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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Biden Calls Trump A Threat To Democracy In January 6 Speech; Cheney: Looking Forward To Pence's Cooperation With 1/6 Committee; So Far: 725+ Rioters Charged, 70 Sentenced, About 30 Going To Prison; State Of The GOP As Trump Gains Power Post-Insurrection; Former McCarthy Staffer Reflects On January 6 Capitol Attacks; Biden Says Trump "Spread A Web Of Lies" About The 2020 Election, Blames Trump For January 6 Violence. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired January 06, 2022 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: In terms of listening to all those speeches and an important reminder of how we can never take democracy for granted.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Yes, it is interesting how some lawmakers were crystal clear that day, the gravity of what was happening, and today have taken a complete reversal, likely partisan.
THE LEAD with Jake Tapper starts right now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. We're live from Capitol Hill. I'm Jake Tapper.
Behind me, the U.S. Capitol, the scene of a dark day in American history, the deadly insurrection exactly one year ago today. Five people lost their lives on January 6, 2021 during or immediately after the riot and the very democracy of the United States was attacked and shaken.
Today, President Joe Biden addressed the nation from statuary hall inside the U.S. Capitol and placed the blame for the horrible attack squarely on the shoulders of former President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, 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. The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election. He has done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interests as more important than his country's interests and America's interests, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: On that dark day a mob of angry Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. It was two months after Trump lost the election. Trump spent weeks, months refusing to accept the results, challenging them every way he could, in court, on air, on social media, through intimidation of public officials, and private and publicly. Trump told his supporters, come to D.C. on the day the electoral votes would be officially counted in Congress, January 6th. Trump said it would be, quote, wild.
That morning Trump fed his supporters even more lies and called on the crowd to stop democracy in action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: You'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong. We fight like hell and if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore. And after this, we're going to walk down and I'll be there with you. We're going to walk down to the Capitol.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, remember, even top Trump allies admitted in those hours after the attack that there was ultimately one person responsible for the insurrection.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: But shortly thereafter, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and many other Republicans changed their tune. They followed Trump's lead as he continued and continues to this day to push the big lie, that the election was stolen. It's a dangerous and false and deadly claim with very real life or death consequences.
Among those lost that day U.S. Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick. His mother talked to us last may about her son's legacy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLADYS SICKNICK, MOTHER OF FALLEN CAPITOL POLICE OFFICER BRIAN SICKNICK: I can't believe I have a child that is going to be in the history books for all the wrong reasons, because he was such a good person. He was so good at his job. You know, he was texting all his buddies to see if they were okay on that day, while he was fighting, for four hours, four plus hours without any help.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: That is the very real loss on a personal level suffered on January 6th, 2021. There have also been ramifications beyond any one person, beyond any one family. Over the next two hours, we're going to examine the state of our
democracy in the United States. How the nation has been transformed by that day and since with two sitting House members from each major party who have decided it's time to leave office.
Plus, a Capitol Hill staffer who at the time worked for Kevin McCarthy. He'll join us to talk about his experience and why he is now working for McCarthy's Republican nemesis Congresswoman Liz Cheney.
And, of course, we're going to take a look at how this nation heals if it can, if we can from this unprecedented and dark time in America.
We're going to start today with CNN's Alex Marquardt and a closer look at what we've learned about the awful day in terms of the specifics of the MAGA terrorist attack on the capitol. We want to warn you, especially parents, there are scenes of graphic violence and explicit language.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): For weeks, President Donald Trump hyped the rally on January 6th. Be there, he tweeted. It will be wild.
That day, his family and allies whipped up the crowd.
ERIC TRUMP, SON OF FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: Have some back bone. Show some fight. Let's have trial by combat.
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: Let's have trial by combat.
MARQUARDT: Then Trump proceeded to call out his own vice president.
D. TRUMP: And Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us. And if he doesn't, that will be a sad day for our country.
MARQUARDT: He lied about the election and urged his followers to march on the Capitol.
D. TRUMP: And we fight. We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell you're not going to have a country anymore.
MARQUARDT: A year on from the January insurrection, we've learned much more about how the day unfolded, who the players were, how they organized, communicated, and attacked the Capitol. More video has come out revealing how dangerous it truly was.
CROWD: USA! USA! USA!
MARQUARDT: As Trump spoke on the ellipse, the first clashes between protesters and police, while vice president Mike Pence made clear he would follow the law. And Congress started to certify the Electoral College vote.
It wasn't long before the scene quickly unraveled.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We have been told by Capitol police that the capitol is in lockdown.
MARQUARDT: Pence was rushed off the Senate floor. Certification was halted.
AIDE: Protesters are in the building.
MARQUARDT: I can see at least half a dozen protesters scaling, literally climbing the walls of the Capitol to get up to where their fellow protesters are.
Rioters smashed windows, broke down doors, and rushed into the hallways.
CROWD: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!
MARQUARDT: Officer Eugene Goodman led the mob away from the Senate chamber where Pence was located as they shouted his name.
CROWD: Treason! Treason! Treason!
MARQUARDT: Lawmakers like Senator Mitt Romney ran from the advancing crowd.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where the fuck are they?
MARQUARDT: Others inside the House chamber took cover. The doors barricaded. Police officers' guns drawn.
The day's first fatality came when insurrectionists tried to break through the speaker's lobby. Rioter Ashli Babbitt was shot by an officer and died from her wounds.
Outside, our CNN team was moving to the north side of the Capitol when we were attacked.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fuck CNN, lying mother -- boo, yeah!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go! Go!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get the fuck out of here! Get the fuck out!
MARQUARDT: We tried to get out as quickly as possible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who are you with?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's more of us than you. There's more of us than you. We could destroy you right now.
MARQUARDT: We were physically unharmed, others not as lucky. When rioters poured into a tunnel blocked by police, they sprayed officers with pepper spray before dragging out D.C. Police Officer Michael Fanone, tasing him and beating him with a flag pole.
MICHAEL FANONE, D.C. POLICE OFFICER: They were screaming out, kill him with his own gun. I just remember yelling out that I have kids.
MARQUARDT: Officer Daniel Hodges was pinned down in the crush of body, wedged in a doorway, his mouth bleeding.
OFFICER DANIEL HODGES, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT: There was a guy ripping my mask off and was able to rip away my baton and beat me with it. He was practically foaming at the mouth.
MARQUARDT: We now know that as the rampage spiraled out of control, Trump sat for hours watching it all on TV before issuing a tepid message to his followers.
D. TRUMP: So go home. We love you. You're very special. But go home and go home in peace.
MARQUARDT: A curfew will go into effect in around an hour's time. There is no indication right now that these protesters have any inclination of going anywhere. There is no inclination, that they had heard the message from the president to go home.
They weren't done yet, descending on a press area, destroying equipment, and talking about killing journalists.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Start making a list! Put all those names down and we start hunting them down one by one!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Traitors get guillotined.
MARQUARDT: With night falling and a curfew approaching, reinforcements finally arrived to flush out the rioters.
Wolf, we are back on the western side of the Capitol. What you can hear there is a flash bang presumably from this police force that has just moved in. Wolf, what you're looking at now is metropolitan police from Washington, D.C. who just before this 6:00 p.m. curfew have moved in here to push out the rioters. They have been shouting "move back" at this crowd of hundreds if not more Trump supporters on the western side of the Capitol building.
Many felt victorious. Their message heard. Several dozen were arrested but hundreds more slipped into the night away from the police, a relatively quiet end to one of the most dramatic and dark days in American history.
MARQUARDT (on camera): Jake, it was right here on the western side of the Capitol that this insurrection really started and ended a year ago. In the days that followed, a huge security perimeter was set up all around the Capitol complex with 10-foot high fencing and thousands of National Guard troops from all across the country. That is all gone now as you can see.
There is not a very large security presence out here on this anniversary. It has been quite a calm day. We've seen tour groups coming by, people coming to take pictures. Nothing in the way of protests. That calm really driving home what an extraordinary and violent day that was last year, Jake.
TAPPER: Alex Marquardt, thank you so much.
And you saw in Alex's piece the frenzied crowd chanting, "Hang Mike Pence" after Trump pushed the lie that then Vice President Pence could have overturned the will of the American people.
Today, Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the vice chair of the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection, revealed that some members of Pence's team are talking to the committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY: We look forward to continuing the cooperation we've had with members of former vice president's team. And look forward as well to his cooperation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: CNN's Jamie Gangel joins us live.
Jamie, how likely is it that the former vice president, himself, will cooperate?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jake, I know conventional wisdom is that it would seem unlikely that pence would want to cooperate, but I would not rule it out. I am not suggesting some big, dramatic public hearing but there are other ways Pence might be willing to help the committee. Keep in mind not only did Cheney confirm that Team Pence's top aides are cooperating with the committee but it appears they really have a good relationship. And we know that his closest advisers would not be cooperating without Pence's blessing.
My understanding is that while no formal discussions have happened yet, that the committee believes the former vice president played what one source called, quote, a crucial role in upholding democracy. That they have again, quote, respect for the role he played that day. And that he has an important story to be told. I think the door is open, Jake.
TAPPER: And we know that former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham spoke to the committee last night.
TAPPER: One of the members of the committee told CNN they learned a lot from her they didn't know before.
GANGEL: Correct. My understanding is Stephanie Grisham told the committee and CNN that Trump was, quote, gleefully watching TV, and this part is new, that he was rewinding and watching again during the riot.
This is, you know, a new piece of information. It's a description we've never heard before.
Just for context, Grisham was working remotely that day. She was not at the White House. But our understanding is this is the account she heard from people that she is very close to who were at the White House that day with the president.
So, just imagine, Jake, while his staff, while Republican members of Congress, while his own family were begging Trump to say something to stop the riot, he according to Grisham was gleefully watching and rewinding, exactly the kind of testimony, Jake, that goes to the point the committee has been making that Trump's inaction that day, that 187 minutes, speak to what the committee believes is dereliction of duty.
TAPPER: And, Jamie, former Vice President Dick Cheney joined his daughter Congresswoman Cheney on the House floor today and had a blunt message for Republican leadership.
GANGEL: He really did. I'm told he came to show support for his daughter and also to show support for law enforcement.
But I want to read you one line from his statement. He said, quote, I am deeply disappointed at the failure of many members of my party to recognize the grave nature of the January 6 attacks and the ongoing threat to our nation, end quote.
Look, Dick Cheney is a controversial figure but there is no question where he stands on Donald Trump, on his actions on January 6th, and when he says disappointed, that is an under statement about how he feels about the Republican Party caving to Trump, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Jamie Gangel, thank you so much.
Here to discuss Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy of Florida. They are both on the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection and both retiring after this term.
Congressman Kinzinger, let's start with you.
What can you tell us about the cooperation so far with members of Vice President Pence's team?
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (D-IL): Well, it's been robust. I mean, we've, obviously, witnessed or interviewed over 300 witnesses. The vice president's team has been cooperative. I think it's not just in their interests. It is in the country's interests. I think the vast majority of them are honorable.
And they also recognize as was mentioned in the report that the vice president played an important role. But that's the key. You know, we may not have to talk to the president, the former president, but we are getting pieces of this puzzle, all these pieces right now in this box. When we put this puzzle together, we'll be able to see what I think even more importantly is what was the president doing, what did he know prior to January 6th? What led to this?
TAPPER: All right. And, Congresswoman Murphy, the vice president was not at the White House that day. He was on Capitol Hill with you and your colleagues. If you could ask him a question, what are some of the things you'd want to know?
REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D-FL): Well, I'd like to know from him what he said to the president when the president was pressuring him both publicly and did he pressure him privately to act in a way different than he did. I actually am very impressed that he carried out his duties as vice president and certified the election despite the enormous pressure and despite having his life be put on the line. He came back and did the right and patriotic thing for this country. I want to understand the motivations behind that and what led up to that moment.
TAPPER: Yeah, interesting. Congressman Kinzinger, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a moment of silence this morning. There were lives lost including police officers that day and subsequent days. The only Republicans on the House floor were Congresswoman Liz Cheney and her father former Vice President Dick Cheney.
I'm sure you would have been there. We should tell our viewers you are back home in the Chicago area because your wife is be the to have a baby, but were you surprised Liz Cheney was the only House Republican there? Five people died that day. Four police officers died by suicide in the days after.
KINZINGER: Was I surprised? No. Was I disappointed? Yeah.
It kind of breaks your heart because, look, regardless of the politics of the moment, democracy is at threat. I don't think a year ago I would have been so definitive but what we've seen over the last year, a lack of accountability, continued misinformation, sizable majority of Americans believing utter lies, democracy is at threat.
So if you're a member of congress, and some probably had prior commitments, I understand that, but if you think you're going to avoid it because you don't want to answer the questions, this is, Jake, where I would encourage every member of the media, local media, national media, any time you talk to a Republican member of Congress, ask them, was the election legitimate? Who do you think was responsible for January 6?
And don't let them weasel out. We need to be on the record for this. This is that dire to the future of self-governance.
TAPPER: And we should note, Congresswoman Murphy, people like you and Congressman Kinzinger, you come here to do good for the American people. Left, right, center, wherever you are. But listen to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island,
talking about how much tougher it is to do the people's work since the insurrection a year ago. Oh, it's a full screen -- I'm sorry.
I find the tolerance of some of my colleagues for rewriting what we lived through to be really hard to take. It's not just the flagrant Trumpsters who lie without shame about what took place but also the more decent and regular Republicans who hunker down and won't call them out on it and leave the lies unchallenged. It makes it a harsher, colder place, unquote.
That is a paper statement from Sheldon Whitehouse. What do you think? Do you agree?
MURHY: I think when we come here, we should argue passionately for our ideological policy differences. But at the end of the day, we should be principled behind our commitment to the Constitution. And certainly to see some of our colleagues try to white wash what happened on January 6th, to put forward different narratives, different facts, disinformation, has been disheartening. How can you take them seriously as a legislator anymore when they are sowing so much disinformation and undercutting the Constitution?
TAPPER: It is distressing.
Let's talk about what's next, because, Congressman Kinzinger, you are not running for re-election and you've ruled out a run at least for now for statewide office in Illinois. You say you'll dedicate yourself to working against the extremism. Is that not a battle better fought from inside Congress, inside the Republican Party?
KINZINGER: You know, I think in a different circumstance maybe. I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to do my best to continue to get that message out. I have a broader fight.
When you are fighting in a primary for re-election and also fighting against disinformation in your own party, obviously that is difficult. And the other thing, Jake, first off the Democrats drew me in with another Republican member of Congress in Illinois, let's be clear, like they did ten years ago.
But, secondarily, I've served 12 years in Congress at the end of this term. I think every member of Congress ought to look inside after 12 years particularly and say, should I stay or is there somebody better that can come?
TAPPER: All right. Congressman Kinzinger, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
And, Congresswoman Murphy, before you go, what's your message to constituents who see all this dysfunction, see honorable people like you and Congressman Kinzinger leaving, and think, well, maybe there is just no hope for democracy?
MURPHY: There is always hope for democracy. You know, we've had dark periods in our country before. But it's always been -- we've been let out of it by the people. This isn't about any one political actor. This is about we the people.
So, they need to lift up their voices and elect people who better represent our American values and commitment to democracy and that they should be providing that feedback as well. I think together as Americans, we can bring this country in heel and move forward as the great country we are.
TAPPER: Yeah. From your lips to God's ears, Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, thank you so much for joining us. A look at what happened to the MAGA terrorists who attacked the Capitol and why some of the charges have been controversial.
Plus, we're going to talk to one of the last people to leave the House floor, a former staffer for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy who now works for Congresswoman Liz Cheney.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Some say it is the most colossal prosecution effort in the history of the United States of America with several terabytes of evidence to sift through including videos insurrectionists made and posted and bragged about. Investigators have charged at least 725 people who stormed the Capitol that day.
But as CNN's Paula Reid reports, only 30 of them, 30, have been sentenced to prison.
PAUL REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the year since the violence of January 6th, federal prosecutors have been building cases against Trump supporters who participated in the attack on the Capitol as part of the largest investigation in American history.
MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Those involved must be held accountable. And there is no higher priority for us at the Department of Justice.
REID: Charging more than 725 defendants from nearly all 50 states and Washington, D.C., almost one-quarter have already pleaded guilty. Of those, more than 70 have been sentenced.
JACOB CHANSLEY, QANON SHAMAN: If they don't uphold the Constitution, then we will remove them from office.
REID: One of the most infamous faces of the insurrection, the so- called QAnon Shaman Jacob Chansley who stormed the Senate floor received nearly three and a half years in prison.
CHANSLEY: I'm going to take a seat in this chair because Mike Pence is a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) traitor. REID: He pleaded guilty to obstructing an official for seating,
specifically Congress's certification of the electoral college results.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody stay down.
REID: That's a felony offense and at least 275 other rioters are facing the same charge. It carries a maximum prison term of 20 years.
These obstruction cases have faced numerous court challenges but judges have allowed them to move forward. Judge Timothy Kelly who rejected First Amendment claims from a group of Proud Boys pointing out this was not protected speech like burning a flag or a sit-in, writing, there were many avenues for defendants to express their opinions without resorting to the conduct with which they have been charged.
The DOJ is aggressively pursuing the far right wing extremist groups allegedly involved in the attack. Dozens of Proud Boys and Oath Keepers like those seen entering the capitol here have been charged in major conspiracy cases. Some judges even questioned why certain rioters haven't been charged with crimes of terrorism.
But the vast majority so far have pleaded guilty to a lesser misdemeanor offense. As a result of these plea deals, fewer than half of those sentenced, about 30 defendants, have received jail time, a development that's been controversial.
ELIE HONIG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: They were trespassing at the U.S. capitol because they were trying to disrupt an election. So, I think it's wrong. I think DOJ has failed in the cases where they've had people end up with no jail time.
REID: So far, the longest punishment has been given to Robert Palmer who admitted to spraying the contents of a fire extinguisher at a police line and then throwing the empty canister at officers. He was given more than five years behind bars
HARRY DUNN, CAPITOL POLICE OFFICER: I wouldn't be mad if it was more than that.
REID: Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn who defended the speaker's lobby during the attack.
DUNN: I want the absolute max.
REID: Longer sentences are a possibility as more of the most serious cases come to a head and in the coming months the first January 6th trials are expected to begin. If convicted at trial, defendants could face tougher sentences than they would under a plea deal with the Justice Department.
HONIG: I think the big question here though is how high will this go? How high is DOJ going to be able to climb the ladder and get beyond just the people who physically stormed the Capitol and get to the people who were behind this. REID: Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.
TAPPER: And our thanks to Paula Reid for that report.
A year later, Donald Trump's grip on the GOP seems stronger than ever. A member of Trump's White House and former Republican House member will join us next to discuss the future of the once great party.
TAPPER: One year after the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, former President Trump's grip on the Republican Party seems stronger than ever. He is still the party's top fundraiser. He is the front-runner for the 2024 presidential nomination according to polls, and the most coveted Republican endorser in this year's midterm elections.
Let's discuss with former White House director of communications under President Trump, Alyssa Farah Griffin, and former Congresswoman Mia Love of Utah.
Alyssa, this morning, former Trump White House press secretary and communications director, Stephanie Grisham, told CNN that there is an effort among former Trump officials to stop Trump. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Next week, a group of former Trump staff are going to come together, administration officials are going to come together and talk about how we can formally do some things to try and stop him and also, you know, the extremism, that kind of violence and rhetoric that has been talked about and continues to divide our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Grisham declined to say who would be joining her in the efforts but said she thought about 15 former Trump staffers, including some who worked inside the White House.
Realistically, what could they do, do you think?
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the key thing would be for these officials and I'm actually going to join the conversation. I haven't committed to anything but I'd be curious to see. I'll have a conversation with anyone interested in upholding our democracy. I think it is about playing in primaries and showing the Trump endorsement is not the most powerful thing in politics anymore.
So, going in to protect impeachment voters, people like Fred Upton to say these are good conservatives, good, long standing Republicans. It is about winning with voters, not a messaging war. It's not doing what we've seen from the Lincoln Project.
So, I am skeptical if it could work but I think it is a very worthy effort that I'm willing to potentially support.
TAPPER: Congresswoman Love, about a month after the insurrection, an "AP" poll found only 11 percent of Republicans thought Trump bore a great deal or quite a bit of responsibility for the breach at the Capitol. Today that number is 22 percent, still very, very low.
How much of Trump's rehabilitation has to do with the fact that many Republicans never saw a problem with his role in the first place?
MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's kind of like mob rules, right? It's -- they are trying to find evidence to substantiate their support to begin with. So, it is very hard for them for some reason to change course.
But I have to be very clear about what happened on January 6th. This wasn't just -- it was a catastrophic event. It was a betrayal more than anything. It was an attack of a branch of government from one government, one branch of our own government to another. So this is not like a foreign entity came in and attacked us. This was our very own.
There was some betrayal that people really should feel. As a former member of Congress I put myself in those halls, in those chambers. I am thinking to myself how could anybody be in those chambers especially the former vice president Mike Pence and not see this as a major betrayal?
So, I think we have a lot of healing to do and I think the number is going to go up. I think as people start to realize this president, this former president isn't going to hurt them, they can start speaking and being courageous again.
TAPPER: Alyssa, you tweeted today, quote, on January 6 Trump abdicated his leadership as president of the United States through his incitement then action when a violent mob descended on the Capitol. He proved himself forever unworthy of the office he once held, unquote.
But I have to say, as courageous as I think it is that you say that it does seem like you are in the minority in your party, in the Republican Party. Why do you think that is?
GRIFFIN: Well, Jake, it's devastating. If you had told me last year this is the conversation we'd be having today and that Donald Trump after that horrific thing we saw last year took place that he'd still be the front-runner for the Republican nomination in 2024, that just shows what a death grip he has on the party and the lack of courage that I've seen from elected leaders with a few exceptions like Liz Cheney, like Adam Kinzinger, is really devastating.
And then you're seeing more good Republicans retiring. We're losing the Rob Portmans. We're losing the Pat Toomeys. So, I think we're in an era where the Republican Party is starting to look very different. If our better angels don't win out, it's a party that I just don't think is one of the future.
TAPPER: And, Congresswoman Love, it is not just Republicans embracing Trump. It is them embracing his lie, his lie about the election. According to "The Washington Post," at least 163 Republicans who have embraced Trump's false claims are now running for statewide positions including 69 candidates for governor in 30 states, 55 U.S. Senate candidates, five House candidates, 13 state attorneys general candidates, 18 secretary of state candidates.
I mean, next time they might not need to storm the Capitol to overturn the election. They might have people in the right places and they'll do it through their office.
LOVE: Well, if you look at the race in -- with Perdue, he is coming back and actually going against someone who's been in Congress who hasn't completely taken in all of the Kool-Aid but he's actually going in as a Trump supporter. And I think that is absolutely going to be detrimental for the Republican Party.
I will say this. That at the end of the day, there is hope in all of this. I agree with my former colleague Sheila Jackson Lee where she said, you know, everybody gaveled in and the American people did their job. Constitutional process proceeded and we were able to get it done and certify the vote.
So, I have hope. I have hope that the Republican Party will evolve in the right way, will go back to looking at what their principles are, and remembering what they stood for. And reject this nonsense. Because even on policy, there are so many things that actually went outside of the Republican principles that there is no reason to hang on to this former president. We need to move on and heal this country.
TAPPER: Alyssa, Governor Ron DeSantis Republican of Florida today said that the media regarded January 6th as Christmas. This was a Christmas for us. He downplayed the tragedy. He said it's just an opportunity for Trump haters to push an agenda.
Here's a little bit of what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): It's an insult to people when you say it's an insurrection and then a year later, nobody has been charged with that. I think it's going to end up being just a politicized, Charlie Foxtrot today. I don't expect anything good to come out of anything that Pelosi and the gang are doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Charlie Foxtrot is a military lingo for cluster F.
I mean, a lot of -- there are a lot of conservative Republicans who hoped for Governor DeSantis to be maybe a bridge from the Trump era to normalcy again. What is your response? GRIFFIN: Oh, it is very disappointing to hear because exactly. He is
somebody who could run as a credible Republican and actually potentially defeat Donald Trump but he is echoing what has essentially been the Republican talking points throughout this which is it was simply a riot. It was nothing worse than the social justice protest we had seen the previous summer.
What made this an insurrection was the intent which was to overthrow the election results. It was to disenfranchise 80 million plus people who voted for Joe Biden. That is by definition an insurrection. That is not comparable to any sort of riot or protest that we saw previously.
And my Republican friends know that. The fact they are echoing it is just -- I mean, they're doing their best to cover for what is a horrible day. We should own it. This will not get better with time. We need to move on and just accept it was a terrible day. We are better than this. And leave Donald Trump in the past
TAPPER: I think it was conservative writer Kevin Williamson who said there is a difference between coup d'etat and coup de target.
Alyssa, Congresswoman Love, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Coming up next, one of the last people who was removed from the House floor that day, a former staffer for Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy will join us live next to talk about that day.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): These facts require immediate action by President Trump. Accept his share of responsibility. Quell the brewing unrest. And ensure President-elect Biden is able to successfully begin his term.
I was the first person to contact him when the riots was going on. He didn't see. When he ended the call, he was saying, telling me, he'll put something out to make sure to stop this. That's what he did and he put a video out later.
CHRIS WALLACE, TV HOST: Quite a lot later. And it was a pretty weak video.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: That was House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy first publicly blaming then President Trump for the insurrection for the attack on the Capitol and then white washing, defending Trump's response and rewriting history months later. Let's discuss this with Ryan O'Toole. He was on the House floor during
the insurrection. At the time, he worked for Minority Leader McCarthy. Now, he works for Congresswoman Liz Cheney.
Ryan, thanks so much for joining us.
What was your role that day officially and when did you first detect that things were going wrong?
RYAN O'TOOLE, FORMER STAFFER FOR HOUSE MINORITY LEADER KEVIN MCCARTHY: Jake, thanks -- thanks so much for having me.
It's crazy to think it's been a year since -- since the day. At the time I was going into my sixth year on the Hill as the Republican curriculum director for Leader McCarthy. And it's sort of a job that you run the procedural operations for House Republicans. So the electoral process, the certification process was something I was familiar with, my team and I were familiar with, and we had sort of anticipated a typical day in that sense.
But, obviously, this was far from typical. I think you look back at that day and you think of kind of the sequence of events, right, and so the first thing that really tipped me off was the removal of congressional leadership from the chamber and you're well aware, Jake, that is done with incredible speed and that's a good indication that something -- something with a security posture is not right.
TAPPER: And, eventually, you were evacuated. And you got into a secure location. When you were there, among other members of Congress, how were they reacting?
O'TOOLE: Yeah. Again, the sequence of events had a range of emotions to it. When still on the floor, members were fearful for their lives. Republican members themselves, men crying in the cloak room for their safety.
And so, as we escaped the chamber, to what sounded like gunshots, to the secure location, I think people were still scared. Members and staff are still scared. And not sure what was happening.
And so, you did have some members express a different view. One member, Mo Brooks, for example was glad. He was cheering on the fact that the 117th Congress had started this way. That was much to the dismay of others in the room. And certainly I think does not carry the sentiment the day has today.
TAPPER: You were working for McCarthy at the time. I know from talking to a lot of members of Congress how worried they were not only for their own lives but also for the lives of their staffers. What did McCarthy have to say to his staff that day and the days after the attack?
O'TOOLE: You know, my recollection was that he did not, he didn't engage with any of his staff. I didn't get a chance to have any sort of debriefing.
And my understanding is none of McCarthy's staff were able to connect with him regarding the day's events or how to respond to them frankly. But I'd be remiss if I didn't recount as we were walking back from that secure room we had been evacuated to to complete the day's business on the House floor.
Speaker Pelosi and Leader Hoyer stopped our floor team to thank us for the job we had done assisting members and continuing the process and continuing the democratic process that we were there for. And I think that demonstrates the color of the leadership that day demanded.
TAPPER: I'm stunned that Leader McCarthy didn't reach out to his staff.
How do you explain McCarthy's evolving opinion on Trump's role in the insurrection, blaming him directly for the mob and then months later leading the white washing of it?
O'TOOLE: Look, I think there is a great leadership quote that former Boston Mayor Curley has used before. There go the people, I am their leader. I must follow them.
I think that really describes Leader McCarthy's leadership strategy in that there is not one. His leadership strategy is dictated by the most extreme wings of his party. And so when Marjorie Taylor Greene or Matt Gaetz put their thumb on the scale, that's what he responds to and that drives the House Republican conference into the arms of somebody like Donald Trump.
So the leadership that enables that behavior is continuing today as we've seen.
TAPPER: What if McCarthy had just maintained his original position that Trump needed to accept his share of responsibility?
O'TOOLE: You know, I can't speak to why he changed his position since January 6th. As he alluded to in the weeks after he came on to the floor and said the president bears responsibility for this. Some things changed in his values. I can't speak to what that might be in terms of his calculus.
Look, for me after January 6th, my conscience and values were clear. We need to be loyal to the Constitution and I made a choice to leave and go work for somebody who did believe in that.
After January 6th, Kevin McCarthy went to Mar-a-Lago and I think that says things pretty clearly for the American people.
TAPPER: And what was your response as somebody who worked in the cloak room at that moment after there was blood on the floor in the Capitol, 146 Republican House members voted to disenfranchise the entire state of Arizona, the entire commonwealth of Pennsylvania based on these deranged lies about the election. That must have been, as somebody who has allegiance to the Constitution who now works for Congresswoman Liz Cheney, it must have been incredibly dispiriting. O'TOOLE: Well, it's disappointing is what it is. These are supposed
to be the best versions of our districts, right? We send them to represent us and represent our voices. And the act of disenfranchising so many Americans based off what they know is a lie is frankly despicable and it's a disgrace.
TAPPER: Ryan O'Toole, thank you so much for your time. Thank you so much for your actions on the House floor that day.
O'TOOLE: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: Very difficult day to be carrying out the constitutional duties. Appreciate your work.
Coming up the fight to protect democracy before the next election. We're going to talk to two leaders from key states targeted by pushers of the big lie.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We're live from Capitol Hill. It has been one year since that deadly insurrection.
Here this hour, House Speaker Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and members of Congress are going to hold a prayer vigil on the steps of the Capitol. We're going to bring that to you live.
Also, we're going to take a closer look at House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and his ambition to become the next House Speaker seemingly at least according to his critics at any cost even the cost of democracy.
But leading this hour, we must make sure such an attack never happens again. That was President Biden's message today as American democracy seems to be teetering on the edge of destruction thanks to former President Trump's election lies, and help from MAGA media, and capitulation from the vast majority of elected House Republicans, and Senate Republicans who say nothing to denounce the big lie. We're going to have more on that in a minute.
But, first, let's to CNN's Kaitlan Collins who is live at the White House for us.
And, Kaitlan, President Biden, he notably didn't even mention the name Donald Trump today. Why?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, President Biden said that was by design because, Jake, he didn't want you to walk away from it and think it was Joe Biden versus Donald Trump. But it was the current president rebuking the former president, his immediate predecessor, and from the steps of Capitol Hill, inside those hallways, branding him as a liar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The big lie being told by the former president and many Republicans. Because the former president lost, he is not just a former president. He is a defeated former president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: And, Jake, of course, the president there not only talking about that but also going through what he has said, what Donald Trump has said in the months since he did leave office really dismantling the ways he has talked about the election, trying to say he won and that Joe Biden did not. Going through it step by step saying even if you are a Republican, how can you say you won your election if the former president says this is what happened with this election?
And, Jake, he did say 16 times referring to him as the former president.