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CNN Live Event/Special
Soon: Senate to Reconvene for Closing Arguments, Possible Vote in Second Trump Impeachment Trial; New Details on Trump-McCarthy Call Show President Refused to Demand Rioters Stop the Attack; Democrats Debating Whether to Call Witnesses in Impeachment Trial; Meadows Disputes Reports Trump Delayed Sending In National Guard; McConnell Tells Colleagues He Will Vote To Acquit Trump In Impeachment Trial; Interview With Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). Aired 9-10a ET
Aired February 13, 2021 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Wolf Blitzer.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Erin Burnett and welcome to our special coverage of day five of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial.
BLITZER: Today promises to be the most consequential day yet. We could have a decision as soon as later this afternoon. The Senate is expected to convene up on Capitol Hill in one hour. They could debate whether to call witnesses as there are some major questions that still need to be answered.
One key point, what did President Trump know about the deadly and dangerous insurrection on January 6th and when did he know it? This comes after a truly stunning new report about a shouting match between Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as rioters were breaking into the U.S. Capitol. Republican lawmakers telling CNN that McCarthy insisted that the rioters were Trump supporters and begged Trump to call them off.
BURNETT: And of course, he refused to do it. That news breaking following a question-and-answer session in the Senate last night. Several key Republicans who could vote to convict Trump were grilling his legal team about his actions at the riot as the riot unfolded, right? What did he know and why didn't he do anything?
We have also confirmed reports that Trump's lead attorney, David Schoen, threatened to quit on Thursday night. He was ultimately talked into staying.
Another key question in all of this is did Trump know the perilous situation that specifically his Vice President, Mike Pence, was in? Even as Trump was condemning his vice president on Twitter and continuing to do nothing to stop the riot, the former president's legal team saying at no point was Trump aware that Pence was in danger, but now a source close to Pence is calling that a flat out lie.
That source, with knowledge of the events of January 6th, tells CNN that Pence's Chief of Staff, Marc Short, called Trump's Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, as the former vice president was being evacuated from the Capitol, Wolf.
BLITZER: Very disturbing, Erin. Certainly, a lot of unanswered questions right now that still need to be resolved in these final hours of Trump's second impeachment trial. Let's go up to Capitol Hill. CNN's Manu Raju is joining us right now. Manu, have the impeachment managers, the Democrats, made a final decision on whether or not to call witnesses?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's unclear yet, Wolf. In fact, I am told that there has been a debate brewing among Democrats in these final hours here about whether or not to call witnesses and that could upend the plans for this trial, the efforts to bring this trial essentially to a close as soon as this afternoon. This in the aftermath of the failure of the Trump legal team to disclose what Donald Trump was thinking, what he did, how he responded on the day of the January 6th riot.
We do know about that expletive filled shouting match between Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, and Donald Trump that afternoon in which Donald Trump didn't show any real indication to move and try to secure the Capitol in any way and we also know that what we heard yesterday from the Trump attorney himself, a question about what Donald Trump did when he learned about the riot, how he responded.
Republican senators asked him that question. He did not respond. He criticized the Democrats' investigation. Talking to Republican senators afterwards, they also were unsatisfied by that.
So the question among Democrats is whether to move forward with any witnesses who could shed light into the situation, but there's a -- there are a lot of questions about whether that would actually be an effective course of action because doing that, could they actually bring someone forward who could shed any light? Would that person fight a subpoena in court potentially? Could it drag out the proceedings? Could it distract from the Biden agenda?
Those are all complicated discussions and decisions that they'll have to make and also the likelihood about this actually changing the minds of Republicans who are all signaling that they are almost certainly going to acquit Donald Trump this afternoon, but could witnesses change the calculation? That seems unlikely.
So, what Democrats ultimately do will be resolved here in the 10:00 o'clock hour. When the Senate opens for business here, will they move forward witnesses? How do they respond? But at the moment, Wolf, the key Democrats I'm talking to are mum. They are not saying what their final decision is, but I can tell you from talking to my sources, it has been a debate brewing to see whether or not this is the right course of action.
So, we'll see, Wolf, if there's a last-minute wrinkle here or if we move to a final vote as soon as this afternoon and see this trial over, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, what I hear you saying, Manu, is that within an hour or so, we should know whether the House impeachment managers have decided to call witnesses, right?
RAJU: Yes. That is the expectation. At 10:00 A.M., they're opening the door and that's when they're expected to move forward pretty quickly to a debate about whether to call witnesses. That debate could be dispensed with altogether if there's an agreement to move forward or they can actually have a vote on a simple majority basis to move forward with witnesses and then they would have a vote if they would want to call any specific witnesses, to subpoena specific witnesses and there's further debate and another vote on another subpoena.
So that could really drag out the proceedings potentially for days if they were to bring in someone, depose them, have them come before the Senate. They would have to create a whole new process for each individual witness. So there are a lot of complicating factors to bringing a witness forward. You can't just snap your fingers and have someone come.
So that is also the issue here because Democrats also don't want to spend an enormous amount of time on this. They do want to focus on the new administration. They've got to deal with things like a coronavirus relief package. So those are the complicating factors that Democrats are weighing right now at this moment, but some last-minute drama here in this trial. We'll see how Democrats respond, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. The White House wants to see the remaining cabinet members confirmed by the Senate as well and that's going to be delayed if this trial continues. All right, Manu. Stand by. As soon as we get more information, we'll get back to you.
Meanwhile, truly stunning new details have emerged about the conduct of the former president on the day of the riot and that could clearly impact today's trial. CNN has learned about a shouting match, a phone call, that took place during the insurrection between then President Trump and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. Republican lawmakers telling CNN that McCarthy insisted the rioters were, in fact, Trump supporters and begged Trump to call them off.
Trump responded saying, and I'm quoting now, "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are." And now one House Republican is pleading with her GOP colleagues to come forward with knowledge about Trump's conduct on that day of the riot. In a statement, Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler says, and I'm quoting now, "To the patriots who were standing next to the former president as these conversations were happening or even to the former vice president, if you have something to add here, now would be the time."
John King is with me. He's the host of "INSIDE POLITICS." Also, with us, our CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel who broke this amazing story. Jamie, so what does this tell us about President Trump's mindset as these thousands of his supporters were storming the U.S. Capitol, endangering some of his staunchest supporters? The vice president was there with his family.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely and I think that one of the important things about this story -- I spoke to a half dozen Republican members of the House. Several of them were willing to go on the record. That doesn't happen very often and the one who really was able to help us the most was Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler who spoke to Kevin McCarthy and he told her this whole story.
She took copious notes, but Kevin McCarthy also repeated this story to, from my understanding, dozens of other members of his conference. He wanted them to know about it.
So, let's talk about the President's mindset for a minute. For the first time, you don't have to guess what he was thinking. These are his words and the Republican members of Congress I spoke to say that this shows intent, it shows state of mind, it shows dereliction of duty. Here is Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader, begging for help, saying they're breaking into my office, my staff is running for their lives and Trump sides with the mob.
The other thing the Republican members I spoke to pointed out was dereliction of duty. The fact that this conversation happens, Donald Trump knows what's going on, we also know he was watching it on television, but we have this phone call. He does not immediately tweet, go on TV, call the rioters off. He does nothing for hours. The fact that he did not act immediately, the Republican members say to me, is evidence of dereliction of duty. End of story. Wolf?
BLITZER: You know, Jamie, Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is among those now calling ...
BLITZER: ... for witnesses to testify during the course of this trial, suggesting in part -- let me quote him -- "Suspend trial to depose McCarthy and Tuberville under oath and get facts. Ask Secret Service to produce for review comms back to White House, re Vice President Pence safety during siege." What do you think? Is it too late for the impeachment managers, the nine House Democratic impeachment managers, to start calling witnesses? Because this would continue the process, the trial, for days.
GANGEL: Right. It's not too late technically. The question is, as Manu just said, is there an appetite for -- do they think it will change votes? I spoke to one Republican member this morning who suggested that there was actually an alternative.
That they could suspend the trial and hold hearings. The Senate could get back to business and some of these witnesses could be called to hearings. Is that a possibility? We don't know. I checked in with the House managers this morning. They are staying mum. So, I think we'll know at 10:00 o'clock, but as Manu said, the bottom line is do they think it will change votes?
BLITZER: And that's the key question right now. Excellent, excellent reporting, Jamie.
GANGEL: Thank you.
BLITZER: Stand by. John King is with us. I'm anxious, John, for your thoughts on where this is heading in the next hour or two.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is judgment day by all accounts unless they make the dramatic decision to seek witnesses and think about the power of what Jamie just said and the courage of the congresswoman who's coming forward and others to put their name on the record here, but then also think about the timeline.
So Kevin McCarthy has this conversation with the President of the United States, tells him they are under -- they are at risk at the Capitol, the Capitol is under siege. The president does nothing. We know he had a conversation with Senator Tuberville as the Vice President was being evacuated. Was told the Vice President was at risk. He does nothing.
Even on that night after those conversations, we're learning more details now. Congresswoman Beutler Herrera's coming forward, Herrera Beutler, because she wants to guilt the Senate Republicans into doing something. She wants to guilt her Republican colleagues in the House into coming forward, but even that night, they still voted, Kevin McCarthy and 138 other House Republicans, to still fight the big lie -- to sustain the big lie about the election.
Then they voted weeks later not to impeach the President of the United States. They did not propose any alternative to impeachment like censure. That tells you the depth of the spell Donald Trump has on these Republicans. That was in the House and you can expect it largely to continue in the Senate today. The Democratic managers have a big decision to make. Do we seek witnesses?
But Wolf, we watched this yesterday in the question-and-answer session. That was time to see are there more that -- we know there are five or six Republicans inclined at least to convict the President of the United States. You need 17. During the question session yesterday, that was the time to see were other senator -- other Republican senators feeling it out? Were they asking tough questions, were on the fence?
We saw no evidence of that. So as of this morning, it looks like the President will -- when Republicans make their choice today, they will choose to acquit the President, which means they will also choose to continue to embrace him as the leader of their party.
BLITZER: One little mystery is the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, how he's going to emerge from all of this if there were witnesses, let's say, no witnesses and he could have an impact on other Republicans potentially if he decides -- I don't -- I don't think he's going to necessarily do it -- if he decides to convict. KING: He has twice voted to say that he believes the trial is unconstitutional. He has also told his members it's a vote of conscience, which means it's a vote of your politics. What are your local politics? What do you think is good for you in your state? Mitch McConnell is the one, Leader McConnell, is one Republican who could bring others with him. If he decided to go toward convict, he could bring some of the elder senior statesmen of the Senate Republicans with him.
There's no evidence he's going to do that, but he is obviously somebody to watch very closely today as this goes forward and again, he has said repeatedly he wants to shove Donald Trump to the sidelines. Well, one way to do that would be to convict him and then allow the Democrats -- no Republican has to vote for the disqualification part. That's a majority vote. To convict is two- thirds, then would come a vote on disqualifying him from ever seeking office again.
But again, this is choosing time because if Donald Trump is not convicted, you know -- Lindsey Graham is already saying he wants to go to Mar-a-Lago to talk to the President about helping Republicans in 2022 and 2024. Tells you everything you need to know. The spell is not broken.
BLITZER: Yes. You're absolutely right. Dana Bash is watching all of this with us as well. Dana, these are critical decisions these House impeachment managers have to make, and they have to make them very soon.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Very soon and, oh, to be a fly on the wall in the discussions that Democrats in the Senate and the Democratic House managers are having right now about this issue. And I'm here with Abby Phillip, CNN senior political correspondent, and our political director, David Chalian.
Guys, I'm sure you all have been talking to your sources this morning as well. I've been texting with some Democratic senators. One said, on the whole notion of witnesses which they're debating, if we thought it would change Republican votes, I think there would be more of a push to get witnesses and so that just actually is such a window into what they think could be right versus what they think could be practical.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think ultimately at the end of the day, a lot of Democrats are looking at it from that perspective, that they don't see a real openness from enough Republicans. Obviously, there are some Republicans. We know who they are. It's about six of them, maybe one or two more, but I think really at the most, we're looking at maybe six Republicans who have expressed a true openness to ...
BASH: And we have -- and just as you're talking, we have them on the screen. These are ...
BASH: ... the six who voted that having this trial is constitutional. PHILLIP: But that's obviously not enough.
I mean, they need 17 Republicans. The only thing, though, that I think maybe has changed between last night and this morning -- and I will say that Jamie Gangel's excellent reporting has really, I think, thrown, you know, a pebble into the lake here, so to speak, and it created some ripples because it suggests that there is more there that could emerge that would be even more damning.
And there is -- there was, in the questioning yesterday, multiple Republicans making the issue of Mike Pence's fate central to how they viewed this and wondering why Trump didn't do more and I think that, for some Democrats, seems to be an open door. Will they walk through it, I'm not sure because there's not a whole lot of appetite, frankly, to drag this on either side of the aisle.
BASH: Yes. There's Jamie's excellent reporting about the conversation, more details of that incredible conversation between Kevin McCarthy and Donald Trump, but then there's the fact that the Trump defense team effectively called one of the jurors, a Republican senator, Tommy Tuberville, a liar.
BASH: Because he has said on the record and then repeated this story to our colleague, Manu Raju, after the trial yesterday that when the President called and he spoke to the President during the riot while they were being evacuated, Tuberville told ...
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: From the Senate floor.
BASH: From the Senate floor. Tuberville told him the Vice President is being evacuated.
CHALIAN: Yes, and just could we just put some context on Tommy Tuberville for a moment? Remember, this is his third day as a United States Senator ...
CHALIAN: ... when this -- he's never been in politics. So just think about you're getting -- one of your colleagues comes up to you with their phone and says the president wants to talk to you and you're brand new to this world. This is a conversation you're going to remember. Add in that you are, again, three days into this career and you're under attack. There is -- there is concern inside this new workplace that you're at, the President of the United States is on the phone.
So, whose version do you believe of that, right? The guy who's going to remember that conversation for the rest of his life or the defense attorney for somebody who has been a proven liar time and again about experiences? So it is clear that Tuberville is sticking by his story, that he is a person -- and again, there may be other people that have informed President Trump, but he is one person, he says, who informed President Trump that his vice president, his loyal lieutenant Mike Pence, was being whisked away in a security emergency outside of the Senate chamber.
PHILLIP: And by the way, Tuberville himself was being dragged out of the chamber.
PHILLIP: That's what he told reporters yesterday.
PHILLIP: That he told the President, Mr. President, they're taking me out of here, I've got to go. So there's no universe in which that conversation happens and it can also be true what Trump's lawyers said yesterday, which is clearly a lie that Trump did not know that Pence was at risk or that he didn't know that all of those lawmakers were at risk. It was all over TV, he was on the phone with someone who was being evacuated and he was told that his vice president was being evacuated.
BASH: Yes. No. I mean, look, there's no doubt that he knew what was going on and, Erin, one of the questions that I've been asked by some Republicans last night and this morning is whether or not this is proof that maybe they moved too quickly. Obviously they didn't have much of a choice because Donald Trump was out the door, but maybe they moved too fast and not collecting more of this and talking earlier about having potential witnesses like Tommy Tuberville or others who were around the president and around these conversations.
BURNETT: Right. Right. Knowing that they were going to meet the resistance that they're meeting, right?
BURNETT: To have every single possible -- well, OK, you're not OK with that? Here's the next point. Here's the next point. It just becomes overwhelming. All right. Well, next, as the former president's legal team prepares to make its closing argument, CNN has learned Trump defense attorney David Schoen actually threatened to quit on Thursday night. Details on that next.
BURNETT: Former Vice President Pence has remained silent throughout the Senate impeachment trial, but a source close to the former VP tells CNN that the defense team lied when they said, quote, "At no point did former President Trump know Pence was in danger on January 6th." It is a question key Republican senator pushed Trump's defense team to answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question is from Senator Collins and Senator Murkowski.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly when did President Trump learn of the breach of the Capitol, what specific actions did he take to bring the rioting to an end and when did he take them?
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN, FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP'S DEFENSE LAWYER: With the rush to bring this impeachment, there's been absolutely no investigation into that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Romney on behalf of himself and Senator Collins.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When President Trump sent the disparaging tweet at 2:24 p.m. regarding Vice President Pence, was he aware that Vice President had been removed from the Senate by the Secret Service for his safety?
VAN DER VEEN: The answer is no. At no point was the President informed the Vice President was in any danger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The senator from Louisiana, Mr. Cassidy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does this show that President Trump was tolerant of the intimidation of Vice President Pence?
VAN DER VEEN: Directly, no. We're not going to know the answer to the facts in this proceeding because the House did nothing to investigate what went on.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BURNETT: Joining me now, chief political analyst Gloria Borger and our legal analysts, Laura Coates, Elie Honig and Ross Garber. All right. Thanks to all of you. So, Gloria, let me start with you. We just heard a couple of questions there very specifically saying did the President know ...
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
BURNETT: ... Vice President Pence was in danger.
The answer was definitive. The answer is no. At no point.
BORGER: That's wrong.
BURNETT: That's a lie, right?
BORGER: That's a lie. It's not -- look, Jim Acosta is reporting that a source close to Pence says that's a lie. I am reporting that a source close to Pence said that Marc Short, the Vice President's Chief of Staff, called Mark Meadows, the President's Chief of Staff, when they were being whisked away and told Meadows exactly what was going on.
You also have Tommy Tuberville talking to the President of the United States saying they just took the Vice President out of here. You have Secret Service who would be talking to other Secret Service. There is no way that the President had absolutely no idea about what was going on with the Vice President and the other people in the -- in the Congress.
It just -- it just does not make any sense. The timeline needs to be pieced together minute by minute. We do know that the President tweeted at 2:24 and, you know, said, you know, Pence has got to do the right thing and ...
BURNETT: Pence didn't have the courage ...
BURNETT: ... to do what should have been done. Yes.
BORGER: Tweeted trash about Mike Pence while his life was in danger.
BURNETT: Right. And Ross, you also have, of course, on top of this Kevin McCarthy, top Republican in the House, calls Trump or Trump calls -- whatever. There's a phone call and he is saying they're banging -- they're breaking the windows coming into my office. Trump's response is it's Antifa. McCarthy loses his stack. Says no, it's your people and Trump does nothing.
ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: But here's the issue. So I believe Gloria and I believe Jamie Gangel because I know them and I work with them and I trust them, but Trump's lawyers are going to say that the Senate can't just believe it because people say it on CNN. That's what Trump's lawyers will say, and the American people might also say, look, we know how things work in court.
It doesn't work to just, you know, have things in the media. You know, you need evidence of them and it's what -- and the reason it's so important is the House managers have kind of taken on this burden of proving willfulness, that Trump intended for this violence to happen, intended for the occupation to happen and, you know, what Trump was doing or not doing during the siege actually potentially has a big bearing on that willfulness element. If he, you know, wanted it to happen, he might be delighted. If he didn't want it to happen, he'd be appalled.
BURNETT: Right. And so, Laura, to that point, OK, so now we've added up all these calls that are happening and all these things are happening. OK. Here's the thing. It's a matter of public record. 2:26 p.m., Capitol hill police chief, you know, radios I am making an urgent, urgent immediate request for National Guard assistance, 2:26 p.m.. 5:40 p.m., 5:40 p.m., National Guard arrives. The record is very clear that Trump did nothing. It is very clear.
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It absolutely is and remember, the idea of, well, do we have evidence specifically that says that Trump was aware that Mike Pence was in danger at that moment in time? We saw the entire Capitol was in danger. Everybody inside was in danger. It wasn't just it was Mike Pence.
I know they're appealing and making overtures to the Republican senators who may be waffling on this point or trying to get their moral compass to go due north on this issue, but they really need to think about if he didn't care about Mike Pence, if he didn't know where Mike Pence was, he knew where the rest of you were, he knew that all of you were in the Capitol that day because January 6th was, as Representative Swalwell mentioned, the save the date card that had been sent out. All of America knew where Congress was because ...
COATES: ... it was the day of a certification of the Electoral College. They knew that Mike Pence was going to be there. I mean, this date was not pulled out of thin air and so even if it's lacking in terms of the precision of Trump being able to say at minute this, second this, I knew where Vice President Pence was, he knew they were all in danger and then he had telephone calls saying they were in danger.
And I cannot buy for one second that Secret Service, that the Chiefs of Staff, that the President turned off the TV, that everyone else on the globe knew that the Capitol was under siege, but Trump.
BURNETT: You can stop right there, that the President turned off the TV. Right. No. All these other things (ph) ...
COATES: Well, there you go. There you go.
BURNETT: ... but you make the very simple point. He saw it unfolding in addition to the fact that he's finding out the windows are breaking ...
BURNETT: ... and they desperately need help and the National Guard's being pled for and he was doing -- he was doing nothing.
BURNETT: But Elie, how significant is it -- it would seem to me that if you simply look at and ignore everything that happened before and what Trump did or didn't do. When it happened, he did nothing. He willfully did nothing, that that in and of itself would of course be a violation of his oath of office, his action during the riot itself.
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Exactly. Look, this new information is smoking gun stuff ...
HONIG: ... and it goes to the heart of the case and also notice it all goes in the same direction. Whoever it's coming from, it all shows that of course he knew what was going on, as Laura was saying, of course he did nothing or if he did anything, it was way too late and way too little. Now, if this is a criminal case, I'd have a stack of subpoenas. Here's one for you Kevin McCarthy. Here's one for you Senator Tuberville. Here's one for you Mark Meadows on down the line. We're not in that world though. We're in impeachment where it is going to be the decision of the House managers and the Democrats in the Senate that they are making right now and apparently will make within the next half hour or so. Whether they're going to really break open this whole proceeding and go into witnesses or just sort of proceed to closing. So that is the key issue right now.
BORGER: I think the question really is do they think that they have a shot? Do the Democratic House managers think they have a shot at changing people's minds about how they're going to vote because there are a lots of Republicans who are still saying even though the issue was decided about the constitutionality of all of this that they can hide behind that fig leaf, in my opinion, and say, well, we shouldn't even being considering this. And therefore, no matter what evidence you present to me, no matter what you say, I'm still going to say this is not a matter for us to decide. Take it somewhere else. And I -- you know, I think they're probably trying to figure out how many votes they can change.
ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: But it is also about the process. You know, they started this process. And either it is an important significant process, or it is not. One of the reasons you do it in a criminal case, Elie, is because it's an important process. Even if you think you're not going to get a conviction, you bring your witnesses. And that's the big question for the House managers.
BORGER: You think they should, right?
GARBER: I think if you are going to do an impeachment, you got to do an impeachment.
BURNETT: Even if it's just for the history books, you do it from A to Z (INAUDIBLE).
GARBER: This is an important process.
BURNETT: All right. All of us are going to be here. Dana, back to you.
BASH: Thanks, Erin. You know former President Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows is again claiming Trump did not delay activating the National Guard as the mob was violently storming the Capitol. Here is what he told Fox News last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK MEADOWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I think Secretary of Defense Miller will be glad to back me up on this. He offered help on this particular day more than 48 hours before. I can tell you when I got the phone call from -- I didn't ever get a phone call from Speaker Pelosi, but from Mayor Bowser, the answer was immediate and yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: I want to bring CNN chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins to get through what he just said and talk about the facts versus, you know, the CYA I think that we just heard there. Kaitlan, tell us what the facts are with regard to the National Guard.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Dana. Mark Meadows is trying to rewrite history of the role that the president played in this that day. Because this is one of the biggest takeaways that we learned on that day as this was ongoing is that there were calls to deploy more of the National Guard to have them be able to actually to go in the Capitol because before that, they had really just been helping with traffic points earlier in that day in preparation for how many people were expected to be in Washington.
And Mark Meadows saying that President Trump acted quickly to deploy the National Guard is not true. And that's according to multiple people that CNN and several other outlets spoke with who said that actually on that day on January 6 President Trump initially resisted those calls to deploy more National Guard staff including the White House counsel's office had to get involved in this effort. And you see there, Meadows point to the former Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller saying that he is someone who can help back this statement up.
But Miller on that day issued a statement about what had gone on amid these calls about whether or not President Trump was involved in this. And he said that he had spoken to House Speaker Pelosi, then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, Steny Hoyer, several others and of course the former Vice President Mike Pence. But he made no mention of actually speaking to President Trump about this decision to deploy the National Guard. So, Meadows there pointing to him on that day we should note Miller made no mention of Trump.
And then one other thing, you know, he was talking about how he got a call from the D.C. mayor asking to have more National Guard go out there, but if you looked at some of the stories from that day, recreating what had been happening inside the White House on January 6, the "Washington Post" said that Kellyanne Conway, who had not worked at the White House in several months, called the White House because she was getting calls from the D.C. mayor's office urging her to get the president to move quickly when it came to deploying the National Guard.
So, if you look at all of the context surrounding this, the president did not move quickly, there were multiple people inside the White House who were here that day that will vouch for that. Mark Meadows here that day. He was one of the few people interacting with the president.
And so, I do think this speaks to this whole question that you are seeing playing out on Capitol Hill which is whether or not they should call witnesses. Mark Meadows is someone who has been up on the Capitol all week. He has been on television defending former President Trump. But he is someone who could come and testify and give an account of what actually happened that day.
[09:35:02] And I'm not sure it would match what he is saying on Sean Hannity.
BASH: No question, Kaitlan. I mean, what you just laid out is what CNN and others have reported on. And the fact of the matter is it was his own vice president who was sitting in an undisclosed location after being evacuated not once but twice in the U.S. Capitol while doing his constitutional duty. He was the one scrambling because he was also getting calls from members of Congress and others saying why aren't they sending help. Kaitlan, thank you so much for clearing that up. Appreciate it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much. We just see senators arriving at the U.S. Senate, just saw Senator Lindsey Graham not wearing a mask. He arrived just a moment or so ago. Just ahead, both sides are expected to close their case at some point later today but that could change. Could we see witnesses or new evidence first? But if that happens, will that force the trial to continue for days? I'll speak live with Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey when we come back.
BLITZER: Breaking news on the impeachment trial of how the Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell potentially could vote. I want to bring back our chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju. You're doing some reporting, Manu. What are you hearing?
RAJU: Yes, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, has told his colleagues he plans to vote to acquit Donald Trump. And that vote could happen as soon as this afternoon. McConnell has been increasingly signaling he would be with where his Republican conference ultimately will land. Which is on the contention that this process is flawed, that the Senate trial should not go forward because they are concerned that this is not constitutional, a former president should not be tried.
He has voted with his conference in the first vote during the trial to say the trial should not go forward, but he also has not said exactly how he would come down on the issue of convicting Donald Trump. We do know he has raised concerns privately. He has told his colleagues that what Donald Trump did and didn't do in the run up in the aftermath of January 6 was impeachable. We've been told that from multiple sources.
But he clearly has not said what he would do on the issue of conviction. I've been talking to a number of his close allies over the last several weeks and what has been clear is that they believed ultimately, he would come down with where the Republican conference ended up. He is a party leader. He does not want to be on the wrong side of his party. And recognizes the backlash that could occur if he were to break ranks.
Now he unlike the 2020 trial where he was very close with Donald Trump, he actually coordinated with the White House legal strategy at that point, this time he has not said what he would do, he said that he would listen to the trial, he even criticized Donald Trump for provoking the mob before the trial began. He since not said what he will do but now we are told that he will officially vote to acquit Donald Trump this afternoon. And if the vote happens this afternoon, I should say, Wolf, we don't know the exact timing yet, if that happen, that will almost certainly mean, of course, Donald Trump will not be convicted by the Senate. There just are not 67 votes there to convict him. If Mitch McConnell votes to acquit, so will most of the Republican conference.
BLITZER: Yes, you're absolutely right on that. What else are you hearing, Manu, on witnesses? The House impeachment managers potentially can call a witness or two or three if they want. But the president's defense -- former president's lawyers they could call a witness or two as well.
RAJU: Yes, I've just been on the halls talking to a number of people. This is the big debate and discussion that's happening now right now in the halls about whether witnesses will actually be called. The first move would be on the Democrat's side if they actually want to move forward with witnesses. They have not told Senate Democrats -- the House Democratic managers have not told Senate Democrats if they want witnesses. There was just a conference call with Chuck Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader. He told his colleagues he did not know what the House Democrats would do, but it is seriously being considered according to multiple Democratic senators that I talked to.
Now, if the Democrats do go that route, the Republican -- the Trump team has their own plans. They're going to try to call Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to come and testify. Now the issue is of course they would need 51 votes to subpoena those witnesses. And 50 Democratic senators, you can see how unlike that would be to bring forward those witnesses. But that is how they -- that's what they will argue going forward if the Democrats do go that route to have witnesses.
The big question though, what will witnesses bring? Will they actually delay things but lead to nothing different because the minds have been made up by virtually everyone here in this building? Or could they shed more light into Donald Trump's thinking? Will people comply and actually provide that kind of evidence? That has been the debate that has been brewing behind the scenes, Wolf, overnight and into this morning -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Serious debate indeed. All right. Manu, excellent reporting as usual. Thanks very much. Joining us now Democratic Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. Senator Casey, thanks so much for join us. First of all what's your reaction to this late breaking reporting on the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that he's going to vote to acquit?
SEN. BOB CASEY (D-PA): Wolf, it is disappointing obviously that we don't seem to have more Republicans wanting to hold the president -- former president accountable. But I guess it is not surprising.
I mentioned earlier too, Wolf, that I'm sitting in John Fitzgerald Kennedy's old Senate office right over my right shoulder a picture of him, and I hope, I hope, that after the closing arguments there will be more profiles in courage. We've had a few of those on the Republican side. We'll see what happens.
BLITZER: What is the message you think that McConnell is sending to his Republican colleagues, some of whom may have been a little bit at least on the fence?
CASEY: I'm not sure, Wolf. That's -- I mean, it is hard for me to determine his thinking on this.
But -- look, I think that the evidence is compelling. The House managers made a very compelling case. I'm just looking at my notes. I took probably 40, 50 pages of notes already. And Impeachment Manager Neguse said on the first day of their presentation, he said Trump ignored the court rulings, then he pressured state election officials, then he tried to get Congress to do things, then he tried to stop the counting by threatening the vice president. Then he turned to his supporters to take action.
I think that that is a pretty good summary of what happened here. And I think the House managers made a very compelling case that a constitutional crime in my judgment was committed. And there is only one remedy for that. Impeachment and conviction.
BLITZER: Do you think the House impeachment managers at this last minute, and we should know within the next half hour or hour at least, whether they're going to call witnesses, should they call witnesses at this stage in this trial?
CASEY: Well, I don't know if they will. That is a determination that they have to make. And I from the beginning have deferred to them and will continue do that. If they come before us and say that they want to call witnesses, which would involve I think in almost every instance a subpoena which would take some time, I'll certainly support them. But that is a determination that they have to make.
They are bringing the case. They know the case best and I think we should try to support them if they do. But I don't have any knowledge that they're going to move in that direction.
BLITZER: Well, do you think if they were to call witnesses and even if the witnesses were really compelling, would it make a difference, would 17 Republican senators vote to convict?
CASEY: My gut tells me no. And I think that the record is already replete with evidence. When you consider -- unlike a lot of public officials in other probably proceedings, we have a lot of evidence about the president's state of mind with a time stamp on it because he sends a lot of tweets. We also have the record of live television, the reporting on what the phone call to the junior senator from Alabama and what time that took place and what time the president was saying Mike Pence lacked courage after the vice president's life was in danger, the reporting last night about Republican Leader McCarthy's phone call.
There is a substantial body of evidence now that provides a time sequence. And I think that it is irrefutable the president took no action to protect those in the Capitol especially while it was happening all on live television.
BLITZER: Well, we will find out very soon whether or not there are going to be witnesses and if there are no witnesses later this afternoon, we suspect there will be this final vote. Senator Casey, thank you so much for joining us.
CASEY: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's go back to Dana.
BASH: Thanks, Wolf. And back with me are Abby Phillip and David Chalian. Let's go back, I want to talk about the witnesses which is really dramatic as we're getting close to the time that the Senate actually convenes -- the trial convenes. But I want to talk about the McConnell news, the fact that Manu Raju and others are reporting that he is telling colleagues he's going to acquit.
While we were watching this news unfold, Abby, you made what I thought was a really astute observation about not just the announcement, but the timing of that announcement and how it relates to the witnesses.
PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, I do think it's related. It's not an -- I mean, Mitch McConnell doesn't do things by accident. He doesn't send an email to his colleagues about his decision in the 9:00 hour just shortly before the session is about to convene unless he wants it to be known that he thinks this needs to end today.
And we've been talking about whether Democrats want to call witnesses. I think the truth is Republicans don't want to call witnesses. They do not want to be talking about this much longer after today. Because as much as they are likely to vote to acquit Trump on a technicality, the details as they are revealed do not vindicate this former president.
It is bad, bad, bad, bad. Every day, every revelation is bad. And Mitch McConnell knows that. And I think he wanted to signal to his colleagues that he thinks this should be over so they can get over with. And even the idea of witnesses, Democrats may not want to do it, but Republicans also have -- there is no upside for them in calling witnesses.
CHALIAN: And I just think we have to constantly ask the question as we're discussing this notion of witnesses, to what end? To what end?
Did the Democrat -- did the Democratic House managers not make an extraordinarily compelling case? The trial I observed this week, they made an incredibly powerful case. As you said, there's nothing about this that looks good for the former president. Nothing about it.
So, I just keep asking, as I'm talking to people and they're like, well, there should be witnesses. And I say, to what end? Because what is it going to accomplish at the end?
[09:50:01] Could this case get any stronger than it is? I find that hard to believe. Maybe -- maybe some of the holes poked yesterday by the defense counsel can then be sort of re-sealed up for the House managers, but not for something that's going to alter the conclusion of how this trial is going to go or even how it's going to be recorded, I think, for history.
BASH: Let me just back that up with something that I got from a Democratic senator saying that they are continuing to defer to whatever House managers want to do on witnesses, but there is a strong belief that they made an excellent case and we are not urging them to do witnesses unless they feel it's important. They mean the House managers. So, you know --
CHALIAN: The jury doesn't need that.
BASH: The jury is saying -- yes, this is one person, but this is part -- this is somebody who is part of the larger discussions that are going on as we speak. So, it's the do they need it, A, and B, the whole broader question of to what end. Will it make a difference?
And if it won't make a difference, do we want to delay the Biden agenda? Do we want to do other things that could make that more difficult at a time when there's a global pandemic and the economy is in a terrible position and they have other things that are really important to the American people to deal with? Not that this isn't but if it's not going to change things, why?
PHILLIP: Yes. And I think that's a really compelling argument because Democrats know that Republicans are not evaluating this case on the substance. They're just not. And you can also -- even though, you know, David, you just mentioned some of the holes that it could poke in the defense's argument, yesterday the Trump lawyers spent so much time talking about violation of their client's due process rights, the lack of witnesses, the lack of investigation. It might be tempting to really puncture that by putting some more evidence out there. But at the end of the day, are these Republican senators actually evaluating this evidence? I think the answer is clearly no.
BASH: No, no. Because if they were, then, Erin, they would be -- first of all, the questions that we heard yesterday, there were some that were very important and some of them got to some real blunders, I think, by the Trump defense, and others were not real questions.
BURNETT: Yes. No. Absolutely. And without real answers, either, to Dana's point.
All right. Talking about witnesses, Laura, let me ask you, our producer (INAUDIBLE) was just talking to Mitt Romney who said he is open to witnesses, if either side wants them, he's open to it. Obviously, that's not the overall sentiment, but it is interesting that Senator Romney is saying that.
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It is. Remember last impeachment trial, same time just last year, he also wanted to have witnesses, he was one of the people to break from the Republican pack and say it's worthwhile, we should do this. And I think it's the right call in the sense there have been multiple factual disputes that have been put in here not just by the House impeachment managers, by defense team themselves. They are the ones that have said that there is a flurry of activity. The house managers are wrong that the president sat idly by.
He had no idea, they say, that Mike Pence was in danger whatsoever. They have raised these aspects of it and now it's kind of they -- they said versus they said. So how do you resolve that in the normal world? You have people to corroborate, to substantiate, to actually tell people what happened.
So, you know, the idea of having more testimony, it might seem like an exercise in futility if their minds have been made up. But remember this is more than just the binary choice of conviction or acquittal. We're also talking about what it speaks about democracy, about oversight, about checks and balances. If you just let it go --
BORGER: You know, I think that's why we heard from Mitch McConnell this morning. Because there might have been a ground swell or --
BURNETT: -- proof there was because he wants to kibosh it.
BORGER: -- you know, or rumblings. You have Romney out there saying, yes, I would go for witnesses. Now Romney does not represent the Republican caucus, we understand that and, you know, he raised the jurisdictional issue which we're talking about. We knew that a lot of Republicans are going to raise and say, look, you want to prosecute this, whatever it is there's criminal -- there's a way to do it in court after a president leaves office and this is how I'm going to vote. So, all the Republicans who are worried about these witnesses potentially being called can breathe a sigh of relief. So, this is -- this is the argument that they can make.
And that's why McConnell did it right now, because there is this question out there. And for history's sake I know David is saying to what end, David Chalian, and I understand that because it may not change minds. But for history's sake, shouldn't you know?
BURNETT: Talk to us about Nixon.
GARBER: Yes. Not just -- and not just for history's sake, but, yes. I mean, in the Nixon case, you know, there was zero chance he was going to be impeached. He had just won re-election by a huge landslide and then there were a couple of witnesses who came forward, John Dean came forward and Butterfield came forward, and the worm turned.
Things changed. And it changed relatively fast. So, the notion that it's a fait accompli, yes, probably but maybe not. But the second this is it's not just for history. I work on impeachments. You know, it's not just presidents who are subject to impeachments, federal judges, state governors and, you know, this is potentially a model for other impeachment processes and it's a terrible model. The notion of having an impeachment without witnesses is sort of crazy.
BURNETT: Does the point, Elie, that when Ross is saying John Dean, everyone watching this show knows who John Dean is. They know who he is because they've seen him over the past. If they don't know history, they've seen him talking on CNN.
You know, Ross was talking earlier, when we were getting ready, he was saying, look, a lot of these people who work for the Trump administration are having trouble getting jobs. They don't know what their future is going to hold. Could this be a moment for one of them to say I'll do it, I don't need the subpoena, I'm not going to fight it, this is my moment, I'm going to come tell the truth?
HONIG: Sure. And live witnesses in general, and I can tell you this from my trial experience, live witnesses can be a game-changer. I mean, think about the difference in -- on one hand we have reports that Kevin McCarthy had this conversation with Donald Trump. It's being reported by the news. We're reading about it. We're hearing about it. That's on one hand.
Versus Kevin McCarthy going into the well of the Senate taking an oath and saying I had this conversation with Donald Trump, here's what I told him that day, here's what he knew. It's night and day. It hits so much harder. And as Ross said it can change history.
BURNETT: Laura, even though we know what happened and that call now, right? We know Jamie Beutler told us. But hearing McCarthy say it would still be transformative.
COATES: It would. You hear it from the person you have the emotion. You can assess credibility. Remember what jurors are supposed to do. They're supposed to look at someone and be able to assess whether the person truthful, they can probably assess ulterior motives, they can figure out if they are somehow having strings attached from a political marionette. They can see those things in a way that otherwise couldn't. And they can't squirm and hide behind statements vetted by lawyers. It's them talking about knowing that the other people in the room were there. They saw what happened. They are going to read it like a book.
BORGER: But if you're hiding behind the jurisdictional argument, and this is what we, you know, we heard from Mitch McConnell, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter to you how compelling it is. Go decide this case somewhere else because you don't have the jurisdiction. So, it's a very -- it's a very convenient off ramp. Isn't it?
BURNETT: Well, because Mitch McConnell has already said Trump is responsible for it all so he --
BORGER: Yes, he said he provoked it.
BURNETT: -- he believes that but he's going to vote to not do this because jurisdictional. So, he does give them (INAUDIBLE).
GARBER: Hey, Gloria --
HONIG: It's still an impeachment trial. Yes. I mean, it's still an impeachment trial and it should be handled seriously.
BURNETT: All right. All stay with us here, because they're going to be gaveling in in just a couple of moments, Wolf, and we're going to get answers to this crucial witness question.
BLITZER: Yes, the drama continues right now.
John, you know, they've been pretty much right on schedule, the Senate. They start right at the top of the hour. Patrick Leahy, the senator, he is the presiding officer. Then we'll hear the opening prayer from the chaplain Barry Black. They'll all stand for the pledge of allegiance. Then we'll hear the sergeant at arms say hear ye, hear ye, hear ye. And the rest is going to be history.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The rest will be history, but Leader McConnell's email to his colleagues foretells the outcome. He says his plan is to vote to acquit. That tells you Donald Trump will be acquitted at a second impeachment trial, barring some dramatic development in the next couple of hours. And that tells you that Republicans have made this choice.
This is their only option to hold Donald Trump accountable. They have not proposed any other alternative. They have not proposed censure. They have not said we should do this, or we should do that. This is the option on the table, and they have decided to give him a pass.
And so, it's interesting, Mitch McConnell is sending a signal to the Democrats don't call for witnesses because we're done. You don't have enough Republican votes. A lot of Democrats are now saying, well, let's call witnesses then and let's make them defend their votes.
And so, we'll see the decision the managers have to make. The pressure on them is to wrap this up. McConnell's email tells you you're not going to get the Republicans in the end. But there's some pressure on the Democrats there. But, Wolf, Donald Trump -- this is a choice. This is a choice for the Republicans on the question of to convict Donald Trump. It's also a choice for the Republicans on the question of are we going to hug him and embrace him heading into 2022 and 2024. Their answer this morning is yes.
BLITZER: The minority leader, Mitch McConnell, he doesn't do much by accident. The fact that it has now been leaked not just to CNN, but all these major news organizations that he's going to vote to acquit, the timing is significant.
KING: Yes, he wants this to end today. Number one, he does not want this to drag on. And number two, he has made his decision. Again, it's a 50/50 Senate. Mitch McConnell is now the minority leader just because of the two elections in Georgia. After Joe Biden wins the presidency, then the Democrats win both seats in Georgia, giant momentum for the Democrats right now but it's a 50/50 Senate. In the first mid-term of most presidents, their party loses seats. Mitch McConnell believes he can get the majority back in 2022. But he also has calculated for all his disdain and disgust with Donald Trump, he knows the easier path back to power is to hug him, embrace him, keep this as the party of Trump. That's the decision he's making.
BLITZER: I suspect President Biden and his top aides, they're looking at all of this and saying they're not going to vote to convict in any case, so move on, get it over with, we've got COVID business, we've got cabinet confirmations in the Senate we need to do.