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NEW DAY SATURDAY
Senate Set to Acquit President Trump After Vote for Witnesses Fails; Senate Approves Monday Closing Arguments, Final Vote on Wednesday; Wuhan Coronavirus Cases Rise as U.S. Restricts Travel From China; Iowa Voters Torn Between Candidates Days Before Caucus; LA Lakers Honor Kobe Bryant in Pregame Ceremony Friday Night. Aired 4-5a ET
Aired February 1, 2020 - 4:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are adjourned.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are watching history unfold in the U.S. Senate. They have just defeated a motion to allow new witnesses to appear before the trial of the President of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President will be acquitted in a bipartisan manner.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This country is headed towards the greatest cover- up since Watergate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Public health officials are on edge as a novel virus first identified in Wuhan, China continues to spread throughout the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The coronavirus presents a public health emergency in the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Number 24, 6-6, 20th campaign out of Lower Merion High School, Kobe Bryant.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The LA Lakers are playing their first game since the death of Kobe Bryant.
LEBRON JAMES, LOS ANGELES LAKERS: In the words of Kobe Bryant, Mamba out. But in the words of us, not forgotten. Live on, brother.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY WEEKEND with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. President Trump's impeachment firewall holds. Senate Republicans have voted to block witnesses in the President's impeachment trial, the final vote is scheduled for Wednesday. The President will likely be acquitted.
Now, you'll remember the President wanted to be acquitted before Tuesday's State of the Union.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Democrats' long shot hope of convincing poor Republican senators across that aisle to vote to allow witnesses, they came up short. Now, some GOP senators are pushing back at President Trump's claim that he did nothing wrong by pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. Several GOP senators now acknowledging at least to some degree that what the President did was inappropriate, also claiming at the same time that it's just not worth removing a sitting President.
CNN Congressional Correspondent Phil Mattingly has more for us from Capitol Hill.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the United States Senate moved one step closer to officially acquitting President Donald Trump of the two impeachment charges the House passed late last year, but they didn't quite actually get to the final judgment vote. The final vote that they actually expected to potentially push through over the course of Friday night or early Saturday morning. And there was a reason for that.
Republicans who control the United States Senate, who really control this entire process, had a problem internally. And that problem has led to President Trump needing to wait at least a few more days before he gets that final judgment, a judgment he was looking for before Tuesday night's State of the Union. That won't happen.
Republicans basically found themselves, I'm told, behind closed doors fighting over the process of how the trial was going to end. Some of the Republicans wanted opportunities to speak publicly about their decision, about their views, how they came to their conclusions related to whether to acquit or remove the President from office.
Other Republicans wanted to press through, including Republican leaders. The White House was in the same boat. But the reality in the United States Senate is, if you don't have a majority to move forward, you don't move forward. And Democrats certainly weren't going to lend them a hand with their own vote. So here's how this is going to play out going forward.
The Senate ended up defeating a vote to hear from witnesses, to move forward on considering witnesses or subpoenas. Republicans stuck together for the most part, defeated that vote 51-49. Over the course of the next few days, on Monday, at 11:00 a.m., the Senate will reconvene for closing arguments, two hours for each side.
Then it will essentially adjourn for the next two days. And during that time, senators will have opportunities 15 minutes each to come to the Senate floor live on television, live on C-SPAN, and make their final statements as to why they came to the decision that they came to.
After three days, it will be back to the Senate impeachment trial. The Senate will reconvene for the trial on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m., at which point they will hold the final vote on the two articles of impeachment, whether to remove the President from office for the first time in U.S. history or whether to acquit the President, something the White House has been pushing for. The President has his way. You can just read his Twitter account for the better part of the last couple of weeks or maybe even months.
The bottom line is this. The President will be acquitted. There is nowhere near the 20 Republican votes necessary to create the 67 votes needed to remove a President from office. But obviously, they're at least going to have to wait another couple of days for that to occur.
Phil Mattingly, CNN, Capitol Hill.
BLACKWELL: Joining us now to discuss, Michael Zeldin, former federal prosecutor; Tom Clark, Professor of Political Science at Emory University; and Tim Naftali, CNN Presidential Historian.
Welcome to all of you this very early morning.
Michael, let's start here with you because you've got a new piece out on cnn.com talking specifically about the articles and the witnesses. Some Republicans who've explained their vote to block witnesses say that even if they heard from Bolton, it would not change their opinion, it would not change their vote. You say the block of witnesses is a vote to facilitate a cover-up. Why?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, because you have witnesses here who if we believe what we read in "The New York Times" about them are going to testify that the President engaged in a quid pro quo of dirt on the Bidens for military assistance. That's a crime. That's an impeachable offense.
And if they had that direct firsthand knowledge, it would be untenable for them to take the Lamar Alexander position of he did something wrong, but it doesn't rise the level of an impeachment offense. So shame on them for not taking the step and the additional time to find out what truly happened here.
The truth will set them free in a sense. Now they have to do this explanatory rationalization for votes that make no sense and is in derogation of their oath to do impartial justice. It's really a shame, and Tim will speak to how history will record it. I think it will be recorded as a shameful moment on the United States Senate's part.
PAUL: Tom, does this vote - I think there are a lot of questions this morning about what this vote means for the future of Presidential power, of executive orders and that kind of thing. What is your takeaway in that regard? What has changed because of this vote?
TOM CLARK, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, EMORY UNIVERSITY: Well, I - I think we've seen an institutional recognition of what has been a long trend towards greater deference by the legislature to the executive for the past 30 years or so. And that today, what we're witnessing - or last night what we witnessed was essentially the Senate saying, yes, we are very comfortable with a relatively large expansion of executive power by President Trump, and in general, the arguments that have been made about the role of the executive and the role of Congressional oversight of the executive that the Senate is essentially endorsing that new version of the Constitutional arrangement.
BLACKWELL: Tim, let me come to you with the statement that was released from the seven House managers. They said that the senators who opposed hearing from witnesses "set a dangerous precedent that will have long-lasting repercussions for the United States Congress, the balance of powers and our democracy as a whole." It's a dramatic statement.
Is it too dramatic? I mean, what are the implications of the vote?
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, as we saw in the trial, senators like to hear about precedent. And lawyers - lawyers from the White House and the lawyers that were the House managers like to talk about precedent as well. And what precedents are being established now? It is now increasingly clear even though the acquittal is not the fast dismissal the President wants, it could be a more complicated, more nuanced, if you will, acquittal. The President's total stonewall has been successful.
The executive branch has decided that it will completely ignore historical precedent where impeachment inquiries are treated and considered differently, they are not considered the simple to-and-fro of the separation of powers competition between executive and legislative branches, that there's something special and more powerful about a House inquiry that's connected to an impeachment.
The Trump administration, the Trump White House, ignored that and installed a total stonewall. As a result, no documents were turned over. The precedent now is you can do this and not suffer huge consequences. Maybe some political damage, but not the high Constitutional damage that the founders anticipated. That's a huge precedent.
And that isn't simply linked to this case, but it suggests that in future Congresses, future efforts by Congress to seek information linked to abuse of power will reach and meet the same kind of stonewall. Consider the effect on just the separation of powers, the ability of the legislative branch in the future to find out wrongdoing in order to place limits on executive misconduct.
PAUL: Michael, there've been a lot of questions going into this about the process, the crafting of how this would move forward. Do you think it's time that there be some sort of amendment to the Constitution when it comes to impeachment and something more decisive and more definitive about the way that the process needs to move forward? Because in the last 25 years, we've now seen two of only three impeachments in history.
ZELDIN: So - I'm not sure about a Constitutional amendment. I always worry about opening up the Constitution to amendments. And this going to now our history, God knows what types of amendments would be proposed.
But I think what's fundamentally problematic about impeachments now is that when it was created by the framers of the Constitution, legislators in the House were elected directly, but senators were appointed.
And the thought was that senators would be above the partisan fray. They were not directly accountable to the people as House representatives were and that they would be looking at a more broad national view of it. Well, that's turned on its head now in this impeachment and probably in the Clinton impeachment as well. And that's what the big problem is.
The senators aren't doing what they were institutionally created to do, which was to look beyond immediate local politics of the people who elect them and take a more national view of things. They are not doing that. That's why I say in my piece that they are not adhering to their oath of office.
And so I think really what we need is senators who actually will step up and do the job that they were entrusted to do. And we don't need a constitutional amendment for that, we just need some spine.
BLACKWELL: Yes. We're going to talk more about the framework and what Alexander Hamilton said the Senate should be doing in the case of an impeachment after the break.
But Tom, before we get there, I want to talk about Marco Rubio's statement and not the part that's getting so much attention, but another statement - passage from the statement, I should say. He said this. He wrote, "I disagree with the House managers' argument that if we find the allegations they have made are true, failing to remove the President leaves us with no remedy to constrain this or future presidents. Congress and the courts have multiple ways by which to constrain the power of the executive."
The attorneys for the President made it clear, and they were right, that foreign policy is the exclusive purview of the President of the United States. Which rather remedies are available to Congress to rein in the power of the President in this arena?
CLARK: Well, frankly, I wish that Senator Rubio would explain that for us because I think that there are a number of tools that Congress has related to their oversight power, the appropriations power that Congress has to decide what money is allocated for being spent on any given purpose for the government. But the impeachment power is the largest and most powerful and sort of the most oblique tool that Congress has to rein in the executive or to control the executive.
And if what the Senate has decided is that even that tool can't be used to constrain the President from obstructing Congress or being recalcitrant or stonewalling Congressional oversight, then it's unclear to me how Congressional oversight can work because the impeachment itself is supposed to be the backstop that makes an executive willing to comply with oversight because there's some threat that ultimately they will take the President out if he or she refuses to comply with that oversight. So it's unclear to me how exactly the tools can be used in practice.
PAUL: OK. Gentlemen, stay with us. We have more on the other side of the break here. But we do want to let you know that we are also watching the worldwide spread of the coronavirus because it's not slowing down. The number of confirmed cases has grown now to nearly 12,000. Are travel bans and mandatory quarantines the answer?
BLACKWELL: Plus, for the first time since the crash that killed Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers mourn his death right there in their own home. The emotional tributes from the Staples Center, next.
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JAMES: Tonight we celebrate the kid that came here at 18 years of age, retired at 38, and became probably the best dad we've seen over the last three years, man.
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BLACKWELL: We've heard from senators that removing this President even if his actions are impeachable would be too divisive for the country, that the trial is partisan, and continuing it by hearing from witnesses will not change anything.
Well, there's been a lot of quoting of Alexander Hamilton during this trial. So let me add this from "The Federalist Papers" 65, he said of articles of impeachment. "The prosecution of them will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused. In many cases, it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions and enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or the other; and in such cases, there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of the parties than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt."
He went on to ask "Where else than in the Senate could have been found a tribunal sufficiently dignified or sufficiently independent? What other body would be likely to feel confidence enough in its own situation to preserve, unawed and uninfluenced, the necessary impartiality between an individual accused and the representatives of the people, his accusers?"
Let's bring now Michael Zeldin, Tom Clark and Tim Naftali back with us.
And Tim, let me put this to you. So when senators reject the impeachment of this President because of the divisions in the country, did framers view that justification as valid? NAFTALI: Well, as Michael said earlier, the Senate of their day was
meant to represent a different set of ideas and concerns than the Senate of today. In that era, the Senate was selected by state legislature. So in many ways, it was an attempt to promote federalism, to promote the representation of all the legions of the then growing country. And so the Senate was expected to have not the view of a majority faction but a consensus of the regions, a consensus of the different states and their interests.
One other thing that has to be kept in mind, and that's that the partisan atmosphere of today is in part a product of a president who since his inaugural address has sought to divide us more than unite us. That's not a reason to be impeached.
But the - those who are making the argument that they cannot act on the abuse of power that has been demonstrated by the House managers, those people who are making that argument should look to themselves and ask why is it that no House Republicans didn't agree with the House managers that they agreed with.
I mean, after all, Republican senators, a few of them at the very least, agree with the narrative that has been presented to them by the House managers. Now, they don't think that it's an impeachable offense, but they admit that an offense has been committed.
Let's go back a week - a little over a week.
NAFTALI: Sorry, let's go back to December. The House impeachment debate, how many House Republicans said that there was an even inappropriate behavior or conduct by the President? Not one. So, in part, the partisanship of this process is a product of the partisanship of House Republicans who did not engage in a thorough analysis of the data that their Democratic colleagues were unearthing.
PAUL: It wasn't just the division that they were concerned about as well. I mean, Lamar Alexander said it himself when he said that the question is whether you apply capital punishment to every offense. I think in this case, the answer is no, let the people make that decision, especially since the election begins on Monday. They have their eyes set on the fact that this is an election year.
Michael, I want to ask you about the timing of this. If the U.S. was not days away from the Iowa caucuses, and on Tuesday, the President's State of the Union, and if we were in a non-election year, do you believe voters would have seen a different kind of impeachment here?
ZELDIN: Well, I don't think so because I think these Republicans are shamefully behaving as if the President were a king and they were his patrons. I think that this notion that we're in the first term, approaching an election, is an excuse. This behavior that has been documented by the House managers is unequivocal. It was illegal. It was wrong. And it was impeachable. And to say, well, yes, but let's let the people decide is an
abdication of their responsibilities. So I think that were we in the second term or there were no immediate election in the first term, they'd come up with another excuse not to do what really should be done in this case.
And honestly, if they felt strongly that this was improper behavior but not impeachable, let me see one of those Republicans come forward now after the acquittal with a resolution of censure for this President. So let his behavior be censured and on the permanent record of the Senate as having been that. And then I'll see that they have a little bit of fortitude in their step.
BLACKWELL: And Tom, before we wrap this up, we've talked about the senators, we've talked about the President, we've referenced the House. We've not talked about the presiding officer, the Chief Justice here, Justice Roberts. You told our producers that you think that he - interesting word here - misbehaved during this trial. Explain that. What do you mean?
CLARK: Well, I think that the - that some of the Trump advocates misbehaved and that Justice Roberts chose not to exercise as forceful oversight as he might otherwise have of the process. I think that is likely due to an interest that he has in trying to retain an appearance of being outside of this political debate.
And so I think that the real question is whether observing the way that the Senate conducted the trial influences Justice Roberts' - or Chief Justice Roberts' view of the balance of powers of how the court will have to negotiate future challenges to executive power, understanding that maybe the constitutional structure has shifted underneath of him as he is overseeing this process.
BLACKWELL: Specifically on some Trump cases that are coming up, investigating the President, taxes, many other things, do you think there is some residual impact of his time here presiding over this trial over the decisions he will make on those cases?
CLARK: Yes, I think absolutely. I don't know whether it's enough to actually change the way that he would rule on any of those cases, but I think it must influence his understanding as a jurist who looks at a dispute before him and asks what is a likely - what is an appropriate or likely constitutional resolution to this argument.
I think if he understands that the Senate has changed the role of the Congress in overseeing the executive, then that will influence the way that he understands what role the court plays in the separation of powers.
PAUL: All right. Michael Zeldin, Tom Clark, Tim Naftali, we appreciate your voices, your expertise. Thank you for being with us so early.
CLARK: Of course. Thanks.
BLACKWELL: Thank you, everybody.
ZELDIN: Thank you.
BLACKWELL: A woman is in custody after shots were fired right outside the President's Mar-a-Lago resort yesterday.
PAUL: Police say the suspect was behaving erratically, standing on top of her car. When they approached her, she sped off. In what turned into a police chase along the island, the suspect drove at dangerously high speeds on the wrong side of the road and headed toward Mar-a-Lago where she breached two security checkpoints that were set up for the President's arrival, which is when Secret Service fired their weapons. Police say nobody was injured, fortunately.
BLACKWELL: And the suspect was eventually arrested. She faces several charges. Assault on a federal officer is one of them. And while the incident is under investigation, police say this is not terror- related.
PAUL: So the rapidly spreading coronavirus sparking new travel bans. Mandatory quarantines now, including a drastic measure the United States hasn't seen or used in five decades. We have details for you.
PAUL: It's an early morning. We're glad to have you with us here. Want to talk about the number of confirmed cases now of the Wuhan coronavirus. They may soon reach 12,000. Officials in China say there are 11,791 cases now in Mainland China alone and 259 people have died.
BLACKWELL: Here in the U.S., coronavirus is being considered a public health emergency. Seven cases of the virus has been confirmed in the United States. Starting at 5:00 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, the U.S. is imposing serious travel restrictions on people coming from China. Non- citizens who have been in China within the last 14 days are temporarily banned from entering the U.S.
PAUL: Americans arriving from near the epicenter of this outbreak are going to have to go through a 14-day mandatory quarantine on arrival as the first such order in 50 years. And Americans coming from any other part of China in the last 14 days will face screening and self- monitoring. Now, officials say the risk of infection for Americans is still low.
BLACKWELL: CNN's David Culver is in Beijing.
David, just in the past two hours, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, all announced new confirmed cases of the virus. How significant is the concern about getting control of this? We're seeing a lot of major - large scale efforts, but on the smaller-scale, family to family, community to community, what's being done?
DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you, Victor and Christi, from what you laid out there as far as how the U.S. is handling things, that is something that's being repeated by several other countries in the global community.
I mean, what we're seeing is Australia doing similar things. So, for example, as an American citizen, if I were to now try to go back into the United States, I would be subject to that 14 days of self- quarantine. And have I gotten to Hubei, which we had been to Wuhan, and had gotten there within the past two weeks, I would have to go through that mandatory quarantine.
So, as far as what's happening on the local scale, here's something that we're just hearing. And this is remarkable. I mean, this is the extreme containment effort that's currently underway.
Within the City of Hongguang - OK? So this is just outside of Wuhan, the epicenter of all of this. They have now restricted residents to not leave their home, but one person designated within the family every other day to do grocery shopping. That is how extreme this has become.
So they essentially have to pick somebody who can leave the house and that one family member can do that only every other day, and they can go get to the supermarket and do what they need to do. But that's where we're coming to with this.
And so that's a province that includes - that's roughly 400,000 people, but they're suggesting it be implemented wider so that it would include roughly 7.5 million people potentially. That's like taking the entire State of Arizona population-wise and saying you can't leave your house but every other day.
And of course, there are exceptions here if you need medical treatment or if you actually work as a doctor or nurse as part of the virus control effort here. But the extreme measures are continuing. And China is also becoming increasingly isolated.
I mean, it feels like being here at Mainland China that this entire country is now in quarantine. 62 countries, according to the foreign ministry here, have issued some sort of ban against Chinese nationals and immigration restrictions that they are now facing should they try to leave mainland and go to those other countries. That's what we're seeing here, Victor and Christi.
PAUL: Wow! That really highlights the fear that they feel there. Stay with us, David. I want to invite Dr. Vin Gupta into the conversation as well. He's a critical care physician and pulmonologist.
So good to see you, doctor. Thank you for being with us again. I want to ask you, first of all, about these imposed travel restrictions from the U.S. Do you think that it's smart? Do you think that it's necessary?
DR. VIN GUPTA, CRITICAL CARE PHYSICIAN AND PULMONOLOGIST: Thanks, Christi. What we know now about coronavirus is that it's worse than SARS. It's actually worse than MERS in terms of total cases that we're seeing.
And I don't think that we have a great handle on how many people are actually going to get infected. We - I'm seeing projections that 75,000 cases will be expected in the next few weeks as we screen more people in Wuhan and in the surrounding cities.
And part of the reason why the quarantine may or may not be effective is we're seeing people who are asymptomatic can transmit the disease. We're seeing now clear evidence of that, well-published studies and highly regarded journals clarifying that this is a major concern.
And if that is indeed the case, there is no great public health strategy to protect us all. You can't quarantine everybody who may have been exposed. So this is only a crisis that is bound to get worse. And what's even more concerning is that amongst people who are recovering, after they have been infected, we're still seeing that they have tons of virus in their saliva.
That's part of the study that was published yesterday in "The New England Journal." So that's really concerning. So people that may think they have the flu, who don't present to their doctor, might be actually spreading this illness. And so there's tons of threats here right now.
PAUL: We talked to you about this last week, and we're putting into perspective this virus compared to, say, the flu. Because when we look at the numbers of the flu, at least 19 million cases already this year, 10,000 people have died.
Obviously, it's not an apples-to-apples comparison. We know that. But help us understand what your feeling - your level of confidence in how we can try to remedy the situation with coronavirus now compared to the flu and compared to how you felt last week when we talked about this.
GUPTA: This is a huge problem, and it really cuts the heart of what's concerning all of us in the public health community here in the United States is that this is happening right around the time of a pretty bad flu season. This is - we have 19 million cases right now, 10,000 deaths. If you project out - say we have the flu season until end of March, even into April, which is usually when the flu season lasts until, we're looking at one of the worst flu seasons in over a decade. That's - and we're not even - who knows how this ends up meting out.
But the thing about flu, it's widespread. People can be dual infected with coronavirus and the flu. It causes all types of diagnostic conundrums for us docs. So this is a major problem. And relative to last week, all I can tell you is most of the patients that present with flu do so at urgent care clinics, at primary care clinics, not at major hospitals, that need the most help. They don't have the most advanced technology to diagnose the flu. So we need to get help where it's needed the most and it's lacking right now.
PAUL: OK. So you're saying - what is our best bet? If we get sick, do we go to an urgent care or do we go to - do we make an appointment with our regular physician? GUPTA: Well, what we need right now is we need the administration to
release funds in the - the so-called Stafford funding, emergency funds for public health emergency. And what we need is we need the most up- to-date technology to urgent care clinics nationwide to test for the flu in a better way than we're currently doing.
So, yes, I would recommend people if you have flu-like symptoms to protect yourself, protect others, cover your cough, but absolutely present to an urgent care clinic because we can treat the flu, we can't treat coronavirus. So, yes, absolutely see a doctor. But those clinics need help, and right now that help isn't coming.
PAUL: David, real quickly before we let you go, how confident are people that this can be remedied where they are?
CULVER: I think there's a lot of unease, Christi, to be quite frank. There is just a lot of uncertainty, especially when you start to see the extreme measures that the government here is trying to go to, to make this spread stop. I mean, that's what really folks just don't know what's next.
And you start to see even local provinces saying, OK, not only are we going to extend the lunar new year holiday, which mean businesses can't go back to normal, that was supposed to happen yesterday, now it's going to happen Monday. But that could be put off even further.
And then even things like marriages getting registered to get married has been put off in some communities too. I mean, they're just trying to keep folks from getting together, and so they're isolating more and more.
And from a mental health perspective, that's obviously going to get to people at some point. And we're already seeing even from a discrimination perspective, people from Hubei or even from Mainland China and other parts of the world are being ostracized. And so this is becoming an increasing issue with each and every measure that's put forward.
PAUL: David Culver, Dr. Vin Gupta, we so appreciate both of you being here. Thank you.
BLACKWELL: Still to come, Former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Sanders - Senator Bernie Sanders are neck and neck in recent polling in Iowa. Just two days until the Iowa caucuses and there are still plenty of voters who are still undecided.
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HOPE BOSSARD, IOWA VOTER: I like a lot of the new ideas that Tom Steyer has, but I am good with Biden. If he's our guy, I can support him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: We're two days away now from the first votes in the Iowa caucuses. And Former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders, they are really close in the polls. According to a new CNN Poll of Polls, Biden holds 27 percent of support among registered Democrats; Sanders, 24 percent.
PAUL: And Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg rises in the Democratic field and could qualify for the first debate ahead of the Nevada caucuses. How? Well, under new DNC rules, grassroots fundraising requirements were dropped.
BLACKWELL: The timing of the decision by the DNC is really upsetting some of the candidates. Sanders' campaign senior adviser called it "the definition of a rigged system." Senator Warren said, "Billionaires shouldn't be allowed to play by different rules."
PAUL: Now, as Iowans get ready to vote Monday, they have a lot more to think about as the end of the impeachment trial gets underway obviously.
BLACKWELL: CNN's Jeff Zeleny caught up with some folks who were still on the fence about who they will support.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Finally, it's their turn. Iowa voters are poised to render the first verdict of the Presidential race.
PAT MUNDY, IOWA VOTER: I have never been not willing to take a chance. And I think this election, we maybe need to take a chance.
ZELENY (voice-over): Pat Mundy has been busy sizing up the field.
MUNDY: I started first with Elizabeth Warren, and I was very pro- Elizabeth in the beginning. My next candidate was Pete. I've heard him speak twice. Joe Biden, he is a source of comfort. Bernie Sanders comes off much more compelling in person than he does on the screen.
ZELENY (on-camera): So Monday night, whose corner will you be in?
MUNDY: I have committed to caucus for Pete.
ZELENY (voice-over): Monday, a retired teacher has taken full advantage of her front row seat. Shaking hands with Biden, asking a question of Andrew Yang, and finally coming face-to-face with her top choice.
After a year of listening to candidates at town hall meetings--
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to win this campaign--
ZELENY (voice-over): --and through TV ads.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Elizabeth Warren is the president this nation needs.
ZELENY (voice-over): Voters are making up their minds.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the year to play it safe and go with a proven candidate. I think that's Joe Biden.
ZELENY (voice-over): We met Jon Heitland at a campaign stop for Buttigieg where he made his final decision to support Biden.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to nominate the person who can beat President Trump. That's the number-one issue.
ZELENY (voice-over): The signs of the season are everywhere in Iowa, from storefronts to front yards. This time, many voters have been slow to choose, as they search for the strongest candidate to challenge President Trump. Their decisions are driven by issues, but above all, electability. On that front, Democrats are torn whether to choose a progressive path--
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am supporting Senator Sanders.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just love his message. I think that he has integrity.
ZELENY (voice-over): --or a more pragmatic one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My first choice caucus, I think it's going to go with Amy Klobuchar. And my second is uncertain.
ZELENY (voice-over): It's that question of second choice that's critical here. Candidates must win at least 15 percent support in the first round of voting. If they don't, voters turn to their plan B. For Hope Bossard, that's Biden. She respects him and is comfortable with him. But after seeing him up close, she wasn't electrified.
BOSSARD: I have to weigh this out. I like a lot of the new ideas that Tom Steyer has, but I am good with Biden. If he's our guy, I can support him.
ZELENY (voice-over): But not everyone is making that choice. After seeing Biden and Buttigieg on the same day, just before Christmas, Cheri Scheib faced a tough decision.
CHERI SCHEIB, IOWA VOTER: What's a guy could do? I don't know yet. I got to think about it and sleep on it. I don't know yet.
ZELENY (voice-over): We caught up with her again this week.
ZELENY (on-camera): Who are you going to be with Monday night?
SCHEIB: I'm going to be with Pete. I am. Mayor Pete, you got my vote. As many times as I've seen him, I've enjoyed him every time. I appreciate everything he says. Smart guy. Today really solidified my thought process on it. So I'm going with Pete.
ZELENY (voice-over): Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Jefferson, Iowa.
PAUL: Now just two Republican senators joined Democrats in their failed effort to compel witnesses in the impeachment trial. Only one of them is up for re-election. So a lot of people asking, what Senator Susan Collins is facing now? We'll talk about it.
PAUL: So the final phase of President Trump's impeachment trial begins Monday, setting off a week of really important political events here.
BLACKWELL: So last night, Senate leaders struck a deal, postponing a final vote on whether or not to convict or acquit the President. That's on Wednesday. The agreement means the vote will happen after President Trump's State of the Union address and Monday's Iowa caucuses.
PAUL: Closing arguments begin Monday. Senators will have a chance to speak Tuesday and then Wednesday. They'll cast a final vote there.
BLACKWELL: In November, the President will become the first impeached President to face voters, but he is not the only Republican whose future may be in danger because of the impeachment trial.
PAUL: And we turn on (ph) Maine Senator Susan Collins, she was one of two Republicans to split with the party on calling witnesses during the trial. Before last night's vote, she was already in a tough re- election fight. Here's CNN's Rebecca Buck.
REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Susan Collins of Maine is walking a political tight rope after she became one of just two Republican senators to support witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Collins-
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): Aye.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Aye.
BUCK: This as she faces perhaps the toughest re-election fight this year. In a statement, Collins said, "I believe hearing from certain witnesses would give each side the opportunity to more fully and fairly make their case, resolve any ambiguities, and provide additional clarity. Therefore, I will vote in support of the motion to allow witnesses and documents to be subpoenaed."
The decision comes as Collins is facing a challenging re-election fight in a state where Hillary Clinton beat President Trump in 2016, picking up three of Maine's four electoral votes. But this is familiar territory for Collins. Not just the tough race, but a tough vote in an impeachment trial.
In 1999, she voted to acquit President Clinton in another decision that invited political backlash from within her own party. More recently though, Collins has stuck with President Trump on other high stakes votes, notably in support of Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court.
This time, however, Collins is taking a different tact than other Republicans, including those running in competitive races this year, like Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado. Gardner said he would oppose any witnesses telling colleagues that prolonging the impeachment trial could be problematic for his and other senators' campaigns. Most Republicans agreed with Gardner, and now the trial is set to wrap up in the coming days without witnesses.
Rebecca Buck, CNN, Washington.
BLACKWELL: Rebecca, thank you.
Before the LA Lakers game last night, LeBron James, he stood there at center court, alone, and he paid tribute to his friend, Kobe Bryant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES: Laker Nation, man, I would be selling you all short if I read off this (inaudible). So I'm going to go straight from the heart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: And it was heartfelt. We'll bring you more from the ceremony just ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES: The first thing that come to mind, man, is all about family. And as I look around this arena, we're all grieving, we're all hurt, we're all heartbroken. But we're going through things like this, the best thing you can do is lean on the shoulders of your family. And from Sunday morning all the way to this point - I had heard about Laker Nation before I got here last year about how much of a family it is.
And that is absolutely what I've seen this whole week, not only from the players, not only from the coaching staff, not only from the organization, but from everybody. Everybody that's here, this is really truly, truly a family. And I know Kobe and Gianna and Vanessa and everybody. Thank you guys from the bottom of their heart, as Kobe said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: That was part of the tribute LeBron James gave to Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gigi and the seven other victims of Sunday's helicopter crash. The Lakers honored Bryant in that pregame ceremony that was last night.
PAUL: Yes. Take a look at this, draped over every seat in the Staples Center was a Lakers T-shirt with either an 8 or a 24 on it. Look at that. Isn't that something? Both Kobe's numbers, of course. And all members of the starting lineup were introduced as the former Laker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At one guard, number 24, 6-6, 20th campaign from Lower Merion High School, Kobe Bryant.
The other guard is number 24, 6-6 20th year out of Lower Merion High School, Kobe Bryant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: You can take a look at this huge memorial that's been created by fans outside the arena. The Staples Center now says all of those flowers you see there, they're going to be mulched and used to help new life grow.
BLACKWELL: And it's a great sentiment to use those for something to push it forward. Usher was also part of the tribute last night. Here now is a rendition - his rendition of "Amazing Grace."
USHER, AMERICAN SINGER-SONGWRITER (singing): Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I sound found.