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Biden & Harris Hold Memorial To Mark 400,000-Plus Lives Lost In U.S. To COVID-19; Trump Farewell Video: "We Did What We Came Here To Do... Started No New Wars"; Biden To Be Sworn In As President Tomorrow. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired January 19, 2021 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, CUOMO PRIME TIME: In less than 15 hours from now, noon tomorrow, Joe Biden takes the helm, in some of the worst seas, we've ever seen. And we are on a very, very, uncertain course.
It's no small irony that America crossed the 400,000 Coronavirus death mark on the final full day in office for a president, whose legacy will be a litany of pain and loss and hatred.
And while that disgraced man is no one to follow, he did start his term with a pledge that he has now made a priority for Joe Biden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Now, Trump meant the opposite. And look at the tally, 400,000, more than that dead. A pandemic, he told you, was going to disappear, like a miracle, that is American carnage. A vaccine that no one really planned to distribute well, that could create carnage.
A deadly insurrection he inspired to attack Congress, terrorists, that he told he loved, that is American carnage. And yes, racists, hateful hordes, all over this country, feeling empowered, like they haven't for a generation, to act on their invective, that is carnage.
And Trump, and the enablers who remain, all of you, own it. You, who ignored, echoed, and empowered, this menace, you should see, the fruits of your faithless oath to this country.
Look at what you've done. Military needed to secure the democracy from other Americans enraged by you. No longer can America boast a peaceful transfer of power.
Hawley, Cruz, McConnell, McCarthy, let these names ring in infamy just like the day they brought to rest on January 6th. The day they stood up, other than McConnell, but he's done plenty to make things worse, the rest of you stood up, to lie about an election in Congress, even after an insurrection. Trump did not act alone. You took us here, and we will never forget.
But now, it is on Biden and Harris to stop the carnage. And they already, before they're inaugurated, they made a moment we sorely needed.
The first time this country stopped to mourn the dead from COVID at the Reflecting Pool, in Washington, D.C., look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: To heal, we must remember. It's hard sometimes to remember.
Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights in the darkness, along this sacred pool of reflection, and remember all who we've lost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: What joins us all right now is what Biden just gave voice to. Hurt. Pain. We all feel under siege, certainly from a virus, and, yes, from a disease of our own making. This division is toxic, too.
You should reflect now on why Trump and his enablers never called for a moment like that. They certainly had no problem bringing people together, right? They had their rallies. But they had no respect for the dead.
The answer is found in this President's farewell. He is the enemy of empathy, of truth, and of trust.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We did what we came here to do, and so much more.
I am especially proud to be the first president, in decades, who has started no new wars.
Now, as I prepare to hand power over, to a new administration, at noon, on Wednesday, I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Every part of that is offensive. I don't know who wrote it. But I hope we find out, and they should be held to account, also.
No new wars? Our democracy is not under attack by domestic terrorists that that man incited to help him cling to power? What movement? There's no move - it's all about him.
Please know this. If you voted for Trump, out of disgust with the system, unhappy with your lot in life, you are not wrong to feel that way. You were right then, and now, to demand better from government. Too many are being left behind, in the interests of too few.
[21:05:00] And the men and women, who often squander their chance to serve us, deserve that enmity. You just happened to pick someone who conned you, who never really gave a damn about you.
Hugging the flag, was he? Or was he trying to choke out the country?
His insurrection mob beat a police officer with a flag, waved it around, and he said, "I love you." He knew what they did. What President does that? What decent person does that? These people are not patriots. They are perverting Old Glory, and we all know it.
The red, white, those stripes, those 13, the colonies that came together, a field of blue, like the sky of our destiny, filled with the stars that are the constellation of our states.
Every representation makes the same point in the flag, "E Pluribus Unum". We are one out of many, not many at the urging of one despotic Donald. Remember what we are about, and please remember what we can never be about again.
This is not about Right or Left. I know many of you are happy about Biden. I know everybody wants better. In this moment, I'm not there. I am consumed with our uncertain future, imperiled by our lack of collective concern. I have never seen us like this, not in my lifetime.
This beautiful scene of the flags in the National Mall represents the Americans, who won't be able to attend Inauguration, tomorrow. But not to me. To me, it is a representation of how we should all see ourselves, at our core.
We are aware of our interconnection, and our need for one another, or we are about nothing. We cannot continue the way we are right now. Left and Right, it is time to be reasonable, if you want to get out of this paroxysm of pain.
So, what happens? Where do we go from here? David Gregory and Michael Smerconish join us right now.
How do you look at the moment, David?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, AUTHOR, "HOW'S YOUR FAITH?": Well, I think it's a hopeful moment, you know? I think the country is starved for leadership, for compassion, from our President, from - for a respect for the presidency.
And there is an urgent need for action, on this pandemic, in the economy. The country is hurting. And the country feels isolated. And that's why I really liked the notes that President-elect Biden sounded today, and tonight, and what he'll do tomorrow, to remind each other that we're connected to each other.
I think about Martin Buber, who wrote "I and Thou."
The idea is that to be in an "I and Thou" relationship is what happens to you matters to me, and vice versa, and a sense of community that we need in the country, if we're going through something really hard. And we're going through lots of things that are really hard, including overcoming these Trump years.
And so, I think the moment is defined by the man, this incoming president, and Kamala Harris, the woman, who will offer some hope, and some direction, because we need government, and we need a presidency, to function well at the moment.
CUOMO: Michael, what did "Our movement is just beginning" mean to you at the end of the Trump address?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, HOST, "MICHAEL SMERCONISH PROGRAM" ON SIRIUSXM: I hope you don't mind, if I critique the opening commentary, because you speak for me, in most respects. But to the extent, you're presenting those facts, and I think they are facts, as consensus, I don't think we're there, Chris.
SMERCONISH: I've looked at too much of the recent polling.
CUOMO: Be specific when you attack me, Smerconish.
SMERCONISH: What's that?
CUOMO: What facts?
SMERCONISH: Well what I'm--
SMERCONISH: No, no, what I'm saying is everything that you've just said makes sense to me, personally.
But I don't think there is a consensus in the country that that's where we are, because the early polling data, post January 6th, that day of infamy, suggests that at least 50 percent of Republicans remain hardened in their support of Donald Trump. They continue to believe that the election was stolen. They think the impeachment process was a fraud.
And although I'd love to see a "Kumbaya" moment for the country, I don't think we're there.
CUOMO: I don't see it as "Kumbaya." I'm not asking for "Kumbaya." I don't even like "Kumbaya." I am asking for a sense of the existential.
This country does not work as separate parts. We tried that once, doesn't work. I'm not asking people to like one another. I'm asking them to understand the priorities of our collective existence. And that's what I believe is in jeopardy right now.
I don't disagree with you about the numbers. I'm going to leave you right now because you're being too cogent, and go to David, and say that I do believe there has to be a reach where there is a reason to believe that catches people, in a way that's not happening right now. [21:10:00]
GREGORY: But this is the work of communities. This is the work of citizens. It's the work of media.
But the immediate focus is does the government work right? Does the federal government work well? And does the federal government work well with state governments? And this is most relevant in dealing with a health crisis that is gripping the world.
And so, the work that you're talking about, Chris is big. It's important. It may take a long time. But we know that government, politics, and media play a big role in that.
And with a new President, this kind of reset, it gives the country an opportunity, to look to the presidency, a figure who has great sway over the public, and see some difference, and see a new beginning. That matters. We need that.
We're in a New Year. People would like to turn a page in 2021, and leave 2020 behind. And what happens from the government, because the presidency gets so much attention, it can feel destabilizing. I think people have felt that their world is turned upside-down, and it's very uncomfortable.
And I think President Biden will bring some comfort, some stability. It doesn't mean he's going to get his legislation all passed. But I think he's going to represent that in the presidency. And I think that matters. Whether you're for him, or against him, I think a common decency and stability matters.
CUOMO: Last word to you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: I think that the incoming president has enormous burdens because of the divide that we've been discussing, but also a tremendous opportunity. And it's vaccine distribution.
If he can meet the 100 million, in a 100 days, all good things will flow from that. And I think that Americans will respond to competence. So, there is the opportunity for him. If he can deliver on that, it'll be a great start.
CUOMO: I don't know about - I know a 100 million a 100 days, you know, there's obviously a companion concept there. I don't know. They better be careful about the bar. I understand a little bit about what's going on in states and distribution. They have a problem.
CUOMO: We have a supply problem.
CUOMO: And we have a logistics problem. And there isn't, not just the money for it, they don't even know what the fix is. But I'll tell you what, Michael, you're right. And that's why I'm so afraid, and that's why I'm so concerned for us, is that I know we have to get to a better place. I know this is unsustainable for us. We're not set up to survive this way. It won't last.
And we have to just keep reminding people about a reason to believe in something bigger and better than what was gotten us to this point so far. But you're right, brother. And I appreciate you checking me.
David Gregory, Michael Smerconish, thank you.
CUOMO: For making the conversation worthwhile.
The force of 25,000 National Guard troops securing this Inauguration just got smaller by a dozen. This is what I'm talking about, about this existential concern. This is an example of trying to stop the slightest risk of an insider attack.
What happens when you don't know who the enemy is anymore? It's not someone on the outside. It's us. Who is "Us?" Who is "Them?" Is it safe to have the ceremony on the Capitol steps tomorrow? Is it right to do it, even if something may go wrong?
A Congressman, who has not been satisfied with the level of Intel he's gotten on the riot, who has a responsibility to find out, and tell the rest of us, next.
CUOMO: When you look at D.C. now, you hope it's safe, but it is certainly sad to see all that security necessary to keep us from ourselves. And there are new concerns that make this necessary. Connections between those supposedly protecting democracy and those who want to attack it.
The first significant conspiracy charges were filed today in the Capitol riot. Federal prosecutors going after three leaders of the extremist group, the Oath Keepers, this bunch of people that specifically targets member of - members of the military and law enforcement.
12 members of the Army National Guard are now removed from protecting the Inauguration, part of the FBI vetting, looking into possible ties with extremist groups. We know two Guard members from Ohio were removed.
Let's discuss the state of the Inaugural security with Ohio Representative, Tim Ryan.
Congressman, welcome back to PRIME TIME.
REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): Thanks, Chris. CUOMO: Let's go macro/micro.
On the macro, where is your head, in terms of the level of compliance with your questions and the level of openness? Are you getting confidence, are you losing confidence that people want to answer your questions?
RYAN: Well I'll tell you, I've been having a number of very good open transparent conversations with the Sergeant at Arms, the National Guard, the Head of the National Guard, nationally. And they've been very, very transparent.
I've kind of been focused with them, and not necessarily the Capitol police, because they're having more of a leadership role here. And I know the rank and file in the Capitol police are doing well, and they're ready to do the job.
So, we're feeling good, going into tomorrow. Secret Service is running the show, as we talked about. And tomorrow is the big day. I mean, we had to focus on tomorrow and starting, right after the Inauguration, we're going to get down to the business of figuring out what the hell happened last week, or two weeks ago.
CUOMO: One of the many toxic "I told you sos" with this outgoing president is going to be what he awakened, groups like the Oath Keepers. They never had a place in our political culture or in our mainstream dialog. Now they do.
And now you hear about these National Guardsmen being pulled, a couple from Ohio. What is that about? Is that about their connection to extremist groups that we know about? I mean what have you been told?
RYAN: There is no connection, at this point, to any extremist groups.
I mean you could imagine the abundance of caution that the leadership in the National Guard are implementing right now. All the way down, Chris, to people who may be saying things that they shouldn't be saying are being removed, because no one is taking any chance at all. I know for a couple that was the case.
The other 10 were the FBI, are basically running background checks on everybody here. And there may have been something there, not necessarily connected to anything from last week, not necessarily connected to anything they've done wrong. This won't necessarily be held against them, in their personnel file.
But just, as I said, with an overabundance of caution, making sure that tomorrow goes off without a hitch, and there's none of those regrets of "You know, why did, we keep that person on?"
If you are even sniffing any kind of even saying something wrong, you're going to be removed. And that's what the National Guard is doing. And they should be commended for it, because the vast majority of the National Guardsmen are very patriotic, here to do their job and they are taking this mission, this activation very, very seriously.
CUOMO: I want to ask you something I have never asked a Member of Congress before, because I've never had a basis.
I keep hearing that there are people, on the Democratic side, who aren't going to show up. They're afraid. Has nothing to do with Biden. They are afraid of their own safety. And that you've been dealing with heat from your own family.
How real are the fears among your colleagues? And what did you tell your family about why you think you need to go?
RYAN: Well, you are absolutely right. Many, many people are feeling it. And they're worried, and they're not here, because the trust level was so breached, a couple weeks ago, and that trust takes a long time to get rebuilt.
And if you were a Member of Congress, who was already getting death threats, already being attacked, already being put up on, TV stations, across the country, to be targeted, I'd stay home, too.
And I basically told my wife, and my family, like this is going to be safe, and we need to be there.
And I'm asking all these National Guardsmen to stand up. I'm asking the Capitol police to stand up. Their life has been a lot more miserable than mine in the last few weeks. They're working 12-hour shifts, on the heels of that insurrection.
The least I can do, as Chair of the Committee, that funds them, is to be here to support them. And so, I wasn't - I thought a lot about it because I've got a young family too and - but I think it's appropriate that I'm here to support the men and women, who are helping make this happen.
CUOMO: I appreciate where those words come from. But can you think of any other time, where you have been less certain of the stability of this society, in your lifetime, than right now?
RYAN: No. 47.5-years-old. And it's sad.
I mean I just - I think the whole country has moved. I think I've been aligned with that emotional movement from being really, really, really angry, really pissed off, really frustrated, to really a level of sadness now. This is sad, Chris.
I interned up here, as a young person, in college. I've been a Congressman now, for - I'm going into my 19th - in my 19th year.
And it was sad to walk around, last week, and today, and see the National Guard everywhere, to see the fencing with the razor wire, and the big military vehicles. It's just it's sad that our country has gotten to this point.
I think, fortunately, we have the right person, to help us get through this. But there's got to be some accountability for the people who did the
wrongdoing, the people who incited the wrongdoing, and quite frankly, the people that looked the other way, who were Members of Congress, or in the Senate, or governors, who were in the Witness Protection Program, for the last four years.
You couldn't hear from them. When these egregious acts were happening all over the place, they didn't say anything. And then it came to a head two weeks ago.
There needs to be some accountability. And I'm not saying we need to shame anybody because that doesn't end up getting you anywhere. But they got to take some responsibility, so that we can move on, knowing that this is not going to happen again in our country.
We have young kids. And this is not what we want to leave them. They're going to ask us, "You were in Congress, dad, for 20 years, you know? What the hell did you do?" And we've got to make sure that we hold people's feet to the fire. Get the accountability. Then the unity will come.
CUOMO: I'm with you. It probably won't be processed. It'd be too divisive.
I wouldn't sleep on the shame. I hear you about anger. I had a kosher, who always told me that, "You know? Anger doesn't have to be bad. It can be an emotional passion for positive purpose as well." But what we're dealing with here is hurt.
And these people, it's going to come down to you guys. You are going to have to call out your own members, when they try to be about something that they ignored the last four years, and they tried to create a new standard, and a new ethic about what they were about in service.
That's where the line has to be drawn, because as the President-elect was saying to us today, Tim, "To heal, you got to remember."
CUOMO: And we can never forget how we got here, or it makes us vulnerable to it again.
Tim Ryan, be safe.
CUOMO: I'll be looking for you. And I'll be looking out for you. Congressman, be well.
RYAN: Appreciate it, Chris. Thank you.
CUOMO: All right. Trump is gone tomorrow. What about all the crap that he has brought to bear, the conspiracy theories, the extremists that he has empowered, all the toxicity, all the rage? That remains. The people who enabled him, the echoes, those who were complicit, in his illicit acts, they remain.
How do we get to a better place? A much wiser mind to answer a question I can only ask, Tom Friedman, next.
CUOMO: So, let's be honest with each other here. What happens tomorrow? Can we really turn a new leaf? Is a change of "President" enough to cause a change in the state of this country?
Let's discuss where we are and where we can go. "New York Times" Foreign Affairs Columnist, Tom Friedman, Author, of the bestseller, "Thank You for Being Late."
Good to see you, brother. How you feeling on this eve?
TOM FRIEDMAN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES, AUTHOR, "THANK YOU FOR BEING LATE": Good to be with you, Chris.
And I'm feeling hopeful. I watched President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris give that address today, in Washington. There was something beautiful about it.
And it just reminds you what happens when you turn the noise machine down, and you get two people - two decent people, who were just trying to figure it out, and to lead by bringing people together, and not by dividing and enraging.
So, I am feeling hopeful. I know it's going to be a long slog, though, Chris. I really draw on the experience now, these days, of the whole war against Muslim extremism, after 9/11. And I'll tell you the biggest thing I learned from that that you need a war of ideas, and it's got to come from within.
So, what do I mean by that? I was actually in Israel, on 9/11. And I sat down with Israeli experts after that.
I asked them, "What have you learned most about suicide bombers?" And they said "What we've really learned is that we can catch one, we can catch another. But the third will get through, unless the village says "No," that is if the wider community says "No, that's actually not martyrdom, that's murder," that's when it starts to change.
And what we need here - what Donald Trump brought us, Chris, what's so unusual about his presidency is that he gave permission for some of the ugliest voices, and ugliest trends, and ugliest thoughts, in our society, to come out, to feel comfortable. And it all came to a climax in the Capitol. We need to take that permission away. Well just Trump leaving will be the beginning of that. But the ecosystem, the Fox News permission- givers, the whole ecosystem has to say "This is off. This is wrong. You are not Proud Boys. You are dumb boys."
It has to come from within the Right, and that's what we all have to be calling for, as journalists, as politicians, and, Chris, as business leaders. The American business community has got to tell every one of these shows, "If you are promoting a big lie, we are taking the money away." That's what a war of ideas is all about.
CUOMO: How do you distinguish between the ugly, who we need to ignore, and disempower, and the rest of the 74 million that voted for Trump, because, as you well know, over on state news, and all the fringe outlets, they're playing two songs, right now, already.
One, "Immigration! Immigration! Biden's letting them all in. Here they come. Here are the marauding hordes! The Brown Menace!" and "They hate all of you. They think you're all bigots."
Now, one of those we've dealt with before. The other one is very powerful. How do you deal with people feeling that they've been made an enemy?
FRIEDMAN: Chris, there's no question that if you listen to the voices of some of those people, up in the Capitol, on January 6th, for them, 90 percent of this is about race, and the other 10 percent is about race, OK?
These are people, who are simply resistant to the fact that we are in the process, of moving from a White majority, Christian-dominated country, to a minority-majority country. And some of them are not going to be redeemable. They're - we're just going to have to wait for them to be reconciled.
But there is a whole other group of people there, Chris, people who are on the wrong side of the divide. Ray Dalio has written about this, from Bridgewater.
40 percent of America has actually done pretty well since 1980. 60 percent of America hasn't had a raise. That's just not on. We can't sustain that. For those people, the country is not working.
The other huge factor here, Chris, and you saw it in the - in the electoral map. In every one of these states, what do we see? Urban centers, blue, the whole rest of the state, red. And somehow Biden, and I think he is well positioned to do this, he's got to go out there, to these rural areas, listen to these people, you know, to me--
CUOMO: But then he get attacked, Tom.
FRIEDMAN: --you can start with--
CUOMO: He gets attacked by the Left, who says "Land doesn't vote. And why would you go and cater to the minority, who just cottoned to one of the worst presidents in history, if not the worst? Worry about us. We put you in office."
FRIEDMAN: Well I don't think it has to be either/or.
By the way, when you bring rural broadband to rural - when you bring broadband to rural America, you also create enormous opportunities for urban-dwellers, who actually want to live in rural, comfortable places, and get out of cities. This is a positive sum game.
But Democrats don't want to go through another election, where the entire rural part of America is red. And it's not that they're deliberately ignoring these parts of the country. Trump didn't do anything for them during the last four years. But this, to me, is a huge opportunity for Biden to--
CUOMO: What's the best thing we have going for us, Tom?
FRIEDMAN: What's the best thing we have going for us? I'll tell you what the best thing is we have going for us, Chris. And that's Georgia. What do I mean by that?
Look at what Kelly Loeffler and Perdue ran on? They ran on two things. One, "Warnock and Ossoff, are radical socialists, Marxists." And the other is "Elect us, and we'll guarantee gridlock. We'll guarantee gridlock."
And what happened? A majority of Georgians, albeit slim, basically said, "We don't think they're radical socialists. We've actually been listening to Joe Biden. And you know what? We can't afford any more gridlock."
And yes, there was a lot of African-American votes there, no doubt. But I'll tell you, there were White votes, and there were White Republican votes there. People want to get moving again. They do not want four more years of gridlock. They want to know it's going to be fair. They want to know that their voices are going to be heard.
And in Joe Biden, we are so lucky, Chris. At a time when the country is full of hate, we have a President, who is impossible to hate, and we have a man, who says "You know? I don't have to make myself the center of the story all the time. I'm ready to step back. I'm ready to let others be big and lead."
And so, I'm not crazy. I'm not - I know this is going to be hard. It's going to be a hard slog. But I think getting Donald Trump, with his megaphone, out of our ear, we don't realize how much he has warped the conversation in this country.
And I just think if Biden has half a chance, there's a lot of people, who want him to succeed, and not - they weren't just the ones, who voted for him.
CUOMO: You got two generations, working on three, of fans, in my family. My father was a big fan.
CUOMO: And he would always read what you wrote, and see the reasonableness in it. And he would say, in situations like this, "Stay away from whatever is easy."
FRIEDMAN: Thank you. Yes.
CUOMO: "Everything that matters in life is hard."
CUOMO: "Everything that matters that you want, every virtue, is hard to attain and maintain."
Tom Friedman, thank you for helping us understand our virtues, and how to get away from the vices. I'll be talking to you soon.
FRIEDMAN: I knew. Really appreciate.
CUOMO: Brother, thank you and good luck.
The Trumps and the Bidens are sleeping across the street, from one another, tonight, in the White House, and Blair House. But because Trump is so small, so insecure, they'll never meet, as outgoing and incoming presidents traditionally do. How? How is that supposed to signal anything but more malice in this country?
Jim Acosta has had a front-row seat to the Trump phenomenon for four years now. What a ride! What did he learn? Next.
CUOMO: The vexing question for us, "What comes next for Trump?" One idea that the President himself is at least talking about is starting his own political party. Let's get the latest with CNN's Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, good to see you. Great work!
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good to see you. Thank you.
CUOMO: And what are you hearing about this?
ACOSTA: Yes. We confirmed with a senior Trump adviser, earlier this evening, that yes, the President has been talking about this, with aides, in recent days.
But I will tell you, Chris, talking to other advisers, about this, this is almost exploding on the launch pad. There are advisers, who are describing this as a stupid idea, a lame idea.
Essentially, Chris what this is, is this is the President flailing, in his last moments, in office. And he's trying to grasp at something on the way out. If he can't cheat his way, into a second term, he's going to delude himself with the thought that he can start a new political party.
But I mean, as you know, the polls, including CNN's latest poll shows he is at his lowest approval rating, of his entire presidency, somewhere in the neighborhood of 34 percent. You can't use that as a foundation to start a new political party. That's just not happening.
CUOMO: What do you think happens next for us, not just him?
ACOSTA: Well I think - this is a crisis for this country. There is no question about it. Trump may leave the scene but Trumpism is not leaving the scene. I think what we saw on January 6th is something that we're going to be left with for some period of time.
I mean, Donald Trump is going to go down as not a Commander-in-Chief but a Confederate-in-Chief. He divided this country in ways that you and I have never seen in our lifetime. He pitted people against one another, called folks like us, "The enemy of the people."
And one of the reasons why I was so focused, on that slur, against members of the news media, is because my concern, all along, throughout this presidency, Chris, is that one day we would start treating each other as enemies.
First, he calls the press the enemy, then he calls other people the enemy, and so on. And this hatred that's put in people, in their hearts, can become cancerous, can become toxic. And I think it's that kind of hostility and hatred that exploded in front of our eyes, on January 6th, and we are now left with it.
And we have to figure out a way, as a country, to bind up the nation's wounds, look to our better angels, as Abraham Lincoln, and other presidents have called us to do, in the past.
But no question about it, this is a President who leaves a chasm, just a massive canyon of hostility, and division, and hatred, and it's just not something we're going to be able to heal right away. But we all have to work at it.
We have to work together as a team. We're not going to be able to defeat COVID, as a divided country, with Trump supporters not wanting to wear masks and so on. That's just not going to work.
And I think tomorrow is the beginning of potentially starting that healing process, with all those flags that we're seeing, across the National Mall. Perhaps, we can all look at those flags, and remember, you know, that stands for all of us.
CUOMO: It's interesting, people will say "You know, you, Acosta, you paint the President this way." No, we don't. He paints himself.
Let us just remind the audience of the situation at his own Inaugural Luncheon. Who was there, and what Trump said about it, four years ago.
Watch this, everybody. ACOSTA: OK.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Because I was very honored, very, very honored, when I heard that President Bill Clinton and Secretary Hillary Clinton was coming today.
TRUMP: And I think it's appropriate to say. And I'd like you to stand up. I'd like you to stand up.
TRUMP: And honestly, there's nothing more I can say, because I have a lot of respect for those two people. So, thank you all for being here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: And the point is he knows better. He knows what is worthy of respect, and worthy of contempt, and he chooses to be worthy of contempt. He will not show up. He knows it is injurious to the nation. And he just doesn't care.
ACOSTA: And he has sent the message to millions of supporters, across the country that may be shrinking in size, but millions of supporters, across the country, that this Donald Trump, the Donald Trump, on the way out, is the way we should behave as Americans.
And we all know, all too well, and he knows, all too well, maybe the President who is leaving tomorrow, doesn't know anymore, but certainly the one you just showed in that clip, a few moments ago, that we're all one country.
Just very one quick, final thing, I will say, Chris is that we are now at a point, where we're seeing a 9/11-size tragedy, every day, when it comes to deaths from COVID-19.
And you and I both know, Chris, you're a New Yorker, the national unity, the sense of national unity that we felt in this country, after 9/11, we need to harness that.
We need to get back to that, and think about how we're losing that number of people every day, and try to approach every day, from here on out, until we beat this virus, and end this pandemic that we can be that kind of unified country again.
Trump divided us in ways that almost killed us. But we can't let it happen. We have to pull together as Americans. That's the lesson that that I've taken away from this experience at the White House. We have to stand united.
CUOMO: Jim Acosta, I'll tell you a lesson I've taken away. You, my brother, can do the job.
ACOSTA: Thank you, Chris.
CUOMO: Thank you.
ACOSTA: Appreciate that.
CUOMO: And we'll be right back.
ACOSTA: Appreciate that.
CUOMO: So, how is this Biden going to do, in these challenges? He's been in Congress for a long time. He was Vice President. But what about his mettle? What about those who know him?
Let's talk to somebody who can really give us insight, Biden biographer, Evan Osnos.
It's good to see you, Evan. Welcome to the team.
EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, AUTHOR "JOE BIDEN: THE LIFE, THE RUN, AND WHAT MATTERS NOW," STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER, BIDEN BIOGRAPHER: My pleasure! Thanks, Chris.
CUOMO: So, what do you know about this man that should matter to America right now?
OSNOS: He comes to this job with a lot of scar tissue on him. And that may, in fact, be the thing that makes him equipped for this moment. Because let's be blunt, we are a country, right now, that is contending with not just one crisis.
As he thinks of it, we have four crises that are - that we're dealing with. It's COVID, obviously. It is also climate change. It's the economy, and it's racial equity. And as far as Biden is concerned, these are all interwoven with one another, and they did not start, of course, on the day Donald Trump came to office.
He looked at Donald Trump, and he says, he rejects absolutely everything Donald Trump stood for. He did violence to the office of the presidency, as far as Joe Biden was concerned.
But Biden was talking to me, in 2014, about his concern that there were, as he put it, working-class Democrats, middle-class Democrats, who, and you've heard this term, from him before, are getting clobbered.
This is before Donald Trump was on the scene. It was before Bernie Sanders had risen, as a political phenomenon. He sensed that there were these deep structural issues in American life.
And what we saw, under Donald Trump, was that the combination of these underlying problems, and the sheer incompetent government, that Trump presided over, resulted in this four-sided catastrophe we're dealing with now.
And he is coming to this, in a posture, I think, that really does remind us of the moment that Roosevelt took office in 1933. And we all remember that speech for the line that "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."
But the line, Chris that got the biggest applause that day was the thing that he said when he said "The country is asking for action, and it's asking for action now." And that is very much, I think, the pose that he brings to this moment. It's time to get moving and deal with these crises.
CUOMO: How certain do you think he is of what to do initially?
You can't attack four fronts at once. It's obvious with the pandemic and the vaccine, I would think. But he's going to have pressure from his own Party. I don't know why. And people in Congress can't seem to get anything done, let alone more than one thing at a time.
But how certain, do you think, he is, of what to do early?
OSNOS: Well he's very clear that you can get nothing else done until you begin to get COVID under control. And COVID and the economy are intertwined.
His, as you've heard, his big legislative agenda begins with a large package, $1.9 trillion package. Whether or not that's what ends up getting through Congress, that has a signaling effect to all of us, which is to say, he is telling us, "It is time to aim for something big. This is not the moment for small plans."
And also, he's talking about immigration. After all, he's going to introduce an immigration bill, which I think, Chris, is as much about the technical details, of creating a pathway to citizenship, as it is about changing the moral temperature of our politics.
Remember, Donald Trump came to office, by turning immigration, into an issue that was as hostile as anything we've seen, in a generation. And Joe Biden wants to tell us that that moment is over, and it's time to go back to a more encompassing, more welcoming America.
CUOMO: Why the ambition? Why go back to one of the touchiest subjects, really, ever?
I mean Donald Trump did not create immigration as a fear instrument. But why go to that, early out of the box, when you are in a desperate situation of looking for things to make this country come together?
OSNOS: Well I think what he would tell you, is, and he says this to people all the time, out on the rope-lines, and when he's working the room, is that we are the country we are because we are a nation of immigrants.
And he thinks that one of the biggest losses, one of the biggest mistakes that the Trump administration imposed on this country, and on our politics, was by degrading that idea. And he says we have to put that back at the center of the conversation.
And reminding, you know, it's easy to forget that is, in 2013, there were Republicans, who were considering the possibility of a serious immigration overhaul, and that was all, of course, washed away.
And his bet, and this gets to the core of his political philosophy is, if you can change the parameters, give people an opportunity, to do something better, to appeal to their better angels, as Jim Acosta so rightly put it, well then you might be able to surprise yourself with what we're able to achieve. Aim big and we might actually beat it.
CUOMO: Evan Osnos, I really appreciate it. Your insight is going to be essential in the coming days, as people are trying to get the measure of the man. Thank you very much, especially on this historic eve.
And thank you. Appreciate you very much. Let's take a quick break, and we'll be right back.
CUOMO: We're living history together, friends. It's not always easy. But like Pop said, "Everything in life that matters is going to be hard." And we have hard days ahead, mostly because of our own making. So, let's be together. One, out of many!
That's it for us tonight. "CNN TONIGHT" with the big star, D. Lemon starts right now.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST, CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON: What did they say? We're living in the part of history that people write about, and that's true. This one is--
CUOMO: People are going to remember this.
LEMON: And that's even more true now. Yes.
CUOMO: People are going to remember this. And they're going to remember you, D. Lemon.
LEMON: Yes, and you. I mean, think about - I'm glad you said that. We - how are you feeling? It's been - we've aged--