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Don Lemon Tonight
Republican Lawmakers Changes Their Tune; President Biden Directly Blames His Predecessor; Officers Recall the Horrors of January 6th Mob Attack. Aired 10:30-11p ET
Aired January 06, 2022 - 22:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): It truly is the land of the free. Home of the brave. Democracy held a year ago tonight. But do not take it for granted.
This is DON LEMON TONIGHT.
Thank you for joining us. We have an exclusive for out this program. D.C. Metropolitan Police Commander Ramey Kyle. The guy who was in charge of holding back potentially murderous mob and holding the line for democracy, speaking out for the first time. We've heard from everybody else but him.
Today we've got unprecedented access to the tunnel where the battle for our democracy took place one year ago. I went there with Commander Kyle and with my good friend, Michael Fanone. You are going to see that in just a moment right here on this broadcast.
But after everything you just saw and heard, can there be any question that democracy is more in peril tonight than it was a year ago? This is not about looking back. This is about what is happening right now.
Tonight, this is about whether we actually want a democracy and whether we care enough to protect it. Because if we turn away, if we say what happened on January 6th, it is all in the past, that leaves the door wide open for them to do it again.
People who put power ahead of our Democratic ideals, who put lies ahead of the truth, the big lie of bogus voter fraud is alive and well. States across the country are making it harder to vote. At least 19 states passed 34 laws last year restricting access to the ballot box.
And they're not done yet. The disgraced, twice impeached one-term former president still has the Republican Party in a death grip. And apart from a small handful, none of them will stand up to him. And all of this may be a turning point for President Joe Biden. His speech today was the most direct and powerful since he took the oath of office. Laying the blame squarely where it belongs. At the feet of the former president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie.
And here is the truth. The 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, and America's interests.
And because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution. He's not just the former president. He's a defeated former president. Defeated by a margin of over seven million of your votes. In a full and free and fair election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): This is a president rising to the moment. Taking on the forces that would tear our democracy apart.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I did not seek this fight brought to this capitol one year ago today. But I will not shrink from it either. I will stand in this breach. I will defend this nation. I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy. We will make sure the will of the people is heard. That the battle prevails, not violence. But authority in this nation will always be peacefully transferred.
I believe the power of the presidency and the purpose is to unite this nation. Not divide it. To lift us up. Not tear us apart. It's about us, about us, not about me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): There was a time when Republicans knew the truth of what happened on January 6th. They knew who was responsible. They weren't so afraid to say so then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people. They tried to disrupt our democracy. They failed. Former President Trump's actions preceded the riot were a disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty. There is no question. None. That President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The violence, destruction, and chaos we saw earlier was unacceptable, undemocratic and un-American.
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. SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Trump and I, we've had a hell of a
journey. I hate it being this way. My God, I hate it. From my point of view, he's been a consequential brother. But today the first thing you'll see. All I can say is count me out. Enough is enough.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): The president's language and rhetoric crossed a line and it was reckless.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): Chaos, anarchy, the violence today was wrong and un-American.
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): Once you start taking violent actions against law enforcement, you're not a protester anymore. You're an anarchist. You know, whether it is anarchy or terrorism. They were trying to storm the capitol and stop our democracy from working.
UNKNOWN: This has been a truly tragic day for America. And we all join together in fully condemning the dangerous violence and destruction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): How can you believe anything that comes out of their mouths now? I mean, where is the standard? Where are the morals? Where is the backbone? Where is the ability to stand up to an autocrat?
The Republican Party had their chance. They had a moment. They actually were doing the right thing. Speaking the truth and then somehow, they made a conscious decision to put their own political lives ahead of the life of our democracy. To side with the big lie and a very big liar.
And that's how the party of Lincoln, apart from a handful who refuse to capitulate, that's how that party becomes fully and completely the party of Trump. A party that stands for nothing. Nothing but defending the former president and denying the truth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): The president didn't incite anything.
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): We have a January 6th committee that Nancy Pelosi is leading that is nothing but a political witch hunt on Republicans and Trump supporters.
UNKNOWN: As they have proven yet again today, over and over again, they only care about attacking their political enemies.
UNKNOWN: It has turned out to be nothing more than a partisan committee just to investigate the former president.
UNKNOWN: We've seen plenty of video of people in the capitol. And they weren't rioting. They don't -- it doesn't look like an armed insurrection when you have people who breached the capitol. I don't condone it but they're staying within the rope lines in the rotunda. That's not what an armed insurrection would look like.
UNKNOWN: Fewer firearms from suspects charged with breaching the capitol.
UNKNOWN: In fact, it was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day. Not trump supporters who were taking the lives of others.
REP. ANDREW CLYDE (R-GA): I can tell you, the House floor was never breached and it was not an insurrection. If you didn't know the TV footage was a video from January 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): I mean, again, how can you believe anything that comes out of their mouths? Everybody -- they -- they have to know. Because we know those are complete lies. We know what happened. We saw it with our own eyes.
The Republicans were mostly making themselves scarce today as the capitol remembered January 6th. Only two, Liz Cheney and her father, the former vice president of the United States. They were on the House floor for among the silence. Dick Cheney had strong words for Republican leaders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's not a leadership that resembles any of the folks I knew when I was here for 10 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): We saw on January 6th. What we saw was seared in our memory. It is. No matter how many we might wish we could forget it. It is seared in our memory. This is what it was. This is what it was like as rioters ran wild in the United States Capitol and our democracy was in the balance. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: USA! USA! USA!
UNKNOWN: They're striking the window.
UNKNOWN: Get in! Get in!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Normal tourist visit, right? I told you we've got an exclusive interview tonight with the man who was in charge of holding the line against a mob of rioters, trying to break into the capitol one year ago. He is speaking out for the very first time tonight on this program. And we were granted exclusive, unprecedented access to the capitol's west terrace tunnel entrance to speak with D.C. Metropolitan Police Commander Ramey Kyle and former D.C. police officer Michael Fanone.
These are two heroes. Two heroes who defended the capitol. They returned to the scene of a brutal violent battle that lasted hours, one year later. If this was a war for democracy, this tunnel is the battlefield where officers held back thousands of rioters. And make no mistake. The battle was crucial.
If officers hadn't been able to hold it, the outcome of that day would have been very different. Letting rioters straight into the heart of the capitol. History would have been different. Few men can say that their fight changed the course of history, but they and their fellow officers can say that.
Let me just show you. This is what it was like inside of that tunnel. We have sped up the video as police retreated to show you just how they found themselves holding the line against a sea of angry rioters. The battle there would rage for hours with some of the fiercest fighting of the entire day.
But that same entrance is also known for a very different reason. You may not know that. That entrance, right? That is a doorway where presidents come out from the capitol to take the oath of office in front of the nation. Literally, a gateway to the peaceful transition of power that for more than 200 years stood as a beacon of the strength of our democracy.
Can you believe that? I realized that today when walking down those steps and through that tunnel and out of that, the entrance. And now that same doorway will forever be tied to a day when rioters tried to take down our democracy.
So here is our exclusive with D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Ramey Kyle and former officer Michael Fanone. They took me through how the chaos unfolded and how close we came to disaster.
MICHAEL FANONE, FORMER D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE OFFICER: I heard a radio transmission come out for a distress call from the west terrace tunnel. That's where we encountered Commander Kyle.
UNKNOWN: Keep on the door. Hold it.
FANONE: Who was orchestrating the defense of the capitol from the Lower West Terrace tunnel. And he was commanding about 40 or 50 MPD officers, and about a half dozen U.S. capitol police officers who were standing shoulder to shoulder, body against body, fighting back thousands of violent rioters.
Come on MPD dig in! Push them back! Dig in!
RAMEY KYLE, FORMER COMMANDER, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT: I know Mike pretty much my whole career. I had no idea that he was standing right next to me. I couldn't see. I could barely breathe. But I know that, you know, we had a job to do and, you know, we're not in the business of failing. We're going to hold this door at all costs no matter what. This is the capitol. We're not losing the capitol. Not this day, not ever.
I felt that my job was really just to keep these officers motivated. Because the odds were definitely not in our favor. There were thousands and thousands of people here trying to get in. And we had maybe 40 officers at one point, holding back all these violent rioters.
LEMON: These were your doors. And you wanted to hold these doors.
KYLE: There was a lot on the table that day. And you know, we weren't going to lose. No matter what. We weren't going to lose. Not here. Not these doors.
LEMON: So, I mean, right here is where we saw most of the action. The glass -- they broke the glass out, right?
FANONE: Yes. The glass was gone in a matter of seconds.
LEMON: I can't believe these are still standing.
FANONE: Well, the doors are still here. I guess they repaired the glass.
LEMON: This is the part where we saw people going, heave, ho, trying to push people through. This is where Hodges (Ph) was squeezed in here?
FANONE: Yes. Yes.
KYLE: In these doors.
UNKNOWN: This guy is squeezed.
LEMON: Tell me what was happening here, commander.
KYLE: So, in these doors which, it's amazing to be back. They look so small. Because in my mind, you ought to think from this door to that t-shaped hallway, it was like a half a mile. Like I say, because we were fighting on our inches the whole time.
The doors were broken. We started lining officers up, about five or six, shoulder to shoulder. Five or six deep. They were in hand-to-hand combat holding this door. Keeping everybody that was out here hat want to get inside. Because as you know this goes right to the, right to the crypt here. That's the rotunda. It seems they were here (Inaudible) the whole complex.
LEMON: It seemed small?
KYLE: Absolutely. But I think it's just, because we were fighting over inches, you know. In my mind, I mean, literally if they had pushed us back three or four more inches, we might have lost it. Because you know, once you get, there is a hallway here. There is a hallway here. You're inside the complex.
LEMON: You said that day, we are not losing the U.C. Capitol.
UNKNOWN: We are in peril. Come on.
KYLE: We are not losing the U.S. Capitol today! Do you hear me? We are not losing the U.S. Capitol.
LEMON: You think this was the thing that was holding everything together.
KYLE: I did. I thought this was the only place that was in jeopardy of being breached. But then, you know, later we heard over the radio that they were inside upstairs. We heard that there were shots fired. There was a discussion if we should just abandon this. Because we were afraid that people would come from behind. You know, we would be fighting on two fronts.
But I told everybody, I said, I don't know how many people are upstairs. I was like, because I knew there were thousands out there and they all wanted to get in. We're not letting those people in. And it seemed to me like they were some of the most violent, you know, violent people in that crowd were right here. It all got concentrated right in this hallway right at these doors.
LEMON: Did you think if they came around, that they would surround you guys? Were you worried about --
LEMON: -- being trapped?
KYLE: Absolutely. You know, I actually sent a couple officers to the top just to kind of give us a little warning if they did come down that way so we could kind of readjust our plan. So that was definitely a big fear.
LEMON: So, it was moment to moment.
KYLE: Absolutely. Second to second.
LEMON: Did you ever think at any moment like, we've lost this. We're never going to --
KYLE: You know, there was -- there was a couple times where I definitely -- I definitely doubted it. But I'm telling you, what got me through was I saw people, the officers I had worked with my whole career. You know, I trusted, I just kind of see them, kind of lock eyes. I knew if they were there, it would be OK. You know, and if they were focusing to me if I was there (Inaudible) they were going to be OK.
LEMON: What do you think of this place when you see and you come into the capitol? KYLE: I mean, I definitely think about that day, I think about the
importance of this building, what happens here. I started my law enforcement career as a U.S. Capitol police officer before becoming a D.C. police. So, I definitely have a strong connection to this building. I just believe in America and what this stands for.
LEMON: This seems smaller than he remembers.
LEMON: And to you?
FANONE: Absolutely the same. I remember the first time that I came down to the tunnel after January 6th. It was actually the day that I was up here with Brian Sicknick's mother, and Sandra Garza, his fiance, and I remember I came down to the crypt and then walked down to the Lower West Terrace tunnel --
LEMON: Right through --
FANONE: -- right through doors. I was like, man, so much bigger than I remember. Just very different. When I was in there on January 6th, it was like a war zone. Like, Ramey described it was just littered with weapons, debris, CS gas, like residual gas just kind of floating in the air. It created this like mist or like a haze. And it's surreal.
LEMON (on camera): It really was surreal. All you had to do was look at your TV screen to see the images right in front of you. Insurrectionists attacking our capitol for hours on end.
Next, the officers show me what happened on the stairs and terrace outside the tunnel in a deadly struggle.
LEMON (on camera): We're back now with our exclusive, unprecedented access to the West Terrace Tunnel that was the scene of the climactic battle for the capitol. My friend and former D.C. Officer Michael Fanone and Commander Ramey Kyle took me to the spot where he was dragged into the crowd and nearly lost his life.
LEMON: So, this is where the action happened on that date. Both of you were here. This is where you got dragged into the crowd and where you were fighting for your life. So, when you got here, and you walked and you got pulled out here. What were you thinking, Mike? Walk us through it. FANONE: So, I think when I first realized that I was losing control,
getting pulled out into the crowd. I was just up here at this set of double doors. It's a little bit misleading. At that time, the inaugural stage was still up and these steps were covered by a platform.
But as the officers who are defending the tunnel, all of us were, you know, repelling this onslaught of attackers, the momentum of those officers pushed me all the way out kind, to the threshold of this tunnelway here.
LEMON: Right here?
FANONE: Yes. And at that point, an individual, I believe who has been identified as Albuquerque Head, grabbed a hold of me and continued to pull me out.
LEMON: How far did he pull you out, walk us out here?
FANONE: I would say probably about 250, maybe 300 feet from the tunnel entrance way. All the while I was being pulled out. I was being beaten from every direction with fists, objects, pepper sprayed.
And then once I was able to kind of get my bearings, that's when I began to experience the electroshock from a taser device. So, I was tasered several times at the back of my neck. There were individuals in the crowd that were trying to strip me of my weapon. My badge was removed. My police radio was removed. And ammunition magazine from my belt was also removed. And all the while, I was being beat. So, I remember yelling out that I have kids.
You can't do this. I got kids!
And at that point, there were some members of the crowd that intervened on my behalf and allowed officers who were in the tunnel enough time to get to me. And retrieve me and bring me back into the tunnel.
LEMON: How long do you think you were out here?
FANONE: Man. I was not out here that long. Maybe 10 minutes or so, 15 minutes at the most.
LEMON: That's a long time, Mike.
FANONE: Yes. I mean, I guess in the grand scheme of things, I was thinking about -- like I relate my experience to the hundreds of other officers that fought here. And like I said, I've told you a bunch of times. Like I came late to this party and I left early. You know, hundreds of officers, you know, Ray included, spent hours defending the west front of the capitol.
LEMON: So, when you came down the stairs, did you say holy shit. This is -- KYLE: Yes.
LEMON: Is that when you realized?
KYLE: You know, even before I got here because you could, as I came from over here. You could hear all the screaming. You could hear all the yelling and you could smell the pepper spray. And so, like, I mean, it was like I was walking down into a war zone.
LEMON: What were you thinking?
KYLE: I was like, man, we got a lot of work to do. I knew it was going to be a long day.
LEMON: Were you scared?
KYLE: No. There was -- there wasn't time to be scared.
LEMON: Could you believe that this was happening at the capitol in the United States?
KYLE: No. Absolutely not. No. Absolutely not.
LEMON: What was your first confrontation?
KYLE: It was probably, it was right out here. I kind of helped start shoring up some of our defenses here to the south of this terrace. The bicycle racks, they were really kind of a force multiplier for us. I mean, we fought all the way the stairs. All the way up. Things were being thrown at us.
LEMON: You went down into this and then you had to fight all the way to get back. Were you trying to get back into safety or just trying to get back to help people hold the line or both?
KYLE: We were trying to pull all our officers back up here. Because we couldn't hold that down there. So, we kind of, this was going to be our new -- our new fighting stance. A new place where we were going to hold and that was (Inaudible).
LEMON: So, you were getting, people were trying to use bike racks against you.
LEMON: Did you get hit?
LEMON: By what?
KYLE: I don't know. You name it. I mean, they were taking pieces of construction debris off of the stage. They were pulling the stage off. I mean, it seemed like rebar, pieces of wood. There was a big lamp post at one point that was thrown at us. I mean, anything that they could get. Anything that they could tear. Anything they brought with them.
I mean, at one point in the tunnel, I looked down and there was nothing but baseball bats and hammers and wrenches and any kind of hard object you could think of that had been thrown at us or used against us.
LEMON: You were being hit by you said hammers and all kinds of things. Because people were saying they weren't armed that day.
KYLE: They were armed. I had one of their pistols in my pocket.
LEMON: So, they had guns. And so, you were being hit by that. You were being threatened with possible gunfire and you're being pepper sprayed.
LEMON: And so, by the time you get there, you are -- what's going on?
KYLE: Well, we piled in the door. We locked the doors. I thought these doors were bomb proof, bullet proof. I thought we actually had a little chance to catch a breather. And it seemed like 45 seconds, they broke through those doors and the fight was on.
LEMON: Did you see the officers being squeezed?
KYLE: You know, I was towards the back. So, I could hear a lot of that. At one point I stood upon the x-ray machine to try to get a better look. However, that just kind of made me a target for the bear spray. So, you know, I was getting up there. But I'm definitely proud of what we did. I guess the other emotion I have is just disgust that that day even happened.
You know, I'm just disgusted that so many people lost their lives. People were injured. Property was damaged. The capitol was breached. And it was all for nothing. I'm just disgusted that even happened.
LEMON: What do you mean all for nothing? They thought that they were on a righteous mission.
KYLE: Yes. I'm just disgusted by it.
LEMON: Would you do it all over again?
KYLE: Absolutely. Absolutely. Hopefully it never happens.