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Senate Set to Acquit Trump After Vote for Witnesses Fails; Coronavirus Cases Rise as U.S. Restricts Travel from China; LA Lakers Honor Kobe Bryant in Pre-Game Ceremony Friday Night. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired February 1, 2020 - 05:00   ET





WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're watching history unfold in the U.S. Senate and they have just defeated a motion to allow new witnesses to appear before the trial of president of the United States.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): The president will be acquitted in a bipartisan manner.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): This country is headed towards the greatest cover up since Watergate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Public health officials were on edge as the novel virus first identified in Wuhan China continuous 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 from Lower Merion High School, 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.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY Weekend with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good Saturday morning to you.

President Trump is expected to be acquitted on two articles of impeachment on Wednesday. Before the final vote though, both sides get to present their closing arguments.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. is imposing a 14-day travel ban on all visitors from China. This is because the numbers of coronavirus cases have jumped to 12,000 worldwide.

And the LA Lakers paying tribute to Kobe Bryant and his daughter, and -- Gigi, and the seven other people who died in the Sunday's Helicopter crash in a pre-game ceremony. Last night was that memorial. We'll bring you more of that in a little while.

BLACKWELL: Now before the big vote for the president, he has to deliver the state of the union address this week.

PAUL: CNN'S Kaitlan Collins has more for us.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest we're hearing from White House officials is they pretty much resigned themselves to the fact that when President Trump goes to deliver his state of the union address on Tuesday night, he is not going to be an acquitted president yet. They've been hoping for the last several weeks that despite the House impeaching him, despite this Senate trial that's been going on and whether or not they were going to have witnesses or not, they felt good about the fact that they thought the president would be acquitted by the time he was going to deliver the state of the union address, February 4th. And then essentially would be able to walk into the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's turf and be able to have this vindication of being acquitted.

They pushed all day throughout the day telling Republicans they wanted that vote to be Tuesday as the latest, so that by Tuesday night that acquittal would have come through. But now they've realized quickly after these new negotiations going back and forth between the Democrats and the Republicans that that is just not going to happen.

According to what sources are telling us, the president spoke with the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell before he introduced that resolution that would place that acquittal vote coming on Wednesday, a day after the state of the union. And we're told that the president did sign off. So, maybe his mood about this has changed a little bit different than what his aides were feeling. But it is notable that when the president does give the state of the union Address, the White House today when they were briefing reporters would not say whether or not he's even going to mention impeachment.

They also wouldn't say that day could shift potentially because of this vote coming a day after. But according to a senator -- a Republican senator who spoke with the president, he is intent on moving full steam ahead with delivering that state of the union address on Tuesday night. And now, of course, the big question is going to be what he says.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.

BLACKWELL: Thank you Kaitlan.

The New York Times is reporting new details from the unpublished manuscript by former National Security Advisor John Bolton. It says, President Trump asked Bolton to aid his pressure campaign on Ukraine in early May of 2019. And that Pat Cipollone, a member of the president's defense, also White House counsel, was in the room when the request was made.

PAUL: The White House is denying the New York Times story. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy says Bolton should be called to testify before the House since he won't be a witness in the Senate impeachment trial.


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): A, he's no hero. He could have testified before the House of Representatives. He didn't have to contest that spin. He wasn't currently working in the White House.

Fiona Hill, his deputy testified. She's not in jail today. So there's no reason that he had to wait until his book was written in order to tell this story. B, yes the House should bring him before the body.

I don't think the proper forum for his story coming out is his book release. So, one way or the other at least the House has to get him back before the body. But the story he seems to be telling is entirely consistent with all the facts that we've heard already. And so it appears from what we know that he is telling the truth.


He could have told that truth back in November or December. And if he had we might be in a very different place than we are today with only a couple of Republicans willing to vote with us on anything as we move this process forward.


BLACKWELL: With us now, former federal prosecutor and CNN Legal Analyst Shan Wu. Shan, good morning to you.

PAUL: Good morning.


BLACKWELL: So let's start here with Pat Cipollone, the New York Times reporting that Cipollone was in the room when the president asked for that help to pressure the Ukraine for the investigations. We watched him for two weeks now in the Senate trial. What is Cipollone's exposure?

WU: His exposure as we've been hearing about is a couple of ethical, legal ethical rules. And the one -- there are three basically, one is the question of can a lawyer be a witness. The second is, candor to a tribunal, meaning the court or the Senate in this case and also a rule about being truthful to others.

So the first one everyone kind of been up in arms about because it seems like he's a lawyer but he also now turns out to be a witness. He can probably skate on that one because that's really -- he wasn't actually presented as a witness. That rule is really meant to avoid a conflict where the lawyer tries to both play the role of witness as well as be the advocate. Candor and truthfulness, what will shake your ground on for Cipollone? He can argue that he didn't actually misrepresent anything. He didn't actually say I was not a witness to it. But that's a little bit shakier if he were to face a bar complaint, they would be very carefully perusing what he did say and what he didn't say. And certainly were he in a courtroom no judge would be very happy with him holding this back and concealing it from them.

PAUL: So a couple of things about Bolton, a lot of questions probably about his intention at this point because if he has real solid evidence, people are wondering why would you not bring this up when it matters in a trial as opposed to putting it in a book. And we're wondering if that's the case, if he's more concerned about a book than he is about a real consequence here. What is his credibility factor?

WU: I think it's pretty evident that he's both concerned about his book sales as well as coming forward with telling what happened. Probably there's been a bit of a grudge too. I think that does (INAUDIBLE) his credibility.

I think certainly the president's team will be saying that he's a disgruntled employee. But, he's not in a jury trial where you could really question that credibility and the jury is in more of a vacuum, they're not sure of what else is going on.

In the court of public opinion, if what he's saying has the ring of truth it's still going to be damaging to the president although there's no question to borrow a phrase from the defense team, he's certainly has mixed motives.

BLACKWELL: Shan, what stops Bolton from showing up on state of the union the show not the actual address on Tuesday --

PAUL: Right, yes.

BLACKWELL: -- but state of the union tomorrow or any of the other Sunday shows before the Super Bowl interview with the president, before the statements on Monday, the vote on Wednesday, state of the union and telling his story. What prevents him from doing that?

WU: Nothing really prevents him from doing that. The White House's indicated that they would try to stop it if they had the heads up for it. They could try to go to court to get an injunction to stop him. There's the questions about whether they've finished reviewing his book. Obviously, they're going to take a long time reviewing that to make sure there's no classified information sort of a delay tactic.

I think an interesting point to think about here though is, Bolton is an old time government public servant. Although he is very opinionated and is a little bit rogue at times, it is somewhat against his nature just to not to give any warning and just show up on a talk show. So I think if that was his (INAUDIBLE) would have already done that.

So I think the White House will get warning if he really wants to go on a show. They would have time to try to run to court and do something, although I think at the end of the day they have little uphill battle on that court argument.

PAUL: Senator Murkowski was one of the senators everybody was watching to see what she would do in terms of her vote for witnesses and here's what she said afterwards. "Given the partisan nature of this impeachment from the very beginning and throughout, I've come to the conclusion that there will be no fair trial in the Senate. I don't believe the continuation of this process will change anything. It's sad for me to admit that as an institution, the Congress has failed."

Where does this Shan? Where does it leave the Senate? Where does it leave the House? I mean, these are elected lawmakers, they are supposed to be in charge of oversight. They're supposed to be the people that we elect for accountability.

What power do they have now? If he's acquitted at the end of the day, when we have to because that's not happened yet, so would we do have to point that out.

WU: Right, absolutely. Her statement is really hard to understand, frankly.


I mean, it seems kind of ridiculous. She's talking about Congress' failure, the lack of a fair trial that she is a part of ensuring that there won't be a fair trial.

Yes, I think that the House managers, the Judiciary Committee, Intelligence Committee, they did what they're supposed to do. They saw something they had to investigate and they went ahead and did that. And I think in that sense our system has worked.

And, you know, in a very big picture sense, the system is working. It came to the Senate, it's a political body. Republicans have the majority and they quashed it.

From a moral sense, I think it's very troubling that in my view they didn't have the courage to stand up and look at the truth, call things as they actually were. And I think that they'll probably pay a penalty for that in the elections and that's also a part of the system as well. So I think the institutions will survive, certainly a very troubling message being sent to President Trump. Because once he's acquitted, he'll feel like he has a blank check to do whatever he wants.

PAUL: Right. But I mean, how powerful are those institutions that you're talking about I suppose?

WU: Yes, I think the power of those institutions really goes to how long they continue to exist, and ours have continued to exist. They've weathered a lot of ups and downs. And I think this is a very difficult situation because you have a president who is really not bound by any other normal guardrail systems, and there's a lot of dangerous things he has done and he may do. And the only thing the institutions and we can do is just to continue the press that he be held accountable. So I think, you know, the institutions are there, I don't think that they're acting in a very powerful way right now for the checks and balances.

BLACKWELL: Shan, I want you to listen to something that we heard from Deputy White House Counsel Patrick Philbin. This is part of the argument to block witnesses that apparently was successful. Here's what Mr. Philbin said.


PATRICK PHILBIN, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: And now to say that well in fairness to me and say this body has to do all that work, that sets a new precedent as well and it changes, it would change for all the future the relationship between the House and the Senate and impeachment inquiries. It would mean that the Senate has to become the investigatory body.


BLACKWELL: Change for all the future. You think it's valid?

WU: No. That's just a bunch of smoking mirrors that he's doing there. The investigation was properly done by the House and the Senate is trying the case, and in a trial you can recall witnesses, you can recall evidence that's been introduced during the investigation, and you can have new ones come in. It doesn't transform them into having to do the House's job. So that's really just kind of nonsensical stuff he's throwing up to give the senators -- the Republican senators more of a hook to hang their coats on.

BLACKWELL: And they have it.

PAUL: Yes, they have. Very good point.

Shan Wu, always good to have you here. Thank you, sir.

WU: Good to see you.

PAUL: You too.

BLACKWELL: Marie Yovanovitch has now retired from the State Department after more than 30 years of service. The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, she is a central figure, you know, in the impeachment trial.

PAUL: Yes. In May, she was removed from her post in Ukraine after a targeted campaign against her led by President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. President Trump called Yovanovitch bad news on July 25th on a phone call with the leader of the Ukraine. And in a recording of a 2018 fundraising agenda, the president was heard telling an aide to get rid of her. She testified back as part of the House impeachment inquiry, remember, back in November.

BLACWELL: We're hearing from some Republican Senators the explanations of why they voted against new witnesses and potentially while they'll vote against convicting the president. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida just claims that sometimes the president should stay in power even if he does engage an impeachable conduct.

PAUL: And for the first time, since the crash that killed the NBA legend, the Lakers honored Kobe Bryant at home. These are touching moments. It was an emotional night at the Staple Center. We'll have more.


JAMES: And as I look around this arena, we're all grieving. We're all hurt. We're all heartbroken. But when we're through things like this the best thing you can do is lean on the shoulders of your family.




PAUL: A woman is in custody after shots were fired right outside the president's Mar-a-Lago resort yesterday.

BLACKWELL: Police say the woman was behaving erratically. At one point, she was standing on top of her car and when they approach her, she speed off and what turned into a police chase along the island. Now the woman drove at dangerously high speeds on the wrong side of the road, they say. But they also say she was headed towards Mar-a- Lago where she breached two security checkpoints that was set up for the president's arrival and that's when Secret Service fired their weapons. Now officers say that no one was hurt.

PAUL: The suspect was eventually arrested in fact. She faces several charges including assault on a federal officer. The incident is still under investigation but police say it is not terrorism-related.

So Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seemed to have kept his troops in line some say. Republican senators voting mostly along party lines, mostly, to block calling any witnesses in President Trump's impeachment trial.

BLACKWELL: Now some GOP senators were attempting to explain their vote against witnesses and their eventual vote to acquit the president next week. This is from Florida Senator Marco Rubio. "Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a president from office."

With us now to discuss Errol Louis, political anchor for Spectrum News. Errol, good morning to you and let's start there. I mean, what Rubio is saying that, you know, it would be worse to get rid of him although what he's done is as the framers wrote, as Hamilton wrote, is an infraction against the people, against society.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's exactly right. What Senator Rubio and a number of his colleagues have done is going to have implications that I am not sure we're going to have to wait very long to see, frankly. You know, it's not about some future president, it's about what happens right now. Not just the really hard scary things like whether or not we're going to have more foreign interference in the next election but even routine business like getting a response.


I mean, Victor, put aside everything about -- everything else about it. There was an impeachment article about obstructing Congress, and so once -- if armed with the knowledge that he can simply obstruct Congress, simply ignore request for information that are duly issued by Congress, Senator Rubio may have a hard time getting answers to really routine business. How much did that weapon system costs? What's the new policy going to be in a certain area of social services, for example?

He's no longer entitled to any kind of answers and that's what that answer that he gave means. That, just because the White House has committed misconduct, has

obstructed Congress, has invited foreign interference in our elections, we don't have to do anything about it.

And, you know, look, you empower somebody to misbehave in that way, the consequences are very easy to see and I think we're going to see them sooner rather than later.

PAUL: So, Senator Lamar Alexander called it inappropriate and improper. Ben Sasse said, let me be clear, Lamar speaks for lots and lots of us. We have that Marco Rubio statement. We have Senator Lisa Murkowski saying, quote, as an institution that Congress has failed.

A lot of people yesterday were saying our Republicans are going to come out and acknowledge this. They have now acknowledged it. What does that acknowledgement mean, however, when you look at their votes?

LOUIS: Oh yes. In the end it means very little not only because it did not change their votes but because the White House never asserted any of the excuses that they are now making for him. That cute and clever bit of wordsmithing by Lisa Murkowski, the senator from Alaska, by Marco Rubio from Florida, the White House specifically rejected all of that.

Remember, the president keep saying the phone call was perfect, the actions were perfect. The impeachment -- even the inquiry was utterly illegitimate and unconstitutional. That's the extreme position that the White House took and has never wavered from.

And so they're now making excuses that the White House never wanted, explicitly rejected. And I don't expect the president ever, ever to say any of the things that his defenders are now saying. So I think they're going to find themselves really pretty far out on a limb when they go back and talk with their constituents about what they did and why they did it.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about a couple of the defenders, Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Kennedy of Louisiana, and I just want to go back to the fall. October and November and this is what they said then about what would be troublesome, or probably impeachable and we compare that to what we know today. Let's watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you open-minded if more comes out that you could support impeachment?

GRAHAM: Sure. I mean, show me something that is a crime. If you could show me that, you know, Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo outside the phone call, that would be very disturbing.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): What I am telling you is that if it can be demonstrated that the president asked for and had the requisite state of mind, that the president asked for an investigation of a political rival, that's over the line.


KENNEDY: But if he asked for an investigation of possible corruption by someone who happens to be a political rival, that's not over the line.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So over the line, does that mean impeachable?

KENNEDY: Yes. Probably.


BLACKWELL: Now, how do you reconcile that with not only the vote that's coming Wednesday but the vote that happened yesterday that if you don't get the evidence, you don't get the witnesses to determine if the line has been crossed, how can you know? How can you get any truth?

LOUIS: Well, you know, it's very interesting. I think those quotes actually explain the votes that were taken yesterday and the votes that are likely to be taken on Wednesday. Which is to say they knew, Senator Graham, Senator Kennedy and others, they knew that if they asked John Bolton or other key witnesses to provide testimony under oath about what they know, it would have provided all of the information that they just, in that hypothetical interview said that they would need in order to sort of lean toward impeachment and removal.

And so knowing that that's what was standing outside the door, they said we're not going to open that door, we're not going to take any more witnesses. We're not going to be taking any testimony.

The reality is this now becomes the first out of 15 prior impeachments in U.S. history where there were no witnesses. Where there were no documents that were brought in. And so, you know, it sort of speaks for itself. It's kind of breathtaking in a way because they've gone on the record so often saying, gee, if you bring me all this information I might have to make a hard choice.

And then the information comes forward in the form of John Bolton and other information and has now became let's call this all off, let's not have a trial, let's not hear the information, and let's just cast a vote and get out of town as quickly as we can.

PAUL: Errol, real quickly, Tuesday, President Trump is giving his state of the union address, this, of course, a day before what its expected to be an acquittal vote in the Senate.


How much weight is now on the state of the union for him in terms of the content, in terms of his tone?

LOUIS: A lot. I mean, I could -- look, a great deal. The state of the union is probably the peak of the president's ability to reach everybody. We always talk about social media. This is the main event. The entire world will be watching what President Trump has to say.

He will frame it I think precisely because he is in such close coordination with the Republican majority in the Senate that he'll frame it as when that vote is cast tomorrow, I will be completely acquitted. That this was all a sham. This was all a farce and so forth and so on.

He'll frame it that way on Tuesday. Mitch McConnell, the next day will vote in lock step with his Republican majority to provide that, and that will be their story that they take into the fall elections.

PAUL: Errol Louis, always good to have you here, sir.

LOUIS: Thank you, Christi.

PAUL: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Next week is set up to be one of the wildest weeks in political events in recent history. We'll see if they're consequential. Iowa caucuses, it was Monday. Same day, both sides will give the closing arguments in the president's impeachment trial.

PAUL: And then as we just mentioned, Tuesday, the president gives his much anticipated state of the union of the address. On Wednesday, the final impeachment vote is in the Senate. And on Wednesday and Thursday, CNN holds its Democratic presidential town hall from New Hampshire. So big week.

BLACKWELL: A very big week.

All right. Health officials, let's talk about this, worldwide scrambling to stop the spread of the coronavirus. At least one U.S. state is implementing a mandatory quarantine order that has not been used in 50 years. We'll tell you about that.



BLACKWELL: The number of confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus may soon reach 12,000. Officials in China say there are now 11,791 cases in mainland China alone, 259 people have died. Australia, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Taiwan have all announced new cases this morning.

PAUL: And here in the U.S., coronavirus is being considered a public health emergency now. Seven cases of the virus have been confirmed. It's important to note no one has died here in the U.S. But starting at 5 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, the U.S. is imposing serious travel restrictions on people coming from China. Again that's happening tomorrow.

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has more.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh we now know that in addition to this being a public health emergency of international concern, the United States is now calling it a public health emergency within this country as well. And something has now happened that hasn't happened in 50 years at the federal level which is a mandatory quarantine for those 195 passengers that came straight from the epicenter of this outbreak in Hubei province.

So what this quarantine means is that for 14 days which is believed to be the incubation period of this virus, these passengers will be kept at this air force base. They'll continue to be screened over there. Their temperatures will be monitored to see if they're developing any symptoms at which point they may be checked to see, if in fact they have the infection.

Again, this hasn't happened in 50 years. So it gives you some idea of how significant the United States public health authorities are taking this particular issue. The secretary of health described these actions like this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The risk is low of transmissibility. The risk of contracting the disease is low, but our job is to keep that risk low as much as we can by taking appropriate preventative steps.


GUPTA: So again, the risk is low to the general public. Some of these actions he says are to keep that risk low.

Now one of the things that often comes up and has been discussed a lot is, how does this compare to other things, for example, flu? Well, we know the flu, for example, in this country already this particular season has killed more than 8,000 people, and there have been millions and millions of infections. When you look at this virus now around the world you're seeing close to 10,000 people who have been infected and obviously, you know, 200 or so people who have died.

The numbers really are very different. But with the novel virus we simply don't know how things are going to progress. It is a brand new virus. There are still lots of unknowns.

There are some things we've learned over the last few days. For example, we've learned that people can be entirely asymptomatic, have no symptoms whatsoever and still be carrying the virus. And we've also saw at least seen one case that seems to suggest that someone could pass on the virus before or after they've had any symptoms.

So all this new data is sort of guiding these decisions that we're seeing at the federal level, guiding something that hasn't been done in five decades in this country. Again, in an effort to try and keep the risk low. Back to you.

PAUL: Sanjay, thank you so much.

Now the Chinese Government says it's doing all that it can to take on the coronavirus but there are people who are questioning that.

BLACKWELL: Yes. People living on the frontlines of the epidemic are going around state-run media to tell a different story. CNN's David Culver reports from Beijing.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the images Chinese state media CCTV broadcast across the country, rapid construction of not one but two hospitals slated to open next week with capacity for 2,600 patients. Scenes of a nation mobilizing in its fight against the deadly coronavirus.

On the flagship of the evening news cast, the host praising the ruling Communist Party for the massive containment effort that's under way. (INAUDIBLE) articles on Friday on state-run news agency Xinhua website reassure readers of the efforts to keep supplies flowing. One headline reading, "China has full confidence, capability to control epidemic."

Bu the people in Wuhan portray a desperate reality to CNN describing life threatening shortages of medical supplies.

DORA JIANG, NIECE OF CORONAVIRUS PATIENT: It's really difficult, you know, like -- and it's really emotional for me.

CULVER (voice-over): Dora Jiang video chatted with us from Germany. She says it took four days for her 72-year-old uncle in Wuhan to get his test results. They came back positive.

JIANG: I don't think (INAUDIBLE) because if they really want to control the numbers, but I think it's more about the capacity.

CULVER (voice-over): Before the official state news outlets began to report the dangers of the virus, people in China turned to social media for the truth. This lawyer turned citizen journalist in Wuhan has been posting the problems he's encountered. Saying, it's like a facemask, hazmat suit, gears and the most important thing is, lack of testing kits. You can't get confirmation if there's no testing kit.


And the only thing you can do is to be a suspect case and wait at home.

A stark contrast with how the ruling Communist Party's official newspaper, the People's Daily covered the outbreak. Their front page story on January 24th, a lunar New Year speech made by President Xi in which he made no mention of Wuhan's lock down that was ordered hours earlier. On national television this week, Xi did try to reassure people that he is personally directing the effort and releasing information in a, quote, transparent and responsible manner.

CULVER (on camera): But some Chinese media outlets known for more independent streak, have exposed the disturbing truths of this outbreak.

(voice-over) The publication, The Paper ran this video showing one suspected patient who apparently had no choice but to quarantine himself in his own car. These images posted on the People's Daily Weibo account shows medical personnel in a Wuhan hospital making mask and hazmat suits out of trash bags.

Similarly, disturbing images shared across Chinese social media fueling concern that the actual number of people infected is greater than the official count. That conditions for medical staff are increasingly dire. And that this outbreak is far from under control.

David Culver, CNN, Beijing.


PAUL: David, thank you. We'll keep you posted as we learn more today as well.

Also, President Trump's impeachment trial is resuming Monday after Senate Republicans vote no to witnesses and documents. The president won't be cleared of the charges before he takes the stage, though, for his state of the union address. CNN Political Commentator Alice Stewart and Maria Cardona with us next to break it all down.


BLACKWELL: President Trump's impeachment trial will resume on Monday but the House managers, the president's counsel will have two hours for their closing arguments each. The Senate is expected to hold the final vote on Wednesday. The president is scheduled to deliver his state of the union address, that's Tuesday night, the night before.


PAUL: Now overnight, the Senate voted to block subpoenas for witnesses and documents. GOP Senators Susan Collins and Mitt Romney were the only Republicans to join Democrats in pushing to extend the trial.

BLACKWELL: With us now to discuss, Democratic Strategist Maria Cardona, Republican strategist and former Ted Cruz commissions director, Alice Stewart. Ladies, good morning to you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning, Victor.


BLACKWELL: Let's start here with Senator Marco Rubio. I want to read for you the most controversial element of his statement that he posted on medium. "Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a president from office."

Alice, first to you, do you agree?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't agree that this has led to -- resulted in actions for impeachment. Obviously, the Democrats disagree. The reality is, look, I think the phone call were inappropriate but I don't believe it has risen to the level of impeachment.

BLACKWELL: But, of course, this is more than just a phone call. We're learning from the manuscript from John Bolton as reported by the New York Times that the request came from the president in May. We know that the funding wasn't released until the second week of September. So just holding it to that one five-page summary of a call is much broader than that, is it not?

STEWART: It is at this point but looking at the information that we gleaned out of the House hearings and the House information, it did not reach the two articles of impeachment that they put forth. And that is exactly the reason why the Republicans in the Senate said, all right you have not met the congressional threshold for impeachment, we don't need to hear more information and we're going to move forward with this. And ultimately they will rule to acquit.

Look, the reality is, if they wanted to hear from John Bolton, they should have issued a subpoena and fought it in court. If they wanted to hear more information, they should put it forward. Because there are three clear things that came out of this.

The Senate's job is to process and hear the testimony presented by the House. The House claimed their information was overwhelming but now they say they want more witnesses.

BLACKWELL: Alice, of course, we know that John Bolton said that if you subpoena me I will sue. Now he says if you subpoena me I will appear. So that's a difference between what the House was facing and what the Senate is facing.

Maria, let me put the question to you. And we heard the (INAUDIBLE) spin from Alice on what she disagrees with. But do you agree from Marco Rubio, "Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a president from office."

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That statement, Victor, is breathtaking. And it's hypocrisy, and it's ridiculousness, and frankly, in how much it's a slap in the face of democracy, our founding fathers, and the constitution. Let's pair that with the argument that Alan Dershowitz was making a couple of nights ago where he essentially said that any president who takes an action in the interest of his re-election is an action in the interest of the country and, therefore, unimpeachable. Between that and what Marco Rubio said and the vote that the GOP Senate took last night, Victor, the Republican Party has given birth to the American dictator. And that should bring shivers and fear into the hearts of every single American. They have traded long-term demise for short-term expediency. Because I do think it's going to have a long-term, really, a harmful effect on the Republican Party I think starting with the senators who are facing tough re-election fights in swing states, the Republican senators in 2020, frankly as well as this president who is facing re-election in November.

BLACKWELL: The Polling shows that -- the latest poll coming from CBS News just yesterday shows that the president's approval rating is still at 43 percent. There are -- when you go to independents, 44 percent of the respondents think that this impeachment saga had no impact on the president politically.

Let me come back and play something, though, as you talk about the impact on Republican senators. This is Senator Kennedy out of Louisiana, 83 days ago, right? This was the senator criticizing the process in the House and specifically on witnesses and who should be called and who should be heard and what would be fair. Let's play John Kennedy.


KENNEDY: Both sides ought to be able to call their witnesses in front of God and country and the American people. And then let the American people decide. And the president and his counsel should be allowed to participate. Now I think that would be fair. I will happily judge the evidence.


BLACKWELL: Alice, reconcile that with his vote to block witnesses.


STEWART: Well, the key phrase there is both sides should be allowed to present witnesses. Which means if Democrats want to call John Bolton and others in the administration then Republicans should be able to call Hunter Biden and Joe Biden and even Adam Schiff.

And here's the thing that's really important to remember --

BLACKWELL: But the vote was to allow no witnesses.

STEWART: OK. There have been witnesses. Here's the --

CARDONA: Not in the Senate.

STEWART: There certainly have. There were over 12 witnesses that testified in the House. That information was transported to the Senate and it's the Senate's job to review and take a look at the testimony --

BLACKWELL: You know, that's not the same thing as having testimony, having witnesses in the Senate. He said he wanted to hear and have people present their case before God and country both sides. And the president's counsel they could have presented a resolution to try to get whomever they wanted to testify. But the vote was for no witnesses.

STEWART: To be clear they had witnesses. They had witness testimony that the House put forth in their, quote --

CARDONA: It's not the same the thing, Alice.

STEWART: -- overwhelming case, and that is the information that the Senate used to reach this ultimate conclusion.

BLACKWELL: Maria, quickly to you, respond to that, and I've got something to question you about as well.

CARDONA: Sure. It's not the same thing because there has been no other trial during an impeachment in the Senate without witnesses. And the fact that Republicans turned their back on wanting to learn more information about what happened I think is all the American people need to know about a Republican Senate who has become complete and total puppets of this American president. Again, giving birth to an American dictator.

BLACKWELL: Maria, who is surprised by this outcome? I want you to listen here to Speaker Pelosi. This is April of 2018.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Impeachment is a very serious matter. It is -- as it happens it has to be a bipartisan initiative.


BLACKWELL: It was a bipartisan in the House. It's not bipartisan in the Senate. Was an impeachment proceeding in an election year with the full understanding that there would be no conviction in the Senate the right decision? What about censure? We now know that there are -- there's a majority of senators when you count the 47 Democrats and the additional Republicans we heard from who say that what the president did was wrong, it was inappropriate. Should they have focused on censure instead of impeachment?

CARDONA: No, I don't think so, Victor. Because I think what the Democrats did and I think it was very brave and bold of them to do so because they put country over party because you're right, it is a very difficult vote to take. But what they did was they put their oath of office before their own political interests.

Look, what Pelosi said, I think, was true in terms of wanting to hope that the Republican Party would also put country over party. We have seen now that is completely impossible. When she saw that Republicans were going to be ostriches and stick their heads in the sand and look the other way through the actions of a corrupt president, she understood, and frankly the majority of Democrats understood that they were going to be the ones who have to step up to the plate and take on their oath of office and be true to it and respect the constitution and what our founding fathers wanted to do.


STEWART: -- Pelosi in the very beginning wanted this not just bipartisan as we saw in that clip but overwhelming. Ultimately, it was not bipartisan, it was not overwhelming --

CARDONA: The evidence was completely overwhelming and Republicans have taken a slap in the face to truth.

BLACKWELL: We're wrapping it there. Maria Cardona, Alice Stewart, thank you both.


BLACKWELL: Quick break. We'll be back.



BLACKWELL: The Lakers return to the Staples Center last night with an emotional tribute to Kobe Bryant.

PAUL: Here's CNN's Sara Sidner.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christi, from the moment that fans entered the Staples Center on this first game since learning of the death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter along with seven others, this entire place was emotionally charged.



SIDNER (voice-over): This is the Laker nation grieving a Laker legend. It began with the spotlight on empty jerseys never again to be filled by the man who made those numbers mean so much to so many. The sound of "Amazing Grace" was ushered in to throngs of fans.

It was a night of raw emotion. A night to throw away the script and throw on the commemorative t-shirt everyone received. And console each other. LeBron James took the lead.

JAMES: Now, I've got something written down. They asked me to kind of stay on course or whatever the case may be, but Laker nation, I would be selling you all short if I read off this (INAUDIBLE). I'm going to go straight from the heart.

SIDNER (voice-over): It is the first time James has spoken publicly about Bryant since the deadly helicopter crash that took nine lives including Bryant's 13-year-old daughter Gianna.

JAMES: The first thing that came 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 when we're going through things like this, the best thing you can do is lean on the shoulders of your family.

The Laker family observed 24.2 seconds of silence. Then Boyz II Men sent emotions soaring with the national anthem.


SIDNER (voice-over): As the Lakers starters took to the court a show of solidarity, fans donned the commemorative t-shirts.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was just -- I don't know, I had no words.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a lot of emotion.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just a lot.


SIDNER (voice-over): And the players answer to one name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- from Lower Merion High School, Kobe Bryant.

SIDNER (voice-over): Then, it was game on. But it wasn't business as usual. In the midst of the joy of the game, halftime brought a reminder of our collective human frailty.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once again this fan base expressing their devotion to their beloved Kobe Bryant.

SIDNER (voice-over): The final buzzer brought disappointment to the Lakers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see the emotion on the faces of all the players.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The entire memorial before the game was tough for me. You know, to just -- to see and just to hear the voice and just, you know, have to come to the realization that, you know, that he's gone. So, you know, it was tough for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was very emotional. You know, the guys were tear up going into the jump ball. And, you know, you could just -- you just felt it the whole night.

SIDNER (voice-over): But LeBron James ended with a revelation about Kobe Bryant, words to comfort the aggrieved.

JAMES: I felt like these last three years was the happiest I've ever seen him. And he was being able to just be with his daughters, be with his family.


SIDNER: The Lakers coach and LeBron James acknowledging this was an extremely difficult game, filled with emotion. Hard to concentrate but they tried to get the job done. They just weren't able.



ROBERTS: We are adjourned.