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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Biden Will Be Sworn In As The 46th President Of The United States Tomorrow At Noon; Prosecutors Say Three Members Of Extremist Oath Keepers Group Planned And Coordinated Ahead Of Capitol Riot; U.S. Landmarks Glow Amber In Honor Of COVID-19 Victims; Trump Issues Last- Minute Memo Declassifying Parts Of FBI's Russia Probe Documents; WH Officials: Trump's Final Pardons Could Come Any Moment. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired January 19, 2021 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All people, who a year ago would have never thought this could happen to them. And now we are just hours away from swearing in a new President, and in so many ways hoping for new beginnings.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. It is rare in this day and age to see something and know you are witnessing history, history that will be remembered and studied and talked about for generations.
Tonight, we're on the cusp of watching history, the eve of an Inauguration unlike any we have seen in our lifetime. Look at the National Mall tonight and it is hard not to be moved, hard not to be moved.
The outgoing President began his term bragging and lying about how many people came to his Inauguration. The incoming President begins his ascendance to power by quietly and beautifully acknowledging the absence of people, 200,000 flags where celebratory crowds would normally be, a number too large to count but still only half as large the number of lives now lost to the pandemic, more than 400,000 lives in all, 400,000 of those Americans died -- excuse me, 100,000 of those Americans died in just the past five weeks.
The flags stand right now in silent witness to the darkness of this long and bitter night, but they will still be standing tomorrow at the dawn of something new.
President-elect Biden's first stop in Washington this evening was not far away at the Lincoln Memorial for ceremony honoring all those we have lost to COVID. Mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters, friends and grandparents, dead, 400,000 and counting.
The incoming President finally doing what any other President would, but the outgoing President never has, which is to simply acknowledge the gut wrenching enormity of what families around this country have lost.
The President-elect knows pain and grief. He speaks the language of loss and he knows that ignoring the magnitude of the loss has just made it all the more painful.
Each light at the reflecting pool representing a thousand of our friends and neighbors, children and parents, people who were part of our lives and this country's beating heart, who are now gone, 400 lights, 400,000 lives, a hundred thousand in just the last five weeks.
In cities across the country right now, New York and Philadelphia you see there as well as Atlanta, Charleston, South Carolina, Chicago, Seattle, and Los Angeles, buildings are lit up as well in their honor. The outgoing President ever wanted to call attention to the fallen for fear it would make him look bad.
The incoming President by contrast, having no problem assuming the same role so many other Presidents have, whether it's Ronald Reagan after the Challenger disaster, or Barack Obama after Sandy Hook.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: To heal, we must remember. It's hard sometimes to remember. But that's how we heal. It's important to do that as a nation. That's why we're here today. Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights in the darkness along the sacred pool of reflection and remember all whom we lost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The President-elect tonight in a role that only seems extraordinary by comparison with the last four years. Nowhere was this clearer today that the President-elect's farewell to Delaware at a National Guard Center named after his late son, Beau.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: My colleagues in the Senate used to always kid me for quoting Irish poets. They thought I did it because I'm Irish. I didn't do it for that reason. I did it because they're the best poets in the world.
James Joyce was said to have told a friend that when it comes his time to pass, when he dies he said Dublin was written on my heart. Well, excuse the emotion. But when I die, Delaware will be written in my heart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The outgoing President meantime put out a farewell video of sorts. He did not mention Mr. Biden by name, did not congratulate him, did not acknowledge today's COVID milestone nor take responsibility for stoking the insurrection that earned him his second impeachment and leaves the country as divided as at any time since the Civil War.
He'll be skipping the Inauguration which will take place to 25,000 troops on hand and lingering fears that some may harbor insurrectionist beliefs themselves. That's where we are right now on this achingly beautiful night, what is still one of the most inspiring places on Earth at a very dark moment for the country, very rough times ahead for the new administration, and as you might imagine, a busy hour to come.
We begin with CNN's Arlette Saenz on the National Mall. So Arlette, this is obviously going to be an unprecedented Inauguration for a lot of different reasons. Where are the President-elect and Vice President-elect tonight and how are they preparing?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson President- elect Biden is spending the evening with his family at Blair House, which is located just across the street from the White House and they are spending time there after having that Memorial here on the National Mall to commemorate those 400,000 lives that have been lost to COVID-19.
And the first time that we will see President-elect Biden tomorrow will likely be when he heads to mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral, a Catholic Church down in downtown Washington and it will be a moment of unity.
The President-elect has invited all of the congressional leaders, both Democrat and Republican to attend that church service with him. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will also be there for that moment. That will also have personal significance for Biden as he will be the second Catholic to become President just a few hours later.
But having those congressional leaders with him there at this moment just signals his desire to bring unity to Washington, D.C. and then he will make his way up to the Capitol where he will be taking the Oath of Office outside on the steps of the West front of the Capitol.
The President-elect has been adamant that this Inauguration take place outside even amid security concerns, and really, the big moment from the Inauguration will be that Inaugural Address. That will be one focusing on a theme of unity.
Biden, from the very beginning of his presidential campaign, painted himself as a unique figure that could unite the country and that is something that will come through in his remarks tomorrow as he becomes the 46th President of the United States.
COOPER: I understand there's reporting that the Biden's weren't even sure the Trump administration was going to invite them to stay at Blair House, which is tradition. What happened?
SAENZ: Well, the Biden family had originally planned on staying at a hotel here in the Washington, D.C. area. But last week, they did receive that invitation to stay at Blair House on the final night before the Inauguration. That is an invitation that has to come from the outgoing administration.
And history has had it in the past that most Presidents have stayed at Blair House before their Inauguration. So that invitation came a little bit delayed. It's unclear exactly why, but they are staying there in that historic home this evening. COOPER: And as of noon tomorrow, President Biden will be able to take
executive action on a number of issues. Do we know what some of those initial moves will be?
SAENZ: Well, the President-elect is making it clear he wants to get to work right away. And his team has already had roughly a dozen executive actions for him to sign on that very first day, and some of these Executive Orders will focus on undoing policies of the Trump administration.
That includes rescinding that ban on travelers from Muslim majority countries, as well as rejoining the Paris Climate Accord. That was something that was negotiated during the Obama-Biden administration.
There are also other items relating to the pandemic, Biden will be signing an executive action that would mandate masks in Federal buildings and interstate travel. But the President-elect is also aware that he cannot do everything through Executive Action, and there is much that he wants to accomplish through Congress and that includes that COVID 19, $1.9 trillion stimulus relief package.
But one thing that Biden will be battling when he takes office is that he won't be pushing these items through while that looming Senate impeachment trial is taking place. His advisers have said it's imperative that that trial go and operate on a dual track as legislative business so his agenda can move forward.
COOPER: Arlette Saenz, appreciate it. More now on the security picture, the extent to which some threats or people who are threatening the President-elect could be among the National Guard presence there.
And breaking news, just now coming to light about the insurrection itself that come from court documents unsealed today in the first significant conspiracy case in what could be many more, Federal prosecutors alleging that three members of the so-called Oath Keepers, an extremist militant group planned and coordinated ahead of the assault.
The charging papers quoting messages sent during the siege that appear to indicate the attackers were searching for lawmakers in hopes of making citizens arrests. It is not the only troubling new developments for a bigger story tonight, for the latest, I want to go to CNN's Shimon Prokupecz who has been reporting out each new and troubling development.
So Shimon, how confident are officials that they have a full grasp of these alleged plots connected to the insurrection?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, I think, Anderson, what we're starting to see from court documents that are becoming public as the arrests are being made, that authorities probably have a really good idea about who some of these groups are and who is part of these groups.
Because remember, a lot of them were filming this as they were doing this. They were posting it on Parler and Facebook and other social media. So authorities have been really going through all that media. And of course, they've gotten over 200,000 tips at this point.
PROKUPECZ: And also, quite frankly, it's some of the stupidity of these people, right? They're not wearing masks and then they're also identifying themselves, but also a key thing we learned today in terms of the Oath Keepers, they were wearing patches on their paramilitary gear, identifying what group they belonged to. So that certainly has helped authorities identify them.
So that's why I think it's pretty good to say that they have some idea about who many of these people are. Also concerning, of course here is that the chatter about QAnon conspiracy theorists urging their followers to put on National Guard uniforms, "The Washington Post" saying that was something that Intelligence officials were concerned about.
There are layers and layers of security here. So to think that someone could possibly get away with that would be probably difficult, but of course authorities are concerned about and of course, the insider threat, Anderson. That is something that authorities here are concerned about.
Twelve National Guard troops who were expected to be part of this deployment, they were pulled off of it. The authorities here would not tell us exactly why that is. They said not all of them had extremism views, but out of an abundance of caution, Anderson, they did remove them from the deployment.
COOPER: And tomorrow, what should people expect to see, as you know, as dignitaries start moving around Washington in the morning, it is not going to look like anything in past years.
PROKUPECZ: Now, it's certainly not going to look like any security event ever in this country, Anderson. And where I am standing here, behind me is actually, it's a checkpoint that tomorrow will be operational.
We're actually not far from Blair House where Joe Biden is staying. Some blocks further away from us here is the White House and Blair House. This entire area is fenced off.
So tomorrow, it's going to be even more difficult for people to come through here. Of course, I think even though because of the pandemic, people are told not to come to the Inauguration. I think city officials do expect some people to try and come see whatever it is they can.
So in light of that, with all this fencing all the security around us, it's surely going to be much harder for people to move around the district -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Shimon Prokupecz, appreciate it. Our next guest played his part in the peaceful transition from one
administration to the next. No one could imagine the country could be any more divided than it was, hard to believe that was 20 years ago. Not hard to believe that then Vice President Al Gore would do the right thing in conceding a very close, very hard fought loss to George W. Bush, which is why his perspective is so important tonight.
Mr. Vice President, thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.
AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you for inviting me, Anderson.
COOPER: You hear the latest reporting from Washington, you see those images, could you ever imagine that in this country, there would need to be some 25,000 National Guard troops guarding the Capitol on Inauguration Day to protect the new President not from a foreign terror threat, but from violent insurrectionists led, encouraged and lied to by the outgoing President.
GORE: Well, it's necessary under these extraordinary circumstances, Anderson. But I have to tell you that those images pale in comparison for me to the very deeply emotional images from the reflecting pool with all of those flags and the lights and I feel the emotions swelling up in me, as I'm describing it, all of the 400,000 Americans that we've lost.
And Joe Biden has a healing heart. He's been through so much, and I'm just deeply moved that he and Kamala Harris would start this round of activities with such a moving display and how wonderful that they have invited the bipartisan leadership of the Congress to attend to worship service with them tomorrow morning before the Inauguration.
COOPER: I think it's really important what you point out and I mentioned at the top of the broadcast, but it really struck me tonight what a contrast we're seeing between the current President and the new President, the fact that the President-elect and the Vice President- elect went to the Lincoln Memorial tonight, honoring the more than 400,000 Americans who have died from COVID.
I mean, it is in such stark contrast to what we have grown used to, the ignoring the dead. This is a President who, as you said, understands loss, who speaks the language of loss and to start out his ascendance to power by recognizing those who are no longer with us. It's an incredibly powerful thing.
GORE: Incredibly powerful and it is a clear indication that not very many hours from now, at noon Eastern Time tomorrow, he will be the leader of a country that is hurting and is in need of healing.
He takes power -- he will be taking power at a time when we have to mobilize to get this pandemic under control, when we have to address the racial injustices and the economic hardship that has become so severe and address the climate crisis and the other problems that have been ignored for these last four years.
[20:15:41] COOPER: The incoming Obama administration faced an unprecedented
economic crisis. Do you think the Biden administration faces even greater challenges?
GORE: Well, in some ways, yes, because the economic devastation of the pandemic has visited upon our country is deeper than what we suffered during the so-called Great Recession. Yes. And the multiple crises that are piled on top of one another. Yes.
And I think we're very fortunate that among the many experiences that Joe Biden has had, it is the experience of leading on behalf of former President Obama, the recovery from the Great Recession. He knows what he is doing. And he has appointed an outstanding team to help him.
I would say it's not only an A Team, but an A-plus Team, and we saw some of the testimony today and it inspired a lot of confidence.
COOPER: Twenty eight years ago tonight, you are getting ready to be sworn in as Vice President, 20 years ago tonight, you were preparing to attend George W. Bush's Inauguration. That was as contentious and election as anyone had seen at the time.
But after the Supreme Court ruled on the election, you were gracious in defeat. When you certify the results in the Senate and announced the results, you followed it by saying, "May God bless our new President and our new Vice President." You had George W. Bush over to your residence for a visit during the transition.
What is your reaction to how the current President has treated the incoming President?
GORE: Well, it's unfortunate. It's regrettable. Sadly, it's probably not surprising to many people. It's unfortunate. I'm glad that we are going to have a fresh start and move away from the violation of norms, from the disrespect to the Constitution and the American people.
We have a big challenge ahead of us. And I think President-elect Biden so soon to be President Biden understands that very clearly.
COOPER: How does one bring a country -- and maybe it's not one person doing it -- but how does a country get brought together when tens of millions of people, good and decent people believe that the free and fair election was not free and fair? I mean, they're wrong. They don't have evidence. This was a lie propagated by the President, the current President, but they believe it.
I mean, the outgoing President, you know, won't admit he was lying to them. How does the country come together when you have that kind of division?
GORE: Well, as the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell said eloquently today, the mob was fed lies, but not only the mob, the supporters of the President who were not part of the mob have also been fed lies. It's shocking, that such a large percentage of Republicans, still, according to the polling, tell people that they don't yet accept the election. I'm hoping and expecting that they will because this is hardly the
first time that the side that has lost a hotly contested election is called upon to put aside partisanship, and lift up the importance of our country in its place.
We're Americans and we rise to challenges like this. We've done it for so long. And the ceremony tonight was so moving, as I've said. The one tomorrow is one of the most important and time honored rituals of American democracy.
And I think that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are demonstrating that they know the language of American democracy not only in words, but in symbols and in character and in a way, they are approaching this challenge.
So give it some time. I rather expect that the vast majority of those who are still feeling a keen disappointment over the result of the election will respond to the kind of leadership that I know that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are going to provide.
COOPER: Former Vice President Al Gore, appreciate your time tonight. Thanks so much.
GORE: Thank you.
COOPER: Next for us, breaking news from the White House involving pardons, as well as the President's first scandal, Russia. Mary Trump joins us as well with her take on how her uncle sees the rest of his life.
Later, documentarian Ken Burns and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin on this President's place in history.
COOPER: Buildings in New York and Philadelphia lit up tonight in remembrance of the lives lost to COVID, more than 401,000 Americans dead as of tonight.
In Washington, 400 lights lined the reflecting pool, each one signifying a thousand fallen. The lights on as well at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue where news is breaking; across the street at Blair House for the Biden's, but they'll never see the current first family, which as we've noted, is President Trump's choice.
COOPER: CNN's Jim Acosta is at the White House where the President is spending his final night. So do we know what the President is doing tonight and when do we expect those pardons to be announced?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we were expecting the pardons to be announced earlier this evening, Anderson and we're hearing from some of our sources. I talked to a White House official earlier this evening, who said, you
know, this could come later on tonight, perhaps into the wee hours of Inauguration Day morning. And so this President as he has been clinging to power, I suppose he is clinging to the last acts that he will be putting out there before the American people before he leaves Washington.
You know, one of the things that we're going to be looking for in these pardons, Anderson is whether or not he goes ahead and grant some sort of clemency to his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon. This was something that we were picking up on earlier today that the President's been agonizing over whether he should pardon Steve Bannon who has been indicted and is facing Federal fraud charges.
I've also talked to Trump allies and associates who have been representing clients for pardons. They've been tipped off by their sources inside the White House that their clients may not be getting pardons. And there's already some hard feelings about some of that.
I talked to one loyalist earlier this evening, who said, you know, Joe Exotic, the Tiger King gets a pardon and my client doesn't. I'm going to be pretty pissed, in the words of this Trump loyalists.
And so, you know, the President has not called a lid yet. They have not called a lid over here at the White House. But Anderson, as you and I were discussing last night, over the last several weeks, they've been putting out these schedules saying the President will be making many calls and having many meetings on the following day.
They can't exactly do that for tomorrow, the President will be leaving Washington tomorrow morning during a sendoff ceremony at Joint Base Andrews.
COOPER: And I mentioned before the break, there was some breaking news involving, of all things Russia, what are you learning?
ACOSTA: Yes, this is one of the final acts of the Trump presidency. The President has issued an Executive Order, saying that he is going to declassify portions of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. That is the, you know, Russia investigation in not so many words.
And essentially what the President wants to do with declassifying this information is attempt to prove and this is something he has been trying to do for the last four years that this investigation was used against him to oust him from power, when, of course, that was not the case or there were mistakes made during that investigation.
But Anderson, I was with then candidate Donald Trump in 2016, when he called on the Russians to find Hillary Clinton's e-mails. He admitted to NBC that he fired Jim Comey, the F.B.I. Director because of the Russia investigation.
There were so many things to investigate during the course of this Russia investigation. Had Federal authorities not been looking into those things, it would have been law enforcement malpractice, but the President until the bitter end, is still holding on to these grudges and is acting on one tonight.
COOPER: And do we know any more about this event the President is throwing for himself at Joint Base Andrews tomorrow morning?
ACOSTA: Yes, we know that they've been trying to invite people over to get a big crowd over there. I've been talking to former senior White House officials all day long, Trump advisers and so on, they've been allowing these invitees to bring five guests tomorrow.
I've talked to a number of them, Anderson, and they're all saying a lot of them are saying that they're not going to show up tomorrow, in part because they're disgusted with the way this presidency is ending and disgusted with the events that took place on January 6.
I talked to one Trump adviser earlier today who said that the mob violence on Capitol Hill was a red line for him. And you're hearing that from a number of sources, Anderson. They're just thoroughly disgusted with this President.
Yes, they've supported him in the past. Yes, they call themselves Trump supporters, but not tomorrow. Many of them won't be there tomorrow and the President may not have the big crowd that he was hoping for -- Anderson.
COOPER: Jim Acosta at the White House. Jim, thanks very much.
For more on what's ahead for the President as well as what might be going on with the President, we're joined by someone who is better equipped than most to know, clinical psychologist and his niece, Mary Trump, author of "Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man."
Mary, good to have you here. So while President Trump in his farewell address did not acknowledge that he will not be President anymore. He did not concede, he didn't say President-elect Biden's name. And of course, he's not going to the Inauguration, as he tacitly acknowledges that he's become what he loathes, which is a loser. What do you think he's going through right now?
MARY TRUMP, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST AND AUTHOR: This is probably the worst day of his life, because the clock is ticking, and he is running out of time.
The other thing I just want to point out about that speech is it was a bit reminiscent of one of the videos he made directly after the insurrection he incited saying that the movement is just beginning, which seems like a bit of a threat to me.
So my hope is that he be as contained as possible. He's going to do whatever he can or believes he can to change the narrative and I think we're going to see that play out with some of these pardons in excess of a hundred, if I am hearing that correctly and some of these pardons will be quite horrific. Some of them will be strategic.
But, the bottom line is, he is out of there.
I mean, he's been out of there, you know, metaphorically speaking for a long time, he hasn't been doing the job. But as of 12:00 or earlier, you know, he's heading down to Florida. And he is -- he no longer has the powers and protections of the Oval Office. And he knows it.
COOPER: You know, in this farewell video that he made he, you know, he said he fought for America. And all it stands for, which is, obviously, you know, something he was going to say, and that's what, you know, he will continue to repeat throughout the rest of his life.
But just two weeks ago, he did inside an eruption on the Capitol, an insurrection on the Capitol, and, you know, to try to overturn the results of a free and fair election. I mean, what do you think? I don't know if he cares what his legacy is, or if he cares more about like the Trump brand, which doesn't, you know, both of which seem tarnished to say the least.
M. TRUMP: I don't know. I think he cares more honestly, at this point about the loss of relevance, the loss of attention, and, of course, the legal implications, which are legion. And, you know, he's looking at state level charges. He's looking at potential voter fraud charges, sorry, voter interference charges in Georgia. He's looking at several lawsuits. So, it's hard to know precisely what is most alarming him. But let's put it this way. There is so much for him to be alarmed about. And he's not well represented. He does not know which way to turn.
COOPER: You know, David Letterman, after he retired, he said, you know, when you retire to spend time with your family, you should check with your family first, which I thought was a very funny line. But in this case, I mean, the President, I wonder just what he is going to be doing down in Mar-a-Lago, besides, you know, nursing grievances and telling people that he won the election.
And, you know, he'll eventually be like the guy at the bar, allegedly, I guess, not drinking but repeating himself and over and over again about how he really won that election. What do you see his life has been like?
M. TRUMP: I think it's going to be pretty grim. You know, no more free golf games, no more adulation and 24-hour media attention, no more social media, because there's no reason for me to see that Facebook and Twitter would reverse their decisions. And a lot of legal trouble. I also think it's telling that Jared and Ivanka have pretty much gone silent.
I mean, I know they're in -- they've been in the room discussing these pardons, probably discussing their own pardons. But, you know, the fact that that they haven't said anything post insurrection, suggests to me that they understand this relationship is entirely transactional. And if they've come to the conclusion that sticking with Donald is no longer going to be to their future benefit, then he's not going to have them to kick around anymore, either.
COOPER: Well, you know, I always -- every time something happens, I always anticipate some leak that, you know, inside that about what Ivanka Trump really thought and what she really was trying to convince the President of which is seems to be the way that they operated to try to distance themselves whenever they weren't happy about something.
But I mean, you know, the, the idea that, you know, CNN has been reporting that a warning from White House attorneys about pardoning himself or his family concerned him enough that he's apparently allegedly backed off pardoning himself or his family. Again, who knows, you know, he can change his mind at the last minute. Why do you think that spooked him?
M. TRUMP: I think, you know, I'm not a constitutional scholar by any stretch of the imagination. But, I think he didn't understand just how far he was overstepping by inciting his supporters, not only to come to D.C. but to storm our capital. And that might have -- that must have been impressed upon him, because I can think of no other reason that he would back off, self-pardoning or pardoning his children unless he was convinced, you know, vehemently convinced that doing so would increase his chances, not only of being removed from, well, I'm not sure what it's called anymore because he wouldn't be in the Oval Office when this happens, but impeached and convicted in the Senate.
But also potentially and hopefully blocked from ever running for office again, which I'm pretty sure was going to be another one of the scams he had lined up going forward.
COOPER: We'll also, you know, clearly he wanted to remain head of the Republican Party and the power broker within the Republican Party. And just like in the, you know, opening scene of the Godfather, the wedding people with every, you know, would have to come and pay fealty to him and ask him for favors. And he would ask for favors in return. That doesn't -- I mean unless he's able to rewrite history, which is entirely possible, I suppose, given enough, you know, I guess time that it's -- that seems unlikely at this point.
M. TRUMP: It seems extremely unlikely. I agree with you, they never count him out. And the reason we can't ever count him out is why it's so incredibly urgent, that we make sure that he loses relevance precipitously. But the move Mitch McConnell made today to me is really indicative of what the future holds for Donald if he tries to maintain control of the Republican Party.
I don't think it's going to go well for him, you know that, that's a political calculation on McConnell's part. I don't think it has anything to do with his deeply held beliefs. It has much more to do with how corporate America has responded to the Republicans in the Senate and the House for participating in attempting to overturn a legitimate election. So, Donald has a lot of forces arrayed against him. And I think the money forces are the biggest ones in certainly my McConnell's calculations.
COOPER: Yes, it's interesting. Mary Trump, appreciate it. Thank you.
M. TRUMP: Thank you.
COOPER (voice-over): On average, according to Gallup, President Trump will depart with one of the lowest approval ratings since modern polling began. Coming up, we'll talk about what remains of his legacy with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.
COOPER: In a city full of timeless iconic images, it's the pictures the moment that may linger, lamps 400 of them lining the reflecting pool outside the Lincoln Memorial, which has seen so much history already each representing thousands lives lost so far to COVID. And as deep in grief as the country is, it also remains in a state of shock and apprehension and division as the presence of 25,000 troops in the Capitol only underscores.
All of it is reflected in polling numbers the President departing with the lowest average job approval rating of 34%. According to the latest CNN poll, and other polling. Pew Research has found that only 29%, only Harry Truman at 32% had a one time worse figure.
Perspective now from documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and equally acclaimed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Leadership In Turbulent Times. It is really thrilling to have both of you on the program. I'm such a huge admirer of your work.
Doris, but just from a historical perspective, the first president modern history to not attend his successor's inauguration. What do you make of where we are and on this historic -- on the eve of this historic event?
DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: You know, I think when history looks at the current president, what history looks at is how did a president handle a crisis that was dealt to him. And those lights tonight in Washington symbolize the failure of leadership to handle the crisis that was given to him of COVID. I mean, he said he would be a wartime president.
And yet, what we look at is FDR, who truly was when the depression came, somebody who used all the powers of the national government to handle the depression. And as a result, the absentee of leadership that we've seen with Trump was answered by FDR by action and action now.
And then the second thing I think, going to look at when we look back as historians is not simply how he handled the crisis, and every president who's handled it well becomes great, like Lincoln, or like FDR, every president who doesn't handle it as problems like Buchanan or Hoover. But there was a crisis of his own making, when he failed to concede the election, when he fabricated a story that the election had been stolen. And then when he directed he mobilized and instructed mob to go to the Congress, and to disrupt the very moment when Joe Biden was going to be declared as the president. So, I think history is going to always take a long time to look at a president. But I think those facts are there right now.
COOPER: Ken, how do you see this inauguration compared to the past inaugurations, past changes of power?
KEN BURNS, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Well, I think it's unprecedented for all the reasons that Doris said, you know, we have I thought lived through three great crises, the Civil War, the Depression, World War II, and this is the fourth grade crisis at Donald Trump's inauguration. He talked about an American carnage that we looked around and said, where is this carnage, and now we realize four years later that he created it. Our founders feared two things above all else, the mob and an autocrat, and we got both. It's a perfect storm.
And we've got these, I'd say triple viruses, the COVID of a year old, we've got a 402-year-old virus of racial intolerance and white supremacy. And we've got the age old human virus of lies, misinformation, paranoia, conspiracy theories, suspicions which this man has promoted. So, he's now a baby locked away sulking and not participating in the rituals of our government.
I made a film on the Congress in the mid '80s. And Cokie Roberts, the late great journalist whose beat was Capitol Hill, took me around and showed me in this open building in the early '80s, little secret hideaways and things like that. And then she sat down for an interview and said that when a president of the United States resigned, Richard Nixon, not a single troop went on alert.
What's different Anderson is that there are 25,000 National Guardsmen, protecting our capital in a threat that we haven't seen. This is the greatest existential threat in the history of our country and it is of Donald Trump's making and it represents a complete failure as Doris pointed out of leadership on his part.
COOPER: And Doris to Ken's point it not only their 25,000 National Guard troops. There is concern, you know, and FBI investigations to try to make sure that none of them harbor extremist views which is just, you know, it's understandable, it is entirely depressing and the vast majority are you know, in the National Guard's because they are patriotic and support the constitution and want to serve their country.
In terms of the task ahead, Doris, I mean, is -- I mean, Ken was saying, you know, there was the Great Depression, World War Two, the Civil War. I mean, do you see this as the fourth great battle for this country?
GOODWIN: I think there's no question. This is a huge crisis that the new president is going to have to face. But the great thing about history is that crisis does create opportunity. And it does allow you to mobilize the country when there's a hunger for leadership, as I think there is right now, there's a hunger for the tone to be changed, for some sort of healing, and most importantly, a hunger for action. And I think if the new president can mobilize the Congress to get that
stimulus bill passed, to be able to deal with the vaccinations and get those 100 million vaccines into the arms of people in 100 days, it's setting a huge target. That's exactly what FDR always did, big targets that people like impossible things to be made possible. When he asked for 50,000 planes one year, it seemed impossible.
So, I think it also offers a chance right now. There's a chance that the Republican Party can move toward a new rebirth itself, that the country can begin to heal. So, even as we look at this as a terrible crisis, it is an opportunity for the country to change direction, that's what an inauguration is, it's a renewal, it's a change of direction, and we could see a big line of demarcation when tomorrow happens to begin that process.
COOPER: You know, Ken one of the things that that gives me so much hope in your work is the, you know, the reading, for instance, in the Civil War series reading letters of people who had fought in the war or survived through the war, just you know, we're witnessing to it, or Walt Whitman's writings, it just -- it gives me hope that to know whether it's in struggles of a country or my or individual struggles, which we all have, that we are not the first to go down this path.
We are not the first to face division in this country, we are not the first to face a pandemic in this country. Generations of people have done that. Some haven't made it through but others have survived. People have survived much worse things in their lives. And that on a big picture, but also in a very, you know, individual basis. That is something that always gives me a lot of hope.
BURNS: Absolutely, Anderson, that's so well said, you know, history, it seems like a big 30,000 feet business. And it's not it's so intimate. It's bottom up. And I feel like tonight is New Year's Eve, I think we just got the dates wrong. I think we've got a new possibility of turning a new leaf. There's a real optimism there. Think of what happened in a positive way. Let's turn it around.
You opened your show with the beauty and the pageantry of this simple gesture towards the COVID victims. That's exactly what presidents and great leaders do. And what's happened here, we're beginning to have a racial reckoning. We had voting nearly 160 million people voted. That's unbelievable. In the most secure election ever. Voters turned out at the polls, poll workers withstood this virus, the courts dismissed all the frivolous attempts at it.
We have a woman vice president, we have a woman of color vice president, we have the oldest president in an FDR moment. And this is a man who is tempered by loss just as FDR, a kind of thin, ambitious guy is stricken with polio and suddenly develops an empathy that allows him to guide us through the depression and the Second World War.
Joe Biden's political career began with unspeakable loss, and has had unspeakable loss just recently, and he's been able to turn that in to something positive, there's a spiritual dimension to that. People are complaining, how do we get the toothpaste back into the tube? How do we unring this bell?
What do we do with all those people? Well, love and compassion and attention and listening and speaking and hearing are all the things that do that. You need, as Doris said to get the vaccinations going, but you have to address rural as well as urban poverty, you have to make sure that no one feels like they're extraneous.
And so much of this is about people having their problems magnified in a negative way. And Joe Biden is the opposite of that. He reminds you we're all in this together. And that's the only way we get through it. And that's how this American Carnage ends.
COOPER: You know, I was thinking, watching the seeing all those lights and in honor the 400,000 people who are absent and that number is essentially 401,000 right now. And that number will only grow. I was thinking that at the end, I was thinking of all those families, who some of whom were able to be with their loved one at the end, but many were not.
But when you do witness somebody dying when you witness a loved one dying, the thing I always -- I have taken away from it in my own life is that in the end, and it sounds like a cliche and cheesy, but in the end, they're really all there is really is love and all there really is, is love that we are one another. And --
GOODWIN: You know, and in the end, I think Anderson, you're so right. In the end, we still have the capacity to write the ending of our story. And when we historians look back, and we see that the Civil War was won, and the union was restored and emancipation took place.
We know the depression came to an end, we know World War II was won by the allies, the people living in that time, just like us didn't know what that end of the story would be. We can still write the end of the story. We don't have to let these divisions end up like a Civil War. We don't have to let the virus continue to control us. And that's the sense of activism and love that we have to feel like. I couldn't agree with you both more.
COOPER: Wonderful, so wonderful to have you both and I wish we could just talk for the whole hour. Ken Burns, Doris Kearns Goodwin, thank you so much. Really a pleasure. You give me hope.
BURNS: Thank you.
COOPER (voice-over): One more look at the COVID Memorial where lights as we talked about illuminate the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool we remember the more than 400,000 who have died.
Just ahead of historic day today and what to expect tomorrow. Van Jones, David Axelrod and Gloria Borger, next.
COOPER: Tomorrow at noon will be the start of the Biden presidency. The President-elect campaigned on the promise that he could bring Republicans to the negotiating table while narrow control the Senate is one big obstacle to his agenda, including a nearly $2 trillion COVID relief package, perhaps is bigger hurdle as soon to be former President Trump who still has sway over the base of his party.
More perspective now and Biden's future, Trump's legacy from former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and former special adviser to President Obama, Van Jones.
Want to ask you first of all today, Gloria. President-elect Biden's first stop D.C. I just found it so powerful that that is how he chose to, to start.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think what people are going to learn about Joe Biden is that he understands grief. He gives people permission to grieve. He speaks a language of grief and that's because his life has been bookended by tragedy and he lost his wife and young daughter when he was just elected to the Senate and then his son, Beau Biden when he was Vice President.
I think he said something really interesting. He said to heal, you must remember. And that's how we heal. And that's how Biden has healed, instead of becoming a negative person full of grievance after all that he's been through, he is someone who remains optimistic, doesn't see himself as a victim. And I think that was important for him to show to the country and a very good tone to set as people kind of try and figure out, where are we and how to get beyond where we are.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, you know, tomorrow was so different than four years ago, Trump came in, he had a healthy country, a strong country, and he broke it. Biden's going to take a broken country, he's going to heal it and help it. And so, that's all of that is the big story. And then unfortunately, because he's starting at such a low place, Biden, literally, you're going to have soldiers, 20,000 soldiers, I mean, it's almost a national embarrassment, but watch the light come through.
Even with all that, you know, fear, when he starts talking, when this again comes off that Bible, you're going to see why the genius of American democracy has picked a president for this moment, somebody who can bring us together, somebody who can, you can offer words of healing, and mean it, he could take the script away, he didn't even need the word, he can just speak from his heart to the whole country.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that's an apt way to put it. It is the genius of American democracy. We tend to produce the leaders we need in times of crisis. And Biden, you know, he ran for president before, didn't do very well. He happens to be the right person for this time. He's got this incredible empathy that Gloria speaks about a deep faith, not just religious faith, but faith in this country and its institutions. And he is relentlessly optimistic. And I worked with him. I saw it
every day in the way he addressed us, he but we were at a time of crisis. And he always believed there was a better day ahead. And that's what needs to be communicated needs to be realistic tomorrow as he speaks in the green zone, behind 25,000 National Guard about where we are as a country. But he is I think, quickly going to pivot and say, but there's a better day ahead if we pull together and work for.
COOPER: That of course, I mean, is the obstacle. I mean, there is a divided country and divided in ways we haven't been divided in our lifetime.
AXELROD: We're not -- but we're not, I'm sorry, Gloria. But we're not divided in the sense that we're all going through the same siege together. You know, we're 400,000 people have died. I don't think anybody checked their voter registration cards, but I was, I would suspect that they cross (INAUDIBLE) --
COOPER: Right. But it doesn't. But there are there are crises which bring the country together. And I'm not sure that this is one of them. This is the first time, you know, somebody really acknowledged 400,000 Americans are dead. And there's people who refuse to wear masks, even when they're hiding in the Capitol from armed insurrection.
BORGER: Well, look, the country is going to look very different starting tomorrow at noon, because Joe Biden is going to get to work, he's going to issue executive orders putting us back in the climate, climate accord, et cetera. You know, he's going to sort of take charge, change the tone, become a president who thinks about things other than himself. And if half the country 70 more, you know, you can't forget about the 74 million voters who supported Donald Trump, but 74 million people did not support what happened on those capitals (INAUDIBLE).
AXELROD: The two-thirds of the country have given him high marks for how he's handled the transition. Look, Donald Trump has left him an unholy mess that he's going to have to deal with. He's also created a great opportunity, because the contrast is going to be so dramatic. We saw it tonight, finally, a president acknowledging the pain and loss of the country instead of trying to spin it.
COOPER: It is true that one doesn't know, you know, once you actually have some leadership and some human decency, who knows what the ripple effects of that might be.
JONES: Hey, listen. I don't think people understand how much most Americans want this food fight to be over. And we people want to win the food fight. Most people just want to end the food fight, get their kids back to school, get their shops opened up, get something happening, get broadband for everybody.
And there's an agenda out there that both sides could actually embrace. But you have it. Nobody goes to McDonald's and order sush because it's not on the menu. We haven't had unity on the menu coming from the White House for four years. Watch what Americans do when it's offered.
COOPER: Big Macs. There's so much ahead. It's going to be an incredibly exciting day, tomorrow. I hope everybody tunes in for it. Thank you all tonight.
The news continues. Want to hand it over Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME". Chris.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Thank you my friend. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.
It is inauguration eve in less than 15 hours from now, noon tomorrow. Joe Biden takes the helm and some of the worst sees we've ever seen. And if we are on a very, very uncertain course.