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Senate Votes To Call Witnesses In Impeachment Trial. Aired 11a- 12p ET
Aired February 13, 2021 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: But it is clear now that they have voted for the idea. They've opened the door, if you will, to the idea of witnesses.
Now they must have a simple majority vote on every witness. So there will be another vote, if this proceeds as we're going forward.
And we should say there is no playbook for this. There is no rule of order here. We're going to have to watch this unfold.
But if they do go ahead with witnesses, if the House impeachment managers want to depose the congresswoman, Jaime Herrera Beutler, there will be another simple majority vote for that and on and on. So for every witness who would be suggested or called by either side, there would be a vote of the Senate.
So this is something that, you know, we're in uncharted waters here. Senator Richard Shelby, one of the most senior senators, a Republican from Alabama who is retiring, he's seen three impeachments. He said this is the most insane and craziest one he's seen.
But as David Chalian was just saying, Senator Patrick Leahy, he of course, you know, has seen all of this. So he, you know, was here during the Clinton impeachment trial.
The majority of the senators were not. So most of them do not exactly have a playbook in front of them for how this is going to unfold. But for now, at least, I talked to one Senate chief of staff who said all bets are off.
Changing plans for the weekend, senators are not flying out of town. They are going to be here, most likely. So we will just have to see how this unfolds.
But for right now they're in a quorum call, which is what you said, is essentially legalese or senatese (ph) for they're trying to figure out what is next.
They're milling around on the Senate floor but there will be another vote on specific witnesses if that's how they decide to proceed, Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And Jeff, once there's a vote, let's say the first witness that the House impeachment managers want -- this Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, that they want her to testify, and he said, Raskin there, she could do it via Zoom, presumably to get this done relatively quickly.
They want her contemporaneous notes that she took in her conversation with Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader in the House of Representatives. They could do that relatively quickly. I assume you agree?
ZELENY: they could do it relatively quickly. But I think relative is the open question here. They certainly could not do it this afternoon and there would be some due process involved.
The former president's lawyers would also, you know, have the ability to ask questions and depose her as well and perhaps get up to speed on her testimony. So we're not sure how relatively quickly that would be.
Now, we do not expect a ton of witnesses. Again, this is a key point to remember, as the former president's lawyer was saying, I will call a hundred witnesses.
The Senate has to vote on witnesses. Democrats are still in control of the chamber here. And you see Republicans also, a handful of them voting with Democrats on these witnesses.
So the idea that there are going to be a lot of people deposed, like the vice president and others, is probably not going to happen because they must vote on each of these witnesses. But relatively soon does not necessarily mean in the next few hours. So we will have to see how this unfolds.
What it has shined a light on is exactly the mindset, as our Jamie Gangel has been reporting since last evening -- the mindset of President Donald Trump the afternoon of January 6th.
And House impeachment managers talked about that a good deal, but they also decided to build their case entirely on his speech at the rally and everything he's been saying over the last four years in office, rather than focusing specifically on the hours of the afternoon of January 6th.
So there are many questions that exist. So we'll see how far they want to go into this to investigate.
Wolf, I can also tell you the Biden White House has been trying to keep essentially a distance from this. We've seen the president weigh in from time to time, but they were hoping this would wrap up very quickly. They were hoping that they could move on to the COVID relief bill, getting some of their cabinet nominees confirmed.
They're very much watching this in awe and wonder as well. Talking to a couple of White House officials saying it was their hope to move beyond it today, but they have not weighed in and said don't call witnesses. They're trying not to put their fingers on the scale. Now that's an open question.
Should they have done more to move this quickly? So they, like everyone, are watching this. But President Biden is spending the weekend at Camp David. We're told he's meeting with his national security advisers. But Wolf, I would also bet he has one eye on the Senate floor as well.
BLITZER: Yes. Because what the Senate does is going to have major ramifications on his priorities over the several days, maybe even weeks, depending on how long this trial goes on. Jim Acosta is watching all of this.
He's down in West Palm Beach, not far from Mar-A-Lago where the former president is staying. You're getting some new information on this whole notion of witnesses. What a surprise development this morning that the House impeachment managers say they want at least one witness, this congresswoman, and the Senate just voted 55-45 that there can be witnesses.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And I'm hearing from a source familiar with the work of the House managers that they would also like to speak with the former vice president's chief of staff, Marc Short.
ACOSTA: Short was with Pence on January 6th for the official counting of the electoral votes up on Capitol Hill and had to be rushed to safety by U.S. Secret Service when those rioters were approaching. And I'm told by the source that Short has been contacted to provide information to the House impeachment managers, but he has not yet responded at this point. I've also tried to reach out to Marc Short. I have not heard back from him.
But obviously, Marc Short's testimony, if it's provided, or whatever information he has would be critical at this point, Wolf, because we're trying to establish a timeline of events here.
Keep in mind, yesterday one of the president's attorneys, Michael Van Der Veen, stipulated during his closing statements yesterday and during the question and answer session that at no point, he said at no point did President Trump know that Mike Pence was in danger.
We know that that is not true because according to Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville, Tuberville said he was on the phone with President Trump and told him at that time that the Vice President had just been evacuated.
And so if you believe the words of this freshman senator, the president, the then-president was informed at that time that Mike Pence was in danger, making what Michael Van Der Veen said to be false. I also talked to a source close to the vice president last night who said that Van Der Veen was lying when he said that. That they know full well that Mike Pence was in danger and that Donald Trump knew that Mike Pence was in danger.
And Wolf, this all goes back to that drama that unfolded that day and particularly the drama that existed between President Trump and his vice president, his very loyal vice president, when according to aides to the former vice president, Donald Trump was not checking in on Pence throughout the day, not checking on his safety.
That deeply offended people around the vice president. They thought for somebody as loyal as Mike Pence that Trump should have been doing more at the time to make sure that Mike Pence and his family were out of danger.
Now, we're trying to find out whether or not Marc Short would provide that testimony, but Wolf, that obviously would be critical information. That is somebody who was in the room, was evacuated at that time, and would know whether or not there were contacts between the White House, between the president and the vice president that day.
I will also tell you, Wolf, we've been hearing from our sources that people inside the White House say that folks like the former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was in touch with Marc Short and others around the vice president that day. That has not been, I guess, brought out or stipulated in any kind of information gathering process and so all of this information is going to be highly important.
I'm talking to my sources up on Capitol Hill and it sounds as though, in addition to Marc Short, they would like to talk to other people close to the situation to find out exactly what Trump knew and when he knew it, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, this is a major surprise development unfolding right now. The outcome, we have no idea if it's going to be within a few days, could be a few weeks now that the Senate has voted 55-45, that there can in fact be witnesses at this second Trump impeachment trial.
We're going to get back to you, Jim Acosta.
Kaitlan Collins is covering all of this. She's over at the White House for us. And you're getting some more significant information. What are you hearing, Kaitlan?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, the Trump team is just as caught off guard by this as pretty much anyone right now in Washington is. They were not expecting witnesses to be called. They thought this was going to be wrapped up today. That's why they were so brief in part in those arguments that they were making yesterday, because they wanted this to end as quickly as possible.
And so my colleague Pam Brown even notes that some of them had already booked travel home out of Washington. So that's how they were expecting this to go. They did not see this coming.
And so now the president's attorneys, the former president's attorneys have left the Senate floor. They're huddling in this office right down the hall that they've been working out of this week discussing what they are going to do next because you saw Michael Van Der Veen say that if witnesses were called that they are going to call a hundred of them to come.
Of course, the Senate is going to actually have to vote on that, so that's not likely to happen. But that doesn't mean that they won't -- that it will stop them from trying, that they will try to put that list out there of multiple people. They've mentioned people like the D.C. mayor, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, you even saw him mention the vice president there while he was talking about this.
Of course not the former vice president, the current vice president. They were saying they would call her in to potentially give a deposition.
So it's completely unclear right now, obviously, confusion is reigning supreme in Washington over where this is going to go. But we should note that the former president's team is very caught off guard by this. They wanted this to end early.
So it's not completely clear that they actually had witnesses in mind beyond the ones that they had just floated earlier on this week because they never thought that this is actually going to materialize and that we were going to get to this point, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. You're making an extremely important point. Stand by. We're going to get back to you.
John King is with me. You know, John, I was thinking when we heard David Chalian remember the -- recall the Bill Clinton impeachment trial in 1998, you and I were CNN White House correspondents at the time.
We covered that impeachment trial. There were witnesses, three witnesses at that impeachment trial, as you and I well remember.
BLITZER: We covered the last impeachment trial a year ago, the Trump impeachment trial. No witnesses there. There will be witnesses presumably this time. The Senate just voted 55-45 in favor of witnesses. This could drag on, John.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It could drag on. And the question is how long and that's why we have this quorum call because everyone is now trying to (INAUDIBLE) in a stare down. Part of it is negotiation and part of it is the Trump lawyers threatened a hundred witnesses.
Number one, the Senate is not going to support a hundred witnesses.
But number two, now they're in this, where do we go from here? And it's fascinating. You mentioned the Clinton trial. They did stop the trial for depositions, no live witnesses. The depositions Including Monica Lewinsky, who frankly just schooled, if you can go back and read the transcript today.
The House managers came in thinking they were going to get new information out of Monica Lewinsky and they got nothing to the point where the Clinton lawyers didn't even ask her any questions because they realized that the House managers got nothing out of that and it was not going to change the dynamics. So sometimes you want a witness and you don't get what you want from that witness. But this case today is fascinating in the domino effect that it creates.
Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, who has -- she voted in the House, a Republican from Washington state, voted to impeach the president. Now going public saying she talked to her leader, Kevin McCarthy about this phone call where he was asking the president of the United States then, Donald Trump, for help and the president was essentially mocking him and McCarthy saying those people apparently are more upset about the election than you were.
So if the House managers now, the Democratic prosecutors, get her as a witness, President Trump's lawyer, former president Trump's lawyer said today that McCarthy had disclaimed this conversation. He has not. That's one of many lies Trump's lawyers have told on the floor of the United States Senate.
If the congresswoman comes forward, what does Kevin McCarthy do? Does he dispute her, does he challenge her, whether in a public setting or offer himself up as a trial witness here?
So this is a play by the House managers to essentially try to expose what they believe here is this unholy Republican alliance with Trump, even among leaders like McCarthy who have damning, damaging information about the president's conduct that day.
So we will see where it goes which is why the stakes now, this has been thrown open. We are now in the land of unpredictable. You have Republican senators complaining. Senator Graham, "if you want a delay it will be a long one". Senator Rubio, "bring out the kangaroo". Senator Cornyn, "no end in sight, the Biden folks can't be happy".
That's what they're saying immediately. But if your plan as a Republican was to vote to acquit the president of the United States, now we're in the great unknown.
Again, you're right about the Clinton experience, the Republican House managers at the time did not get what they wanted from those witnesses. It didn't change anything.
But that was then, this is now. This throws this open. And because this is a Republican congresswoman who voted to impeach the president, who says she hopes other patriots come forward, if she now comes into the trial record and says, I have my contemporaneous notes, that then- President Trump essentially told my leader go away, I'm not going to do anything, you know, I'm not going to do anything, that puts the president's state of mind on the record. And will the other -- will any Republicans who have that similar knowledge step forward to challenge that or does that become a powerful piece of this record.
And then the question is does it change any votes of Republican senators, which we can't answer. But we are now in this wide open, unpredictable, who knows.
BLITZER: And let's not forget Jaime Herrera Beutler is a Republican -- KING: Right.
BLITZER: -- congresswoman who voted in favor of going forward with the impeachment process, one of ten Republican members in the House of Representatives who did so.
And as important as her testimony would be, and I think Raskin made this point, the contemporaneous notes that she took out of her conversation with Kevin McCarthy would be so, so significant. They want to show the American people what she wrote down as she was having that conversation.
KING: And again, that then puts the onus on Leader McCarthy. Is that a fair account of what you told her on that day, the insurrection day? And we've talked about this before, even despite that call, leader McCarthy and 130 plus House Republicans still voted to keep essentially challenging the election, voted to support the president's big lie.
But this, if you can now get a Republican congresswoman on the record in this impeachment trial, it does raise the question, as you were just talking with our other correspondents, well then does the vice president's chief of staff raise his hand and challenge any of these conversations? Does Leader McCarthy want to raise his hand and either accept or challenge these conversations.
So we now have, we thought when we came in the studio this morning around 3:00 today we would have judgment, the vote. We're not going to get that now. This trial will be extended. How long, we don't know. Can they wrap this up.
The Senate, by the way, was supposed to not be in session next week. So for those saying this throws the Biden agenda off the rails, it could well. If they could wrap this up within the next week it's more of a speed bump than a roadblock. But this is what they're negotiating right now.
BLITZER: They're trying to figure out what to do.
Erin, it's a real -- I should say, a pretty chaotic situation right now and there's a whole lot of options out there. We don't know the answers.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And it's completely remarkable, Wolf, what we're seeing I mean on the floor. You see us on the screen and you see the floor there.
BURNETT: I mean, what is happening here? It's a remarkable moment. No one expects it. You have senators in the middle of the vote trying to say what did we just vote on with the confusion.
ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes.
BURNETT: I mean it is a stunning thing. GARBER: Yes. So here's the thing. The trial rules that they're
operating under were adopted the day before trial. And so not a lot of people have even read them. So they're doing a lot of this on the fly and even the rules that have been adopted don't cover necessarily what happens next.
So now it seems clear, there are going to be witnesses and the question that they're asking is who are going to be the witnesses, what is going to be the process. Yes, there will be depositions, but what do those look like?
BURNETT: So they have to set all these rules is what you're saying.
GARBER: They've got to do that.
BURNETT: This was not put in there?
GARBER: Exactly right. And in Clinton there was a negotiation between the minority and the majority and Clinton's lawyers to agree -- and the managers to agree on what was going to happen. There's not that right now. And so they're trying to figure all of this out on the fly. That's what's going on.
BURNETT: All right. So they're trying to literally -- and they're huddled, we see these little groups, right. All, by the way, any, you know, impartiality -- let's just throw that out the window because you've got, you know, managers talking to senators and it's all -- it's all mixed in.
But there -- you know, we heard Trump's attorney say, oh, ok, we want a hundred people and they'll come to my office in Philadelphia. So right now this is come up with specific names because they need to decide how they're going to vote -- by name?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, what I would call that from Trump's lawyer is a bluff. There's no way they're going to call 100 witnesses. There's no way the Senate will allow them to call 100 witnesses. They're saying if you want to go down this road we're going to just blow this up and turn it crazy.
And look, trials are inherently dynamic, unpredictable situations. And one witness leads to another witness, leads to more evidence and the big question I have is where is Kevin McCarthy? He's not going to be able to hide.
Once they go down this path, Herrera-Beutler, she's is going to say this is what McCarthy told me about his conversation with the president. We should hear from McCarthy. He's right there.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Right. Exactly. But you know, the Senate is not as dynamic as a trial generally --
HONIG: That's right. BORGER: -- and now you have this situation where you have these senators who are stuck. They thought this was going to be over today. They have this situation. And I would argue let's go back to what Mr. Van Der Veen was saying, at no point -- at no point, right --
BURNETT: Yes. That's a quote.
BORGER: -- did Donald Trump know what was happening to Mike Pence.
Then you have Jamie Gangel's great reporting from last night which says, wait a minute, Congresswoman Herrera Beutler says, yes, he knew because he was on the phone with Kevin McCarthy about what was going on. We know he was on the phone with Tommy Tuberville. We have parts of the timeline.
And suddenly this explodes because she is willing to go on the record. You're right, what about Kevin McCarthy.
And they have to figure out now is sort of how they're going to get to yes together, how many witnesses will they allow, his threats are not going to be meaningful at all. You don't threaten the United States Senate. That is not the way it works.
But this now is sort of a constitutional mystery we're witnessing. How are they going to figure out the real story here that gets you to the president's state of mind and his intent.
And the Senate --
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: : Well here's the thing, I mean Van Der Veen ruined this. I'm telling you --
BORGER: He did. Yes.
COATES: I put it on Van Der Veen today because there was a level of arrogance when he said this entire impeachment was based on innuendo.
COATES: It was based on reporting, there is nothing here that is substantive. And he thought he was going to say that and sit back down and say well, my work here is done.
But what he didn't realize is he actually opened Pandora's Box and walked right into the hands -- I don't know if it was an inadvertent trap from the House impeachment managers or not. But it was a trap then (INAUDIBLE) foot is now in it because now he has to have a circumstance where those factual disputes have to be played out. Are you going to have McCarthy saying that another member of his Congress under his leadership is a liar, that I didn't say that to you, you're lying?
Think about the division that's now going to come into play here. All of this is all because somebody dared to want illumination on an issue about impeachment. And, you know, one of the things that struck me was this idea of Van Der Veen saying look, don't handcuff me. and with a hand motion he made, don't handcuff me. if you're going to call one. If you're going to call one, I've got to call a whole lot.
Well guess what, it cuts both ways. Because now if you want to call more people, the House wants to call more people and they're not the ones who have raised these factual disputes and said that it was all an innuendo, and false reporting.
So it's almost like this was a lack of foresight. This is what happens when you try to fly a plane while you're building the plane. You're going to have some turbulence, the suspense and you could go down for it.
BORGER: And now you have on the Senate floor, you have Republican senators talking to the president's legal team.
COATES: As you speak, we're watching this happen.
BORGER: -- and you have Democrats doing the same with the House managers. People are looking at this saying, wait, wait, wait. This isn't the way a trial is supposed to work. But it isn't a trial.
GARBER: And it's also not generally the way the Senate works. There's a lot -- you know, usually things are a lot more choreographed than all of that.
BORGER: You think?
BARBER: And so, you know, I think what we can expect is that some number of witnesses are going to be called and that they're going to be deposed first.
In the Clinton case, and it's likely that they're going to follow this procedure, it's not like those witnesses are paraded onto the Senate floor. They were deposed, they were deposed in private, two senators presided over those depositions.
And it was after that, then the question is what do you do with those depositions. There could be a motion then to have those people testify before the Senate, or to allow the lawyers to just play the tapes of those depositions, play excerpts.
And I think you'll likely to see that.
BURNETT: Can I just ask you one other crucial procedural thing here. And I know obviously your whole point is that we don't know the procedure.
GARBER: We know some things, yes.
BURNETT: But the way that Congressman Raskin put forth was I want to hear from Congresswoman Herrera Beutler, ok. And we know she obviously wants to testify.
And he said anything else that that would lead us to. Ok. So that would kind of -- to the point you're making, we go where we go. But what they want to do right now is vote by name now. So does this kind of close some of those doors what they're going to do there?
GARBER: They've got to figure that out. It wasn't clear what Representative Raskin was ultimately proposing. You know, one way to handle it is to say, all right, you know, we're going to authorize x number of depositions of x witnesses and then if you want more, you can come back and ask for more.
GARBER: You know, the problem is --
BURNETT: It's sort of fill in the blank thing. You get ten or you get whatever?
GARBER: Well, no, no. They're going to authorize specific people. They're not going to -- You saw what the president's lawyer was doing. They're not going to allow that to happen.
GARBER: They're not going to let him have a blank subpoena and let him serve the vice president. That's not happening.
They're going to agree or decide on who is actually going to be deposed as a witness. And I think they would like to get that all settled now so they don't have to come back and do this again for more witnesses. But that's hard.
BURNETT: So this is what you think they're doing right now as we watch.
GARBER: They're trying. Yes -- the problem is, you know, as Representative Raskin noted, they don't know where this all might lead. So it's an issue.
COATES: The other problem here, too, is we have to just underscore this point. How absurd it is that there were senators who voted and had no idea what they were voting for. Actually had to say, I'm sorry, I need clarification. I've already cast my vote.
BURNETT: Point of order, what did we just vote on?
COATES: Point of order, what did we just do? I mean these are the senators of the United States government. And this tells you just how much this was a preconceived -- this was a self-fulfilling prophecy. This was a fait accompli -- this is all of these things beforehand.
They thought all I've got to do is just raise my hand. Other Republicans raised their hands, I'll do the same thing without actually realizing what they were procedurally voting for.
And the idea here that this is going on, that they're going to decide these things. We all know -- can you imagine in a trial, were you in the middle of it or not, you've already done the procedural issue of constitutionality at the beginning. Now in the middle you're going to decide the procedure of an impeachment trial.
GARBER: And we've been talking about that --
BORGER: It's already been decided.
GARBER: -- for weeks now about this potential problem happening.
BURNETT: So as we're talking and you're seeing what's happening on the floor. As Ross is explaining, right there, they're trying to figure out who they're going to call because they have to put these specific names and try to make some sort of a deal.
We've been talking about all these clumps of senators meeting with impeachment managers.
Jeff Zeleny, tell us what you can about what's happening in that room. What detail can you give us?
ZELENY: Erin, the only bit of bipartisanship that we've really seen, or the biggest one, are the conversations that many senators are now having on the Senate floor. And right when this was breaking out there were some very heated moments.
And Mitt Romney, the senator from Utah, who of course voted to allow witnesses, he was the ire of Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin. There was a bit of a shouting match that ensued and Senator Johnson said, this should have been over by now, this should have been over by now. So there are some emotions there.
But we're also seeing Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator from West Virginia. He was talking to Republican senators then he was talking the House impeachment managers. So there's a lot of conversations going on.
But Erin, one thing is clear. I'm told that the House impeachment managers right now are working on the next steps forward. They are working to see whether other witnesses will come.
So they are trying to bring a resolution to all this. But senators right now are realizing that this is going to go on for some time.
And Senator Elizabeth Warren was asked about that directly and she said "I want to see us get on to other business, but it's absolutely critical that we hold the president of the United States accountable.
ZELENY: She said that it's not a question of how long, but it's a question of making this clear to the American people what happened here. So there clearly is a sense that senators also believe that they can do more than one thing at once. We're going back to the argument of being able to do a committee business in the morning, the Senate trial in the afternoon. We don't know exactly where this is going.
ZELENY: But the Senate was going to be in recess next week. That is also very much up in the air. But we believe this quorum call which is happening right now will come to an end at some point once they reach a resolution on witnesses.
But we don't know exactly how long that's going to be. So there's a suspended animation here that's happening on the Senate that is very real. These senators were not expecting witnesses to be called.
Bob Casey, the Democratic senator from Pennsylvania, he said he was not expecting any of this, so they were not alerted by House impeachment managers. That's how close to the vest this was being held here.
So we'll watch as this unfolds. The senators at least now are in bipartisan groups having conversations. But this is not their show. The House impeachment managers now have to decide how many witnesses to call and the lawyers matter, the president's team is certainly confused by all of this. And one of their top lawyers is not here today, of course, because he's observing the sabbath. So that is something that is also adding a wrench into of this as well, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. So Jeff, look, it's fascinating. And let me just ask you though because once you -- and I know they specifically said, Congressman Raskin, that he wanted Congresswoman Beutler, right, and wherever else that may go.
But if you're going to do this for history, and I know there are some who hope that this will change the tide of how Republicans vote. I'm going to put that aside for a moment.
If you're doing it for history, to put the record, you either do it the way you were going to do it or you go all the way. You don't just do one witness and then say, ok, right? Don't you then have to --
HONIG: I completely agree with that. Look, let's just take a moment and appreciate what's happened. The Senate has decided we're going to get all the facts. I mean that shouldn't be novel at an impeachment hearing, but it very nearly was not the case and it was not the case last year with Ukraine.
But I agree, Erin. I mean if the purpose of this is If we're making a historical record, which we are, people are going to be studying this 100 years from now and if it takes another week or two weeks now, if I'm the House impeachment manager, so be it.
Right. And I would want to hear from not just Beutler, but McCarthy, how about Mark Meadows? Right, Mark Meadows, the chief of staff of former President Trump who was presumably by his side. I believe was by his side, has made public statements about what he believes Donald Trump was doing during these moments.
Let's hear from all of them. Let's get it out there and let the Senate decide and let the American public know.
BORGER: Right. Also Lindsey Graham has said, you know, we want to hear, in the president's defense, he said we want to hear from the FBI. The FBI was saying this was preplanned, that Donald Trump had nothing to do with it.
So Lindsey Graham is over talking to the president's lawyers right now. So maybe he is making that suggestion.
My question is, how do you decide this issue so quickly? I mean this is -- are they going to come up right now and say, well, we've decided on these six guys and these six women? I don't know how they do that.
GARBER: And it points at, you know, two issues. One that we heard from the president's lawyers about kind of doing this snap impeachment. Doing an impeachment so quickly where there are so many unanswered questions. And now you're in a trial. That's one.
And then, two, it does sort of weave back into this jurisdictional question of, you know, yes, maybe if you can do a super quick impeachment and a super quick trial and have it not be disruptive, ok. Maybe then you want to include former officers.
But you can't predict that as we're seeing now. You know, we've been talking about it. If you're going to do an impeachment trial, you've got to be prepared to do an impeachment trial and things get unpredictable, things get time-consuming and it is very disruptive and it's probably why this has never happened before, with the exception of this Belknap case in the 1800s. It's very disruptive.
COATES: The Trump defense team, though, they've locked themselves in. You remember, you could actually make a song to the number of times they said the words "due process", right. Due process. Due process.
Be careful what you wish for. You will get precisely that. And so they were complaining that they did not have enough of a development of the investigation, that that was really one of the things that the Senate could hang their hats on. They could not only do the idea of jurisdiction constitutionality, but the idea of is this how you want an impeachment to go.
No witnesses, no due process, not having a full opportunity to see everything. Now the resolution rules, as we're seeing them go develop and we've already seen before, they provide for discovery, they provide for depositions, they provide for all of these things.
And so the arguments, the olive branches, the exit hatches that were provided through the course of two days or a day and a half of the defense team, they've sealed them off on their own.
[11:29:51] COATES: And so it's astounding to think about how this was not foreseeable to the defense team to suggest that you needed more evidence, more witnesses, you needed something there. And then when they actually said we'll give it to you, they go, wait a second, I hadn't planned for this.
BORGER: They agreed to these rules.
COATES: They did.
BORGER: They agreed to the rules up front.
BURNETT: One final question Ross, I want to understand though. You know, there's a lot of people you would want to call, right. They said initially, right, we want to call President Trump.
GARBER: Yes, sure.
BURNETT: But some of the people on that list are not going to want to testify.
So what do you do when that's the reality? Marc Short, who worked with the vice president --
GARBER: It's a great question, Erin.
BURNETT: The vice president's publisher (ph) said that Van Der Veen lied when he said that Trump didn't know about Pence being in trouble.
But we haven't heard anyone from Pence's office willing to testify. So the subpoena process then.
GARBER: Yes. you know, it's one thing if you think it's very likely somebody is going to show up. It's probably pretty likely that this congresswoman is going to show up if she gets a subpoena. You're exactly right.
Now if you start talking about issuing subpoenas that people are going to fight, the way you fight a subpoena is either, you know, file a motion in court or you just tell the House managers and the Senate that you're not showing up and then you force them to try to enforce it, likely by going to court.
That is not a two-hour process. It's not a two-day process. That is a process that could take a long time when you're talking about government officials who can interpose privilege issues, for example.
HONIG: To that end --
BURNETT: Yes, quickly -- Elie.
HONIG: -- people need to be ready to move quick. The House managers and the courts if it comes to a court dispute because it's taken way too long.
The Don McGahn subpoena is still being litigated. So everyone needs to ready to move quick here if they're going to have enforce this.
GARBER: And force them to move quickly.
BORGER: I don't think you can.
BURNETT: Let's get back to you Dana. I mean it is amazing just the remarkable moment that we're in and all of the questions that are now out there.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And Erin, as you all were talking, we were talking here about the fact that it's been the Republican women who have had the most -- it's Saturday morning so I'll just say -- guts in this whole entire process.
Liz Cheney, of course, stood up and not only voted for impeachment, but has been, you know, very clear in not backing down from it.
And as I go here in the room to Abby and to David, now we have Jaime Herrera Beutler, who for a long time was one of the very few Republican women in the House.
And now there are more members. But she's kind of almost a veteran, even though she's quite young. And I want to read part of the statement that she put out last night after Jamie's reporting. And at the end of the statement she says, "To the patriots who were standing next to the former president as these conversations were happening, or even to the former president, if you have something to add here, now would be the time."
So the point being is that she is saying she's willing to say it, she's said it on the record what she understands to be true about the president's actions, words or inaction, I should say, on January 6th. The words that he used with her Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy. But there are others who can speak to it. So she wants those people to speak out.
It's, you know, a clarion call.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And remember that after this happened, after January 6th, there were a slew of resignations in the White House, in the administration, even in congress. Some lawmakers losing their staff over their votes to throw out the electoral college votes.
So there are people who felt compelled to leave their jobs at that time who might have actually had knowledge of or been present for some key pieces of information in this saga.
Now, many of these people are not powerful. They're not wealthy. They don't have the means to carry on if they're attacked physically or verbally by the president and his allies. But she's putting out a call to say basically, you know, if enough of us stand up and say something, we can do this all together. And usually if things like this are going to happen, it's usually that people want to go but they don't want to alone.
BASH: And David, I want you to weigh in on this on this I want to get to the Hill. Manu Raju has some new reporting. As Manu, I know you're speaking to Republican senators. What are you hearing?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Republican and Democratic senators. But first on the Republican side, they are simply dug in. It's very clear in talking to Republican senators their view that witnesses will not change anything.
There are Republicans who are telling me that it will change zero minds. That's how one senator, Roger Marshall of Kansas just put it to me just now.
But that has actually echoed from a number of Republican senators who are criticizing the move to go forward with witnesses because they argue that there's simply no -- there's no jurisdiction by the United States Senate to actually convict a former president.
RAJU: They say there should not be a trial because of their constitutional concerns, never mind that the Senate affirmed its constitutionality. But their opposition to this trial will just never get them to vote yes on the merits. And Mitch McConnell, Senate Republican leader, putting out this morning that exact argument as well.
So then it's very unlikely that witnesses will really change much in the minds of these Republicans. But there are bipartisan discussions, Dana, that are happening right now about how to proceed. I just spent a fair amount of time on the Senate -- in the Senate chamber watching the interactions among groups of senators to discuss how to move forward with witnesses, who else could come forward.
One senator, Joe Manchin, who is always in the middle of the kind of debate was in the Republican cloak room for a fair amount of time. He popped back out and he talked to a Democratic impeachment manager, Congressman Joaquin Castro.
So there are also discussions about how to structure a resolution that could to subpoena witnesses. We'll see if they have more witnesses beyond Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler. Perhaps there'll be other ones as well to get a bipartisan support. Maybe one witness on the Trump team side, maybe one witness on the Democratic side.
Those are the discussions that are happening right now at this moment. Incredibly fluid, incredibly chaotic, very surprising. Will it change the end result? Probably not, according to Republican senators. But at the moment a lot of discussion about how to proceed next. That is what's happening right now on the floor of the Senate, Dana.
BASH: Intense negotiation. Thank you so much, Manu.
And as you're talking, we can see on the side of the screen just one example of what you're referring to. We can see I believe is Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan talking to Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska. And I'm not sure who the other senator is there. But oh, it's Mark Kelly.
It's Mark Kelly, the new Democratic senator from Arizona, who obviously is -- I shouldn't say obviously -- but is certainly a moderate Democrat and is somebody who is in what had been a Republican seat. So you can see the conversations in plain sight going on.
And then, of course, on the other side of the Senate you saw Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham. So what they are trying to figure out, as Manu just reported, is the what now and the who now. Because you're taking us on a walk down history's lane or memory lane from the last time this happened in 1999, the last time there was an impeachment with witnesses.
It was very, very intense, the negotiations to get to that point, to get to just those three witnesses. And it took some time. And you know, I don't know, maybe I'm wrong, but this is so partisan and so emotionally charged for lots of reasons, that it's hard to imagine them coming up, you know, in the next five minutes with the deal on exactly who they're going to call.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: And to Manu's point about some Republicans telling him this isn't going to change votes, it does -- we're in a moment that all of a sudden the argument that we shouldn't even be here, this trial is not constitutional, which so many Republicans they voted for, obviously, and they want to hang their acquittal vote on that, are now being forced to buy into this process. Some want to get their own witnesses in there, and therefore they're fully bought into the notion that this trial is taking place.
I just think it makes it a little more complicated for them to say we shouldn't even be here when they're also negotiating ways to make sure that they are there and fully engaged in this trial.
But I do think what you were saying and talking to Abby about before, that Jaime Herrera Beutler's statement about the additional patriots, it is a call to arms.
I mean she doesn't want to just stand alone and just have her version of events or her notes be here. She believes there are many points of observation to the events of that day, to the president's state of mind, to what he was conveying to others that should be part of this record, too. She makes that clear.
She is not -- it seems from my reading of this wanting to just stand on an island here. She actually is putting out a call for all the evidence possible.
BASH: And you were saying earlier while we were in a break here that she, just to remind our viewers, she was one of the ten Republicans in the House who voted yes on impeachment. And I'm going to quote you now, David, that she doesn't want her vote to be in vain.
PHILLIP: Yes. And I think -- look, if you're a Republican and you voted for impeachment, you know that you put your political life in some way, shape or form, on the line. And you wouldn't do that unless you thought it was extremely important.
And when you talk to the Republican lawmakers in the House who have already cast that vote, they feel very strongly about two underlying things.
PHILLIP: One, about the immorality of what Trump did leading up to the insurrection, but having themselves been witnesses to the insurrection -- they're shocked at his refusal to defend them.
And I think that, you know, once you've already made that decision, what comes next is that you have to kind of stand by it, you know, because otherwise -- I mean, what was it all for?
And that's what she's doing here is basically saying I made this decision not because I'm an outlier. I have the same information that many of you do.
PHILLIP: This is the part of Jamie Gangel's reporting that I think is pretty critical. Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader, read out his call to other members. So it is fairly widely own among Republicans what was said on that call.
Jaime Herrera Beutler is not the only person who knows and that's what she's saying in her statement I I know that you know, too, and you should come forward and say so.
BASH: Yes, as we said, she's the one so far who has the guts to say so publicly.
And let's get to our Jamie -- Jamie Gangel whose reporting on all of this changed -- certainly changed the day and maybe even the course of history in some way, shape or form.
Jamie, I know you're continuing to report right now and getting some information about the discussions among House managers. What are you hearing?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So what I think we're going to see is that they are going to be reaching out. And I think they're hoping that some people are going to reach back out to them. People who want to be witnesses.
I don't think they want to get into fights over subpoenas -- excuse me -- at least not right now.
The other thing I'm hearing about is, you know, do they talk to the other -- sorry. BASH: Ok, get a drink of water. This is what happens when you spend
all your time on the phone with your sources, you know, you need a drink of water. We'll give you that, Jamie. You're good.
GANGEL: Thank you. First time in 40 years. So there are Trump inner circle people that they are wondering will anyone come forward. Not just about what happened on January 6th, but what happened between Election Day and January 6th. The big lie.
What did people hear? What did people see? People who might have firsthand knowledge of what the president was saying and planning.
So I think that what we're going to see now is a wide net and this could go on potentially for a long time, Dana.
BASH: Yes, it sure could, because this is not easy. We don't even know if they know the answers to those very real and pertinent questions that you just posed and it might take a while. We might be in this quorum call for some time or they might just agree to adjourn while they have the conversations in a more robust way.
Jamie Gangel, thank you so much for that.
GANGEL: Thank you.
BASH: Wolf, I'm going to toss it back to you.
BLITZER: Well, let's bring in someone who understands -- actually, let's go back to the Senate. I think they're about to resume here.
SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Mr. President, as I understand it, there are discussions under way, and so I ask unanimous consent the Senate recess until 12:30 p.m.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there objection in the hearing then, we stand in recess until 12:30.
SCHUMER: Thank you, Mr. President.
BLITZER: All right. A 45-minute recess. That 45-minute recess could turn out to be more than an hour. Usually, the amount of time they suggest is going to be recess is expanded. But that's normal in the U.S. Senate.
Let's discuss the confusion that's going on right now with former Senate parliamentarian Alan Frumin who's joining us right now. Alan, thank you so much for joining us.
Walk us through -- first of all, give us your reaction to this surprise, the totally surprise development today when all of a sudden the House impeachment managers said they do want at least one witness.
ALAN FRUMIN, FORMER SENATE PARLIAMENTARIAN: Good morning, Wolf. Thanks for having me on.
WELL, This is the Senate I've come to know and love over 35 years. It's totally unpredictable. When you think you know what's going to happen, it throws you a curveball, number one.
Number two, the Senate usually does nothing slowly -- I'm sorry -- usually does nothing quickly and this impeachment trial was chugging along on a non-Senate type pace.
And what you have now is a decision by the Senate to open the door for further motions to subpoena witnesses and documents. And so the Senate by motion has said we can have other motions, and so there will be debate on other specific motions with respect to specific witnesses. The Senate will debate those.
And then if the Senate agrees to subpoena witnesses, there will a process of discovery. And that could take quite a while.
FRUMIN: You mentioned the Senate recess, this 45-minute recess will take probably an hour because that's how the Senate works. It never works as quickly as you think it will.
And the discovery phase of this trial, which nobody anticipated, by law and by practice, usually takes quite a long time.
BLITZER: I just want to get your thought, Alan. So let's say they decide that Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state, a Republican, will be called as a witness. Walk us through. They do a deposition first, and is that private or is that public?
FRUMIN: Well, it's unclear. There were no witnesses in the first Trump impeachment trial, so the last example we had in a presidential impeachment trial is the Clinton trial where the depositions took place by videotape and the Senate then decided what, if anything, to show on the floor of the Senate. There's a wild card here under the Senate's impeachment rules.
The Senate was a rule 11, which creates -- gives the Senate the authority to convene an impeachment committee. It was designed to take testimony. The legislative history of the creation of that committee, was not intended to be used in presidential impeachments. It was intended to be used for judicial impeachments.
However, it's there, it's on the books, and there's a remote possibility that the Senate can use that committee. It's unclear whether that committee was intended to be used for former presidents.
So this process is going to slow things down substantially. The question is just exactly how slowly will this process play out.
BLITZER: Because you heard Jamie Raskin, the lead house impeachment manager, Alan say that they want to do a deposition, they want to take testimony from this Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, but they also want her contemporaneous notes.
How does that happen? Walk us through that process.
FRUMIN: Well, you can have a subpoena for human testimony. You can have a subpoena for documents. And I don't know if they can be joined in one subpoena, but by all means both personal testimony and documentary evidence is subject to the subpoena power of the congress.
So it is possible, and it would seem to me it would be prudent in advance for the House managers to talk to the congresswoman to find out exactly what she might say and what documents she retained.
BLITZER: So let's say they get -- the House impeachment managers get to hear testimony from this congresswoman. Then the Trump defense lawyers, they say they want the current vice president of the United States or the mayor of Washington, D.C. Or the speaker of the House to testify. What happens then?
FRUMIN: Well, the House -- I'm sorry, the president's counsel would make a motion to subpoena the individuals they would like to see subpoenaed and that motion is subject to a majority vote on the floor of the Senate.
BLITZER: So they would need 51 votes in order to get the individuals they want to question, they want testimony from. They would need 51 votes, is that right?
BLITZER: And if the House Democrats, the House impeachment team, they want more witnesses, they simply need 51 votes as well?
FRUMIN: That's correct.
BLITZER: So the Democrats, they seem to have an advantage because there are at least four or five Republicans who are voting with them in favor of witnesses. That's significant.
FRUMIN: It's possible that the Democrats might lose some Republican votes if the Republicans who are willing to authorize subpoenas on behalf of the managers believe that the Senate is being unfair to the president's counsel in not supporting subpoenas.
So that's an interesting political situation to play out. We'll see how firm the Republican support is for the witnesses from the managers' side if there are no witnesses being permitted from the president's counsel's side.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens. It could delay this trial for a matter of a few days or maybe even longer, is that right?
FRUMIN: Yes, I think things have slowed down substantially.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens now. We'll stay in close touch with you. Alan Frumin is the former Senate parliamentarian. He understands all of this stuff very, very well. Kaitlan Collins, I understand you're getting some more information from the Trump team. What are you hearing?
COLLINS: Well, of course, Wolf, as we noted earlier, they are just as caught off guard by this as everyone else is, but the question of course, if (INAUDIBLE) are getting witnesses and they're still figuring out, of course, what this is going to look like, who they are calling and who the former president's defense team wants to call.
COLLINS: And right now, if we're looking at this picture that we just saw from Jason Miller, the Trump team's adviser who brought out a list saying that they have a prepared list of 300 witnesses that they would like to call and of course, Wolf not all of those are going to get called, not even close. But it does show you the lengths that the former president's team is willing to go to try to drag this out if this is the road that they're going down with this.
And if you look at the top names on the list, it's House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Vice President Harris among others that they say they're going to want to hear from if the House impeachment managers are now going to call witnesses of their own.
So, of course we're still waiting and the Senate seems to still be waiting to see how all of this is going to work out but that is what's happening behind the scenes right now with the former president's defense team.
BLITZER: Very interesting indeed. Kaitlan, thank you.
John King is, of course, with me. This is a real bombshell right now. I think it's fair to say. Because we don't really appreciate -- we don't really understand what is about to unfold.
KING: Right, and so what are you seeing? You're seeing the traditional reflex of Team Trump, which number one, one of his lawyers lied on the floor of the United States Senate, lie and bully, threat.
We'll call 300 witnesses, they're not going to get 300 witnesses. But that's the -- that's what they want to play because they know if this ends today their client gets acquitted. There are not the Republican votes to convict President Trump.
So they're going to now do whatever they can, including bluster and bullying to try to get everyone to step back and say never mind, we can't have witnesses, let's just keep going and get this done today.
I was just texting, while you were having that conversation with Alan Frumin. I got text back from two senators, one Democrat, one Republican, who both said I don't know, essentially. There's a lot more to it. But they said that right now this is what's going on right now.
If you want witnesses, how many, can we reach an agreement at least on what to do today? Right. Do you want the congresswoman? What does team Trump say? Move forward on a plan for today and that's why they decided. First it was the quorum call if they could work this out. And then the recess because they realize they're not there.
So they're still negotiating over what to do next. And the senators who are the jurors are largely in the dark. They're all talking amongst themselves and they're being told by the leadership that they're trying to work this deal out. But they don't know where it goes from here.
So what does that mean? It means when we came to work this morning, when Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader said he was going to vote to acquit it seemed at that moment that that would happen today then the House managers decided no, we're not ready. We're going to ask for witnesses then. We're going to up the stakes here and ask for witnesses.
And now, we are in the land of the unknown, where we just have to see a, if they can work this out and then where we go from there. And there's no question, Team Trump, you know, is caught off guard here and it's also no question, it's just a fact they have been outlawyered on the floor of the United States Senate.
And so they woke up this morning thinking they would go to bed tonight with their client acquitted. Now they don't know what's going to happen here. This is all now open and unpredictable.
And there are risks for Team Trump. There are also risks for the Democrats as well as we talked earlier.
KING: Back in the Clinton impeachment trial they did stop it to depose some witnesses and it changed nothing, it just added some days to the trial.
BLITZER: The Clinton trial went on for 37 days. This is day five of this trial. But it could now, who knows how long it could take.
KING: That's the Republican -- that's what -- I'm not going to use the word threat. You know, some threats are greater than others, I guess. The Republican position is, you see a number of Republican senators saying I thought you Democrats wanted to advance the Biden agenda. I thought you Democrats wanted this be over as quickly as possible.
And there's no question, you have a new president who's up at Camp David who wants to get a lot done, who will be judged on COVID and the economy, not on Donald Trump's impeachment trial. And so that will be part of the negotiation is how many witnesses, how long will it take, what does the Senate do in the meantime?
If you delay this two weeks to take depositions, the Senate could come back next week and do COVID relief. If you keep it in trial mode, the Senate does nothing else. So that's the back and forth and you see the senators moving around there. There's Senator Cruz up on Capitol Hill. You know, this is part of the negotiation. BLITZER: You know, we see Cruz is over there. They're all walking
around right now. They've taken a recess. They're going to -- I guess it's going to be at least another half an hour before they come back.
But it could be even a lot longer knowing the U.S. Senate as we do. The recess that they said was 45 minutes could last a lot longer than that.
KING: Yes. They will not come back until they have -- they negotiate the next step. That doesn't mean they have a deal on the whole way out but they will not come back now until they negotiate the next step. They were trying to do that in the quote-unquote "quorum call" which is just a procedural effort that they use to negotiate, to try to work out agreements on the floor of what to do next.
When they realized that wasn't working they decided let's get off the floor and go do this in a private room somewhere.
BLITZER: Yes, the last -- the first Trump impeachment trial went on for 21 days. The Bill Clinton impeachment trial in 1999 went on for 37 days. Andrew Johnson back in the 1800s, went on for 83 days, and they were acquittals in all three of those.
KING: The big difference here from Trump trial one to Trump trial two is that the Democrats are in charge. I know it's 50/50 but that's a big deal.
BLITZER: It's a huge deal.
All right. Everybody stand by.
We're watching very dramatic developments, historic developments unfold at the United States Senate. We thought there would be a vote today on either conviction or acquittal. That doesn't look like it's going to happen. They have approved 55-45 -- a vote to allow witnesses to start appearing.
Much more of our special coverage coming up.
BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world to our special live coverage.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Today an unexpected twist in the second impeachment trial of the former president Donald Trump. Five Republicans joined all 50 Democrats to vote to include witnesses in this trial.
Right now the Senate is preparing a vote to subpoena specific witnesses, senators inside the chamber and Trump's legal team. They were all shocked by this development, a source tells CNN.
BLITZER: The push for witnesses stems from CNN's reporting last night revealing that while the Capitol was under attack on January 6th, Trump got into a shouting match with the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.