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CNN Live Event/Special

Unprecedented Security In Washington Ahead Of Biden Inauguration; President Trump's Chaotic Presidency Comes To An End Soon; Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) On Today's Inauguration. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired January 20, 2021 - 05:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We are just a few hours away from the inauguration of Joe Biden, and 25,000 National Guard troops are on the scene.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan is live in Washington with more. What's the situation, Donie?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER: Hey, Alisyn. Yes, a city here on high alert. As you mentioned, 25,000 members of the National Guard here in the city this morning. Miles and miles of fences and barricades and barbed wire.

And, of course, new concerns -- fresh concerns that members of the National Guard and other people in authority here might have ties to extremist groups given what we saw in the Capitol two weeks ago in that insurrection. Twelve members of the National Guard have been taken off inauguration duty as part of that vetting process.

It is all, of course, coming after the insurrection two weeks ago which was, of course, the result of conspiracy theories from the President of the United States. This is not what a peaceful transition of power normally looks like but it is the result of a president and a presidency which was stoked in extreme rhetoric, violent rhetoric, and in conspiracy -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And the important thing is the violence will not stop the transfer of power. It failed. I think that's important to remember this morning as we watch history unfold before our eyes.

Donie O'Sullivan, thank you so much for being there for us.

So we want to talk about the history of this moment. Joining us now, CNN senior political analyst John Avlon.

And, John, I was speaking to Evan Osnos, Biden biographer, yesterday. And he was saying that in his mind, Joe Biden faces a similar situation that Abraham Lincoln did in 1861 when he delivered his first inaugural after some states had already promised to leave the Union. And Evan Osnos said, you know, Joe Biden faces that same division I

hope got him (ph). And I hope you're wrong about this because when Abraham Lincoln told the American people we are not enemies, including the people of the south, he was wrong. It turned out that Abraham Lincoln could not heal those divisions with that speech.

But put the Biden moment in historical perspective today.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (via Cisco Webex): Parallel is important because certainly, just in terms of the Capitol that Biden is walking into -- a place he worked for half a century -- has not been on this kind of lockdown facing this kind of a threat from within. People refusing to recognize the legitimacy of his election, which is free and fair.

The only parallel, really, is Abraham Lincoln in 1861 where he had to sneak into the Capitol where Democrats were actively denying his legitimacy as president. And, of course, seven states had already seceded and the Civil War loomed.

I think it's important to say historic parallels are not precise and that does not mean we are on the verge of civil war, but the challenge that Biden faces is similar. Importantly, he comes with a crucial difference -- a half-century of experience in the Senate, relationships on Capitol Hill, none of which Abraham Lincoln had.

But this is the context. This is the -- as the sun rises on Inauguration Day today in America, that is the context. We are divided and Joe Biden is in the position to try to heal us as a nation. But an inaugural speech is not a magic trick. It's going to take governing and it's going to take reasoning together.

BERMAN: Now, there's been a lot of focus on what we will not see today. We will not see Donald Trump ride in the limousine with Joe Biden to the Capitol. We won't see the Trumps welcome the Bidens at the White House, which is unfortunate and very small -- very small.


BERMAN: But I want to talk about what we will see, which is Joe Biden, who will be president at that time, along with former presidents Bush, Clinton, and Obama going to Arlington to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. That is not something we've seen ever and it might be necessary today.

AVLON: It is necessary because in the absence of Donald Trump, who is pulling a petulant stunt that hasn't been done by any president since Andrew Johnson where he refused to attend the inauguration of Ulysses S. Grant, this serves as a reminder of the continuity of purpose and the peaceful transfer of power -- all the ex-presidents getting together to stand with Biden.


And to remind America what we may have forgotten in recent years because of Donald Trump's tantrums that the presidency is about something more than yourself. It is about a deeper commitment to service. And that's what that trip to Arlington I think expresses.

BERMAN: You know, one of the moments -- I always find an awkward moment in an inauguration -- is when the outgoing president -- you see his departure from Andrews or wherever he's leaving and they have that reception there. It feels like the day after a wedding when sometimes there's a brunch and everyone really just wants to be on a plane on the way home.

This one could be even more awkward, John, in that we don't think it's going to be particularly well-attended. The president was having to send out a vast -- invitations to a vast group of people --


BERMAN: -- who have already turned on the president there.

I just wonder what you think it's going to feel like as he creeps away from Washington.

AVLON: I think it will feel like a party no one wants to attend because in their heart they know they were part of something disgraceful in American history. And that's a result of this president's decisions and, particularly, the way he has chosen to end his presidency by perpetrating a big lie that resulted in an attack on the U.S. Capitol. This is all Donald Trump's responsibility, as Mitch McConnell finally said yesterday.

But we shouldn't pay too much attention to the outgoing president. He deserves no more attention than a typical ex-president would receive. He's the past. Now we need to focus on the future together.

BERMAN: Well look, Joe Biden is going to become president today, but to say that suggests that these last four years were just any other four years in our history --


BERMAN: -- and I don't think they were.

And I don't think that Americans waking up this morning feel that way either. I think they wake up and know that what America has just gone through -- particularly, 400,000 Americans have died in less than a year with this pandemic. They've been through a lot and they know that this is a chance. I don't know if Biden will succeed or not but this is a chance to do something different.

AVLON: It is, and we're already seeing that difference in terms of the tone Joe Biden has set in the days and weeks heading up to inauguration. The tone that his key cabinet nominees set in hearings yesterday. It's more than a return to normalcy; it's about competence in governing. It's about putting hyperpartisan politics aside.

The Biden administration will make mistakes. There will be stumbles. There will be scandals. But it's less likely they will be willful insults to our democratic tradition and the truth from this president. And one of the things Biden has consciously tried to do is say look, our problems are not going to be over on Inauguration Day. We've had 100,000 Americans die in the last month alone. We've become numb to that. In some ways, our hardest days are still going to be ahead with this pandemic and Biden has been honest about that.

But that honesty itself can, I think, be enlivening, can be animating. And that's one of the things his inaugural speech will need to do. We have been through a lot in this country and this is a time to rise above and remember our deeper traditions as democracy.

BERMAN: Yes, admitting how things -- how hard things are and will be is Churchillian. That famous half-American who --


BERMAN: -- who led another country. He was very good at leveling with the people -- telling people exactly what they can expect and how they'll all make it through it together.

John Avlon, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

AVLON: Thanks, John. Good to see you.

So, Donald Trump is waking up at the White House for the last time. Those are live pictures. More lights on than a little while ago. Maybe he's walking through in his bathrobe -- not tweeting.

We're going to take a look back at the legacy, next.



BERMAN: Just over six hours now until Joe Biden will take the oath of office and be sworn in as the 46th presidency -- President of the United States. Obviously, the presidency of Donald J. Trump comes to an end.

CNN's Gloria Borger looks back at the Trump era -- the words and actions that defined this legacy of chaos.


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

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.

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, AUTHOR, "THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP": 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.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): OK, absolutely.

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

CHARLOTTESVILLE 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 healthcare.

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.


CAMEROTA: Joining us now to talk about all of this, we have CNN political analyst Margaret Talev. She's the managing editor of Axios. Also with us, CNN political commentator Errol Louis. He's the political anchor at Spectrum News. Guys, it's so great to be with you both on this historic morning.

When we look back at that piece that Gloria just did, what a four years we've all had. What a five years, if you count the campaign. I mean, we've come to you so many mornings for wisdom and insight.

And Errol, I know as a member of the press -- I'll speak for myself -- it is going to be a little disorienting not to have to be in this constant state of heightened sort of readiness for whatever shocking declaration is going to come next. I mean, all of the oxygen that President Trump has sucked out of the room during all this. When you just look back at all of those moments it's hard to even process.

And so, where do you think we go from here?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, POLITICAL ANCHOR, SPECTRUM NEWS: Where I think we go is back to the norm, back to what is true. Back to the job that we all originally wanted to do.

I do remember sitting there on the set of "NEW DAY" when Donald Trump would call in and attack reporters, including me, by name.

The way that he hacked the media was an important part of this political campaign and his rise. It was an important part of how he managed to misjudge the public's sentiment.

It was always about him. It was always about what he wanted. It was always about who he wanted to settle scores with. And the public interest was a thread that just never got taken care of and it just kind of -- well, he just kind of lost the thread.

And it had catastrophic results when the pandemic hit. And I think we were, as a -- as an industry, probably a little bit slow at catching on to the reality that he was leading the country toward an absolute catastrophe.

When we tried to tell people that look, this is not the way presidents should act, this is not true leadership, it's not good to see a president who is vulgar and who is self-interested and who is deceitful every single day, we couldn't have known where it would lead.

We've now discovered just how bad it can get. If we can take that with us going forward I think it will be a part of wisdom that will be also part of the Trump presidency's legacy.

BERMAN: You know, I'm obsessed with history, Margaret. And when you look back at the Nixon presidency, over time people have said sure, he was forced to resign.

But China, but the Clean Water Act, but all these things that he did as president, I just don't see that for twice-impeached Donald Trump. Because when you look back at what happened during the presidency -- he inspired an invasion of the U.S. Capitol and presided over the death of 400,000 Americans -- I just don't know that there will ever be an 'and-but' to the Trump presidency.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, MANAGING EDITOR, AXIOS (via Cisco Webex): John and Alisyn, good morning, and thanks for having me with you on this day.


You know, I think -- look, this is a really important point. What will President Trump's legacy be? Probably for American conservatives the most lasting obvious one, which is preserving sort of decades of expanded or elongated power on the bench in courts as demographics change, as the American population changes. What he has done in terms of judicial nominees, working with Mitch McConnell, is to preserve a foothold for a shrinking segment of American society and I think that will have implications.

But more broadly, this is an administration marked by cynicism. It will go out in disgrace, in particular, because of what happened on January sixth, but so many steps in between -- the Muslim ban, immigration policies, and just the general sort of deceit -- active spread of misinformation and disinformation and the effort to overturn a legitimate democratic election.

And I think for the press, there are major lessons going forward. I mean, one of the big questions from the beginning was how do you balanced respect for an institution while covering a leader who doesn't respect the institutions that Americans revere? And I think this was a big challenge.

And I think another challenge that this exposed for the whole country was to understand some of the real vulnerabilities and divisions and weaknesses that exist and that can be exploited when they are not fully understood and integrated into society.

CAMEROTA: You know, Errol, when you look back at four years ago today, it started with American carnage in President Trump's inaugural speech. Little did we know that was a campaign promise and where we would be four years later.

And all of the extremism that bubbled up and the violence exactly two weeks ago, OK? So exactly two weeks ago was the invasion of the Capitol. Exactly one week ago President Trump was impeached for a second time. And now, here we are at Joe Biden's inauguration. I mean, we've lived a decade in two weeks, obviously. And, you know, now we live with this extremism and all of this right-wing unreality.

But I don't know, Errol, what you think. I'm still optimistic and hopeful because I do think that tone comes from the top and I do think that having a leader who is sane and more steady does have a trickle- down effect.

LOUIS: Oh, absolutely. Look, the tone at the top really matters. And let's keep in mind what's really important about the last four years is that the institutions held.

In the end, the courts followed the law. In the end, the Congress followed the Constitution. In the end, thousands and thousands of local election officials did what they were supposed to do even under tremendous pressure. In the end, the National Guard and the military did what they were supposed to do and defended the Capitol from the attackers that the president sicced on it.

So, you know, we have a lot to be proud of and we also have a tone from the top that says these -- those institutions that you saved are worth saving and we've got somebody who says that he's going to continue to defend them.

CAMEROTA: Errol, Margaret --

TALEV: Can I --

CAMEROTA: -- thank you both so much. Margaret, I have to let you go. We have a packed show. It's wonderful to get your thoughts and to see you both. Have a wonderful Inauguration Day.

BERMAN: We've got four more years.

CAMEROTA: Joining us now, a lawmaker who will be attending Joe Biden's inauguration in just a few hours. And exactly two weeks ago, he hid in the House chamber from armed domestic terrorists.

Congressman Dan Kildee. He's the chief deputy whip of the House Democratic Caucus. Congressman, thank you very much for being here extra early.

Tell us your thoughts at this hour as you watch this morning unfold.

REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI) (via Cisco Webex): Well, I'm looking forward to it. Obviously, it's not going to be an inauguration like the ones we've had in the past. We won't have the big crowds but it will be the passing of power to a person who I think is completely fit and prepared for this office from one who never was. The last four years and, in fact, the last few weeks have been traumatic for this country.

I'm looking forward to this moment. I've been looking forward to it for quite a long time -- not just to see the transfer of power but to actually get to work as a group of adults, not having to work around the president but to work with the president to crush this virus and then to take on the other big challenges we face.

This is an important moment but it's hard to erase the trauma that we've gone through. And for some of us personally, that's trauma born of violence at the behest of this very -- this president -- this unfit person.

CAMEROTA: I appreciate you bringing that up because I, too, feel traumatized from two weeks ago and we're all still processing it, so much so that I am nervous about this morning, obviously. How could I not be after what we watched with all of the Trump supporters invading the Capitol?


And so, as someone who lived through it, do you have anxiety about this morning?

KILDEE: Yes. I wouldn't say I'm nervous. Anxiety is probably the better term. I'm anxious.

And I've walked around the Capitol complex, through the Capitol, over the last couple of days and to see American troops camped out in every space possible -- cots on the floor -- I just had to ask myself where am I? This is the kind of thing we expect to see in some other part of the world where we come in to ensure the transfer of authority. Where we come in to help make sure that the principles of democracy are adhered to.

So I'm not nervous so much about the security because we're going to have 25,000 great Americans protecting us.

But I am anxious about where we stand right now as a country and how we move forward, especially -- and it's hard for me to avoid this -- it's not just Donald Trump and it's not just that mob. A majority of Republicans, including the House minority leader and the House minority whip after that attack, confirmed Donald Trump's lie by going to the floor and arguing for and voting for a motion to overturn the democratic election in this country.

So the idea that we're all ready to move on is a, I think unfortunate fantasy. There are too many Republicans who are now -- not all Republicans -- they just all happen to be Republicans who are still clinging to a falsehood that they know is untrue because it's convenient for them politically. That's dangerous. That's --

The question I have to ask myself as dangerous as that attack was, what represents a greater threat to our democracy? That attack, which we can put down with an army or a majority of one party willing to subvert the will of the American people because it's convenient to them politically. That may constitute a greater danger.

CAMEROTA: What did you think of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's words where he basically blamed President Trump for -- he didn't use the word inciting, but provoking that riot?

KILDEE: I guess my thought was finally, a moment of truth. I've been very critical of Mitch McConnell for a long time because he's accommodated this president. He's given him the oxygen that has allowed this fire to burn for so long.

But it's never too late to do the right thing. He's at least now willing to acknowledge that Donald Trump is the source of this problem and the only way to deal with it is to contradict that nonsense in the strongest possible terms. Now, Leader McConnell is going to have a chance to make that real -- not just words -- here in the coming weeks when he can then translate his sentiment to action that will mark this president the way he should be marked as a person who is a liar, who tried to be a thief by stealing an election that he claimed others were stealing. And putting him in history as the only person ever to be impeached twice, but also convicted of the charges -- of the underlying charges.

That's important and Mitch can do that if he chooses to have this moment become more than just words.

CAMEROTA: Congressman Dan Kildee, thank you very much for your time. We really appreciate it.

KILDEE: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Our special inauguration coverage continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe Biden's going to be ready to govern as soon as he takes the oath of office.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president-elect has been adamant that this inauguration take place outside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That fear over an insider threat does continue in these final hours before the inauguration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was sad to walk around and see the National Guard everywhere. I think, fortunately, we have the right person to help us get through this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He chose for his arrival in Washington to be this moment where he sort of served as the nation's grief counselor.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: To heal, you must remember. It's important to do that as a nation.


ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

CAMEROTA: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is a special edition of NEW DAY.

It is 6:00 in New York as we count down to the inauguration of President Joe Biden. The stage is set for this historic transfer of power in Washington and the country. In six hours, Joe Biden will become the 46th President of the United States.

And Kamala Harris, of course, makes history as the first woman to become vice president.

This morning, it is hard to find the right words to capture exactly everything we've been through in the past four years.