Return to Transcripts main page
CNN Live Event/Special
The Inauguration of Joe Biden; Trump Decides to Pardon Steve Bannon; Trump Era Comes to an End in Less Than 12 Hours; White House Officials - Trump's Final Pardon List Could Come Soon; D.C. Locked Down in Final Hours Before Biden's Inauguration. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired January 20, 2021 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: In just 12 hours on the nose, Joe Biden will become the 46th President of the United States, time to hand off the special coverage to Chris Cuomo, the big star.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: You sound like me.
LEMON: I know. I'm trying to do it.
CUOMO: Just less so. It doesn't work as well. Although I do feel like kicking you off the show like you do to me every night.
So this is the day, brother. We're 25 seconds into Inauguration Day.
CUOMO: Of course on the East Coast.
Do you believe that this is the day that will be the capstone of this period?
Or do you think it is a necessary step in a process of change that we're nowhere near done with yet?
LEMON: I think it's a big day. You know. You never know when it comes to the person who is exiting the office. But I do think it is a big day and could be the day that the tides turn. That doesn't mean the people who are believing the lies and things that drove them to insurrection on the Capitol or to believe this president wasn't elected legitimately, Joe Biden, that doesn't mean that will change overnight.
But you can see the tide turning and maybe the beginning of the fever breaking. I have noticed less vitriol so far, less disinformation online so far, fewer attacks so far and really sort of just a lowering of the temperature.
Will that hold? I don't know. I certainly hope so. By the way, I watch. I listen to your radio show. It's great. I also listen to state-run media, I watch them sometimes and the conservative channels.
I feel like in this moment it should come with a laugh track for all of the, you know, they're so, like, oh, my gosh, I cannot believe that this is happening and they're not standing up for this.
I was like, where were you with the, this lowering of the temperature call and the rhetoric and unity with this president, when you made excuses for every single thing he did and then blamed the Democrats for it?
CUOMO: See I think that piece is very important.
I will tell the audience, Don and I are waiting on news about pardons from the president. When it comes in, we'll bring it to you. There's a lot of questions as we begin this Inauguration Day.
And while we're waiting we're discussing the relevance of this day.
Now I do not share your observation about temperature coming down. I think there's a little bit of a stunned period.
LEMON: I agree.
CUOMO: On the Right: state news, FOX, the Murdochs are every bit as virulent as they've ever been. I must say, I'm surprised to hear the aggressiveness of the agenda with respect to immigration outside of the box by the Biden campaign, now the Biden administration, because it is really teeing up discord.
You can fight the good fight -- and his prerogatives are his own and we'll judge the efforts and messaging the same -- but this is in their wheelhouse of fear, which they're already driving. It's not Trumpism, it's about fear.
LEMON: Fear. The caravan is back.
CUOMO: That's right, the Brown menace is coming from Guatemala --
CUOMO: -- cover of the Murdoch tabloid today is the migrants moving through Guatemala toward Mexico. They say they're coming to the inauguration.
LEMON: I hope they hold them to account on these pardons and Steve Bannon because --
CUOMO: Here's my problem with the pardons, presidents always give pardons that piss people off.
What makes this president different? One, the number is lower, why?
They can't get anything together so they're not getting as many pardons. He didn't even fill his positions in his administration.
Our concern here was he was covering himself with pardons. He's had multiple directly correlated to his own legal woes. We'll discuss legal woes tonight. That's a big part of the afterstory for Trump.
So I've heard this from people today, mild Trump supporters and real Republicans, who are desperate to have their party back, they are relieved. They wanted this to end, too. Now these are not elected officials.
CUOMO: If they're elected officials they get a very different take from me, which is, I want you on the show again. When you come on, whatever we're talking about, I'm going to ask you if there's an inconsistency between what you're saying now and what you said then.
If you want to just own it and move on, it ends; otherwise, it will never end because that's the only way you don't wind up in the same place again.
LEMON: I agree with you 100 percent, Chris, about the whole stunned thing. Here's why I think that there may be a lowering of the temperature.
Again, as I said, I gave you a caveat that we have to see, is, because people are stunned, because they are somewhat immobile in a way, they're like, I cannot believe this happened, is because the very foundation of what they believed, especially, maybe since childhood but especially over the last couple years, the very foundation of what they believe and what's been sold to them has all turned out not to be true.
So imagine if you relied upon, oh, there's going to be a wall being built. There's no wall being built.
Imagine if you said Joe Biden is sleepy, he will never win the election. Joe Biden won the election.
Imagine if you were told the election was stolen and every single court you go to with a Republican as a judge and even the Supreme Court, they tell you no, this is bunk, and it's thrown out, imagine that.
You said you supported the police, you support law enforcement, that you were not, in fact, racist as you say the Democrats have been painting it out to be and, all of a sudden, you see it in front your face at the Capitol.
The very foundation of what you believe has shaken under your feet. That causes people to self-reflect, I hope, and possibly change. They may not come around 100 percent. But they could do 50 percent. They could do 80 percent. I think every little bit helps. As I've been saying, I think every little bit chips away at reality.
CUOMO: True. If they're white extremists, forget it, they got to take it up with God.
CUOMO: If they're bigoted out of ignorance, then you have a chance with education. If they're white and frustrated and worried, then there's opportunity because those fears and the displacement is real. The problems with the system are real.
But he didn't help you. That will be interesting.
CUOMO: I will say what you always say to me, got to go.
LEMON: The people who cheated you out of the money, like Steve Bannon, who took your money, getting pardons. The people who cheated you out of money, saying that this election was stolen, let's see if they get pardoned.
We love you, C. Cuomo.
CUOMO: I love you, D. Lemon. It was good to share history with once again.
CUOMO: All right, brother, be well.
It is now, as Don said, Inauguration Day, January 20th, 2021, this day will be remembered as a period in history that will be studied for a long time.
It is dark now, in the Capitol, because of time but also because of determination and disposition. We are in a dark time.
I'm Chris Cuomo, I welcome you to CNN's coverage, live and late night, of inauguration for Joe Biden.
What will it augur in?
That is what the word is.
What will it bring for us?
Where are we when it comes to history?
How will it be remembered in the writing and the telling?
What will we turn from after these final hours of Donald Trump's presidency?
What will his final accent be in the form of these pardons?
What message will he cement for us and for all time once again on our watch now?
Stay with us, we'll see together. Joe Biden will becoming the 46th President of the United States at noon Eastern, 12 hours or a few ticks less from now. Kamala Harris will be sworn in as vice president.
That means something, the first woman, the first woman of color, first Black American, first person of South Asian descent to hold that office. Imagine what just a nod that is to the potential of diversity if we were to harness everybody, white, Brown, Black, green, yellow, creed, anyway you look at it.
The more this collective draws from itself, the more it becomes that melting pot. Imagine what we can do together. Because we're killing each other trying to stay apart. We're learning tonight that Trump is telling people who are still around him that pardons are coming. One of them will be Steve Bannon.
Former chief strategist, it will be one of his final acts as president, fittingly so. You should be reminded how this started, the ugliness, the calculation, the nationalism. This man is no political professional. He is the unwashed when it comes to politics.
CUOMO: And he used that as a calling card to populism, to people, hardworking families, families of faith, he was never your friend. We've been cautioned that the decision is not final until the paperwork is signed. Trump is nothing if not inconsistent He's not about loyalty, he's about fealty. That's a one-way street.
There's no guarantee he will do anything for anybody. You've seen that in real time. The full pardon list, likely a big one will be released at any moment and, when it is, we'll go through it. So for the state of play, let's check in right now with Joe Johns.
Before we get to the pardons, let's deal with the moment. My brother, I look to you often in the field and at home for perspective. You've seen many things, you've never seen this.
Where are we?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: We are at a place, Chris, in the United States, where, number one, things have to change.
Number two, America is hurting and needs help.
So the question is whether Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be able to rise to the occasion and deal with the crisis that the last administration could not effectively deal with and whether they can do that, at the same time, bringing people on both sides together, which is probably the most difficult thing.
It's really not a, what you would you call it, it's not a small thing at all in the headlines to see that people are saying this is the most this country has been divided since the Civil War, because it is.
The spectacle up on Capitol Hill, of people invading, looking for members of Congress, talking about hanging the vice president of the United States, we've got a long way to go. And I don't think any of us has seen it as bad as it is now.
About Steve Bannon, you talked a little bit about the fealty; there's also the issue of transactionality, if you will, involving the president of the United States. Now we don't know for sure whether the president, in fact, is going to go ahead and pardon Steve Bannon.
But what we do know is that he's been talking about it, he's been thinking about it and we also know he would be conflicted, especially because Steve Bannon was locked up for cheating Trump supporters and that's what he would be getting pardoned for.
On the other hand, there was a big blowup when Steve Bannon worked in the White House between him and the president. The president even once said Steve Bannon had lost his mind. So it goes both ways.
Back to the transactionality issue, the president tonight has been talking to people about starting a new political party. He's thinking about the future. And who better to help him than Steve Bannon. That's the transactionality.
CUOMO: Interesting take, interesting take. And also there's metaphor value as well. Right?
The people that Trump was supposed to help, they were exploited by Steve Bannon, according to authorities, and now he may forgive him for that, although he was supposed to fight for these people forever.
What about fighting against the guy allegedly stole from them?
Interesting tale of not just two cities but literally two societies, the Trumps spending their final night last night, now into the morning, in the White House, across the street from the Bidens in the Blair House, the vice president's residence.
This will be as close as they come. Once again, Trump can read words that are written for him but he cannot deliver on the intentions. And he will not give a peaceful transfer of power. And that is going to be a problem that stains and remains. Joe Johns, thank you for the perspective as always. Good to live history with you.
Now a take what we have already seen with these pardons, former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara.
Good to see you, especially at this hour. We're waiting on Bannon et cetera. We'll touch on the possibility of him and what that means in a moment.
What have we already seen that you believe is worthy of contrasting from what we've seen in the past?
Because as we know pardons are always something people pick at with who they choose to pardon and why.
What makes this different?
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: We'll see if pardons come, if Steve Bannon does get a pardon or not. We've already seen a number of pardons that are unusual in terms of number that are based on the president's connection to the person, as opposed to a fairness deliberation over whether or not leniency is merited, whether the charges were overwrought and overblown, whether the person has shown contrition.
BHAHARA: All of the kinds of considerations you would think the founders wanted a president to take into account in exercising this very unfettered power.
Take Steve Bannon for a second, the whole discussion, in all the reporting about Steve Bannon, has never been about, all evening and all day, has not been about whether or not the charges were too stiff or if it was a miscarriage of justice.
It's all about what is in it for Donald Trump.
Can Steve Bannon been helpful to Donald Trump? Has he been loyal to Trump?
That's not the way the founders intended for the pardon power to be exercised. It was supposed to be for folks who had, you know, a fair and just reason for there to be leniency directed towards them. That's why you have a pardon attorney in the Justice Department.
All of that has been bypassed while Donald Trump considers, is it in my interest to pardon this person or not?
CUOMO: There's an interesting detail. Donald Trump is on the exit here, battling the perception that he helped incite a riot, an insurrection. So you would think he'd want the to stay clear of any suggestion of the same. Yet he may pardon Steve Bannon, who said the following. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.
It's not going to happen like you think it's going to happen, OK, it will be quite extraordinarily different. And all I can say is strap in. The war room, a posse. You've made this happen. Tomorrow it's game day.
So many people said, man, if I was in a revolution, I would be with Washington at Trenton.
Well, this is for your time in history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Now does that suggest, like, being somebody that the president wants to endorse at this particular time?
BHAHARA: Well, he's chosen to do it. By the way, when you pardon someone, you have to look at not just the crime, the sentence and contrition but the person as a whole. That's what general justice means.
Steve Bannon also said that Dr. Anthony Fauci should be beheaded and his head put on a spike, which was so odious that his lawyer disowned him and abandoned the case.
So based on the particulars of the case, where he is alleged to have defrauded Trump supporters who wanted to help build a wall and the broader view of this person and whether or not he is entitled to or should receive one of the greatest gifts the president of the United States can award to any individual citizen, it doesn't compute.
CUOMO: Let me ask you something, correct me if I'm wrong. I don't think whom Trump decides to pardon can be used against him in prosecution going forward as evidence of intention -- maybe; depends on the case.
But if you were to, kind of diagram it, what do you think are the most obvious potential legal issues for this president going forward?
BHAHARA: With respect to pardons, do you mean?
BHAHARA: Look, I think -- well, there are a number of case that's are pending against the president of the United States, civil and criminal. There's the case to which Michael Cohen, his former lawyer, pled guilty and made a statement in open court that he was committing those actions at the direction of and in coordination of Individual 1, we know to be Donald Trump.
We know that Cy Vance, the attorney in Manhattan, has hired a forensic accountant to look at various things and the New York attorney general has been looking on the civil side.
Based on things he's done recently, just since January 6th or few days before that, you have authorities in state of Georgia looking whether he interfered with the election there. I think there's decent evidence to make that a worthy investigation.
The attorney general in District of Columbia is looking at various things in connection to the insurrection. The list goes on and on, a lot of things the president has exposure to, some of which would not even be absolved if he chose to self-pardon, which is the big question.
The other pardons are interesting and odious in their own individual ways but the $64,000 question is whether or not he'll try to pardon himself. We don't know that yet.
CUOMO: Yes, I think that would be maybe a bridge too far for him, because you have to believe it doesn't --
BHAHARA: -- is there such a thing? I don't know.
CUOMO: -- I know, right, the one over the River Kwai. He may very well not want to go out on a loss. And that probably would be an even bigger loss for him in terms of what it means for his future. I don't know. It's all speculation. We'll see.
Soon as we get word, I'll bring you back with these pardons so we can go through them together. In either event, thank you for your help with this.
CUOMO: Let's bring in John Dean, the former White House counsel of President Nixon, who then testified against him in the Watergate hearings.
You've given so much counsel and we're waiting on the pardon of Steve Bannon and you've seen the ones before, I've never heard you answer this simple question.
History will remember Donald Trump compared to Nixon, how?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Nixon's going to come out a choir boy next to Trump. I think history will be reexamined vis-a-vis Trump and Nixon. They will look back on Watergate with a very different view after these years with Trump.
This has been a game-changing presidency, given how low Donald Trump has taken the office. It's kind of a travesty.
CUOMO: Let's look at the counter proof. He's so wildly popular, even now in the Republican Party. Nixon was part of a felony. Trump never was. He didn't go out the way Nixon did.
And, you know, those are the two main things, right, his intense popularity among his party and the faithful and the fact that he didn't go out the way Nixon did.
Why do you think Trump is worse?
DEAN: Well, first of all, Trump has been corrupt from day one. He's been incompetent from day one. He has been the most ferocious liar we've ever had in the Oval Office. And his incompetence is marked by the worst example being his handling of COVID.
But so, I just think on every standard you measure a president, Trump fails. That's where -- that's not true with Nixon. Nixon did a lot of good things. He has lasting policy, from his Environmental Protection Agency, on domestic policy, to his China policy, initiative of bringing China into the international community.
So there's lots of things people look back fondly on Nixon. They're not going to look back on Trump. But Chris, listening to the conversation on pardons, I got to tell you something.
DEAN: You got to look at the language of the pardon to know what we're talking about. When a pardon is granted, it isn't general amnesty against any offense against the United States.
Example, I waited for days for the Flynn pardon to come out. And when it did I noticed he tied it directly to the Mueller investigation. So Flynn doesn't have a pardon for any activities he engaged in regarding promoting the gathering on January 6th in the Capitol that turned into an ugly mob with conspiracy activities.
So you have to look at these pardons specifically. I drafted the Hoffa pardon, a highly controversial one during Nixon administration.
I said to the attorney general, John Mitchell, is it a conditional pardon?
He said I don't know what you're talking about, what's a conditional pardon?
I said I read where no one in the Teamsters union wants Hoffa back.
Is that the agreement?
He said can you put it in there?
I said Lincoln did. So it's a strong precedent.
He said draft and send me the language, which I did. And later Hoffa bristled that he had a conditional pardon and thought the fix was in, that someone put it on him, when it came from my knowledge of history. So you have to look at these pardons to see what they really say.
CUOMO: Really interesting. Hard to believe Trump would be the architect of any kind of subtlety that folds in what is the agenda of those around him. Let me ask you something else as we wait for the news whether or not outgoing President Trump decided to pardon Steve Bannon and who else we'll see.
How serious do you think legal jeopardy is for Trump going forward?
DEAN: Well, it breaks down into a number of areas.
Of course, I think that the New York case that emanates from Michael Cohen's activities could be a tough case. He could say, I was doing that to protect myself from my wife. I paid off a porn star so I wouldn't have a disruption in my marriage. I didn't have any intention of influencing the election and might sell that to a jury. Prosecutors know what case they've got and what they don't.
DEAN: The other cases -- we don't know what they have in Cy Vance's office, in the Manhattan DA's office -- but we know it's been vigorously pursued as it relates to his financial affairs. There's a lot of jeopardy there.
He has rounded all the corners throughout his career. But looking at the most serious one he is facing, it is a quasi-political civil case of impeachment.
Can a case be made against him that he incited a riot?
Can he be found guilty of that in an impeachable sense?
That's a political judgment. I think the longer this case takes to come into trial in the Senate, I think it increases the jeopardy for Donald Trump, because more is going to come out.
I think more of the investigation by the Feds, into who all was involved and why they were involved, is not going to hold well for him. I think that will increase his jeopardy and also free up the Senate to get some other work done while the case is being developed.
I hope Nancy does not send that over quickly and sits on it a while and lets other business get conducted. It's only going to build a stronger case, in my estimation.
CUOMO: They could do both.
DEAN: They're defamation cases, which are always tough.
CUOMO: We will look at them. There is a strategic play here. You don't have coordination with the prosecution, different forms and venues. But every time you lose going after Trump, it makes him more of a victim and creates energy for the narrative that he has with his base about being persecuted.
John Dean, do me a favor. Stay on guard for me and let's see if these pardons come in on our watch. I can't ask for better than you as counsel on this night. A pleasure and a privilege to be living history with you once again.
Let's take a quick break. I don't want to exhaust you too quickly. We are on late night watch for breaking pardon news, what may be Trump's last stamp on history before he walks out of the White House for the final time at 8 am.
This is Inauguration Day.
What will it augur in for all of us?
We will see together.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. I want to bring Nia-Malika Henderson, Mark Preston, and David Gergen.
It is good to be living history with all of you at home, and these three, as well. Today is inauguration day, at least on the East Coast. And that's where it will happen at 12 noon, in our nation's capital, Eastern. You will have a new president.
Nia-Malika Henderson, is it the end of a bad period and the beginning of a new one, or not quite yet? Where do we sit?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think it's not quite yet. There's certainly the end of this 4-year presidency. Donald Trump likely going to be judged to be one of America's worst presidents certainly in the sort of modern times.
And so we'll see what is ahead. You already see him talking about starting a new party. We obviously, in the next few weeks, will see an impeachment trial move forward in the Senate. Will he be convicted? If he is convicted, will they also decide that he -- you know, to bar him from running for president ever again? We will see.
Listen, I think it's certainly too early to completely shut the door on all of the things we saw from the Trump era, particularly, the division around race and what he stoked, and what we saw come to fruition on the Capitol in that terrible Wednesday.
But listen, I do think millions of people will really breathe a sigh of relief when they see Donald Trump fly off to Florida and once they see Biden take the oath of office, and swell with some pride, as well, when they see Vice President Kamala Harris -- Vice President-elect Kamala Harris take her oath and become this historic figure.
So listen, it's -- I think it's going to be a difficult period going forward because of what we've seen over these last four years from this president.
CUOMO: Quick bounce follow to you, Nia-Malika. Personally, as a journalist and as a person of color, where is your sense of fear, of anxiety about what might happen with your role in society? Where does that sit this morning?
HENDERSON: Well, listen, I think I have a lot of African-American friends, Latino friends. And there has been a collective sense of anxiety and fear among those folks over the last four years. Chris, you've got a lot of African-American friends and Latino friends and all sorts of friends who have felt a real fear and stress because of what this president has done in this country, the kind of language he's used, this idea of suggesting that the progress of African- Americans, the progress of Latinos must mean something for white people, right? Sort of scaring people about progress that has been made.
Also, that is something that I think is a terrible stain on this president, a terrible stain on the Republican Party, for allowing it to happen, not just with Trump but in years prior, as well.
So yes, am I worried about what comes ahead because of what Donald Trump stoked? Didn't invent it, but he certainly stoked it over these last four years. I think there's a lot of fear among lots of groups of people about what we're going to continue to see from angry white Americans who feel like they are being displaced.
You know, there is that quote that says, when you -- when you're a person who has privilege, equality looks like oppression. And that's the kind of language we hear from a lot of folks we, you know, have -- saw on the Capitol there. This idea of rights being taking away, sort of the language of slavery. That is how those folks feel.
And how you reach those people, that is going to be a big test for Biden. And maybe he can't. He'll certainly try, and we'll see what he says, you know, in a few hours, when he takes the oath of office and gives his inaugural address.
CUOMO: We'll see what he says and then, more importantly, we'll see what he does. And the reason I brought it up with you is because --
CUOMO: -- you've spoken about it very eloquently and been vulnerable on this point, which I think is really helpful to the audience to understand. It's not just talking about other people. It's the people doing the job, as well. So thank you.
Now, on the pardon front, Mark, let me go to you first. Then I want to go to David about looking at Biden as a snapshot of where he stands and what he's looking at. But on the pardons, let's say he does pardon Steve Bannon. So what? You know, what can Trump do that will hurt his reputation at this point? That will shock? Or am I looking at it the wrong way?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think those of us who -- who have high morals, or at least think we have high morals, look at the Steve Bannon pardon, if it happens, and just shake our head.
However, if you are a Republican right now and you are a Republican leader, perhaps somebody from more of the old-school Republican Party. You're very concerned, because what you're seeing now is Steve Bannon and Donald Trump, who do nothing but go forth and have a political strategy that is scorched earth.
And you look at Donald Trump right now, who's leaving office bringing Bannon back into the fold, Chris, with him. Just imagine that. Just imagine what these two are going to wreak havoc on the Republican Party in the next couple of years. I think that Mitch McConnell, we saw that speech that he gave earlier
today, calling out Donald Trump. I think Mitch McConnell saw this coming and is trying to make a break.
CUOMO: David Gergen, Joe Biden has never seen any president take on the plate of problems that he will have set before him at noon Eastern at the Capitol. What is your take on with the stakes are and what the most intelligent way forward is for his administration?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I certainly agree, Chris, that he's inheriting some terrible, terrible crises. In fact, I would say the heaviest load of crises of any president -- incoming president since Franklin Roosevelt.
And what Roosevelt had, Biden doesn't. He had strong majorities in the House and in the Senate, to help him govern. So I think -- I think it's more of an uphill fight for -- for Biden.
But I must tell you, Chris, from your original question about, you know, is this going to be a turning of the tide. I think what it is, is the first opportunity, the best opportunity we've had in four years to try to repair the system. There are no guarantees here, but there are at least -- you know, there's an opening here.
And it's not just about what Biden does. It's also about what McConnell does and what the Republicans do, because it takes two to tango in this situation.
I was -- I was encouraged on that today by, first of all, by the speech by McConnell, when he said that the president provoked the riots. The president provoked the riots. Well, the article of impeachment says the president incited the riots. The difference between incited and provoked is a very, very small difference, a tiny, hard to see --
CUOMO: Especially in a political trial. They're not defined terms.
GERGEN: Absolutely. And so, you know, it seemed to me that McConnell was sending a signal. He is not just open. He's leaning, and that could transform what happens in the next few weeks.
Now, the other thing that encouraged me was that -- that Biden reached out to McConnell and to -- and to McCarthy on the other side, the House side, to go to church with him tomorrow; to have their families go to church together. And you're going to have the four leaders, five leaders altogether with their spouses, who are going to be coming and going to St. Matthews Church. That is a good sign. It -- there is a relationship there between Biden and Kamala that seems to be as much of a friendship as it is a working relationship. And I think those things make a difference in Washington.
CUOMO: Look, they can. Again, you know, once bitten, twice shy, let alone a million times bitten. So we will see, but I appreciate the perspective from all three. And again, sharing history with you guys. It will be a memory I'll never forget.
All right. This is it. This is the day. We'll be with you every minute. As soon as I get news, you're the first person I tell. We'll be right back.
CUOMO: Let's be very clear about our reality today. This is not the way an inauguration is supposed to happen. I'm happy to have you here with me on inauguration morning. And yes, we should have a new president today, the 46th, Joe Biden.
But look at the Capitol. Look what it looks like. This is not a peaceful transfer of power. We have lost that humble brag. We don't get to say it anymore, OK? And by the way, the Capitol may look like this for weeks into the administration. Why? Because we can't trust each other. That's why. We can't even trust the people who are keeping it safe down there right now.
Donie O'Sullivan is in Washington with a look at things right now. I have to tell you, Donie, that news hit hard. That the vetting of the people who are on the detail at the Capitol revealed a dozen members that they felt, better safe than sorry, should be removed. What's your understanding?
DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Chris, it's chilling. Well, happy inauguration day. And you know, as you mentioned, 25,000 National Guard troops in this city tonight. Hotels that would normally be full of inauguration goers in normal times full with troops tonight.
And as you can see here, miles and miles and miles of fencing and barricades, barriers and barbed wire. It is not what would come to mind normally when you'd think of a peaceful transition of power, but that is what President Trump has left behind in Washington as he flies out of here in a few hours' time. You know, the result, really, of a presidency seat and conspiracy theory and hateful rhetoric. And to that point, you know, there is concern, of course, that all these online conspiracy theories, the online conspiracy theorists we saw come here to the Capitol just two weeks ago, might return tomorrow.
New reporting tonight from "The Washington Post," based on an intelligence briefing that they saw, that QAnon believers discussing plans to potentially pose as National Guard members to get into the secure perimeter there is here in Washington.
And of course, we are learning more details, as well, of the people who came here two weeks ago to stage that insurrection. And some of the chilling details coming out now in FBI complaints that go into detail of how prepared they were to commit acts of violence and how they were even searching out for lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
So a very tense, very quiet evening, quiet night, quiet morning here in Washington, D.C. But quite tense all the same -- Chris.
CUOMO: Donie, what is the primary threat profile that they are on guard for?
O'SULLIVAN: Yes. Well, I mean, I think it is a lot of those people that we saw here on the Capitol two weeks ago. Right? It is people who have been radicalized online.
You know, you talk about ISIS. There has been a process of domestic radicalization happening online in this country for many years now, and particularly for over the past few years as Trump has been president we have seen QAnon takeover. People who believe that the Democrats who are in this building behind me are part of a cabal and that they have stolen the election. Some people who genuinely seem to believe that, who have been brainwashed, and who may come here and try to act out, as we saw them do two weeks ago.
So it is people who have been so misled by this president, have been so misled by what they are seeing online and in Trump-sympathetic media that they think it rational to come and act out and potentially commit acts of violence.
CUOMO: Well, we will see what happens soon enough. And more importantly, if anything does happen, what matters most is the response, not just there on the ground and all the "God forbids," but how leaders take it on, especially in that party.
Donie, thank you. Stay warm. Stay safe.
Let's bring in Paul Begala, Scott Jennings, and Hilary Rosen.
Inaugurate is all about good things coming in the future. Right? That is the etymology of the word, any way you want to research it.
Hilary, do you believe that good things come as a result of this? And anytime soon?
HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, they're not getting worse. They couldn't possibly. Of course, they're going to get better. I think we're going to see, you know, tomorrow, honestly, some -- some dark clouds lifting from -- for so many people in this country who have been oppressed, who have been scared, who have been suffering, who have been getting sick.
And, you know, I think there is a huge amount of expectations on the Biden team, as well as on the president-elect and vice president- elect.
I've honestly never seen -- and I've been in this town a long time, through many inaugurations. I've never actually seen such a seriousness of purpose with a new administration staff coming in. You know, there's really no time for celebrating. There's barely time for joy. They are so focused and so busy with all they want to accomplish. And I think we've really never seen that before. And I think it bodes well, actually, for the American people, because we're desperate for actual good governing right now.
CUOMO: so Scott, let's talk about how your party comes out of the box. Everybody is talking about Senator McConnell admitting that Trump provoked what happened. He certainly didn't say that right after the event.
But what about the Dan Crenshaws, you know, the young future of your party? Well, he didn't. He didn't say it right after, and he was quiet, McConnell. He said it today. Better late than never. But when you say things matter, but I'm moving him out of it. Because he is not the only signal.
You have Dan Crenshaw. You have Hawley. You have the tabloids from the right fringe. They're pushing immigration. They're already lying about what Biden's plans are. They're showing packs of migrants coming from Guatemala and saying they're on the way to the inauguration.
Is that where your party wants to be right out of the bat? Just beat up on Biden as fast as possible, because they did it to Trump? Is that the play?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the play for the Republicans is a couple of things.
No. 1, they're going to have to continue to do what Mitch McConnell has been doing, and that's telling the truth to the American people and to members of the Republican Party, that Joe Biden won the election. And he's going to continue to do that. And he's obviously none too pleased that Donald Trump and some of his supporters launched an attack on the Congress and on our Constitution.
And so we have to be honest, because if we're not honest with the American people about that basic threshold kind of a question, how will they ever trust us with positions of national governing responsibility ever again? So that's step one.
Step two is help Joe Biden get the vaccination process moving as quickly as possible. Because that's the only way to get people back in schools and to get people back to work.
And then No. 3, I think the parties are going to have debates over other issues: immigration and infrastructure, and you know, you can go down the list. And most policies likely to be made between the 40-yard lines.
But until the Republicans get over step one, which is tell the truth about the election and make sure their supporters understand that it is a death spiral for the party to continue to try to relitigate this election, I don't know how you ever get to steps two and three in a meaningful way.
CUOMO: Right. But Paul, didn't they botch step one? I mean, McConnell, you know, is no shining example. He didn't say anything about the election early on. He didn't say it until he had to, because he's a master of the game. And the whole point is that the game needs to change.
You can talk about immigration. They're already demonizing Biden's policy, and they don't even know what it is yet. So what does this mean for the administration out of the box?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I have been, in part, disappointed. I didn't expect -- you know, my epitaph of the whole Trump presidency is I expected the worst, and it was worse than I expected.
And in part, the way that his fellow Republicans are reacting, I would have thought they would have had a greater duty to the Constitution. But better late than never. Right? Here's -- Mr. McConnell, Senator McConnell from Kentucky is speaking out. He is telling the truth. He's listening to Scott Jennings. It's a very good thing. You know, truth was the first casualty of the Trump presidency, and we've got to come back to that.
And I think we will. I think you're going to see a massive change. I think you're going to see more truth and fewer lies, at least certainly from this new president coming in. You're going to see more decency, less demonizing, more heart and less hate.
The change will start at the top for the president, with the president. And the new president inaugurated tomorrow. I do, I live in hope. You know? And so I believe that the Republicans will respect -- enough will, some will. And Joe Biden is the perfect person to reach out to them.
CUOMO: So let's do this. Let me give you gives a break. I'll take a break. We're waiting on pardon news to see if Donald Trump, on his way out, gives his party one more thing to have to own: a pardon of Steve Bannon, a man accused by authorities of stealing from Republican voters. What are they going to do about that? We'll see together.
It is inauguration day. What will it auger in for us? We'll see. Stay with CNN.
CUOMO: Word of more pardons by outgoing President Trump have just come in. Let's get the news from Joe Johns at the Capitol.
What do we know?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're just getting information from the White House about the pardons, and I can tell you this.
According to the White House, the president granted pardons to 73 individuals, commuted the sentences of another 70. So that's, what, 143 acts of clemency by the president in the last hours of his administration. I'll just run down through some of the names. We've already told you about Steve Bannon, that love-hate relationship
he's had with the former senior adviser, who was charged with defrauding people who were sending money to help build president's -- President Trump's border wall. He obviously has gotten a pardon.
Here are some other names. Some are not surprises, and you've probably heard this before. A couple of rappers: Kodak black, Lil Wayne. There's an individual named Elliott Broidy, who's a top fundraiser for the Trump campaign. Paul Erickson, who was a conservative political operative, who was charged with wire fraud.
Kwame Kilpatrick, the former Detroit mayor, gets a pardon. He was charged with racketeering. And Aviem Sella. This was an individual who was connected to the Jonathan Pollard espionage case that dates all the way back to 1986. So those are a few of the names of these individuals.
But the top line, Chris, is 140 individuals in total get clemency from the president on his way out the door here. Seventy-three individuals had their -- got pardons, and 70 people actually got commutations.
Back to you, Chris.
CUOMO: Appreciate the news, Joe. As we go for analysis, let me just answer a frequently-asked question here. OK? Clemency, pardon, commute, commutation, what's the difference?
OK, it's all clemency. Clemency means mercy. OK? And under that umbrella, you have pardons and you have commutations. A commutation is a reduction in sentence. It can be partial; it can be complete. OK? It can also remove financial penalties. But it does not remove the fact that you were convicted of a crime.
A pardon is a complete pass. OK? Now, as John Dean was explaining earlier, a pardon can be tailored. It can be a complete pass but only within a certain category. For instance, he was reminding us of General Flynn. And that pardon, which was done as a pardon only with specific inference to the Mueller investigation. What does that mean? Well, if they were to find -- some far-flung notion at this point, based on how little information we had, that Flynn was somehow part of a conspiracy for what happened on January 6 -- I haven't seen anything like that, but it's been discussed politically. Well, would he be pardoned from that? The answer is no.
So what do these mean? What do they mean for Trump? What do they mean for us? Let's go to former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara.
I spared you that tutorial, because you know it in your sleep. But what do you make of these 73 pardons, 70 commuted sentences?
PREET BHARARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So I haven't seen the whole list, based on some of the things that were just mentioned, it looks like once again, if you know the president of the United States and you're associated with the president of the United States, and you help the president of the United States in some way or another, you've got the benefit of, as I've said before, the greatest gift you can get from a sitting president, and that is a pardon.
I also noticed I've been looking on the Internet myself, and with respect to the pardon of Steve.