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CNN Live Event/Special
The 2nd Trump Impeachment Vote; Soon: Trump to Become Only President Impeached Twice; Security Tightens Around U.S. Capitol Amid Increased Threat. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired January 13, 2021 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Anderson Cooper.
We're watching history unfold on Capitol Hill.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Erin Burnett.
President Trump is set to become the only American president to be impeached twice. The House of Representatives this morning as we are talking to you is debating the need to hold the president accountable, accountable for inciting a riot that engulfed the Capitol of the United States.
COOPER: Democrats on the side of the issuing a historic rebuke of the president, a second impeachment, an indelible stain on President Trump's term in office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D-MA): The damage this building sustained can be repaired, Mr. Speaker. But if we don't hold Donald Trump accountable, the damage done to our nation could be irreversible.
Domestic terrorists broke into the United States Capitol that day. And it's a miracle more people didn't die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, some Republicans have been fighting back with complaints about the process, saying what the president did is wrong, but it's all just moving too fast.
Meanwhile, National Guard troops are inside and outside the Capitol building preparing for a worst case scenario. It is, as you can see, a military zone. They're concerned about more attacks on the Capitol, being issued weapons today ahead of the impeachment debate.
So, let's go straight to Capitol Hill and our senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju. Manu, you have been speaking to everyone in the halls of Congress and you just spoke to the House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Where do things stand right now?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The big question right now is, how quickly will that Senate trial begin because it's certain that Donald Trump will be impeached today in an historic vote. We expect a bipartisan majority to impeach Donald Trump on the charge of inciting an insurrection.
And then the question is, then what? How quickly will the Senate act? Will there be 67 senators who would convict Donald Trump, effectively preventing him from ever holding office again? That seems like a real possibility. But the question again is when and how that process would start is when the House of Representatives will officially transmit that article of impeachment from the House to the Senate.
Now, that's a question that's still ongoing. I just asked House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer about the timing of that. He said, quote, "as soon as possible." They plan in the Senate. He said he would defer to the Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi has informed him a couple days ago, he said, about when she would send it over. But he said he would not give a precise time, if it would happen today.
Now, the problem -- the complication here is the fact that the Senate is out of session.
RAJU: They're out of session until January 19th, the day before Donald Trump comes into office. The question is, will the Senate come back early to take this up. The Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not indicated he plans to bring back the Senate early. Instead, he would come back on the 19th, kicking off the trial in the beginning part of the Biden presidency.
And also, Erin, will Mitch McConnell vote to convict Donald Trump? That is still uncertain but a possibility. If he does, Donald Trump almost certainly could lose a vote in the Senate, get convicted, not hold office again. Those will play out in the days ahead.
But in a moment, we expect this vote this afternoon to impeach Trump and we expect, potentially, 10 -- Hoyer thinks, between 10 and 20 Republican senators - congressmen could break ranks to vote to impeach the president. So, that will play out today as Donald Trump is going to make history, becoming the only president impeached twice.
BURNETT: All right. Manu, thank you very much. Anderson?
COOPER: Erin, the president remains defiant as he faces his second impeachment. We're told he is considering pardoning himself and his children, a blanket pardon, in part, for their role in the insurrection at the Capitol.
CNN's White House correspondent John Harwood joins us now. So, what are you hearing about the likelihood of a presidential self-pardon?
JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, a couple of things, Anderson. First of all, we know the president has discussed the idea of pardoning himself and his children. We know that that's taken on a greater amount of urgency in recent days because the legal exposure of the president has gotten greater as a result of this insurrection.
Of course, he incited the insurrection himself. His son, Donald Trump Jr., addressed that audience and said we're coming for you, to members of Congress who were not willing to subvert the Electoral College process.
And we also know that President Trump takes as his first consideration in every circumstance his own self-interest. So, even though some lawyers question whether you can constitutionally pardon yourself or whether that would make the president above the law, it's hard to imagine that reservation constraining him. Why not take a flyer on it since he got a lot of legal trouble.
He can't absolve himself of all legal trouble because some of the hot water he's in is from state prosecutions or state prosecutors in New York who would not be affected by a pardon. But I think there's every expectation that within the last seven days, this president will take whatever steps he can do to protect himself going forward.
COOPER: There are certainly a lot of Democrats and Republicans who hoped the president might just resign which would sort of alleviate the whole issue of what to do before he leaves office. That was never -- I imagine that was never really a consideration on his part. I mean that does not seem to be in his DNA.
HARWOOD: It is not in his DNA, Anderson. Donald Trump was raised to always believe that he needed to project the fact that he was the winner in every situation. That he -- that's why he can't accept the reality of the election defeat. And - but if he stepped up to resign, that would be an acknowledgment that I'm beat, I'm whipped, and I've got to leave.
The only way you can envision President Trump taking that step would be if he somehow concluded that a self-pardon wouldn't work and that, if he could get Mike Pence to pardon him after resigning. But you've got the think that after the president put Mike Pence's life in danger by sending that mob to the Capitol, by excoriating Mike Pence for not having subverted the Constitution, you've got a question whether Mike Pence would be willing to make that commitment and follow through on that commitment if Donald Trump expected it.
COOPER: John Harwood, appreciate it. Thanks very much.
I want to go back to our team here.
Ross Garber, we're told the president is discussing pardons for himself and his family. Can you just walk us through how realistic that is? I mean I thought this was something the Department of Justice back in 1974, you know, sort of -- wrote about saying that self-pardon was not something a president should be able to do.
ROSS GARBER, IMPEACHMENT LAW PROFESSOR, TULANE UNIVERSITY: Yes, that's true. I mean, let's sort of back up to the constitutional language. It's incredibly broad. It's one of the president's broadest powers. It was debated at the framing of the Constitution.
Is it too broad? Should there be exceptions? Should there be exceptions even for - you know, for example, for treason? What the founders said is, well, we want to make it broad. We don't want to constrain the president, but there is a big constraint and that is the impeachment and removal power.
Now, what's not addressed is this notion of a self-pardon. That's kind of antithetical because of that notion that you know you can't be a judge of yourself. It's sort of baked into our legal system, into our government system.
And you're exactly right, it was addressed. Back during Watergate in the 1970s and the Department of Justice wrote a memo saying no. A president cannot pardon himself. It is not proper.
Now, that is just guidance out of the Department of Justice. And it's never been tested. No judge has ever decided one way or the other.
Now, you know, I agree. At this point, the president is going to be impeached anyway. And he may, oddly enough, you know view that as meaning sort of there's nothing left to lose here. Why not pardon himself.
But again, it's unclear what would happen if he did it. And the only way to test it, really, would be if the Department of Justice were to actually bring charges against the president. And then he'd argue in court that he's pardoned himself. And a judge and ultimately the Supreme Court would have to decide.
COOPER: Carrie Cordero, just in terms of the debate that we've heard thus far, what stands out to you?
CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: So, what stands out to me in listening to the members that are speaking so far is particularly the Republican members who are saying that, well, this is just moving too fast or maybe there should be censure. I'm really not getting the sense that some members of Congress really understand the gravity of what is at stake here.
And it's surprising because it is the members of Congress and their staff who were the victims of this attack. They are the ones not only whose duties were trying to be impacted and prevented from taking place under the Constitution, but their physical safety and the physical safety of their colleagues and their staffs were in serious jeopardy.
And what is evidence is that the president is continuing to intimidate them. In other words, his activities in creating this environment of violence hasn't stopped.
Jamie Gangel's reporting before the break is so important when she describes that some members are fearing for their own lives and the lives of their families. That's because the president has incited a group of people in this country who actually think the vote was stolen and who actually think that he is charging them with creating a revolution in this country.
And so, what I'm not hearing from some members at least is a real grasp of what is at stake. This is not about politics. This is about physical safety and the functioning of the country and the functioning of democracy.
COOPER: Well, Laura, I mean you could -- one could argue that you know they don't grasp it or that - that it is just - that for some of them at least they are operating out of fear. I mean, they saw Lindsey Graham being screamed at, you know surrounded by security people just walking through an airport to get on a plane. And they don't want to go through that. You know they have in their districts for the next couple of years. And therefore, it's easier for them to just you know vote not to impeach, knowing that the impeachment will go through in the House and that the president is going to leave office anyway.
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Even more they also saw insurrectionists threaten to hang the vice president of the United States right outside of the Capitol building. And you see, this is exactly what the Founding Fathers feared when they were trying to decide what kind of country we would have.
And the notion here that we're going to have a system of three coequal branches of government, Anderson, that provided adequate checks and balances on an abuse of power. The notion - and I understand it's justifiable, these people were held essentially under siege last week. That we have now our democracy at this extraordinary crossroads where either we're going to have effective checks and balances. Or we're going to be overrun by fear in a way that would embolden, perhaps irrevocably the executive branch of the United States government. That's never been division here.
And so, that's why it's so important as Liz Cheney spoke about, perhaps a vote of conscience. But I would argue the idea of this being a vote about the future of the democracy. And we certainly have an idea from the Founding Fathers and beyond that we're supposed to have mechanisms at play to expeditiously remove threats to our country and abuses of power.
And so, it's really a sad day in America that the choice that our Founding Fathers thought they'd never have to envision in America is coming true. Either we bow to an over abusive monarch, or we vote our conscience and we do what's best for the American people. That's not the crossroads I envisioned in 2021.
COOPER: You know, David Chalian, we just showed a short time ago, National Guard troops you know handing out weapons, you know armed National Guard troops at the Capitol. We saw them sleeping also inside the Capitol.
I mean, it's an extraordinary part -- moment in our history. We also heard from prosecutors, FBI officials and Department of Justice officials yesterday talking about the charges that they're looking at. And they've talked about the videos that they have seen.
They've gotten huge amounts of videos that were taken from inside the Capitol, and that they were talking about how the images that they have seen are even worse than the ones that have been publicly released thus far. And they've sort of raised you know the question of, you know, if the public actually saw the details of what happened, they would be shocked by it even more than horrified, even more than they are.
I think those videos should be shown. I'm not sure what the process for that is. But it's extraordinary to me just the -- I think there's a lot of people who view this as just, oh, it's just you know, a riot. It was just things got out of hand and people you know were injured in a general melee of crowds. This was very personalized violence. I mean it was individuals attacking individuals, protesters with stun guns and you know beating up police officers and trying to kill people.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: On the hunt. On the hunt for constitutional officers in our democracy. The vice president, the speaker of the House. Literally going through the halls of Congress to find them was part of the plan here. And those pictures, I get, Anderson how traumatic they are for people.
Because it is trauma to watch this violent attack on the very core of our democracy, and yet - and yet, it is in these - you know these members that you're watching vote today, for those that would vote for accountability and those that will vote against holding the president accountable for his words and actions that helped caused that moment. They're walking through these hallways with the images that you're talking about, the National Guardsmen that are there now out in force in a way that we haven't seen before. They're walking through that and still would then going on to the House floor.
And for the vast majority of Republicans saying this is not something that the president is responsible for. This is not something he has to be held accountable for. That's just such - I don't - it is so - it's not terribly surprising. We've watched this for 5 1/2 years. But it is still so shocking to the system.
COOPER: Yes. Stand by, everyone. Erin?
BURNETT: So, security is tight at the Capitol ahead of the inauguration. We've been showing you some of these images of the National Guard members. They're armed and they are handing out, as you can literally see here, guns to some of these National Guard members. They are bracing for more extremist violence. So, what other measures are being taken? We have some more details on that.
Plus, what we're learning about the arrest of a man seen at the insurrection wearing this Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt. Do you remember this guy? More on him, next.
BURNETT: So, fears are intensifying about what far right extremist groups might do between now and next Wednesday which of course is Inauguration Day. There are credible threats. We understand this. They include threats on the lives of the President-elect Joe Biden and the Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
So, let's bring in Brian Todd. And, Brian, can you go through what we're learning about the threats such that we do know because there hasn't been a lot of communication from law enforcement, and the plans that they have right now to prevent anything from happening.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, what we can tell you is we haven't seen levels of security to this degree really since the days around 9/11 in the nation's Capitol. I'm going to show you what we mean here. We're at the southwest corner of the Capitol grounds. This is about eight-foot-high fencing that has been erected since the rioting of last week.
These are National Guardsmen. They have just been issued weapons. Many of these guys are carrying semi-automatic rifles. And they are ringing the entire grounds of the Capitol. All the way around.
There are also military policemen. There are police officers from many jurisdictions, the Capitol Hill Police, the Washington Metropolitan Police, again, ringing this area. And they talk about layers of security. That's what officials have been telling us. They're going to have multiple layers, not only in intelligence but physical layers.
Look at what we have here on Independence Avenue, a major thoroughfare in Washington. You've got a roadblock here right in front of us. You've got another one a block beyond that with fencing going across the street. You've got squad cars in some sections of the city. You have dump trucks lining the streets blocking roads. Over here, you've got steel barriers up.
So, vehicular traffic is completely shut off from this entire area of the city. And with some of the security has come a lot of tension in the Capitol. We've reported that there have been magnetometers placed right near the House floor that members of Congress have had to go through. That's led to shouting matches between members of Congress. Members of Congress shouting at Capitol Hill Police.
So, as the tension ramps up, you know we're just gearing up for possible protests. All of this, of course, because of the threats that CNN has learned about over the last few days. Our reporting from intelligence sources, from FBI bulletins, that thousands of protesters are planning to come here in the coming days leading up to Inauguration to possibly surround the Capitol, to possibly surround the White House and other buildings. Many of those protesters could be armed. We've gotten information that protesters plan to storm all 50 state Capitols.
Now, when -- if and when they do come to Washington, D.C. at least, if we're here, a crucial thing that we're going to be watching for is where are they going to be allowed to go? Where will they be herded? Will they be separated from other protesters? You know, are they going to be allowed to get within walking distance.
We can tell you, Erin, you can't really even walk in this area unless you have some kind of I.D. saying you should be here. So, just you know foot traffic around here is highly restricted.
Now, with all of the security corded around much of Washington, a key worry among officials, members of Congress and others, will some of the agitators, will some of these extremists try to target soft targets? Will they attack soft targets in and around this city, possibly other cities as well, Erin. That's something that we are really going to be watching for in the coming days.
BURNETT: Yes. I guess you know the whole thing of you know, you kind of push the air out of a balloon. It goes somewhere else. The big question that they have here.
All right. Brian, thank you.
So, everything that you saw with Brian, right? That incredible security that you're now seeing around the Capitol itself in anticipation of more unrest comes as we're learning more here.
Shimon Prokupecz is on Capitol Hill. Where, Shimon, you're learning that the man at last week's insurrection, right? The man who is wearing that Camp Auschwitz shirt specifically. So, a lot of people now you know get the image in their head. They know this image. He has been arrested?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's right, Erin. He was arrested this morning by the FBI in Virginia.
CNN was first to identify him, and really through crowd sourcing and talking to people who know him. And his name is Robert Keith Packer. He was arrested this morning by the FBI.
Of course, the FBI still working very hard to round up a lot of the people who stormed the Capitol. There were more arrests today. They're continuing. There have been arrests in New York. There have been arrests all across the country.
I'm on the east side of the Capitol. You know you heard Brian there talk about some of the fencing. So, behind me here is the Supreme Court, Erin. And you can see the fencing that lines up all across Second Street Northeast here on East Capitol.
But I want to show you this area here, this fencing here. This is normally open. This is a place where people who live in Washington, D.C. can walk through. But you can see what happened here is they've pushed the perimeter even further back.
This east side of the Capitol, when you look straight ahead, is one of the areas that they attacked. The rioters, it was one of the areas that they went up those steps and were able to get inside the Capitol.
You could see there's extra National Guard trucks there as well as dozens, what appears to be dozens of National Guard troops.
And then on this side as well, Erin, I want to take you to the side over here. There are also National Guard troops on this side. They are not armed. You know you heard Brian talk about armed National Guard troops. We're not seeing it on this side. Certainly, we're seeing a lot of Capitol police. But this goes for about a half a block or so here.
The street otherwise is open. Traffic is open. People have been coming here. We haven't seen any protesters. We've seen some people carrying signs saying impeach Trump. But that's basically been it. Relatively quiet and calm here. But there are a lot of National Guard troops, a lot of police on this side as well, Erin.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much Shimon. Anderson?
COOPER: As we await this vote it is important to note the threat to our nation is certainly not over. The FBI warning protesters currently planned at all 50 state Capitols as well as Washington D.C.
Lansing, Michigan, for example, which saw armed protesters entered its Capitol less than a year ago, confronting police, shouting down lawmakers. They are already making preparations in Michigan.
CNN national correspondent Miguel Marquez has reporting for us. So, how concerned are officials there about what might happen?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are very concerned, but at the same time they're not entirely sure how big it's going to be. This is the so-called stand up for liberty sort of movement. It's meant to target all 50 state Capitols in all the states.
An armed and peaceful protest is what they're talking about. But authorities here are preparing for the absolute worst. Here at the Capitol in Lansing where they do have extra reason to be concerned because in April there were individuals with long guns who went into the Capitol. It was one of the few states in the country where it was legal to openly carry weapons in. They did. They occupied the Capitol for quite some time.
And then that was to go after the restrictions over COVID-19. There were many protesters across the state over that. After the elections, there were individuals that went to -- that were armed, that went to the Secretary of State's House.
The legislature now has barred the open carry of weapons in the Capitol, but not concealed weapons. So that is a concern.
The big question is what's going to playout. All of this was being discussed prior to January 6th. January 6th for the individuals who are sort of putting these protesters together, that has caused them some concern about how far they should go on Sunday and through Inauguration Day. But here in Michigan, they are certainly planning for possibly thousands of protesters, armed protesters.
They plan to put up fencing around the Capitol in the next couple days ahead of this expected march on Sunday. They are planning for at least the next couple of weeks to keep much higher security presence here.
The mayor of Lansing has asked that the National Guard be called in. The governor still weighing that. Michigan state police right now in charge of security here. But certainly, here in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, those states that were at the center of the anger of the president and his followers, those are certainly places that authorities will be watching. Anderson?
COOPER: Miguel Marquez, appreciate it. Thanks very much.
I'm joined now by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. Attorney General, thank you so much for being with us. We should also point out, there was a -- according to law enforcement conspiracy against the governor in Michigan, a plot - an alleged plot to kill the governor, kidnap her and kill her. Those individuals are now facing charges. How concerned are you about these upcoming events?
DANA NESSEL, MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: Honestly, I'm apoplectic about the situation because I'm so gravely concerned. I think it's important to remember that in terms of the siege that we saw at the Capitol in Lansing last April, that firstly, many of those ultimately were involved in the plat to kidnap and kill the governor. And that an alternative plot they had was actually to take over the state Capitol and to either bomb it or to execute people by firing squad.
But then, many of the people who were not arrested as part of the plot to kill the governor actually traveled to Washington, D.C. And so, they were part of the events that took place at the Capitol. So, we're talking about the same people that were in D.C. that I expect to be back in Lansing.