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Soon: House Expected to Impeach Trump As GOP Backlash Grows; More Republicans Abandon Trump Ahead of Impeachment Vote; Sources: Trump Discussed Pardoning Himself, Children After Insurrection. Aired 5-5:30a ET
Aired January 13, 2021 - 05:00 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.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world, this is NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, January 13th for a special edition of NEW DAY. It's 5:00 here in New York.
And we are at a watershed moment. Today, President Trump will become the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice.
And this morning, more Republicans are turning on him.
Overnight, the House approved a resolution calling on Vice President Pence to remove Mr. Trump via the 25th Amendment. Something Pence tells Speaker Pelosi he will not do.
"The New York Times" reports that the president warned Pence he would go down in history as the p-word for refusing to overturn the election.
So, this morning, the House begins impeachment proceedings. At least five Republicans say they support impeachment, including the third most powerful House Republican Liz Cheney. A White House official tells CNN that number could grow to 20 lawmakers.
On the Senate side, the makings of a political earthquake, CNN has learned that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is open to impeachment. A source says McConnell hates President Trump for the insurrection and plans to never speak to him again.
And through it all, President Trump is expressing no regret, and again, using threatening rhetoric.
BERMAN: Federal prosecutors are pursuing thousands of leads and pursuing sedition and conspiracy charges as they work to follow up attacks in Washington. America's most senior military leaders issued a rare message warning troops about their duty to uphold the Constitution. Metal detectors have now been placed outside the House chamber after multiple members told CNN they're worried about some members carrying firearms. And coronavirus, we had a number of record deaths reported overnight,
Let's begin, though, on Capitol Hill, where for the first time in our nation's history, we will see a president impeached for a second time today.
Sunlen Serfaty is there watching all the developments for us.
Sunlen, give us the very latest.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, it certainly is a history making moment, and it's only been a week since the attacks last week on the U.S. Capitol. This morning, in just a few hours, we will see Democrats joined by some week, within a few hours we will see Democrats joined by some Republicans impeach President Trump for the second time.
SERFATY (voice-over): A historic vote on Capitol Hill this morning, with House Democrats planning to impeach President Trump for that the second time. The move, exactly one week after a pro-Trump mob staged a deadly riot, breaking into some of the most secure areas of the U.S. Capitol. House Democrats introduced a single article of impeachment, charging the president with incitement of insurrection Monday.
REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): Donald Trump incited a violent mob to attack our capitol and we need to respond to that in a strong and swift manner.
SERFATY: The impeachment vote after the House passed a resolution formally calling on the president's removal through the 25th Amendment.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The president's actions demonstrate his absolute inability to discharge the most basic and fundamental powers and duties of his office, therefore, the president must be removed from office immediately.
SERFATY: A symbolic rebuke after Vice President Mike Pence made clear he would not invoke the amendment before Tuesday's vote, writing in a letter that evening, quote, with just eight days left in the president's term, I do not believe such a course of action is in best interest of our nation or consistent with our constitution.
REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: While it's just the latest in a disappointing series of failures by this administration. That's why I move forward to do our duty, which is to hold this president accountable.
SERFATY: In his first public appearance since the violent pro-Trump riot last week, the president lashing out against his possible impeachment, and taking no responsibility.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The 25th Amendment is of zero risk to me, but will come back to haunt Joe Bide and the Biden administration. As the expression goes, be careful what you wish for.
SERFATY: But behind the scenes on Capitol Hill, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could send major shockwaves through the Senate, indicating he believes impeaching Trump could help to separate him from the Republican Party. A source familiar with the matter tells CNN. McConnell also reportedly furious with Trump after the attack on the Capitol, according to another source with direct knowledge. In the House, at least five Republicans have publicly said they will back impeachment.
REP. JOHN KATKO (R-NY): 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.
SERFATY: And Congresswoman Liz Cheney, GOP's third ranking House member giving her reason why in a statement, writing, quote: The president could have immediately intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): There are going to be other Republicans influenced by her decision. And these things have a way of gathering momentum.
SERFATY (on camera): Now, after today, the House action, the conversation will very quickly shift to how and when the Senate starts their impeachment trial. Now, CNN has learned that President-elect Biden has called Mitch McConnell to discuss potentially what the first few days of the administration will look like, and the potential for bifurcating the day. Part of day, they'll work on impeachment trial in the Senate, part of the day, the legislative priorities for Biden and COVID relief and getting his nominees confirmed -- John and Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Sunlen, thank you very much.
Joining us now, CNN political analyst, Seung Min Kim. She's a White House reporter for "The Washington Post". Also with us, CNN "EARLY START" anchor Laura Jarrett, she's covered the Justice Department for years.
Great to have both of you.
So, Seung Min, here we are, after four years of virtually all elected Republicans being in lockstep with Donald Trump, now, this morning, the cracks are spreading. And I guess an armed insurrection was a bridge too far for some of them. And today, this historic second impeachment.
SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, I can't underscore how much this is snowballing against president Trump on Capitol Hill right now, particularly with Republicans.
Now, we've got five House Republicans saying publicly that they will support impeaching Donald Trump in the critical vote today. But those are people who are just saying publicly. And that number, I would inspect that to go a little higher. Our report shows at least with Republicans, and what's interest be is, the White House is expecting at least dozen Republicans to defect.
And what's interesting is the White House is not trying to keep people in line here, and neither is House Republican leadership. Republican leaders are privately saying to their members that this is a vote of conscience, that they're not going to clip their arms to make sure they're in lockstep with the president.
So, who is defending President Trump here? There's very little -- even though there's a vast majority of House Republicans do side with President Trump at the end of the day, there is arm-twisting going on here, there is no push to keep people in line because most of the Republicans know, if they won't admit it publicly, that the president did something very wrong here.
BERMAN: Yeah, the actions are indefensible, they have to reckon with whether or not they think it's impeachable, and they will today. And we are counting, just from our notes, we're expecting more of these names in the next four hours on TV. We'll bring you the latest names the minute they come in.
Laura Jarrett, the Mitch McConnell news, at this point, I think we're also numb to giant epic news that sometimes, it's hard to be like, oh, wow. I have to tell you when that crossed yesterday and "The New York Times" broke it, I was oh, my gosh. I mean, that is a major turning point, when the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has -- by the way, no one in McConnell world is pushing back.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": Right.
BERMAN: No one in McConnell world is pushing back. I've reached as many people as I humanly can, and zero people will tell you this report isn't true. So, obviously, the McConnell people want this out there that he thinks impeachment is a good idea. The significance.
JARRETT: I'm glad you were working your sources last night. There's no question he obviously wants this reporting out there. That he's pleased with this. He somehow thinks this could help purge Trumpism from the party.
But, let's be clear, Mitch McConnell stood by two months while this president fomented lies and disinformation about the election while he tried to steal the election in vain from Joe Biden. So, now that he has come around, only because we can only assume because he was personally attacked during last week's insurrection. There's no question that all of the lawmakers are still dealing with the trauma of what happened.
Mitch McConnell stood by for years, not just for the months leading up to where we are now, but for years, all to remake the federal judiciary, and he has now come around. I understand the reporting that he hates the president.
But unless he leads his caucus to a conviction of this president and they try to disqualify him from ever running again, or at least in 2024, this is all theater.
CAMEROTA: Seung Min, isn't -- isn't it what Laura just said, that Mitch McConnell gotten everything he needs out of Donald Trump at this point. He got his three conservative Supreme Court justices, he got his lower taxes. He doesn't need anymore. Now, now, whatever we were yesterday, nine days left, he can be done with him?
KIM: Right. And with Mitch McConnell, he has all -- he is turning 79 years old next month. He's just won reelection to another six-year term. This could very well be -- that could very well be the last election that he has run.
And he, clearly, with that phone call with the president-elect, Mitch McConnell is not just trying to leave President Trump behind in the rear view mirror, but really just looking forward to what kind of a working relationship that he could have with President-elect Joe Biden.
I think what's really interesting, too, how much Mitch McConnell's comments -- first of all, does he speak out more forcefully, now that this reporting is out there about his thinking. And also, how much does that motivate other Senate Republicans to be much more vocal and to come out, if there is a vote to convict him if and when this goes to a Senate trial.
I can tell you, before Mitch McConnell's comments I think maybe five to seven Republican senators that would potentially vote to convict the president in an impeachment trial. But it's hard to get to 17 Senate Republicans that we should have emphasized over and over.
But McConnell's comments were huge and quite stark and does that, again, motivate more Republicans to be vocal about again, their own serious anger at the president, which I can't underscore either how angry Senate Republicans are right now. Does that motivate more GOP senators to speak out in coming days? And we'll see.
BERMAN: There absolutely is a personal aspect of this and I promise you, no one deserves a profile in courage over this for coming out now. I will say, there's a political angle to this, too, Laura, which is that Mitch McConnell sees Donald Trump hurting the Republican Party. He lost two Georgia Senate races single-handedly, I think Mitch McConnell is reacting to that. He sees no political gain now in latching the Republican Party to the president.
My question is, what gain does Mike Pence see in all this going forward? Because let me read you the reporting from "The New York Times" last night that goes into the conversation. Everyone braces themselves. The minute I say that I can see you all in your seat --
(CROSSTALK) JARRETT: I just want to know, are you going to say it --
I'm putting on my glasses here. This was the conversation as Mike Pence was going to the Capitol to count the electoral votes. The president told him according to "The New York Times", you can either go down in history as a patriot or you can go down in history as the P-word. A pency, is what Alisyn Camerota called.
So, Laura, what are we make of that? How do we think Mike Pence will process that going forward and does that color this description overall?
JARRETT: Well, look, we know this is the way the president talks, and we know that because we've heard him on tape say it. So I don't think anyone is going to be able to dispute that with a straight face. I think the question for Pence is what kind of political future does he see for himself?
In his letter last night, he talked about the fact that he was constitutionally restrained on voting to affirm the electors as he did last week. And going through that constitutional process, and because of that, he doesn't want to engage in the 25th Amendment.
But it wasn't clear to me exactly where he falls on the impeachment question for Congress. And that remains still to be seen. And it seems to me that Republicans could ban together if they wanted to on this. When we talk about a purge of Trumpism, if they banded together, they would have safety in numbers. It's just not clear to me that there's the will to do that.
BERMAN: Mike Pence's state did not mention impeachment at all directly. Hard to believe that's an accident. Now, I'm not saying Pence supports impeachment but he left that out.
Laura, Seung Min, stand by. Much more to discuss with you in a second.
But, first, what federal investigators call an unprecedented probe into the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The FBI and Justice Department, they spoke for the first time since the attack. And they say there is a very real threat for more violence.
CNN's Jessica Schneider live in Washington with the vey latest on this.
Jessica, what have you learned?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.
The FBI emphasizing that they are conducting a 24/7 full bore extensive operation into exactly what unfolded one week ago. They've already opened more than 170 active case files and they're promising, even for those who have left Washington after storming the capitol, they're promising that law enforcement is searching the country to make arrests and officials from the FBI and DOJ, they spoke out Tuesday to defend the law enforcement response, and to reiterate, they did share intelligence with Capitol police about what might transpire.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): In the wake of the Capitol attacks, law enforcement nationwide on high alert in the days leading up to inauguration day. With security ramping up in preparation for President-elect Joe Biden to be sworn in on January 20th.
REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): There will be a significant amount of security here, National Guard, federal agencies, Secret Service agencies taking the lead which gives us a lot of comfort and we're going to be ready for it this time.
SCHNEIDER: More lawmakers receiving word that more violent extremists may be planning to come to Washington for the inauguration.
REP. TOM MALINOWSKI (D-NJ): There are people very well-organized, very well-determined, very determined, who want to come back to Washington. The most important thing for us to do right now is to play offense on all fronts.
SCHNEIDER: This as the Department of Justice provided critical information about the domestic terror attack on the Capitol last week.
MICHAEL SHERWIN, ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: People are going to be shocked with some of the egregious contact that happened within the Capitol.
SCHNEIDER: Speaking publicly for the first time since the attack, FBI and DOJ officials announcing over 170 active cases and possible charges of sedition, conspiracy and felony murder. Officials calling this investigation unprecedented in scope with at least 70 charged so far, and possibly hundreds of charges to come.
SHERWIN: Essentially, the Capitol grounds outside and inside are essentially a crime scene, and a scale of which we have literally thousands of potential witnesses. And scenario in which we're going to have, I believe, hundreds of criminal cases.
SCHNEIDER: D.C.'s Acting U.S. Attorney General Michael Sherwin said that the pipe bombs placed outside of the Republican and Democratic headquarters were real and that rioters engaged in open combat with police officers.
SHERWIN: Just the gambit of criminal cases that we're looking at is really mind blowing. We're looking at significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy.
SCHNEIDER: "The Washington Post" reports the day before the insurrection on Capitol Hill, an FBI field office in Virginia warned extremists were preparing to travel to Washington to commit violence and war. This was according to an internal document reviewed by "The Post". But despite this warning, the FBI says it shared with its law enforcement partners, no signs of additional preparations were made by Capitol Police.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of that information was shared with our partners and then we went from there.
SCHNEIDER: The military joint chiefs of staff released a statement condemning the attack on the Capitol and reminding service members any contact to disrupt the constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values and oaths, it is against the law.
SCHNEIDER (on camera): Now, notably, the acting attorney general and FBI director were absent from that law enforcement briefing yesterday. Though Acting A.G. Jeffrey Rosen did release a four-minute video just before midnight condemning the attacks and promising justice.
But, John, we still have not heard from FBI Director Chris Wray.
BERMAN: Yeah, a notable absence to be sure.
Jessica Schneider, please keep us posted on this throughout the morning.
SCHNEIDER: I will.
BERMAN: In the meantime, CNN getting new information overnight that very well may weigh on Republicans as they vote whether to impeach the president later today.
Donald Trump on new discussions about pardoning himself and his family even after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. That's next.
BERMAN: All right. Breaking overnight: multiple sources tell CNN that President Trump has talked about pardoning himself and his children. And he has had these discussions following the Capitol insurrection, the pardons becoming increasingly likely. And all of this comes as the day that Donald Trump will be impeached for a second time.
Back with us, Laura Jarrett and Seung Min Kim.
Now, you can't pardon your way out of an impeachment, Laura. However, what we have is the prospect of Donald Trump impeaching himself and his son Donald Trump Jr., for actions under criminal investigation, the very actions that are getting him impeached today.
It's a stunning thing to wrap your head around.
JARRETT: If they impeached him fast enough, we wouldn't need to be having this conversation. But it looks like they're not poised to do this, or at least not poised to have a trial in the Senate until after he's out of office in which case he could try to pardon himself. But my position on this has been the Constitution does not allow that.
The founders never contemplated that. And no court will go for it. The question is how does this even get tested? Maybe it never even comes up. Maybe the Biden administration, maybe the Justice Department under Merrick Garland decides, look, we're not even looking at the president, and so, he's only facing state charges in which case the pardon won't matter.
It seems to me the person who has the most exposure here is the former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani. He's the person who stood up at that rally and talk about a trial by combat. So, when we're talking about inciting to violence, and those type of criminal charges, when we're talking a pardon, it seems to me, he is the person who has the most to gain. But again, the president can try this self-pardon gambit. But it is more certain to fail.
CAMEROTA: I mean, let's remember that Mo Brooks said it's time to kick some ass, which is a violent rhetoric.
But, Seung Min, doesn't a pardon imply a crime. So a blanket pardon for his children, I don't know if it's suggesting beyond Don Jr., if he's going to pardon Ivanka and everybody else, what crime are they guilty of, that he's pardoning them for?
KIM: Well, that's the question, that's the question that we're facing if the president does go ahead and pardon himself -- we've seen -- first of all, the president throughout the tenure has relished the power. It's one of the few things that a president can do that is unchecked. And he's, you know, freely used it.
Particularly in the last few weeks when he's pardoned so many characters related to the Russia probe, in a way trying to erase the effects of the Mueller investigation on his presidency. It should not come as a surprise. Now, what it means for, you know, himself -- what it means for himself, Don Jr., I mean, at the very least, it underscores just the concern that you are hearing, that advisers are privately telling the president, what kind of legal exposure that he could have after this insurrection incident.
So, that is certainly something that the president is talking about, our sources have told us that they have talked about this, has not ordered the drying up for the pardon papers.
But certainly, in the next seven days, it's something that we're going to be watching.
BERMAN: And also, just the founding fathers just never contemplated as morally compromised as Donald Trump is. That just goes to show how inadequate, in some ways, the Constitution is for handling someone like him. He knows it, he's willing to press any button and has no compunction at all.
Laura, our producers are talking about whether or not the president incited the mob through the violence at the Capitol. I want to play you some of the language from the president, both on that podium that day, and the language that we heard from the insurrectionists at the Capitol. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The Democrats are trying to steal the White House. You cannot let them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't get to steal it from us.
TRUMP: We're bringing our country back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want our country back.
TRUMP: This is our country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our house. This is our country. This is our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Words matter, Laura.
JARRETT: They matter not just morally, but they matter legally. When prosecutors are looking about building a case about judicious conspiracy, they're going to be looking not just at what the president said at the rally last week, but they're looking at the whole context leading up to this moment.
Remember, this is the same president that got on the phone with the Georgia secretary of state to try to pressure him to steal votes away from Joe Biden. All of this comes into the same context. It's all part of the same fabric of what we're seeing here, the same type of criminality. It's one long line. You just don't look at one set of facts. You look at what he does afterwards.
When he got on Twitter and said these are the things that happened. Yes, he did tell them to go home, but he also said, we love you. I think prosecutors are looking at the whole host of what this president said.
CAMEROTA: Yeah. I mean, just on a psychological level, it's been remarkable to watch how people are radicalized. You can just see it. You can see the language. You seal the people who are desperate for leadership just, you know, becoming worked up -- to becoming extremists. And that montage shows who they were listening to. It's just been remarkable.
Ladies, thank you very much.
BERMAN: So, law enforcement officers viciously attacked during the in insurrection at the Capitol. But were some of them actually involved in the deadly riots. We have brand-new details, next.