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GOP Uses Executive Privilege Threat As Rallying Cry Against Subpoenas; Soon: House Managers Resume Presenting Case Against Trump; Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Is Interviewed About The Impeachment Trial. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 23, 2020 - 18:00   ET




MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: You know if could. I mean I'm -- I'm sure there are limits and I understand there were a lot of discussions in the Ukrainian government about all of this. But -- but yes. I mean we are an important relationship on the security side and on the political side.

And so the president of Ukraine, one of the most important functions that individual has is to make sure the relationship with the U.S. is rock solid.


JEFFRIES: But it isn't just the relationship itself. It was a public meeting in the White House that would show U.S. support for Ukraine. A meeting with the president of the United States in the Oval Office is one of the most forceful diplomatic signals of support that the United States can send. Veteran diplomat, George Kent testified to this.


KENT: New leaders, particularly countries that are trying to have good footing in the international arena see a meeting with the U.S. president in the Oval Office at the White House as a -- as the ultimate sign of endorsement and support from the United States.


JEFFRIES: President Zelensky was a newly elected leader. He was swept into office on a pledge to end pervasive corruption. He also had a mandate to negotiate an end to the war with Russia.

To achieve both goals he needed strong U.S. support, particularly from President Trump, which Zelensky sought in the form of a White House meeting. David Holmes, political counselor to the embassy in Kiev, described the particular importance of a White House visit to Ukraine in the context of its war with Russia.


HOLMES: It is important to understand that a White House visit was critical to President Zelensky. President Zelensky needed to show U.S. support at the highest levels in order to demonstrate to Russian President Putin that he had U.S. backing as well as to advance his ambitious anti-corruption reform agenda at home.


JEFFRIES: In other words, Ukraine knew that Russia was watching carefully. That was particularly true in the spring of 2019 when Donald Trump launched the scheme at the center of the abuse of power charge.

During this time period, Vladimir Putin was preparing for peace negotiations with the new Ukrainian leader. Putin could choose to escalate or he could choose to de-escalate Russian aggression. And influencing his decision was an assessment of whether President Trump had Ukraine's back.


TAYLOR: The Russians, as I said at my deposition would love to see the humiliation of President Zelensky at the hands of the Americans.


JEFFRIES: An Oval Office meeting would have sent a strong signal of support that President Trump had Ukraine's back. The absents of such a meeting could be devastating.

Indeed, Ukraine made very clear to the United States just how important a White House meeting between the two heads of state was for its fragile democracy.

At the deposition as the one on the screen reveals of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the director for Ukraine on the National Security Council, he recalled that following President Zelensky's inauguration, at every single meeting with Ukrainian officials, they asked their American counterparts about the status of an Oval Office meeting between the two presidents.

Initially the Ukrainians had reason to be optimistic that a White House meeting would be promptly scheduled. On April 21st, during President Zelensky's first call with President Trump, the new Ukrainian leaders asked about a White House visit three times.


As part of that brief congratulatory call, President Trump himself did extend an invitation. Ukraine's dependence on the United States and its desperate need for a White House meeting created an unequal power dynamic between the two presidents.

As Lieutenant Colonel Vindman testified, it is that unequal power dynamic that turned any subsequent request for a favor from the president into a demand.


SCHIFF: Now, Colonel, you -- you've described this as a demand, this favor that the president ask. What is it about the relationship between the president of the United States and the president of Ukraine that leads you to conclude that when the president of the United States ask a favor like this, it's really a demand?

VINDMAN: Chairman, the culture I come from, the military culture, when a senior asks you to do something even if it's polite and pleasant; it's not to be taken as a request, it's to be taken as an order.

In this case, the power disparity between the two leaders, my impression is that in order to get the White House meeting, President Zelensky would have to deliver these investigations.


JEFFRIES: Ambassador Gordon Sondland, Trump appointee, also acknowledged the importance of this power disparity and how it made President Zelensky eager to satisfy President Trump's wishes.


UNKNOWN: Holmes then said that he heard President Trump ask, quote, is he, meaning Zelensky, going to do the investigation. To which you replied he's going to do it. And then you added that President Zelensky will do anything that you, meaning President Trump, ask him to. Do you recall that?

SONDLAND: I probably said something to that effect because I remember the meeting the president -- or President Zelensky was very -- solicitous is not a good word. He was just very willing to work with the United States and was being very amicable. And so putting it in Trump speak, by saying "he loves your ass, he'll do whatever you want" meant that he would really work with us on a whole host of issues.

(UNKNOWN): He was not only willing, he was very eager, right?

SONDLAND: That's fair.

(UNKNOWN): Cause Ukraine depends on the United States as its most significant ally. Isn't that correct?

SONDLAND: One of its most, absolutely.


JEFFRIES: In other words, any request President Trump made to Ukraine would be difficult to refuse. So when President Trump asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden as well as the wild conspiracy theory about the 2016 election, those were absolutely interpreted by President Zelensky and his staff as a demand.

And that is where the White House meeting enters into the equation. When Ukraine did not immediately cave to Rudy Giuliani in the spring and announced the phony investigations, President Trump ratcheted up the pressure. As leverage, he chose the White House meeting he dangled during his April 21st call, precisely because President Trump knew how important the meeting was to Ukraine.

Following their visit to Kiev for the new Ukrainian leader's inauguration, Ambassador Sondland, Ambassador Volker and Secretary Perry met with President Trump and each of them encouraged the President to schedule the meeting.

Here is what Ambassador Sondland had to say.


SONDLAND: We advised the President of the strategic importance of Ukraine and the value of strengthening the relationship with President Zelensky. To support this reformer, we asked the White House for two things.

First, a working phone call between presidents Trump and Zelensky, and second, a working Oval Office visit. In our view, both were vital to cementing the U.S.-Ukraine relationship, demonstrating support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression and advancing broader U.S. foreign policy interests.



JEFFRIES: So even though this meeting was critical to both Ukraine and America, President Trump ignored all of his policy advisors and expressed reluctance to meet with the new Ukrainian president. He refused to schedule an actual date. He claimed that "Ukraine tried to take me down in 2016" and directed that the three U.S. officials quote "talk to Rudy."

And even though on May 29th the President signed the letter reiterating his earlier invitation for President Zelensky to visit the White House, he still did not specify a date. But then President Trump went further. He met with Ukraine's adversary, Ukraine's enemy, our enemy. President Trump met with Russia.

This didn't go unnoticed. Ukrainian officials became concerned when President Trump scheduled that face-to-face meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Japan on June 28th. Mr. Holmes testified on this particular point and the troubling signal that meeting sent to our friend, to our ally, Ukraine.


HOLMES: Also on June 28th, while President Trump was still not moving forward on a meeting with President Zelensky, we met with - he met with Russian President Putin at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, sending a further signal of lack of support to Ukraine.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JEFFRIES: Now let's discuss exactly how President Trump used the withholding of the White House meeting to pressure Ukraine for his phony investigations, his quid pro quo scheme. It's important to understand that the pressure exerted on Ukraine by delaying the White House meeting didn't just occur right before the July 25th call. That pressure existed during the entire scheme and it continues to this day.

We know this from the efforts of administration officials to secure the meeting and from the Ukrainians continuously trying to lock down a date. For example, even after President Trump expressed reluctance about Ukraine on May 23rd, his administration officials continued working to secure a White House meeting.

On July 10th, for instance, they raised it again when Mr. Yermak and Ukraine's National Security Advisor met with John Bolton at the White House.


HILL: And then we knew that the Ukrainians would have on their agenda inevitably the question about a meeting. And so as we get through the main discussion, we're going into that wrap up phase. The Ukrainians - Mr. Danyluk starts to ask about a White House meeting and Ambassador Bolton was trying to parry this back.


JEFFRIES: As you've seen, President Zelensky didn't just raise the Oval Office meeting on his April 21st call, he raised the meeting on July 21st, fifth call with President Trump, again. President Zelensky said on the July 25th call "I also wanted to thank you for your invitation to visit the United States, specifically Washington DC."

After the July 25th call, the Ukrainians continued to press for the meeting but that meeting never happened. Only on September 25th, after the House announced its investigation into the President's misconduct as it relates to Ukraine and the existence of a whistleblower complaint became public did President Trump and President Zelensky meet face-to-face for the first time.

That meeting was on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. It was dominated by public release of the July 25th call record that had occurred the day before. It was a far cry from the strong demonstration of support that would have been achieved by an Oval Office meeting.


Even President Zelensky recognized that a face-to-face talk on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly was not the same as an official Oval Office meeting. Sitting next to President Trump in New York, he again raised a White House meeting.

Here is what President Zelensky said.


ZELENSKY: And I want to thank you for invitation to Washington, you invited me. But I think -- I'm sorry, but I think you forgot to tell me the date.


But I think you maybe are (inaudible)...


JEFFRIES: President Trump was not just withholding a small thing. The Oval Office meeting was a big deal.

Ukraine remains at war with Russia. It desperately needs our support. And as a result, the pressure on Ukraine not to upset President Trump, who still refuses to meet with President Zelensky in the Oval Office, to this day, continues.

David Holmes testified that the Ukrainian government wants an Oval Office meeting, even after the release of the security assistance, and that our own United States national security objectives would also benefit from such a meeting.


HOLMES: Although the hold on the security assistance may have been lifted, there were still things they wanted that they weren't getting, including a meeting with the president in the Oval Office.

Whether the hold -- the security assistance hold continued or not, Ukrainians understood that that's something the president wanted, and they still wanted important things from the president. So -- and I think that continues to this day. I think they're being very careful. They still need us, now, going forward.

In fact, right now, President Zelensky is trying to arrange a summit meeting with President Putin in the coming weeks, to -- his first face-to-face meeting with him to try to advance the peace process. He needs our support. He needs -- he needs President Putin to understand that America supports Zelensky at the highest levels.

So they're -- this is -- this is -- this doesn't end with the lifting of the security assistance hold. Ukraine still needs us, and as I said, still fight this war to this very day.


JEFFRIES: Now, let's evaluate how exactly President Trump made clear to Ukraine that a White House meeting was conditioned on Ukraine announcing two phony political investigations that would help with President Trump's re-election in 2020, help him cheat and corrupt our democracy.

By the end of May, it was clear that President Trump's pressure campaign to solicit foreign election interference wasn't working. President Zelensky had been elected, and was rebuffing Mr. Giuliani's overtures. Even when President Trump directed his official staff to work with Mr. Giuliani, in an effort to get President Zelensky to announce the two phony political investigations, that didn't work.

So President Trump apparently realized that he had to increase the pressure. That's when he explicitly made clear to Ukraine that it would not get the desperately sought-after Oval Office meeting unless President Zelensky publicly announced the phony investigations that President Trump sought.

On July 2nd, 2019, Ambassador Volker personally communicated the need for investigations directly to President Zelensky during a meeting in Toronto.


VOLKER: After weeks of reassuring the Ukrainians that it was just a scheduling issue, I decided to tell President Zelensky that we had a problem with the information reaching President Trump from Mayor Giuliani. I did so in a bilateral meeting at a conference on Ukrainian economic reform in Toronto on July 2nd, 2019, where I led the U.S. delegation.

I suggested that he call President Trump directly in order to renew their personal relationship, and to assure President Trump that he was committed to investigating and fighting corruption, things on which President Zelensky had based his presidential campaign. I was convinced that getting the two presidents to talk with each other would overcome the negative perception of Ukraine that President Trump still harbored.



JEFFRIES: After Ambassador Volker instructed President Zelensky in Toronto on what to do, he updated Ambassador Taylor on his actions. He told Ambassador Taylor that he had counseled the Ukrainian president on how to, quote, "prepare for the phone call with President Trump." He also told Ambassador Taylor that he advised Zelensky that President Trump would like to hear about the investigations.

In addition to Ambassador Volker's direct outreach to President Zelensky, Ambassador Sondland continued to apply pressure as well, during two White House meetings that took place on July 10th with Ukrainian officials.

The first meeting included National Security Advisor John Bolton, Dr. Fiona Hill, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, Secretary Rick Perry, Ambassador Volker as well as Bolton's Ukrainian counterpart and Ukrainian presidential aide, Andriy Yermak.

After a discussion on Ukraine's national security reform plans, Ambassador Sondland wrote the subject of the phony political investigations. Fiona Hill, who attended the meeting, recalled that Ambassador Sondland blurted out the following in that meeting with the Ukrainians.

"Well, we have an agreement with the chief of staff for a meeting if these investigations in the energy sector start." That's code for Burisma, which is code for the Bidens.

Ambassador Volker also recalled that Ambassador Sondland raised the issue of the 2016 election and Burisma investigations. Ambassador Volker found Ambassador Sondland's comments in that meeting to be inappropriate.


VOLKER: I participated in the July 10th meeting between National Security Advisor Bolton and then-Ukrainian Chairman of the National Security and Defense Counsel Alex Danyluk.

As I remember, the meeting was essentially over when Ambassador Sondland made a general comment about investigations. I think all of us thought it was inappropriate.


JEFFRIES: The exchange underscores that by early July, President Trump's demands for investigations had come to totally dominate almost every aspect of U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine. Securing a Ukrainian commitment to do the investigations was a major priority of senior U.S. diplomats as directed by President Donald John Trump.

The July 10th meetings also confirmed that the scheme to pressure Ukraine into opening investigations was not a rogue operation but one blessed by senior administration officials at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. As Ambassador Sondland testified, everyone was in the loop.

Mr. Majority Leader, based on the statement that we should break at around 6:30, I ask your indulgence, this may be a natural breaking point in connection with my presentation. Thank you.

J. ROBERTS: Mr. Majority Leader.

MCCONNELL: I ask consent that we have a break for 30 minutes.

J. ROBERTS: Without objection, so ordered.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: -- vote you have is going to be essentially wasted because this is going to be stretched out for months and months.


Former Congressman Mike Rogers, do you think that might an effective argument for Republican senators, hold the line, we're going to keep fighting this no matter what, you're not going to get new evidence and you're not going to get new witnesses even if you vote to subpoena us? MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: I thought they laid out a really good case actually today. I thought they were much better than they have been in the last couple of days, he managers of the House impeachment.

TAPPER: How so? Why do you think so?

ROGERS: Because I think they were -- they told you where they were going to go and then they laid out evidence to me in a more -- at least it was easier to follow. I thought the last few days were really hard the follow.

So given that, I think that the Senators are going to argue, hey, you laid out a great case, you presented witnesses via video, you've pretty much said everything you're going to say and all the evidence that you collected and we agree with you, it's too difficult to go through the courts to get this other information. I think that's what they're going to say.


ROGERS: Yes, exactly. I think that's exactly where the Senate is going to go. And they may have case on that. I mean, would you have loved to hear other witnesses? Probably. I think a lot of them would. But I agree with them, going another two months and, by the way, these witnesses are going to say the same things that they have gotten other written information and other confirmation. I do think it's going to extend this thing beyond what I think the American public is going find.

BORGER: I don't know whether they can make that argument on John Bolton because Bolton has already said, I'm willing to testify if you subpoena me, so no argument here and I'm not going to do that. The president may say, well, we're going to claim some privilege on certain things but John Bolton is a private citizen right now. He doesn't work in the government anymore.

So I think that it might hang okay for some of the others. But like Mick Mulvaney, who is in the White House, but I don't know about --

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: But he says he will testify if he's subpoenaed. In order for him to be subpoenaed, you need 51 votes. You need four Republicans to support that, which could be rather problematic.

BORGER: Right, that's what I'm saying. So maybe you could get those votes just on one person, and that might be Bolton.

I just want to add to what you were saying. I thought they were more organized today. And I think it was a preemptive defense. They went through everything in a preemptive way because they know that when they are done for those next three days, they're going to get the attacks on Biden, on whether impeachment requires criminality, on conspiracy theories, and they raised Rudy Giuliani, so they're forcing the Republicans to talk about him.

BLITZER: All right Dana Bash is up on Capitol Hill with a special guest, Senator Elizabeth Warren. Go ahead, Dana.


Senator Warren, thank you so much for joining me.

First of all, what is your takeaway from the presentations you heard so far?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So I think the presentations are just overwhelming. I mean, it's really just walks us through step by step by step the corruption of Donald Trump and his entire Trump administration, a whole notion that government is there just to serve the personal interest of the president of the United States and his buddies. It's really appalling.

BASH: So as part of that presentation earlier today, we heard a lot of talk about Joe Biden.

WARREN: Yes, we did.

BASH: And specifically House Democrats arguing that the reason the president abused his power and asked Ukraine to investigate Biden is because Joe Biden was doing well in the polls and the polls showed that Biden would beat Donald Trump. Are you worried about that since that's a key argument that Joe Biden is making out on the campaign trail that he is the guy who can beat Trump?

WARREN: No, I don't think of this in terms of the politics. I think that in terms of -- I think the way this argument was framed was to say so long as Donald Trump didn't see Joe Biden in the presidential race, then he didn't care about an investigation in Ukraine. In other words, he was not interested in corruption for its own sake, whatever kind of corruption might be going on in Ukraine.

But the minute Joe Biden appeared to pose a political threat, then, all of a sudden, Donald Trump is in it and he's deploying Rudy Giuliani and he's deploying his bought and paid for ambassador and he's trying to pull all the levers of power to get this country, Ukraine, that depends deeply on the United States for assistance to bend to his will for his own political favor.

And that's why I say, it's corruption. The word just over and over and over is in the testimony but it's the overall structure.

BASH: And I understand that you're saying it's not about politics and you are doing your constitutional duty, as are the other senators running for president. But what's it like to sit there and listen to the Democrats talk about Joe Biden so much as part of this impeachment trial?


Is there a little bit of frustration?

WARREN: No, no. Look, it is my responsibility to be here. I know what's going on right now back in Iowa, and that is that this grass roots movement that I've spent over year building is active. And so people have really said if you've got to be pinned down in Washington for the impeachment, and that's where you should be, then we're just going to redouble our efforts.

So people in Iowa, across the country have gone to, they've pitched in five bucks, they've offered to do phone calls, they've done door-knocking, I've got people who are there who are speaking on my behalf. Julian Castro has been around the state today and more people are coming in this weekend. It is the reminder it's not just my fight, it's our fight together.

BASH: I want to ask you about some new reporting from my colleague, Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb, about some of the sort of talking that's going on behind the scenes among Republican senators about the notion of voting to subpoena witnesses. And what some of them are saying is that, well, wait a minute, if we subpoena witnesses like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney, the White House, the president is going to claim executive privilege and that means there's going to be an extended and protracted fight which will make this impeachment trial go on longer. Is that something that's in your mind?

WARREN: Not really. What's in my mind is I don't know how you have a trial without witnesses and without documents. This is supposed to be fair trial. This is the constitutional responsibility of the Senate to hold a trial. And think about what that would mean. If it means that the president of the United States, the one who is on trial for impeachment, can just decide to throw up roadblocks, and that means it becomes too hard for the Senate to hold a trial, then the Senate will give up and go home, that violates every principle of the Constitution.

BASH: So it's a fight you're willing to have even it goes past --

WARREN: Absolutely.

BASH: -- the Iowa caucuses --

WARREN: It's what we have to do.

And remember the position the Republicans are in today. The Republicans walked out, and I heard two or three of them saying, I heard nothing new. Well, then let's call the witnesses and let's get the documents. You want to hear something new, bring in the evidence. That's what fair trials are all about.

BASH: Have you heard anything new?

WARREN: Watching it all lined up, there are parts of it. The reminder of just how hard this squeeze was on Ukraine and why that meeting in the White House was so important. This was the testimony -- not testimony, this was how Hakeem Jeffries, Congressman Jeffries, put it all together.

It really is the reminder of the United States has the whip hand with a country like Ukraine and Donald Trump was willing to exercise that not for the benefit of the United States, not for the benefit of Ukraine, not for the benefit of our allies who are in active battle with the Russians but instead just use it for his own personal benefit.

That's why I say it goes back to corruption. It's going to be the number one issue in the 2020 election and it's what I'm going to beat Donald Trump on.

BASH: You mentioned Republicans saying there's nothing new. Is there anything that can be done that the House managers can say that could change enough minds? Maybe not to convict the president but even to get the witnesses that you see are necessary?

WARREN: I think the Republicans have worked themselves into this corner of nothing new on one side but we're not going to call any new witnesses or get any new evidence. Like I say, you can't have it both ways. If you really want to hear what happened, call the witnesses and bring in the documents.

And I think what the House managers are doing such good job of is they are showing the evidence is there to convict him. But if you really want all of it, then bring Bolton in. Bolton has already said he's ready to testify. Bring in those documents that the White House is hiding or redacting. Bring in the information, let's get it out there in front of everyone and then you've got a fair trial and then people can vote.

BASH: Okay. Last question, you were drinking milk in there?

WARREN: I was.

BASH: I'm going the out you. You were having some yogurt.

WARREN: It's yogurt milk.

BASH: Okay.

WARREN: It's like the buttermilk I grew up on.

BASH: Okay. Thank you, Senator, I appreciate it.

WARREN: Good to see you.

BASH: Jake, back to you.

TAPPER: All right. Dana Bash, thank you so much with Senator Elizabeth Warren.

And let's bring what the senator just said back to the discussion we were having.

Jamie, you heard Senator Warren there saying, if you want new information, to her Republican senator friends, if you want new information, you're complaining that everything is old news, let's have witnesses, let's have subpoenas. And Manu Raju, before that, was reporting the White House is sending this threat, in a way, to Republican senators saying, we're going to claim executive privilege on everything whether you subpoena witnesses or new evidence, new documents.


So this idea that you're going to vote next week for all this new material and all these new witnesses, like we're going to fight that in courts, that could take months and months and months. What do you think?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that threat is another political talking point to give the Republican senators another desk to hide under. I think that Mitch McConnell has his votes. I think he has his hall passes. I think what we heard from Senator Murkowski today saying, well, I don't know, I think that tells you which way she's going to go on the vote.

I think Susan Collins has indicated not once but twice now that she is likely to vote for witnesses and documents. She is the one in the most vulnerable seat. She needs the cover.

But I do want to say what Senator Warren just said about the reminder from the testimony we saw today, I think is so correct. It is so compelling to hear that again, to hear Gordon Sondland, to hearAmbassador Yovanovitch and also to hear Donald Trump's own words. I think the Democratic managers, the smartest thing they did today was putting Donald Trump front and center.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: And putting Rudy Giuliani front and center as well, his words, his peddling of these conspiracy theories. It seemed like today, I would agree with both of you, was much more organized and it also seemed much more tailored to those Republicans that we are talking so much about, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski.

And one of the things they did was they used sort of establishment Republicans to rebut Donald Trump and to rebut Giuliani. So they had like Christopher Wray, they had Tom Bossert, they had Ronald Reagan sitting there with Margaret Thatcher. And so there was this comparison between sort of establishment Republicans, whose side are you on, their side or the side of Giuliani, in Lev Parnas, in Putin. So I thought it was a very interesting way they sort of drew these comparisons.

And I think for these establishment Republican, it's sort of like question, do you want to be with Rudy Giuliani or do you want to be with these other folks.

GANGEL: And can we just say every day, if John Bolton wants to speak, he can speak.

BLITZER: He can come on CNN and speak for two or three hours if he wants.

GANGEL: If he doesn't want to do an interview, he can write an op-ed. There is a very easy way for him to get his information out. TAPPTER: Well, what do you make of this argument from the White House, don't vote for new witnesses, Republicans, don't vote for new documents, because we are going to be fighting this in court, we're going to be claiming executive privilege and you're going to have months' long legal battle on your hands and you're going to stretch impeachment out much longer than you wanted.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The Senate, as an institution, should really be offended by that argument because it's so interesting. Jamie, you might be right that the votes are there and they're not going to vote for the witnesses.

But the fact that the president is reportedly threatening that he is going to just challenge every single subpoena that the Senate might issue, like if they actually voted, he's saying that he's going to challenge all of them, that is the subject of the second article of impeachment, that he has obstructed the investigation, that he's obstructing Congress. So, really, his threats play into the House managers' arguments that they're going to make tomorrow on obstruction.

BORGER: Could it backfire? That's the question. Could the threat backfire?

GANGEL: But this is Donald Trump. What do we know about him pre-the White House? He is litigious. He likes these court battles. He is never going to back down. He hasn't thus far. And maybe one of the most compelling arguments we heard today was if he is not removed from office, he's going to do this over and over again.

BLITZER: If there are no witnesses that are allowed to testify, no new documents, this trial will end sometime next week, if there are witnesses, and even in the White House doesn't challenge, this trial will go on at least for a few more weeks.

TAPPER: And you're going to continue to hear Democrats make the argument, if the president did nothing wrong, why is he blocking witnesses? Why is he blocking all this material? And it's a question I have not heard a good answer for.

BLITZER: That's a good question, indeed.

All right, everybody stand by, there's a lot more we're following on all of the breaking news, another historic day here in the nation's capitol. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: All right. Joining us now, the Senate minority leader, the top Democrat, Senator Chuck Schumer.

Mr. Leader, thanks so much for joining us.

The news that we're reporting now, Republicans say you could drag this trial on for weeks, if not months by issuing subpoenas for people like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney. They think it was the House's job to fight that battle in court.

Could that argument, do you believe, persuade Republicans not to vote for witnesses?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Well, Wolf, that's sort of they're blaming themselves. We asked to do witnesses. We asked to do documents at the very beginning of the trial.

And what did Mitch McConnell tell all the Republicans. Let's hear all the arguments first, what we're hearing today and tomorrow, and then we'll decide on witnesses. We wanted to do them first.


But let me say, if the trial has to go on, a little longer and it wouldn't be weeks and weeks and weeks, to have a fair trial, to have witnesses and documents is of paramount importance.

And these senators can work a little longer. They can work a bit longer hours. They can work on weekends.

This is one of the most serious responsibilities the Constitution has given us. And to not have a fair trial, to have no evidence of the people who actually saw what happened because the president is blocking it and McConnell is blocking it is wrong.

Now, I am hopeful, given what we've been seeing over the last few days, the powerful arguments of the House managers that we'll get four Republicans who will join us for witnesses and documents. But it is outrageous and so hypocritical for them to blame us about dragging it on when we wanted to do it immediately and they voted no.

TAPPER: Well, the basic argument, Senator, is coming from White House officials who are saying that the idea is even if you have the votes next week to subpoena more documents and subpoena more witnesses, the White House is claiming and President Trump has said, in public, he's going to invoke executive privilege on everything.

SCHUMER: Well --

TAPPER: And so, the same delay that the House avoided by just going right to impeachment instead of fighting those battles in court, that they are going to make those battles be on your turf in the Senate and extend it.

SCHUMER: The White --

TAPPER: So, that's the threat.

SCHUMER: Well, the White House -- Jake, the White House can't talk out of both sides of their mouth. They can't say we're going to block them, but it'll take too long, and so don't do them.

There are just two simple answers. First simple answer: White House, don't block them. Stand for a fair

trial. If you have nothing to hide, if you're so sure with everything what the president did was right, then you shouldn't be afraid of witnesses and documents. Don't block them and we could do it in a week.

And second, I will say this, if it is subpoenaed, if four brave Republicans come and join us, that means it's a bipartisan subpoena in the Senate which is different than the House in terms of the constitutional mandate to get documents. And it's signed the subpoena by the chief justice, I think it'll whip through the courts very, very quickly.

Much different than the House situation.

BLITZER: Also today, Mr. Leader, it seemed like the House managers were trying to preempt attacks --


BLITZER: -- from the White House counsels on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Do you expect that to be the focus of the president's team when they mount their defense starting on Saturday?

SCHUMER: You know, let me just say this. The president's team has shown, and the Republicans, McConnell, President Trump and his team have shown one singularity. They're afraid to address the issues, the charges against them.

We almost hear no arguments about the charges against them. And they're always looking for diversions.

One day, it was Jerry Nadler. Yesterday, it was they heard the same old stuff but we said bring in new witnesses. It's been Nancy didn't do this or do that right. She used, you know, signing pens and things like that.

Let them talk to the issues. The Biden thing is a diversion. Neither Joe Biden or Hunter Biden has anything to do with this trial because they were not there. They didn't -- they have no evidence about why the aid was withheld, how it was withheld, and who withheld it.

Mulvaney has evidence, Blair has evidence, Duffey has evidence, Bolton has evidence. That's why we've asked them.

And let me just say one other thing to you guys. We don't know what the evidence will reveal. It might be exculpatory, good for President Trump. It might be further condemning President Trump.

But we stand for one thing, facts. Let there be a fair trial. Let all the facts come out.

You know, when something as weighty as impeachment, as so eloquently outlined today by some of the House managers, the only check on a president between elections who is overreaching, who is abusing power, we ought to have a fair trial or we've changed the constitutional balance in America forever.

TAPPER: One of the messages that we're hearing from Republican senators to the colleagues, the four courageous Republicans that you keep talking about, is that these proceedings are not about removing President Trump because there are not going to be 67 votes. They are merely about removing Republican senators from places such as Arizona and Colorado and Maine, and that the votes -- the first night were about that and everything else is about that.

SCHUMER: Well, look --


TAPPER: So, what is your response to that?

SCHUMER: Let me say two things about that.


SCHUMER: First of all, if we get witnesses and documents, who knows what happens? You know, three months before -- before all the evidence came out in the Nixon situation, they said the same thing. The Republicans will never get 2/3 to throw him out of office.

But second, I would say this: why are these Republicans in such heat -- not because of anything we've done. We're just seeking a fair trial. Seventy percent of America wants a fair trial.

When they go to their constituents, even their Republican constituents are saying, why can't we have witnesses? Why can't we have documents?


You know, the hard right Trump people, of course not. But people in the middle, mainstream Republicans, independents, and, of course, Democrats, are saying, constantly, why shouldn't we have witnesses and documents?

One poll show that 64 percent of Republicans, rank-and-file Republicans, who almost always side with Trump, are for witnesses and documents.

So, to say this is political is to say the people are on the side of the witnesses and documents, and they don't like that, but they should go along with their constituents and with -- even more importantly, the Constitution and their constitutional duty and their oath for a fair and impartial trial.

BLITZER: Leader Schumer, I know you've got to get back inside. This trial is about to resume. Thanks for spending a few moments with us.

TAPPER: Thanks so much.

SCHUMER: Nice to see you, guys. Thanks for being with us.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. SCHUMER: Go Bills! Go bills!

BLITZER: Next year, we'll be -- we're with you.

TAPPER: I'm not -- I don't agree with that at all.

BLITZER: He's talking about the Buffalo Bills.

TAPPER: I understand what he's talking about, I don't agree with that at all.

BLITZER: I think that's the only NFL team that plays in New York state.

TAPPER: I don't think that's true. I think that's fake news.

BLITZER: The Jets and the Giants are in New Jersey.

All right. Let's talk a little bit about what we just heard.

BORGER: Look, he is -- he's not giving an inch. He is saying we need to have the witnesses. The White House, it's the same old argument that they've been making.

And we're -- we are -- he seems to say, well, maybe come around. We're going goat those four. We're going to get those four. I don't know what he's -- what his count is now. I can get to three. I can't quite get to four.

But, you know, he's not giving an inch. And he seemed to be fine with the preemptive strategy that we saw today, which was talk -- bringing all these things out in the open so that the Republicans cannot talk about these issues without having the Democrats on the record. And I think he -- I think it clearly was the strategy that he knew was going to work.

TAPPER: Let's bring in Kaitlan Collins now. She's at the White House. She has new reporting to inform our viewers -- Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, Jake, as the Democrats have been making their opening arguments, we're being told the White House has been holding these prep sessions with the legal team meeting here every day before they go to Capitol Hill. And as they've been listening to these Democrats, they're planning how they're going to respond, of course, when they start making their argument which we are told the president is itching for them to do.

Now, right now, they are not expecting to go for three days. The latest thinking right now is they'll present for two days at the most, starting on Saturday. Although of course that could change depending on just how long Democrats go, whether anything changes in the meanwhile.

And when it comes to who's going to be on the floor, you see Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, they're listening to these Democrats make their arguments. And while he earned high praise from the president for getting emotional in that performance you saw that got contentious at times as they were debating over the amendments.

We're being told by several people around the president that he needs to take the route the senators are expecting him to have, that the senators are expecting to him to have, where he's more reserved, more state attorney making these arguments because they don't think any kind of emotional response is going to sit well with the senators. And they think Jay Sekulow, the president's outside counsel is better suited for that job.

Now, the other question is going to be Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz who were added to the team and are expected to present on the Senate floor but they have not been part of the formal prep sessions. We are told the ultimate goal because they feel comfortable the president is going to be acquitted in the end is they do not want to have witnesses and right now that is the main thing they're focusing on.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins at the White House -- thanks so much.

Let's talk about everything here.

Alan Frumin, let me ask you, you're the former Senate parliamentarian. You were there during the Clinton impeachment. One of the things that I've heard Senator Susan Collins was, of course, the one everyone is watching, because they think it's possible. She's in a tough reelection race. She does have a streak of independence, is she going to vote for more witnesses. She said her mind is open to it.

One of the things she has said in the past about Chuck Schumer's entreaties to her, to, quote/unquote, do the right thing, is Chuck Schumer is trying to end my career anyway, like he's pouring millions of dollars and running ads against me. He doesn't care about me doing the right thing. He wants to defeat me no matter what.

And I'm wondering if you think the weight of the Senate has gotten increasingly polarized, increasingly nasty in terms -- I mean, the Schumer/McConnell relationship is not a good relationship. You know, 21 years ago, Daschle and Lott who were the Democratic and Republican leaders at the time, they disagreed bitterly, but they were able to come up with rules that the Senate passed for the Clinton impeachment, that the Senate passed 100-0.

ALAN FRUMIN, SENATE PARLIAMENTARIAN EMERITUS: In this environment, Collins has a legitimate earn can. Everything is partisan.

Schumer wants what's best for his party. Collins knows that. He doesn't want what's best for her.

TAPPER: So, it's just that simple. That she has -- she has a point. Like you can't -- Chuck Schumer appealing to her doesn't necessarily mean anything to her.

FRUMIN: She has a political point. I think there should be witnesses and I think she should vote for witnesses. But she recognizes from a political standpoint that Schumer wants what's best for the Democrats. Now what's for her. BLITZER: We're waiting for this trial to resume momentarily.

Erin Burnett is going to pick up special coverage right now.