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House to Impeach Trump as GOP Backlash Grows; Sources: Trump Discussed Pardoning Himself, Children after Insurrection. Aired 6- 6:30a ET
Aired January 13, 2021 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democrats are now poised to impeach the president for the second time, only this time around, there are going to be Republicans getting onboard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitch McConnell signaling that there may be some opportunity for his conference to pick up these articles of impeachment and eventually convict.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL COMMENTATOR (voice-over): Trump cost him the majority. He sees Trump now as an albatross to the party in the future.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're looking at significant felony cases, tied to sedition and conspiracy. The gamut of cases we're looking at is really mind-blowing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going to negotiate with domestic terrorists, and that's who these people are.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is a special edition of NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, January 13. It's 6 a.m. here in New York. And this is history. And this is infamy for Donald J. Trump.
By sunset, he will be the first president ever to be impeached twice, and this time, a growing number of Republicans are turning on him.
So overnight, the House approved a resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence to remove Trump via the 25th Amendment. Pence now says he won't do that.
"The New York Times" reports the president warned Pence that he would go down in history as the "P" word for refusing to overturn the election. So very shortly, impeachment proceedings begin. And Republicans are
onboard. Some, at least. Five so far, including the third-ranking Republican in the House, Liz Cheney. We are watching that number grow throughout the morning. We will bring you the names as they come in.
On the Senate side, nothing less than an earthquake. CNN has learned that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is open to impeachment. A source says McConnell hates President Trump for inciting the insurrection and plans to never speak with him again.
As of this morning, President Trump expressing no regret, and he's making new threats.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Federal investigators say they are pursuing thousands of leads on the identities of these domestic terrorists so they can level sedition and conspiracy charges against this mob.
America's most senior military leaders issuing a rare statement, warning their troops about their constitutional duty to reject extremism.
Metal detectors have now been installed outside the House chamber after multiple House Democrats tell CNN they were worried about other members carrying firearms.
Meanwhile, coronavirus deaths hitting new record numbers. The U.S. reported 4,327 deaths just yesterday.
We begin this historic day with CNN's Sunlen Serfaty. She is live for us on Capitol Hill. What happens next?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, this is certainly a history-making moment up here on Capitol Hill. And notably, it has only been one week since those attacks on the U.S. Capitol.
And in just a few hours, we see House Democrats joined by House -- some House Republicans, impeach President Trump for the second time.
SERFATY (voice-over): An historic vote on Capitol Hill this morning, with House Democrats planning to impeach President Trump for 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-CAA): 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 that such a course of action is in the best interests of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution."
REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY): Well, it's just the latest in a disappointing series of failures by this administration. That's why we'll 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 Biden 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 shock waves through the Senate, indicating that 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 attacks 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, the GOP's third-ranking House member, giving her reason why in a statement, writing, quote, "The President could have immediately and forcefully 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: And after the House action today, very quickly, this conversation will turn to how and when the Senate starts their impeachment trial, especially given that it will be in the first few days of the new Biden administration.
Now, President-elect Biden spoke to Mitch McConnell over the phone about -- about all of this ahead, and he talked about the potential that's being talked about, about bifurcating the schedule. Focusing some part on the day on impeachment and the other part of the day on the Biden legislative priorities like COVID relief and getting his nominees confirmed -- John.
BERMAN: All right. Sunlen Serfaty, please keep us posted up on Capitol Hill. Again, we're expecting more Republicans to come out and support impeachment, perhaps over the next several minutes.
Joining us now, CNN legal analyst Elie Honig and Margaret Talev. She's the managing editor at Axios. And Margaret, I want to start with you, because the earth has shifted overnight. I don't think -- I think that's actually understating what has gone on.
CAMEROTA: The cosmos has shifted.
BERMAN: Politically in this country, there has been a huge shift overnight. Donald Trump will be impeached for the second time later today. His presidency, for all intents and purposes, is over. But his place in history now, I think, is what has radically changed, where you have Republicans now publicly turning on him. What are you seeing this morning?
MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, John, good morning.
And that's right. My colleague, Mike Allen's, one big thing this morning is going to be top Republicans want Trump done forever. And I think that that encapsulates well the mood.
You've seen enormous ground shift in the last 24 hours, at least publicly. But I think behind the scenes, some of these discussions actually were going on for days.
Here are the factors. No. 1, some of the behind-the-scenes briefings, as lawmakers began to understand in more detail, some of which we know, some of which we don't yet, what actually happened, what was involved in those attacks on the Capitol.
No. 2, shifting public opinion, shifting opinion inside the Republican conferences.
No. 3, Twitter taking away Donald Trump's voice and Mitch McConnell seeing how much better his life is without the president's constant voice shaping on that level, nationally, tens of millions of people's thoughts about what is happening.
And No. 4, I think just a sinking in of what has happened here. Not only did President Trump cost Mitch McConnell the majority in the Senate races in Georgia; not only did President Trump completely challenge and change the Constitution of the Republican Party, what it stands for, who its most activated members are, and that new base really frightens a lot of sitting Republicans; but then inciting what happened on the Hill, deadly, deadly riots inside the House and, you know, the House and Senate quarters inside the Capitol complex, the death of police officers, the death of people.
So there has been a gelling effect in recent days. And what we see now is the strategic understanding by McConnell, perhaps, that if he -- if this happens, it could put President Trump off the grid for 2024, allow him to reset control of the party, and allow him to deal with Joe Biden without President Trump being a voice that guides and essentially controls the Republican Party now.
CAMEROTA: Elie, it's been so fascinating. For all of the people who wondered what the Rubicon for Republicans would be over these past four years, I guess an armed insurrection was it. I guess that's the part that makes the cracks that we now see, you know, shattering the earth, as John said, you know, beneath all of our feet.
And it's also been interesting to watch Democrats on this. They -- the last impeachment that we spent months talking about, you know, I mean, from the Ukraine call and the investigation and the actual impeachment, now, when they're no longer, I guess, afraid of any political repercussions or his Twitter feed or whatever, apparently, they can move, you know, with lightning speed.
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, listen, look, this is a real moment of truth here. And I think every member of Congress should understand, whatever they do today, however they vote today, that stays with them forever.
Now, the case here is really straightforward. If I'm thinking about prosecuting this case, I'm just essentially rolling the tape that we've all been watching over the last week.
What I'm really looking for, really interested to see is how on earth do you defend this case? How will the president's most loyal sycophants in the House, the Matt Gaetzes, the Jim Jordans, the Louie Gohmerts, how on earth do they defend this?
And I think a word people should be listening for today is divisive, which is a completely bogus copout of a defense. Because impeachment is divisive only if there's an actual divide about what the president did, his actual conduct. So if you hear people standing up in the chamber today and saying impeachment is divisive, no, that's nonsense. I want to hear an actual defense of what the president did on January 6.
BERMAN: Yes. If they wanted to make it less divisive, they could make it unanimous. I mean, I'm not saying -- they should, but if they wanted to be less divisive, that's one way to get there.
Margaret Talev, Mitch McConnell, and again, I think it is notable, there's no pushback from McConnell world over these stories, whether it be from "The Times," CNN, what you guys are putting out. McConnell world wants this out there, that McConnell has turned on President Trump.
But if impeachment is something that he is in favor of or pleased with, why not call back the Senate? He can -- he can do this. He can -- he can make conviction more likely by saying today, you know, I'm going to do everything I can to get the Senate back as early as possible for this trial.
TALEV: So timing is a really important question. And I think we'll get maybe a little bit of clarity in the coming hours today about exactly how this is going to proceed.
The Senate scheduled to come back on the 19th. They could, with an agreement between McConnell and Schumer, come back early. But the reality is, I don't -- I have not talked to anyone -- I have talked to a lot of Republicans and Democrats who think that this is going to begin to move forward now. I've talked to nobody who thinks it's going to be waving a wand and move forward.
And the question is, how long, realistically, will this take? And it's Mitch McConnell we're talking about here. So even if he's thinking about the history books or acting swiftly with Trump, he's also understanding the levers of power.
He and Schumer need to have a power-changing arrangement. Joe Biden needs to get cabinet officials confirmed. And McConnell has the ability, depending on how the timing of this works, to stretch this out in a way that restricts Joe Biden's agenda at the same time as he's trying to protect and reset the Republican brand.
So there are a lot of strategic questions here, and finally, how many Republican members in the Senate are ready to do this. And so, like, I think all of that strategy is going to settle in over the next few hours and maybe the next couple of days.
CAMEROTA: You know, Elie, last time around with the impeachment, there was a feeling that maybe it was ceremonial, because we knew that it was a fait accompli, that he wasn't going to be convicted in the Senate.
This time around feels different, because there does seem to be so much more at stake, including barring President Trump from ever running again, and then all the things that we're learning that come along with being a former president.
You get this huge travel stipend, $1 million of taxpayer money a year. You get a stipend to live on. The first lady gets a stipend. There's all sorts of things that, if Mitch McConnell wanted, he could deprive the president -- you know, Donald Trump going forward of.
HONIG: There are real stakes here. First of all, the president, absolutely, if he's convicted by the Senate, can then be disqualified from running for office in 2024. That's going to change the whole landscape. He also could lose those post-presidential benefits.
One thing I also want to stress here. Anyone who votes "no" on impeachment today does so at his or her own peril. Because we here in the public and the media, we know a lot. We've seen the videos. We understand basically what happened there that day. But I guarantee you, prosecutors know a lot more. And more is going to come out.
And we got a hint of that yesterday, because the acting U.S. attorney for D.C. stood up in front of the cameras and said, The things that I've seen are shocking. So if you vote "no," you don't get to undo that as more and more damaging information comes out in the coming days and weeks.
BERMAN: Stand by, friends. Because we're getting some brand-new reporting into CNN about something that may affect how Republicans approach this in a few hours.
CNN has learned that the president has had new discussions about pardoning himself and his family. These discussions taking place even after the insurrection. Will this push more Republicans to impeachment? That's next.
CAMEROTA: We have some breaking news. Multiple sources tell CNN that President Trump has talked about pardoning himself and his children in these days following that Capitol insurrection. We've heard this before, but it sounds like the pardons are becoming increasingly likely.
Back with us, Elie Honig and Margaret Talev. Elie, before -- to set up the question about pardons, let me remind you and all of our viewers about the direct line between what President Trump said on Wednesday, when he ginned up the crowd to a lather, and then what they parroted, exactly his words, as they marauded into the U.S. Capitol, looking to hang Mike Pence and before they killed a police officer. So here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Make no mistake, this election was stolen from you, from me, and from the country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't get to steal it from us!
TRUMP: You'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength. And you have to be strong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want our country back!
TRUMP: We're going to try and give our Republicans -- the weak ones, because the strong ones don't need any of our help -- we're going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our house. This is our country. This is our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Elie, can he pardon himself out of that incitement?
HONIG: Right. Can he pardon himself? We don't know. Will he try? I think it's becoming increasingly likely.
If he does try to pardon himself, I want to say this. It will be wildly self-destructive. First of all, he's got a looming Senate impeachment -- or trial to convict him on impeachment.
And if he goes on and self-pardons, even Rudy Giuliani said a self- pardon would be unthinkable and would trigger immediate impeachment. He said that a few years ago.
So I think if he does self-pardon, he could well seal his fate with respect to this impeachment. Regarding that clip that you just showed, Alisyn, that is a perfect example that I would love to use if I was prosecuting the president, criminally for what he did last week.
I think it shows very clearly that the very reason those people stormed the Capitol was the exact words that President Trump said. And I think prosecutors have a real duty here and obligation to look not just at the people who stormed the Capitol, yes, certainly them, but also the people who incited them, who spurred them to go down there and engage in this insurrection.
BERMAN: What's interesting, Elie, is that, you know, you may not be able to win a conviction on this in a criminal court, but I haven't heard from a single lawyer who said there's not a case.
Everyone agrees there's a case here. This video makes the case. It is a case that is worth pursuing. And that, in and of itself, is stunning.
Margaret, I want to ask you. Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment managers overnight. And the lead impeachment manager will be Congressman Jamie Raskin, who's a constitutional lawyer. That's one aspect of it.
But the other aspect of this is something that I think just jumps out at people. Jamie Raskin's son, Tommy, took his own life a few weeks ago. He'd been dealing with mental illness for a long time.
Jamie Raskin brought -- brought his daughter, other family members to the Electoral College count last week. His living, surviving family members were with him in the Capitol during this insurrection. And Jamie Raskin had to ask his chief of staff to guard his family members with her life during this insurrection. And his chief of staff stood in the door with a fire iron to protect his surviving daughter.
I think that emotionally-charged fact has to hang over this entire process now. I mean, it seems to me Raskin chosen no doubt for his skill and his knowledge, but also to send the message that our lives and this country, in some ways, was put at risk last week. TALEV: John, I think that's right. There is a tremendous amount of
goodwill and sympathy right now across party lines for Congressman Raskin, and like, we all wish him and his family well. It's a terrible thing they're going through.
But there is also the component of him not being the only member, but Republican members and Democratic members in the House and the Senate afraid for their lives, afraid for their families' lives, not just inside the chambers there, but, you know, going to the airport, trying to get home, being accosted in public by some sympathizers of this movement has frightened Republicans about their safety from elements inside their own base.
And I think the only real lever that President Trump still has is inciting fear of getting primaried, of essentially political intimidation and now physical intimidation of these GOP members.
Part of Mitch McConnell's calculation is to create cover for other Republicans in the Senate, as well as in the House. And this is part of Liz Cheney's calculation, as well, to create a safe space for these Republicans to band together and push back against this. Because if they don't, how do they -- how do we ever move on as a country?
Joe Biden will be inaugurated; and Republicans and Democrats will continue to face physical threats in their workplace and in transit. People in the public, you know, walking outside, would get caught up in demonstrations like these.
There is now a uniform feeling across party lines that, no matter what happens here, this needs to be contained. There needs to be basic order and public safety in America today.
CAMEROTA: And that leads us, Elie, to President Trump's children and what they're facing. And their responsibility. And there's reporting that he is considering pardoning them.
First of all, can he issue a blanket pardon for any possible thing that comes up in the future? No. 1? And No. 2, doesn't that suggest that there's been a crime that they have committed?
HONIG: Yes, Alisyn. So first of all, he probably can issue a blanket pardon for anything that they may have done, up until the moment of the pardon. What you cannot do is pardon someone for future conduct. You can't give someone a blank check and say, Go ahead and break the law in 2022. You're fine.
But yes, there is some historical precedent for issuing a blanket pardon, saying, Anything you may have done, even if you've not been charged prior to this, I pardon you for.
Again, this would would be a wild abuse of power to see the president pardon his own children ordinarily, I think, would raise questions about the president's fitness and whether there ought to be impeachment.
I think it's a good indication of just how far off the rails we are here, that issues like a self-pardon and pardon of one's children is sort of chapter two in why the president should be impeached.
One other thing that I think is so interesting here -- and Margaret just talked about this -- the very people who are going to be voting on impeachment and, eventually, voting on conviction were literally hiding under their desks a week ago. They are the people who are directly impacted by this.
It's so rare to see that, where your actual -- the judges, so to speak, in this case, were also both witnesses and victims. It's such an interesting scenario, we'll see how it plays out later on today.
CAMEROTA: Yes, we will. I mean, since some of them did come out and then, even after they were cowering under their chairs, voted to still try to not count and overturn the election. So who knows how they're feeling today? But Margaret, Elie, thank you both very, very much.
HONIG: Thanks, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Now to the investigation. Why did federal law enforcement agencies fail to act on the intelligence that they had about a siege coming to the U.S. Capitol?
What's being done today to prevent more violence this week? We discuss with the former head of the FBI, next.
BERMAN: All right. New this morning, investigators say we will be shocked when we learn everything about the attack on the U.S. Capitol. There are also new field -- fears this morning about possible violence at sites across the country.
CNN's Miguel Marquez live in Lansing, Michigan, with the latest from there. Obviously, Miguel, Lansing, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, targets for some time, but new fears this morning.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nowhere is it more felt than here in Michigan. The FBI warning all 50 states that in their capitals, on the 17th, this Sunday, there may be sort of armed protests.
It is called the Stand Up for Freedom protest. It's meant to be peaceful, but armed, and it is called for all 50 capitals. It is not clear how it's going to play out, but here in Michigan, they are paying attention, because as you know, back in April, armed protesters took over the state capital here. It was legal then to carry, open carry long guns.