Return to Transcripts main page
CNN Live Event/Special
President Trump Impeached; Ten Republicans Join Dems In Vote To Impeach Trump. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired January 13, 2021 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: 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.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
Inside that chamber, you don't see it, although you do see members in masks now. And outside, it is like an armed camp. And I can attest to that. Coming up to CNN on Capitol Hill, I know what I saw, and it was frightening to me, quite honestly, Anderson.
What we have just witnessed is -- as we have all said, he's the first president in history to be impeached twice. But this happened at warp speed. It isn't as if Democrats woke up and said, wouldn't it be a great idea to impeach Donald Trump before he leaves office? They did not do that.
They were the witnesses to the insurrection. And, today, they became the judges. And what they said, along with 10 Republicans, what they said is, enough is enough. We have to stand up. We have to say something. This might not be politically helpful to a lot of people, because the Republicans, on the other hand, said, look, you guys just want to cancel Trump, as Congressman Jim Jordan said it.
That misses the point. This isn't about canceling Donald Trump. This was about saving democracy as we know it. And I don't think, quite frankly, the American public got the real debate that they deserved, because there were very few Republicans who stood up -- you can count them on one hand -- who said, this was a free and fair election.
The president's statement today did not say that. And I think that is what the public needs to hear to reassure them that democracy survives.
COOPER: And I should point out, David, before we hear from you, it is now 231 votes to impeach, 10 Republicans on record. We're still waiting to hear from four Republicans on this.
So, we continue to watch that. And we will bring you the gaveling in when it happens.
But, David, what has stood out to you?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I agree with everything that Gloria has said.
We heard several -- many Republican members say, why are we doing this? There's only seven days left. It's vindictive. It's all about Trump.
Not really. It's about reestablishing norms in our democracy. It's about standing up and saying, no, this is not acceptable. We will not accept a president inciting an insurrection against the government, against the Capitol, putting people's lives in jeopardy.
And I think that is really important. The fact that 10 Republicans stood up is meaningful. I know some people may be disappointed about that number. And you would think it would be more, given the fact that many of those Republicans were potential victims of this assault. The vice president of the United States was a target of this result.
But I think back to Watergate. And on the House Judiciary Committee, a majority of Republicans voted not to impeach Richard Nixon. It was only a handful of Republicans who voted. And partisanship wasn't as strong then as it is now.
But it is really important -- and we will see if it sticks -- that what people take away from this is not partisanship, but the fact that there are norms that cannot be broken. There are laws and rules and institutions that have to be respected in a democracy.
And I think that that is -- I thought Steny Hoyer's close very much spoke to that.
If there was a mistake that I thought Democrats made in this debate, it was the notion that this president is a clear and present danger, and we need to get him out of office now. Well, he may be a clear and present danger, but it's very clear that he's going to serve out his term and leave on January 20.
So that was sort of a red herring, and it left open the opportunity for Republicans to say that we only have seven days left, so let him go.
That's not the point. The point is, you have to put a marker down. You have to say, this is unacceptable now with this president, any future president. And I think that's the significance of what the House did today. We will see what the Senate does with it.
COOPER: Hard not to see, though, partisanship in just the results of this.
COOPER: I mean, 197 so far, Republicans voting against impeachment, many of those are people who, even after the attack, stood up and objected to the free and fair election, objected to certifying the results of the election, after the attack. BORGER: I mean, this is a Republican Party right now, you're looking
at the fault lines in the party.
This is a party, some of whom privately will stand with Liz Cheney, calling what the president did a betrayal, but, publicly, they won't do it.
There's a freshman Republican who stood and voted for impeachment.
COOPER: Let's listen in -- I'm sorry -- to the gavel in.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Does any member wish to change a vote?
No, can't go.
COOPER: Speaker Pelosi has asked if anybody wants to change the vote. That is what they're now just waiting to hear if anybody motions that they want to change their vote, as you see, 231 votes for impeaching the president, 197 against, 10 Republicans, 221 Democrats, on the nay side, 197 Republicans.
And they are still waiting to hear if anybody wants to change their vote.
David Axelrod, as we continue to watch this -- let's listen.
PELOSI: On this vote, the ayes are 232, the nays are 197. The resolution is adopted. Without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, so, Speaker Pelosi has just gaveled the vote down, and the motion has passed.
President Trump becomes the first president in the history of this republic to be impeached twice. This follows, of course, his incitement of a mob that committed a terrorist attack and attempted to stop the counting of the electoral votes in the House of Representatives last week.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The House Resolution 40 is hereby adopted.
The chair announces the speaker's appointment pursuant to Clause 11 of Rule 10, Clause 11 of Rule 1, in order -- in the order of the following for the House of January 4, 2021, of the following members of the House to the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
CLERK: Mr. Schiff of California, chair, Mr. Nunes of California.
TAPPER: So, the House of Representatives has voted to impeach President Trump for a second time. The final vote was 232 in favor. That includes 10 Republicans.
Let's listen back in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... 1-B of House Resolution 8, the House stands adjourned until 11:00 a.m. on Friday, January 15, 2021.
TAPPER: All right, so, the House is adjourned until January 15. That's a recap.
The House of Representatives just voted to impeach President Donald J. Trump for the second time. This time, it was a bipartisan vote; 232 members of the House, including 10 Republicans, voted to impeach President Trump.
The vote against was 197. There were five members of Congress who did not vote. This is the most bipartisan impeachment vote in the history of the United States. This is more bipartisan than the impeachment vote of any previous president.
And I should note that, in addition to the Republicans who voted, Abby, to impeach the president, there are a number of Republicans who did not vote to impeach the president, but laid the blame for the terrorist attack at his feet, including, for instance, Congressman Chip Roy of Texas, who said he wasn't going to vote for impeachment because he was concerned about the way that the resolution was written, but that he did blame President Trump for the incident.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And even Kevin McCarthy, who, as we have discussed was part of this conspiracy to spread lies about the election, but, as a close ally of President Trump's, said today: "The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on the Capitol."
That is the clearest that we have heard from someone at that -- in that position of leadership, the House minority leader, from -- on the Republican side, not leaving Liz Cheney alone, by the way. They agree on that. Liz Cheney and Kevin McCarthy agree that the president is fully responsible for this.
I also think we're about to enter a phase, the Senate side, as we go into the Senate trial here, where we don't know what's going to happen. There has not been a whole lot of information about where the majority of Republicans in that chamber stand on this issue of impeachment.
Mitch McConnell has made it very clear he's open to it. And if "The New York Times" and our reporting is correct, he even privately might believe that impeachment is appropriate in this moment. But the fact that he's letting it be known pretty much on the record that he has not made a decision about whether he would vote to convict or not is a huge red flag for President Trump that could indicate that, in the Senate, he could face a very different situation from what he faced the last time around.
The Senate is typically not as staunchly conservative and Trumpian and partisan as the House is. And so I think we can expect some surprises on that side.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
And with regard to what we saw just now, 10 Republicans saying, yes, I want to impeach the president who is in our own party, it may not seem like a huge number. It's not, when you think about the entire Republican Caucus.
But these are 10 Republicans who did what they thought was right, but what is politically the much harder decision to make.
BASH: Much harder.
TAPPER: It's a great point.
BASH: And it's easy to say, I condemn the president, but I'm not going to vote for impeachment. That's the easy political route to take.
Those 10 did something that is very, very hard. And we will see what happens. I mean, sometimes, with these issues, with the benefit of time and more information, the votes that these 10 have taken today will look smarter and smarter and smarter. And that's what they're relying on.
TAPPER: And two of them -- we should point out, two of them, I believe, are freshmen...
TAPPER: ... are first-year members, Congresswoman Beutler of Washington, Herrera Beutler, and Congressman Meijer of Michigan.
BASH: She's -- Herrera Beutler is not a freshman, but...
TAPPER: She's not a freshman. I'm sorry. Well, then it's one.
But it is the congressman from New York, I think you're referring to.
BASH: David Valadao is...
TAPPER: No, David Valadao is from California.
BASH: In any event -- Valadao.
TAPPER: He's a freshman, but he had held the seat previously. He was beat by T.J. Cox. And then he just beat T.J. Cox.
Anyway, let's just talk about Meijer then.
Yes, OK. Congressman Meijer of Michigan, Republican, he took the seat of Justin Amash.
That is a really tough vote for a freshman. But he, in his statement, made it very clear, you can't have presidents of the United States inciting terrorist attacks on the Capitol.
TAPPER: On one level, it's kind of amazing that it wasn't a unanimous vote, especially considering the fact that all of these members of Congress...
PHILLIP: Seems obvious.
TAPPER: ... except for the potential co-conspirators, who we don't know -- who might exist, that all of them were really at risk.
I mean, that mob was out for blood, literally. They were chanting "Hang Mike Pence." They wanted to kill the vice president. So, on one level, it's kind of amazing that it isn't a unanimous vote. Hey, dude, you inspired this terrorist attack that almost killed me and my family and everybody I work with.
But, on another level, because this is politics, and because it is the Trump era ,where literally almost -- I mean, the president had said -- put it himself. He could stand on the floor of the House floor -- he could stand on this on Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and his base would be with him.
I mean, I don't know if he meant it literally or not, but we just saw the House of Representatives, the Republicans, go along with that basic idea.
PHILLIP: You know, one of the things that you hear a lot of Republicans talking about is, who exactly is the Republican base?
I mean, is it the people who stormed the Capitol last week? Or is it what I assume to be a vast majority of the 74 million people who voted for President Trump who are reasonable people, normal people, and don't want to be associated with or represented by that mob?
And so there is a sense that Republicans are still grappling with this idea of how much they still need to cater to the types of people who believe the wildest and most ridiculous conspiracy theories.
And I'm not just talking about the fraud stuff. What we saw last week was a confluence of anti-Semitic, of QAnon conspiracy theories, of racist individuals converging on the Capitol.
At what point does the Republican Party say, that's not my base, let's move on from those people so that we can talk to the rest of the 74 million people who are not actually like that?
Who are normal people, who are maybe just Republicans and who don't want their party to be represented by that. TAPPER: I need to correct myself. I got a text from a member of Congress from Michigan. It's Meijer. Congressman Peter Meijer of Michigan. I'm sorry I mispronounced your name on this big day when you were braver than most of your colleagues, Congressman Meijer.
Let's go to Jim Acosta right now who's at the White House.
Jim, what's the latest from over there?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we're waiting to see if the president will make some kind of statement this evening. He has put out a statement earlier today. He released that one to Fox and then the White House press office. The kindness of their heart sent the statement out to everybody else in the White House press corps.
The president saying in that statement he does not want to see violence during any upcoming demonstrations surrounding the inauguration of Joe Biden. One thing, though, I would want to point you to, and that is some of the reactions I'm getting from Trump advisers. And this one, I think, you know, really -- you know, it may crystallize a lot of the feelings that we all have about this president. But it's coming from somebody who advises the approximate president, speaks with him regularly, just spoke with him the other day.
This is what the adviser said: In the end, it all came crashing down, in the words of this adviser, because Donald Trump could never tell the truth. He will be the cautionary tale that parents tell their kids. Don't end up like Trump because of your lies.
I just think that's an extraordinary statement to come from an adviser to the president of the United States, who is now the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice. Even his own people right now, Jake, Dana and Abby, even his own people know he's a scoundrel, know he's a liar, know he's somebody that incites violence.
This is something I see as the culmination of so much we've had to experience over the last four years at those rallies, lie after lie after lie. You know, fist fights breaking out in rallies, inciting violence and so on. We talked about this time and again.
But now, it seems people inside the president's own team of advisers get it. You know, this one adviser describing the president as someone who built everything on lies and this is coming crashing down on Donald Trump because of his lies and perhaps the biggest lie he told over the last four years was that he did not lose the 2020 election. It was a lie that became so cancerous we saw the events unfold a week ago, Jake.
TAPPER: Jim Acosta, thanks so much.
Dana, we were just talking about this earlier. Look, some people work for Donald Trump, who were trying to be guardrails. Others were enabling this.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: It's an historic day, indeed. This is a moment that I'm sure the president of the United States was bracing for. We knew the Democrats had the votes, 232 in favor, but 10 Republicans joined the Democrats in favor of impeaching this president for the second time.
John king, let's look ahead right now. There's seven days left before Joe Biden becomes the president of the United States, Kamala Harris becomes the vice president of the United States. Trump presumably goes to Florida, to Palm Beach, to Mar-a-Lago, does what he wants to do.
He's probably going to leave before. He's definitely not attending the inauguration, which is next Wednesday.
But these next several days will be critically important in determining whether or not the president is actually convicted in the United States Senate. There will be a trial.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Such a defining day today. And we will have three successive Wednesdays in the history books. Last Wednesday, the insurrection. Today, the second impeachment of Donald Trump, the only president in history to be impeached twice, and next Wednesday, what is an American celebration, whether it's a Democrat or Republican taking that oath, the peaceful transfer of power, the peaceful transition of power.
But as you mentioned, we enter into what just happened is defining. What happens next is so uncertain. Mitch McConnell making clear, A, he hasn't made up his mind on convicting the president. That's a big deal.
Just like Liz Cheney's first statement when she said it's a vote of conscience, that was the green light. That was the green light. Liz Cheney was moving toward voting toward impeachment and thought some of her Republican colleagues should.
Mitch McConnell saying I have an open mind is a green light to other Republicans and no one should mistake that. The Senate vote will be different and I would argue most likely more significant than we just saw in the House. The question is when.
Mitch McConnell says the Senate won't come back in time to do this before the Biden inauguration. Clearly, he wants the Democrats to run the impeachment trial. Chuck Schumer will be the majority leader then. He wants the Democrats to run it. The question is, they will run the Senate then, the question is what happens to the Republicans?
So, what happens to the president? Is he convicted? Is he barred from seeking future office?
We don't know the answer to that. We do know he will be on very different and much more shaky terrain than he was in his first impeachment when it was clear the votes were not there.
[16:50:06] We don't have the answer now. A, Democrats have more votes and, B, Republicans are much more open to it. And then there's the bigger questions that will carry into the Biden presidency? What about this divide in the Republican Party?
It will not end today. It will not end when the Senate votes. It will carry on through the next two years. It will carry on through 2022.
What happens? Does the establishment try to primary the Republicans who stood with Trump? Do the Trump forces, including the president, does he try to essentially -- from the post-presidency, try to go after those who were against him today?
So, the Republican civil war will continue in 2022 and into 2024, and this is important and it gets lost in this sometimes. We get a new president in one week in the middle of a pandemic. The pandemic is at its height. It is as bad as it has ever been.
He needs Republican help to get the vaccination rollout at a higher speed. He needs Republican help. He says we need to stimulate the economy, which is bleeding jobs at the moment.
He wants to have a bipartisan approach to government. Can he do that in this environment?
So, this is defining. History will record it. Donald Trump cannot wipe it away, no matter what he says or does from here on out. But so much of what comes ahead of us is still uncertain. It's like a quicksand environment.
BLITZER: Yeah, and if there's a trial, there will be a trial in the U.S. Senate. Remember, there will be 50 Democrats, 50 Republicans. The Democrats will be the majority because the vice president, Kamala Harris, will be president of the Senate. But in order to convict the president of this impeachable offense, incitement by insurrection, they will need 17 Republicans to vote with 50 Democrats and that's a big challenge.
KING: It is a big challenge.
BLITZER: Jake, as we go ahead, we're watching this, of course, every step of the way.
TAPPER: That's right, Wolf, and as you note, there's another -- there's another step of this process. After the House impeaches, they have to deliver the articles of impeachment to the Senate. And then the Senate does what it does. There's a trial and they have to vote whether to acquit or to convict.
Let's go to Manu Raju on Capitol Hill for more on that.
And, Manu, so what's next? When will those articles be delivered to the Senate?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's the big question here. Actually, I just tried to ask the speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi, when she would transmit the one article of impeachment over to the Senate that would begin the Senate trial process in the Senate, she did not answer questions.
She would also not answer questions about her reaction to Senator Mitch McConnell and McConnell's plan to wait until after the Senate returns on January 19th, not bring the Senate back earlier before Donald Trump leaves office or have a trial to push him out of office.
And I -- we just got a statement, as we were coming on air here, guys, from Mitch McConnell. Essentially he is explaining why he will wait. I'm just going to read it to you. So, bear with me. We're all getting it right now.
Mitch McConnell is critical here to determining whether or not Donald Trump will get convicted in the United States Senate. He said the House of Representatives has voted to impeach the president. The Senate process will now begin at our first regular meeting following receipt of the article from the House.
So, he says the Senate process will now begin at our first regular meeting following receipt of the article in the House. Regular meeting meaning January 19th, okay? He's given -- this is what he goes on to say given the rules, procedures and Senate precedence that governs presidential impeachment trials there's simply no chance that a fair or serious trial that could conclude before President-elect Biden is sworn in next week.
He says there's no chance a fair trial could happen before Biden is sworn in. He goes on to say the Senate has held three impeachment trials, they've lasted 83 days, 37 days and 21 days respectively.
So, he said, even if the Senate process were to begin this week and move promptly, no final verdict would be reached until after President Trump had left office. He goes on to say this is not a decision that I am making. It is a fact that the president-elect himself cited last week that his inauguration January 20th is the quickest path to any change of the occupancy of the presidency. He's pointing the finger back to Biden in sorts.
He goes on to say, in light of this reality, I believe it would be best to serve our nation in Congress and executive branch spend the next seven days focused on the transition. And then he goes on to talk about how he's grateful for law enforcement through all of this.
What he does not say is what his position is. He said in an email to his colleagues today that he had not made a position yet. He said he wanted to listen to the arguments in the trial to decide whether or not to convict Donald Trump.
So, his position will be critical to determine whether or not there would be 67 senators who would convict Donald Trump. But significant statement here saying no way, no how can there be a Senate trial before Donald Trump leaves office. That means Donald Trump is going to serve out his term. If something changes or the president decides to resign, which we're not expecting, McConnell here making clear, any trial is going to begin under the Biden presidency, guys. TAPPER: All right. Manu Raju, thanks so much for that update.
And, Dana, I mean, that's -- that's big news, the Senate majority leader, who will only be the majority leader until January 20th and he's going to become the minority leader, saying there is not going to be a trial before Joe Biden becomes president.
BASH: Exactly, because of the fact that he let it be known yesterday that he thinks that President Trump committed impeachable offenses, there was a lot of scrambling to try to figure out if that meant that McConnell would take what happened today and move it quickly, as quickly as he could through the Senate. And the answer, based on this statement is no. He's not going to do anything to touch impeachment while he is still majority leader. That will be just one more week.
It does not mean that there won't be a trial in the Senate, because in one week, when the then vice president, Kamala Harris, will be the president of the Senate. Democrats will take the majority. And it will be likely in Chuck Schumer's lap to figure out.
Likely not if there would be a trial but how the trial will go forward. How he will do it in conjunction with what the Biden transition, what Joe Biden himself is saying, which is that we have to stick with my priorities, priorities of the country dealing with COVID and the economy, never mind confirming his cabinet.
PHILLIP: There's no question Mitch McConnell is punting this to the Democratic majority. I mean, he said -- his comments in that statement, but he could have agreed with Schumer to bring the Senate back early. He chose not to do that. He released a statement saying as much today.
But now that this trial will happen after Trump has left office, first of all, we should let folks know, President Trump can continue to be impeached even though he is not currently holding federal office. It has happened to other lower office holders, not the president but lower office holders before. So, that will go forward --
TAPPER: You mean impeached and convicted?
PHILLIP: He can be impeached and convicted even after he is no longer in that office. But --
TAPPER: But what does that mean? Why? I mean, who cares? I'm just playing devil's advocated here.
PHILLIP: Well, this --
TAPPER: If he's no longer president, who cares if he gets convicted or not?
PHILLIP: I think this is the critical point here. So, this now gets kicked to a Democratic majority. It's a question of two things. One, deterrence. For future presidents,
to put down a marker saying this can never happen again. You heard that argument made by many Democrats in the House, and, frankly, made by some of the Republicans who voted in favor of impeachment in the House.
But the second part is this critical second element, which is will he be disqualified from holding federal office in the future? If that is a decision that is made under a Democratic Senate, it's something that gives McConnell and many Republicans plausible deniability. They're not the ones taking Donald Trump off the field for 2024. The Democrats are, to doing it to protect Joe Biden.
So it becomes a much more political issue in a Democratic Senate. But I also think it makes it a much more live issue. I think it's a real possibility that we can see a different dynamic in a Democratically- controlled Senate in an impeachment hearing.
BASH: And I'll add one more data point to what you just said, which is for history sake. It's not just to prevent a president in the future. It's to make a mark for history for the history books on where these senators stand on whether or not what President Trump did, his role in what happened to them and to the United States Capitol one week ago deserves impeachment and deserves to be convicted.
So that's one. The other is you mentioned making sure he can't run again. That has to be a separate vote in addition to impeachment. There was some question because this is something that is very rarely addressed in this country.
TAPPER: Conviction, in addition to conviction.
BASH: In addition to conviction, thank you. And, you know, there might -- it might be politically beneficial or it might be politically detrimental to some of those who were part of this enabling the president, who are doing so with an eye on 2024, knowing full well what they were doing was wrong. And they were doing it for crass, political reasons.
TAPPER: Yeah, and Joe Biden, President-elect Joe Biden will have to come to some sort of decision on this. He has punted it while various members of the Republican Party have tried to turn this into Joe Biden needs to, in the name of healing and unity, needs to make take a position on it. He hasn't said anything about this. So, that's going to be a thing.
And I think one of the other issues that Democrats are going to have to grapple with as they control the House and soon the Senate is, how much is this going to be about President Trump and how much of this is going to be about investigating what happened a week ago? Because this was a major law enforcement failure and also there are serious questions about who was organizing this and how much they were talking to people on the Trump team or Republicans in Congress. Wolf?