely can.

BLITZER: And we have invited he could have all two hours.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: We won't take commercials, right?

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: But we'll let him --

BORGER: Right, like that.

[17:35:02]

BLITZER: -- let him talk, you know. Laura, you've now heard the opening arguments from the House Managers, the Democrats. You've heard the opening arguments from the President's legal team. Step back and tell us what your thought is.

Who did a better job? Were they both effective? Are we more confused now? What do you think?

COATES: Well, they were both effective for different reasons. And for the House impeachment managers, they were effective in essentially using all the tools at their disposal, and they were limited by the obstruction by the administration. Not to hand over a single document, make witnesses available.

And what they were able to do with what they had was to present a very thorough and comprehensive case that, aligned with the facts, gave a structural timeline, the chronology of events, and showed a pressure campaign that was even outside of that one phone July 25th telephone call.

In turn, the defense team's job was essentially to undermine that by saying, on the one hand, it was insufficient. There was not enough here to show the President had actually done what they said. I mean, that was, really, unsatisfying given all the breadth of information. They pivoted, in a way, to turn to why this, perspectively, would be a problem for a future administration.

And the big thing they're hanging their hats on now is this concept of vagueness, Wolf, the idea of, look, if you're going to look at impeachment as this extraordinary power, it's got to have the power to deter. Well, it can't do that if it's a general concept of wrongdoing.

Or if you're using the phrase of you can't have the President above the law, well, then, Congress, you can't be above the law and not give some enumerated factors to show how someone could violate abuse of power or concepts in that.

The one flaw they had, Wolf -- they had many but one of the biggest flaws to me is perhaps Dershowitz could give an argument about abuse of power conceptually but how do you defend, Wolf, against the number zero? Which is exactly what they got for an obstruction case. That is as clear as day that the President did not hand over anything.

And they failed, wholeheartedly, to address that I claim because, for everyone like us, you can't just say, I have a disagreement as to why you pulled me over, officer. Therefore, I'm not going to honor any of the court terms I have to abide by or your ticket, I can ignore everything. Or I don't agree with the grand jury who called me to come in and testify, I'm not going to do it.

That is above the law. They didn't address this, and they have failed to do so. And they've, instead, relied on soundbites for the audience of one.

BLITZER: You know, Alan Frumin, you're the former Senate parliamentarian. What did you think?

FRUMIN: Well, I think that the guidelines for this trial get to the point of deciding whether or not there should be witnesses. The guidelines for the Clinton trial, the second resolution which was not adopted unanimously but was a partisan resolution, got into details of how these witnesses will be handled, how the depositions will work.

At this point, there is no guideline for this trial. So assuming that the Senate does vote affirmatively to subpoena witnesses, the actual process on how those subpoenas and how those depositions will work remains unchartered at this point.

BLITZER: Well, let's see if the Senate votes to bring in witnesses, to begin with. Everybody, stick around, we have much more on the President's impeachment trial. And also, other news we're following, two other major stories.

China reports an alarming spike in confirmed cases of the deadly coronavirus. What about the risk right here in the United States?

Plus, we'll have the latest developments in the investigation of the helicopter crash that killed NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others.

[17:38:31]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: As alarming new numbers come in about the spread of the deadly coronavirus in China and beyond, health officials are trying to reassure people right here in the United States. Let's bring in CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, I understand there are now five confirmed cases in the U.S.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right.

BLITZER: How concerned are you about the virus spreading?

GUPTA: I'm not that concerned about the virus spreading here in the United States right now. The concern is always that the virus could mutate somewhat and start to spread more rapidly, but I'm not concerned right now as things stand. Those five patients who have coronavirus, they all traveled from China as opposed to contracting the infection here in the United States.

And I should point out, in addition to the five confirmed cases, there's been 32 people who were subsequently found to not have the coronavirus. They were tested. They were suspicious, tested, came back negative. There are 73 people who we're waiting out those test results still. But still, right now, five people only, Wolf.

And to give you a little bit of context, back in 2003, I covered SARS. You were there, I was there. There were eight people in the United States through all of that. And I think it does speak to the effectiveness of our public health system in this country. We don't get to see it in action if it -- if there's no additional cases really -- you just get to see the positive impact of that -- but the public health system in action, I think, is part of the reason why this virus is not spreading right now.

BLITZER: What are we learning, Sanjay, about the incubation period?

GUPTA: Well, the incubation period appears to be -- and this is just over a month's worth of data, you know, so this could change, but appears to be anywhere from two days to two weeks, so two days to 14 days. And what that means, as you know, Wolf, that's the time between someone being exposed to the virus and getting infected to the time that they actually start to develop symptoms.

[17:44:55]

One of the big questions around incubation period is, is someone contagious during that time? Meaning they're not sick, they don't know that they have the virus, and yet they are still spreading it. There has been some discussion in China that that may be the case, but the -- you know, the folks from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, they say, looking at the data that they've seen so far, they don't see the evidence of that.

They don't see the -- what's called asymptomatic spread. And if there is no asymptomatic spread, that's obviously -- that's good news. That's better news.

BLITZER: Sanjay Gupta with the latest on that. We'll continue to watch the -- watch this really worrisome story. Appreciate it very much, Sanjay.

Coming up, there's new details of the investigation into the crash that killed Kobe Bryant and what the pilot was doing moments before the helicopter went down.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:50:38]

BLITZER: Officials in California say all nine bodies have now been recovered from the site of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant. And tonight, the investigation is ramping up as fans around the world pay tribute to the basketball icon.

CNN's Brian Todd is working this story for us. Brian, we're learning some new information about the fatal flight.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. New information tonight about the pilot's communications with Air Traffic Control moments before the crash and new video of the helicopter in the air as it made its way toward the area where it later crashed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Tonight, a new glimpse from the ground of Kobe Bryant's helicopter minutes before it crashed. A man took this video of the helicopter over Glendale, California on Sunday morning. The aircraft went down about 26 miles away.

NTSB investigators are examining pieces of the wreckage by hand from a debris field that, officials say, stretches the length of about two football fields. Officials now say, moments before the crash, the pilot requested and was granted special visual flight rules clearance to fly in weather conditions worse than normal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Copy that, we'll maintain special VFR.

TODD (voice-over): Officials say the pilot reported he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer, but then --

JENNIFER HOMENDY, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: When ATC asked what the pilot planned to do, there was no reply.

TODD (voice-over): The crash killed Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others. Current and former Laker legends are struggling to wrap their emotions

around it all. LeBron James posting on Instagram, I'm heartbroken and devastated, my brother. Shaquille O'Neal, who won three world championships with Bryant, spoke at length on his Monday podcast about his teammate.

SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, "THE BIG PODCAST WITH SHAQ", PODCASTONE/MONDAY: This one going to hurt for a long, long time. I know he's going to be remembered and all that stuff, but just wish he was here. I wish I could say something to him. I really lost a brother yesterday.

TODD (voice-over): Tonight, the five-time champion and 18-time all- star is being remembered not only for his greatness on the court but for the way he exited the game after 20 years.

KOBE BRYANT, FORMER LOS ANGELES LAKERS SHOOTING GUARD: There's beauty in that. I mean, it's going through the -- it's going through the cycle. I mean, it's a cycle. It's the -- it's the natural progression of growth and maturation. I mean, it's -- there's no sadness in that.

TODD (voice-over): Indeed, Kobe Bryant is also remembered for his embrace of life after basketball as a business owner, an Oscar-winning filmmaker, and as a doting father of four daughters. He was seen with Gianna a little over a month ago on the sidelines of an NBA game on the YES Network, breaking down the game with her, explaining moves and plays.

From all accounts, he loved being the coach of Gianna's team. Less than a year and a half ago, Bryant appeared on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on ABC, and they talked about her love of the game.

BRYANT: The best thing that happens is when we go out and fans will come up to me. And she'll be standing next to me, and they'll be like, hey, you got to have a boy. You and V got to have a boy, men. You got to have somebody carry on your tradition, the legacy. She's like, oy, I got this.

(LAUGHTER)

TODD (voice-over): When Kent Babb of "The Washington Post" worked on a profile of Bryant in 2018, he says he broke the ice by talking about both men's daughters.

KENT BABB, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think he was particularly close with Gianni, Gigi. And, you know, he would say that he had to act like a jungle gym for his kids like everybody. And with Gigi, like, that was the one that was really -- like really into basketball. Like, she wanted to be just like her dad. She had the same jump shot.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Kent Babb says he has one haunting memory of his interviews with Kobe Bryant. He says during one of his several meetings with Bryant, they took a round trip helicopter ride from Orange County to downtown Los Angeles and back. And Babb says he's almost certain it was on the very same helicopter that crashed on Sunday, Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Brian, I understand there are some additional details emerging about the final moments just before the crash in the pilot's communications with Air Traffic Control?

TODD: That's right, Wolf. When the -- the NTSB, excuse me, says when the pilot flew into air space above Burbank and Van Nuys, California in those foggy conditions, he requested radar assistance to avoid traffic. But Air Traffic Control said he was flying too low at that moment to be able to get that assistance. He was, at that very moment, about 1,400 feet above the ground. Very treacherous flight in the final moments.

BLITZER: Yes, so sad indeed. All right. Brian Todd, reporting, thank you.

Coming up, former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly backs John Bolton as pressure grows to have the ex-national security adviser testify in President Trump's impeachment trial.

[17:54:57]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The battle over the impeachment trial witnesses has added urgency tonight now that the President's defense lawyers have wrapped up their opening arguments. We're told Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear that votes to block witnesses aren't locked in yet.

GOP senators are facing growing pressure right now to hear testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton. Some of that pressure may be coming from President Trump's own former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly declaring he believes Bolton, who reportedly confirms that the President conditioned Ukraine aid on political investigations.

[18:00:06]

That, of course, is the central allegation in the central -- in the Senate trial.