Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

CNN: Trump Talked Out of Pardoning Kids & GOP Lawmakers; Trump's Forego Traditional Tour of White House for Bidens; Biden COVID Team Nervous about What Trump Team Hasn't Told Them; U.S. Crosses 400,000 COVID Deaths on Trump's Final Day in Office; The Survivors of the Trump Administration's Revolving Door; Op-Ed: Trump Couldn't Have Incited Sedition Without Help of FOX News. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired January 19, 2021 - 14:30   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And it also speaks to the fear and fallout from the January 6th rally that there's real concern about legal exposure because it's among these Republican lawmakers.

Also the president's children. Donald Trump Jr and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, both spoke at that rally and were involved in it.

But also the people who organized it, fundraised for it. Women for America First is one of the groups. Turning Point USA another one.

There's serious concern among the president's inner circle that there could be real legal exposure from that January 6th rally. And that played a part in the conversations the president had about this.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: It's incredible to me Republican legislators are going to the president or people around him fishing around for a pardon. I mean, that's really extraordinary.

Why do you think this warning from the attorneys resonated with Trump?

COLLINS: It is so unusual because that is something typically the president would dismiss. If it's advice he doesn't like, even from attorneys, he often will push back on it.

But we're told he was really unsettled by this conversation, that it spooked him.

Unless he was going to list specific crimes for people in these pardons, that they weren't going to be issued. So that's why they're not expected to be included here.

I think the president is approaching these final few hours now in the White House from this very distant, muted manner where he's not appearing in public. He's not his normal rambunctious self.

If you speak to people who talked to the president, they will agree with this assessment, and say this is kind of the way he's looking at it, that he's actually worried about legal repercussions once he leaves office.

But he's worried about his legacy. That is a big concern when it comes to whether or not the Senate would vote to convict him.

That's another reason two people likely won't be on this list, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. That's because Senate Republicans have made clear to the White House they did not want either of them to be included on this list of clemency.

And the president is actually concerned that his favor with Senate Republicans has turned. And he's concerned about angering them further.

And that played a big role on who will be on this list when the White House releases it shortly.

COOPER: Interesting.

Kaitlan Collins, appreciate it. Thank you.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Anderson, as President Trump departs the White House, he will be doing so without performing many of the traditions usually associated with a peaceful transfer of power.

Among them, the tour of the White House that a sitting president and first lady traditionally give their successors. To this point, the Trumps have not even spoken to the Bidens.

CNN contributor, Kate Andersen Brower, is with us now. She's also the author of "Exploring the White House: Inside America's Most Famous Home."

Kate, crews will have only about five hours to move the Bidens into the White House. I want to hear what you're hearing about this part of the transition.

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The residence staff -- about 90 people, butlers, ushers, florists -- they're the most devoted, patriotic people I have ever come across. So they're working really hard on this transition.

We know that they will have the time when Biden is with the three former presidents at Arlington to -- and when he's being sworn in to do the move. We know they're moving ahead as planned.

And we also know Melania Trump has shipped a lot of their things already to Mar-a-Lago. So they're just trying to make this as normal a transition as possible under these extraordinary chances.

KEILAR: You wrote a piece for where you said it's disappointing Melania Trump is not extended an invitation to the incoming first lady, Jill Biden, for this traditional walk-through of the White House.

Tell us more about why something that might just -- it seems like a simple gesture but it's actually a tradition that is so important.

ANDERSEN BROWER: That's right. I think it gets lost in the morass of all of these awful things that happened in the past few weeks. So it's easy to forget something like this.

But it is important because it's part of the people's transfer of power.

First of all, it's just basic kindness and decency to show somebody their new home and to walk them through it.

Melania Trump got that invitation from Michelle Obama, even after Melania Trump questioned Obama's citizenship.

So this is something that's been done for every modern first lady. She's gotten this tour.

Laura Bush invited Michelle Obama twice to the White House with her daughters.

It doesn't matter what political party they're from. It's all about putting the country before yourself. And it's unfortunate that didn't happen this time.

KEILAR: It certainly is.

Kate, thank you so much for that. Appreciate it.

And just a few hours from now, President-Elect Biden is planning a memorial for the Americans lost to COVID-19, expected to cross 400,000 by the end of this day.


And as Biden's COVID team gets ready to transition, we're learning that they're nervous about what the Trump administration may not have told them about their pandemic response.


COOPER: As the Biden administration prepares to inherit the worst health crisis in the last century, CNN is learning there's anxiety brewing among his coronavirus advisers stemming from a concern over the lack of cooperation and transparency from the outgoing Trump team.

Our political correspondent, Sara Murray, is working the story for us.

Tell us what's happening, Sara.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There is a nervousness. There's this sense that they don't know what they don't know.

They've had some briefings with the outgoing Trump administration but they don't really feel like they don't have a full grasp of what's happening in all 50 states when it comes to vaccine distribution. They don't have full insight into how many vaccine doses the U.S. Has

on hand and what exactly it can do to increase the number of vaccine doses available.

They're dealing with these new variants that are popping up all around the globe. And they will have to grapple with one of the vaccines, will continue to work with all of those variants.


So they are coming in with a big sense of the unknown.

I think this was really highlighted when we saw the incoming Biden administration say, look, we're going to release all of these second doses sitting in reserve, that's going to be our policy.

And the Trump administration said, no, no, we're going to do that first. It turns out that reserve didn't actually exist.

Here's Mike Osterholm, who is one of Joe Biden's advisers, explaining what that revolution was like.


DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, BIDEN CORONAVIRUS ADVISOR: We were quite surprised last Friday when we learned that, in fact, there weren't these extra doses of vaccine being held back for a second dose.

Something that significant only to find out last Friday makes you very concerned there's still more to be learned that you don't know that's going to create a real challenge as we go forward over the weeks ahead.


MURRAY: And this is what the team is grappling with. They can write as many plans as they want. But in a matter of hours, Joe Biden is going to be in charge of this enormous health crisis.

And that means grappling with the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have died, the American public. But also coming up with policies that will actually work to get us out of this mess with relatively limited information so far -- Anderson?

COOPER: There's also obviously huge concern over the rollout thus far of the vaccines.

MURRAY: Absolutely. I mean, we've seen this has gone at a much slower pace than anyone expected. Certainly, a much slower pace than we heard from Operation Warp Speed.

Leaving it up to the states means has been that everyone is trying different things. And there isn't great insight, frankly, into what's working really well and what's slowing it down in some states.

The other issue we keep hearing from states across the board is we're not getting reliable information from the Trump administration about how many doses we're going to be getting and when we're going to be getting that.

And that makes it a lot harder to plan their vaccination campaigns. That will be stuff the Biden administration has to deal with.

You can say from the 10,000-foot view, we're going to create mass vaccination sites and more vaccines, but to get into the nitty-gritty details, you really have to understand what's happening in all of these states, what all of these production contracts look like.

And that's what is waiting for them when they get out on Wednesday.

COOPER: Is it clear how quickly Biden's task force will -- do we know when they're going to have their first sort of meeting, the first public results of what they plan to do?

MURRAY: Well, I think we can really be hearing more on this truly, you know, any hour now. We know this is something they've been thinking about.

What was really striking, I think, What we've seen from Joe Biden so far, is he's given us a high-level view of what they plan to do.

He's talked about mask mandates on federal grounds and he's talked about reopening schools. But he hasn't released a lot of point-by- point plans so far on exactly how he's going to do that stuff.

I suspect some of that, if not all of it, has been written so far and I think we'll get details on that soon.

Again, they have to be prepared to adjust on the fly. If they get into the administration and find things look a lot worse or different they expected, that can really put a wrench in a lot of these plans.

COOPER: Sara Murray, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

KEILAR: Moments ago, the United States crossed a gut-wrenching milestone in the coronavirus pandemic. And 400,000 Americans have now died from the virus.

That is more than the number of Americans who died in World War I, the Vietnam War and the Korean War combined. And this is nearing the amount of Americans who died in World War II.

And 400,000 souls gone. Each one, they're not a number. They have a name. They had jobs. They had passions. They had goals of their own. They have family and friends who are now grieving their death.

And we would like to pay tribute to some of these people we lost this year.

They are teachers.

The Los Angeles area lost two recently. Erika Brown Atkinson, a fifth- grade teacher at Charles Barrett Elementary School. And Nicholas Glover, who taught first and fourth grade at Carpenter

Elementary School.

They are mothers and they are sisters -- Anderson?

COOPER: Erica Becerra gave birth while fighting COVID but never got to hold her newborn son. Her brother describes her last moments.


MICHAEL AVLEZ (ph), LOST SISTER TO COVID-19: She was teary. I know she heard us. We prayed for her. We talked to her. We comforted her to the last moment.


KEILAR: They're nurses.

Betty Braef (ph) Gallagher, best known as Miss Betty. She was an E.R. nurse for 50 years. She refused to retire when the pandemic began.

Her son told CNN that she didn't do it to stand out. She did it because that is who she is. This was her calling.

Miss Betty was known for feeding everyone. She was their work mom. Even on New Year's Eve, while in the hospital with COVID, she texted her colleague to buy pizza for everyone, and she would pay for it.

Miss Betty died just a day shy of her 79th birthday.


COOPER: Remarkable.

They are husbands.

Oklahoma ICU nurse, Lizanne Jennings, lost her husband, Dennis, and her mother to the virus in November.

She described her last moments with her husband to CNN in December.


LIZANNE JENNINGS: LOST HUSBAND & MOTHER TO COVID-19: My husband was working up until this happened. He had a push-up contest with our son and he won and Braden kind of stopped and he said, are you done, because I could keep going.

You know, he was --


L. JENNINGS: He was full of life.

So they don't let you in there. I'm an ICU nurse. I would call but I didn't want to bother them because I know both sides of it. But I finally got in there because I was just going to let him go

because there were so many discussions.

And I knew he was suffering. And I got in there and he was laying on his stomach. The bypass was going like 100 percent. He had a pneumo in his side where his had chest shifted.

It isn't fair. It's not fair. But I told my mom she was fine when he passed. And I leaned down to him and I said, I'm here. I said, do you remember our talks. And he said, uh-huh.

And I said, are you ready to be at peace? And he said, uh-huh. I said OK, mom's fine. She's back at the house. I said she's going to stay with me because I knew he would keep fighting if I told him my mother had died. .

And so they started giving him morphine and Ativan. And I turned him over and I rubbed he's back and said, I love you. And he said, I love you. I said, you're going to go now, OK? You can finally be at peace. He said, whoo.

And then he took his last breath about 30 minutes later. And I bathed him and I cut his hair and I put clothes on him. And then I left him.

There was nothing else -- I couldn't save either one of them.




KEILAR: With hours left in the Trump presidency, the administration's island is low on survivors. Folks who have Energizer Bunnied through all four years of the chaos, the revolving door spinning faster than a pinwheel in a tornado. We'll show you who they are.

But first, we note the other participants in the tumultuous marathon that's been Trump's time in the White House. Most of whom did not even come close to the finish line.

In the one-kilometer club, Michael Flynn, who didn't last a month before he resigned, and then was charged, then convicted, then pardoned.

Anthony Scaramucci, who holds the record, and perhaps we're generous to say that he made it a kilometer. It was more like a furlong.

Scaramucci lasted only 11 days as White House communications director.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I've seen this guy throw a dead spiral through a tire. I've seen him at Madison Square Garden with a topcoat on. He's standing in the keys and he's hitting foul shots and swishing them, OK. He sinks three-foot putts.

I don't see this guy as a guy that is ever under siege. The president is a winner. OK? And what we're going is we're going to do a lot of winning.

He made the country sicker and he made it weaker and he made it poorer. And it's time for him to leave the stage.


KEILAR: The next group stopped running the race somewhere around the first water table.


SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.


KEILAR: Sean Spicer, Trump's first press secretary, lasted only six months and then turned up on "Dancing with the Stars."




KEILAR: Also in the six-month-an-under club, the first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, strategist, Steve Bannon, and deputy national security adviser, K.T. McFarland.

Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, lasted a bit longer, seven months, resigning after scrutiny of his private jet travel.

And then there are the folks who hit the wall at mile 23, mile 24 and, in some cases, mile marker 25.9.

Kellyanne Conway, who famously declared the White House delivers alternative facts, the new synonym for lies.

Transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, and education secretary, Betsy DeVos, who stayed through every controversy, every tweet, but decided to bounce after thousands of Trump supporters violently attacked the capitol with two weeks to go in his presidency.

Attorney General Bill Barr spent two years championing Trump. But when he said there was no evidence of election fraud, he left just before the riot.

And in the last 24 hours, he has blamed Trump's rhetoric directly for the insurrection.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perhaps the debate about the integrity of the election was the final straw.

WILLIAM BARR, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think that that was the thing that precipitated the -- the riots on the Hill.


KEILAR: Finally, as destiny's child once declared, leaving the game like some survivors, son-in-law, Jared Kushner, stayed after being virtually assigned every task for every hot-button issue.

Daughter, Ivanka, is still there. Although, frankly, it's not quite clear what she did on a daily basis during her stint.

And Stephen Miller outlasted every adviser who Trump eventually turned against.


STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: The poem that you're referring to was added later. It's not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty.

But more fundamentally, the history --


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You're saying that does not represent --

MILLER: But more fundamentally --

ACOSTA: -- what the country is always thought of.

MILLER: I'm saying the notion -- the notion --


ACOSTA: I'm sorry.




MILLER: Jim, let me ask you a question.

ACOSTA: That sounds like a national park revisionist.

MILLER: It shows your cosmopolitan bias.

And I just want to say --

ACOSTA: It sounds like you're trying to engineer -- (CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA: -- the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country.

MILLER: Jim --


KEILAR: Also going the distance, Mike Pompeo, from the CIA to the State Department.

And Ben Carson, who served as Housing and Urban Development secretary all four years, during which he took heat for alleged transphobic comments.


He denied a "Washington Post" report that he raised concern about, quote, "big hairy men entering women's homeless shelters," saying political correctness would destroy the nation.

And he also blamed the purchase of some very expensive furniture for his office on his wife.


BEN CARSON, HUD SECRETARY: And they showed us some catalogs. The prices were beyond what I wanted to pay. I made it clear that that just didn't seem right to me. And, you know, I left it with my wife.


KEILAR: Also staying in the race, Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary. His tenure most notable for trying to add a citizenship question to the census.

And some questionable comments on TV, including this one defending how prices would go up on products because of the president's tariffs.


WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: Well, I just bought this can today at a 7-Eleven down here and the price was $1.99. So who in the world is going to be too bothered by .6 of a cent?


KEILAR: People on a budget would be bothered, Wilbur, which would be most Americans.

And don't forgot this gem. Last January, after China went into lockdown, when he made this prediction about the threat of the coronavirus.


ROSS: I don't want to talk about a victory lap over a very unfortunate, very malignant disease.

So I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America.


KEILAR: Perhaps though, the most notable survivor is Vice President Mike Pence.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED: The world saw once again the president, Donald Trump, stands without apology as leader of the free world.

And I say thank for keeping your word, Mr. President.

Thanks, Mr. President, you've put the health of America first.

I always tell people, that to know President Trump is to -- is to know someone whose word is his bond.


KEILAR: After years of over-the-top praise of his boss, the president put a target on Pence's back.

Falsely telling the world that Pence could overturn the election at the certification of the Electoral College vote before Congress and privately and publicly pressuring him to do it, even though he didn't have the constitutional authority to do so.

Rioters came to the capitol, and who were they looking for?


CROWD: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!


KEILAR: Pence, according to "The Washington Post," escaped the Senate chamber one minute before the rioters breached it.

But in the exhausting end:


PENCE: The votes for president of the United States are as follows: Joseph R. Biden Jr, of the state of Delaware, has received 306 votes. Donald J. Trump, of the state of Florida, has received 232 votes.


KEILAR: The majority of American voters decided they wouldn't run another marathon, deciding that one was enough.

And, Anderson, it has been quite the race, and it has been quite the revolving door.

COOPER: That was like a fever dream. Like I just feel like I've woken up. I mean, wow, what a four years it has been.

KEILAR: It has definitely been like a fever dream. I mean, the things that we have seen. And I think that hard hi scratches the surface of it.

But that just gives us a sense of certainly the abnormality that I think threw many in the country off guard.

COOPER: You also failed to mention Wilbur Ross, the other thing that he's noted for is he actually had little velvet slippers made with the Commerce Department seal on them from the early days. And he used to walk around them apparently in the early days.

KEILAR: My omission. That is wonderful. I'm so sorry I forgot that. That's a good one.

COOPER: Brianna, thank you.

While President Trump has told countless lies, despite Mike Pence saying his word is his bond, which is fascinating, and floated a number of conspiracy theories and stoked the flames and inspired the attack on the capitol, he couldn't have done it without the help of some media outlets.

Just today, a FOX host said this.


MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX BUSINESS ANCHOR: Security in the nation's capitol is at an unprecedented level this morning ahead of the inauguration tomorrow.

A new report says that some far-right protesters have discussed posing as members of the National Guard to infiltrate the inauguration, the way Democrats infiltrated two weeks ago and put on MAGA clothing.


COOPER: Wow. She actually said that.

I want to bring in CNN global affairs correspondent and columnist for "The Washington Post," Max Boot. His latest op-ed is, "Trump Couldn't Have Incited Sedition without the Help of FOX News."

That clip is just one example. Talk to us about the op-ed. Why do you say FOX shares the blame?