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The Inauguration of Joe Biden; Trump Pardons Steve Bannon; D.C. on Lockdown; Trump Leaves Legacy of Chaos and Division; Biden Inherits Economy Ravaged by Pandemic; Kamala Harris to Solidify Her Place in History. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired January 20, 2021 - 02:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Good morning, everyone. It is morning, I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And I'm Jim Sciutto. Inauguration Day in America, just hours from now, a presidential transfer of power with, yes, deep divisions in this country, but also high hopes.

The nation's capital is on lockdown as Joe Biden is set to be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. Kamala Harris will write her own page in the U.S. history books, becoming the first woman and first woman of color to be sworn in as vice president.

HARLOW: A new beginning and a new administration facing enormous challenges. The nation is reeling after the deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, a surging pandemic that has now taken the lives of more than 400,000 Americans.

And in his final hours as president, Trump just granted a number of pardons and commutations, including a pardon for his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon. The rationale for that pardon, politics, full stop. More on that in a moment.

Let's begin with our Jessica Dean on soon to be President Biden's schedule this morning.

What is he going to do?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you. We are getting new details about exactly what he is going to do. If we read between the lines in these details, you really start to see the contrast between what President Biden's administration will look like versus President Trump and his administration.

Let's walk through some of it. It will start with a church service later this morning. As I reported yesterday, he invited Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to join him for the service as well as the rest of congressional leadership, showing a bipartisan unity going into this very important day in American history and more than ever for us to see members of different parties coming together.

So they will attend the church service together. Then you have the actual oath of office and inauguration for Kamala Harris and Joe Biden. He is still working on the speech. He will be talking about unity. It's a theme he comes back to again and again. You will hear it in the message from him tomorrow.

Then he will go to Arlington Cemetery for a wreath laying ceremony with former Presidents Bush, Obama and Clinton, another show of unity with former United States presidents coming together. Notably absent from tomorrow President Trump, who will be in Florida well by the time Biden takes his oath of office.

Then he is going to sign a number of executive orders from the Oval Office, telegraphing the visual of President Biden getting to work and starting to make good on some of the promises that he promised on the campaign trail.

That will all be followed by some more lighthearted fun, festivities in the evening, the inauguration special with celebrities and performances and all, that sort of thing.

It's telling how they started the festivities. Yesterday, President- Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris were there at the Lincoln Memorial, at the Reflecting Pool, to honor the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have died from COVID. Listen to what the President- Elect had to say.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: To heal, we must remember -- and it's hard sometimes to remember but that's how we heal. It is important to do that as a nation.


DEAN: Some powerful words from the President-Elect. Again, expect more messages throughout today. Jim and Poppy, important to note, a 7 pm press briefing by the incoming press secretary, Jen Psaki. They will return to daily press briefings.

Again, another contrast to President Trump and his administration.

HARLOW: Amen to that, not just for the media to get their questions answered but for the American people, who deserve that from the White House. Jess, thank you for the reporting.

President Trump has just granted clemency or pardoned a total of 143 people, including his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon. The outgoing president awarded Bannon a full pardon. This is one of his final official acts as president.

Bannon was facing federal fraud charges of cheating donors, many of them Trump supporters, cheating Trump supporters out of their money as part of a fundraising campaign, purportedly to support Trump's border wall. GIULIANI: Notably not on the list, Trump himself, no members of the

president's family, also Rudy Giuliani not on the list. Joining us to discuss the list and what it means is Jessica Levinson, a professor of law at Loyola Law School and the host of "Passing Judgment" podcast.

Jessica, good to have you on this morning.


SCIUTTO: I would say the biggest headline in the list would be Steve Bannon. He worked for the president as chief strategist. His crime here, that he was indicted for, is defrauding Trump supporters. He raised money for the wall when it wasn't actually going to the wall. Tell us legally what kind of message this sends.

JESSICA LEVINSON, LOYOLA UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: It's interesting. This is obviously the one that has gained the most headlines. Legally, the message it sends, you could view it politically perhaps, President Trump sending a message that he is really not that concerned with defrauding his supporters.

Legally is says he is not that concerned with the crimes alleged here. This is the one where I think you might call into question whether or not the Senate would convict President Trump.

I think this particular pardon will really anger some Senate Republicans. I don't think it's a done deal that they would convict the president, not by a long shot. But I think this is the one where people are saying, there's a number of Senate Republicans who will look and say, now you really have to get yourself covered.

HARLOW: That's a really good point, one echoed by conservative Bill Kristol tonight. I want to make clear -- and you can explain this -- this does not protect Steve Bannon from state charges. And it's easily possible that one of the states could pick up these wire fraud charges and make it a state issue.

LEVINSON: Absolutely. The president's pardon power in the Constitution is very broad but it only includes federal crimes. The president cannot reach into a state and pardon anyone for state crimes. That's only something the governor can do.

Another thing to remember, with a pardon, comes the inability to assert the 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination. That's a point I want to make based on the introduction.

You made the comment that President Trump is not on the list, his family is not on the list, not yet. It is possible that the president has issued some pardons that are secret. If he didn't comply with Federal Public Records Act, which I can imagine he might not, that might not become public right away.

It might not become public until someone tries to use it as a defense in a federal case.

SCIUTTO: A fair point there. CNN is reporting the reason he did not pardon himself, again, like so many of these things, was self interest. He was advised that it would expose him further, perhaps, to conviction in the Senate. That's a consistent factor across a lot of these things.

LEVINSON: I think a lot of the calculus in the final days here didn't come to does he has the power, because he unquestionably has the power, with the exception of a self pardon. No president has ever tried.

But I think a lot of it came down to this calculation, how would this affect the looming Senate trial?

Frankly, I think a lot of these were thank-you notes to people who had directly and indirectly supported him. We saw a number of pardons for people engaged in white collar crimes, fraud, public corruption.

SCIUTTO: To your point, also not on the list, folks who stormed the Capitol but also the possibility of Republican lawmakers who might have some exposure there. The president is calculating that that might expose him to further chances of being convicted in the Senate. Jessica Levinson, great to have you on tonight.

LEVINSON: Thank you.

HARLOW: Thank you, Jessica.

For more on President Trump's final hours, let's go to Joe Johns.

Good morning, good evening to you.

Do we know anything in the last moments what might come from the president before he leaves office?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: We know just a little bit. What we know is -- let's start at the beginning tonight. The president is in White House, Joe Biden is about 100 yards away in Blair House, right across the street. They are not expected to meet.

But around 8 am tomorrow morning, the president's schedule says he and the first lady will depart the White House. It doesn't say anything more. We know they have planned what they think is going to be a big sendoff out of Joint Base Andrews in the Maryland suburbs.

It's anybody's guess who is going to show up. We here at the White House unit of CNN have been talking to people in the administration and others who have been invited. And a lot of people say they will not show up.


JOHNS: It's in part because of disappointment, including about the big riot at the Capitol on January 6th.

One other person who will not be there is the vice president, Mike Pence. He has apparently opted to go to the inauguration of Joe Biden instead of attend that event out at Joint Base Andrews. What they are saying is this is simply a logistical question. It's

very difficult to be in those two places -- not quite at the same time but thereabouts. He is going to go to the Capitol.

But there's also the question of the hard feelings between the Pence folks and the Trump folks as a result of what happened up on Capitol Hill on January 6th. A lot of people on the Pence side have been very upset about the fact that the president of the United States apparently did not even check in on Mike Pence when all that was happening.

SCIUTTO: And we now know how close the rioters and insurgents got to Pence on the floor. He was whisked out of there moments before they got in. Joe Johns, thanks for joining us in the early morning hours.

Still to come, day one for soon to be president and vice president Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, the immediate challenges facing their administration and what they plan to do about it all -- next.

HARLOW: Plus 12 National Guard members have been removed from inauguration security for, quote, "questionable behavior." The challenges of keeping the capital of the incoming president and vice president safe on this historic day.

Where are we as a country four years after Trump took office?

We, will take a look back at where it started and where we are now. Stay with us.





HARLOW: In hours, President-Elect Biden becomes President Biden but, before that happens, President Trump is expected to leave town, in his final hours in office not attend the inauguration and head to Mar-a- lago.

SCIUTTO: With us now is Jackie Kucinich, Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast."

Thank you for staying up with us. It's nice to have you on this remarkable day. Biden is planning to hit the ground running with these executive orders but also an ambitious legislative agenda. He plans to overturn some of the most controversial decisions of the Trump administration, the Muslim travel ban. That will change very quickly here.

Tell us the impact of those moves.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: A lot of this is going to reverse what the Trump administration did. There are executive orders, everything from COVID to climate change, immigration. You mentioned the Muslim ban. It's really stretching a broad swath of issues that they are looking to quickly overturn to start a new path.

It's complicated when you start talking about the legislative agenda. As you mentioned, they are talking about a very large COVID relief bill, not only to get through the House and Senate. That has made it slightly easier because now the Democrats have very slight control of the House and Senate.

But it will require getting all Democrats on the same page which isn't a guarantee. Once he and his team are take over -- and his team is not even in place yet. Many of his cabinet secretaries, none of his cabinet secretaries, have been confirmed at this point. But once everyone is in place, it's up to them to execute it. And that will be the hard part.

HARLOW: Jessica Dean, having covered Biden's run and now we will be covering the White House, I also want to know what a day and what a sight it is going to see Kamala Harris take the oath of office, with her hand on the Bible, held by Justice Sotomayor, her choice, the first Latino Supreme Court justice.

Kamala Harris the daughter of immigrants, I think -- and an administration that said they will build a cabinet that looks like America. It's just so different from the Trump administration and such a reflection of the country and what's to come.

DEAN: Yes, it is such a stark contrast. That was very much in the forefront of Joe Biden's message on the campaign trail, then during the transition and now as he is about to become president. He has said I want to build a cabinet that looks like America. That was their pledge.

He always said that that started with choosing Kamala Harris. Bringing her in as vice president was important for a whole host of reasons but also because of what she brings in terms of diversity. She will be the first woman of color to be the Vice President of the United States. That's important to Biden.

We heard him talk earlier today when he was departing Delaware. He talked about waiting on the train platform to come to the inauguration, to be Barack Obama's vice president.

Now he says he is waiting to go to Washington, D.C., to see Kamala Harris become vice president. I think he really sees himself as part of a changing of the guard in American history and playing a role in that. That's important to him.

And if you look at the people they have picked, not just in their cabinet secretaries but also in their personnel, they are filling the offices with, they have really made an effort to make it as diverse as possible.

SCIUTTO: Jackie, I remember watching Trump's inaugural speech four years ago. The phrase that stuck out at the time, I think has been one of the most lasting, the line about American carnage. We see where the country stands today.

Tell us about messaging from Joe Biden today.

What does he need to say?

What do you expect him to say?


SCIUTTO: What is the core message of his inauguration and going forward?

KUCINICH: I think the word of the day for the Biden campaign is unity. That's something Biden stressed on the campaign trail. It is going to course through this speech.

That's not an easy task, particularly with what happened at the Capitol a few weeks ago. So the message of trying to bring the country together, getting over differences not just between parties but between average Americans. There really is a divide out there.

He is going to try to bridge the gap. Whether or not he can, only time will tell but it is certainly the message that the transition is putting out there. And that Biden himself, also healing, these are core Biden messages normally. But will be particularly poignant going forward today.

SCIUTTO: We'll be listening. Jackie Kucinich, Jessica Dean, thank you.

It is a sad fact. You walk the streets of Washington today, tonight, our nation's capital looks and feels like a fortress ahead of inauguration. There's tens of thousands of National Guards men and women, law enforcement officers, checkpoints, a massive fencing perimeter, the closing of key roads and bridges in and out of the nation's capital. We will have a live update, next.





HARLOW: It is a sad reality, Jim, you are seeing it, you are in the middle of. It Washington, D.C., is on lockdown hours before President- Elect Joe Biden will be sworn into office.

SCIUTTO: It's unrecognizable. I don't know if folks are aware of what the city has become in these hours and days. Several roads and bridges into the city are shut down entirely. Nearly 25,000 National Guard troops on the ground, five times as many as in Iraq or Afghanistan combined.

Fencing is everywhere. Dump trucks at intersections to block traffic. Military vehicles, checkpoints, CNN's Donie O'Sullivan is there following the latest in Washington.

I felt, walking down the streets tonight, almost like a scene out of "I Am Legend. The city as a result of this, the downtown area at least, is deserted. It's an amazing scene but security officials believe it's necessary.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN TECH CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim. It's a surreal scene. It's like something out of a zombie movie. There are 25,000 National Guard troops in this city tonight.

You can see buses behind us now, moving these troops across the city all night. You can see miles and miles of barricades and barriers and fences and barbed wire. It's not what one thinks of when they think of a peaceful transition of power.

Yet, this is what President Trump has left us with, as he prepares to leave the city in a few hours. It's the result of a presidency that has been steeped in conspiracy theories.

HARLOW: Conspiracy theories, many of which did not need to get out of control the way that they did. Social media, as you have been covering, really is the reason so much of this is believed.

Since August Facebook says it has removed about 18,000 profiles and 27,000 Instagram accounts for violating its policies, many with QAnon conspiracy theories.

But a lot of this stuff seems to still be out there, right?

O'SULLIVAN: Absolutely. It has been 2 weeks and we are now on Wednesday morning. It has been exactly 2 weeks since the insurrection at the Capitol behind me, all of which was based on a conspiracy theory, that Trump did not lose the election.

Even as we are going into the final hours, dying hours of the Trump presidency, there are more conspiracy theories spreading like wildfire tonight. One which is on the radar of the Pentagon, we are told. We have seen over the past few weeks platforms like Facebook and Twitter are kicking off a lot of these conspiracy theorists.

A lot of Trump supporters and far-right extremists are moving to new platforms. One of them is Telegram. There is an account up there tonight. Earlier today, it had more than 200,000 followers and gained 200,000 in just over 24 hours. It's posing as the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

It is promising that Trump still has something up his sleeve and possibly he will declare martial law. That's all baseless. But it's something which is still spreading even tonight.

Of course, that raises all sorts of questions and concerns of what is going to happen tomorrow, when Trump is back in Florida and when Biden is president and when millions of Americans who believed this QAnon conspiracy theory realize it was all a lie?

SCIUTTO: Well, they will move on to the next lie. We have seen it so many times. People willing to fool themselves into being fooled. Donie O'Sullivan, great to have you on.

Joining to talk about the state of the threat, CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem. She's a former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security.


SCIUTTO: Always good to have you, on Juliette.


SCIUTTO: Listen, I have never seen security like this in D.C. The streets are empty as a result of this massive cordon. National Guards troops carrying M-4s around in uniform, five times the military presence in Washington as in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I just wonder, as you watch this, knowing the threat, does the show of force match the threat?

What does it tell us about the degree of danger, not just to the inauguration but beyond?

KAYYEM: I would say, more specifically, the show of force matches the consequences, if anything were to go wrong. In other words, at this stage, we have a zero tolerance -- and we always have -- for something happening at inauguration.

But the show of force is essentially to say two things. One is, however nervewracking it must be to be there right now, basically, they've regained the Hill. They are basically saying this hill is ours and therefore the new president's and the transfer of power.

The second reason -- and this is consistent with these very public arrests you are seeing around the country; the FBI is just going after these people -- is that it is preventative. It's to say, this is no joke. You people laughed your way on to Capitol Hill. People died. You were mocking the Senate.

Whatever you thought you were doing, the joke is over. And I think that's really important, no matter how nervewracking it is for all of you there.

SCIUTTO: Let's talk beyond that about the seriousness of the threat going forward. I have been told by people in the incoming Biden administration that they plan to make domestic terrorism a real focus of the National Security Council going forward because of their genuine concern about these groups.

The FBI has been sounding the alarm about them for a number of years.

Where does that threat stand today?

According to the FBI, it's more severe than international terrorism.

(CROSSTALK) KAYYEM: Absolutely for a number of reasons. Because the government ignored, it was told to ignore it. The president didn't -- wanted them to ignore it.

But the other side is because it has been nurtured by the White House. One of the most frustrating things as we reflect on the last four years is Trump is accused of both siderisms, he was always the both sides after Charlottesville.

He wasn't both sides. He was one side. He was one side. He was supporting and nurturing the white supremacy movement and the racism that you see.

Where does it go from here?

I think some of it does go away only because that element is probably not violent. Some of it is, like the QAnon, is sort of freaky, unhelpful and unhealthy, conspiracy theories, I describe them more like "A Clockwork Orange," a kind of nihilism that we have to essentially try to reeducate family members, community members.

Part of it has already turned against him. Part of the scariest core now views Trump as a sellout for moving out and you are seeing that on some of the websites. They think he gave up.

So it is different elements but the white supremacy element is the largest of what we are seeing. And that needs to be fought, just as we fought Al Qaeda and Islamic terrorism after 9/11.

SCIUTTO: Let's hope we are up to it. There's still many in this country sharing the disinformation deliberately and, despite it all, despite even what we saw on January 6th. Juliette, let's keep up the conversation.


KAYYEM: Yes, I'm with you for 36 hours. So you be safe.



HARLOW: As President Trump's one term in office comes to a close in just hours, next, we will take a look back at the Trump legacy.





HARLOW: President Trump promised the country that would get tired of winning at the end of what he called American carnage, so memorable from his inaugural address. He promised the country would be made great again.

Four years later, where are we?

SCIUTTO: Look at the streets of D.C. as a measure. Here's CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger on what the outgoing president tried to project and the reality he is leaving behind.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): In the beginning, the new president declared himself the savior of the forgotten.

TRUMP: This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

BORGER (voice-over): Four years later, American carnage right there at the Capitol, a peaceful transfer of power denied, a nation suffering through a pandemic, on edge, divided over a twice-impeached president. And all because Donald Trump lied and lied about an election he lost.

TRUMP: We will never give up. We will never concede.

BORGER (voice-over): Addicted to adulation, clinging to center stage.

TRUMP: If you don't fight like hell you're not going to have a country anymore.

BORGER (voice-over): And so, the Trump presidency, born out of conspiracy theories, was finally torn down by one. But the chaotic final chapter is far more extreme than anyone could have predicted.


BORGER (voice-over): From the very first day of his presidency, palpable lies.

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

BORGER (voice-over): A focus on himself, even at a hallowed space for the CIA fallen.

TRUMP: Trust me, I'm like a smart person.

BORGER (voice-over): The new president came into office not so much humbled but rather reading from the same script that he had used for years in business.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He is the first person to become president without ever having led any kind of organization that was devoted to any purpose other than himself.

BORGER (voice-over): What Trump loved were the ruffles and flourishes of the job, not governing.

TRUMP: I will shut down the government.


BORGER (voice-over): Chaos and division became his calling card.

PROTESTERS: Jews will not replace us.

TRUMP: You also had people that were very fine people on both sides.

These are not acts of peaceful protests, these are acts of domestic terror.

BORGER (voice-over): The norms of the office shattered.

TRUMP: This is based on a perfect phone call.

Did anybody read the transcript?

It's a witch hunt. This is a hoax.

BORGER (voice-over): His barometer of success was the stock market and a wall with his name on it. Trump's world was divided into those who would pay homage to him and those who would not.

At home, threatening with his thumbs, firing those he deemed insufficiently loyal. Abroad, it was the same, a bully to allies but praise for strongmen who flattered him.

TRUMP: He wrote me beautiful letters. We fell in love.

He just said it's not Russia. I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be.

BORGER (voice-over): Mortifying even to those once within his own administration.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I don't think he's fit for office.

BORGER (voice-over): But the president's truest fans remain steadfast, convinced he was always on their side even as Trump himself became the architect of his own demise, not only in the last few weeks but for the last 10 months, as COVID swept through the nation and the president insisted on sweeping it under the rug.

TRUMP: We're doing a great job with it and it will go away. Just stay calm.

BORGER (voice-over): After his own brush with COVID and hundreds of thousands dead, Trump still downplayed mask-wearing, testing and science, offering this advice to Americans, millions now without jobs and none with presidential health care.

TRUMP: Don't let it dominate your lives. Get out there. Be careful.

BORGER (voice-over): The vaccines came but the disease that Trump could not threaten did not bow, nor did the facts, nor did the courts or state elections, who uniformly said no to overturning the election.


BORGER (voice-over): And the Congress and his own vice president stood with the Constitution.

And while most elected Republicans don't want to alienate Trump's 74 million voters, the last two weeks have left the party untethered, wondering about its identity without a Trump presidency and with Washington in full Democratic control.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I asked my colleague, do we weigh our own political fortunes more heavily than we weigh the strength of our republic, the strength of our democracy and the cause of freedom?

ANTONIO: It is an American tragedy of unrivaled historical comparison and I think it has traumatized the country in a way that will require generations of work to recover from.

BORGER (voice-over): And now, Joe Biden begins inheriting a new American carnage -- the one that is Donald Trump's legacy -- Gloria Borger, CNN, Washington.


BORGER: And what Biden faces -- a cratered economy, civil unrest, a pandemic -- is more than anyone could have imagined -- Poppy and Jim.

To that point, the economy, truly challenged and ravaged by the pandemic. So many Americans are suffering as a result.

HARLOW: And the Biden team has to figure out what to do about it and how to get agreement in Congress on what to do.

Janet Yellen, Biden's Treasury Secretary nominee, pegged to lead the nation out of the economic downturn, began the confirmation process yesterday, urging Congress to act big on another COVID relief package. Let's go to CNN lead business writer, Matt Egan, who is following all of this.

Matt, thank you for staying up late for us. I thought it was interesting that Al Gore, the former vice president, said to Anderson Cooper a few hours ago that he believes what the Biden administration is inheriting, in terms of an economic calamity, is greater than the Great Recession.

You remember, they failed to pass TARP the first time, the stock market plunged. Political bickering made that recovery worse.

Is this an even greater hill to climb?

MATT EGAN, CNN LEAD BUSINESS WRITER: There is no way to sugarcoat it.


EGAN: Biden is inheriting a debacle on so many different levels. There is the political divide that Gloria was talking about and the pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans.

And Biden is inheriting an economy that's very shaky at best. And the inequality problem is being made worse by the pandemic.

As you're alluding to, Poppy, Joe Biden was there and he knows what happens when the federal government does not respond aggressively enough to a crisis. Congress in 2009 passed a stimulus package. But it was much smaller than Obama's advisers wanted.

An Obama economist said yesterday, yes, the recovery from the Great Recession was lower because the stimulus was not big enough. And so Janet Yellen signaled yesterday that Joe Biden is determined not to repeat that mistake. Their approach is basically go big or go home.

Biden is proposing $1.9 trillion rescue plan. And it is calling for stimulus checks of about $350 billion in state and local aid, billions more in unemployment benefits. What is important is that, for the first time during this health crisis, they want to spend a lot of money on the pandemic itself.

They are proposing $400 billion on vaccines and testing and, listen, we know that Biden is not going to get everything that he wants. But let's hope he gets enough to defeat the pandemic and get the economy through this period.

SCIUTTO: Well, clearly getting the vaccine out, the support, et cetera because it just ain't going to plan.

Let me ask you this, with this next proposed stimulus, have we learned what actually works, which money is most effective?

One of the lessons of the first stimulus pandemic plans was getting money into people's pockets was really -- not only help people but also had the most economic impact.

Where should this money be spent?

EGAN: Well, that is definitely part of the debate here. I think that the most important thing from Congress on the Left and the Right is get it to people who need it the most. We're talking about large parts of the economy that is still really in a state of disrepair because of the pandemic.

We talk about airlines, movie theaters, cruise ships, Broadway shows, all of these parts of the economy, people are really hurting. And we don't know when or if they will ever go back to normal.

So it's so important that the unemployment benefits, stimulus checks, that all of that money goes to the people who need it the most. Because Janet Yellen was just talking about how inequality is still a big problem in the United States and wanted to make sure that the money goes toward addressing that problem before it leads to more political instability.


HARLOW: For sure. Matt Egan, thank you for monitoring those hearings all day in being here with your reporting, we appreciate. It

Up next, Kamala Harris makes history.





HARLOW: Welcome back.

Kamala Harris will solidify her place in history when she takes the oath of office in just a few hours from now, becoming the first woman, the first Black American, the first person of South Asian descent to hold the office of vice president.

Her heritage, her background, her story empowering so many. My next guest is Dan Morain. He's the author of a brand new book, "Kamala's Way: An American Life."

Dan, I'm so glad you're here. Congratulations on the book. We were excited to have you because you've literally covered her for the majority of her career.

And I just wonder, did you think along the way at some point, yes, this is someone headed for the White House?

DAN MORAIN, AUTHOR: Well, so many amazing politicians have come through Sacramento, Jerry Brown being the main one. But Kamala Harris is a very charismatic person, a terrific politician.

But it doesn't really matter what I thought. The Republicans thought, nationally thought, that she was somebody to contend with when she ran for attorney general in 2010. Republican super PACs spent over $1 million on a really brutal ad, trying to block her election.

They knew that, if she became attorney general, she would rise beyond. And they were right. Her opponent, Steve Cooley, was the district attorney down in Los Angeles.

He told me, in the course of researching this book, that his campaign strategist told him, you know, Steve, this campaign is not really about attorney general; it's about who the vice president is going to be.

So Cooley dismissed it, probably dismissed her at his peril. She's not a person to be underestimated.

HARLOW: You know, what was important about the relationship that former President Obama had with then Vice President Biden was that Biden was the last one in the room and the last one that Obama would seek advice on on big things.

And it sounds like this relationship is going to be the same. Harris and Biden don't agree on everything. We saw that on the debate stage. We saw that on issues of criminal justice or injustice in the past and the '94 crime bill.

I just wonder, I guess you would expect her to make her opinions heard, even if she disagrees with Biden, right, when he comes to her for her take?


MORAIN: If you're Joe Biden, you do not select Kamala Harris to shove her off in a corner like a potted plant. She's a very strong person. She's very intelligent. She knows what she thinks. She knows what she thinks is right.

And she -- of course, she will express her opinion forcefully, I would imagine, with President Biden, behind closed doors. I'll be really surprised if we see any evidence of disagreement between them in public. I just can't imagine.

HARLOW: One thing that I think is very interesting and important -- and I haven't seen covered a lot until "The New York Times" a few days ago did a really interesting profile -- is on her blended family. And I don't just mean race. I mean all aspects of it.

Here's one line from the piece, "Ms. Harris, the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, was raised with both Christian and Hindu practices, while her husband, who is white, grew up at a Jewish summer camp."

Not only do you have the racial background, the mixed marriage, the religious differences and then the fact she's stepmom to two children, they call her Mamala. And I say this because it's actually so reflective of so many American families. And that's unique going into the White House.

MORAIN: Yes. When I think of Kamala Harris, sort of thinking about the book throughout and I kept thinking about transition, she's a transitional person, transitional figure.

Certainly in California, as California was transitioning from what, you know, not all that long ago was a purple state to a deep blue state, she's a transitional figure nationally.

This is going to be somebody who -- well, she is, I think, the face of the new Democratic Party, certainly the face of it in California and probably nationally as well.

But it's more than symbolism. This is a woman who's substantial. She's got -- she's got core values. She thinks things through. She's deliberate. She's a strategic thinker. She's impressive. She's -- you know, she's flawed. She is, in some ways, a work in progress. But she's somebody that can contend with, consequential.

HARLOW: Dan, thank you very much again. Here's the book, "Kamala's Way." I'm sure a lot of people will be reading it. Thanks for your time. MORAIN: Well, thank you very much.

HARLOW: We'll be right back.