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THE SITUATION ROOM
Removing Trump from Office; Interview with Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell; Colin Powell: "I Just Want Trump Out of Office"; U.S. Capitol Police Chief Resigning After Deadly Riot; Sources: House Dems Eye Quick Impeachment Vote If Pence Rebuffs Attempt to Remove Trump from Office. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired January 7, 2021 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I am Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We are following breaking news.
Tonight, growing calls for President Trump to be removed from office and to be removed quickly for inciting his supporters to riot at the U.S. Capitol in a violent assault on our democracy.
The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is pushing for the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to be invoked. If not, she says Congress may move again to impeach the president, warning he's -- quote -- "deadly" to the American people.
Federal prosecutors here in Washington say they're investigating Trump's role in egging on the angry mob. And the FBI is vowing to track down and charge more domestic terrorists who stormed the U.S. Capitol and then were allowed to simply walk away in a stunning, stunning breach of security.
Also breaking, the transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, has now become the first Cabinet member to resign over the insurrection.
This hour, I will get reaction to all of these late-breaking developments from the former Secretary of State General Colin Powell. He's standing by live.
Our correspondents and analysts are also standing by, as we cover every angle of this horrific moment in U.S. history.
First, we're getting new information on the push to remove President Trump from office.
So, let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, who's working his sources.
Manu, tell our viewers what you're learning. MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, rapidly moving
discussions among top Democrats about how they plan to force President Trump from office with just less than two weeks left in his presidency in the aftermath of yesterday's attack on the U.S. Capitol, the president inciting violence and urging his supporters to go to the Capitol that led to riots and violence and deadly clashes in the U.S. Capitol.
Now Democrats are talking about extraordinary measures to try to remove the president from office. Nancy Pelosi has -- is telling her colleagues and others that she is open to a quick impeachment vote as soon as the next several days, if the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, does not take constitutional steps to invoke the 25th Amendment, along with the support of the Cabinet officers that would essentially remove Donald Trump from office.
So, she's saying she wants Mike Pence to move first on this push to get the -- invoke the 25th Amendment. If he does not move forward with that, then Democrats are considering impeaching the president again for a second time, which would, of course, be the first time in American history that an American president has been impeached on two separate occasions.
But even though there's just 13 days left in this president's time in office, there is a possibility of moving quickly to a House vote. We're told from multiple sources that they're looking at potentially a way, a process to avoid the committee proceedings.
Essentially, typically, in a normal impeachment process, Wolf, it could take several months to unfold. But, here, what they're talking about is bringing a vote directly to the House floor, bypassing the committee altogether, and having a vote in the coming days.
Now, this strategy has not been finalized yet. Top Democratic leaders are still discussing how to proceed, but they want to have these discussions in the coming days with their caucus. They will have a conference call tomorrow afternoon to discuss how members feel about going forward.
But I can tell you, Wolf, one Democratic member after another are calling for the removal of President Trump. They say that, if he does not -- if Mike Pence does not move forward with the 25th Amendment, then the House should move forward with impeachment.
So there appears to be significant support to remove the -- to impeach the president. The ultimate question is, can they remove the president? The Senate still would have to have an impeachment trial, vote to acquit or remove him from office.
And that would require the support of two-thirds of senators to do just that, in a Republican-controlled Senate, unlikely to happen, but, nevertheless, significant discussions are happening right now in this moment, in the aftermath of what we saw on Capitol Hill just yesterday.
BLITZER: But, Manu, even if he were impeached once again, a second time, by the House of Representatives, as you correctly point out, you need a two-thirds majority in the U.S. Senate to remove him from office.
There's only 13 days left before he is removed from office and Joe Biden becomes the next president. So, is this simply some anger that's being reflected? Or is this realistic that not only could he be impeached -- I suspect he could be impeached in the Democratic-led House -- but then removed in the Senate? What's the latest?
RAJU: Yes, it could actually be a symbolic move more than anything else, an impeachment. The impeachment vote would, like, as you mentioned, probably not succeed under Republican-controlled Senate.
And Mitch McConnell could presumably essentially run out the clock, not have an impeachment trial before January 20, when Joe Biden would be sworn into office, that is, unless Mitch McConnell actually believes that the president should be removed from office and would want to expedite matters and would have the support of Republicans to do just that.
That is not the case at the moment. We will see if we eventually get to that point. But if they were to go the route of impeachment, it would essentially be a slap on the wrist, a very serious slap on the wrist, but nothing more than that, wouldn't actually force him out of office.
Really, the way to do that would be invoke the 25th Amendment, which is why they are trying to pressure Mike Pence, pressure his Cabinet to sign on to this extraordinary effort to get him out, to get Donald Trump out of office. No indication that's going to happen yet either.
But that's what the Democrats are pushing. And, tonight, one Republican has signed onto that call for -- to invoke the 25th Amendment, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a Republican, someone who has become a big critic of the president in the aftermath of the November 3 elections.
But that's it for now, because the rest of it, the support for the 25th Amendment are from Democrats, not from Republicans, Wolf.
BLITZER: Manu, I want you to stay with us.
I also want to bring in our political correspondent, Abby Phillip, our special correspondent, Jamie Gangel, our senior legal analyst, Laura Coates, as well.
So, Jamie, so far, as Manu correctly points out, just Adam Kinzinger, one Republican member of Congress, has come out in support of implementing the 25th Amendment to get rid of President Trump from office right now.
How likely is it Democrats could get any Republicans on board with a last-minute impeachment push?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I actually think it's possible, Wolf.
And that's because, behind the scenes, the Republicans that I have been talking to would like to get Trump out of office now. There is a growing concern. They do not think the 25th Amendment will work. They're not -- they don't think Vice President Pence will do it.
That said, all of the caveats Manu just mentioned, that's the real world. Will Mitch McConnell do this? There is one footnote to removing a president from office that may be of interest to a lot of Republicans who are interested in 2024. And that is that, if you remove him from office, you can then pass a vote that he could never run for federal office again.
That would take Donald Trump out of teasing whatever he is trying to do for 2024, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, that would be significant, indeed, if they could pass a law, pass some sort of legislation that would make sure he doesn't run for president again.
BLITZER: He's talking about 2024, as we all know.
Abby, so give us your analysis. What does this all mean, especially for President Trump's legacy, which is brutal right now?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't think that we have ever seen this level of fervor around removing President Trump from office, not just Democrats, who for a long time have wanted to see him removed from office, but also from Republicans, rank-and-file House members.
And even, I think, some members of the Senate would probably side with Democrats on this, even at this late stage. The problem is, as Manu points out, the numbers required to actually remove him in the Senate in the Senate in particular, I think, is probably an insurmountable hurdle.
I don't see two-thirds of the Senate siding with this at this late stage in the game. And, in fact, what you have seen instead is actually some members of Congress reaching out to members of the administration, and just saying, hold the line. Don't leave just yet, because we need you to make sure that nothing more lawless happens between now and January 20.
I think that signals to me that many members of Congress believe President Trump is unfit, but they also believe that the process of removing him in the next 13 days is just not reasonable, and it's not likely to occur.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta is our chief White House correspondent.
What are you hearing over there at the White House? What's going on behind the scenes? How worried should the president of the United States be that he won't be able to finish out his final 13 days in office?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I think that's a complicated question. You have to split it up into a couple of parts.
On this issue of the 25th Amendment, I can tell you, talking to a source close to the vice president, they view this idea of invoking the 25th Amendment as being unlikely to succeed.
And it is unlikely to happen at this point, mainly because some of the reasons that you were just talking about. I mean, keep in mind, if they try to invoke the 25th Amendment, the president could object to that. And if he objects to, that means it goes to the Congress for a vote. I believe a two-thirds vote is needed in both the House and the Senate. That's not going to happen when you have Republicans still in lockstep largely with this president.
In addition to that, Wolf, I mean, I also think, because of this compressed timetable, he only has 13 days left in office. It is going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the House and Senate to impeach and convict and remove the president in that short time frame.
And that is why you have so many Republicans, Republicans sources close to this White House, who are just desperately worried about what this president could do in his remaining days in office, as we have been talking about.
I have talked to sources close to this White House who were describing the president as having lost it, that he's unstable, that he's been ranting and raving behind the scenes, as he's been egging on and inciting these protests.
And it does leave a lot of people who are even close to the president, in support of the president wondering, what is he capable of next?
Now, as for what happened over here today, Wolf, the president stayed behind closed doors. He is hiding from the cameras, hiding from the press. The White House briefly came out and talked to reporters. The White House press secretary briefly came out and talked to reporters just a short time ago, and gave a statement to the press, saying they condemn this violence that happened up on Capitol Hill yesterday.
But, Wolf, there was no apology. There was no acceptance of responsibility for what happened. And the White House press secretary took no questions. It was just another shameful performance over here at the White House during what has been a very shameful week, Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly has been.
Evan Perez is with us right now. Evan covers the Justice Department.
We know the U.S. attorney here in Washington, D.C., Michael Sherwin, Evan, is suggesting that maybe the president should be investigated for inciting the violence that erupted yesterday up on Capitol Hill, and four people wound up dead as a result of what was going on up there.
What are you hearing?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I think those were certainly some of the more provocative comments we have heard as a result of what happened yesterday, the shameful things that happened yesterday.
Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney for Washington, for Washington, D.C., did say that they're looking at everything, everything is on the table, and that includes the comments that were being made on the stage there by the president, by his son, by Rudy Giuliani.
One of the things he also mentioned was, if you remember, this summer, Attorney General Bill Barr talked about the possibility of bringing seditious conspiracy charges against people who invaded federal monuments, federal courthouses. And he raised that that is one of the things that the prosecutors could take a look at.
I will read you just part of his comments. He says: "We're looking at all actors here and anyone that had a role, and if the evidence fits the elements of the crime, we're -- they're going to be charged."
Again, those are the comments from Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney here in Washington.
I will tell you, though, the focus, Wolf, is really on the people who invaded the Capitol, people who broke windows, who got into those offices, desecrated them, vandalized them, stole electronics, stole documents. Some of them could be sensitive national security documents.
That's where prosecutors are focused right now. We're told that they have got about 14 -- I'm sorry -- 15 federal cases that they're preparing to bring. The first couple of them appeared in court today. They had to do with firearms and ammunition.
But we're expecting a lot more charges. The FBI has been spending hours. Hundreds of people overnight, Wolf, were looking at surveillance cameras. They're matching it up with social media postings, some of the stuff that we have been showing on our air, to try to match faces to the people that they believe were involved.
And so, you can expect that there's going to be a lot of activity from the FBI around the country. Some of these folks, they believe, are already on their way home. And so, you can expect that that activity is going to pick up in the coming weeks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, as I pointed out yesterday, when we were covering all the breaking news, there are probably more closed-circuit cameras up on Capitol Hill than almost any other place. You and I have walked around. There's closed-circuit cameras everywhere. They have so much of this on video. And those folks who were rioting, those people who came up in that
mob, they probably were too stupid to realize that what they were doing was breaking the law. And there's video evidence of what they were doing. They're going to be in deep, deep trouble in the coming days, weeks and months.
Many of them are going to wind up in jail, no doubt about that.
Laura Coates, we're also told that, in recent weeks, the president has been talking with his aides, including the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, among others, about self-pardoning powers that he might have. Talk a little bit about that.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, of course, this is an untested and uncharted territory, the idea of self-pardoning. No one has attempted to do so, although the presidential power to pardon other people appears to be certainly absolute.
But the idea here that it runs in stark contrast to the idea of being a judge against one's own self in their own case, under its own Department of Justice guidelines, would really run countersuit and antithetical to what we think the pardon power should be about.
But, then again, this is a matter of the courts may have to take up. But, of course, the real issue here for many people, in addition to self-pardoning, is whether the president of the United States will pardon those people who engaged in the activity of yesterday.
These are federal crimes that were committed, which means that the federal pardoning power the president of the United States has could actually be wielded in this way.
We have video of the president of the United States saying that he loved the people, they are very special people. And these people, because they refused to wear a mask, became low-hanging fruit to the prosecutors and investigators to try to find out who they are.
It was almost like their cup rennet over of prosecutors and investigators trying to decide who is at fault here. And so, you have got that confluence of things.
And you all hit the issue here of, if the president of the United States, as we all are aware, that he is aware that the 25th Amendment is being mentioned, that impeachment is being mentioned, he knows that, in the last days of his power, he might want to go out with a big fireworks bang.
And that might very well be him saying, look, I have got nothing to lose if you're going to remove me or delegate the power that I have to Vice President Mike Pence, who makes no guarantee that he will pardon me, the way, say, Ford did to Nixon, particularly after I just asked people to march on down to the Capitol, where I knew you were.
You look at this and say, maybe the president is willing to throw that spaghetti noodle against the wall, in the hopes there will be no consequences. But I got to tell you, Wolf, in all of the cases you have laid out and Evan has talked about as well, there is not a limitations period, statute of limitations period, where it would run out before the actual inauguration and a new president is installed.
He will have to deal with either perhaps a state level prosecution on these matters if they find that to be the case, or potentially federal, if he chooses not to pardon or get pardoned.
BLITZER: Everybody, stand by.
There's more breaking news we're following. A former Republican Cabinet member is getting ready to weigh in on whether the 25th Amendment to the Constitution should be used to remove President Trump from office.
There he is -- my conversation coming up with the former Secretary of State General Colin Powell. He's standing by live.
We have got lots to discuss. We will be right back.
BLITZER: There's breaking news this hour.
CNN has learned that House Democrats are eying a quick impeachment vote if the vice president, Mike Pence, and the Trump Cabinet refuse to take unprecedented steps to remove President Trump from office in less than two weeks, 13 days to go.
Let's get reaction to the president's role in the deadly riots that erupted up on Capitol Hill yesterday.
Joining us now, the former Republican secretary of state, the retired General Colin Powell.
General Powell, thank you so much for joining us.
What do you make of this Democratic push right now to impeach President Trump for a second time for inciting this insurrection?
COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It really doesn't excite me.
We have got about, what, 13 days to go?
POWELL: And nothing will really happen in that 13-day period.
And let's let it play out now. The president is under such pressure now, that he's just going to do everything he can to stay alive, frankly, and to figure out what comes next. I would not detour into the different pieces of the Constitution that we think will be helpful.
I just want him out. I want him out of office. He's going to be out of office.
BLITZER: You want the vice president to go ahead and implement the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, get a majority of the Cabinet to agree and force him out?
BLITZER: Is that what you're saying?
POWELL: No, I didn't say that at all. I would not work with either the 25th Amendment or try to do an impeachment.
It's too late for that. That's too slow. And so, let's just -- I just want to get him out of office now, as fast as possible. And that's in about 13 days.
And then we can start sorting things out. I think it'd be a distraction right now to have everybody started running off for 25th Amendment or for an impeachment process. I would just say, let's go. We have got less than two weeks to go. And he will be out.
Let's make sure he gets out at that point.
BLITZER: You think there's any doubt that he would get out in 13 days?
BLITZER: Joe Biden is going to be sworn in at noon on January 20.
POWELL: And that's the end of the Trump administration.
I have been through a few of these ceremonies. And you're reading a little bit more into what I'm saying, Wolf. But that's OK. I'm used to that.
BLITZER: Well, how important is it, though, General Powell, to rebuke the president publicly for his role in inciting, invoking what turned out to be a deadly riot, even if that kind of rebuke would be merely symbolic?
POWELL: I think he should be rebuked in some way.
I'm just not sure that the right way is to try to invoke the 25th Amendment, which I doubt would be done by the 20th of January. And I think the same thing goes on with an impeachment.
But if the Congress wants to try it, that's their business, not mine. I would focus on the man himself, and make sure we know what he's doing for the next two weeks, and make sure that he's not getting into any difficulty in the next two weeks. And don't give him something to go cry poor about or say he's being persecuted unfairly. He's going to be persecuted fairly, just by what we're doing over the
next couple of weeks. And then, after that, if they see something that they can charge him with, fine. But it's only, what, 13 days?
BLITZER: Thirteen days.
POWELL: How do we get anything done in 13 days in this? Yes.
No, let's just get him out of office.
POWELL: I think he's teed up to get out of office.
Some people think he's going to do something, something crazy, some kind of military action. I don't think so, because I don't think he would have anybody in the government who would give him that kind of support.
POWELL: And so, I think let's just get him out of here.
We got a weekend in front of us will take care of three days. And we will have one week left.
POWELL: Let's just keep going.
BLITZER: It would be good if he just...
POWELL: Let's not divert into amendments and this, that, and the other.
BLITZER: It would be good if he went back to Mar-a-Lago and Palm Beach and played golf for 13 days or whatever.
The former Defense Secretary William Cohen, a man you and I know well, he said today that President Trump's behavior -- and I'm quoting him now -- "calls into question his mental status."
Do you have concerns about his capacity, his mental fitness right now?
POWELL: You can't not have concerns about his mental fitness, when you see the way he behaves, the way he acts, and the things he does, and how he sorts of gets off the rail.
He says one thing and then does something else. So, I think there's something to what Bill Cohen said. That's something else that we can turn over to mental authorities on the 13th day from here.
BLITZER: You served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs over at the Pentagon. I was covering the Pentagon at the time you were there. That's when I first got to know you.
Was this breach of the U.S. Capitol yesterday anything other than an intelligence and law enforcement failure?
POWELL: It was a total failure as a military operation or as a police operation.
For the first couple of hours, I saw people milling around outside. And I said, well, this is not going to be as bad as I thought.
And then, suddenly, they all started attacking the building. And I saw people going up the steps of that patio. And they went right through the door. And there was a huge crowd on that porch, patio for hours. And I said, what is going on?
And only then could I see pictures coming out of it. And what was going on was that hundreds had gone through. And they were running around the inside of the Capitol Building, destroying things. And we did not have a police force in there who could handle it.
That's what I don't understand. Where was the police force? Where was -- the National Guard had not been called up yet. And I also heard reports that some of these folks were going to be coming in to do service, but they won't be armed.
So, there's something wrong with this whole planning system. And we have to sort this out. We can't have this happen. We can't keep our Capitol Building that unguarded.
My own experience with this was the riot in 1992 in Los Angeles, when we had the problem with the Rodney King thing. And after a day of no interjection of forces, President Bush 41 called me. I was the chairman. And he said, we have got to get some forces in there. And I said, Mr. President, I have got some Marines waiting and I have got some active-duty soldiers waiting at Fort Ord and down by Pendleton.
And that's what we did. We put in active-duty soldiers, and they brought it down. They brought it to calmness. Now, I don't like doing that all the time. But the situation required it.
But in this case, I saw some police around. But these were the same guys I saw every time I went up there, I didn't see any reinforcement. I didn't see the place being guarded more strongly than it usually is guarded.
And so, I think that was a complete failure of planning and a complete failure of intelligence that couldn't see what was coming down the road. They didn't do anything. And I'm not sure what instructions were given to the police and others there, because when they got into the building, they tolerated a lot of destructive activity.
They just tolerated a lot of things that I would not have said could be tolerated. And so this is an operation that's going to require in the future the most serious examination, because I found it to be totally lacking in terms of its military ability, its police ability, and the intelligence failure that went along with it.
BLITZER: It was a total intelligence failure.
In the days leading up to what happened yesterday -- and I live and see what's going on. I was posting pictures of all the buildings in downtown Washington being boarded up once again because they were afraid that these pro-Trump demonstrators would come in and there would be violence.
So, you didn't need to be an intelligence genius to anticipate what was going to happen.
Let me get your thoughts on this, General Powell. During last summer's demonstrations against racial injustice here in our country, protesters were met immediately with tear gas, rubber bullets, batons, mass arrests.
Yesterday, this largely white mob made it in and out of the Capitol, with only a handful of individuals arrested. Hundreds, if not a few thousand, should have been arrested. How do you explain that?
POWELL: I don't know that I can explain it.
I'm not yet prepared to make a judgment that it's white vs. black, and that's the answer. But there was something fundamentally wrong with the way in which forces were sent to the Capitol, or the intelligence that was coming out of the Capitol, or what the plans were to go there.
In listening to some of the political officials in the Washington area in the weeks past, I didn't get a sense that they had really put their hands around it. I heard soft things. Oh, let's not carry weapons. Oh, let's not do this. Let's do that.
And so it troubled me a bit. But I was just watching it on television. Now, you may be right and what you saw on television may be right. But I'm not prepared to make that judgment that it was strictly black and white, and black and white, and white and black.
BLITZER: I want to put your secretary of state hat on.
POWELL: We have to be careful.
BLITZER: Yes, you have got to be really careful.
Let me put your secretary of state hat on for a moment. Today, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said all of President Trump's many gifts -- of all of this many gifts to Vladimir Putin, yesterday, she says, was the biggest gift.
You're the former secretary of state. How do you think foreign adversaries, whether the Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans, the Iranians, Venezuela, what they're seeing here in the United States? They're watching all of this unfold. And people are watching us right now all over the world.
How are they reacting to this? POWELL: They're watching with great interest, and they can't believe
we have done this to ourselves. So, that's the gift for Mr. Putin, who I know quite well.
We like to pick on them and say they're doing things wrong or bad or they're not good.
And suddenly, they're looking at the United States of America, and we've got people running through all our Capitol building, I've never seen them run through the capitol buildings of the Russians Federation. And so, they're just smiling and saying, see, Americans are not as big and bad as they like to make themselves out to be.
But they're going to be surprised. They're going to discover that we're going to rebound rather quickly.
I believe that once we settled this problem of these people who are out there, and wherever they came from -- arrest them, put them in jail, run them off, but clean out the place. And once we settle down, and I frankly -- once Mr. Trump is no longer the president of the United States of America and we have other people in the government, and we have a new president, I think things will settle down, quickly.
The big problem that I have with all this is that where was the Congress in all of this? In all the things that we have been doing, the Congress just went along with Mr. Trump. And, usually, it was just the Republican side, but there are some things we did that showed the Congress was not ready to do its duty.
All of these things that have come up, let's deploy forces, here let's put forces there, let's make the budget this high, let's make the budget that low -- this is congressional duty business.
In my years in the military, in my years as they national security and as secretary of state, I welcome Congress challenging me for what I was doing, that's what they're supposed to do. That's what I'm supposed to listen, to what should I be doing? What do you think I should be doing? And I would debate the Congress, and I would argue with them. And we settled out the arguments after discussing them.
But that doesn't happen now. We've got an extremely weak cabinet that's getting weaker by the day. They're walking out now, and they did not challenge the president.
You saw the movie, the television piece last week with the argument that the president was having with some people, and they told him the truth. But he didn't want to hear the truth. He said, no, I'm not buying that.
We would have never seen something like that, even in my days and government. When we went in to see President Bush, the Gang of Eight we called ourselves, the group of eight. It was me, and Mr. Cheney, my boss, the Secretary of State Baker, it was a great group. But we were free to talk. And I've talked -- I told the story many, many times. You know, Mr.
Cheney was my boss, I was just the chairman. I had no authority in that room. But Cheney would give the position of the Department of Defense to President Bush. Mr. President, this is the decision that we make, this is what we recommend to you. And then he would pause and say, but Colin doesn't agree with me on everything. Colin, tell the president what you think.
And I would. And that's the kind of organization that we had. We all chipped in. We all contributed on our viewpoint.
And not to have that kind of a government is to have the weakest possible government possible, where you do not allow people to come in and talk openly before the president of the United States.
And Bush would just sit there and listen to it. And when he heard it all, he was ready to make a decision. He made a decision. We executed that decision.
That's gone. I don't know where it went but it's gone. And there's not a cabinet now that understands this as well as they should, and they're not doing the job they're supposed to be doing.
BLITZER: Is it going to come back in the new administration?
POWELL: Oh, we're going to have a new administration, and it's going to be a president who has experience at that level. As a politician, I have a great confidence in Joe. I know him quite well.
We've done a lot together. We raced our Corvettes together. And I think he is the kind of individual who understands these issues and will approach them with a genuine approach, but he wants to hear what people think. He wants to make up his mind to make a decision only after he's heard what the positions are within the department, and the other departments of government.
We don't have that now. The president just decides something, and he reverses what he decided yesterday. That's chaos.
POWELL: How do you deal with a president like that? How do you deal with any leader like that?
It's not the way the government was supposed to work, or a business is supposed to work. And I think that the group that's coming in now, some of the names that have been named to Joe's cabinet are pretty solid individuals.
POWELL: And I think they'll do a good job for the president and for the American people. My concern is, who is going to force Congress to do the right job?
BLITZER: Well, those are good, questions will continue this conversation.
General Powell, it's been 30 years exactly this month since you and I got to know each other during the First Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm.
You were chairman of the Joint Chiefs. I was CNN's Pentagon correspondent.
And I want to thank you all of these years, for all your service to our country. We really appreciate what you have done over these years. Thanks so much for joining us.
POWELL: Thank you so much, Wolf, and I extend the same gesture to you. You did a great job over there, with your bodies in the media.
And an open, free press corps is an essential part of American government and it's in essential part of our Constitution. And you are a great participant in the effort. Always tell the truth, tell the truth and always make sure you're giving out all the information you can.
BLITZER: And, hopefully, we will never hear an American president once again accusing us of being the enemy of the American people. It was so disgusting over four years hearing that all the time, coming from a president of the United States. That simply has to stop.
Mr. Secretary, General Powell, thank you so much for joining us.
POWELL: My pleasure. Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Just ahead, President-elect Biden calls for a capital riot, one of America's darkest days, and delivers what may be the most powerful rebuke yet of President Trump.
And the stunning meltdown in security at the U.S. Capitol. We're about to take a deeper deep into what went so horribly wrong.
BLITZER: There's more breaking news coming out of THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
CNN has just learned that the U.S. Capitol Police chief is resigning after the appalling failure to prevent pro-Trump rioters from storming into the halls of the U.S. Congress.
Brian Todd is joining us right now,
Brian, you were there right in the middle of that awful scene that was going on. Thank God you're okay. But tell our viewers what you're now learning.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it comes a day late, but the Capitol grounds are being converted into a fortress. These crews have just put up an 8-foot high metal fence. It is ringing the Capital grounds, all the way around it. They've got concrete barriers behind it. This is going to step for at least 30 days. This is as hundreds of National Guardsmen, police cruise from different jurisdictions are ringing the capital tonight, still as we mentioned, it comes into late to save the police chief from losing his job, and from his department from skewering criticism they're getting for the security meltdown yesterday.
TODD (voice-over): A beleaguered officer in the capital falls back in the case of a crowd of intruders, U.S. Capitol Police now under scrutiny for being undermanned and overrun. That was a massive failure and we need to get to the bottom of that how that happened. Lawmakers grateful to officers who protected them.
REP. GRACE MENG (D-NY): People were fearing for their lives, making calls to their families to say goodbye.
TODD: But also demanding answers.
REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): Why were they overwhelmed? Everyone knew this was going to happen. Why weren't they tracking social media? Why didn't erect the barriers around the Capitol that are present now?
TODD: One problem, not calling up enough personnel says a former D.C. police chief.
CHARLES RAMSEY, FORMER WASHINGTON, DC POLICE CHIEF: They can bring in the Metropolitan Police. They can bring in police agencies from Maryland and Virginia, to help them. Obviously, the National Guard.
TODD: The city and the National Guard say they sent help as soon as possible, and back-up eventually arrived, but sporadically and in small numbers at first.
In June, by contrast, federal guards were out in force well ahead of Black Lives Matter protests.
Another apparent mistake: preparing for a terrorist attack instead of a violent mob.
TERRENCE GAINER, FORMER CHIEF, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: Well, we probably need is less long guns and we need a lot more riot control batons that would've helped control that mob.
TODD: Also, an issue, not anticipating how many protesters would come.
RAMSEY: These right-wing groups that made it very clear, that they were going to be there. I mean, everything was in place, how could you be possibly caught off guard? TODD: Also, under scrutiny how the rioters were treated. Some officers
criticized, for giving way to easily. One even apparently taking a selfie with the, mob a far cry from how Black Lives Matter protesters were dealt with by federal forces in June, when they were violently cleared out of the park in front of the White House.
BASS: I think it's just an example of the double standard, obviously, Black Lives Matter protesters were perceived as very threatening and for some reason, these weren't.
TODD: D.C.'s mayor says the city's police focused on their responsibilities.
MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER (D-WA), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: I needed MPD to focus on law enforcement activities and being able to respond to any hotspots.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, help me God.
TODD: Now with Joe Biden's inauguration, just two weeks away, 6,200 National Guard are arriving in D.C. And tall fencing is going up around the Capitol, along with pledges of tighter security.
TODD: And we have this just in, according to three sources telling CNN tonight that Capitol Hill police officer has died as a result of injury suffered from the unrest yesterday -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Five deaths so far, as a result of what happened yesterday here in the nation's capital. Hard to believe the awful situation.
Brian, thank you very much.
Also, tonight, House Democrats are ramping their push to remove President Trump from office quickly, one way or another, warning the riot at the U.S. Capitol Hill showed his a danger to the country.
Let's go to CNN's Jeff Zeleny, who's covering President-elect Biden in Wilmington, Delaware.
Jeff, so what is Biden stake right now in the possibility of another impeachment effort in the House?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are learning tonight that President-elect Joe Biden does not have an appetite for moving forward with an impeachment inquiry. Now, he is leading all of this to the members of Congress. He said that, of course, is their purview. He takes office in just 13 days, but he has not expressed support in internal conversations we are told with the idea of impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment.
Yes, he does not believe that President Trump is fit for office. Of course, he built his presidential campaign on that, but at this point, he says, impeachment would not unify the country.
BIDEN: I wish we could say we couldn't see it coming. But that isn't true. We could see it coming.
ZELENY (voice-over): A day after the assault on the U.S. Capitol and American democracy, President-elect Joe Biden tonight delivering one of his most powerful rebukes of President Trump.
BIDEN: What we witnessed yesterday was not dissent. It was not disorder. It was not protests. It was chaos.
They weren't protesters. Don't dare call them protesters. They were a riotous mob, insurrectionists, domestic terrorists. It's that basic, it's that simple.
ZELENY: Yet Biden not adding his voice to the rising calls to remove Trump from office immediately. CNN has learned Biden, for now, has a little appetite for invoking the 25th Amendment or impeachment.
Tonight, Biden is vowing to rebuild civility and decency at the White House while defending the framework of the U.S. Constitution and the three branches of government.
BIDEN: There is no president who is a king. No Congress that is a house of lords. A judiciary does not serve the will of the president or existed protect him or her.
ZELENY: The racial inequities on display Wednesday at the Capitol, Biden said, were unacceptable.
BIDEN: No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, there would not have been -- they would not have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that storm the Capitol.
ZELENY: Pledging to restore fairness to the Justice Department, Biden introducing Judge Merrick Garland as his nominee for attorney general, to lead the agency in the tumultuous post-Trump era.
BIDEN: You won't work for me. You are not the president or the vice president's lawyer. Your loyalty is not to me. It's to the law, the Constitution, the people of this nation to guarantee justice.
ZELENY: In selecting Garland, Biden turning to a centrist federal judge whose nomination of the Supreme Court by President Obama was blocked by Republicans. This heated times Biden said demand a leader at the Justice Department who is beyond reproach of politics.
JUDGE MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: As everyone watched yesterday's events in Washington now understands, if they did not want before, the rule of law is not just some lawyers turn of phrase. It is the very foundation of our democracy.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ZELENY (on camera): So, with the attorney general and other senior leaders pick the Department of Justice, there are just a few more cabinet positions left. Wolf, we were told these will be announced tomorrow that includes the commerce secretary, that Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, as well as the labor secretary, Boston Mayor Walsh.
Now, this is going to fill the president's cabinet, but one thing also has happened this week, Wolf, pretty extraordinary for the Biden presidency. Democrats now control of this senate. That means all of these confirmations will go through much smoother and quicker. We are learning the first confirmation hearing, the day before inauguration, that is for the defense secretary nominee.
BLITZER: The Democrats with these Democratic wins in Georgia, the Democrats will not only control the White House, the House of Representatives but also the U.S. Senate. Clean sweep for the Democrats right now.
All right. Jeff, thank you very much.
There's more breaking news we're following and get more on the late breaking developments. The chairman, the president I should say, the NAACP, Derrick Johnson, he's standing live. We'll discuss when we come back.
BLITZER: Breaking news this hour, CNN has learned that House Democrats are eyeing a quick impeachment vote if the Vice President Mike Pence and the Trump cabinet refused to take unprecedented steps to remove the president from office in less than two weeks, 13 days to go.
We are joined now by Derrick Johnson, the president and CEO of the NAACP.
Derrick, thanks so much for joining us.
As you know, President-elect Joe Biden today condemned the contrast between how police treat Black Lives Matter protesters here in Washington and how they treated this mob that was sieging the U.S. Capitol yesterday.
What message did law enforcement send to Americans yesterday with that response?
DERRICK JOHNSON, CEO AND PRESIDENT, NAACP: One, that they are toned of to domestic terrorists present to this nation particularly those who are members of the Proud Boys and other white supremacist groups. NAACP, we have been ringing this bell for a while now. In fact, this past summer, along with ADL and the Color of Change, we launched a campaign to get Facebook to begin to address white supremacist groups and domestic terrorists.
This president has created the space where people feel more emboldened. He started the administration with Charlottesville, Virginia, and now these final days, he is ending this administration with inciting treasonous acts by individuals who are domestic terrorists.
BLITZER: Yeah, they were very fine people on both sides after Charlottesville, is what he said.
In a statement, as you probably heard by now, the former First Lady Michelle Obama said this and I'm quoting about the mob. She said: The mob desecrated the center of American government and once authorities finally gain control of the situation, these rioters and gang members were led out of the building that in handcuffs but free to carry on with their days, close quote.
That was pretty shocking to so many of us, you know, Derrick. The message about racial justice, the message from racial justice activists is that it should not be a surprise all. Were you surprised that these individuals were not immediately arrested, placed, had handcuffs placed around their hands were, made to sit on the ground, wait for buses to come and take them and to be formally charge? They were simply told, go home.
JOHNSON: I was shocked. We still have people across the country dealing with charges for peaceful protesting in reaction to George Floyd and the fact that no one has been charged with anything for what happened at the Capitol.
You know, the news says 52 people were charged. No, 47 people were charged for breaking a curfew that the mayor of the city of D.C. established and a few other people were charged because of gun possession. But no one was charged for looting that took place.
Let me say it again, the looting that went into members of Congress office including the speaker. They took items out of that office. One person has been posting letters and mail on Facebook. That is not the right message.
I am not surprised that the head of Capitol Police resigned. In fact, everyone who was involved in leadership should be forced to resign or be terminated, particularly those who open the gates to let the riders in, the individuals who took selfies. What type of message are we sending to America? What type of messages are we sending globally, we cannot protect our own Capitol?
BLITZER: Yeah, for those of us who have covered Congress for so many years, it was so painful to see this desecration unfold. Members of this mob, Derrick, they actually flew Trump flags. They wore QAnon logos. One of the rioters actually came in with a Confederate flag right in the hall, look at this picture, in the halls of the U.S. Capitol.
So, where does the county stand -- where does the country now stand in the arc of the moral universe as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. put it? JOHNSON: So let's start off with what this was. This was an act of
domestic terrorism. These were terrorists. Not even rioters, terrorists.
Secondly, this was an act of treason. Their goal, their stated express goal on social media leading up to this was to disrupt and stop the certification of the next president of the United States. Their claim is something that should be taken seriously enough and charges of sedition should be brought not only who those were there but charges should be one brought up against the president, the current president sitting in the White House because he use social media platforms to encourage and to ignite what took place.
And even when he went to say, don't treat law enforcement officers bad, he went back to a false narrative that really is lighting the fire that somehow the election was stolen from him, which is nothing further from the truth and that lie he keeps saying to ignite the flames of treason.
BLITZER: It was a free and fair election, and Joe Biden won by more than 7 million votes certified by all 50 states, including the District of Columbia, the Electoral College, and unfortunately 13 days, this transfer, peaceful transfer, we hope will take place.
So, Derrick, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for everything you are doing.
JOHNSON: Thank you. Thank you.
BLITZER: Finally, tonight, we share more stories of people who died from the coronavirus.
Roy Stephens of Connecticut was 85 years old. Originally from England, he was the former CEO of the British department store chain, Selfridges. His daughter Kathy (ph) says he loved travel, animals and disco dancing.
Don Kneeburg in Wyoming was 81. His wife Katie (ph) says his first love was music and it remained his passion after playing and teaching music for much of his life. She also says Don was also proud of the 40-mile hike he took in Macau -- Machu Picchu I should say back in Peru at the age of 70.
May they rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing.
Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You could always follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.