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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

The Impeachment Trial Of President Donald Trump; Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) Is Interviewed About The Merits Of The Case That Was Presented By The House Managers; Democrats Use President Trump's Words As A Boomerang Tool. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired January 22, 2020 - 23:00   ET

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


[23:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening.

Day one of the case against President Trump is in the books. Tonight, the case Democrats made and what the jury made of it, also a look behind the scenes and how the president is handling it. A record day of tweeting for him.

Earlier today he appeared to boast about withholding evidence from the trial, saying, quote, "honestly we have all the material. They don't have the material."

Today's hearing started just after 1 p.m. And with a few breaks ended at 9.43 Eastern Time. Certainly, a long day. There was a lot said, so we want so start with the highlights.

CNN's Sara Murray.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES: The Senate will now hear you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Democrats began to prosecute their case against President Trump today by using his own words to try to incriminate him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Just as he solicited help from Ukraine in 2019, in 2016, then candidate Trump also solicited help from Russia in his election effort.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.

SCHIFF: There is no question that President Trump intended in pressing the Ukraine leader to look into his political rival.

TRUMP: They should investigate the Bidens. And by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: The president appeared to be tuning in aboard Air Force One tweeting, no pressure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHIFF: Mr. Chief Justice, senators --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: Lead impeachment manager Adam Schiff opened day two of the trial with marathon remarks, stretching two hours and 20 minutes without a break.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHIFF: That concludes our introduction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: As he argued the evidence overwhelmingly proves Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHIFF: The president this unapologetic. This lawless, this unbound to the Constitution and the oath of office must be removed from that office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: Democrats have two more days to make their case against the president and convince moderate Republican senators the trial should include new evidence and witnesses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): As you can see, there isn't a lot to read here. You should demand to see the full record. The American people deserve to see the full truth when it comes to presidential actions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: But today Democrats ran through the record they have. Officials worrying the freeze on Ukraine aid was illegal. Efforts to oust former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Rudy Giuliani's own admission that he was pursuing investigations in Ukraine to help his client, not the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Rudolph Giuliani is a cold-blooded political operative for President Trump's reelection campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: Schiff cured Trump's insistence that he wasn't involved in a quid pro quo even as the president withheld security aid and a White House meeting from Ukraine while clamoring for investigations into 2016 and Joe Biden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHIFF: That's not something that comes up in normal conversation, right? Hello, Mr. President, how are you, no quid pro quo. That's the kind of thing that comes up in the conversation if you're trying to put your alibi out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: The president's defenders meantime, awaited their chance to take the Senate floor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: This whole fact that we're here is ridiculous. At the end of the day, I believe without question the president of the United States will be acquitted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.

COOPER: So, having set the scene, I want to get the latest from CNN's Jeff Zeleny who is at the capitol. So, what is the sense of the Hill -- on the Hill tonight of how day one went?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, perhaps predictability. But Democrats are very pleased with how today unfolded. I just talked a short time ago with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. And he said that he believes that the chance for witnesses grows and gains every day.

I asked him why he thought that. And he said when he was sitting on the floor of the Senate looking across the aisle, he said he did believe that he sees some Republicans who are engaged and paying attention to this. And he believes hearing some of this argument for the first time. And that's exactly what Adam Schiff was doing.

But today was all about what -- you know, how things unfolded in chronological order. And it was a lot of the president's own words and the witnesses and the testimony from the late last year that were played in the Senate floor. And you could just see the senators watching that.

And senators of both parties said they were, in fact, watching some of this for the first time. They weren't necessarily paying all that careful attention when the House was doing this, so that is the view from one side. But the president's lawyers, Jay Sekulow, he said as he left the

capital, the trial is unfolding exactly how it's expected. He said there is still no proof that the president violated, you know, any laws and they certainly can't prove impeachment. So, for now it's the Democrats' case. Of course, the president's side makes their case starting Saturday, Anderson.

COOPER: And the solution to this mandatory for senators to stay in the chambers, is that being observed?

ZELENY: Not very mandatory. of course, these are Senate rules so the senators make the rules. And I was sitting in the chamber several hours late this afternoon and into the evening.

[23:05:01]

And the reality is the majority of senators were paying attention. Some were standing up and paying attention. A lot were walking around. Shortly before the dinner hour, things got pretty scarce on both sides.

Senator Lindsey Graham was gone for at least an hour or so in the evening. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, she left about an hour and a half early as well.

So, a lot of senators were not exactly on the edge of their seats. But some were. Susan Collins is one example, of course, she's a Republican we're watching very carefully. She was taking detailed notes and paying very close attention. Others were as well. But they're definitely not enforcing the strictness of staying exactly in their seats.

COOPER: And there was a classified document that Chief Justice Roberts mentioned at the end of the evening. What was that?

ZELENY: That was very interesting. We are told that it's from Jennifer Williams. You'll remember she is the national security advisor for the vice-president who testified before the House committees late last year. Apparently after that testimony she wanted to add something.

We're not exactly sure what it was, but she came back and she added a supplemental piece of testimony. So that was entered into the record. It's classified. Democrats say they don't believe it has to be classified, but the White House has not declassified it. So that was a bit of a mystery in the moment, but it's something she added onto her testimony.

COOPER: And obviously, you know, the question whether or not witnesses are going to be called, that's being endlessly discussed. Anything Republican senator who might be a yes vote in the matter says is being closely scrutinized. That point I understand. Lisa Murkowski from Alaska just made some remarks about the proceedings.

ZELENY: She did. She, of course, is one of the Republicans that we're watching very carefully. She said that she is sitting on the edge of her seat. She said she feels like she is in the front row of a pew watching everything unfold.

But she also expressed some displeasure with Jerry Nadler from that conversation yesterday when he engaged in a back and forth with the president's lawyers that led to the chief justice admonishing both sides. She said she did not like the tone that he set, the accusatory tone

there.

So, it's clear as Democrats are trying to make their case here, they're trying to also not turn off Republicans. So, tomorrow this moves into a conversation about the law, the specific articles of impeachment. And again, the president makes his case, his lawyers do, starting Saturday. Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, thanks very much. I want to bring in our legal and political late-night team. Elliot Williams, Carl Bernstein, Bianna Golodryga, Kirsten Powers, Mike Shields, and David Gergen.

David, a very different afternoon, obviously than yesterday. They're not two sides going back and forth. This was just Democrats with their first day making their defense. How did you think it went?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it went surprisingly well for the Democrats. It could have been a really boring repetitive day, rehashing lots of things we've known from the past. Instead, Adam Schiff turn, I think he emerges as one of the most impressive people we've seen in a setting like this.

Carl, I thought back to Sam Dash in the Watergate days. When he -- and what Adam Schiff managed to do is take massive amount of evidence, lots of points here and there, things that happened that seemed unrelated, he brought them into unrelated. And he brought them into a narrative in which one thing related to the next thing you might not have thought.

I didn't realize exactly, you know, when John Bolton resigned and what the context was until I heard that narrative tonight. I think he's carrying this team right now. He's the intellectual senator of this. He has a very good team, but he is a real star.

And if his presentation today doesn't begin to soften things up and make it possible to change public opinion, I'm not sure anything will.

COOPER: Michael, Mike, from a Republican perspective what did you think?

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, it's interesting to me just pivoting off of that, who the audience is here. Is it the American public, is it senators that we're trying to convince of something or is it senators trying to nail and beat an election?

And it seems like the Democrats kind of go between all three of those audiences. Maybe if they picked one and just stuck to it, it would be more effective because at times they're looking -- like, you know, the real legal argument they're making it seems to be for the American people and some of the senators in the room.

But then procedurally, they do things where they keep the senators there all night and vote on things which they know aren't going to pass which angers the senators. They start talking about a cover up and use these talking points that maybe is more for the public but then angers the senators.

So, it's sort of confusing to me from the Republican side which sort of audience they're actually trying to win over here. In the end it looks political to most people on the Republican side. It looks like they're trying to score points.

COOPER: Kirsten, I mean, to Mike's point, ultimately the American people would be the audience, I guess the Democrats want to rely on most because they don't think they're really going to be getting Republicans --

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Exactly.

COOPER: They might get some Republicans to vote for witnesses but that's it.

POWERS: Yes. I think they're realistic about the fact of what's going to happen, that he's going to be acquitted, right? I mean, and maybe there's going to be some witnesses, but even that's very much up in the air.

And so, they're operating under the assumption that if they can't get the witnesses and if they can't get the additional documents, that they can discredit the acquittal, right? So that when they do finally acquit him and Trump stands up and says I was acquitted, they can say, no, actually you weren't acquitted because this was a sham trial.

[23:10:04]

There were no witnesses. There are always witness in trials. You know, we weren't allowed -- allowed more documents in. And so, you can't claim that you've been acquitted.

SHIELDS: Well, and Schiff says something today the Republicans really seized on, which is he actually referred to the 2020 election in his remarks and talked about how this has to be done now because otherwise the president will try to steal the election so we have to end this now.

And one of the big talking points and arguments for Republicans across the country is this is not -- this is taking the vote away from the American public. There is an election in 11 months. Instead, the Democrats want to do that themselves. And it sounded like Schiff said, yes, that's right.

POWERS: Well, the reality is that that is what impeachment is. Right? So, the whole idea of impeachment is that you are not letting it go to an election. I mean, the founders put it in there for a reason. And it was understood that there are times --

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: When you ask that question in polling, it is devastatingly bad for Democrats especially in the target areas across the country, in the target states. Would you rather the American people get to vote on this in November or do you want the Democrats to do it? Overwhelmingly they say let us have this not the Democrats.

COOPER: Fiona, the argument that the Democrats are making for the rush of not going through the courts and getting it to the Senate was, that they believe the president is trying to --

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Cheat.

COOPER: -- upend this coming election and therefore time is of the essence.

GOLODRYGA: And thus, he can't be trusted. Look, I don't necessarily think Republicans would have a different talking point if this were 2018 versus 2020. Right?

I agree with David. I think the Democrats did a good job in laying out why Ukraine matters to the American people and why this isn't just some country where the president being his typical bombastic self maybe did something that didn't fit protocol, but was it impeachable.

They laid out why we were withholding aid, the United States was withholding aid from a U.S. ally in a hot war with an adversary and laid out the national security implications from doing that. And also laid out a matter of logic.

When you heard Adam Schiff say the president and his defenders constantly quote Zelensky saying there was no quid quo perfect phone call. of course, they were force to do that because they depend on the United States. Two plus two equals four we heard him say.

The same thing with the logic behind corruption, why use that as an excuse. If the president believed that Ukraine in fact was corrupt, go back to Congress, lay it out before Congress, and it's your prerogative at that point to withhold that money.

But they laid out -- and I think they divided it up amongst the managers very well as to what happened, the timetable, evidence from the fact witnesses, Marie Yovanovitch and her treatment.

And at the end of the day, when you even heard from Jason Crow talk about his experience serving in the U.S. military and the fact that we've got tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Europe right now and the numbers of troops, the Ukrainian troops that have died from all of this, it turned it into a matter of life and death with the U.S. ally on the line.

COOPER: I want to hear from Carl and Elliot in just a second. We're going to take a quick break. They'll start it off on the other side of it.

Later, more on how the president is handling day one of the House's case against him. We'll get a live update from the White House. Also, conversations with one of the jurors, Senator Jeff Merkley's thoughts and what was it's like to be on the floor. Are the senators listening, are they engaged? He'll tell us his perspective as part of history which we are watching as our 360 late night coverage continues.

[23:15:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters a short time ago that he believes today's evidence may not only have an effect on the public but on Republican senators as well. His rational that he gets so much of their information from Fox News.

Quoting Leader Schumer, quote, "when you think about it, it's the first time they've probably heard the whole narrative of what's happened."

Back with our political team and legal experts. Carl, what did you take away from today?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think this is a hugely damaging narrative that was laid out today, and that Mitch McConnell understands and has understood for a while that this hugely damaging narrative was going to affect his members.

And that his strategy -- I've talked to some Republicans about this -- midnight Mitch is to wear out his own members so that they don't vote for more witnesses because there are six, seven, eight, nine wobbly Republicans.

Not necessarily going to vote to acquit, but want either to make some kind of statement that they don't like what the president has done, that they think it is deplorable, disgusting, really have been affected by what they're hearing.

The question is, though, whether or not they will go for witnesses. And Manu outlined the numbers pretty well earlier tonight. That if McConnell is able to hold with the exact majority that he has, then there won't be witnesses. But if there is a break of three or four, then you can go to six, seven, eight perhaps for witnesses.

And he's very worried about holding them, particularly because of the strength of this narrative and how powerful it is.

This president of the United States is the only president in our history who has done what the founders wrote this clause for. He has sought the interference of a foreign power in our elections to undermine our free electoral system.

These Republicans, some of whom have not focused on this until now, they get it. A good number of them. And --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: They might be silent. BERNSTEIN: They don't -- they don't -- they are. They've been -- look, they've been craving since this president's come into office. But they're also on the spot.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: But what do you really think? But no, so the interesting thing is there is very little new that we learned or saw today. It's just that today for the first time it was packaged as an argument.

And I was -- frankly, as a former prosecutor, I was taken back to seeing what prosecution looks like and Adam Schiff was actually quite deft. What he had now, again, you don't have to agree with it. You know, you may legally disagree with the conclusion, but he was actually quite deft.

[23:20:02]

And I actually think the best rhetorical point he made today was, you know, look, I would love to show you what was in Ambassador Taylor's August 29th -- I can't show you that because it's not allowed to be admitted. I would love to show you his contemporaneous notes that he took, I can't show you that. he does not --

(CROSSTALK)

BERNSTEIN: And Bolton. Bolton is a real wild card.

WILLIAMS: If I -- and so, and he went through all of the things that he could not show the jurors. Now, again, as Michael said, there's a few different audiences. The public and the vulnerable senators, and he was speaking directly to those -- you said eight or nine. It's probably four or five, or maybe a smaller group are vulnerable. Susan Collins, are you listening?

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But the question though, I mean, is anybody listening? I mean, whether it's in the room or outside. Our mind is already made up. And yes, there may be some senators who are uncomfortable or queasy on things, but, you know, the writing is on the wall.

POWERS: I think it's very hard to move them. And you also have to remember, yes, they're listening to all of this but then the president's lawyers are going to come out and they're going to say what they're going to say which we've already had a preview of which is a lot of the talking points that they've been using in the past and Jay Sekulow had a little press scrum earlier. And basically said, this is just trying to impeach a president over a phone call.

They use this kind of talking points where that's really not -- no, nobody is trying to impeach him over a phone call. That's actually nobody's position. But that's -- they mischaracterize the Democrats' position. They mischaracterize that the Democrats don't believe in executive privilege which is actually not their position.

They're just saying, you know, that we think there should be some testimony -- he actually could invoke executive privilege at some point if he wanted to, but he hasn't.

WILLIAMS: And you know, but you know, it's almost reminiscent of the 1990s where a lot of people tried -- going to go on a limb here. A lot of people tried to make the argument that Clinton was impeached for sex, when in fact it was for lying and under oath. I mean, there's a bunch --

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: My gosh.

WILLIAMS: No. But I believe it. It's --

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Yes, I know. He said that every single day. the Dem -- James Carville on down said why --

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: It wasn't a good service.

SHIELDS: We tried to make the case, there were eight criminal referrals.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: You mean, Democrats are mischaracterizing Republicans?

SHIELDS: Exactly. It's amazing how that works.

BERNSTEIN: David, you were there.

GERGEN: They got a pretty good size audience yesterday. We got about 7.5 million people last night and around 11 million during the daytime. I thought the Democrats were very smart to put Schiff at the beginning of primetime tonight. You know, that's when the audience really --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: And yesterday they were really presenting their case --

GERGEN: Yes.

COOPER: -- in a similar way than they were -- I mean, today was much more detailed, but they weren't just making procedural motions and not sort of explaining them.

GERGEN: Right.

COOPER: They were using them as an opportunity to --

GERGEN: Exactly.

COOPER: -- you know, inform, educate, however you want to call it, people who had not been following this.

GERGEN: Right. I think that's right. But, you know, there is a question that is now starting to bounce around. And David Axelrod and Scott Jennings has been talking about it this evening here at CNN.

And that is the public is facing a dilemma with senators. There are only two options right now. It's either acquit, which a lot of people in this country oppose, they'll never get to vote but -- or, you know, I'm sorry, to convict or acquit. He's clearly going to be convicted at this point, but if he is --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Acquitted.

GERGEN: Acquitted. But if he's acquitted, then there is this real danger that he'll walk around saying I've been exonerated and he feel emboldened. Is there some third option they can develop, a vote of censure, or some sort of, you know, something --

(CROSSTALK)

BERNSTEIN: That's why I mention statements if people might make.

GERGEN: Yes.

COOPER: We're going to pick this up shortly. Coming up next my conversation with Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. We'll be right back.

[23:25:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We talked before the break how the case made today by Democrats is being received and who it's being tailored for. It was, whatever you may think of it on the merits, a thorough presentation. I talked about it just before air time with Jeff Merkley, a Democrat of Oregon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Senator Merkley, it's really been a long two days. I'm wondering what do you think the biggest take away at the end of today is.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): Well, I was really struck about two things today. One was we've all had bits and pieces of the story, but today it was painted into a large arc, an arc that covered nearly a year in which the strategy of investigating the Bidens and Ukraine went from the back burner before Biden declared for office to the front burner right at the same time that a new government was being elected in Ukraine and the new government, President Zelensky became the pressure point, the person being asked to deliver on help for the Trump administration.

And just laying that out in this arc was very useful. And then it also really addressed the issue of to what degree was the U.S. government really trying to help Zelensky, who campaigned against corruption, take on corruption. And the answer is we weren't. We weren't.

We took out our Ambassador Yovanovitch who was a champion for helping fight corruption. We didn't provide any new programs to Zelensky, the new president, who actually wanted to have help taking on corruption.

The Defense Department said they were doing everything possible and released the aid, and then we held back the aid rather than supporting the new government and helping them stand up against the Russians. So, this, the picture is becoming much clearer.

COOPER: We're not able to see what's happening in the room when people are speaking in terms of what the other senators are doing. Are -- you know, right now Democrats are making presentations. Are Republicans listening? Are they -- I mean, are they present, are they listening, are they engaged?

MERKLEY: They are present, they are listening. I don't think you could distinguish between the two sides of the room if you were looking at it.

[23:29:59]

On both sides you'll periodically see a number of people standing up going to the back of the room, stretching, while continuing to see a little bit of whispering, a little bit of note passing, a little bit of eating some food out of their desk. But it's a lot of hours. I don't think you really wouldn't get a sense that one side was listening and one wasn't. I think the Republicans definitely are paying attention.

COOPER: As part of the Democrats' presentation, we're seeing a lot of video clips, witness testimony from the House impeachment hearings. Is that a way to get those witnesses on the record in the Senate in case witnesses are not allowed?

MERKLEY: Yes, it's very helpful to actually see people speaking and listen to them and their voice, see their facial expressions, very different than just reading about it on a piece of paper. And I must say I'm not yet optimistic that we will get the witnesses and documents to make this a full, fair trial.

I listened to a couple of my colleagues during one of the break and they were speaking to cameras saying, well, we don't see why we need witnesses. The House says they had a strong case. That's good enough for us. We'll just listen to what the House managers say and make a decision. I hope -- I really hope my colleagues across the aisle join together to fight for the vision of a full and fair trial with documents, with witnesses.

COOPER: Do you think -- I mean, it will take, what, four Republicans. Do you think there are four Republicans who would push for any kind of witness?

MERKLEY: I think there's far more than four who are thinking about it. But I also know that they're going to get a tremendous amount of pressure from the president's team and from McConnell to shut this down and not put witnesses or documents before the body.

COOPER: There's going to be two more days for Democrats to make their case and then the president's attorneys will make theirs. Jay Sekulow, one of the attorneys for the president, previewed part of their defense today saying, quote, "Notice what's not in the articles of impeachment, allegations or accusations of quid pro quo. That's because they didn't exist." To that, what do you say?

MERKLEY: Well, a couple of things. Every piece of evidence from every direction points towards a quid pro quo, and that is that both a meeting with the president, our President Trump, was held up and aid was held up in exchange for creating pressure for the new president of Ukraine to announce investigations into the Bidens and into the 2016 election to see if Ukraine played any role in that.

That just comes out in every possible way. In at least three cases, you have people who are very close to the president. We have Mulvaney, who spoke in open to the press, saying there was a quid pro quo. And we have Sondland, who was speaking to the president then immediately spoke with other people about how the president created or spoke to this.

And then we have certainly others who were in that inner circle who were a pace or two removed, but also had kind of this understanding, this high understanding of the arrangement.

COOPER: Senator Merkley, thank you.

MERKLEY: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Ahead, President Trump returns from abroad after talking about what he's withholding from the impeachment trial. We'll have a live report from the White House, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:35:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Shortly after day two, the impeachment trial ended. Remember, President Trump's legal team, Jay Sekulow, spoke with reporters and had this to say whether their side would use the full 24 hours over three days allotted to them in defense of the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY SEKULOW, OUTSIDE LEGAL COUNSEL FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: At this point, here's what I believe is going to happen. They're going to -- it looks like they're going to spend tomorrow and Friday. And then I suspect we'll start on Saturday, and then we'll go probably another day or two. But who knows? We got to make that determination with our team.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Let's turn now for more to Kaitlan Collins, who is at the White House. So, the president's comments this morning, bragging about having the documents the Democrats want. One would think his lawyers would not be all that happy about that.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, and they were asked about it earlier, Anderson, to clarify what was the president talking about when he said that. And they did not answer that question. Instead, they ignored it, moved on and took another question.

And some White House officials have been arguing, no, the president was talking about the strength of their argument because if you look at the context surrounding that quote, he had been talking about releasing the transcript of his call with the Ukrainian leader, that call from July that started all of this.

But even if that is what the president meant, it was a curious comment for him to make because you've seen multiple Democrats take the president's remark and amplify it and say that he is boasting about withholding information from Congress.

Of course, the reason that would be so questionable is this is a time when they are trying to convince these moderate Republicans to vote to admit more evidence into the record so then when they are moving forward, they have access to those documents.

So the question, if that's going to affect anyone's argument, though, is still something that remains to be seen.

COOPER: He said we have all the material. Hard to see how --

COLLINS: They don't have the material.

COOPER: Yeah, they don't have the material. I don't know how that's an argument. I mean, that sounds like they don't have the material, which are the documents. Anyway, do we know -- it seems impossible to believe that the president has not been watching a lot of this. He's certainly been very active on social media. I think it set a one-day record for him.

COLLINS: Yeah, he tweeted more today than he has ever in his presidency. That includes re-tweets as well. The president was on that very lengthy flight back from Switzerland to Washington where he arrived back here at the White House just a few hours ago.

[23:40:03]

COLLINS: And, of course, he has made no secret that he was watching while he was meeting with those world leaders in between those meetings. We are told he has been keeping an eye on this today. He's also been evaluating his team, how they were doing yesterday during those debates back and forth.

And he's also been on the phone with a lot of Republicans, talking to them about what's going on. And I'm told he's itching for his team to get out there and to make his argument. Though, of course, Democrats use all of their time. They're not going to be able to do that until Saturday at the earliest.

COOPER: His Gogo inflight bill must be huge.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: At least his works. Jay Sekulow, part of the president's legal team, spoke today about the possibility of calling witnesses. What did he say about that?

COLLINS: Yeah, he did. He said that essentially they don't think they're going to get to that, but they are preparing for that contingency. Manu has laid out, of course, on the hill that there are still a lot of questions about how many Republicans are going to get to that if they do, because they don't think it would just be the 51.

They think that there would be several more than that because no one wants to be the 51st vote to bring this in. Though Jay Sekulow said they are essentially preparing for all of these contingencies, but Anderson, you can't really prepare for someone like John Bolton because the White House has made clear behind the scenes they do not know what it is he would say if he did come forward.

COOPER: Fascinating. Kaitlan Collins, thanks very much. We are joined once again by our political and legal team. Mike, do you -- what do you think Jay Sekulow -- what do you think the president's team is going to do? Will they use all three days? I mean, if they were concerned about getting this, pushing this to the state of the union, there is an argument to be made that they would want to keep it short.

SHIELDS: I'm not a lawyer, but it seems that the defense job is to get the jury to acquit him. And if they think the jury is going to acquit him, it's a done deal, why would you say anything else? I think that would be true in a lot of court rooms.

And so just like, you know, you pointed out a lot of things, sound like talking points. If those talking points are what are going to work to acquit him, they need to keep saying the talking points. The jury is those Republicans in the Senate. That's who is going to vote on this. And so they're going to make a decision.

I'm guessing based upon that, with a little sprinkle of whether or not the president wants them to do it next week and get all of that stuff put out politically on television.

COOPER: David, just making the -- making the arguments in a variety of different ways, Alan Dershowitz say doing it on constitutional grounds, it does give any senator who wants ammunition to use to vote the way they want to vote, it gives them ammunition.

GERGEN: Absolutely, absolutely. I -- Because the Republicans have gone at this in such a different way than the Democrats, the Democrats have been arguing the facts and the evidence, and the Republicans aren't contesting them on the facts. They are actually making the arguments you were sloppy, you came here unprepared, it's a thin case, et cetera, et cetera.

I don't know how they can fill 24 hours on the Republican side unless they take into account the facts and work their way through it. I'm not sure they're prepared to do that. I think there is a good chance they'll cut it short and see if they can jamb it through on the witness thing and go home.

You know, there are a lot of Republicans who think this is a farce, this should never be happening. Just take that argument and go. They're going to pay a price. They're going to pay a price.

COOPER: Elliot, if you are arguing the Republicans' case, would you -- would you actually argue the case?

WILLIAMS: No, that's absolutely at number one, they want to get it over by the state of the union. I don't know that they do, but that seems to be the prevailing consensus number one. And number two, it's clear that they don't want to make the legal case or engage on the facts.

Number one, because they made the case that they think that what the president did was perfectly lawful. And number two, this is what defense attorneys do sometimes, which is confuse and obfuscate, essentially trick the jury into not following the facts and the law, which here clearly -- look, the president today committed -- copped to an act of obstruction. He essentially admitted it.

And regardless of whether the fact that he was joking or he was, you know, making a half truth or whatever, that would be admitted as evidence if this were a normal proceeding. And so it is to their advantage to not take that on directly and just, like I said yesterday on the show, wave their hands and scream.

GOLODRYGA: And if yesterday was any indication, they did not use all of their time yesterday either. And if this were behind closed doors, maybe it could work better for other Republicans to go along with.

But given the fact that this is playing out in a national landscape and given that some of the evidence, a lot of the evidence presented from the Democrats is so damning, to hear a shortened rebuttal from the Republicans, especially given that the president is not giving them any wiggle room at all.

COOPER: Seemed that given what we know about how all this works is that just a lot of it is going to depend on what the president wants. I mean, if the president has watched this after three days, the democrats, and is -- you know, wants a spirited defense, they will -- I would imagine, they would give him a spirited defense.

GERGEN: He wants to shut it down.

POWERS: I think they already gave him a spirited defense. I think that's what they're doing. It's a lot of bombast really. But it's not substantive. And so I don't think there is any way they can really rebut the substance, which is why they go back to what I keep calling the talking points, which are the same things. It's always turning away to something else rather than actually saying that didn't happen.

[23:45:00]

COOPER: Mm-hmm.

POWERS: What you have alleged didn't happen or, you know, I have some piece of information that's somehow going to exonerate the president. They don't do that.

COOPER: We got to take a break. Thanks, everybody. Up next, more perspective on the history being made right now from a veteran of the Clinton impeachment trial, Paul Begala, and a veteran of Richard Nixon's near impeachment, John Dean.

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COOPER: The opening arguments we've been watching, of course, are historic.

[23:49:58]

COOPER: This is only the third time, you know, in the nation's history alongside Andrew Johnson in 1860s and Bill Clinton in the late '90s that a president has been impeached.

We are going to get some perspective now from Paul Begala, CNN political commentator and a former top aide of President Clinton who has a front row seat during his boss's trial, and John Dean, a CNN contributor and former counsel to President Nixon who resigned before his likely impeachment. John Dean testified as a whistleblower in Watergate.

Paul, just in terms of how this is different from President Clinton, all the witnesses that the House managers have wanted, they had already been interviewed.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Right, and yet we still -- we wouldn't want any more witnesses because everyone had been deposed, interviewed by the FBI in front of the grand jury. Mr. Starr was so thorough. He interviewed window washers, hair dressers, dentists, mail carriers. So the record was as complete as it could be.

And yet we had to accept three witnesses. Ms. Lewinsky, obviously, Vernon Jordan, close friend of the president, Sidney Blumenthal, one of his top aides. This time around, there's a really limited first- person, first-hand evidence, and it's really striking. We've never had an impeachment trial in history with no witnesses.

Right now, it looks like that's where we're going. I think that the House managers are doing a terrific job at putting on a case with what they have.

COOPER: What was the argument that was made to have those three witnesses?

BEGALA: Back then?

COOPER: Yeah.

BEGALA: It was that we can't have a trial without witnesses. Of course, our argument was you've already have them, the record is there. But they had already been interviewed, absolutely, in front of the grand jury under oath. As a friend of Vernon and Sid, I was worried that it was a perjury trap. But it wasn't. They didn't perjure themselves.

I think, in fact, Monica Lewinsky was a tremendously sympathetic witness. She had been abused, I think, by Starr and his folks. I don't think that the House managers who deposed her were sufficiently respectful. So I think it kind of blew up in their face.

I don't think you have the same issue here because we don't have the testimony from first-hand witnesses, which we did. My goodness, it was about an affair. We had testimony of both the people who had the affair. So it's kind of exhaustive. And then everyone is mail carrier and dentist.

COOPER: The Republicans during the Nixon, during the whole Watergate, they were pretty unified up until a certain point.

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: They were with him throughout the hearings.

COOPER: Throughout the Watergate hearings.

DEAN: Throughout -- certainly when the Senate was holding the Senate Watergate hearings, the House Republicans were solid. The Republicans in the Senate were solid. Notwithstanding the image that Howard Baker tried to give, he actually had a foot (ph) in both camps. He was fighting for Nixon behind closed doors and publicly being very amenable to all this information, what have you.

In the House, they were very solidly for Nixon. The moderates were the first to peel off. Actually, Larry Hogan, whose son is now governor of Maryland, his father was the first to peel off and say I think that this man should be impeached.

COOPER: They were under the same sorts of pressures that Republicans today --

DEAN: Very similar, very similar. And what really happens in the end is Nixon had pulled so many of them aside, particularly in the Senate, and looked them in the eye and said, listen, I knew nothing about Watergate, about the cover-up until John Dean, my counsel, came in and told me on March 21st. It was the first I learned. It was an outrageous lie and the tapes later proved how enormous the lie was.

COOPER: So the fact that he had lied to them to their face.

DEAN: To their face, and that's really when he lost the Senate.

COOPER: It's interesting, Paul. These senators are not unfamiliar with the fact that the president has lied --

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: -- whether he publicly admitted it or not.

BEGALA: Maybe it's the bed of nails phenomenon where there is one nail and you said, honey, you're in trouble, but if there every quarter an inch she can lay down on it. Maybe he just told so many lies that even his compatriots in the Republican Party are inured to it.

But this is not simply about lying. This is an accusation, I think, proved, but I'm a Democrat, that the president subordinated national security to solicit a bribe. It's really quite extraordinary. Really, if you step back, and I think Adam Schiff today was magnificent in taking us back and showing us just how important this is and how even without the direct witnesses, how damning the evidence is.

DEAN: And how the large the scheme was. We really saw it today.

COOPER: We also -- we've been focusing so much on witnesses, is John Bolton going to be called in, blah, blah, blah, which is obviously important, but the documents are, you know, are very important as well, which have not been turned over.

The president bragged about that today saying he has all the -- you know, we have all the material, meaning he has all the material, the White House has because they haven't turned over any. It's very different again from the Clinton impeachment.

BEGALA: Ninety thousand pages we produced, 90,000. Mr. Trump and his White House produced zero. I worked in the White House, so did John. I believe in executive privilege.

[23:55:00]

BEGALA: The president has to have the right to talk to aides confidentially. This goes back to George Washington, who first asserted it when John Jay negotiated treaty with Britain. Congress wanted to investigate. He said no.

But when he established it, when he did, Washington said, of course, this doesn't count in impeachment, because if you can use executive privilege to block everything out of an impeachment inquiry, then there is no such thing as an impeachment inquiry. Washington was right. Trump is wrong. I happen to think Washington is a better president than Donald Trump, but, you know.

COOPER: We got to leave it there. John Dean and Paul Begala, thanks very much. We'll be right back.

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COOPER: And the news continues. Let's turn things over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME."

Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. I am Chris Cuomo.