Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Lawmakers Are Now Gathering On The House Floor For The Impeachment Vote; The National Guard Is Receiving Their Weapons For Their Security Detail On Capitol Hill During Inauguration; President Trump Has Conceded The 2020 Election, Congress Has Certified The Results And Wednesday Joe Biden Will Be Sworn In As President. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired January 13, 2021 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:00]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: For years in office come to an end. You are looking now at live pictures of the House floor where law makers are now gathering for this debate ahead of this history making vote. The President is accused of inciting a violent insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. That remember led to the deaths of five people. And the vote you are about to see is taking place in the very same chamber where one week ago to the day lawmakers took cover as they came under siege. And the nation watched in horror as this mob trashed the people's house and lawmakers feared for their lives.

We do also have new pictures this morning of National Guard members receiving weapons at Capitol Hill as the security there is ramped up ahead of the inauguration of President Elect Biden next week. This as we continued to learn more very disturbing details about protester's plans leading up to and during the attempted coup.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: I want to make something clear, the U.S. does not arm members of the National Guard, make that decision lightly. That is in response to the severity of the threat in the coming days and on the inauguration. So what about the President; he made his first public comments on this yesterday. Did he take any responsibility? No, he denied any role in the violent attack. He claimed that his comments to that crowd were completely appropriate.

Well many in his own party strongly disagree. Several members of Congress planning to break ranks, join Democrats in their vote to impeach; including the number three Republican there Representative Liz Cheney, the number three Republican in the House. The number one Republican in the Senate; Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, perhaps the most powerful Republican on the Hill; he is signaling that he may turn on President Trump too. Indicating that impeaching Trump will make it easier to get rid of Trump's influence within the GOP; he has not made clear however if he would vote to convict the President in a Senate trial.

We are covering all the angles this morning. Let's begin on Capitol Hill where history will be made again today. CNN's Lauren Fox, tell us how this will play out? How quickly we expect to see a vote to impeach the President?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, a historic day up here on Capitol Hill as President Trump will become the first President in history to be impeached not once but twice, Jim. And expect in the upcoming hours we're going to see some debate on the floor of the House of Representatives. That is underway right now. We expect a one hour debate then they will vote on a rule essentially, a procedural step and then they will have another two hour debate and then later this afternoon sometime we expect between 3 and 4 o'clock there will be a vote to impeach President Donald Trump.

And I just talked to Steny Hoyer, the Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, he expects that they are going to send these articles to the Senate pretty quickly. Now remember the Senate is in recess right now but that doesn't mean that when they get back these articles aren't going to be moving there quickly.

Last night, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, announced who would be the House managers in a Senate trial; another sign that we do not expect that House Democrats are going to hold on to these impeachment articles. Instead they are planning to send them to the Senate. Jamie Raskin will lead as the lead impeachment manager. He, of course, was one of the authors of this impeachment article. We also know that Ted Lieu, as well as David Cicilline are going to be on that team, as well as six others.

So that just laying out the groundwork here that this is building momentum. Lawmakers are getting ready. Democrats in the Senate are getting ready. And like you said, Mitch McConnell sending signals to his members that they are able to vote their conscious on this. He's giving them a little room here to make their own decisions.

HARLOW: Yes, I mean that was so significant from Congresswoman Cheney yesterday and what it set off. Sunlen, to you, a handful of Republicans have now publicly said, as I mentioned, with Congresswoman Cheney that they will vote to impeach. Tell us who they are. And then the question is; are there more in the House and namely in the Senate?

SUNLEN SERFATY; CNNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy, that is so significant and the fact that this time around his second impeachment; President Trump will be impeached by members of his own party; Republicans up here on Capitol Hill. Now we know as of this morning there are a group of five House Republicans that have come out and said that they are going to vote for impeachment; including, as we know, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, she's a third ranking Republican in the House. And she (inaudible) a very strong message last night when she came out for in support of impeachment saying that there's been no greater betrayal than a U.S. President referencing specifically these riots up here on Capitol Hill and President's reaction.

Also, after today, the steps (ph) going forward what Senate Republicans think so important here and you guys reference Mitch McConnell and the great recording (ph) that we have indicating that he is furious at President Trump over his response to the riots and that he's pleased by the efforts of impeachment going forward. Now if we can shift from the politics to all of this to what is happening on the ground up here on Capitol Hill today; that is an important dynamic of this story -

[09:05:00]

SERFATY: -- as they move towards impeaching today, as they move towards inauguration next week. I want to give you a glimpse at the posture up here on Capitol Hill. Show you a few (ph) pictures of National Guard troops this morning. We all saw them as we came in. To get to the camera I walked by a lot of these members. They're on the floor likely between shifts here, had blankets over them, getting some much needed rest. I saw a few members gripping their guns as they slept. Just hundreds and hundreds of National Guard troops; really speaking to the posture of this moment and the security threat, of course, they had riot gear. So, again, this just a small glimpse into the larger security apparatus, Jim and Poppy, that is now up here on Capitol Hill.

HARLOW: That is such a remarkable image -

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HALLOW: -- that you just showed, it really is. That they need to be there to protect the nation from it's own people, from domestic terrorists. Sunlen, Lauren, thank you. Now let's go to our White House Correspondent, Kaitlan Collins. Good morning to you, Kaitlan. The President was clear yesterday in his remarks. He has zero contrition for what happened. Now we've learned overnight no interest in resigning and he is closely keeping track of who is with him and who is against him.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he is as he did the last time, of course, that this happened. But remember the last time the President was impeached he was in Michigan holding a rally and he was told in the middle of that rally what the votes were. He remarked on the fact that not a single House Republican had voted against him. He talked about how united Republicans were. And we are seeing the complete opposite of that now. With five Republicans already coming out and saying they will vote to impeach the President today.

Of course, that number could grow. The White House is bracing itself for that to happen. But otherwise we are not seeing the President. He made that trip to the Alamo, Texas yesterday to talk about the border wall where of course he did comment on impeachment and said it was going to be very dangerous for the country. But you're right, he did not take any responsibility for his own words and the actions that ever Republicans have said is what led to that mob attacking Capitol Hill just a week ago today. And the President has been very defiant behind the scenes. He has said he has no plans of resigning from office even though two Republican Senators have called on him to do so.

So it remains to be seen what that is going to look like. But the White House is kind of in this state of disbelief that the President is actually going to be impeached for a second time. And going on behind the scenes this looks so much different than it did the last time. When they were bracing themselves for a trial, they were preparing teams of attorneys to come in and represent the President. You are seeing nothing like that happen this time.

So, of course, we have not heard from the President. We cannot hear from the President on his typical social media sites since he has been banned from certain - almost every single platform in some form of fashion. And so whether or not the President is going to weigh in on this today it remains to be seen. Because, of course, his schedule looks like it has every day almost, since the election, with no public events.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And that line that's been cut and pasted to that schedule every day now that he's going to be very busy making calls, et cetera. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thanks very much.

Well our team of experts joins us now to help mark this moment, explain the significance of all that we are seeing today. Charlie Dent, if I could begin with you? You served in Congress with the Republican Party. And if we could show these images again of National Guardsmen receiving automatic weapons now on the Hill to help defend the Capitol -- help defend the Capitol from a very clear and present danger from folks who could be described no better than domestic terrorists.

I wonder, Charlie Dent, have you ever seen anything like this in your public service? Have you ever been aware of a threat so grave to the Capitol than the one we're seeing today?

CHARLIE DENT (R), FORMER UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Not in my lifetime and I hope we never see it again. It's just - it's just so painful to me to watch what's happening. I mean what really we're dealing with the consequences of President Trump's chaos all these years. The never ending incendiary statements, the incitement, the frontal assault on Article 1 Congress; I mean it's all cumulated with what -- the events of last week. And so we're in an unprecedented moment. It's - the President thankfully will be - will be impeached today.

So, but there's nothing like it. I mean it just pains me to watch the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Capitol; that we can't - that's it's people - it's a restricted area. People can't go through there because of the pandemic and now it's off limits because we're afraid of too many of our own citizens. We were attacked by people it wasn't a bomb or guns that it (ph) seemed last it was people who were the threat to the safety and well-being of our lawmakers.

HARLOW: Jamie Gangel, let's not forget and remind our viewers constantly that what the President incited and encouraged led to the death of five people. That is a fact. Mitch McConnell hates him for it.

[09:10:00]

HARLOW: That's the reporting overnight. Also the fact that he supports impeaching the President, to remove him from the party and separate him; but isn't the test for McConnell what he does and how he votes?

JAMIE GANGEL, REPORTER: Absolutely, no question about it. But let's also remember Mitch McConnell is not sending this signal without a reason. He is given cover, he is given a hall pass to Republicans to vote their conscious. And let me just tell you, I was told this morning by a Republican source that they are expecting 10 to 20 Republican House members to vote for impeachment. That said, the source told me, that nothing has changed with the White House. They are continuing to pressure Republicans, to threaten them, to use fear. We are a week after January 6 and we are still seeing members who are in fear of voting.

One source said to me that they have been told that members want to vote for impeachment but they fear for their lives and they fear for their families lives.

HARLOW: Wow.

SCIUTTO: Well, listen, statistically if that number holds that's still just 1/10 of the number of sitting House members that voted to overturn the election results after that violent insurrection. After. Jamie Gangel, and I wonder how, when you speak to them, they reconcile those two votes.

GANGEL: So, I think we're seeing a couple of different groups here. We are seeing people who, as I just said, are telling other members that they are scared. They remember what happened on January 6. I think there are some members from the Freedom Caucus like Congressman Biggs who are still going to stand with Trump no matter what. And I think what we're seeing now is also the question of where does the Republican Party go. We are seeing a split in the Republican Party. Who is going to hang on to Donald Trump and his hardcore base and who wants to move on.

The message we got from Mitch McConnell yesterday and the message we're getting from Liz Cheney, who's in the leadership, is it's time to move on.

HARLOW: Yes and that statement, for our viewers, that Congresswoman Cheney made; The President of the United States summoned this mob, Nia-Malika Henderson, assembled the mob, lit the flame and then she called this the greatest betrayal by a President of the United States ever. Nia, you warned against other Republicans though trying to rewrite history.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's true, I think when hear Republicans talk now they suggest that some how Donald Trump is different than he was before. And we know that the lighting of this match was Donald Trump's lies and brainwashing of his followers. That is what they were doing. They were believing the President's lies about a fraudulent election and wanting to overthrow this multiracial Democracy which is emerging now in a way that we hadn't seen over the last 10 or 15 years.

So that is really what's going on. So you hear Republicans now try to rewrite history. And also in talking about the subject at hand which is this insurrection. They're going to want to focus on process, right. Oh, it's too fast, we don't have enough time to debate they'll say. They'll talk about Democrats and partisanship. But what they won't talk about is the reality which is that the President's followers wanted to act in his name and as they were acting the President was watching and failing to protect the folks who were in that building. Who included the Vice President, the Vice President Elect, Speaker Pelosi, people in the line of succession or for the presidency.

So the President even though people were prevailing on him to do something he did nothing. And then when he finally did something; again he lied and he told those folks there who were running rampant in a violent on the Hill, he told them that he loved them. So those are the facts. I think this is in some ways the most clear impeachment process, the most clear reason for an impeachment that we've had. People watched it on their televisions unfold.

And the more information we get -

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HENDERSON: -- the more horrible it appears.

SCIUTTO: Listen, I mean how do we know? One way we know their words - his words inspired them is many of them -

[09:15:00]

SCIUTTO: -- is many of them repeated his words as they were storming the Capitol. There are numerous videos of just that, Poppy. Quote - word for word quotes from the President.

HARLOW: No question. We have a lot to get to here. So everyone stay with us. Still to come, take a look at this. You're looking at live pictures of the U.S. Capitol where the President, today, will be impeached for the second time in just about a year. It's the first time in the history of this nation that has ever happened.

SCIUTTO: And you can't see it in that picture but the Capitol surrounded by security right now. Law enforcement officials bracing for violence ahead of next week's inauguration of President Elect Biden. As more arrest are made from last week's raid, insurrection on Capitol Hill.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D), MA: Distinguished gentleman from Oklahoma, pending which I yield myself (inaudible) time as I may consume. During consideration --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: OK, this is Congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts. He is the Chair of the Rules Committee, beginning to speak as this first hour they will debate the rules and then they will move toward this historic vote on a second impeachment of the President, Jim. SCIUTTO: This is a solemn constitutional process reserved for the most severe political crises in this country and we will have seen it now twice in 13 months; having only seen it twice in the century before. Our team of experts - let's listen in before we go to our team of experts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCGOVERN: -- we'll also provide that upon adoption of H Res 24 (ph), H Res 40 (ph) is hereby adopted. Finally, the rule extends recess instructions suspension authority and same day authority through February 11, 2021. Mr. Speaker, we are debating this historic measure at an actual crime scene. And we wouldn't be here if it weren't for the President of the United States. On Wednesday, January 6, Congress gathered here to fulfill our constitutional duty, tallying the Electoral College victory of President Elect Biden and Vice President Elect Harris after a free and fair election.

[09:20:00]

This is largely a ceremonial role for the Congress. One that sends a message to the world that Democracy in the United States persists. But at a rally, just a mile and half down the Pennsylvania Avenue, Donald Trump and his allies were stoking the anger of a violent mob. A member of this very body proclaimed on that stage; today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass. Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, called for a trial by combat.

Then Donald Trump told the crowd we're going to have to fight much harder. You will never take back our country with weakness. Even though, according to his own administration, that this election was the most secure in our history, Donald Trump repeated his big lie; that this election was an egregious assault on democracy.

Vice President Pence, he said, was going to have to come through for us. Trump then told this mob to walk down to the Capitol. The signal was unmistakable, these thugs should stage a coup so Donald Trump can hang onto power. The people's will be damned. This beacon on democracy became the site of a vicious attack. Rioters chanted hang Mike Pence as a noose and gallows were built a stone's throw from the Capitol steps.

Capitol Police Officers were beaten and sprayed with pepper spray. Attackers hunted down law makers to hold them hostage or worse. Staff barricaded doors. People sent text messages to their families to tell them they love them. They thought they were saying good-bye, Mr. Speaker. This was not a protest this was an insurrection. This was a well organized attack on our country that was incited by Donald Trump.

Domestic terrorists broke into the United States Capitol that day and it's a miracle more people didn't die. As my colleagues and I were being evacuated to safety I never ever will forget what I saw when I looked into the eyes of those attackers right in the Speaker's lobby there. I saw evil, Mr. Speaker. Our country came under attacked not from a foreign nation but from what - but from within. These were not protesters, these were not patriots, these were

traitors. These were domestic terrorists, Mr. Speaker. And they were acting under the orders of Donald Trump. Though some of my colleagues on the other side have suggested that we just move on from this horror. But to gloss over it would be an abdication of our duty. Others on the Republican side have talked about unity. But we can't have unity without truth and without accountability.

And I am not about to be lectured by people who just voted to overturn the results of a free and fair election. America was attacked and we must respond even when the cause of this violence resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Each of us, each of us took an oath last week. It wasn't to a party and it wasn't to a person. We vowed to defend the Constitution. The actions of Donald Trump have called each of us to fulfill that oath today. I pray that we rise to this responsibility because every moment Donald Trump is in the White House our nation, our freedom is in danger. He must be held to account for the attack on our Capitol that he organized and he incited.

I solemnly urge my colleagues to support this rule in the underlying article. The damage this building sustained can be repaired, Mr. Speaker, but if we don't hold Donald Trump accountable the damage done to our nation could be irreversible. I reserve the balance of my time.

MR. SPEAKER: Gentleman from Massachusetts reserved. Gentleman from Oklahoma is recognized.

REP. TOM COLE (R-OK): Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, before I begin my formal remarks I want to ask for God's blessing and protection on you, on my - for my friend, Mr. McGovern, for all who come to this chamber today to speak and to vote. For our wonderful staff that makes this possible. And most especially for the men and women of the Capitol Police and the other affiliated law enforcement agencies that are here to protect everybody and make sure that this proceeding can go forward.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman from Massachusetts, my very good friend, distinguished chairman of the Rules Committee, Mr. McGovern for yielding me the customary 30 minutes and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

MR. SPEAKER: (Inaudible).

COLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, Mr. Speaker, today is a sad for all of us; for me personally, for the rules committee, for the entire House of Representatives and most certainly for the American people. For the second time in 13 months we're meeting to discuss the impeachment of the President of the United States. Our meeting today does not arise in a vacuum.

[09:25:00]

COLE: And comes at what I hope and pray is the end of a tumultuous period for our country. Less than one week ago Congress met to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential Election. What started out as a - as peaceful protests turned into a riot as an untold number of individuals stormed the Capitol building; six people died as a result of this mob. And it's only by the grace of God and the brave acts of the U.S. Capitol Police, the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police, the FBI, the ATF and other responding agencies that there was not more bloodshed.

Violent acts such as these have no place in our Republic. The shocking and sobering events rest high on our minds today as well they should. Certainly January 6, 2021 will live in my memory as the darkest day during my time of service as a member of this House. After these grave events, we as a nation and as an institution have an opportunity to come together.

President Trump has conceded the 2020 election, Congress has certified the results of the election and next Wednesday President Elect Biden will be sworn in as the President of the United States. Congress and the nation can move forward knowing that the political process was completed as designed and the constitutional framework that has governed our Republic since 1789 held firm.

But instead of moving forward as a unifying force, majority in the House is choosing to divide us further. With only a week to go in his term, the majority's asking us to consider resolution impeaching President Trump. And they do so knowing full well that even if the House passes this resolution the Senate will not be able to begin considering these charges until after President Trump term ends.

Mr. Speaker, I can think of no action the House can take that's more likely to further divide the American people than the action we are contemplating today. Emotions are clearly running high and political divisions have never been more apparent in my lifetime. We desperately need to seek a path forward healing for the American people. So it's unfortunate that a path to support healing is not the path the majority has chosen today. Instead the House is moving forward erratically with a truncated process that does not comport with the modern practice and it will give members no time to contemplate the serious course of action before us.

In every modern impeachment inquiry; an investigation and committee action has preceded bringing an impeachment resolution to the floor. In part this is to ensure that members have the full facts, the opportunity to engage expert witnesses and have a chance to be heard. It also provides due process to the President of the United States. And again, in every modern impeachment inquiry the President has been given an opportunity to be heard in some form or another.

This is necessary in order to ensure that the American people have confidence in the procedures the House is following. It's also necessary, not because of the President's inappropriate and reckless ae deserving of defense but because the Presidency, itself, demands due process in the impeachment proceeding.

Unfortunately, the majority's chosen to raise to the floor with a new article of impeachment forgoing any investigation, any committee process or any chance for members to fully contemplate this course of action before proceeding. Professor Jonathan Turley is correct when he called this a quote "dangerous snap impeachment". And impeachment that affectively would go to a vote without the deliberation or inquiries of the traditional hearing.

Professor Turley also noted that quote "The damage caused by the rioters this week was enormous however it will pale in comparison to the damage from a new precedent of a snap impeachment."

If the majority is seeking consensus this is hardly the way to create it. The majority's failing to provide the House with an opportunity to review all of the facts which are still coming to light; to discuss all the evidence, to listen to scholars, to examine the witnesses and to consider (inaudible). This is not the type of robust process we have followed for every modern impeachment and the failure to do so does a great disservice to this institution and to this country.

Mr. Speaker, I can think of nothing that will cause further division more than the path the majority is now taking. Rather than looking ahead to a new administration the majority is again seeking to settle scores against the old one. Rather than seeking to heal American, they're seeking to divide us more deeply. And rather than following the appropriate processes the House has used in every modern impeachment, the majority is rushing to the floor.

[09:30:00]