Return to Transcripts main page
At This Hour
Dem Senators Mark One Year Since Capitol Insurrection; Biden Tears into Trump, Blames Him for Deadly Insurrection. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired January 06, 2022 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We're going to count those votes. We're not going to let the violent insurrectionists stop us.
And count the votes, we did, until, I believe it was, 3:00 am the next morning. That was a good moment amidst lot of bad moments.
So now we ask one year later, how shall our country move forward?
What are we to say and think and do in response to a day, when a sitting American president, rather than step down from office, unleashed his own supporters to attack the government through mob violence?
How can we help those scarred by that day find solace, find healing?
How can we make clear to the American people, to the world and even to ourselves that our democracy is still whole?
First, we must begin by commemorating our emergency responders who have died, whether through complications from injuries or, sadly, from suicide in the days and months after the violence: Brian Sicknick of New Jersey; Howard Liebengood of Virginia; Billy Evans of Massachusetts; Jeffrey Smith of Illinois and Gunther Hashida of Virginia.
Today and every day we remember them. We mourn their loss. We honor their limitless heroism in the face of the unthinkable.
Second, we also thank every single member of the Capitol Police, the D.C. Metro Police and the National Guard, who kept us safe and prevented a violent riot from turning into something much worse.
That afternoon, our Capitol Police were outnumbered, unprepared and largely left on their own.
Just watching on television the brutal beating of one of them by the mob, another being crushed between a door and a wall, it just rips your heart apart as you relive that day and you remember how the Capitol Police suffered but persisted and helped preserve our democracy. When they held the line, our democracy survived. So not only do we
thank them but we commit to continue supporting them and fighting for them, as they fought to defend this building.
Finally, the only way we'll truly move forward from January 6th is by speaking truth to power -- we cannot avoid it -- the truth about what happened that day, about what led to the violence, about what it means for our democracy moving forward.
I say this because too many often, depending on their allegiances, seem desperate to sweep the memory of January 6th under the rug. Too many are working to rewrite the history of what happened, to downplay or excuse or even defend the mob, to excuse an insurrection of this very Capitol.
Too many are hoping the American people will just look away and forget that day ever took place.
After all, they say, Donald Trump is no longer president, right?
We can't -- that can't happen. We can't let that happen. We have an obligation not to let that happen because history shows us, when you ignore or paint over this kind of violent action, it will recur, often in worse form than it had originally. That's what history shows.
We didn't look away after the attack on Pearl Harbor. We didn't look away after the attacks on 9/11. They may have been from foreign powers but we still, just because it was Americans who did this, we cannot look away after the attack of January 6th.
What we must do instead is stare the truth, however ugly, in the face. The attack of January 6th didn't come out of the blue. It was not an act of God. It was not something that came from foreign soil. It wasn't even just some mere protest that got out of hand.
No, no, no, no. January 6th was an attempt to reverse, through violent means, the outcome of a free and fair election, an insurrection. Call it what it is, what it was.
SCHUMER: And it was fundamentally rooted in Donald Trump's Big Lie, that the election of 2020 was illegitimate, in deep offense to the peaceful transfer of power; indeed, in deep offense to the very notion of truth itself.
And anyone who thinks that the origins of this insurrection are going away should just have listened a few moments ago, when Donald Trump did it again, lying and lying and lying about the election, a clear reminder that the threat he and his lie remain to our nation.
Alarmingly, alarmingly, many of his supporters quickly embraced the lie in the aftermath of the 2020 election. Many of them truly believed and still believe that he won the election and the game was rigged -- not a small number, a large number of Americans. You look at the polls, tens of millions; it didn't matter there was no
proof to any of these claims. Donald Trump kept saying it and saying it and saying it again. And he called his supporters to rally here in Washington in a ditch effort to stay in power.
We all know this. That's what happened. We can't forget it. It was Donald Trump's Big Lie that soaked our political landscape in kerosene. It was Donald Trump's rally on the mall that struck the match. And then came the fire.
And pouring gasoline on that fire are many. And one branch of our media, who spread the Big Lie then and continue to spread the Big Lie, even though they know it's false and millions listen to these people and believe it.
Here, too, is another terrible truth. The disease of the Big Lie continues to this day. The attacks on our democracy are ongoing, if not by the force of baseball bats and pipe bombs, then, certainly, through a quieter and much more organized effort to subvert democracy from the bottom up.
Just as the Big Lie inspired the attack of January 6th, the Big Lie continues like a disease across state legislatures throughout the country, where we're seeing the most restrictive voter suppression efforts since Jim Crow, since Jim Crow, in 21st century America, turning the clock way back.
Let's be abundantly clear: these new anti-voter laws are on the books today only because their author cited the Big Lie, cited the fictitious bugaboo of voter fraud and are trying to succeed where the insurrection failed.
Unless we confront the Big Lie, unless we all do our part to fortify and strengthen our democracy, the political violence of January 6th risks becoming not an aberration but, God forbid, the norm.
And we've seen it, too, in the threats against election workers, teachers, school administrators, health care workers. We cannot put our heads in the sand. We cannot brush this over.
And what does that mean for the Senate?
I think we have to talk about the realities here today, too. It means we must pass legislation, effective legislation, to defend our democracy, to protect the right to vote.
We must pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act so that our country's destiny is determined by the voice of the people and not by the violent whims of lies and even mob rule.
We must also guard against the false hopes of solutions that don't deal with the problem and try to cover it up or push it away, because people don't want to deal with it.
Some say the answer lies in doing the bare minimum, like reforming the Electoral Count Act, that my friend, the Republican leader, has floated in recent days. Let me take this opportunity to make clear that that plan -- the McConnell plan, that's what it is -- is unacceptable, unacceptably insufficient and even offensive.
Some scorekeeping matters little if the game is rigged. And as we know too well, state legislatures are working day and night to undermine our democratic process from the get-go by empowering partisans to potentially say which ballots count and which do not.
What good is it to accurately count a result that's compromised from the start?
SCHUMER: Senator McConnell's plan to reform the Electoral Count Act would do nothing more than codify the vice president's ceremonial role in counting of the Electoral College votes, effectively guaranteeing that partisan state legislatures could overturn the elections without fear of recourse.
Look at what it does. Look at what it does. It's a cynical idea. It's an idea to divert attention from the real issue because they don't want to confront the real issue.
This cannot be, this should not be about one party versus another. Voting rights has always been bipartisan, supported by Bush, H.W. and W.; supported by Reagan; passing this chamber with large votes from both sides of the aisle. That's what always used to happen until the Republican Party was taken over by Donald Trump.
So it's not about one party versus another. It can't be. It's about one terrible lie against democracy itself, the kind of lie that, if let stand, both verbally and in action, erodes our democracy, erodes our democracy.
If a majority of people -- there's already a substantial minority who don't believe our elections are legitimate -- aided and egged on by Donald Trump and right-wing media.
What if a majority of this country, because of these pernicious actions, start believing it?
A majority of Americans don't believe that elections are on the level?
Just ask yourself what will happen. I can't predict the details but I can predict that it will diminish the greatness of this country in small and even large ways. So we cannot and this should not be a partisan issue.
It's about falsehood versus truth. In the history of this country, we have always disagreed on ideology but never on facts until recently and in such an important area.
If lying about results of an election is acceptable, if instigating a mob against the government is considered permissible, if encouraging political violence becomes the norm, it will be open season on this grand democracy, this noble experiment and everything will be up for grabs by whoever has the biggest clubs, the sharpest spears, the most effective lies.
I do not believe that that is the ultimate destiny of our country. The mob may be strong but the counter is stronger.
The roots of democracy, the feelings of the American people and the affection and love for this grand noble experiment in democracy is stronger, as long as we speak out, as long as we act.
The wellspring of democracy is deep and, even in the most difficult of times, Americans have rallied and risen to the occasion.
Since the early days of our republic, Americans launched mighty movements, fought a bloody Civil War and, yes, passed federal election laws and voting rights laws to expand the promise of democracy until there were no more boundaries.
We are called on, importuned by the millions who have lost their lives to defend this democracy, to defend it once again. I call on all Americans -- Democrats, Republicans, independents -- to rise to the occasion and assure that the mob, the violence, the lies do not win the day.
Let the anniversary of January 6th forever serve as a reminder that the march to perfect our democracy is never over, that our democracy is a precious, sometimes fragile gift, purchased by those who struggled before us and that all of us now must do our part to keep the American vision going in the present and into the future.
Somehow, in ways I can't predict but I know are true, I am certain that God's mysterious hand will guide us and truth and right will prevail.
I yield the floor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President --
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to pull away from Senator Chuck Schumer on the Senate floor right now.
Hello. I'm Kate Bolduan.
We'll turn to another speech, a historic speech on a historic day, President Biden laying the blame squarely on his predecessor today for the violent insurrection on the U.S. Capitol that happened a year ago today.
Biden going further, farther and harder than he ever has when talking about that horrific day and who is responsible.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election; he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, as a violent mob breached the Capitol. But they failed. They failed. And on this day of remembrance, we must make sure that such an attack never, never happens again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: And the president didn't stop there. While in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol, where the rioters ransacked it 12 months ago, Biden accused Donald Trump of putting his bruised ego before country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: And here's the truth: a former President of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election.
He's done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interests as more important than his country's interests, than America's interests, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: President Biden's speech is one of many notable events today to mark one of the darkest days in American history, one year since a violent mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in a failed attempt to overturn his election defeat.
Five people died in the aftermath; dozens more were injured. One year since we witnessed the worst assault on the seat of America's democracy since the war of 1812, one year since we watched police officers being brutally attacked, one year since we saw lawmakers and staff hiding in their offices, running from the floor, fearing for their lives, one year since we heard a mob calling for then vice president Mike Pence to be hanged.
Images you really cannot forget and a troubling reminder of just how fragile America's democracy is. Let's begin our coverage this hour with CNN's Jeremy Diamond, who's live at the White House for us.
Jeremy, this speech by President Biden was really a remarkable one.
What more did Joe Biden say?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate. I think this was one of the most powerful and impassioned speeches that President Biden has given in the nearly one year since he took the oath of office and became President of the United States.
The president taking direct aim at the threats posed to democracy and laying that blame for those threats directly at the feet of the former president, repeatedly calling out the singular role that President Biden believed that the former president played, not only in fomenting the insurrection on January 6th but on spreading the lies that have blossomed and mushroomed since then, in the year since then.
The president painted a vivid picture of the events on January 6 and tied them directly to the former president. Listen.
BIDEN: We saw with our own eyes rioters menace these halls, threatening the life of the Speaker of the House, literally erecting gallows to hang the vice president of the United States of America.
What did we not see?
We didn't see a former president, who had just rallied the mob to attack, sitting in the private dining room off the Oval Office in the White House, watching it all on television and doing nothing for hours, as police were assaulted, lives at risk, the nation's capital under siege.
This wasn't a group of tourists. This was an armed insurrection. They weren't looking to uphold the will of the people. They were looking to deny the will of the people. They were looking to uphold -- they weren't looking to uphold a free and fair election, they were looking to overturn one.
They weren't looking to save the cause of America, they were looking to subvert the Constitution.
This isn't about being bogged down in the past. It's about making sure the past isn't buried. That's the only way forward. That's what great nations do. They don't bury the truth, they face up to it. Sounds like hyperbole, but that's the truth. They face up to it. We are a great nation. My fellow Americans, in life, there's truth.
BIDEN: And tragically, there are lies, lies conceived and spread for profit and power. We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie.
He can't accept he lost, even though that's what 93 United States senators, his own attorney general, his own vice president, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said: he lost.
That's what 81 million of you did, as you voted for a new way forward. He has done what no president in American history, the history of this country, has ever, ever done, he refused to accept the results of an election and the will of the American people.
When you looked at the mob ransacking the Capitol, destroying property, literally defecating in the hallways, rifling through the desks of senators and representatives, hunting down members of Congress, patriots?
Not in my view. To me, the true patriots were the more than 150 Americans, who peacefully expressed their vote at the ballot box, the election workers who protected the integrity of the vote and the heroes who defended this Capitol. You can't love your country only when you win. You can't obey the law only when it's convenient.
You can't be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies. Those who stormed this Capitol and those who instigated and incited and those who called on them to do so held a dagger at the throat of America and American democracy.
DIAMOND: And throughout that speech, Kate, President Biden did not once refer to the former president Trump by his name; instead saying "the former president" 16 times throughout that speech in terms that are sure to push the former president's buttons: "defeated," "lost," "liar."
And this was a shift from a president who has largely tried to avoid referring to the former president over his first year in office. And President Biden explained why he did so in such direct terms, when he was asked whether this would divide more than it would heal.
The president, Biden, said, "The way you heal, you have to recognize the extent of the wound. We can't pretend; we have to face the truth."
And frankly, all of this speech was a reflection of frankly where things stand in this country and how little has changed in the year since Donald Trump enthralled his supporters into that January 6th insurrection -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Jeremy, thank you so much for that.
Joining me now for more on this is CNN's Gloria Borger and David Chalian; CNN global affairs analyst, Susan Glasser, and presidential historian, Tim Naftali.
Gloria, Jeremy laid it out very well, how Biden explicitly is putting this on Donald Trump in a way that we have not heard the president really speak.
What do you think of what he said?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I think it was a remarkable speech and I think it is a speech that he gave for history.
I think clearly, after a year in office -- and you look back on January 6th until today -- Donald Trump is the major figure in the Republican Party. The litmus test of the Republican Party is whether or not you believe that the election was stolen.
Donald Trump is now picking candidates for Republican Party. He is the leader. And after that year, in which Joe Biden has been president, I think he took this opportunity to come out and say, look, I have to take a stand on this.
And I am telling you what I believe and what occurred. And I am telling you that Donald Trump is a charlatan. He's a loser. He is somebody you should not believe and this is not the way our democracy works. The people who invaded the Capitol are not patriots; they're insurrectionists.
And it was a remarkable performance, I think, by Joe Biden. It was almost as if he was an attorney, giving the summation of the past year to a jury and saying, I'm going to lay out the facts for you; you decide: guilty, not guilty.
This is what occurred and this is the moment we are in, in this country, and you have to start understanding the facts.
I believe, however, that the people who are pro Trump and who believe that the election was stolen, Joe Biden will not convince. But I believe that he laid down a marker for history in the future.
BOLDUAN: Susan, I was going to ask you about where Gloria left off.
What do you think his words do?
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I mean, look, this is a very powerful speech, a speech in some ways that Joe Biden was made to give. It plays right to the reason that he ran for president in the first place. He talked about the battle for the soul of America when he was candidate.
What you don't hear from Biden in that speech, because there is no easy answer, is how are you going to win the battle for the soul of America?
Biden essentially is saying unity did not work. And that's why he was so reluctant for the past year to give this speech. You know, fundamentally, we knew but maybe didn't want to accept what we needed to know, hours after the rioters were finally thrown out of the Capitol, literally stepping over the broken glass.
And over 140 Republican members of Congress, even then, voted not to certify Biden's legitimate election. And so the surprise, in some ways, is that we're still being surprised by where the Republican Party as gone.
And I think for Biden, that means on giving up on something that is fundamental to him, which is the promise and the idea that you can work together with the other party. And so I think that puts us in a very perilous state, frankly, right now.
BOLDUAN: And it's a really interesting way of putting it, Susan.
David, this line will be one of the enduring ones, "You can't love your country only when you win. You can't obey the law only when it is convenient. You can't be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies."
Who is, do you think, Joe Biden trying to speak to?
And is this about trying to convince people?
Or is this now about taking them to the mat? DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I think it's the latter, Kate. Joe Biden is very clear-eyed in understanding the polarization of the country. And he knows, you know, nearly half the country, this is going to be falling on deaf ears.
That doesn't make him shy away from the responsibility, as the leader of the country, to deliver this message. And he did so passionately and strongly. There's no doubt about that.
But to me, this speech was so much bigger than just about Biden taking on Trump and referencing him 16 times. This was an approach to, piece by piece, dismantle the lie; the lie, of course, that emanated from Donald Trump but that has been embraced by a majority of Republicans across this country.
And the clear decision on Biden's part, that the path forward here is to -- you have to defeat -- when he talks about the wounds and he talks about, you need to face the facts, I'm not just saying that he's saying that to those who believe in the lie and here's the truth of what happened.
He's also facing the facts and the reality in this speech, that a majority of one of the two major parties in this country is fully bought into it and he needs to try and chip away at that understanding, that there's not a bringing-together of the minds here. There's going to have to be a defeat of those that subscribe to the lie.
And I think Joe Biden, when you talk to folks in this White House, believes that our democracy is more imperiled today after this last year, than it was a year ago on January 6th.
BOLDUAN: Tim, a lot of ink has been spilled and a lot of time on television has been spent in talking making clear just how fragile democracy really is and how this has really exposed that fragility.
But do you think people appreciate that?
Or do you think most still take it for granted or maybe feel that it's out of their hands?
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Kate, I'm convinced that our fellow Americans do not know how fragile our republic is, our democracy. I don't think they understand that we went through a near- death experience on January 6th of last year, that what was happening was an attempt to overturn our Constitution.
That's what was happening. What we didn't follow was the reckoning. We should have had a reckoning. We've had them in the past. We've had these moments where our country was imperiled -- I'm talking about from within -- and that has led us to deep thinking and deep efforts to build up the guardrails of our society.
It happened in the '70s, after the Nixon period and, to some extent, it happened actually in the second term of George W. Bush, when Congress pushed back and America pushed back on the way in which the global war on terror was being fought.
We've had moments of reckoning. But what you need for that is you need two parties that believe that reckoning is possible. And given that we have a two-party system, the fact that one of them will not accept the significance of January 6th is what's putting us in this toxic moment.
And that's the reason I believe we are in a more fragile state than we were a year ago.