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CNN Live Event/Special
House Of Representatives Impeaches President Trump Again. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired January 13, 2021 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There is a sense, I think, among Republicans, the vast majority of Republicans -- I think we should be clear about this.
So far, we have seven Republicans who have said publicly that they will vote in favor of this. And we're watching that number tick up.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Abby, I'm sorry to interrupt. I'm going to come right back to you.
But I just want to note, as we hit the top of the hour, a historic House vote is getting under way.
And Donald J. Trump is on the brink of becoming the only president of the United States to be impeached twice, a shameful new chapter in his legacy.
I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.
Abby, I'm sorry. Please continue.
PHILLIP: No, of course.
Well, seven Republicans have said publicly they will vote in favor of articles of impeachment, but the vast majority of them, I think, based on what they said today, seem to think that there is no difference between the storming of the Capitol, an attempt at a violent insurrection to stop the business of the United States government, and anything else that has happened in the history of this country.
Most notably, one of the lawmakers in his speech said, if they had arrested Black Lives Matter protesters before last week, the riot would never have happened.
It's a really unbelievable thing, the excuses that were being said today.
TAPPER: We should note plenty of Black Lives Matter protesters have been arrested.
PHILLIP: In fact, frankly, many more Black Lives Matter protesters were -- have been arrested than have been arrested for what happened last week. TAPPER: Yes.
PHILLIP: And that's a fact.
So, it is -- I think it's astounding, to me, that there is just a desire to create excuse after excuse, to basically say, don't hurt these people's feelings, because they might do it again. And I think that is the scariest part about what we are about to see here.
Yes, there will be Republicans voting for this article of impeachment. But the vast majority of the Republican Party is making excuses for what we saw last week.
TAPPER: And if I could just make a note on the Black Lives Matter protesters, I was talking to a general a few days ago who said about the violence that we have seen in Portland and across the country in light of the George Floyd murder, that you cannot compare them. You cannot compare them.
Yes, violence is bad. All violence is bad. The violent protests that we saw across the city, across Minnesota, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and across the country, in Portland, everywhere, it's horrible. It should not have happened.
But, this general said, you cannot compare it, because this was not. That was, for better or for worse, spontaneous, and a largely disenfranchised community in many instances violently expressing -- too often violently expressing discontent with criminal justice in America.
Again, that's not excusing it. The violence is -- should all be condemned.
This was the president of the United States inciting his supporters to commit an act of terrorism to stop. And here's the key -- they weren't just going into the Capitol to kick some ass in the words of Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama, one of the inciters. They weren't just going to kick some ass. They were going there to stop the constitutional process.
When they said, "Hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence," they were -- they thought they were following the lead of President Trump, who that morning had at the incitement rally criticized Mike Pence...
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
TAPPER: ... who was presiding over what was going on, and discharging his constitutional duties.
It was a direct result of what the president was tweeting. And that is something that is absent, notably absent, from, I think, across the board. For the most part, it is a breath of fresh air, the sound of silence from our phones buzzing and beeping with the president's tweets responding to everything that we're seeing here. And that was very, very much a part of what happened before. The one
thing I also want to say as we look at this vote and we see how many Republicans. So far, it's five. As you said, we have we have heard seven publicly come out. And we will see if that's -- that number gets higher when the final vote is tallied.
But going forward, never might -- put principle aside for a second, but just on the political calculation that many of these Republicans are making -- and it's really burst into the open -- is, most of them, obviously -- since it's such a low number of Republicans, some of them argue that he shouldn't be impeached.
But some who maybe in their heart of hearts think he should be impeached are arguing that it's going to embolden the president, it's going to make him a martyr, it's going to make him more of a victim.
That's one group of Republicans. And then the other, the Liz Cheneys of the world, the Mitch McConnells of the world, are arguing, when it comes to the future of the Republican Party, the viability of the Republican Party, is, they argue that the best way to rid the party of Trump is to impeach him, is to punish him.
And we don't know which of these political calculations is going to be the right one.
TAPPER: I want to bring in Manu Raju right now, who is on Capitol Hill, who has the latest reporting.
Manu, tell us what you're seeing.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're getting reports from what's inside the chamber of the Republicans who are breaking ranks.
And according to what our colleagues are seeing on the board that is showing how the each of the members are voting, two additional Republicans on top of the seven who have already announced that they would vote to impeach President Trump have broken ranks.
That includes Tom Rice of South Carolina and Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio. Gonzalez has put out a statement saying that he would support the president's impeachment. Rice, we're looking. We don't see a statement from him yet. But according to what our colleagues have seen on the board in the House chamber, which is not visible on TV, but you can see it when you're in the chamber, it says that he has voted for impeachment.
Now, we will see by the end of this vote if he changes that at all one way. And, sometimes, members accidentally hit the wrong thing here. We will see if that happened here. But, at the moment, there are nine Republicans who have either -- who have either voted or said publicly they plan to vote for the president's impeachment.
We will see if that grows. Coming into this, Republican leadership sources were telling me they expected about a dozen to break ranks. That was their expectation. They did not whip this vote, did not urge their members to vote one way or the other. So, it's uncertain. It's a bit fluid. We will see as this vote develops.
Now, at the same time, there's been several developments on the Senate side, where the trial will take place to decide whether or not Donald Trump is convicted on this charge of incitement of an insurrection, and whether or not he can actually hold office ever again.
Now, Mitch McConnell just sent a letter to his Senate colleagues telling them that he will not bring the Senate back early before January 19 to reconvene the Senate. Democrats wanted to have a quick Senate trial, have him convicted before he leaves office. That's not going to happen.
So, essentially, Donald Trump will be able to serve out his time in office, unless somehow he decides to resign, which he is not indicating he plans to do that.
Now, McConnell, significantly, though, has not ruled out supporting convicting the president. According to this e-mail that he sent to his colleagues, it says: "While the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote. And I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate," very clearly keeping open the option of convicting Donald Trump.
And from talking to Republican sources, this is the key vote. If he decides to vote to convict Donald Trump, expect a number of his colleagues to go along with them, and presumably 17 could break ranks, convict Trump, and to accomplish the goal that McConnell has privately said, rid Donald Trump from their party in the aftermath of what happened last week, as well as their concerns about Trump's impact in costing them the United States -- control of the United States Senate.
So -- but we don't expect that trial to begin until the early days of the Biden presidency, so a lot of developments on the Senate side. We will see when the House Democrats decide to formally transmit the article of impeachment over to the Senate. It could happen sometime today.
They have not said officially yet, but, at the moment, this vote taking place, a bipartisan vote, growing, at least nine Republicans, maybe more, joining Democrats to impeach this president -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Manu, thank you so much.
And so far, seven House Republicans have voted to impeach President Trump because of this incitement at an insurrection, to commit an insurrection. We're told that to other House Republicans, other than the seven we were aware of, have already come out -- have also come out, rather, and said that they intend to vote to impeach President Trump.
They are Tom Rice of South Carolina and Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio. So that is, as I see, as we see right there, a total of nine that we're expecting. That's still a significant minority when it comes to the House.
And, Abby, one of the things that we have had reporting on from Jamie Gangel and Pamela Brown that we have not heard so specifically enunciated or articulated in any of the previous impeachments that I have been alive for and covered is that members of Congress, Republicans, are saying that they're not going to vote to impeach because they are afraid of Trump supporters and Trump specifically himself inciting physical attacks on them and their families.
Just to underline this point, this was not something that we heard during the Nixon impeachment. This was not something that we heard during the Clinton impeachment. Nobody was saying, don't vote to impeach Bill Clinton because Bill Clinton will send his supporters to your house to kill your wife and kids.
But it is something that we're hearing now from reporting from Pamela and Jamie that Republicans are fearful of. They're fearful that, if they go against the president, his supporters will kill them.
PHILLIP: You can see why they might think that, because, a week ago, there were people in the Capitol who were literally in some cases trying to do just that.
TAPPER: Oh, it's a legitimate fear, absolutely.
PHILLIP: And in the days since, accosting members of Congress in airports and in public, and this is a toxic, toxic environment.
And it's one that President Trump, when he is on his own and not reading from a teleprompter, continues to give a wink and a nod to in his language, in the threatening language that he uses to talk about what the consequences will be if certain things happen, if he's impeached, if the 25th Amendment is used against him.
This is the kind of thing that President Trump has done pretty consistently. But, last week, we saw what the consequences are. The problem for Republicans has been that, for four years and longer, they have had a policy that's basically been anything that President Trump says, the words coming out of his mouth don't matter.
Well, the proof is in what we all experienced a week ago. It does matter. And, at some point, I do think there needs to be a recognition that his words have influence, his words have an impact on his supporters. When he told the Proud Boys to stand back and to stand by, and then they showed up in Washington on January 6, and they helped storm the Capitol, that's not an accident. That is part of what happens.
And, in fact, last week, during the riots, at the end -- almost at the end of the process, one of the last tweets President Trump issued that has since been deleted -- his account is gone -- is, I think, one of the most chilling that I have ever heard him issue.
He wrote: "These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election is so viciously and unceremoniously stripped away from our great patriots."
PHILLIP: "These are the things that happen."
PHILLIP: So, this wasn't before the riots. This was after we saw the magnitude of what happened, the violence, the rage, the truly criminal activity that was going on for hours and hours. He sent that tweet at 6:00 in the afternoon. Words matter.
BASH: They absolutely do matter.
And, again, I just -- we should know better than to expect anything different.
But now, a week after, as we learn more and more how horrible it was, as we learn more and more about how premeditated it was that these members to whom this happened to, they aren't just observing something that the president did. They lived it. They experienced it.
And the fact that they -- again, I have said it before. I will say it again. They know better. They know the truth. They know that elections were free and fair. It's why they were reelected, because they are fine with the fact that elections were called on their behalf. And the fact that they're doing this still is...
BASH: Appalling. Thank you.
TAPPER: Let's go to Jim Acosta at the White House now.
Jim, what can you tell us?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake.
I mean, one of the things I think we should put into the context here, the president about to be the only president in American history to be impeached twice.
I talked to a Trump adviser, senior Trump adviser about some of this, and this adviser said that the president is -- quote -- "clueless" about what this has done to his legacy, what this has done historically, what this has done internationally, that the president is essentially has no clue how much this has damaged his standing in the history books, how much this has damaged the standing of the United States on the world stage.
But one thing, interestingly, Jake and Dana and Abby, that the president has talked about with his aides is that he is fearful of what all of this has done to the Trump brand, and that he is fearful that, when he leaves office, his businesses are going to be in serious trouble because of all of this, which obviously should be a real fear on his part. And so, the president has more to fear, I think, at this point, in
terms of what is going to happen to his legacy and his place in history, which is likely going to be at rock bottom, when it comes to how historians view American presidents.
But according to this adviser, the president faces the real prospect of going broke after he leaves office because of his accumulation of debts, because of the stain on the Trump brand and so on. And so we have talked about Trump bankruptcies in the past.
This is a bankruptcy of historic proportions, not only a personal bankruptcy that the president may be looking at, but a political one as well, not only to Donald Trump, but potentially to the Republican Party and so on.
And so this is -- this is a devastating moment for Donald Trump. A lot of people even inside the president's own team of advisers are hopeful that this is the last blast out of the cannon that shoots Donald Trump essentially off of the political stage, that this is it, that this slams the door shut on Donald Trump's participation in American politics from here on forward.
ACOSTA: We will see if that comes to pass.
But the president has been talking about this damage to the Trump brand. And I think, obviously, Jake and Dana and Abby, it's going to be lasting, no question about it.
TAPPER: Yes, that stain on the Trump brand is a bloodstain.
Let's bring in Pamela Brown and Jamie Gangel. They have some new reporting about one of the president's closest advisers.
Pamela, let's start with you.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, sources told me and Jamie that Hope Hicks, the president's once influential confidant, longtime loyalist, has left the White House. Yesterday was her first day.
And sources say that this was planned. This had been planned before the riots for her to leave yesterday. Now, we're told from sources that she has felt in recent weeks that her influence is waning. She hasn't been seen at the White House months -- in the last couple of months.
And we're told that, shortly after the election, that she did try to push back against the efforts to overturn the election results, but she felt like her voice wasn't being heard. She was concerned that these -- the ham-handed efforts to try to overturn the election results based on conspiracy theories would cause lasting damage. And, as you have seen, as you have been discussing, it has. So she is
no longer on the White House. And what is so notable about this is, the president is increasingly isolated. We know that he has iced out other officials in his White House, such as the White House counsel, and he is surrounded by a smaller and smaller group of people, where he spends most of his time in the residence.
One source I was talking to said, there's a lot of concern. He doesn't have Twitter as an outlet now. How is he going to use -- how is he going to relieve his pressure?
And one last point. It is notable, the stark difference between this impeachment proceeding and the one last time. When I was at the White House, I was getting talking points repeatedly from White House officials defending this president. That is not the case this time around.
And, Jamie Gangel, I want to bring you in to talk about the highest- ranking member of the House Republican Caucus to vote for impeachment.
And before we -- before I ask you about it, I want to just remind our viewers, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, she is the chair of the House Republican Caucus. She is the third leader in line. And she hasn't -- she didn't speak on the floor of the House.
But she did issue a statement yesterday, saying: "The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the president."
And, Jamie, I know that she, the congresswoman, the chair, is getting a lot of blowback from the president's sycophants about this. How is she taking it?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, she actually put out a statement that began: "I'm not going anywhere."
And this is what I would also add, Jake. We have been saying for four years-plus, when are Republicans going to stand up to Donald Trump? Liz Cheney did just that, in no uncertain terms.
There was bound to be some blowback. But I will tell you, Liz Cheney is very blunt. She is not scared of Donald Trump. She certainly isn't scared of Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz.
There are some very loud members of that Republican Caucus, but she is very well respected by many of the members you never hear anything from. She has gone all over the country raising money for them, campaigning for them.
I think that she feels she did the right thing here, and she's not worried about the blowback.
TAPPER: She is a very conservative Republican. And she reminds us in her statement, Jamie, that this isn't about politics.
TAPPER: This is about just plain decency.
And in her statement and her position, she has more integrity and courage than McCarthy, Scalise, and most of the House Republican leadership combined -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: You know, if you take a look at the roll call right now, Jake, take a look at this, 207 in favor of impeachment, 184 against. Nine Republicans have already voted in favor, in favor of impeachment.
Nine Republicans. And you see 207.
The magic number, John King, as we all know, is 217. Normally, it's 218.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right.
BLITZER: But there are two vacant seats right now for a variety of reasons in the House of Representatives.
So, once they reach that 217 number, history will be made. A president of the United States will be impeached for the second time. And you can see 207 right now, 10 more votes to go, and it will be done.
KING: It will be done.
It's not official until they gavel the vote closed, in case somebody raises their hand and say, I made a mistake.
But, yes, we are seconds away, moments away from history. Donald Trump will become the second -- the only president in United States history to be impeached a second time, to be impeached twice. And so what are we watching?
Number one, what does he say after this? In the middle of the debate, he did issue a statement saying he does not want violence. That is a welcome step from the president of the United States. He did it on paper. It would be nice if he would walk into the Briefing Room at this moment of tension across the country, look into a camera and say, I'm asking my supporters, I'm urging my supporters, stand down at this moment.
That would be nice. But the statement was one thing. Now the question is, what happens in the future? A, how does he react in his final days, now that he has been impeached again?
And then, B, this is the end of the Trump term. It's the beginning of this fight we're seeing and that Jake and Jamie and Pam and Dan and Abby were just talking about the Republican Party. So, it is important to see how many Republicans in the end in the
House -- there are nine right now. We will see if that number grows a little bit as the final votes are tallied. And then what happens in the Senate?
Because the Senate Republican Party and the House Republican Party, even in the Trump years, have been very different. And I think, as we go forward, we will see that divide grow even wider.
So, what does Mitch McConnell do? He has said he's not going to tell you how he's going to vote. We knew how he was going to vote on the first Trump impeachment. He was firmly in the president's camp.
Now he wants the Democrats to run the show when it gets to the Senate. He's going to wait this out. I think we're in this testing moment for Republicans. And, again, one of the fascinating things here is, so many of these Republicans are just stuck in a box, Wolf, and they don't know the way out, because they're disgusted by what happened last week.
They're disgusted by the president of the United States. But, for two months, they supported his lies, including after the riots at the Capitol. So, for many of these Republicans, they just cannot give you an intellectual argument right now, because they stood for two months and supported lies from the president of the United States.
And they're stuck in that box and their party is stuck in that box.
BLITZER: Two hundred and 10. Now 211. Six more votes needed to reach that magic number of 217 needed to impeach the president of the United States for the second time now. It's up to 212. Five more votes.
So they're moving relatively quickly. They have given all the members, as you know, John, a lot of time because of the coronavirus. You notice that everyone was wearing masks on the House floor, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives.
Look at this; 215 members now have voted in favor, including nine Republicans. And that's very significant. The last time, as you and I well remember, the president was impeached, President Trump was impeached, no Republicans voted in the House in favor of impeachment, but already nine have voted right now.
KING: Right, one independent, Justin Amash, who had just left the Republican Party, did vote to impeach the president.
BLITZER: All right, here it is, here it is right now.
KING: There you see it.
BLITZER: Two hundred and seventeen has just been reached.
We have just witnessed a truly solemn moment in American history. The House of Representatives has reached the threshold for making Donald J. Trump the only president of the United States to be impeached for a second time. Unlike his first impeachment, this is a bipartisan vote, at least nine
Republicans agreeing with Democrats that this president poses a threat to U.S. national security and to democracy, that he incited the riot at the U.S. Capitol by repeatedly lying that he won the election and by urging his supporters, to, in his words, fight like hell.
As he heads into the final week of his term of, the 45th president of the United States now is poised to face trial in the United States Senate. And there you see the numbers. We will show the numbers up on the screen one more time.
But this is a truly historic moment, now 225 votes in favor of impeachment, and 10 Republicans, as you can see, have now voted in favor of impeaching the president of the United States.
Jake, this is something that we anticipated would happen, but 10 Republicans joining the Democrats is very significant.
TAPPER: It is. It is the first bipartisan impeachment of President Trump, though it is a second impeachment.
But I do have to say, as historical as this moment is, I think one week ago was even more historical, because that was the time, that was the day that we all witnessed the president of the United States and his supporters, including Donald Trump Jr. and Rudy Giuliani and others, inciting a mob to stage a domestic terrorist attack on the U.S. Congress in which five people were killed, including a U.S. Capitol Hill police officer.
And subsequently, at least two individuals, including a police officer, have committed suicide. It's a solemn moment, Dana. It's not anything that's fun to report on any of this.
BASH: Absolutely not.
I mean, if you think, last Wednesday, this horrific, unthinkable attack on the United States Capitol, while they were trying to do their constitutional duty, just literally written in the -- the day and the time that they -- that they certify the Electoral College is written in the Constitution.
They were attacked. Today, a week later, the president is impeached in a bipartisan way, again, only 10 Republicans, but that's 10 more than we saw the last time.
And then a week from today, next Wednesday, President Biden will be President Biden at 12:00, again, as prescribed by the Constitution. These two weeks are mind-numbing.
And we always knew going into the 2020 election cycle that if, in fact, Joe Biden won, it was going to be a dramatic end to the Trump presidency. Nobody could have imagined it like this, with people dead, with blood on his hands because of his absolute refusal to accept the reality and the fact -- I mean, what -- they didn't even talk in this very limited article of impeachment about the fact that it was just a couple of weeks ago that he called up the secretary of state of Georgia and asked him to find votes.
I mean, the length to which he went to bust through the free and fair election is really remarkable. And, again, the fact that he dragged the party and dragged his supporters along with him in a way that ended up so violent is -- is something that we all will never forget and probably never believe.
PHILLIP: So many lines crossed, so many norms just completely shattered in this transition period.
And I think, looking back, we all knew this was not going to be a typical transition. But I think, as you said, Dana, nobody could have anticipated that we'd be sitting here today talking about an insurrection the Capitol and five people dead, and, of course, President Trump planning to be absent from the inauguration activities next week, as, frankly, he probably should be, considering what he incited last week.
But this is a moment for the country where so many things that we have taken for granted about this process of transferring power from one person to another have been really turned on its head in this Trump era.
And it's a real challenge for this country to pick up the pieces from here.
What is troubling about even the 10 Republicans who have joined the Democrats in voting for impeachment is that there is no consensus among an entire political party in our system that what happened last week was so wrong that it deserves to be deterred and it deserves to be to be condemned.
There is not consensus on that. And that's going to be an issue for this country in the future. I don't know whether Donald Trump is going to end up being a candidate in 2024, a twice-impeached president trying to come back on to the stage, or whether he will be convicted and prohibited in a vote from holding office again.
But, clearly, the Republican Party has not abandoned Trumpism.
PHILLIP: And that remains a real force in our political world right now.
TAPPER: And as I throw to Anderson, I want to say I agree with your arguments, Dana and Abby, that we could not -- no one could have predicted exactly what happened.
But I will say, Anderson, we have all been covering Donald Trump inciting violence since he ran for president. One of the questions I asked him at the debate in Miami in 2016 was whether he would agree to lower the temperature. There was Cesar Sayoc, his supporter who sent pipe bombs to members of
the media and to Democratic politicians. There was El Paso. There was the Tree of Life Synagogue. There was Charlottesville. There have been many, many times that President Trump has been inciting violence one way or another.
This was just the most direct such tragedy -- Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The Michigan Statehouse, encouraging, praising...
COOPER: ... men who walked -- who burst into the Michigan Statehouse with long rifles, getting in the face of police officers, shouting down elected officials.
That was in many ways a dry run, perhaps, for what we later saw at the Capitol.
TAPPER: A hundred percent.
COOPER: Yes, Jake, thank you for your coverage. We will come back to you very shortly.
Want to bring in Gloria Borger and David Axelrod.
You know, we're waiting for the gaveling in to actually the reading out of the final results, 220 -- 219 Democrats, 10 Republicans voting to -- excuse me -- 221 -- it's now gone up -- 10 Republicans voting to impeach the president.
Gloria Borger, the history of what we're seeing, and when you consider, what you're not seeing right now on camera is all the National Guard troops who have been sleeping in the halls of Congress who are now stationed all around a locked-down Capitol Hill area, armed members of the National Guard.