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THE SITUATION ROOM
President Trump Impeached For The Second Time; Ten Republicans Join Dems In Vote To Impeach Trump; Around 20,000 National Guard Troops Expected For Inauguration; Investigators Pursuing Signs U.S. Capitol Riot Was Planned. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired January 13, 2021 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And also, there are serious questions about who was organizing this and how much they were talking to people on the Trump team or Republicans in Congress, Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM on this truly historic day.
Donald J. Trump has been condemned, like no other president before him. Impeached for a second time in his final days in office.
Just a short while ago, the House of Representatives formally charged the 45th President of the United States with inciting the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in an extraordinary bipartisan vote, 10 Republicans breaking ranks, siding with the Democratic majority to proclaim the President is a threat to national security, democracy and the U.S. Constitution.
We're standing by for remarks by the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. We're also getting new information about what's ahead as the President faces trial in the U.S. Senate. And as the nation is on high alert right now for the possibility of new attacks leading up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration one week from today.
Let's go to Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill is monitoring these truly historic developments where so.
Phil, let's set the same for us. Tell us what we're about to see.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, just think of it this way. One week ago at this very moment Capitol Police were still under siege trying to push a mob outside of the United States Senate, of the United States House.
Today. The U.S. House seven days later has impeached President Trump for inciting an insurrection, 10 Republicans joining with 222 Democrats, leading to that impeachment. A historic second impeachment. The first time that has ever occurred in the country's history for a president.
And what that will set forth over the course of the coming days will be the opportunity for the United States Senate to rule on how they view of what the President's actions were one week ago today.
Now what we're going to see over the course of the next 30 minutes or so is as you noted Speaker Pelosi will hold an engrossment of the article of impeachment. We still do not know when exactly that article will be walked over to the United States Senate. Even though the Senate is not currently in session, there is precedent for the House managers to walk the article over. That does not mean however a Senate trial will be starting anytime soon.
In fact, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will only be majority leader for a little bit more than a week made clear no trial will begin until Joe Biden is inaugurated President of the United States. McConnell, however, did not rule out voting to convict President Trump. It's something that we reported on yesterday, first reported by "The New York Times" that the leader, according to sources familiar with his thinking, believes the President did in fact commit impeachable offenses.
In fact, I'm told by multiple sources that McConnell has been furious, furious, that before the attack occurred that Republicans were lining up with the President trying to overturn election results even angrier in the wake of the attack, not just because of the attack itself, but also the lack of contrition from President Trump.
So where McConnell lands on this still very much an open question. But Wolf, it is incredibly noteworthy that McConnell is not rejecting this out of hand.
Keep in mind back in 2020, after House Democrats sent the Articles of Impeachment over to the Senate, Mitch McConnell was one of the President's biggest defenders, one of his most vocal and forceful defenders, not this time around and that has left Senate Republicans trying to figure out where this is all going to land. In fact, McConnell hadn't sent word to Republicans about where he stood on things until just a couple of hours ago.
And several Republican aides that I've been talking to say their bosses are trying to figure out where this moment leads them. Obviously, everybody not unlike in the House and the United States Senate, completely unnerved, unsettled and outraged by what occurred a week ago, many of them placing the blame directly on President Trump. Whether that means at least 17 of them will join with all 50 Democrats to convict the President, that is still an open question.
But we did get some sense of where the Republican stand -- Party stands today. And that is, it is in the middle of a rupture. You had 10 Republicans join with Democrats. That is the most bipartisan impeachment vote in the history of the United States.
However, 197 Republicans, even though they were in the House chamber, or in the House complex, when the attack occurred on January 6, voted not to impeach President Trump. Many of them saying it was a waste of time, many of them calling it divisive as well.
So Wolf, it underscores the Republican Party is far from unified on this. And there are major, major questions about where this will land when it gets to the United States Senate. One thing we do know for a fact, President Trump has been impeached for a second time, the first time in the history of the United States.
BLITZER: And we're standing by to hear from Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker. We'll have live coverage of her news conference. That's coming up soon.
Phil, thank you very much.
You know, John, if you look at the language, one article of impeachment, a significant article, but among other things 232 members of the House of Representatives, including 10 Republicans voted in favor of this sentence.
President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of government. That's a powerful indictment of a sitting president. Even though he only has seven days left in office.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is stunning. Just as we were stunned when we were in the studio one week ago, watching people wearing MAGA hats, carrying Trump banners, storming into that Capitol, breaking windows. Nancy Pelosi is going to speak moments from now standing at the podium that we saw one of those rioters trying to steal. It's the very same podium. She's doing it for a reason to send a signal here.
And so on this defining day, the President of United States has been impeached, and the charges that he essentially cooperated, orchestrated, organized an attack on his own government. Think about that.
I mean, think about that. We get caught up. And there's so much happening. There are so many moving parts. This historic vote just happened. The President of the United States was impeached for inciting an attack on his government on one of its monuments, the United States Capitol.
He will fight this he will protest this, because of the timing of the Senate trial. His attorneys, whoever they end up being, will argue that you can't do it, that he's already gone, that it's moot. But judges have been impeached in the past even after they have resigned and left. So there is some precedent for that.
So we have another chapter of the Trump impeachment. The second Trump impeachment to play out the Senate trial.
Phil makes a point that I think everybody needs to consider and consider carefully. The door is wide open for Senate Republicans now. It was not when he was impeached the first time.
It was very clear the Senate Republicans were not going to go along and only Mitt Romney stood up and voted yes on one of the two counts. This is a different terrain. Mitch McConnell saying he is open minded essentially guarantees there will be Republican yes votes. Maybe not his, but essentially guarantees they will be Republican yes votes.
And the question is, how many. Can they get to 17? Can they convict? It's somewhat moot. It's for the history books, not for actions. Trump will be gone by then. But then do they include, you know, prohibiting him from ever seeking office again? That is a big deal.
Mitch McConnell would like that. Mitch McConnell would like the threat of Trump as a force on the ballot to be gone from Republican politics.
But let's also, Wolf, there are so many things to talk about, how does it complicate the Biden presidency? What happens to the House Republicans now that they are so divided? Now we wait for the Senate chapter. We still don't know.
Will this diminish Trump in the post presidency? That's what the Republicans voting for it in the House and thinking about voting for it and the Senate want. They want a diminished, weakened, shrunken, shoved to the sidelines Donald Trump.
Will it or will he try to make himself a martyr and a victim and to keep his supporters activated? Somehow he doesn't have social media at his disposal anymore. So a defining moment and defining day a very important vote. So a lot of questions.
BLITZER: You need a simple majority in the House to impeach, you need a two thirds majority in the Senate to convict 67 senators. So you need 17 Republicans.
Let's go to Kaitlan Collins over at the White House.
Among other things, this impeachment resolution, Kaitlan said that President Trump threatens the integrity of the Democratic system, interfered with a peaceful transition of power and imperil the co- equal branch of government. Once again, a lot of strong words in that historic resolution.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. And even the Republicans who were defending the President today were pointing to a lot of his past actions, what they were saying were accomplishments of his time in office and not necessarily focusing on the words that he used a week ago as Phil was talking about before that pro Trump mob went to the Capitol.
And so that's not how the President has been viewing things. He has said that his speech was totally appropriate. He has expressed no regret over that.
And so we have not really heard from the President today, beyond one statement that Jim Jordan read on the House floor. But other than that, he's remained behind closed doors. He did partake and a Medal of Arts ceremony with the singer Toby Keith. But other than that, he's been watching this coverage, untold unfold. And it's remarkable Wolf, because unlike the last impeachment for Donald Trump. He can't respond in real time on Twitter, like he is comfortable doing so especially given seeing people like Kevin McCarthy and Chip Roy, two Republicans come out and condemn the President's actions say that he does bear responsibility for those attacks that happened last week.
But, Wolf, we're now learning from sources that the President is expected to release a video tonight addressing what happened today. It's not clear what exactly the President is going to say. And it's not even clear how the White House is going to release it, given he does not have access to Twitter or any of the major social media platforms because of the words that he used and how outraged the response has been in response to all of this.
And Wolf, we should note that, as John was saying, you know, we're looking ahead to what that Senate trial is going to look like. There is no clear legal strategy developed for the president yet. That's what Mitch McConnell says he's going to be waiting to hear the legal arguments made by both sides, including the President's Team. It's not even clear if he's actually got a legal team put together because he's been telling people call Alan Dershowitz.
We expect Rudy Giuliani to be involved. But Wolf, that's really all we know so far, which is remarkably different than the last time the President was impeached. So, the question of what that's going to look like, as the President has been increasingly isolated from his top aides still remains to be seen.
BLITZER: All right, we'll see if we get a statement from the President of the United States. He's lost Twitter. He's lost Instagram. He's lost Facebook. We'll see how he releases that video tape.
You know, Jake, this is the first time as we've been pointing out in American history of President has now been impeached twice. The second time around. This time, there was bipartisan support for impeachment. 10 Republicans voted in favor of impeaching the president. And that is significant.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Yes. I mean, it's not just bipartisan, it is the most bipartisan impeachment in American history, far exceeding the number of people in the opposing party who voted to impeach Clinton or Johnson. So, I do think it is significant.
On the other hand, Wolf, it is still a vast minority of the House Republican caucus, most of whom are still devoted to President Trump, most of whom are in a state of denial about the fact that he incited this riot, this terrorist attack on the Capitol that put their own lives at risk, which is stunning in and of itself.
You know, I know a number of people and I know there are a lot of Americans out there who have seen or friends with or maybe even married to or related to people who have drunk the Trump Kool-Aid who have become radicalized by this president who believe all of his lies despite the evidence in front of their faces.
And Dana, I mean, it's just -- it's a shocking thing to behold when you know people like this. And it's also shocking, like, I don't know about you, but there are Republican members of Congress I know, who clearly have lost their minds, who just will not accept reality when it comes to the facts about Donald Trump.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, and that's kind of what I was trying to refer to earlier, when I said they know better, it is because so many of these Republicans, they understand how the elections worked. They understand what is really going on.
And for the most part, they are saying what they're saying not because they are true believers, but it's because they're scared of their base, they are scared of the President's retribution. And that's why they know better, and they're doing this.
But you know, one of the things that this this whole last, you know, week has really showed us is that there's a question of what it means to be a leader. And we have seen people like Liz Cheney and Mitch McConnell try to show the people who respect them where to go and leave them there. And then there are so many others who are following the pack, even though the pack is going in the wrong direction. The pack is following the lies.
TAPPER: Like Kevin McCarthy.
BASH: And that is a huge dichotomy that we're seeing. And it matters for so many reasons, not the least of which is, where is this Republican Party going to go? And how is it going to be post Trump in one week?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And are they going to let the Marjorie Taylor Greenes and the QAnon caucus run the show and determine what the agenda is and determine what the language is and have these standoffs over walking through a metal detector on Capitol Hill a week after the hill was stormed by violent protesters?
I mean, this is the kind of thing that I think you -- it's a frustration, a quiet frustration among establishment Republicans about where the party is headed. They feel like they've lost control of that situation and then they can't get back to the basics of what this party used to be about.
You know, I think that the problem, though, is that there's not any, to your point Dana, leadership in people saying enough is enough. No one is willing to do that, except for a few people like Liz Cheney who has been relentlessly attacked by this president, willing to say there's a right thing and there's a wrong thing. I'm going to do the right thing in this particular situation, regardless of the political consequences of it.
And even Mitch McConnell, I think, in many ways, has an opportunity right now. He doesn't need Donald Trump at this point. He -- Donald Trump just lost him two Senate seats in the Senate majority. He could come out and make a more forceful statement about what's right and what's wrong and maybe he will. Maybe we will hear that from him next week.
But this is an opportunity for the leaders in the party in the House and in the Senate to say where they want their own party to go. Otherwise, it's going to be overtaken by the loudest voices.
And we saw so many of them speaking on the floor today. These are people, even like Matt Gates, congressman from Florida, who went out there and basically said, President Trump was right when he claimed that there was widespread fraud in this election.
PHILLIP: That is completely false. That is a conspiracy theory. And people like that are speaking for the Republican Party,
TAPPER: Marjorie Taylor Greene, the crazy congresswoman from Georgia who, you know, is anti-semitic and supports QAnon and said that the plane didn't hit the Pentagon on 9/11. She actually tweeted during this a week after the terrorist attack that Democrats are the enemy of the people. I mean, I think it's -- I don't know if there's such a job as a political exorcist. But they need to do something to fix the Republican Party to get this demon out.
Jamie Gangel, a big question. Now, I think for the Republican Party is what happens to Donald Trump there has never been a president this disgraced before in the history of this republic, not Nixon, not Johnson, Andrew Johnson, no one. What happens now?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think is Abby just said the Republican Party is going to have to figure itself out. But there's one thing we know, the winning is over. The legacy is over. There is no debate about this presidency by any sane person.
Look, the -- we've had cabinet members resign. We've had staff resign or slip away.
And there's another issue for Donald Trump here. And that is that the brand is gone. It's -- the things he cares about, his businesses, his golf courses, making money, he is a pariah. We have seen donors, big companies, they have written him off.
I think, just to circle back to the Republican Party, they're going to have to figure out what that means for them. Do they want to be pariahs too?
TAPPER: Yes. And you have the grown children of President Trump who are going to have to deal with this albatross around their necks because they've been part of this indecency as well, Jamie.
Let's go back to Wolf Blitzer.
BLITZER: All right, thanks Jake.
I want to go to Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill. I take it, Manu, the minority leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, about to become the majority leader in the U.S. Senate has just issued a statement.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he's making it very clear there will absolutely be a trial in the United States Senate. And he says if they're successful in prosecuting their case, Donald Trump will never hold office again.
He says that there needs to be a trial immediately. But otherwise, he expects it to happen when Joe Biden is president. I'll read you just a small part of it here.
He says that, a Senate trial can begin immediately if they have an agreement with Mitch McConnell, but absent that he said it will begin after January 19. January 19 being the day the Senate is still is currently scheduled to come back into session.
He said make no mistake, there will be an impeachment trial in the United States United States Senate, there will be a vote on convicting the president for high crimes and misdemeanors. And if the President is convicted, there will be a vote on barring him from running again. That is a key question.
Also, the question is how exactly does this trial take shape? What does it look like? Do Democrats demand more witnesses? Do they demand documents? Are there going to be -- is it going to take weeks to play out? In the past is prologue these trials do take some time to take place.
But here is a different story. We are seeing a historically fast impeachment process in the House this come -- the trial will happen after Donald Trump leaves office. How long will Democrats want to pursue this in the new Biden administration as the new president is trying to fill out his cabinet, gets Senate confirmation hearings of votes on the books that will need, that will require Republican support to schedule quick votes on his cabinet nominees? Those are key questions going forward for the Democrats about how they plan to prosecute their case.
But it's very clear now that Mitch McConnell, while he's not ruling out convicting the president, and there's speculation that he could even provide a key votes to convict Donald Trump. He's making it clear that this is going to wait until the new president is sworn in. And Chuck Schumer here making it clear when the new president is sworn in, they're going to move forward in this trial. And Schumer gets his way, Donald Trump will be convicted and won't hold office again.
BLITZER: And as they point out Manu, one of the advantages of actually having a trial and potentially convicting the president of impeachment is that there will be a clause in there that he could never run for any federal office again.
RAJU: Yes. That's absolutely right. Can hold -- he can't hold office. He's done. And we know that Mitch -- that Donald Trump has indicated that he could potentially run again in 2024. He has said that privately to his associates, but that was of course, before last week's deadly riot that he incited here in the U.S. Capitol.
So the likes of Mitch McConnell, other Republicans would be happy to get rid of Donald Trump. Can they do that by convicting him joining forces with the Democrats is going to be difficult decision for a number of these Republican senators, particularly ones who are up for reelection in 2022 may be concerned about running facing a primary challenge if they were to cross Donald Trump and get backlash from Trump's supporters.
There are a lot of questions. But if Mitch McConnell is a yes in the trial, a lot of Republicans can go his way. And the expectation is they could get to the 67 votes needed from conviction, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, we'll go back to Capitol Hill momentarily. We're expecting the Speaker Nancy Pelosi to have a news conference. We'll go there momentarily as soon as she shows up. There you can see where she's going to be sitting at that news conference with the American flags behind her.
You know, Gloria Borger, give us some perspective right now on what we have seen today and what we're about to see.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, we have been talking about this all day. What we have seen is stunning. Although in many ways, given the history of Donald Trump over these past four years, it is not completely surprising. This has been a president who has little regard for the norms of governance. And it seems after we saw what transpired last week that he has little regard for the norms of democracy. And would be very happy to undermine democracy, which is -- which is what occurred.
And I thought to myself, as I was listening to Republican after Republican, call him essentially a victim of all of this, saying that the Democrats just want to get rid of him, and read all the wonderful things Donald Trump has done for the country. I made a list about all the things Donald Trump has done for the Republican Party.
He has lost the Senate. He lost the House in 2018. He lost the presidency in 2020. He has now had two impeachments. And he has split the party right down the middle. And he has incited an insurrection against the United States Capitol. That's quite a record.
David Axelrod, as you're watching what's going on, give us your thoughts.
DAVID AXELROD, FORMER OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: Well, look, let me just level set this conversation about the Republicans for a second. Gloria is absolutely right, about what she just said. But it's also true that there was a poll this week that showed that 71 percent of Republicans still approve of the President, a majority of Republicans don't think that he did anything wrong. And you know, that is why you saw what you saw on the floor.
You know years ago, John F. Kennedy wrote a book called "Profiles and Courage." And it was about people who are willing to risk their political careers, to do something of conscience for the country. That was a relatively thin volume, Wolf, because it's not the norm for politicians to risk their careers.
And we may say, and we may believe, and I certainly do, that that should be your obligation as a public official. But that is not the way of politics, not in Washington and not anywhere else, for that matter. And so the 10, who stood up, they deserve to be in that volume. And they deserve our respect for what they did.
But we should understand that the Republican Party has not split right down the middle. Right now the Republican Party is still a Donald Trump party. Maybe that will change in the wake of this.
But what Mitch McConnell it seems to me is trying to do is figure out how to lose, you know, he lived with Trump, he tried to harness what Trump had to offer over the last four years to help him retain power. Now Trump has become an albatross and he's finding he's looking for a way to get rid of Trump. And it may be through the conviction process and the disbarment from public service.
But as long as Trump is hanging around, unless his numbers change because of this, he's still a potent force in the Republican Party. And he sews a lot of fear among Republican politicians.
BLITZER: He certainly does.
Norm Eisen is with us as well, our legal analyst. You're an expert in this area, Norm. So walk us through a little bit about an impeachment trial in the Senate, not for a current sitting president but for a former president as the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Does the U.S. Chief Justice still preside?
NORM EISEN, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Wolf, I had the privilege of spending weeks on the floor of the Senate as counsel to the House managers. So I've lived with those senators who are about to be presented with this choice.
The Constitution provides that for the president, the Chief Justice shall preside. We haven't had an impeachment trial of an ex-president. So the first order of business is going to be for the House, the Senate, the parliamentarian to figure out if that means that the Chief Justice also provides for next -- for next presides for an ex- president.
The next question will be if not who does preside? Of course, the vice president in this case, Kamala Harris is the president of the Senate. You can see the conflict with having her preside the president pro tempore by tradition, the most senior member of the majority party, that'll be the Democrats. I believe their most senior member is Senator Leahy, who I often talk to, reflected on the history in the previous impeachment trial, he may end up presiding.
So, it's one of many unresolved questions. But this much is clear, twice before the Senate has had an impeachment trial for an ex- officer, an ex-senator and an ex-Secretary of War.
Clearly the president can be impeached. As John Adams wrote he could be impeached to his last dying day. And so we will see a trial of ex- President Donald Trump.
BLITZER: Now you can see we're showing our viewers live pictures coming in from Statuary Hall up at the U.S. Capitol. U.S. military personnel, National Guard troops are in Statuary Hall right now. They've been all over Capitol Hill. They've been all over Washington as we get ready a week from today for the Biden inauguration.
Twenty thousand National Guard troops have been mobilized to come to Washington. As our Barbara Starr has noted there are more U.S. military troops activated. And many of them as I personally saw earlier today armed.
More troops here in Washington three times as many U.S. troops in the nation's capital right now fully mobilized and arm as opposed to how many U.S. troops are still in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. A lot more military personnel here in Washington right now. And that speaks volumes about the security concerns underway right now here in Washington, D.C.
Not just up on Capitol Hill, but around the White House, all the monuments all over the place. If you drive around Washington, as I did earlier today, you see police, you see law enforcement, military personnel armed, once again, all over the place, right on regular street corners, which you don't normally see. You see it if you go, as I said earlier, you go in the olden days to Baghdad or Mosul or Fallujah, you see U.S. military personnel on every corner. You don't necessarily expect to see that here in Washington, D.C.
Elie Honig, our legal analyst is with us as well. I'm curious, Elie, seven days left for Trump to be President of the United States. Everyone is bracing that he's about to issue a whole bunch, more pardons, maybe even a pardon for himself. I'm curious what you think.
ELIE HONIG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, Wolf, that absolutely could happen. And look, traditionally abuse of the pardon power is meant to be remedied by the impeachment power.
And what we are seeing here is exactly why the constitution creates the impeachment power in the first place. Here we have a president who already, regardless of what he may do in the next week, already has attacked our Democratic process, has attacked the transfer of power, has attacked another branch of the U.S. government, has undermined our national security. There is only one tool in our constitutional and legal system that is up to the task of addressing that. That is impeachment. And Wolf, when they study this 50 years from now, a 100 years from now in law schools, I think the way they will study this is by saying this is exactly what impeachment is intended for.
BLITZER: You know, John, as we look at what's going on right now, and you and I have been in this business for a while, it's extraordinary. It's amazing to think about the enormity of having an impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate, not for a sitting president, like Bill Clinton, for example, or the first time Trump was impeached a year or so ago, or for Andrew Johnson back a long time ago, but for a former president of the United States precisely because they want to punish him. They want to show what he did was awful. And they want to make sure he could never run for president again.
KING: Well, I think Elie makes an interesting point. Well, we are all dizzy in this moment. We just had a fiercely fought election, followed by two months of the president lying about it, followed by an attack on our United States government when we could go today, followed by an impeachment vote today in a very historic impeachment vote Donald Trump impeached in and of itself historic. Now he's the only president to be impeached twice, it makes it all the more so and a permanent stain on his legacy.
What will historians think in 50 or 100 years? What will law schools think in 50 or 100 years? I don't know the answer to that question. I do know that right now. This town is stunned.
And one of the -- one of the interesting parts of the debate today was Republicans arguing this is no way to heal the country at this divided moment.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: No matter what you think about the President in his conduct in the last two months, and over the last four years, repeated lies and conspiracy theories. Republicans saying it's time to heal. Democrats saying no, the way you heal is justice and accountability. Without justice and accountability, you can't have healing.
And I do think one of the things that makes this debate distinctive is that for those Republicans who were willing since the election to say the President is wrong, it was fair, Joe Biden is the next President of United States, we should remember what they said today. We should go back and look at what they said today. We should respect what they said today.
And I hope people watching around the world and at home will even if you disagree with them, they deserve to be listen to. The challenge is if you're Kevin McCarthy, the leader of House Republican, Steve Scalise, the number two, hundreds of more than -- nearly 140 of the House Republicans stood with the President for two months in his lies, including after the riots.
So the problem for the Republican Party is, do these lawmakers have credibility? Do they have standing when they're standing up for justice and healing and truth and law and order when for two months, they participated in the climate that the President stoked one week ago tonight, one week ago today, that led to this moment? It's a defining moment for the President, it is a defining stain, indelible for the President, but the Republican Party, this is -- we're nearing the end of his term. And we'll have the trial after his term ends and we will see what his future is. That's one track of this.
The other track is what happens. This is the party of Lincoln and the party of Reagan that right now is still the party of Trump. Many people are trying to escape from that now, but they've put themselves in a box because they enabled him in the last two months. Many of them enabled him the last four years. They have ignored the facts. They have ignored the truth. They have attacked us, they have attacked institutions.
And their reward for that was the United States government, the building they serve in being attacked a week ago. How they get out of this? We need a competitive two-party system. We need a good debate about all the big issues before us. But many of those Republicans simply don't have the standing our credibility right now because of the box they have put themselves in.
BLITZER: An awful box indeed. You know, Gloria, there's clearly a very heightened state of alert here in Washington right now.
BLITZER: Enormous security concerns, there always are for every inauguration, hundreds of thousands of people want to witness history. They want to see it on inauguration. Because of the coronavirus, that's not going to happen this time. But originally maybe there would be 5,000, 10,000 there's already been an announcement that 20,000 National Guard troops, mostly armed are already being deployed here in Washington, D.C. right now. Many of them were actually sleeping inside the U.S. Capitol yesterday, getting ready for their new assignments. And we applaud all of them for what they're doing, protecting all of us in the midst of a very dangerous situation.
These are live pictures you can see from Capitol Hill. There's fences that have been built around the entire area. Normally, tourists could just walk around, see the U.S. Capitol, I can assure you that's not happening right now. This heightened state of alert national security concerns is legitimate, Gloria, and explain a little bit why?
BORGER: Well, it's legitimate because of what we've just gone through what occurred a week ago on January 6, which was an armed insurrection against the United States Capitol. And the more distance we get from that insurrection, the more we really understand how much worse it could have been, Wolf, mean, we understand that there was a potential here for hostage taking, for a massacre. And members of Congress that I've spoken to, in a way, feel lucky that things did not get worse. And so, what we do is we react to what happened last week.
We have a celebration for those who voted for Joe Biden coming into town next week. And it's very difficult to try and figure out how you have a celebration without allowing celebrants the way we normally see them along a parade route when there's a new president. And, you know, it's going to be very different this time. Very, very different this time.
And I see those pictures of the National Guard inside the United States Capitol and around the Capitol. And, of course, as you said, we have to thank them for their service and what they are doing to protect people who want to be here and to protect people who are trying to do their work at the Capitol. But the country is on edge because of what we saw last week and with good reason.
BLITZER: With very good reason basically a week ago, what we saw here in the nation's Capitol couldn't believe that destruction that was going on.
BORGER: And the FBI is telling us that there are, you know, more demonstrations, riots, whatever you want planned or talked about in all of 50 states. And so now, all states have to be on guard. All states have to do in their state capitols what you see going on in the United States Capitol.
BLITZER: Yes, it's obviously so sad. So sad indeed. All right, let's bring it Evan -- all right, I get mixed instructions over here. John King, let's talk a little bit about this national security threat that's underway here in Washington right now. We're watching it unfold very, very seriously and enormous amount of concern. The Mayor of Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has basically told everyone now, there's seven days to go, you know what, this is not a good time to visit Washington, D.C.
KING: And think about the many times during our careers in our time in Washington when we have seen this escalated, right? This time, it's because of an attack on the United States Capitol by American citizens. And that's what makes it so depressing and sad even as it is urgent.
If you read the words of the FBI bulletins, if you talk to a secret service, Capitol Police, the Park Police, the people who are now sharing information, they think it is urgent. They believe they have seen chatter. Some of it is just chatter, yes. But last week taught us some of it is not.
Some of these people are willing to break into the United States Capitol, some of them were willing to bring zip ties so they could -- that's what you use to take hostages. And so last week proved that you need to take this more than seriously. So now we have fortress Washington. And you mentioned that's a shame.
When I moved to Washington, you could drive past the White House. You know, even before 911 that had changed. And since 911, it has changed significantly. But, again, those who were responses to -- mostly responses to foreign terrorists, part of it was after Oklahoma City, Timothy McVeigh, that was a domestic event.
And a lot of security around other events was fortified -- security around places was fortified because of that. But we are living now, as the point was made earlier by Seth Moulton, the Congressman from Massachusetts, I believe by one of our anchors on the earlier today, I think it was Jake, there are more troops in Washington, D.C. right now than there are in Afghanistan.
That is a sad moment in a democracy, whether you're a Democrat, whether you're Republican, whether you're an Independent, whether you're not sure, whether you're watching from around the world, but it is necessary. The Biden inauguration was already going to be significantly scaled back because of COVID. But after a horrific 2020 when we had the pandemic concerns, and now we have an anxious 2021, we were still -- we're at the -- the pandemic is still rising. I was about to say we're at the peak of the pandemic, I wish I could say that, but the pandemic is still going up.
So there are those concerns anyway, huge concerns. And now these security concerns, and you have these national -- the pictures that are produced or sent this morning of these National Guard, these men and women sleeping on the floors in the office buildings around the United States Capitol, getting some sleep before they go to work. It's just stunning. It knocks you back on your heels.
And, again, we are here. We would not be here. Those pictures would not exist. If the President of the United States had respected the will of the people, respected the election and listened. When he asked for recounts and the answer was you lost, when he asked for recounts again and the answer was you lost. When he went to court and judge after judge after judge including judges he appointed said you have no evidence. If the President of the United States had respected that, meaning the system, the rules, facts and law, we wouldn't be here.
BLITZER: We're getting breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now in the investigation into the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol a week ago, new evidence that it was planned. Our Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez is joining us right now. You're working the story, Evan, what are you learning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, one of the big questions for investigators has been whether or not -- whether the people who attacked the Capitol, whether this was a just a mob that just got out of control or whether there was planning and we're learning from people we're talking to familiar with the investigation that they're getting indications, some evidence that they've seen that indicates that there was some level of planning.
They've noticed from looking at surveillance cameras, from looking at some of the weaponry that showed up, that there were people who were at the ellipse where there was a Trump rally earlier in the day, some people left the scene of that rally early and appeared to have gone to retrieve weapons that then turned up at the scene of the riot at the Capitol.
And so, that's leading prosecutors and investigators, the FBI to try to figure out exactly what the level of coordination and planning was. Now, there is, at this point, nothing determined for sure, right? Investigators still believe that there's a lot of work to be done to try to unearth all of the evidence that could be here, but they're looking at travel records, they're looking at communications, they're looking at money. They're trying to figure out whether these groups were coordinating with each other or whether there were disparate groups that were at work essentially to try to attack the Capitol.
Again, they're looking at some of the evidence that includes the weapons that we see on some of those videos, sledgehammers, ropes. Clearly, people brought weapons, they stored them someplace, and then they use them to try to attack the Capitol. And that's why they were able to breach the entrances on multiple sides. And so, that's one of the things that that you see kind of terrorism and public corruption investigators now focusing on both.
BLITZER: Yes, so it's clear now, and based on everything the FBI has learned, it was not some sort of spontaneous decision by a bunch of, quote, protesters to go up to Capitol Hill and storm Capitol Hill. This was all planned out. And all of these people we heard yesterday from the FBI and the Department of Justice, the acting U.S. Attorney, they're going after them. They're going to be a lot more arrests, not just in the coming days and weeks but in the months. This is a huge, huge operation. Jake.
PEREZ: Right. And the sedition part of this, Wolf, is what they're focusing on. You have a strike team of prosecutors on all sides that are focusing on this big question whether or not -- whether you can make a big sedition case, this is something that's going to take weeks to do.
BLITZER: If not months. All right, stand by. Jake, you have a special guest.
TAPPER: That's right, Wolf. I want to bring in former FBI Director James Comey, he's author of the new book, "Saving Justice: Truth, Transparency and Trust". Director Comey, thanks so much for being here. I want to start with the new reporting. We just heard that investigators are looking into how much of this was a spontaneous attack on the Capitol, obviously, to agree to a degree, some of the people in the Capitol were there incited from what they heard at the mall on how much of it was planned, how much of this was strategized ahead of time.
As -- I know, you're not in the FBI anymore but you have such experience. When you look at what happened, what do you see?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Well, what Evan described makes good sense to me that the FBI would be doing two things simultaneously. First, going immediately to find the bad actors all over the country that they can lay hands on and charging them, but also exploring this question about conspiracy. Look, there's no doubt there were at least some conspiracies, people wandering around exercising their first amendment rights, don't bring ropes and ladders and sledgehammers to a spontaneous event. This was a planned assault as if going after a castle. So who was involved and how that happened, who funded it, who supported it, who knew about it are going to be the questions they're going to answer. And I agree it will take time, but I'm sure they feel tremendous pressure to move quickly because of the ongoing threat.
TAPPER: And we should note that the incitement that people accused President Trump of did not just occur at the rally that morning. It's been going on for months, as he talked about the election being stolen, which obviously did not happen. So the question is, of the people who stormed the Capitol, how many were incited that morning, and how many were incited in the previous weeks, right? I mean, is that how you would look at it?
COMEY: Sure. What was their motivation? Who recruited them to the event? How do they travel to the event? Who paid for the supplies? And looking at what radicalize them is going to be important. It goes back farther than you mentioned, right? President Trump was explicitly endorsing the armed invasion of the Michigan State House, as I recall, and that was about the coronavirus. So that will be part of the investigation.
TAPPER: It's very -- there's a high bar for the prosecution for incitement. There's a Supreme Court case that one of the precedents defenders cited today on the House floor involving a Klansmen in Ohio, that's interesting company. As a prosecutor, is that something that you would bring forward, that you would try to prosecute Trump, Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani, Mo Brooks, any of the people who incited either that morning or in the previous weeks and months?
COMEY: I would want -- if I were the U.S. Attorney, I'd want to take a very close look at it. For good reason, as you said, Jake, that's a very high bar. I think it was Brandenburg versus Ohio --
COMEY: -- that requires you to prove something more than words of exhortation, the speaker has to be actually almost directing them to go into this attack mode. And that's hard to do, especially when you're talking about it prove that, and especially when you're talking about a public official, but it has to be looked at. When a Rudy Giuliani is talking about trial by combat, are there reasonable understandings of those words that are innocent, or that are not involved in an actual urging of people to violence? You'd want to stare at that very closely.
TAPPER: Although we should point out for Clarence Brandenburg, the Klansmen in Ohio, there was no direct act of violence that his words were tied to, whereas for President Trump, Rudy Giuliani, there is. If you were advising the Biden Justice Department, would you say, go and look at this, this is serious and it doesn't matter where it leads. We need to get to the bottom of it and there needs to be accountability, even if that means former President Trump.
COMEY: Yes, if I were still there and want the Justice Department in the FBI to take a complete look at all the actors on the mall and at the Capitol and connected to that on that day. The question about whether to pursue a prosecution of President -- former President Trump is a really hard question. And so you'd want to have an understanding of the facts and then make a thoughtful decision about that.
TAPPER: In terms of the plotting and the planning, Democratic Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, a Navy veteran, says she wants an investigation into allegations that other members of Congress were giving what she called, what Congresswoman Sherrill calls reconnaissance tours before the attack. Keep in mind because of COVID, there are not tours of the Capitol going on, according to Democratic Congress people.
And there were members of Congress touring and showing all these people who were in town for the January 6 rally showing them around the Capitol. Majority Whip Clyburn and others have raised questions about whether some Capitol Police officers might have been complicit.
What do you think? How concerned are you about these reports that, you know, as Abby said, quoting the movie, "He Knows You're Alone", the calls are coming from inside the House?
COMEY: Well, it's a very concerning notion that it might have had helped them inside, obviously, incredibly concerning if members of Congress were part of it or police officers. You'd want to look at that as the FBI, you'd want to gather information on everybody who was in the Capitol in the days leading up to it, and try to understand why they were there and what their motivation was. So, all of that will fall within the scope of an investigation. And I will bet you they're on it already.
TAPPER: I should notice somebody who was a Congressional reporter for years, that is a very, very confusing complex. It is not easy to find your way around, and a lot of these folks seem to find their way around with a little bit of ease. What concerns do you have about the inauguration next week, given last week's violence and the threats we're seeing and the suspicions that Democratic members of Congress have about some of their Republican colleagues?
COMEY: Well, if you're the Secret Service, which would be in charge of this special national security event, you want to take the threat very, very seriously. And make sure your brain to bear overwhelming resources to lock it all down the whole area, all the people. You have to understand it and control it completely.
Now, I -- there's a very serious threat and I am concerned about it but at the same time, I've been involved in two inaugurations in the security operation. We have the capability, the resources and the expertise to lock it down in a good way. So you don't want to have false comfort. You want to take the threat seriously, but it can be done in a way that keeps everyone safe.
TAPPER: Former FBI Director James Comey, his new book is called "Saving Justice: Truth, Transparency, and Trust". Director Comey, thanks so much for joining us this afternoon. Wolf?
BLITZER: Thank you very much. Important interview indeed.
We're waiting for Nancy Pelosi to show up. She's about to have this, what's called it in Grossman ceremony signing the articles, the one article of impeachment. We don't know when it will actually be sent over to the Senate. But you can see that lectern there. It's very significant. That was the lectern that was actually stolen by one of the rioters who came in. We all saw that picture of that individual walking around with that truly historic lectern.
It has been put there deliberately by the speaker. There you see that picture of that organizer of the insurrection as we're called. And you can see that that lectern is now back in place doing what it's supposed to do, not being picked up and manhandled by that individual. John, it's -- that was one of the most shocking but we saw so many, the video, the pictures. And we were told yesterday by the FBI, they have so much more that closed circuit video, there are a little cameras all over the place up on Capitol Hill, and they're going to be using it to prosecute these individuals,
KING: All right, that -- the man you just saw there holding that has already been charged. I believe he's released on bail, but he's facing charges, including trying to steal federal property, a government property. The bigger charges breaking into the building to begin with --
BLITZER: Which is a felony.
KING: -- and violating security protocols. Look, Wolf, whatever your politics watching at home, this was an attack on the United States government. I said this a week ago, activism, protest is one of the greatest traditions in American life and every American, even if you're wrong, has the right to protest and to be active. You do not have the right to break into government office buildings, any office buildings. You do not have the right to steal and deface government property.
And the fact that in this day and age, including most of those protesters outside, you can see the pictures. They were taking selfies of themselves. They were posting images of themselves.
They were many -- Dana Bash reported earlier, some of them was flocked to CNN producer when the President released one of his videos to try to see what is he asking us to do in this smartphone. It's a high security age that they did not think that there would be hundreds, if not thousands of photos of them. And I read one of our accounts from our reporters this morning that the FBI has received more than 100,000 digital tips. All of these people were photographed, committing their crimes, and now justice will come.
BLITZER: And Nancy Pelosi is about to walk in into this room to that lectern, and she'll be joined by the Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the Majority Whip James Clyburn, the Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark, the impeachment managers from the House who will make the case before the Senate once there's a trial, she'll sign the documents over there. This is the Rayburn room in the U.S. Capitol here in Washington, D.C. People have gathered already.
Gloria, this is a ceremony, if you will, but it's very, very significant coming very soon after the vote in the House of Representatives impeaching this President for the second time.
BORGER: It's very significant, and it's a very somber ceremony. I think the mood there today was very somber. There is no escaping that this is the second impeachment of this President. I think the managers of impeachment in the House have a lot of decisions to make right now. They have to decide what they're going to do when this goes to the United States Senate, how many witnesses they're going to have, how long a trial they're going to have.
I've spoke with somebody in Senate leadership the other day on the Democratic side, they're trying to figure out whether, for example, they could hold impeachment hearings in the morning and do business in the afternoon, how that would work. What are they -- what story will they tell the American people? And lots of us watched it on television along with each other. We've seen the pictures, as John is saying, you know, how much cell phone video have we seen? How many stories are they going to tell?
And also, what's so different about this trial is that the judges in the Senate were the witnesses to what occurred, because their lives were endangered. There -- they were attacked. And so, will members of the Congress become witnesses in the trial to convict Donald Trump?
BLITZER: Yes, and I just want to set the scene once again in this Rayburn room in the U.S. Capitol where this ceremony is about to take place. The Speaker will be at that lectern, the article of impeachment, which is entitled Incitement of Insurrection already there on the table that will be signed and eventually sent over to the Senate for a trial.
David Axelrod, it's ceremonial but it's so, so significant.
AXELROD: Yes, it really is. And, you know, we've talked about people want justice. But this is beyond justice, this is about accountability. If we don't have accountability in our system, then the system doesn't work. And so, you can't let Donald Trump run out the clock and escape any sort of penalty for what he's done.
And for President of the United States, that penalty is impeachment. It's beyond pardon. You can't touch him that way. So this is very, very important. This is the start of a process that is really significant to our democracy.
BLITZER: You know, they're meeting right now, we're told, the House impeachment managers meeting with Nancy Pelosi right now, David, to go through the whole process. Jamie Raskin, the Congressman from Maryland, he's the lead impeachment manager right now. So they're working out a lot of the details of how this is going to unfold. But, clearly, there's not going to be a trial in the Senate the earliest, there could be maybe January 19th, the day before the inauguration. But almost certainly after the new administration takes office, after Trump -- AXELROD: Right.
BLITZER: -- leaves office and becomes a former President of the United States, presumably, there still will be this trial.
AXELROD: Which is inconvenient for Joe Biden, but necessary for the accountability I spoke of, he obviously wants to get out of the gate fast with his Cabinet and wants to tackle the emergencies that we face in terms of the virus and the economy. But this has to be done, there about bifurcating the day over in the Senate, according to Senator Schumer, and tackling this half the day and tackling their other business the other half of the day.
But the interesting thing is what Senator McConnell will do, and we've been talking about this all day. You know, it is very, very clear that that iron kind of barrier that the President had set up in the Senate during his first impeachment is no longer going to be there for him. His defense team has basically left him, he's got -- the legal team that represented him.
And it's very clear that Mitch McConnell is not going to be the guy who stands up and defends him in front of the United States Senate and tries to control the process in the way he certainly can as a minority leader.
So, what happens there will be very, very interesting. It's -- the House will proceed as the House has, they are going to be very well organized, not clear what kind of defense the President or the former President is going to be able to mount for himself.
BLITZER: I want to bring Norm Eisen into this conversation. Norm, in this article of impeachment that was passed by the House of Representatives, 232 in favor including 10 Republicans, 197 opposed. One sentence jumps out at me that they're going to have to try to prove in a formal trial in the U.S. Senate.
They say that the President betrayed his trust as President to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. So they're going to have to bring witnesses before the trial in the Senate to make that case. Walk us through that process, how you think it's going to unfold.
EISEN: The best witness, Wolf, to the President's betrayal of trust against the people of the United States is Donald Trump himself. The two most important pieces of evidence that we have are his speech to the insurrectionists when he incited them. He used the language of we have to fight and if you don't fight your country will be taken away from you. Let's march down Pennsylvania Avenue. We saw the results.
And then, Wolf, the other most important piece of evidence is the tape, the audio tape of his shocking conversation with Brad Raffensperger, the Secretary of State of Georgia. Can you find 11,000 plus votes 11,780 votes one more than necessary to flip Georgia for me. That's important because that insurrection speech that we saw on January 6 wasn't a one-time episode. The President had been stoking the flames building up the anger in his followers. He lied to them. He deceived them.
But you can understand they heard that their democracy was being stolen for months, even before the election it started, if I lose the election is rigged. So those two pieces of evidence will be the most important. I think it's a very having been there for the trial of one of these cases on the floor of the Senate as counsel to the house managers. I do not think this is a complicated or a hard case. I've explained why the evidence is straightforward. And the law is straightforward, Wolf.
Of course, it's a high crime and misdemeanor for a President to incite insurrection against his own government, not just the Congress, not just a coordinate branch of the government. But his own Vice President was put in peril by his words, and by that long pattern of conduct that proceeded those words on January 6.
So the law is clear and the facts are clear. What's not clear, David, talked about this before, will the members of the Senate have the courage to do the right thing. They know, I talked to them behind the scenes during the last trial, they know Donald Trump is not fit to run again for President or to spend another minute as President.
They'll be confronted with the question of disqualification. And all it takes once he's convicted by 67 votes, just 51 to disqualify him. If ever a president should be disqualified from running again, it's Donald Trump.
BLITZER: But you've already heard the one legal argument that the President's legal experts are making, Norm, that the Constitution speaks about impeaching a President. It doesn't -- and convicting a President. It doesn't speak about convicting a former President. He will be a former President at the time of the trial. And they say as a result, that whole trial is unconstitutional.
EISEN: Wolf, these legal arguments we've heard are flim-flam. They were bad in the first trial, and they were terrible today what we heard on the floor of the Senate. There are two precedents for ex- high-ranking officials being tried in impeachment after they were out of office. There's the Blount (ph) case from the 18th century and the Belknap case from the 19th century. While they weren't Presidents, it's the same legal principle,
As John Adams wrote, a founder and a framer, if anyone would know this, he would. To my last dying day, I could be impeached. So the fact just like these bogus first amendment arguments, and these garbage due process arguments we heard today, these are not real legal arguments, Wolf. It's like the press that it's phony, legal and factual arguments that were thrown out by over 60 courts across the country that the election was stolen.