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U.S. House to Vote on Impeachment; Several Republicans Say They Support Impeachment; Trump Take No Responsibility for Inciting Capitol Riot; Justice Department Bringing Sedition and Conspiracy Charges; U.S. Updates Vaccine Distribution Plan. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired January 13, 2021 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:00]

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ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, a historic day dawns on America. In just hours from now the House of Representatives will vote on impeaching President Donald Trump for a second time. We have extensive coverage for you.

Plus, preparing for the worst. Armed National Guard troops will help protect the Capitol ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration. But will that be enough to counter the threat of more violence?

And trading blame. The federal government now says states need to expand vaccinations to more people as more Americans than ever die from coronavirus.

Good have you with us. Well, a week after the U.S. Capitol was attacked Donald Trump could soon become the first U.S. president to be impeached a second time. Lawmakers in the U.S. House are expected to hold the historic impeachment vote in just a few hours from now. Democrats are leading the effort, but a growing number of senior Republicans are joining in, including the third ranking house Republican Liz Cheney and her colleague John Katko.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN KATKO (R-NY): The president's role in this insurrection is undeniable. Both on social media ahead of January 6th and in his speech that day. He deliberately promoted baseless theories creating a combustible environment of misinformation and division. To allow the president of the United States to incite this attack without consequences is a direct threat to the future of this democracy, for this reason, I will vote to impeach this president tomorrow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: And there are reports the top Senate Republican is signaling he's pleased with the impeachment effort. [04:05:00]

According to the "The New York Times," Mitch McConnell believes Mr. Trump committed impeachable offenses and says the move would make it easier to oust him from the party. A source says he's upset with the president for inciting last week's riot. But he still hasn't indicated if he would actually vote to convict him if impeached.

Meantime, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has rejected Democrats' calls to remove Mr. Trump from power. The House had passed a resolution urging him to do so by invoking the 25th Amendment. But Pence says the move isn't in the best interest of the country.

Meantime, the president is still refusing to take responsibility for the Capitol attack. He says his comments leading up to the riot were completely acceptable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, if you read my speech, and many people have done it. And I've seen it both in the papers and in the media, on television, it's been analyzed, and people thought that what I said was totally appropriate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: We're now just hours away from this historic second impeachment vote against President Trump. CNN's Ryan Nobles has all of the latest developments from Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: The United States House of Representatives one step closer to impeaching President Donald Trump for the second time in his presidency, the first time it has ever happened in the United States.

The House voting on Tuesday to ask Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment with a threat that if he did not go through with it that they were prepared to move ahead with impeachment. Pence already letting Speaker Nancy Pelosi know that he is not going to do that. So tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. Wednesday morning, the House will move forward with those articles of impeachment.

It's going to be a little bit different than it was the last time around. It should go much quicker. There are fewer articles of impeachment to go through and the other big difference, is that there will be Republicans that vote in favor of impeachment this time.

There won't be many. It's not going to be the majority of the Republican caucus, but there will be some notable names including Liz Cheney, who is the third ranking Republican in the House of Representatives. She has said that she will vote for impeachment.

And then of course the next question is, what happens in the United States Senate? Mitch McConnell signaling that there may be some opportunity for his conference to pick up these articles of impeachment and eventually convict President Trump. It's not clear how that whole process is going to work, but we're told that McConnell has been in contact with President-Elect Joe Biden.

If that were to happen, there is the potential and opportunity for President Trump to be convicted on these articles of impeachment after he already leaves office. Still a lot of unknowns though in that process between when it gets through the House and before it gets to the Senate, that process all beginning Wednesday morning here on Capitol Hill.

Ryan Nobles, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: Joining me now is a Tara Setmayer, a CNN political commentator and former Republican communications director on Capitol Hill. Good to have you with us.

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thank you for having me.

CHURCH: So, President Trump doesn't think his responsible for the attack on the Capitol last week, but that's not how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sees it. He apparently thinks the president committed impeachable offenses and believes this will help rid the GOP of Trump. What might all this signal politically? And is this a turning point for the party and for Trump himself?

SETMAYER: You know, it has been an extraordinary turn of events in so many ways. And the fact that Mitch McConnell, who has been one of Donald Trump's chief enablers throughout his entire presidency, may ultimately be the one who cast the final ballot to prevent Donald Trump from ever running for office ever again is just remarkable.

Mitch McConnell is quite upset with Donald Trump, because despite the fact that he did his bidding for so long and he used Trump in order to get judges and put forth his agenda, Donald Trump cost him the Senate. He cost him his title as Senate majority leader, which is the most powerful position for Republicans in Washington.

And you know, political actors don't respond, or course correct until they lose power, and that's what we are seeing happening with Mitch McConnell. It's clear that someone like Mitch McConnell, who is an institutionalist, could not bear the insurrection at the Capitol last week. And he is looking at his legacy. He is 79 years old and this is probably his last term in the Senate.

And does he want his legacy attached to what happened with Donald Trump? Or will he go out finally standing up to him and move forward with the impeachment hearings and conviction in the Senate? I will believe it when I see it, but the fact that he is even open to it is remarkable.

CHURCH: Yes, and the fact that he has put those views out there, however he did it, a few House Republicans now say that they will vote to impeach the president, including Liz Cheney. [04:10:00]

Who says what he did was a betrayal. Given Trump's role in last week's attack on the Capitol, how surprised are you that more Republicans are not outraged by his actions? And why aren't they appalled? What will it take?

SETMAYER: You know, when I made the decision to leave the Republican Party after the election this year, it was because I felt the party had been such a profile in cowardice. And that they were irredeemable because Donald Trump was not repudiated.

Trumpism has been a malignancy on this country for the last four years. And against the anathema of everything that Donald Trump has represented to what Republicans claimed they stood for has just been glaring.

And the fact that now, after a violent insurrection, where people died, a law enforcement officer was killed, murdered. That still, 140 Republicans went forward with protesting the election results, this continuing to support this big lie propagated by Donald Trump, which led to this whipping up of this frenzied mob and this violent insurrection at the Capitol is just hard to fathom.

Now, all of the sudden a few have found religion and decided to stand up and do the right thing, including Liz Cheney. They had opportunities in the past to do it, but when it impacted them in their own House, now they have a problem with it.

CHURCH: And our thanks to Tara Setmayer for her analysis there.

Well officials are beefing up security around the U.S. Capitol in the wake of last week's deadly riot and bracing for new threats ahead of inauguration day. Lawmakers and their staff will now have to walk through metal detectors before entering the floor of House of Representatives. The acting House sergeant at arms said in a memo that the move was to ensure everyone complies with rules banning guns and other potential weapons from the chamber.

Meanwhile, just outside, the U.S. National Guard is ramping up its security presence. The Pentagon has just authorized arming members of the National Guard who will be supporting Capitol security. And this is notable, as officials have historically avoided militarizing in Capitol. The mayor of Washington talked to CNN's Wolf Blitzer about the threats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MURIEL BOWSER, WASHINGTON, DC MAYOR: The FBI's analysis, our own local analysis looks at these domestic terror groups as what they are. Not as a group of blustering people who are coming here for a rowdy rally. I think what we saw last week at the Capitol, was that these are trained people, they're armed, and they are seemingly organized. And intent on -- and intent on serving Donald Trump, no matter what the means or the consequences.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Meanwhile, a U.S. attorney says people will be shocked when they hear more of the witness accounts of what happened at the Capitol, including open-handed combat with police officers. And real working pipe bombs in a truck parked nearby. The FBI is asking the public for help identifying those involved in the riot. CNN's Brian Todd has more on the investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Federal law enforcement is quickly widening the scope of investigations into the violence at the Capitol. Hundreds of charges officials say are forthcoming.

MICHAEL SHERWIN, ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: We're looking at significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy. We're looking at everything from simple trespass, to theft of mail, to theft of digital devices with inside the Capitol, to assault on local officers, federal officers both outside and inside the Capitol, to the theft of potential national security information or national defense information, to felony murder, and even civil rights excessive force investigation. So just the gamut of cases and criminal conduct we're looking at is really mind blowing.

TODD (voice-over): Law enforcement officials are seeking the public's help in finding suspects.

STEVEN D'ANTOUNO, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI WASHINGTON FIELD OFFICE: We have received more than 100,000 pieces of digital media. The FBI has a long memory and a broad reach. Agents from all local field offices will be knocking on your door. If we find out that you are part of the criminal activity at the Capitol.

TODD (voice-over): The FBI says before Wednesday's riot, the bureau tried to coordinate with other law enforcement agencies.

D'ANTOUNO: We shared intelligence through the JTTF model, and we also shared it through our command post structure. And then also through other means of -- they have access to our information readily available because they have access to our systems.

TODD (voice-over): Meanwhile, a chilling assessment from a congressman briefed by law enforcement on new threats to the U.S. Capitol.

[04:15:00]

REP. CONOR LAMB, (D-PA): They're talking about 4,000 armed patriots to surround the Capitol and prevent any Democrat from going in and they have published rules of engagement, meaning when you shoot and when you don't. So this is -- this is an organized group that has a plan.

TODD (voice-over): Congressman Conor Lamb didn't name a specific group but did say, quote, they have to be stopped.

The perimeters around the Capitol, other government buildings and the monuments are being reinforced and expanded, ringed by high fences and 1000s of National Guard troops. D.C. Metropolitan Police manning checkpoints at key intersections with huge dump trucks providing more barriers. One of the most dangerous threats up to and on Inauguration Day.

PETER LICATA, FORMER FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: Primarily it's active shooter, somebody with guns that's going to just start shooting randomly into a crowd or overcrowd. And then you scale it up to snipers with that being snipers and then the use of improvised explosive devices.

TODD (voice-over): Security at state capitals is ramping up significantly tonight.

Another lawmaker briefed by law enforcement spoke of how those making the threats are being tracked.

REP. TIM RYAN, (D-OH): There's a very aggressive response to this. A lot of the communication has dried up for a number of these people because they've been banned from some of the social media platforms like the president has.

TODD (voice-over): Meantime, manhunts continue for rioters who breached the Capitol last Wednesday. The FBI is asking for the public's help in identifying a man seen in photos carrying a large confederate flag inside the Capitol during the riot.

On Tuesday, two men were indicted by a federal grand jury for their roles in Wednesday's riot. Including a man from Alabama alleged to have parked a truck filled with homemade bombs, guns and ammunition, two blocks from the Capitol. And officials say the investigation from this point will be unrelenting.

SHERWIN: We're looking at everything money, travel records, looking at disposition, movement, communication records, so no resource related to the FBI, or the U.S. Attorney's Office will be unchecked.

TODD: And against the backdrop of the threat, there's new concern about possible leadership vacuums at key security agencies. The Department of Homeland Security is bringing in a new secretary after the acting secretary Chad Wolf abruptly resigned on Monday. And the Capitol Hill police have just sworn in a brand-new chief after the resignation of their chief, Steven Sund.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: America's most senior military leaders have taken the unprecedented step of issuing a statement condemning the sedition and insurrection at the Capitol. The joint chiefs of staff reminded service members of their obligation to support and defend the constitution. Their statement reads in part --

We witnessed actions inside the Capitol building that were inconsistent with the rule of law. The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection. As service members we must embody the values and ideals of the nation. We support and defend the Constitution. Any act to disrupt the constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values and oath, it is against the law.

Well, as the coronavirus death toll in the U.S. rises at alarming rates, the government is changing its vaccine distribution plan. Coming up who officials now say should be prioritized.

[04:20:00]

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CHURCH: For the first time in nearly 70 years, the U.S. federal government has executed a woman, after the Supreme Court denied defense attorneys last minute argument of severe mental illness. Hours before, Lisa Montgomery was put to death by lethal injection, her lawyers were arguing that she should have a competency hearing to prove her illness which would make her ineligible for the death penalty. Montgomery was sentenced in 2008 for the murder of a pregnant woman. She cut out and kidnapped the woman's fetus. The baby survived.

Well, yet another record for the deadliest day of the pandemic in the U.S. On Tuesday alone, more than 4,300 Americans died from COVID-19. That is the second time the single day death toll has topped 4,000. Now, this comes as the U.S. government revamps its vaccine distribution plan. CNN's Erica Hill has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A major shift in the government's vaccination plan.

ALEX AZAR, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: We are releasing the entire supply we have for order by states rather than holding second doses in physical reserve.

HILL (voice-over): In line with the plans announced last week by the incoming Biden administration.

DR. LEANA WEN, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: This briefing today was so important to hear and they are saying, OK, we know that there are problems, so let's help to problem solve.

HILL (voice-over): HHS Secretary Azar calling on states to expanding eligibility to those 65 and older and underlying conditioning, citing current state restrictions as roadblocks. Though several states have already begun vaccinating more groups of essential workers and younger seniors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the first time in my life I looked forward to getting a shot.

HILL (voice-over): More mass vaccination sites coming online. Disneyland will be ready by the end of the week. Welcome news in California, now the epicenter of this pandemic. Essential workers and their families especially vulnerable in hard-hit L.A. County. BARBARA FERRER, DIRECTOR, LOS ANGELES COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH DEPARTMENT:

Right now because there is so much spread, we're also recommending that people keep their face coverings on while they're inside the home.

HILL (voice-over): Hospitalizations in L.A. County soaring. Up more than 680 percent since November 1st. Daily reported deaths skyrocketing more than 1,400 percent.

FERRER: This slide is a very real reminder of our failures to protect each other.

HILL (voice-over): Meantime, in Tuscaloosa overnight, massive crowds celebrating Alabama's national title, prompting super-spreader concerns. The state's mask mandate still in place, though in crowd, tough to tell.

[04:25:00]

Rising hospitalizations in central Texas triggering new rollbacks. Nationwide, hovering around 130,000. The country adding more than 200,000 new cases a day for the last seven days. In that same time, reporting more than 20,000 COVID deaths including this 37-year-old mother who died just three days after giving birth to her sixth child.

STEVE LEDER, RABBI AND AUTHOR, "THE BEAUTY OF WHAT REMAINS": Death is the great teacher to impel us to all lead a more meaningful life and a life in which we take care of each other more, not less. And God knows this country needs that now.

HILL: Here in New York City field behind me, the home of the Mets, will soon be a 24-hour vaccination site. Able to process up to 7,000 people a day. That is welcome news, as or the federal government to push more vaccine out there. That being said, Mayor Bill de Blasio remains concerned about the distribution, calling it way too slow and warned that New York City may run out of vaccine soon.

In New York, I'm Erica Hill, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: Well as states scramble to get more shots into arms, the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary is blaming them for the slow vaccine rollout. Earlier I spoke with CNN medical analyst Esther Choo, and this was her reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. ESTER CHOO, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: To leave states dangling, with very little guidance, very little additional resources to do a massive effort for vaccine, when they have been doing a massive effort for testing, contact tracing, all the things that they have needed to do for pandemic control, is simply rich.

And you know, states right now are doing the best they can. Over the weekend, I spent an eight-hour shift doing vaccine distribution in my hometown. It really takes a lot of people volunteering on top of their regular jobs in order to do this.

And of course, it's very hard to ask health care workers to do this in this time, but that's the kind of thing we are relying on because we don't have the dollars to mobilize a workforce around this.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: Dr. Ester Chao talking to me earlier.

Well still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, U.S. lawmakers are on the verge of impeaching Donald Trump yet again. But the president insists he's done nothing wrong. His warning to Democrats trying to oust him. That's ahead.

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