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CNN Live Event/Special
More Capitol Building Siege Arrests Made; Securing D.C.; President Trump Set to Release Farewell Video. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired January 19, 2021 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, because FOX, even though they called the election for President Biden pretty early on, Anderson, we nevertheless had a common drumbeat of voices on their air saying that the election was stolen, casting doubt on the legitimacy of the outcome.
According to one count, just in the two weeks after they called the election, FOX on more than 770 occasions cast doubt on the outcome, and that created the big lie, the myth that motivated the insurrection on January 6, and resulted in the storming of the Capitol for the first time since the War of 1812.
And now, properly, President Trump is being held to account for what happened. He's been impeached. He's going to be tried, but I think there needs to be some accountability for this infrastructure of incitement that exists that allowed him to spread these dangerous myths and lies that led to this unprecedented attack on a branch of the U.S. government.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: They also I mean, not only furthered the big lie, people like Maria Bartiromo there and Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity. They also built up January 6 as if it was some day of reckoning.
And they constantly told their viewers to come out and fight on January 6. And is it a surprise that some people took those words literally?
I mean, just a few days ago, you had James Murdoch, who was part of the family that owns FOX News, saying that it was imperative for media property owners to show some responsibility and to stop putting on those kinds of lies.
Now, I don't know if his brother Lachlan and his father Rupert, who control FOX News, I don't know if they're going to listen to that. But if they don't, there are other options, including the fact that cable operators like Comcast and Charter, which send FOX out to hundreds of millions of people, they can demand some accountability in the way that Facebook and Twitter have done. And there's also, I think, the possibility of reviving the Fairness
Doctrine, which the FCC enforced until 1987, and which mandated some minimal standards of factuality and balance on the part of TV stations. And since that's disappeared, it's just been a complete free-for-all, with all sorts of lunacy being fed directly into the right-wing ecosystem.
Max Boot, appreciate it. Thanks, Max.
BOOT: Thanks, Anderson Cooper.
COOPER: I'm Anderson Cooper, alongside Brianna Keilar.
To our viewers here in the United States and around the world, this is CNN's special live coverage of a historic 48 hours in America.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: It is the end of one presidency and the start of a new one.
But this transfer of power is unprecedented in a country divided like never before in modern times. Washington, D.C., is largely under lockdown, with streets and bridges closed.
There are 25,000 National Guard troops now patrolling the streets to help secure the inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden, all to prevent the kind of violence that desecrated the Capitol Building two weeks ago.
COOPER: Yes, it's certainly a stark contrast to show military force in what has been America's peaceful handoff of power.
Moments go, president-elect Biden offered words of optimism. He reflected on a conversation he had with his son Beau, who passed away from cancer in 2015.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: As I told Beau on that station waiting for Barack and Hunter, I said -- and Ashley -- I said: "Don't tell me things can't change. They can and they do."
That's America. That's Delaware, a place of hope and light and limitless possibilities.
When I die, Delaware will be written on my heart...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BIDEN: ... and the hearts -- the hearts of all -- all of us, all the Bidens.
We love you all.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Well, today is also President Trump's last full day in office.
And in these final hours before his exit, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has placed some blame of the Capitol insurrection on Donald Trump's shoulders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The last time the Senate convened, we has just reclaimed the Capitol from violent criminals who tried to stop Congress from doing our duty.
The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people. And they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government, which they did not like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: But we begin with breaking news, a major arrest in the siege on the Capitol, an apparent leader of a far right extremist group.
It is the first time that federal prosecutors have levied a significant conspiracy charge connected to the riot. The Justice Department is charging a Virginia man who is a leader of the Oath Keepers with -- quote -- "planning and coordinating" the Capitol breach.
CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez is joining us live on this.
And, Evan, I know you have some disturbing new details from court documents. What can you tell us?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna.
So, Thomas Caldwell is the Oath Keeper leader that you're referring to. And we just got some updated information from the court, some new additional information that prosecutors have filed.
And it really paints a very stark picture of what -- of how much worse things could have gone in the Capitol on January 6. According to these court documents, Thomas Caldwell, Donovan Crowl, and Jessica Watkins, these are two people -- the other two were charged yesterday.
And what we're learning is, they're essentially being charged as being part of a conspiracy, leading up to 10 people who moved in an organized and practical fashion, according to prosecutors.
In the case of Watkins, she is -- she's accused of being a leader of an Oath Keepers group that's based in Ohio. And when the FBI searched her home, one of the things they found were instructions on how to make explosives from bleach, according to these court documents. According to documents, Watkins was in touch and had radio
communications with other people, walkie-talkie-type communications with other people who she was with. She describes leading 30 to 40 people. She says they were moving together in strict -- they were trying to strict -- staying strictly to their plan, again, giving this picture that there was this command-and-control aspect that prosecutors have been looking for.
Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney in Washington, had pointed us to this, the idea that they were going to look for this command- and-control part of this, and to go after people for the sedition charge. Again, that's something that they're trying to build up to.
I will read you just one part of these messages that the FBI has now recovered. Caldwell is -- according to the FBI, received these Facebook messages. And I will read you part of one -- one of the messages says: "All members are in the tunnels under the Capitol. Seal them in. Turn on the gas," again, very stark and frightening information that's coming out in these court documents.
And, again, what we're learning from these documents, Brianna, they're drawing a straight line from the words of the president to inspiring these people. In the case of the Oath Keepers, this is a paramilitary group that believes that the government is part of some conspiracy to take away your rights.
And on January 6, they were the foot soldiers of the autogolpe that was launched by President Trump, trying to stop the certification of Joe Biden Joe Biden's victory.
KEILAR: Very scary details.
Evan, thank you for the update with those new details from the court documents -- Anderson.
COOPER: Breaking news -- 12 National Guard members have been removed from inauguration duty.
Want to go to CNN Pentagon correspondent Oren Liebermann.
So, earlier in the day, it was two. It's now 12. What are you learning as to why they were removed?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We know the most about the first two who were removed, Anderson.
The head of the National Guard Bureau, General Daniel Hokanson, as well as Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman, say they were released for inappropriate texts and messages that were sent there.
One was flagged by his chain of command and removed. The other was flagged from an anonymous source. But we don't know where they were from.
The other 10, we just learned about a short time ago from those same officials. And they were flagged through the additional FBI vetting process that now all 25,000 National Guardsmen who are supposed to be here and who will be here as part of inauguration security and support, that they're going through.
So, again, those 10 were flagged for -- from the FBI vetting process, although we don't have any more information about what specifically was flagged, although we do know that it was not, in any of those cases, related to the riots that we saw about two weeks ago at this point or anything like that. It was other reasons, as far as we know, through the vetting process.
Now, what we know at this point is that they have been removed from that 25,000 who will take part in inauguration security. What happens after that point is unclear. Right now, if there are any issues, any flags raised by the FBI, General Hokanson of the National Guard Bureau said they would immediately, without question, without hesitation, be pulled off of inauguration security and support, specifically because of that red flag from the FBI.
How serious it was, what it was for, whether it's a Department of Defense investigation or a law enforcement investigation, that part will be figured out as this process plays out.
For now, the goal is to make sure that the inauguration security and the support offered by the National Guard meets those requirements, and that all 25,000 troops that will be here as part of that have passed and will pass the FBI's additional screening process.
One of the key questions that we're still waiting for an answer on is, how many have been screened to this point, meaning, is it 12 of the first 2,000, and there could be many more, or is it 12 of the full 25,000? That's a key question here, because we want to know, how much could this number go up...
LIEBERMANN: ... as we wait here with less than 24 hours until the inauguration -- Anderson.
COOPER: Oren Liebermann, thanks very much. Appreciate it -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Anderson, even as these men and women are being vetted, "The Washington Post" is reporting that the FBI is now warning that some followers of QAnon have talked about posing as members of the National Guard in order to infiltrate tomorrow's ceremony.
I want to talk about this with CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd, who is a former senior intelligence adviser with the FBI.
Phil, this is a very alarming idea. If an everyday citizen were to show up to Inauguration Day or an extremist or any National Guard uniform and slip into an unauthorized area, is that something that is feasible to you?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I mean, it is. I mean, you're talking about 25,000 people among the National Guard, and we're just figuring out that some of them are not fit to serve for duty. Vetting that number of people in providing security to ensure that that number of people go through a process to weed out the ones that shouldn't be standing guard there, boy, that's a ton of people.
By the way, you talk about -- Anderson just mentioned, I think it was 10 people who were vetted. They weren't really vetted. Remember, it wasn't the background investigation that found something. It depended on their chain of command or an anonymous source to say, hey, this guy's dirty.
It's not like the federal government's looking over people's Facebook pages.
Just one quick comment, Brianna. The most fascinating thing I find about this is the way the pendulum has swung. Four years ago, the Trump administration said that the government spied on our campaign. Now we're saying it is appropriate to vet people for their social media postings to remove them from National Guard service, and, in my view, from my own life, with the Oath Keepers, who just talked about, potentially, to open them up for investigation as a D.T. group.
That is domestic terrorists. Boy, talk about the world changing. People are getting really comfortable in this country with looking at American citizens who are extremists.
KEILAR: Well, so let's talk about this new conspiracy charge in the Capitol siege in the case of this man who appears to be a leader in the Oath Keepers, which is, as you mentioned, an extremist group.
In court documents, they say that he was involved in -- quote -- "planning and coordinating the breach."
How significant is it that now these charges are getting elevated to this point?
MUDD: I think it's easy to underestimate this.
There's the visible part of this. If you're a federal prosecutor, I wasn't, but I talked to them all the time. One of the reasons you want to do this is deterrence, to tell people, don't ever try that again, because you're going to spend a lot of time in federal prison.
The other obvious reason is years. When they start -- that is, the feds start piling on charges like this, this ain't trespassing. This is a serious charge that means more years. But there's other things that I think are sort of behind the screen here that, to me, are far more interesting.
The first is precedent. Are the feds going to start making more conspiracy charges against people who would once have been considered domestic extremists? Is this going to stand up in court? And the second thing is what I call P.C., probable cause.
Are the feds going to start to say, it's OK for us to surveil these people secretly, including having informants in these groups more frequently? Because they're not just extremists. It's not just First Amendment. They're people who are plotting to overthrow the government.
We really struggled with that when I was in the FBI, D.T. vs. I.T., domestic terrorism vs. international terrorism. These people, with what they're doing, like the Oath Keepers, are giving the government an excuse to snoop around the organizations.
KEILAR: Yes. And I'm sure they will.
Phil Mudd, thank you so much -- Anderson.
MUDD: Thank you.
COOPER: My next guest is the provost marshal for the National Guard Bureau, Colonel Michael Dugas.
Colonel, thanks so much for being with us.
First of all, do you have any more information on why these 12 National Guard members were removed leading up to the inauguration?
COL. MICHAEL DUGAS, PROVOST MARSHAL, THE NATIONAL GUARD BUREAU: You know, the FBI sets the standards for the vetting of our National Guard troops.
And this is something that's not very uncommon. Four years ago, for the inauguration, we had over 8,000 National Guard that came into the Capitol region. They were all vetted by the same FBI. They set a bar. It's very high.
Members that don't meet that threshold, they're asked to be removed off that particular mission.
COOPER: So, what you're saying, it's not unusual for -- at least it's happened before that the FBI vets the National Guard troops who are at the inauguration?
The National Guard, we participate in several national security events. At these high-profile events, we go through basic vetting just joining the military. There is a program that's in place that kind of is a continual vetting to make sure that we maintain our security clearances, and then that we're not involved in any type of nefarious activities.
This event is unprecedented, having this many members here for the inauguration. So, they just stepped up the background checks to make sure that we have all met that threshold. Once again, the lead federal agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, they have taken care of that, and they have made some identifications.
I think we're moving on. Over.
COOPER: And do you know, I mean, is the vetting complete, or is it still ongoing?
DUGAS: Yes, I don't have those numbers readily available.
However, I know we're over 17,000 in the last day or so. Our numbers have ticked up quite a bit since then. So, I'm certain, by the end of this event, we should be cleared, and everyone should be clear to support the mission successfully.
COOPER: I also want to point out, I mean, the vast majority of National Guard troops are loyal and doing incredible jobs, because they have full-time jobs often. They're doing this.
I interviewed a National Guardsmen the other day who's a school teacher who's doing Zoom music lessons for his students in his Humvee in the moments that he's not on duty.
So, there's a lot of good folks on -- in the National Guard doing incredibly patriotic work right now. And we're all happy that they're there.
I do want to ask you about this report from "The Washington Post." The FBI fears members of QAnon could pose as National Guard members. Unclear if this suggests chatter among kind of folks online who are conspiracy theorists or if something that they would actually try to do.
How feasible is something like that?
DUGAS: Well, you know, sir, we take all threats to be credible.
And we definitely have very layered security across the board. From our leaders, we communicate through briefings. We have special credentials. And one specific thing that you might not notice is, when the 50 states, three territories, and the District and Columbia came in to support the inauguration, we're broken down in our own teams by state and by region.
So, we know our person on our right, we know our person on our left. They're the people that we go to school with, that we work with. And in the National Guard, we typically stay at the same station for many years. So, we have that common camaraderie, teamwork that is unlike any other kind of service.
So, we're protected front, back, rear and to our side, so we know if anyone comes in and if they're not a part of our group.
COOPER: It was really interesting. The National Guardsman I spoke to just the other day, he was pointing out to me that the Capitol is actually on his unit's patch, because he's from the area, and that it has special significance for a lot of these National Guardsmen, that it's on -- it's actually part of their insignia.
DUGAS: Absolutely. That's a part of the esprit de corps that we have in the National Guard. We all wear our patches that signify who we are part of. I wear the National Guard Bureau patch right here. I'm a team member of the National Guard Bureau.
The states come with their patches as well. It's one team. And we go out there and we get mission done for America.
COOPER: Well, Colonel Michael Dugas, I appreciate your time and I appreciate your mission. Thank you very much -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Anderson, we have some more breaking news.
One of the Republican senators who riled up the conspiracy theory that the election should be overturned, which, of course, is a conspiracy theory based entirely on lies, is now blocking president-elect Biden's nominee for homeland security secretary.
I want to go to Manu Raju, who is tracking this for us on Capitol Hill.
I mean, Manu, this is someone who is carrying the torch for Trump. At this point, Hawley is all in, and it appears that he is still Trump's senator.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
And, look, the Senate, in order to confirm president-elect Biden's nominees, needs consent of all 100 senators to agree to a quick vote. Any single senator can object and slow down the process. And that is exactly what Josh Hawley, the Missouri Republican senator, announced he would do with Alejandro Mayorkas, who was nominated by president- elect Biden to serve as a top official to run the Homeland Security Department.
Now, Hawley says in a statement released just a moment ago that he has concerns with the president-elect's immigration plan. And he contends that Mayorkas in his confirmation hearing today did not do enough to satisfy his concerns about securing the southern border.
So, as a result, he is announcing he will essentially slow down this process, object to any efforts to fast-track this nomination. And, Brianna, it is still an open question about whether of any Biden's nominees can get confirmed quickly, whether they can be confirmed as soon as tomorrow or potentially even Thursday.
Past precedent has been recent predecessors have gotten at least a couple of confirmed on day one, including president-elect -- including President Trump in 2017, President Obama, President George W. Bush, President Clinton even.
Whether Biden has that, uncertain. Part of it has to do with, it took a while for the Senate to organize in the aftermath of determining who would be in the majority after the Georgia run-offs. But, as you said, as Hawley's doing here, any one senator can slow things down. That's what's happening. Now Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer at this
moment are talking about who else they can move quickly. We will see if they can come to any sort of agreement, Brianna.
KEILAR: And we should be clear.
I mean, this is Hawley, who was objecting when it came to the Electoral College certification. He riled up the rioters before they attacked the Capitol. There's the photo of him we have all seen.
He then, after that, when the Senate, when the joint session reconvened, still objected, still proceeded. And he can look. He's got a window, a window, Manu. He can look outside of his window and see what is happening.
And I mean, we're talking about DHS, right? We're talking about this in the middle of clearly a homegrown terrorist threat. And he does not seem to be concerned about that.
What is his political calculation, when any reasonable person would say that this is not something that should be slowed down?
RAJU: Well, he is aligning himself with the Republican agenda on immigration, the hard-core elements of the president's base, the president -- outgoing president's base.
Donald Trump's view on immigration has been the view of Josh Hawley and other Republican senators. And Hawley himself, of course, has taken time to even acknowledge Biden's victory. You mentioned him aligning himself with Donald Trump. He was the first president -- first senator to announce that he would join House Republicans and object to a state's electoral results.
He did that with Pennsylvania. Even after the riot happened on January 6, he still said he would -- he still objected and dragged out the process.
He argues he is well within his rights to do that. He is not showing regret for his actions, in fact, defending it, saying he did not condone violence. He said he condemns violence. He says that he's well within his rights to object, as prescribed under the Constitution.
But a lot of his colleagues, even on the Republican side, have been critical of him. We will see how they react to his latest efforts to slow down the confirmation process of one key nominee, but, ultimately, that nominee will get confirmed, just not quickly, because Josh Hawley putting up a roadblock here, Brianna.
KEILAR: And on this looming impeachment trial, any idea where Republicans are on this, Manu?
RAJU: They're split.
I talked to a number of top Republicans today. It's very clear that they believe that this vote is a vote of conscience. That's how one Republican senator, John Cornyn, put it today. He's a member of the Senate Republican leadership team.
Others, including Senator John Thune, wouldn't say how they'd come down. Senator Todd Young, who is up for reelection in 2022, also would not say whether or not the president, President Trump, committed any impeachable act by inciting that riot that came to the Capitol here on January 6.
So, there's a sign, Brianna, that some Republican senators are simply putting their cards very close to their vest, won't say how they will come down, want to hear the arguments, want to assess the mood of the country, when it's time to vote to convict.
And also the big question, Mitch McConnell, he criticized the president for inciting that mob with lies and other comments. Will he vote to convict? If he does, that could be decisive. So, we will see if 17 Republicans break ranks, join with 50 Democrats and convict Donald Trump -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Manu, thank you -- Anderson.
COOPER: We are following breaking news about who will be on the president's pardon list. And it sounds like his kids and some of his most loyal backers may not have made the cut.
Plus, we just learned President Trump will be releasing his final video message minutes from now. Jim Acosta reports next on CNN's live special coverage.
COOPER: Breaking news now from the White House.
We have just learned that President Trump plans to release his farewell video in minutes.
I want to go to CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, what do we know about this?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, the White House has released some excerpts of what the president plans to say in this video that is going to be released at 4:00.
At this point, according to these excerpts, it does not appear the president takes any responsibility for the attack on the Capitol on January 6, and he does not admit that he lost the election to Joe Biden, but he does reference the new administration.
And we can put this excerpt up on screen. It says: "This week, we inaugurate a new administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous. And we did what we came here to do and so much more." He goes on to say later on in these excerpts, Anderson, that -- and we don't have this put up on screen, but I can just tell everybody what it says here. He says: "All Americans were horrified by the assault on our Capitol. Political violence is an attack on everything we cherish as Americans. It can never be tolerated."
That is as close as he comes to addressing what happened on January 6. But, Anderson, as you can see in these excerpts, he takes no responsibility for inciting that mob of supporters who stormed the Capitol on January 6, and he does not -- as I said earlier, he does not accept that he lost the election to Joe Biden, which, of course, would undercut the lie that he told for weeks and weeks that this election was somehow stolen from him.
And, of course, we heard the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, say earlier today it was that kind of rhetoric that stoked that crowd, provoked that crowd to storm the Capitol.
So, what we're waiting to see is the full video from President Trump. Perhaps he will mention Joe Biden's name outside of these excerpts that have been released to us. But he appears to be carrying on the same kind of sore loser-ism that we have seen since November 3.
He does reference a new administration, which I suppose some will say that this is a departure for him, because he's at least acknowledging a new administration. But, Anderson, that's like a participation trophy for being president of the United States.
When you lose an election, you're supposed to congratulate your successor, wish that person will show up at their inauguration and so on. Obviously, President Trump is not doing any of those things. This seems to be the bare minimum of what one would expect from an outgoing president -- Anderson.
I mean, if he truly was interested in helping heal the nation, he could just stand up and admit that it was a lie, what -- all the -- everything he said about fraud during the election. That would actually help bring people together, I think, to...
ACOSTA: That's right.
COOPER: ... finally -- otherwise, so many people continue to believe the lie.
What about the pardons? What's the latest we know about that?
ACOSTA: Well, the list of pardons has not been released yet.
We do expect that to happen at some point in the wee hours either tonight or early tomorrow morning. At this point, it does look as though the president has been talked out of pardoning himself, talked out of pardoning his adult children.
Of course, Trump being Trump, he could do it at the last second. I talked to a source close to the process a short while ago who said, you know, he could write it out on a cocktail napkin before leaving.