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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Live Coverage of House Impeachment Hearing; Impeachment Effort Expected to Be Bipartisan; President Trump May Join Fringe Social Media. Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired January 13, 2021 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. TOM COLE (R-OK): No member has had an opportunity to review or amend this article before it came to the floor. This is hardly the way the House should undertake such a serious act.
Mr. Speaker, there's still a way to unite the country. Let us look forward, not backward. Let us come together, not apart. Let us celebrate the peaceful transition of power to a new president rather than impeaching an old president.
And let us affirm and reaffirm, with one united voice ,that the House does not rush to judgment on the most consequential action we can take. We deserve better than that, Mr. Speaker, and the American people deserve better than that.
Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues, as they reflect on this minute (ph) and we move into our next stage of debate, to remember that we're all privileged to represent a great and a good people who have gone through a horrifying and tragic time, and that we owe them the opportunity to reflect and we owe them our best efforts to bring together.
I know people on this floor feel very passionately about this subject with different points of view. I honor each one of those points of view, and I honor the people that voice them. Let's remember, when we're through this, that we're one people and that we have one purpose, that we're free through the grace of God and millions of brave Americans over centuries of time, and we will remain that way and we will move forward together once we settle this debate.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote no on the previous question, no on the rule, no on the underlying measure and I yield back the balance of my time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman yields back the balance of his time.
The gentleman from Massachusetts is recognized.
REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D-MA): Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
And let me thank my friend, the ranking member of the Rules Committee, Mr. Cole, for his friendship and for the way he conducts himself in this chamber. I know he has great respect for this institution. Mr. Speaker, it is impossible for me to fully capture the reverence
that I have for the United States Capitol. You know, I worked on these grounds, staring back when I was a college intern, working for Senator George McGovern, back in 1977 -- no relation, great last name.
But since that time, I have done everything from working as a staffer for Congressman Joe Moakley of Massachusetts to being elected to the United States House of Representatives myself.
But that internship will always be a high point of my life. Coming here for the first time, walking these hallowed halls, and seeing the glory of American democracy up-close. The idea that someone would incite an out-of-control mob of home-grown fascists and domestic terrorists to desecrate the People's House fills me with a deep sadness for our country.
The contempt that these people had for our democracy and our freedom fills me with horror. And what Donald Trump did, encouraging them, fills me with rage, rage not just on behalf of all of those serving here, but all of those who work in these halls. And I'm talking about the reporters, the cafeteria workers, the custodians, the clerks, the parliamentarians. I could go on and on and on.
And the staff, the Democratic staff, the Republican staff, the non- partisan support staff who were terrorized, some hiding under their desks and barricading in their offices.
I was in the speaker's chair the day this unfolded, and many of the people who are sitting up there now were present at that time. What a horrifying thing for anybody to have to experience.
Now, some of my Republican friends have been trying to lecture us about unity here today. Unity, after they voted to overturn a free and fair election in the United States of America, but also preaching unity and not acknowledging that, for four years, many of them gave oxygen to Donald Trump's conspiracy theories, to the big lies. They turned the other way in the face of racism and bigotry and how he embraced some of the most intolerant voices in this country. They (ph) just let it go.
You know, I would remind everybody here that words have consequences, and ignoring words that are wrong also have consequences. You know, what happened would never have happened if everybody stood up in unity and called out the president when he was not telling the American people the truth, when he was pushing a big lie.
We will never have unity without truth, and also without accountability. This week in Congress, we saw the best of us and the worst of us. Some of my colleagues have shown that they will defend this president no matter what he does. There's nothing that he could do that would dissuade them from all-out support.
But some are standing up and doing the right thing under tremendous pressure, and I am proud of that and I honor them for their courage. This impeachment resolution outlines the truth of what Trump did. It
is time that this Congress now holds him accountable for his words and for their devastating impact. Last week, we took an oath to protect this nation. As history calls on us today, I pray that we all have the moral clarity to uphold it here today.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time and I move the previous question on the resolution.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question is on order, and the previous question on the resolution. Those in favor say aye.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aye.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Aye.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those opposed, no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it.
COLE: Mr. Speaker? On that, I would request the ayes and nays.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pursuant to Section 3S of House Resolution 8, the yeas and nays are ordered. Members will record their votes by electronic device.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: All right. And, Anderson -- I'm Erin Burnett of course, Anderson Cooper here as well, and we're watching history unfold as they go through some of these procedural steps here, Anderson, and this step towards impeachment this afternoon.
President Trump is set to become the only American president to be impeached twice. So as I said, this is a rule procedural vote right now, they just need a simple majority to impeach the president for his role in inciting the deadly siege on the Capitol.
Right now, as we are listening to all that, Anderson, we know there's only five Republicans who have said they will join the Democrats in doing so. Now, there were no Republicans at the last impeachment trial, but there are five now including Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the number-three Republican in the House.
And new reporting last night indicates Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sees impeachment as a way to make a clean break from President Trump, and is absolutely furious -- full of anger -- at the president.
So let's go to Capitol Hill right now and our congressional reporter Lauren Fox. So, Lauren, where do we stand right now in terms of Republicans? And in that context, how significant is Senator McConnell making it clear that he -- he likes the idea? LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, hi (ph), Erin, I think
it's important to go to what we are seeing on the House floor right now first. Essentially, what they're doing is they're setting up the rule on this impeachment proceeding. We expect that that vote on articles is going to come this afternoon, sometime between 3:00 and 4:00.
And like you said, this is historic, it is the first time that a president of the United States has been impeached not once, but twice. And that is all going to unfold today.
Now, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, all eyes are on him. We know that the Senate is in recess. We also know that House Democratic leaders are making it clear they are not going to wait to send these articles of impeachment over to the Senate.
Now because the Senate is in a recess, they can't accept them at this point. We still expect that the trial will happen after January 20th, when Chuck Schumer becomes the majority leader. But still, McConnell telling colleagues behind the scenes, essentially, that the best and fastest way to rid the GOP of Trump and his legacy is to move ahead with this impeachment.
Now, what does that mean? It doesn't mean McConnell's going to bring the Senate back into session, we don't expect that to happen. What it does mean is McConnell is making a clear signal to his members, vote how you want to vote.
This is very different than what we saw last year, when the Senate was debating impeachment. Essentially what this is, is McConnell is not going to be holding conferences with his members, trying to discourage him in moving forward to convict President Trump. He's going to let members make their own decision.
Now, look, we are a long way from seeing 17 Republicans break with President Trump. We expect, of course, that there are some Republicans who are open to convicting him, people like Senator Mitt Romney, who voted the last time on conviction; also Senator Pat Toomey has signaled he is open to moving forward with impeachment, and Senator Ben Sasse has signaled that. But, again, that's just a few members, that is far from the two thirds necessary to actually move forward with a conviction.
And one more thing I would note that I think is very important and we should keep in the back of our heads, is it requires two thirds to actually convict Trump, but if that happens on the Senate floor, they could then move with a simple majority vote to expel him from ever holding federal office again.
And I think that that is a very important thing to keep in the back of our viewers' minds, because even though it's a high threshold to get there, it is a way of literally ridding President Trump from the Republican Party, he could never hold office, he could never run for president again -- Erin.
[10:40:13] BURNETT: All right, Lauren, thank you very much.
And of course, as Lauren points out, you know, you're looking at the Senate there. But here in the House, we're not seeing a dam break and a whole bunch of Republicans get on board, at least we don't -- maybe we will see something we don't expect today. But as of now, we only know of five. That is bipartisan, it is very significant, it is not a dam breaking.
And I want to go to our experts here to talk about this. Jamie Gangel, let me start with you. I know you know Liz Cheney, you know how significant a statement this was, for her to take this stand. And we now have five confirmed members. No doubt there will be more, but this sort of Liz Cheney's going to open the door and then all of a sudden they're all going to rush through it? We haven't seen that yet. Why not?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I think they're still scared of Donald Trump. What I was told this morning by a Republican source is that they're expecting between 10 and 20 Republicans to vote for impeachment. That's -- again, as you said, bipartisan, but it's not significant percentage of the caucus.
The source also told me that members have spoken among themselves -- these are Republicans -- and said that they are still under tremendous pressure from the White House. A week later, after January 6th, they are still being scared and intimidated by Donald Trump.
And I just want to read you one quote from a member who said that they, quote, "Fear for their lives and for their family's lives."
So there are obviously some Republicans in the caucus, the Freedom Caucus, who will stand with Donald Trump to the end and agree with him, but I would say many of these members are simply scared.
BURNETT: Yes. I mean, you know, you've got Marjorie Taylor Greene, right? The QAnon supporter --
BURNETT: -- saying Trump will remain president. I mean, you've got that terrifying brand of insanity, and then you have others who are going for those other reasons.
And I want to follow up on that point about fear, but first, Charlie, as a former congressman, you know, you know a lot of these people, you served with them. How many Republicans in the House, do you think, when all is said and done and this vote happens today, will vote to impeach the president?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I can't give you a precise number. I do accept that number, somewhere between 10 and 20. But events are fast unfolding, and I would certainly urge these members, you know, to put aside whatever fears they have -- the emperor has been unmasked, he has no clothes? We've known that for some time. And this is a time that I think that members need to stand up.
Sometimes in order to save -- you know, they need to -- they shouldn't be worrying about their jobs right now, they should be doing the right thing. They all know that.
You know, you just have to do it, this is the time. This -- I hear this argument about moving quickly. Well you know, when we were attacked by the Japanese on 7 December 1941, the next day, Congress declared war. You know, I'm watching, right now, National Guardsmen, you know, sleeping in the Visitor Center of the U.S. Capitol right now.
The last time there were troops in the Capitol like this, stationed there, actually sleeping there, was right when Abraham Lincoln called the -- the troops to defend the Capitol. I know that because the first unit to respond was the Allen Rifles from my hometown of Allentown, Pennsylvania. This is a very critical moment for these members. You know, this is -- you know, they have to risk their jobs in order to save it. This is the time.
BURNETT: And yet, David, I think so eloquently put there by Congressman Dent, but yet they won't David. So many of them will not, and the ones who will have been very eloquent in their comments, right?
Congressman Kinzinger, "If what the president did -- which he was clear, right? -- was inciting a deadly insurrection, if that is not worthy of impeachment, then what is?"
Congressman Meijer from Michigan, waiting to hear how he will vote. But as he told me, "There is zero question here on the merits, the vacuum of leadership and the president is simply not qualified to hold his office."
Yet others are not moving -- able to rise to this moment.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I still don't think we should be as surprised, given the track record that Republicans have had, treating Donald Trump as someone to be feared, as has been said, or someone to treat like a metaphor.
I think one of the great mistakes of the Trump era are those in media, conservative circles and elsewhere, who thought, don't take him literally, he's an idea, he's representative of some sentiment out there.
In fact, he should have been taken literally all along because his supporters, last week, took him literally and that mob stormed the Capitol, as we know.
So I just look to the extraordinary and mature leadership of somebody like Liz Cheney, who just sums it up. I mean, she just puts the big lie to rest, you know. The president, she said, assembled the mob, lit the flame, it doesn't happen without the president. And so I think what's critical -- what I think is already emerging,
despite the numbers, the fact that McConnell's sending the signals he is, the fact that Republicans leaders are not whipping up a vote against impeachment, the fact that the likes of a Liz Cheney come out and Kinzinger for impeachment, is already giving this a kind of gloss that the previous effort did not have.
GREGORY: This was an attack on another branch of government, it was also an attack on our elections, which simply cannot stand. You can't, in a mature, functioning democracy, have those kinds of attacks stand.
But this wing, this fringe element of Trump populist Republicans are still there, and there are going to be, particularly, members of Congress who don't have the backbone to stand up to that because they feel like their future politically is tied up in it.
BURNETT: Which, again, Nia, is the sad and I guess pathetic truth here. You know, one thing -- and, Jamie and Charlie raised it, Nia -- but some Republicans are using as their crutch here is, oh, this is moving too fast, you're bypassing a process. Right? Never mind, of course, the analogy to Pearl Harbor just gave.
You also -- and they're saying (ph) the president didn't have a chance to respond. He did, he was in Texas yesterday, he responded. He said, I stand by what I said, there was nothing wrong with it, everybody's looked at it, they said there's nothing wrong with it.
So OK, I guess he didn't do it on Twitter but he responded, right? He has had a chance to respond, and yet they are looking for any excuse they can.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: They are. And you know, mainly they want to look away from what they experienced, look away from what they heard from this president, both in the weeks leading up to this, the lies and lies he told to his followers, essentially brainwashing them.
And they took him at his word, that this was a fraudulent election, that people were stealing, essentially, their birthright. So they stormed the Capitol, and five people died as a result. So, sure, they would rather focus on a process, you know, this is going too fast, this is unconstitutional, whatever sort of excuses they are making. Because it means they don't really have to deal with the reality of what happened.
And the other thing they're doing is saying, well, instead of doing the impeachment, why don't we do a commission to look into what actually happened? Well, you could actually do both because likely you will need some sort of commission to look into what happened, and also this growing threat of domestic terrorism, they're also not really talking about.
But, listen, I do think somebody like Liz Cheney is of a different breed than we see these Republicans. A lot of these Republicans are themselves Trumpists. They're not even necessarily afraid of Trump, they believe in what Trump says. You know, and maybe that's 50 percent of the caucus, who knows.
And others are obviously afraid of the power he still wields, and they saw that power visited on them, on Wednesday. He summoned a mob that came to their jobs and threatened them, you know? And so it is -- the fear is real, both of physical harm and also their political futures as well, so they are in a real bind here. But it's a bind that they put themselves in by binding themselves so closely to Donald Trump.
BURNETT: Well, it's amazing, it's sort of -- you know, and I don't want to make, you know, World War II comparisons here too far, but just the concept of appeasement, right? Well, I don't want to be attacked again, I don't want my life to be at risk again so I'm just going to let it go, I'm going to acquiesce. And it does seem that we are seeing a bit of that here.
All right, all of you of course, please stay with us as this vote is going on and we're waiting going back to Congress -- Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Erin, multiple sources telling CNN that President Trump is not considering resigning. He will not step down, but he is considering pardoning himself and his children -- a blanket pardon -- in part for their role in the insurrection at the Capitol. CNN's White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins joins us now.
So, Kaitlan, you have some new reporting?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we do. You're right that the president still has no intention of resigning. But, Anderson, we're also learning something incredibly remarkable, which is that this day that the president is likely to be impeached in a historic manner for the second time, the only president to ever be impeached twice, and he has no legal strategy right now, and he doesn't even really have a legal team put together.
Instead, the president has been telling people to talk to attorney Alan Dershowitz, who of course represented the president in the last impeachment trial. You'll remember those speeches he made on the Senate floor, that the president has often told people he believes are what saved him that time around from having a slew of Republicans come forward.
And now, that's really the only effort that's been made so far though. There is no comprehensive strategy happening behind the scenes, the president is basically invisible today, he doesn't have anything on his public schedule. And right now, we are not planning to hear from him.
and of course, Anderson, we can't hear from the president like we normally do on social media, whether it's Twitter or Facebook or even now YouTube, the president has been suspended in some form or fashion.
And we're now learning a very interesting development, which is that Jared Kushner is one of several officials who recently intervened in an effort to get the president on some fringe social media platforms, given he can't be on the major ones and he's been banned from most of them.
This is an effort by people like the personnel chief, Johnny (ph) McEntee, who was trying to get the president on sites like Gab. Those are often where extremists go when they've been blocked from other websites; that was a consideration and an effort that was under way, I'm told, inside the White House to get the president on those sites so he could at least put his voice out there in some way, as we are so used to hearing from him like he did on Twitter.
But Jared Kushner, other aides like Dan Scavino blocked those efforts so far -- whether or not that's going to change remains to be seen, but it really does speak to this effort going on behind the scenes, given the president has been so angry over those bans from Twitter and Facebook.
And it's just remarkable how different this day is from the last time the president was impeached, when they planned a big rally for him in Michigan, they told him the impeachment votes on stage, he bragged about how no Republicans had voted to impeach him.
And now, of course, we've got at least five that we know are going to do so, and the White House is bracing for that list to only get bigger.
COOPER: Kaitlan Collins, I appreciate it, thanks very much for the reporting.
David Chalian is with us along with our team. David, it's interesting, you know, Kaitlan was saying that, you know, they're trying to figure out where else the president can go to have his voice heard.
He could go to the briefing room. I mean, he --
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes.
COOPER: -- he actually has a briefing room in the home where he lives, and he could talk to the American people any time he wants.
CHALIAN: Yes. And he did that yesterday -- not in the briefing room, right? But he did it when he was leaving the White House, he did it on the tarmac, and he did speak to the American people and he made clear that he thought he did absolutely nothing wrong, he -- you know, made up stories about people assessing it that way for him, and that nobody finds any imperfection with what he said at the rally. Just not true.
So he did go before the American people, Anderson, and chose, in doing so, not to accept any responsibility whatsoever. I mean, that's my -- when we were listening to the debate on the House floor, you heard so many Republicans make the case about process, that's it's a rush judgment, happening too fast or that it's going to divide the country.
You heard very few Republicans -- maybe only Dan Bishop of North Carolina -- actually try and make a case against what is being put forth in the article of impeachment. Even Nancy Mace of South Carolina was on the House floor saying she holds President Trump accountable for last Wednesday's attack.
Well, how? There's one way for Congress here that is moving forward to hold President Trump accountable, and these other arguments from the Republicans are not very much on the substance here, they are more just trying to find a path to be able to stay loyal to him, those that are choosing to do so, with an argument that just doesn't hold much water.
COOPER: And, Laura Coates, one of the things we have been hearing from Republicans this morning in the House, in their speeches, is the idea, well, what -- there shouldn't be impeachment, there should be a bipartisan commission, equal number of Republicans and Democrats investigating how this happened in the House, the security failures, what led up to this.
That -- it's not an either -- I don't quite understand that argument because it doesn't seem like it's an either-or thing. I mean, you can walk and chew gum, you can do two things at once.
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You absolutely can. I mean, the idea -- nobody is saying you cannot do a commission, a bipartisan commission, to figure out how it is you were able to storm the Capitol and have members of Congress hiding under desks for hours, looking to have some support, reinforcement for the Capitol Police. You can do that, you should do that.
You should also investigate other things that are in your toolbox, including things like impeachment, including things like censure, including the 14th Amendment and the lesser-known clause that talks about his qualification. These are all things that are in a toolbox that is full of different instruments that you can use to preserve and advance the separation of powers, checks and balances and the oversight function of Congress.
What they're doing, as David talked about, is trying to kick the can down the road. And it's very nonsensical to me, if you know someone committed a crime last week and they are leaving that house next week, do you let them have a pass and not explore anything because you want to the new resident in that house to have a chance to make it pretty on his own time? No, you have to hold people accountable, and there is a wide variety.
And one more note here, it's important to understand -- I heard Kaitlan Collins' reporting about this pardon -- remember, the people of America, the president can pardon for federal crimes, but what about civil liability, which we know could be the result of some of the actions that have been taken as well? The U.S. attorney in D.C. is saying, no stone left unturned? I suspect there will also be exposure in an area that the president cannot pardon.
COOPER: Stand by everybody, I want to go back to Erin -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, and we're going to take a brief break.
Still to come though, Republicans crying foul and constitutional infringement over a new security measure that is provoking a temper tantrum inside Capitol Hill. You're looking at it, this is what it is, on this crucial day, causing the tantrum.
Plus, fear inside the Capitol: An FBI warning about Inauguration Week violence and militia extremists flooding Washington has members on edge.
And, five Republican House lawmakers, as I speak, say the president committed an impeachable offense. How many more, though, when these votes start very soon, will stand up and vote to remove him? Debate starts at any moment, and you are watching special live coverage.