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Insurrection One Year Later; Interview With Former White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 06, 2022 - 15:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: You see what happened to Congresswoman Cheney, jettisoned from, in her state, even the Republican Party.

I just wonder the confidence that you have. What fuels that confidence, considering what we're seeing happen to Liz Cheney and still many of your party not believing in the work of the committee?


As I was watching her, I was thinking again that with what happened to her getting stripped of some of her duties by leadership from the Republican Party, all because she was talking about the past too much, and look at this former president, and it's all he's focused on.

But to answer your question, I'm hopeful. I really believe that there's a group, a core group of people who can -- who've had experiences that no one else has. And this is coming -- this is not easy for any of us. This is difficult.

It's -- personally, you're getting threats. It's too little too late. There's -- we all understand that. But these people that hopefully will be coming together next week and getting bigger, this group will be getting bigger, I hope we are going to be able to talk to people, again, like I said, and express why we were believers and tell the truth about what actually happened behind the scenes.

I have talked to people so far on my own, and people are shocked when I kind of tell them things that went on and why things really happened the way they did. And I will say, today, just after announcing the forming of this group, I can't believe how many messages of support I have gotten from perfect strangers, offers of help, please go fight.

People have been feeling like they have to be quiet and feel lonely. And so that's kind of boosting my confidence a little bit too.

I'm not going to lie, though. It's scary. This group is scary to go up against.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Totally understood. And it might end up being futile. We don't know. Or you might be able to speak the language, as you say, of these true believers and actually make an impact, because you know it from the inside. And, look, we know the power of Olivia Troye. And we have spoken to

her many times, as well as other people who are in this group. Is there anybody who's in this group who will surprise us, whose name will surprise us that hasn't come forward before with criticism?

GRISHAM: Well, I'm not going to get ahead. I'm just going to say I hope so. And I will leave it at that.


CAMEROTA: Stephanie, one more thing I wanted to ask you.

And that was you were in the White House a year ago. And I don't mean physically in the White House. I know you were working remotely. But you were working in the White House a year ago today. And as the horror unfolded, did you think that President Trump, knowing him the way you did, did you think he was going to do something and intervene?

Did you know that he was going to enjoy the violence, as the reports have suggested that he did as he watched it all unfold on TV?

GRISHAM: That's a really good question. Nobody's ever asked me that.

No, I didn't think he was going to do anything. And I -- yes, it didn't surprise me that he was enjoying it. He likes fighters. He would like it -- like, for us, me -- I will talk about myself. Go on TV, Stephanie. Be a fighter. The more you can be a fighter, the more approval you get from him. He's impressed by strength. You can't show weakness.

And so I knew that, for him, watching all those people in MAGA hats waving Trump flags were fighting. And he's saying now they were fighting because the election was stolen. No, they were fighting because he lied to them and he manipulated them. And that is what he does. He manipulates people, myself included.

So I wasn't surprised. As you know by now, I was surprised by Mrs. Trump's response. And that's what ultimately broke me. But I wasn't surprised by him at all.

BLACKWELL: So this is a day, of course, that we commemorate what happened a year ago, the threats to lives there on Capitol Hill, literally threats to kill the vice president, going after members of Congress, but also the threat to the democracy here in the United States.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis says that what he's seeing, what Americans will see today is a holiday for some. I want you to listen to the cynicism from Governor DeSantis.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Today is going to be -- I mean, honestly, I'm not going to watch any of it, but you're going to see the D.C. New York media. I mean, this is their Christmas, January 6, OK?

They are going to take this and milk this for anything they could to try to be able to smear anyone who ever supported Donald Trump.


BLACKWELL: In your speaking to the true believers, how should people cast this day, from your perspective?

GRISHAM: It was a terrible day in our history.

And watching DeSantis speak, I can't speak for him.


CAMEROTA: I'm sorry to interrupt you, Stephanie.

We hear that Congresswoman Jayapal is going to start speaking now.

Really appreciate talking to you.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): ... for your leadership.

My colleagues, this is a somber day for our democracy, as we mark one year from the deadliest and most destructive attack on our Capitol since the War of 1812.


Like many of you trapped in the House Gallery, I remember every moment vividly. I viscerally feel the pounding on the Gallery doors. I hear the shot ringing out. I replay how I made plans to use my gas mask and my cane, newly at my side from a five-week-old knee replacement surgery, to fight back if attacked.

And I remember not knowing if I would make it out of our seat of democracy alive, or if our democracy itself would survive.

But January 6 was also the day that we saved our democracy. And the we I am referring to is broad and deep, all the voters that came out in the most important election in our lifetimes, that delivered us a new president who is not corrupted by his love of power and lack of regard for our Constitution, the many Capitol Police officers who put so much on the line to stop the insurrectionists, the Capitol staff, the journalists, our own staff, and so many more who were both witnesses and victims, and, yes, all of us, as members of Congress who went back that night to certify that election, because it was our job, the very thing we came to this place to do.

The challenge with today for me is that we are not marking something that is over and done with. The danger is still clear, and it is still present. Our democracy is very fragile. And the cult of the big lie is still very much in action, with the help of the vast majority of our colleagues on the other side, who continue to try to rewrite or ignore history, its own form of violence on all those who saw and experienced that day. And that is why the work of the select committee and the Department of

Justice to bring accountability is so critically important, because there is no healing without truth and justice.

So, today is also about the work ahead. It is about the resolve that we must have to not stop until every single person who was involved in the insurrection is held fully accountable.

It is about bringing to justice a president who was dead set on overturning an election. And it is about understanding that January 6 is not divorced from the 400-plus pieces of voter suppression legislation introduced in the past 365 days.

To take on this concerted effort to undermine democracy, our work ahead must include signing into law strong voting rights legislation. Let us not gloss over the fact that, in the year since this deadly attack, we have all had to do our jobs and be human. We have done that in the face of denials of truth and rewriting of history from the very colleagues who were running for their own lives that day.

So, I am once again reminded that being human is a courageous act. It means you are willing to fight for the things that are the hardest, to even be disappointed or hurt or angered, but to still do what is right and what is just, because that is the only way that change happens.

Our courage and our resolve only grow from this crisis and the responsibility that is upon us to protect our democracy for years to come.


REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Thank you, Pramila Jayapal.

I now recognize my friend and fellow veteran Mikie Sherrill from New Jersey.

REP. MIKIE SHERRILL (D-NJ): Well, thank you, Jason.

It's truly an honor to be here with everyone today, my Gallery group friends, the Sicknick family. There were so many acts of courage that day. And I'm standing here, and I want to share with you that I have a deep and abiding faith in the people of this country. I have so much hope for our children, and so much love and faith in our country.

And I want to share a couple stories from that day, so you know why.

I will tell you two stories of people I was with that day and one story of someone I wasn't with.

First of all, Dan Kildee, I heard you make that call to your family. I don't think you thought you were going to leave the floor safely that day.


And yet you used that trauma. You had the courage to share it with people across this country, as so many people have been suffering their own mental health problems.

And I think, because of your courage in doing that, people across this country have sought out the mental health treatment they need. When I think about that day, I think of Pramila Jayapal, who just heard from.

Pramila, I can't imagine being on the floor, having the House attacked, and not even being sure that, as we needed to flee that room, if you could walk. And as we went down stairway after stairway after stairway, when I could feel your knee buckling, your calm, dignity and courage in leading people to safety will stay with me.

And, finally, I have to share my feelings about someone who was not with me in the Gallery group who was there that day.

You know, when you serve in the military, you see acts of physical courage quite often, but when you get out of the military, and you start serving your country in different ways, you realize that often what is called upon is for moral courage. And you see acts of moral courage far more infrequently.

And so I think it's appropriate to point out one person who I think has shown a great deal of moral courage, someone who stood up for her country, at great personal cost, and that's Liz Cheney, a person who truly has done her duty to our country.

And so, as I stand here, I simply want to say to all of you, God bless all of you and your families. God bless the Capitol Police officers, like Officer Sicknick, who enabled us all to go home to our families. God bless the Congress of the United States of America. And God bless the United States of America.


BLACKWELL: All right, more moments of reflection from members of Congress there.

And there was a moment that happened this afternoon where the members paid tribute to Brian Sicknick, one of the officers who lost his life after the insurrection. I believe we have some of that we can show. Can we play that?

Do we have that?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... Brian Sicknick, Charles and Gladys Sicknick, have joined us today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you please stand, Charles and Gladys, and be recognized?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And for those of you joining us at home, Brian Sicknick was an officer who gave his life.


BLACKWELL: Gladys Sicknick has met with several members of Congress, trying to urge them initially to vote for the commission, the 9/11- style commission, to learn what led to the insurrection that day, unfortunately unsuccessfully, from her perspective, to get the members of Congress to get that record.

Let's bring now back John Avlon, and joining the conversation, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, CNN anchor and chief domestic correspondent Jim Acosta, and CNN political commentator Charlie Dent. He's a former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania.

John Avlon, let me start with you.

And we have heard from Republicans who have tried to criticize the president's speech this morning as partisan. However, the only Republicans on the floor today during that moment of silence, Liz Cheney, former Vice President and former Republican House Whip Dick Cheney.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, who had withering comments about the current state of the GOP.

And I think, to put it in perspective, I mean, think about all the other dates in American history that we know by their number, December 11, November 22, 9/11, January 6. It would be impossible to imagine the one-year anniversary being memorialized in an almost entirely partisan way, because our nation united and rallied together.

But that disunity and the fact that critics today are calling President Biden's speech political or partisan entirely misses the point.

The point is the backdrop of the big lie subsuming the vast majority of the Republican Party and the real need for the country to have Republicans stand up to Donald Trump to defend our democracy, which is why the Liz Cheneys of the world and the Adam Kinzingers are real heroes in terms of standing up to that pressure that has completely consumed the rest of their political party and stopped us from being able to unite as a nation around a moment that should really wake us up from this hyperpartisan fever we have suffered under.


CAMEROTA: Jim Acosta, I want to jump to you, because, just before this, we were talking to Stephanie Grisham, former press secretary in the Trump White House.

And it was very interesting to hear what she thought was going to unfold that day as she watched the horror. She did not think, she said, that President Trump was going to intervene, because she knows him and she knows that he likes what he calls fighters and that people were fighting for him. And, as we know from the reporting, he was enjoying it on some level

as he watched. I understand that you have some new reporting about that day.


As we all remember, he was watching it on TV that day. And I spoke with a former Trump White House official just a short while ago, who I should mention is cooperating with the January 6 Committee.

And this official told me that, just around one year from now, this was about 2:38 p.m., Trump put out a tweet. And we can put this up on screen. It says: "Please support our Capitol Police and law enforcement. They are truly on the side of our country. Stay peaceful" was how that tweet ended.

This former official that I spoke with -- there you see the tweet on screen. This former official I spoke with says Trump initially resisted the idea of including the words "Stay peaceful" in that tweet. He did not want to use those words "Stay peaceful," according to this former White House official who was working in the West Wing that day as the insurrection was unfolding.

And it took Ivanka Trump, it took the former White House chief of staff, then-chief of staff at the time, Mark Meadows, to convince Trump to include that "Stay peaceful" message.

I remember this tweet very well, guys, because, on that day, I was reading that tweet on the air to say, OK, the president has now finally responded to the violence at the Capitol. Here is the tweet that he is putting out.

Unbeknownst to all of us, he was resisting the idea of including any kind of message in there to knock off this violence that was taking place at the Capitol. It wasn't until the following hour, in the 3:00 hour, right around this time that we're speaking right now, that he included a word or two about not resorting to violence, as the mob was already inside the Capitol and wreaking havoc and sending lawmakers running for their lives.

But it is this one official's account, which is -- I should mention, has been relayed to the January 6 Committee, is just more evidence, more testimony that they're looking at as they assess Trump's actions and inactions that day, which, as we know, is a key line of inquiry in this entire investigation.


Dana, the tweet referenced law enforcement. We heard from one of those members of law enforcement today, Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn. And it stuck out to me that he said -- he was asked about what it feels like on this anniversary of the insurrection. He says, it doesn't feel like an anniversary because it's not over. It doesn't feel like it's over. From another perspective, the residue of that day, we have heard from

members, is still in the House chamber. It's still in the environment, still poisons the discourse.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And in many ways, it's hard to imagine, but when it comes to the discourse, it's worse, because of the fact that people who believe what they see with their own two eyes, people who accept the reality that this insurrection, this attack on the Capitol, this attack on democracy itself happened are sitting there looking at their colleagues who are denying what they experienced, and doing that in order to have a viable political career.

And that is why the Adam Kinzingers and Liz Cheneys stand out in such a profound way, because, in Adam Kinzinger his case, he's leaving Congress, and Liz Cheney has a very, very robust Republican opponent back in Wyoming who is supported by Donald Trump.

So that is the reason why the residue is so much thicker, is so much more pronounced even when it comes to our politics, not the physical violence, of course, but when it comes to our politics a year later, because, as John Avlon said, just looking through history, understanding how America generally acts and reacts to major traumas that unfold on our soil, it's usually a uniting experience.

And that unity was fleeting. It lasted for minutes inside the Capitol and around the country, until the conspiracies and the lies took hold once again.


CAMEROTA: Congressman Dent, we have earlier on the program had on Senator Dick Durbin. We have had Olivia Troye.

Both of them have spoken about how they're more worried today than they were a year ago about the state of democracy, because we saw it was a stress test, a national stress test, a year ago, but there were a few guardrails that held.

Now, since then, we have seen everything that's happening on the local level, with election officials being replaced by Trump cronies. Where are you a year later?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think we should celebrate something for a moment, the fact that our institutions did hold.

Now, election officials around the country like Brad Raffensperger and other election officials in states like Pennsylvania and Arizona did their duties and did not -- did not succumb to the pressure of Donald Trump. And state legislatures like mine in Pennsylvania, Republican- controlled, they did not offer alternative slates of electors. So the system held. The courts held.

There are a lot of people who did the right thing. We should be grateful for that. But we all thought -- at least I thought that January 6 was the end of it. But, sadly, it feels like it's the beginning of something more serious, this backsliding of democratic values.

And this is continuing. And I would also like to point out, too, that what was so emotional about this for me was to watch that individual carry the Confederate Flag, Battle Flag, draped over his shoulder walking through the Capitol.

Now, as a member of the party of Lincoln, I was so upset and offended by that. It was only within a few 100 feet of the memorials to the first defenders from places like Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Pottsville, who answered Lincoln's call to defend the Capitol from the Confederate rebellion at the time.

And, to me, this is why this is so awful. I mean, so many crimes were committed that day, and probably the most significant of which was that the former president aided and abetted in this mob's attempt to obstruct the Congress from performing its official duties, that is, to certify the Electoral College vote.

I mean, that's what this is about. This is such a big deal. And it just -- it's so upsetting to me, I was so upset the day this happened watching it. I was on CNN live. And I just couldn't believe what I was watching.

To hear Heiko Maas, the former German foreign minister, on that day said this, to him, was analogous to the burning of the Reichstag in 1933. Mind you, these are people who are not prone to inflammatory rhetoric. That's when the Nazis burned down their parliamentary building, the Reichstag, in 1933.

And that was their view of what was happening here in Washington. So this is a really seminal event in our history. And we must condemn those actions and hold people to account. And I think Republican Party has to be much more forceful on this issue than they have been.

We have had some good examples, but not enough.


But they're not going to. They're not going to hold them accountable, Congressman. I mean, the reason why they're not going to hold Donald Trump accountable is, he is the leader of their party. And the leader of the Republican Party -- and this just has to be said on this day -- Donald Trump stabbed America in the back on January 6 a year ago.

That is what happened. He led an insurrection, a coup attempt in this country. And as we're hearing from different individuals who are speaking to the January 6 Committee, he was letting it unfold. He was letting this violence unfold to see what would happen. And he did not, I guess, come off of the ledge, come off of the end of that tree branch until he found out that it was going to be unsuccessful.

I am very pessimistic about the prospects that somehow the GOP is going to somehow have a come to Jesus moment here, when they're just coming to Trump. That's all they're doing.

DENT: Well, it's interesting.

I have always said I don't know what part of losing people are happy about. I mean, when you look at -- I think one of the reasons why Donald Trump has been so upset ever since that election is because that 2020 election was a rejection of him. Republicans did extremely well in that election down-ballot, extraordinarily well, in many cases, exceeded expectations.

He was rejected. And I keep saying that to my Republican friends. If he decides to run again in 2024, what part of losing are you going to enjoy here? I mean, he is going to get drubbed again, because of his conduct in office. And, frankly, he seems unwell to me. He always has, even before all this insurrection business.

So I think that, when Republicans -- at the end of the day, they want to win, they want to be in power. The problem is too many of them need Trump to get through their primaries. But for those who are smart, and understand political reality, they have to win these swing voters. And they can't win these swing voters with that big anvil hanging around their necks.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, unless they have installed Trump acolytes in all of the election positions.

ACOSTA: Right.

BASH: Exactly.

CAMEROTA: But we have to leave it there for the moment. We're going to take a very quick break.

John Avlon, Jim Acosta, Dana Bash, Charlie Dent, please stay with us.


Also, tonight on CNN, Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper have an unprecedented gathering inside the Capitol with police, lawmakers and leaders. It's "Live From the Capitol: January 6 One Year Later." It begins at 8:00 on CNN.

So, as we head to break, here are more sights from the day of the insurrection.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Protesters are inside Statuary Hall right now.

You see the statues. This is a moment I never saw in my life.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: I have been in Washington for decades now. I have never seen anything like this. And, again, President Trump, if he wanted to -- and there is really no reason to think he wants to -- he could stop this. He could stop it with one tweet. And he will not because, frankly, he likes this.