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Trump Impeachment Defense Team Concludes Opening Arguments; Interview With Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA); Interview With Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT); Source Says, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Made Clear He Does Not Yet Have Enough GOP Votes To Block Witnesses; Palestinians Reject Trump's New Mideast Peace Plan; Fifty U.S. Service Members Diagnosed With Traumatic Brain Injuries After Iranian Missile Strike; Audio Reveals Kobe Bryant's Pilot Reported Poor Visibility. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 28, 2020 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: John Kelly declaring he believes Bolton, who reportedly confirms that the president conditioned Ukraine aid on political investigations. That, of course, is a central allegation in the central -- in the Senate trial.

This hour, I will talk to House and impeachment manager Representative Zoe Lofgren. Also, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy is standing by, along with our correspondents, analysts, and other guests.

First, let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the focus on possible testimony by John Bolton is clearly intensifying right now, as the impeachment trial moves into a critical new phase.


The president's lawyers took aim at the unpublished book from former National Security Adviser John Bolton today, calling it inadmissible. Aides to the president are nervous about the prospect of Bolton testifying at the trial and are warning 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's the former Chief of Staff John Kelly.


PATRICK PHILBIN, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Mr. Chief Justice, I will yield back my time to Mr. Sekulow.

ACOSTA (voice-over): On the final day of arguments 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, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Danger, danger, danger. It is not a game of leaks and unsourced manuscripts.

ACOSTA: Sekulow then blasted away at this week's big revelation, John Bolton's unpublished book that claims Mr. Trump told his then 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 the evidence -- if you want to call that evidence, I don't know what you call that. I would call it inadmissible. But that's what it is.


ACOSTA: Now there are growing calls for Bolton to testify, even from former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who said during a speaking event in Florida: "If John Bolton says that 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-UT): I'd like to hear from John Bolton. And I think the idea that's been expressed in the media about having each side be 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-OK): But we can go through it, even while it's going through the classification process. We can read all of it and see it and see for ourselves if there's anything significant.

ACOSTA: While the president has rejected Bolton's claims...


ACOSTA: ... Democrats aren't buying it.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): 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 aides he's pleased with his legal team's 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-IA): 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 President -- Vice President Biden at this point?

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

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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, an apparent act of retaliation for NPR's grilling of Pompeo on the Ukraine scandal.

TRUMP: That reporter couldn't have done too good a job on you yesterday, right?


TRUMP: I think you did a good job on her, actually.



TRUMP: That's good. Thank you, Mike.


ACOSTA: Now, 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. But that may be wishful thinking.

Wolf, one other potential witness who would like to be there at the Senate trial is the indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas. Parnas' lawyers say they will be there, but their client will not, according to those attorneys, because Parnas is wearing one of those tracking bracelets on his ankles required by federal authorities -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta over at the White House, thank you.

Let's go to Capitol Hill right now.

Our Senior Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju, is joining us.

Manu, I understand Republican senators met to discuss potential impeachment trial witnesses. What's the latest? What are you hearing?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they talked for about over an hour.

And one Republican senator, a member of Republican leadership, John Barrasso, came out and said there's an overwhelming consensus, and he says the consensus, to end the trial quickly. Now, Mitch McConnell needs the votes to defeat a motion later this week that would call for witnesses and documents. At the moment, those votes are not locked down. But he's counting his votes.


And Republicans coming out of this meeting are more confident that they will ultimately get enough votes to defeat that motion. And that could lead to the president's acquittal potentially by the end of this week or potentially early next week.

Now, one of the arguments that Republicans are making, that Mitch McConnell is making and other Republican leaders is that, if they bring in John Bolton, it could lead to an endless parade of witnesses.

They're going to argue that this -- they're arguing behind the scenes that it could lead to court challenges. It could delay the trial for weeks, put the president's trial in limbo, all in the middle of this presidential election season.

That's an argument that Senator John Thune, the Republican whip, also has been making in private, said even if the president did what is being alleged here, it does not amount to impeachable conduct, and even going through this motion to try to get all these witnesses could lead to a court fight that will ultimately still amount to the same ultimate conclusion, that the president will be acquitted.


SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): I think there's already on the record from the House managers that sort of evidence. So, like I said, I mean, you could -- you could say it could reinforce it, he could put different context to it.

But if you start calling him, then the Democrats are going to want to call Mulvaney. And they're going to want to call Pompeo, because I'm sure they would get referenced.

And our guys are obviously going to start wanting to call witnesses on the other side to illuminate their case. And I think that gets us into this endless cycle of -- and this drags on for weeks and months in the middle of a presidential election, where people are already voting.


RAJU: One of the arguments Republicans are making is that, if bringing in John Bolton essentially is a similar -- he would offer similar evidence that past witnesses have made.

And that's an interesting argument coming from Republicans, because a lot of House Republicans have said that the facts that the Democrats have pushed forward are disputed.

But a lot of Republicans are saying that, since that facts are out there, there's no need to bring him in, because he wouldn't add anything additional to the record that isn't already known. So that is an argument they're making behind the scenes. The question, ultimately, of course, Wolf, is, will there will be those four Republican senators that will break ranks?

At the moment, uncertain if that will go that route, but all focus on the handful of senators who could defy the president -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, we should find out Friday and maybe Saturday. We will see what happens.

Manu, thank you very much.

Joining us now, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for coming in.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Yes, thanks for having me.

BLITZER: All right, so, John Kelly, the former White House chief of staff, says -- quote -- "If John Bolton says that in the book, I believe John Bolton."

And you know what he says in the book. The president's attorney Jay Sekulow says Bolton's unpublished book is -- quote -- "inadmissible" as evidence in this Senate trial.

So what do you think? Does it mean even the manuscript can't be subpoenaed and potentially read?

MURPHY: Well, John Bolton is still alive, right?

We don't need his manuscript. We can just bring John Bolton before the Senate as a witness. There hasn't been a single impeachment trial in the history of the country that hasn't had witnesses.

And we have a witness who seeks to fill in the gaps that the president's lawyers are telling jurors exist, right? The president's lawyers case is that, yes, Sondland was definitely carrying out an aid-for-investigation scheme, but that wasn't through orders by the president. The president didn't tell anybody to do that.

Well, John Bolton is going to testify that the president, in fact, said: I'm not giving Ukraine the aid unless they do investigations into my political opponents.

And so Republicans are claiming that this is a gap in the testimony. Bolton will fill in that gap. We don't need to read the book. All we have to do is bring John Bolton before the Senate, because he's willing to testify. He wasn't willing to testify in the House. He is willing to testify now.

BLITZER: You're heard Manu Raju's reporting that Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is not sure yet that he has the votes to block witnesses.

MURPHY: Well, I don't think he does. I mean, I think it's really going to be impossible for Republicans to

go back to their states and make this argument that there was a witness willing to testify to the president's crime, and they decided they didn't want to hear him.

Remember, the polls now suggest that 80 percent of Americans -- that means lots of Trump supporters -- want these witnesses. And so, in the end, it's really up to the American people. And they are making it clear they do not want to cover-up. They don't want a rigged trial. They want witnesses. They want an actual trial that's seeking to get to the facts.

BLITZER: Yes, I want you to elaborate on what you told our CNN colleague Lauren Fox earlier that -- subpoenaing in the manuscript, rather than having Bolton actually testify under oath, in your words, was total B.S.

You didn't say B.S. You said something else.


MURPHY: Yes, I said out the word, because I think it is ridiculous.

Listen, Republicans are very scared of what John Bolton is going to say. And they would rather that only his manuscript be admitted, instead of having John Bolton come in and testify under oath.

Frankly, it's much harder for him to spin a tale if he's under oath. It's much easier for Republicans to cross-examine him if he's before us as a witness.


And so there's a reason why witnesses appear in trials, not just the books or the stories they write down on paper, because you want them under oath. You want them to be able to be cross-examined. That's what we should do here.

BLITZER: Would you be satisfied if they followed the example from the Bill Clinton impeachment trial 21 years ago, where they had three witnesses that were allowed to come forward, they were deposed on videotape, under oath, behind the scenes, and then they released excerpts during the course of the trial?

MURPHY: Well, I mean, let's get past the first step, before we start negotiating the exact form of these depositions and this witness testimony.

Remember, what we're going to have likely on Friday is an up-or-down vote from Republicans as to whether they want any witnesses at all, or whether they want to turn this trial into a cover-up.

We still do need, as you said, four Republicans at least to vote with us, and then we can get into a negotiation over how many witnesses and how that testimony is provided. BLITZER: What do you think of some -- the proposals that some

Republicans have put forward, a swap basically, for John Bolton for Hunter Biden?

MURPHY: Well, I mean, like, this isn't Major League Baseball, right? We're not trading draft picks for prospects.

The idea that you're going to trade one witness for another is preposterous, especially because what the Senate Republicans are trying to do here is essentially turn the Senate into an accomplice of the president.

The president is accused of using his official powers to try to destroy his political opponents. And now the Senate is saying, Republican senators are saying, well, let's turn the impeachment trial into a forum by which to continue the destruction of the president's political opponents.

I just don't want to be a co-conspirator with the president.

BLITZER: Here's what Lindsey Graham, your Republican colleague, just tweeted. I don't know if you have seen it. Have you seen it?

MURPHY: I did.

BLITZER: I will read it to our viewers.

"It is clear to me that most Democrats are very comfortable with an America where only Republicans get investigated. Not one Republican believes that Senator Schumer and Chris Murphy are remotely interested in fairness."

MURPHY: Yes, I mean, listen, I understand things are getting heated right now.

But this, to me, is ultimately about the rule of law. And I get it. The Republicans are going to look at me or anybody else skeptically when we say that we would treat a Democratic president the same way.

But I believe I would. I believe that if a Democratic president was trading away taxpayer dollars in order to get interference in an election, I would hold that president to the same standard.

I get it that there's going to be skepticism about that, but I believe it.

BLITZER: Senator Murphy, thanks so much for coming in.

MURPHY: Thanks.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we will talk about the critical new phase of the impeachment trial with one of the House managers, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren.

She's standing by live. We will discuss when we come back.



BLITZER: Tonight, a source on the president's legal team is refusing to say whether the team has seen or been briefed on the draft of John Bolton's bombshell book.

The former national security adviser to the president reportedly confirms the president conditioned Ukraine aid on political investigations, including into the Bidens.

Let's talk about Bolton's allegations, the impeachment trial, and more.

Joining us now, one of the House impeachment managers, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.

Let me get your reaction first to what our Manu Raju is reporting, that Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has made clear in a closed-door briefing with various Republican senators that, as of right now, he doesn't necessarily believe they have enough votes locked in to block witnesses.

What's your guess right now?

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, I don't have a guess.

I think that's good news for the country, because in order to have a fair trial, you have to have evidence and witnesses and documents. So, let's hope that that's the case.

I mean, we're not talking to the Republican senators, so we have no way to really know.

BLITZER: The president's former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly says -- and I'm quoting him -- "If John Bolton says that in the book, I believe John Bolton."

In other words, he's giving credence to Bolton over what the president has suggested. What do you -- what's your reaction to that?

LOFGREN: Well, I don't know Bolton very well. I have -- did have dealings with General Kelly.

I think that the chances are good that the report of Bolton's account is correct, but we will find out for sure if he comes to the Senate, because he's got to hold up his right hand and swear an oath to tell the truth, and then we will know whether what he said is true.

BLITZER: After failing to mention Bolton's manuscript yesterday, the president's attorney Jay Sekulow, today, he tried to discount those revelations, arguing that the manuscript, in his word, was inadmissible.

What does that tell you about the president's team, the argument that they're making?

LOFGREN: I heard that, and I was really flabbergasted.

I mean, really, the president's team put that piece of evidence at issue and made it really more mandatory for the senators to call Mr. Bolton as a witness.

I thought it was an odd thing for the president's lawyers to do and -- just as a legal matter.

BLITZER: What did you make of their arguments over the past few days, including last night, Alan Dershowitz, Robert Ray? You heard all their points in their opening arguments.


Well, Mr. Dershowitz went on for quite some time. His account of the history of it, unfortunately, was lacking, as was his analysis of the law. He might be better off sticking with criminal defense. It's -- it went on for quite some time, and it was not persuasive, because it was wrong.

I do think that, overall, the president's lawyers might have been speaking primarily to one person, and that would be President Trump, from time to time, hoping to please him.


But I didn't think they made a persuasive -- they really didn't dispute, for the most part, the evidence and the case made by the managers from the House. So I don't think it was persuasive.

BLITZER: To make his case to the Senate today, the White House counsel Pat Cipollone played a montage of Democrats, including you...


LOFGREN: Yes. Yes.

BLITZER: ... arguing against the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. This goes back from 21 years. Watch this.


LOFGREN: By these actions, you would undo the free election that expressed the will of the American people in 1996. In so doing, you will damage the faith the American people have in this institution and in the American democracy.

You will set the dangerous precedent that the certainty of presidential terms, which has so benefited our wonderful America, will be replaced by the partisan use of impeachment. Future presidents will face election, then litigation, then impeachment.

The power of the president will diminish in the face of the Congress, a phenomena much feared by the founding fathers. PAT CIPOLLONE, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: You were right.


CIPOLLONE: But I'm sorry to say you were also prophetic.


BLITZER: All right, so what's your response?

LOFGREN: Well, first, I was -- I looked so young and thin.

BLITZER: Well, that was 21 years ago.

LOFGREN: So, that was exciting, the ravages of time.

But Ed Markey, in a way, gave a better speech than I did, because he pointed out that the Republicans then took the phrase high crimes and misdemeanors, struck out the word high, and replaced it with any. And that was the problem that I was trying to address at that time.

There was no high crime and misdemeanor. There was a president who lied about a sexual affair. That did not involve an abuse of presidential powers. In fact, any husband caught lying about an affair could do the same.

He lied under oath. That was a crime. It was wrong. But it wasn't abuse of presidential power.

What it was, was really an effort by the Republicans to get him for something that did not meet the constitutional standards.

That was a point I made throughout the Clinton impeachment.

BLITZER: What's the high crime that President Trump committed?

LOFGREN: He abused his power for his own personal well-being, as we have outlined throughout this trial.

He basically extorted or tried to extort from a foreign ally an investigation or at least an announcement to smear his Democratic -- likely Democratic opponent.

Think of it this way. What if a Democratic president told the attorney general that, if he wanted to get the budget for his department, he had to announce that he was doing a criminal investigation of the Republican who was running against that Democratic president?

That's really the same thing, except this involves a foreign power. It's even worse than that. So, really, I think back more to the Nixon impeachment than the Clinton impeachment. What Trump has done does track what President Nixon did, except that it's even worse because it involved a foreign power.

And, also, he refused to provide any information. I mean, Nixon was much more forthcoming with the Congress than Trump has been with this Congress.

BLITZER: Representative Zoe Lofgren, thanks so much for joining us.

LOFGREN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, new video from the Kobe Bryant crash site, as we're learning about the pilot's last words before the chopper carrying the NBA legend went down.

And a powerful earthquake hits off Jamaica, sending shockwaves all the way to Miami.



BLITZER: Tonight, the Senate Republican leader is acknowledging that he hasn't locked up enough votes -- at least not yet -- to block witnesses at the president's impeachment trial.

The Senate is moving closer and closer to a vote on whether to hear testimony now that the president's lawyers have wrapped up their opening arguments.

Let's bring in our analysts and our correspondents.

What are you hearing, Jamie, about whether or not Mitch McConnell has the votes, doesn't have the votes?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As you just said, at 6:28, he does not have the votes. Check again in five minutes.

The lobbying is very, very hard on both sides here. And we saw that. When they came out of the conference today, each side was saying that it's moving in their direction.

I do think we should keep in mind there was a new Quinnipiac poll out today. Maybe it will have an impact, maybe not. But it said 75 percent of registered voters are in favor of witnesses. Yes, 95 percent are Democrats; 49 percent are Republicans. That's almost half.

And here's the critical number; 75 percent of independents are in favor of witnesses. That means a lot in these vulnerable states.


And -- but for each of these senators, as you well know...

GANGEL: It's a different story.

BASH: It's a different story, because it depends on their state.

For example, Mike Braun, who is a freshman from Indiana, he came on with you, I believe, earlier this week, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. [18:30:04]

He was talking about the fact that he doesn't think what the president did was appropriate but it's not impeachable. When I talked to him today on this specific of issue of witnesses, he was saying that people back home in Indiana just wanted to be over with because they think that the process is flawed, and he was talking really from the Republican hymnal, in general, and the Trump playbook.

But more broadly, you can't underscore enough how touch and go it is. Jamie, you just alluded to this. Just being on the Hill, walking those Hall, talking to those senators, it's a roller coaster in how the Republicans, in particular, who are kind of on the bubble are being pressured in all ways.

But make no mistake about it, the White House is not just kind of letting their arguments be heard in the ether. There is a very intense pressure campaign going on behind the scenes, not just with the White House, not just with fellow Republican senators, but they are calling out all the stops, people who they know and rely on back home to say, do not vote for witnesses because it will elongate the process and so on and so forth.

BLITZER: What are you hearing, David?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, no. I think it's the jockeying, as you're both saying, for whether or not there is going to be witnesses is very interesting both in terms of how long it stretches out the trial and whether or not the American people back home watching this get a sense of what really happened or a better sense of what really happened. So I do think you might see some of these senators.

But I do think though in the end, Wolf, that it's still not going to change, unless Ambassador Bolton says something that is just completely out of the box of everything we already know. I think when we get to a final vote on conviction, I still expect Republicans, even if they hear from Bolton, to vote with the president, maybe even one or two Democrats.

BLITZER: What do you think, Jeffrey?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I don't think that the result is in doubt. The president is not going to be forced out of office. But the idea that you can have a trial or call something a trial without the single most important witness being allowed to testify when he has said he will testify, and that he has information about the single most important part of the case, I don't know how the vote is going to come out. But I think it is a total travesty if he is not allowed to testify.

BLITZER: Everybody stand by. There is more news we're following.

Jared Kushner on impeachment, as his father-in-law faces trial and announces a new Mideast peace plan. Stand by for a CNN interview with Kushner. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BLITZER: Tonight, the Palestinians are rejecting President Trump's new Mideast peace plan just hours after he unveiled it right in the midst of the Senate impeachment trial.

We have a new interview with a central figure drafting the plan, the president's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. He spoke with CNN's Chief International Anchor, Christiane Amanpour.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: This is a huge day for you, for the president and, let's face it, for Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies and supporters. We know that they believe this to be a great deal because they've said it. He has said it from the podium. But I want to pick up on what the president said, that he wanted to make this a win-win deal, including for the Palestinians. Can you tell me, sort of lay out precisely where you think the win is for the Palestinians, the precise details?

JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: Perfect. Well, first of all, I'd like to say that today was a big accomplishment for President Trump, something that only he could have done. He met yesterday with Prime Minister Netanyahu, but also with General Gantz, his opponent, in a time of very divisive politics in Israel where they can't agree on much. He brought the country together on what has been the most divisive issue.

What he's also done is we've released an 80-page detailed plan. And the past plans, the we had Arab Peace Initiative, which is a very good effort, which is about eight lines, and then you had past proposals, which were two to three pages of wordsmith documents really talking about high principles. He also got Israel to agree for the first time to a state and he got Israel to agree to a map.

What you've seen today is that President Trump has built a lot of trust with the State of Israel. He's done a lot of great things that have made Israel more secure and the relationship between America and Israel stronger. And what he's been able to do today is deliver for the Palestinians a pathway to a state, contiguous territory and conditions where they can earn their way to their independence, their dignity, all these different things along with a $50 billion economic plan that could make them a very, very thriving state in future.

So it's a big opportunity for the Palestinians and they have a perfect track record of blowing every opportunity they've had in their past, but perhaps maybe their leadership will read the details of it, stop posturing and do what's best to try to make the Palestinian people's lives better.

AMANPOUR: Their election is coming up in less than six weeks. Why now, I guess? What's the rush? KUSHNER: Well, it's not about a rush. Again, getting both parties and an Israeli election to agree is a historic accomplish on a very contentious issue. Again, you raised a lot of concepts. Let me try to go through them so that I don't -- except premises that they may not be accurate.

With regards to the Israeli politics of what we're going to do, what we release was a conceptual map. It's going to take us a couple of months to go through it and try to get it detailed.


So it could take us two, three or four months to do that. We'll start the process immediately. Again, we welcome the Palestinians if they want to come and be a part of it, if they have suggestions for areas to include or not include. We're happy to do it.

Yes, I come from a real-estate background. It was very, very difficult to draw these lines and get map where you can have contiguity to a Palestinian state. And, again, this isn't because it's something that we developed, this is something that we inherited, the situation where Israel continues to grow and grow. And what the president secured today was Israel agreeing to stop for four years, more settlements to give the Palestinians their last chance to finally have a state.

AMANPOUR: You called it a conceptual map, and that you've called this a basis for negotiation. The Israeli prime minister has stated that this weekend, he will impose the laws of the State of Israel, those are the words out of his mouth, on the Jordan Valley, on those areas in the West Bank. If that happens this weekend, is that with the approval of the United States?

KUSHNER: Yes, I don't believe that's going to happen this weekend, at least not as far as I know. But, again, a lot of these areas, just the reality is that Israel is there and they're not leaving. There's never been a deal where they've contemplated doing that and it's not pragmatic. I'm looking at the world as it exists in 1967. I'm looking at the world as it exists in 2020.

AMANPOUR: As you know, many observers have mentioned the elephant in the room, that the president of the United States is under impeachment and under trial in the Senate. The prime minister of Israel is under indictment for corruption and all sorts of other things. You are the wrangler for the president's defense. How do you think it's going? Do you think John Bolton will be called and what do you think about witnesses?

KUSHNER: We have a team that deals with the impeachment because it's a nuisance. But the reality is that we have a lot of people today. Tomorrow, we're signing USMCA, the largest trade deal in the history of the world, a deal with Mexico and Canada. We signed a historic trade deal with China just a couple of weeks ago. So while the Democrats are busy going crazy, trying to impeach the president, he's out creating opportunities for the American people and making the world a much better place. So I'll be honest with you. It really doesn't take a lot of our time. And quite frankly, I'm also seeing on the T.V. ratings, they continue to go down and down. And I'm glad we get to do this interview now, because if people are watching impeachment, I'm sure they would be bored out of their minds.

AMANPOUR: Yes, maybe ratings would go up if they saw you. You're a very good spokesman for the president. You didn't answer my question about how the defense is going or whether John Bolton will be called, but we'll leave for another day.

KUSHNER: No, the defense is --

AMANPOUR: I appreciate it.

KUSHNER: No, I can answer that. The defense is going great. Honestly, I feel like, again, it's very easy to defend when they don't really have any legitimate accusations against you. So we're very pleased with the defense. We feel like, again, the president has been totally vindicated, he's done nothing wrong. And we're very excited to go back to trying to do the business of the American people.


BLITZER: And thanks to our Christiane Amanpour for that interview with Jared Kushner.

We have news coming into The Situation Room right now. The Pentagon just revised the number if U.S. military personnel injured in this month's Iranian missile attack in Iraq. Stand by. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: We have some disturbing new information about injuries to U.S. troops after that missile strike by Iran inside Iraq.

Let's go to our Pentagon Correspondent, Barbara Starr.

What are you learning, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, CNN has been working this all day to confirm these numbers in a short time ago. The Pentagon did publicly now acknowledge there's been 50 U.S. service members, U.S. troops injured in Iraq with concussion and traumatic brain injury symptoms by that Iranian ballistic missile attack on January 8th which sent massive blast waves across the Al Asad military base in Iraq. Fifty troops now injured.

This is 16 additional cases alone since last Friday when it was 34 cases. Sixteen new cases, thankfully, 15 have returned to duty. And of the 50, more than 30 have returned to duty. So, all of that is good news, but 50 people.

Listen to what president Trump had to say about this just a few days ago.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things but I would say and I can report it is not very serious.

REPORTER: So you don't consider a potential traumatic brain injuries serious?

TRUMP: They told me about it numerous days later, you'd have to ask the Department of Defense. No, I don't consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries that I've seen.


STARR: OK, so what are we talking about here? Worth remembering these kinds of concussion injuries emerge over time. There's no way of knowing right away. People report symptoms in the days after these blast waves. So, what the Pentagon is concerned about now and they are very upfront about this, there could be even more. They had to medically assess about 200 people that were within the area of the blast waves back on January 8th when the Iranians attacked.

The Pentagon very prepared to see these numbers go higher, giving people treatment, sending them back to duty when they are able to. But by any measure, this certainly is now a mass casualty, mass injury attack, if you will against U.S. troops at the hands of Iran -- Wolf.


BLITZER: We know that several of those military personnel were originally flown to Germany for treatment but then they were flown on emergency basis to Washington, to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center for treatment. How are they doing? Do we know?

STARR: Due to privacy concerns, we are not getting that information from the Pentagon. There's every reason, of course, to believe they're getting the treatment they need.

One data point here, this latest 16 cases since Friday, again, 15 of them have been able to return to duty. So, there is some thought that if more cases emerge in the coming couple of days, these may be people that they can treat within Iraq and that they can send them back as soon as they're able to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana -- you know, Barbara Starr, good reporting.

Dana, I want to bring you in because these traumatic brain injuries, sometimes they don't manifest for weeks.

BASH: That's right. You know, I mean, there's obviously a concern about getting information from the Pentagon. And the fact that the Pentagon initially -- the full administration initially said no injuries. But in fairness to them, as you said, that's the nature of this kind

of injury. And it is one of the reasons why it is so virulent really. And because -- for a long time, people didn't even understand what they meant, and they are real injuries. TBIs are injuries that sometimes last people a lifetime. Obviously as Barbara has reported, the ballistic missiles that went into and around that base, they were much more traumatic and harmful to the people who were there than we unusually thought.

BLITZER: And, Jamie, the president has been severely criticized for suggesting these were headaches.

GANGEL: These are not just headaches. These are serious injuries.

It also was so politically tone deaf of him to say something like that because the military -- this is part of his base. These are voters he wants and he's very proud when he goes to visit them. It's -- I think he so desperately wanted to say that nothing happened, that no one was hurt, that he said something tone deaf.

BLITZER: Maybe he should go to Walter Reed, the Army Medical Center there in Washington, and visit some of these troops, just to get a sense of what's going on.

All right, guys, stick around. There's more news we're following including the latest on the investigation into the crash that killed Kobe Bryant. And we're getting new video of the helicopter shortly before it went down.



BLITZER: As investigators search for clues in the helicopter crash that killed nine people, including NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his 13- year-old daughter, we're learning more about the pilot's last words in air traffic control.

CNN's Nick Watt reports.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You're watching Kobe Bryant's helicopter circling 9:29 a.m. Sunday just minutes before it crashed. The pilot just requested what's called special visual flight rules.

FLIGHT N72EX: Copy that, we'll maintain special VFR.

WATT: That means special clearance to fly in visibility that's worse than normal. But the pilot who we know was experienced apparently felt he could still fly safely.

JENNIFER HOMENDY, NTSB: We will be looking at why he requested that and what the weather situation was at the time and whether he should have. WATT: They flew on. Minutes later --

HOMENDY: The pilot advised they were climbing to avoid a cloud layer. Radar data indicates the helicopter climbed to 2,300 feet and began a left descending turn.

WATT: Then smashed into a hill side.

HOMENDY: We're not just focusing on weather here though.

WATT: The pilot, the company, the aircraft, the engines, radio communications, the flight path, the speed, and more, was the pilot under any pressure to fly despite worsening weather?

PETER GOELZ, CNN TRANSPORTATION ANALYST: It's certainly something the NTSB will look at. It's certainly something the NTSB has encountered in past tragedies. There's no indication that this flight fell into that category.

WATT: Kurt Deetz says he flew Kobe Bryant maybe 100 times and never felt any pressure to fly in bad weather.

KURT DEETZ, HELICOPTER PILOT: (INAUDIBLE), as a pilot or pilot in command, no matter what, you are final authority of how the aircraft operated.

WATT: LeBron James promised to continue Kobe's legacy posting on Instagram, I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning before I left Philly to head back to L.A. Didn't think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we'd have.

Last time we heard his voice, an interview 10 days before he died.

KOBE BRYANT, NBA LEGEND: I don't weigh in on hypotheticals. I never, never have. Those things drive me crazy. Like, because as a competitor, you can't -- there's nothing you can do about them. You can't debate yourself to winning something, right? That was the beauty about sports, is you compete, you either win or you lose.

WATT: Back near the spot near where Kobe died, almost a promise.

HOMENDY: I'm very confident we'll determine the cause of the accident.


WATT: The remains of all nine victims have been recovered from the hillside behind me, and we're hearing more about how Kobe Bryant spent his last morning. The pastor at his local Catholic Church says that he bumped into Kobe Bryant at 10 of 7:00 that morning, just morning mass as Kobe was coming out of the prayer chapel.

The two men spoke about Kobe Bryant's desire to be confirmed, the pastor, Wolf, calling it a moment of grace.

BLITZER: So heartbreaking, so sad indeed. Nick Watt with the very latest. Thank you.

Thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.