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Inside Politics

Interview With Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO); Insurrection One Year Later. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired January 06, 2022 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, everybody. I'm John King live on Capitol Hill. This is CNN's special live coverage of the insurrection one year later.

A moment of silence here at the Capitol about an hour ago to honor the sacrifice of the men and women who protected this building from the mob, Speaker Nancy Pelosi reading the names of the fallen law enforcement officers on the House floor.

Also last hour, a remarkable scene. The former Republican Vice President Dick Cheney, who served in the House many years ago, accompanied his daughter Liz Cheney, inside the House chamber, where Mr. Cheney spoke with reporters, his words aimed squarely at current- day Republican leaders who give Donald Trump's big lie a pass.


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.


KING: Also this morning, a forceful speech from the president of the United States Joe Biden.

The president's warning? Our democracy remains one year later quite fragile, Biden telling the nation today he will climb into the foxhole, as he put it, to win the battle of our time.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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. And I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of our democracy.

We will make sure the will of the people is heard, that the ballot prevails, not violence, that authority in this nation will always be peacefully transferred.


KING: Biden also reminding the country this morning of some simple truths that too many Republicans want to deny. They are these. Donald Trump last. Donald Trump is a former president.

Now, President Biden never wants us Trump's name, but 16 times, 16 times he referenced the former president. And he made clear that, in his view, the former president put a dagger to the throat of American democracy with his big lie, and then watched for hours as the mob paraded through the halls of the Capitol Building behind me.

With me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Dana Bash and CNN's Melanie Zanona.

And, Melanie Zanona, you were among those inside that building when it was breached.


And one of the moments that really stands out to me is when we were thrown into the House chamber, and the doors were locked, the chaplain started praying over us and they started handing out gas masks. And they said the Capitol has been breached. And it was in that moment that I realized, this is real, and we are in serious danger.

I mean, so often around here, there are bomb threats. It happens quite often. And throughout the day, we were in so much denial that this was actually happening. I told my family members this is the safest building in America right now. I'm OK. And that just wasn't true.

It's also pretty remarkable that, in those moments, you had so many members of Congress who were on the floor and they were going out each other. That's something else I remember is the tension that was filling the room that day that still exists very much today.

KING: Right. Still exists.

And I think that's a very important point, because there are many Republicans, Trump apologists and Trump sycophants, who want to say, you're making too much of that day. It was just another day in our polarized politics, which is why it was important the president tried to make the point today -- and this is important, whatever your politics -- listen, that, no, no, no, no, no, no. Yes, our politics may be divided, but that date was different.


BIDEN: 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.


KING: Both directions, if you will, of what the president says are important. He wants people to look back and say, don't listen to them. When they tell you it's just another day, it was just a protest, it was just this -- no, that Donald Trump was trying to stop, his supporters were trying to block.

The Republicans who objected, even though all the recounts had been done, all the lawsuits had been thrown out, they were trying to stop the peaceful transfer of power, period.


And that's why it is important to remember that what happened here on this Capitol campus was the violent climax to something that had been building, thanks to the lies of the then-president, not just from Election Day to January 6 and to today, but, even before that, he was sowing the seeds of mistrust, of distrust of the elections just in the off-chance, from his perspective, that Joe Biden would win.


It was a very, very methodical move that he made. And the fact is that what happened here was something that actually should be remembered as a moment in history. And there are -- there is another news organization -- and I use -- even though I have friends who are true reporters who work at FOX, but for the most part, particularly in evening programming, I think it's -- this is one of the days where it's important to call out they are making fun of these remembrances.

They are pretending like we are all hysterical in trying to memorialize and capture what happened on that historic, horrible, violent day here in the Capitol. And it is reprehensible.

KING: Because they are...

BASH: And they know better.

KING: They know they, but they are still a propaganda outlet for him.

And they are still trying to cover up their own involvement in the big lie and in the attack on democracy and the attack on institutions, which is why, look, it'll be fascinating to watch how this plays out in this midterm election year. It'll be fascinating to watch how it plays out the investigation, but the president of the United States today trying to shake people, maybe people who didn't vote for him, say, this day was different.



BIDEN: Finally, the third big lie being told by a former president and his supporters is that the mob who sought to impose their will through violence are the nation's true patriots. Is that what you thought when you looked at the mob ransacking the

Capitol, destroying property, literally defecating in the hallways, rifling through desks of senators and representatives, hunting down members of congress?

Patriots? Not in my view.


KING: You don't have to believe us.

And this is really an important message for people at home who might still believe lies or fantasies or support the former president. You don't have to believe Joe Biden. You don't believe any of us. You can find all this. You can see it with your own eyes.

They beat police officers for the party that says it back to the blue. They ransacked a shrine of American democracy. They were trying to stop the election. But the fact that the president of the United States has to use blunt language like that one year later to try to shake people to accept what happens is part of the problem, not his problem, but it's part of the country's problem.

ZANONA: It is. It's not his fault, but it's still very terrifying.

I mean, usually, when you have a national tragedy like this, there would be a shared sense of trauma, a shared sense of experience. I thought today would be a little bit differently than it does for me.

But, as Dana was mentioning, there are people out there making fun of people like me who have come forward and talked about my experience, saying it's being overdramatized and ridiculing us for speaking up and speaking out.

I mean, part of the problem, of course, is the Republican Party for not standing up, for continuing to embrace the lies. And I think there's a lot of Republicans who know that the election wasn't stolen. I think Marjorie Taylor Greene maybe truly believes that. But there are so many other Republicans -- and you know this too, Dana -- that do not believe it, voted anyway to overturn the election, because they just did not have the political courage to stand up.

BASH: And that's the thing, is that for the people who have come to believe these lies, you have some sympathy or empathy for them, because they have, for whatever reason, come to actually listen to people who are lying to them. I mean, we have seen that happen throughout history. People believe propaganda, conspiracies.

But so many people who walk these halls know better, and they are allowing it to happen. And what the January 6 Committee in releasing methodically some of the text messages from the prime-time FOX News hosts exposed is that they know better, and they're acting. And that makes it even more hard to wrap your mind around.

KING: Right, that the cynicism of it makes the crime, the continuing conspiracy to undermine democracy even more so, which is why, again, it's an important point.

This should be in a moment of American reflection. That's our Capitol Building, everybody's, Democrat, Republican, independent. It's everybody's Capitol Building. It was attacked by American citizens. The president of the United States lit the fuse.

Everyone should stop and say whoa in a moment like that. But we can show the pictures on the House floor today as the House speaker -- yes, she's a Democrat. She's also an American. As the House speaker led this moment of silence, there were two Republicans, one a sitting member, Liz Cheney, who has defied Trump with courage and is on this committee now investigating, and her father, the former vice president of the United States, Gerald Ford's chief of staff back in the Ford White House days, the defense secretary, the vice president of the United States, a former member of the House, who thought one day he might be speaker.

He was a member of the House Republican leadership. You have to go back through the generations to find a Republican who's willing to say, I will stand up for my country first. America comes before Democrat or Republican.

ZANONA: I mean, who would have thought Dick Cheney would be the hero on the left today?

There was -- I was just in the chamber, actually, and Democrats were lining up to speak to him. Speaker Pelosi, I talked to her after she left. And she said, "We were honored that he was there" and thanked him for that courage.


There were no other Republicans in the building today, except for Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, because the truth is, most Republicans just don't want to talk about January 6, because talking about January 6 means to acknowledge former President Donald Trump's role in all of it.

KING: Right.

Matt Gaetz was on the Steve Bannon podcast today saying he was proud of what they did on January 6, still proud of what they did on January 6. Think about that. Think about that.

This is an election year. A lot of things to debate. What should we debate first?

One year ago at this time, a series of events pivotal to the violent attempt to overturn the 2020 election unfolded. At 1:05 p.m., the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, gaveled in both chambers of Congress for a joint session to count the electoral votes and to certify Joe Biden's victory,

Vice President Mike Pence was beside her, prepared to do his constitutional duty. At 1:08, CNN captured this moment on camera, rioters breaking through a fence barrier outside, moving closer to the Capitol Building. And at 1:11 p.m., President Donald Trump wrapped up that now infamous speech to his supporters outside the White House. Urging the crowd one last time, march to the Capitol.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But we're going to try and give our Republicans, the weak ones, because the strong ones don't need any of our help, we're going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.

So let's walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.


KING: Coming up, he was on the House floor as the rioters breached the Capitol and would go on to be a key figure in the second impeachment trial of former President Trump.

Congressman Joe Neguse joins us next on the state of democracy one year later.




REP. JOE NEGUSE (D-CO): We gather today, Madam Speaker, to ensure the survival of our grand American experiment, the greatest democracy this world has ever known.

And there are millions of people watching today's proceedings. The eyes of the world are on us now, my colleagues, wondering if we will keep the faith, wondering if our constitutional republic will hold.


KING: That was Democratic Congressman Joe Neguse speaking one year ago today just as a mob of insurrectionists stormed the Capitol.

The Colorado Democratic and his staff were ultimately evacuated from the House floor by Capitol Police.

Congressman Neguse, you might recall, later served as a House manager in President Trump's second impeachment trial.

And he joins us now.

Congressman, grateful for your time on this important day.

In that speech, before all hell broke loose, just before all hell broke loose, you were talking about the eyes of the world are on us. Well, the world got to see what happened. You were threatened. Where are we a year later? I don't mean it as trite as it sounds, but

are we better or are we worse?

NEGUSE: Well, it's good to be with you, John.

It was a surreal day. And, certainly, when I said those comments on the House floor, I could not have imagined what would unfold over the course of the next 24 hours.

It's a tough question in terms of where we are today. Of course, there are many of us who are deeply concerned, myself included, about the disinformation and the misinformation and the lies that have only metastasized since January 6.

And that should give us great cause for concern. At the same time, I derive great strength from knowing that, at the end of the day on January 6, those who tried to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power ultimately failed.

For me, a defining memory for that day will not necessarily be being evacuated off the House floor, but returning to the House floor that evening, and certifying the election at almost 4:00 in the morning, as you will recall, ensuring that bedrock principle holds here in the United States.

KING: Right.

NEGUSE: But the question now is, will it hold in the future?

BASH: What was it like on the House floor about this time, maybe an hour later, a year ago today?

NEGUSE: As I said, it was surreal.

To be honest, none of us anticipated this happening. We were all very committed to doing the work of certifying the election results. I was making a presentation, as you just saw, with my colleagues Representative Raskin, Representative Schiff and Chairwoman Lofgren, and then started getting text messages from my wife and other family members and friends, alerting me that something had gone terribly wrong.

We then saw the speaker removed from the dais, and Steny Hoyer, the majority leader, who was sitting just a few rows behind us, removed shortly thereafter.

And then, at some point, as one of your colleagues just reported a few minutes ago, the chaplain reported that -- or, rather, a police officer came forward and said the Capitol had been breached. And a chaplain began to offer prayers.

And the whole experience, as I said, was surreal. And it was clearly traumatic for the Congress, for the country, for all who were in the Capitol. I'm so grateful for the police officers who sacrificed so much to protect me and my colleagues and to keep us safe on what was clearly a harrowing day for our republic. KING: You know something about accountability.

And sometimes, even if you have accountability, what you think is accountability, what happens in today's political culture, in the sense that Donald Trump was impeached twice. You were part of the second impeachment. Donald Trump is still the leader of the Republican Party.

That's unthinkable to many of us who've covered politics for a long time, but that's the world we live in today. A year ago, you had an exchange with Scott Perry, one of the Republican members of the House, who was trying to help Donald Trump subvert the election.

The January 6 investigative committee now is investigating, and they want to talk to people like Congressman Perry. Where do you see that investigation going? And should -- often, because you have one of those pins, you get excused, if you will, for -- you say, I'm a member. You can't do that to me.

Should the Republicans be put in the chair under oath?

NEGUSE: Yes, well, look, I trust Chairman Thompson and Vice Chair Cheney, who have done a remarkable job leading the Select Committee on January 6.


I trust their judgment. And they will make the appropriate decisions as to whether or not compulsory process should be issued to any members of Congress. At the end of the day, my understanding is, they have issued voluntary requests for participation.

And I would hope that members of Congress would do the right thing, and would participate in that process. The committee's work could not be more critical. And it in part dovetails with what President Biden said today in a speech that I thought was very powerful and compelling.

The misinformation that has permeated so much of the public over the course of the last 12 months should be disconcerting to every American. And the select committee's work in uncovering the truth and sharing it with the American people couldn't be more important.

So, look, I hope that they get to the bottom of it and are able to interview every witness that they have requested.

KING: So let me take another time before I let Dana in on this.

To that very point, though, we were just listening moments ago. We're not going to put it on CNN, but we were just listening to two of your Republican colleagues right over there lying, lying still, lying still.

So we cannot air that, so we don't perpetuate the lies. But there is an echo chamber, an ecosystem that does that continues to this day. And I -- as someone -- again, I have done this for 35, 36 years. I ask myself every day, how do you break through? What do we have to do?

NEGUSE: It's confounding.

I don't have a good answer for you, John. I mean, I think we all struggle with that same problem. Clearly, the echo chambers of social media, in particular, have created an environment, an ecosystem whereby people can go a full day, a full week, a full year without ever being exposed to an idea different than the one they already have, and that reinforcing mechanism that exists on social media and so much of the television ecosystem.

I think what we're doing today, sharing the truth, reminding people what happened on that terrible day, and talking about what needs to happen to prevent it from happening again, is critically important.

BASH: What's it like, as a member of Congress, and what has it been like?

Your colleague Dean Phillips was in this chair last hour saying that there was a fleeting moment of bipartisanship on that day one year ago. And then it went away when, I guess, the Republicans realized that there was no overcoming the power of the lies that the former president has been spewing.

But what's it like on a one-on-one basis with the Republicans who probably know better?


Well, I'd say this. First, I give credit where credit is due, that, ultimately, there were some Republicans who stood up and chose country over party in the days and weeks after January 6. Of course, Liz Cheney is a prime example.

But my colleague Dean Phillips couldn't be more accurate. That moment of bipartisan comity, if you will, was fleeting, unfortunately. There was a moment there where I thought we all would come together and do what was necessary to safeguard our republic.

But, unfortunately, former President Trump still very much has a stranglehold on much of the Republican Party as it exists today. And so many of my colleagues who, as President Obama said today, know better nonetheless continue to perpetrate these lies and this misinformation.

It's going to be a long road ahead. I think it's going to take people of good faith on both sides of the aisle to step up and to say the truth as to what happened on January 6.

But, yes, the environment here, as you know, couldn't be more polarizing that, to some extent -- you both have been in Washington for a long time -- existed before January 6, but it has accelerated, I think, in ways that none of us could have imagined.

KING: Yes, there's a difference between polarization, whether you like it or don't like it, whether you benefit from it or don't benefit from it, and an attack on the United States government with the goal.

NEGUSE: Exactly.

KING: And that is what the Republicans, most of them -- and you mentioned some of courage -- and those, they should be applauded. That's what they're trying to whitewash, that this -- they're trying to make the case that this was just another day in a messed-up town, get over it.

We can't get over it.

NEGUSE: That's right.

And what's so disturbing is, so many of them were in the chamber with us on January 6. It's not as though -- I mean, the Republicans were there, right? And to the extent that you now hear them describing it as a tourist visit and all the rest...

BASH: And I assume they were scared.

NEGUSE: Yes, of course. Everybody was very worried about their own safety, the safety of their staff, and, ultimately, the safety of our republic, and what it says to the rest of the world that you have the first breach of this building since the War of 1812, the citadel of liberty that stands behind us.

KING: Congressman, grateful for your time today. Appreciate it very much.

NEGUSE: Thank you.

KING: Thank you. We can shake. It's all right.


KING: Coming up: not calling him out by name, but slamming him like never before. More on President Biden's strong condemnation of his predecessor on this important day.

That's next.



KING: Just sharing some video with you here. You see it there a bit earlier today, the former Vice President Dick Cheney, and his daughter the Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney departing the House floor, the only two Republicans on the floor as Nancy Pelosi led the nation in a moment of silence to remember the tragic event here at the United States Capitol one year ago.

Also this morning, a defining speech from the president of the United States, President Biden promising that he will stand in the breach, he says, and fight for Americans' democracy, the president making a pointed attempt to puncture Donald Trump and his big lie. Just listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: But what did we not see?