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CNN Live Event/Special

Soon: Biden to Be Sworn in as 46th President; Unprecedented Security in Washington Ahead of Inauguration; Trump Pardons Steve Bannon, Grants Clemency to Dozens of Others. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired January 20, 2021 - 06:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Our special inauguration coverage continues right now.



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

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president-elect has been adamant that this inauguration take place outside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fear of 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.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR (voice-over): He chose for his arrival in Washington to be this moment where he sort of served as the nation's grief counselor.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: To heal, we 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 a.m. 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 and the range of emotions that Americans are feeling this morning. But for 81 million Americans, their long national nightmare is over.

Joe Biden's morning will begin with a church service, and he'll be joined by the top lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans. Can you imagine that image? It's just the start of trying to heal the awful divisions of the past four years. Again, as Joe Biden becomes president six hours from now.

Last night, we watched a dramatic and emotional scene at the Lincoln Memorial honoring the 400,000 Americans lost to coronavirus, and Joe Biden offered this message.


BIDEN: To heal, we must remember. And it's hard sometimes to remember. But that's how we heal. It's important to do that as a nation.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So new information just released as to what Joe Biden will do among his first actions as president.

Now, we should note: he is waking up in Blair House this morning, right across the street from Donald Trump. This is as close as the men will get today, maybe as close as they'll get ever again, for all we know.

We do not know how Trump feels this morning, because he can't tweet. Live pictures of the White House this morning. Still dark in the East Wing, where he sleeps. We don't know if he's awake, as I said, because we don't have the normal signs of tweeting.

Overnight, he did issue roughly 150 pardons and commutations, including one for his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who was criminally charged with defrauding Trump supporters over the border wall. This one was hanging in the balance, our reporting is, because of the rocky relationship he has had with Bannon. The question is, what is it that Steve Bannon can do for Trump now that pushed him to give this last-minute pardon?

As of now, Trump has not attempted to pardon himself or his family members. Still, though, six hours left.

Let's begin, though, with the future, with what we are going to see today.

CNN's Jessica Dean live in Washington with a preview of this historic day -- Jessica.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, John.

We are getting brand-new details this morning about exactly what President-elect Joe Biden's day is going to look like and what exactly those executive actions are going to be.

Let's start first with what his day will look like. You mentioned the church service that he will attend with all members of congressional leadership, all bipartisan members of congressional leadership. A show of unity there.

Another show of unity following the actual inauguration itself will be a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery with former presidents Bush, Obama, and Clinton. Again, trying to show this coming together.

And then he'll be signing those executive orders in the Oval Office, we're learning, later today, telegraphing to Americans that he is in the White House and getting down to business, making good on some of the promises that he made on the campaign trail.

So let's talk about what those executive actions will be. Again, learning brand-new details this morning about those.

A lot of them centered around COVID relief, about pausing student loan payments, extending that pause on them. Extending the moratorium on eviction. Putting that federal mask mandate into place. We had talked about some of these.

There are also others that get into the -- into climate change. Of course, rejoining the Paris climate accords. They're going to put forth an immigration bill.

Seventeen executive actions in total that are going to be taken today. Biden's team stressing that there will be more to come over the next ten days.

But John and Alisyn, again, the Biden team ready to hit the ground running. If you talk to anyone on the team, they're ready to go. They're ready to get to work, and there's no question that President- elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are ready to take their oaths of office at noon today -- John, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: The country is waiting. Jessica, thank you very much.

The nation's capital is on high alert at this hour. Much of Washington, D.C., is locked down and has been since the deadly insurrection of Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol exactly two weeks ago today.

As of this morning, 12 National Guard members have been removed from inauguration duty over possible ties to extremist groups.

CNN's Brian Todd is live in Washington, D.C., for us with more. What's the situation, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Alisyn. You talked about those National Guard troops being removed from duty here in the nation's capital. Officials telling us that two of those National Guard members were removed for inappropriate comments and texts and for potential ties to extremist groups. As for the other ten, they were removed for other types of behavior

that at least raised attention. Now, what kind of behavior that was is unclear, but they're being checked out, vetted even further before any other action is taken against them.


But at least for now, you've got 12 National Guard members being removed from duty. The National Guard commander, General Daniel Hawkinson, saying that he's not overly concerned about that, that out of 2,500 National Guard troops, getting 12 out of the mix, is not raising a huge level of concern. And we have word that there's no specific intelligence on any kind of an insider threat from the National Guard.

But when we talk about the security posture here, and I'm going to talk about the feature behind me in a second here, another thing that's come up in discussion, of course, since January 6, is you know, if militant groups wants to come back here, if anyone wants to stage any kind of an attack, you know, it's going to be hard to penetrate a perimeter like this.

But what about soft targets in Washington, D.C.? Now, the D.C. Police chief, Robert Contee, was asked about that yesterday. Here's what he had to say.


CHIEF ROBERT CONTEE, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE: We've planned for that. We want to make sure that our communities are not forgotten in our security posture. So for every police district, you know, throughout all eight wards in the city, we have a contingency plan for that. We're fully staffed. Members are working 12-hour shifts, and we have -- we have sufficient resources to cover what we need to cover.


TODD: So the D.C. Police planning to pivot to wherever they need to pivot to this morning and this afternoon if any trouble flares up.

Now, as for these security layers here, they are, you know, again, just escalating by the hour. And it's going to be interesting to see today what new security features pop up, because they keep popping up again, every day, every hour.

This is a checkpoint on 14th Street, as you get into the National Mall. They've got K-9 teams behind me, checking for explosives and weapons. We are told that only vehicles with credentials are allowed through this checkpoint.

But, you know, aside from the K-9 teams, they've got other layers of security there. The tents and other things, Alisyn. There's another checkpoint not -- not far from here where it's pedestrian traffic being checked.

So again, we're going to be roving around the National Mall, checking for any possible flare-ups and looking at all the security features that are going to pop up today.

CAMEROTA: and we will check back with you, Brian. Thank you very much for all of that reporting.

Joining us now, we have CNN political analyst David Gregory and CNN global affairs analyst Susan Glasser.

David, I want to start with you, because four years ago today, you and I were together for Donald Trump's inauguration. We were sitting on those risers, high atop Pennsylvania Avenue, watching all of the ceremony of that inauguration.

This year, it's obviously much different on every level. I mean, visually, symbolically, stylistically, security-wise, on every -- on every level. And so back then, of course, we -- we didn't know what to expect. We could never have predicted what to expect. What are your thoughts this morning on what you see ahead?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, just incredible sadness, for one, that we are in a Washington, D.C., with 25,000 National Guard troops, that that's what our inauguration day is like, that we do not -- well, I should say, we have fear about a peaceful transfer of power. I just think for our country, that is such a low moment, such a sad moment.

And it's compounded by the grief and the loss that we're still feeling all around the country, marked by the commemoration last night of 400,000 lost by the pandemic.

And then there's a sense of restoration, that what we're -- what we're restoring is a sense of the normal. A sense of our -- not just our pageantry, but our institutional normality. That we -- that we were forced not to take for granted over these past four years because of what Donald Trump represented.

So, you know, I think it's a hopeful moment. I hope it's a peaceful day. And I hope the time ahead is peaceful, whatever the political battles are ahead, and I think those will be plenty. I think this is a hopeful moment for a country that's been through a lot in the past four years.

BERMAN: I think that's exactly right. And I just want to add to what you said there, for every element of sadness you brought up, there is a corresponding reason for hope.

Yes, it's tragic there are 25,000 National Guard troops in D.C. because there was an insurrection, but it failed. And it could not stop the transition of power, which will take place in six hours.

Yes, there will be no people in the National Mall. And if we can put up that picture again so people can see, normally hundreds of thousands of people would be lining the Mall, but today that won't be the case. Instead -- you can't see it there, because we have the banner -- you have that beautiful imagery with the flags on the Mall there. Again, sad that there won't be human beings there, but Susan, really

representative of the American spirit that what we can do as we heal, which makes Joe Biden's words last night to me so poignant. When he said, to heal, we must remember. Now, he was talking specifically about the pandemic. But I also think it's a message that transcends what he needs to do now. To heal the country, we must remember what we've been through together these last four years.


SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think there's also the element of, you know, the importance of rituals in any state, in any -- in democracy, in a way. Right? Our democracy was our civic and our civil religion.

And one of the things that's so striking is, because of this uncertain post-election period, which is something Americans have never experienced, right? We just had a situation with the president challenging the very results and legitimacy. And so we haven't had the kind of transition period, even if there weren't all these other interlocking crises, we have almost not come to terms fully, I think, in a way that we might have otherwise with what has happened over the last four years of Trump's presidency, and particularly this last, extremely chaotic and crisis-ridden last year.

You know, as a country, we've just been lurching from uncertainty to uncertainty in the couple of months since the election. So I think this rituals of democracy today become even more important as a way of coming to terms with, like, it's finally here, it's finally happening. Our institutions held, as you said, John. I think that is a very important message. And I imagine it's one we're going to hear today from new President Biden.

CAMEROTA: Susan, I just want to stick with you for one second, because for four years, you've been writing about the Trump administration and about, you know, whatever shocking declarations or norm-busting has been happening.

And it does feel like today, somehow, reality won. And we didn't know that reality was going to win. I mean, there -- it was in a mortal combat death struggle for a long time, as we saw two weeks ago with the insurrection. But today, reality won. And those 81 million voters who voted for Joe Biden did what no lawmakers, what no Robert Mueller could do. They made a decision, and they got rid of President Trump.

GLASSER: Well, you know, it is not an accident, right, that one of the phrases that's so famous that will stick with us is this notion of an alternate facts. That was the infamous label given by Kellyanne Conway to some of the early lies of the administration.

I do think that the lying was endemic to Trump, not just as a character trait, but as a foundation not only of what he brought into this most sacred high office, but also what he was peddling to his followers.

And so you can say that reality won, but you can also say that we enter this inauguration day still a very deeply divided country. And the numbers are unsettling on this front, Alisyn. When you look, there were some recent polls that suggested as many as 77 percent of Americans did not believe that Biden was legitimately -- sorry, 77 percent of Republicans did not believe that Biden was legitimately elected.

I think that the question is, can there be a coming together of these two truths, a truth and an untruth, in order for the country to reunite, if we don't have a divider in office. That's sort of the premise of the Biden presidency, that he can unite by not being a divider.

BERMAN: If we can put up the picture again of the Capitol, so we can see this amazing aerial again, David. Because, frankly, it's growing on me as the morning progresses.

CAMEROTA: I can tell.

BERMAN: No, it really is symbolic. Because that void where the people would be has been filled, literally and figuratively, with patriotism and with spirit.

CAMEROTA: OK, you're making me cry.

BERMAN: And David, that is what Joe Biden needs to do today when he addresses the American people. There's something Churchillian about it, in many ways, David, which is to level with the American people about just what that void is; that just how damaged we are as he takes office, but then to give the American people the hope and tell them how he will lead them through it.

GREGORY: Yes, that's the challenge. And he can do it. I mean, he's someone who has great empathy. He's someone who's experienced personal pain. He's someone who can give voice to the idea that we're all in this together.

Again, to emphasize, are there many political battles still ahead? Yes. And the divisions remain.

But this idea of isolation that we've experienced through COVID, you know, that our families do, that we're disconnected, exacerbated by the fact that we're so disconnected socially and politically, making all of these divisions so much worse.

And so when President Biden talked about putting a candle in the window, when he talked about how we have to all remember, we have to remember what binds us together.

You think about Lincoln's second -- second inaugural, binding the wounds of the country. And that's -- that's the job of a president. And that's the job of the presidency. And that is what has -- you know, Susan brought up, you know, the lies, the alternative fact idea. And the idea that it didn't matter.

[06:15:20] That's what Trump represented. That truth didn't matter, because you could somehow succeed politically without truth. You could just run ramshod [SIC] over our democracy. That's not the case.

You know, it's significant as we look at the Capitol, that somehow the siege on the Capitol broke Trumpism's back. And it was tragic that people lost their lives in that, but somehow, that awakened even those -- many of those who were defending Trump to say, this is all wrong. It's all just wrong. And now he has to slink out of Washington.

So the rejection of all of that is a hopeful moment. And it is not to say that -- that the forces that brought up Trumpism aren't still there and shouldn't be acknowledged, but that's the hopeful sign today that's represented by everything you're seeing.

BERMAN: David, Susan, stand by for just a moment. We're going to turn now to the White House. Because less than two hours from now, Donald Trump will leave the White House for the final time. He is not attending the inauguration. No handoff whatsoever. The Trumps didn't invite the Bidens over.

What the president did do last night -- and you're looking at live pictures right now, lights on on the West side, but not the East side where the Trump family resides. What the president did do was grant clemency to dozens of people, including Steve Bannon.

Our Joe Johns live at the White House with all the breaking details. Joe, what have you learned?

JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: John, well, this clemency list is very notable for who got it and who didn't. We're talking about 73 commutations and 70 pardons.

And very interesting, obviously, Steve Bannon is the No. 1 person on the list. This was a top adviser in the White House during the first year after Trump got into office. Bannon got locked up on fraud and conspiracy charges and now, thanks to the president, he's off the hook.

There are other people on this list. There is the rapper Lil Wayne. There are several members of Congress who got into trouble. And of course, a bunch of people who got into trouble with drugs now also off the hook.

So let's talk now about what's going to happen today. Very notable for what will happen. What the president is going to do, what he's not going to do. What he's not going to do with is meet with Joe Biden, apparently. What he's not going to do is go to the inauguration.

But he is, on his way to Florida, going to stop over at Joint Base Andrews in the Maryland suburbs for his big sendoff. They sent out invitations to people who used to be in the administration and people who are already in.

Not clear at all how many people are going to come. We've been told a lot of people are not showing up.

The most notable no-show will be the vice president, Mike Pence. He said he can't do that, he -- because he is going to the inauguration. His staff said it's an issue of logistics, but we do know it's not a long drive from Joint Base Andrews to the Capitol if he decided he wanted to do that.

There is also that question of the hard feelings, if you will, between the president and Pence, especially given the fact that Pence didn't get a call from the president during the big riot up on Capitol Hill on January 6.

BERMAN: All right. Joe Johns at the White House, please keep us posted as you see movement behind you.

For millions of Americans waking up this morning, it's time to exhale. Joe Biden waking up in Blair House, Donald Trump waking up in the White House, as close as the two men will get today. CNN's special live coverage of the historic inauguration of Joe Biden continues right after this.




BIDEN: I am proud. Proud, proud, proud to be a son of Delaware. And I am even more proud to be standing here doing this from the Major Beau Biden facility. Ladies and gentlemen, I only have one regret. He's not here. Because we should be introducing him as president.


BERMAN: That was Joe Biden leaving Delaware for the last time as a citizen. He is now waking up in Blair House. You can't see it. It's in the dark there, or it was in the dark there, across the street from the White House. And there is the U.S. Capitol, waiting in anticipation of the inauguration.

The festivities begin. We'll start seeing people arrive after 10 a.m. there. Obviously, a lot will take place even before that, including a church service this morning. The Bidens will go to church along with congressional leaders, both Democrats and Republicans.

Back with us, David Gregory and Susan Glasser.

And Susan, I don't think that that symbolism and that imagery unimportant, at all. I think that is a very important picture that the American people need to see this morning, and it is a crucial gesture from Joe Biden, even before he begins his presidency.

GLASSER: Well, I think, look, if we've the last four year, that division and divisive rhetoric actually helps to create more division. Then the question is whether the opposite is true, as well. And Joe Biden is trying, both in the words that he will communicate

today in his inaugural address and in the actions of inviting Republican leaders to be with him. I think it is significant that Vice President Pence is going to be attending the inauguration and not attending Donald Trump's farewell ceremony. I think there, in a way, it just simply underscores the fit of pique and childishness that has led the president not to attend this inauguration of his successor. He will become the first president in, I believe, it's 159 years not to do so.

But the fact that all the other Republican leaders will be there simply serves to underscore his isolation at this moment.

So I do think it's an extremely important part, is sending the message that it's possible to come together, to disagree about policy in a civil manner at a moment of national crisis.


BERMAN: Can I just add one thing to that?


BERMAN: It turns out, as a feat of scheduling I don't think was planned, Biden will be at church with the bipartisan congressional leaders as Donald Trump is doing his big public good-bye. I just think that that is also symbolic in its own way.

CAMEROTA: I do, too. I do, too. That split screen. And we've seen so many shocking split screens over the years. And here -- here will be another one.

This is Joint Andrews Air Base that we are looking at live pictures right now. And this is the -- well, we have it right now.


CAMEROTA: Now. This is the plane that will ferry President Trump off to his next chapter in Mar-a-Lago, in Florida, and we think -- he'll be skipping the inauguration, of course, as you know. And that will be happening at 8 a.m.

I was struck, David. President Trump didn't mention Joe Biden by name in his farewell videotaped speech. What do we think Joe Biden will do today at noon in his speech?

GREGORY: Well, I think Biden will be consistent, where he's approached the idea that he's got to try to unify the country. He's got to sound those notes. He's got to acknowledge not just those who didn't vote for him, but those who do feel outside the political process.

As I say, there were all kinds of forces that made Trump happen. There were some really dark forces that have to be isolated and combatted.

But the kind of anti-establishment feeling, the anti-institutional frustration. You know, it was remarkable to me that throughout his presidency, Trump positioned himself as an outsider, attacking the system, attacking Washington, even as president. It was remarkable, as a political figure, to do that.

And of course, the nadir of that was, of course, he's the one who incited and led this insurrection against the Capitol. This attack on our election system, an attack on another branch of government, which is the crystallization of that.

So I think Biden has to -- to speak to that desperation in a way where he's strong in combatting it and defending our institutions, but also kind of reaching out to that level of despair.

There's another piece of this. You mentioned the service this morning. Biden is a Washington figure. And so it's a return of a functional Washington, we hope. The idea who -- someone who knows the ins and outs of Washington, who can work within the system, is going to work with people of the other party. I think that's more than just symbol. He really does represent that, and we'll hope for some positive results that flow from that.

BERMAN: It's why, I think, Susan, that another image we're going to see in the afternoon is just as important. And that is then-President Joe Biden will be going to Arlington to lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknowns with former presidents Obama, Clinton, and Bush.

It's an image that is saying to the American people and, I think, to the world that there is continuity in the United States of America. That we are still the United States of America. What will the rest of the world see in that?

GLASSER: Well, I'm glad you brought that up. Because this has been a sort of global event in ways that, because our crisis here is so intense, we haven't always focused on. And, you know, what I've heard from friends around the world, from officials in other governments, allied governments is, you know, is America really coming back or not? What is happening to the United States?

I was recently at an event, a Zoom event, of course, with colleagues in Europe; and, you know, they were practically in tears over the storming of the Capitol. It's been a global trauma, as well as a national one.

And I think, you know, the message that the United States is not just going to veer around from one failed solution to another is an extremely important one. That might be, actually, Joe Biden's biggest foreign policy challenge. It's not -- he'll rejoin the Paris climate accord today. He'll rejoin the World Health Organization. And how do you go to the rest of the world and say, I want my good word back? Why make a deal with the United States like the Iran nuclear deal if someone's just going to come along and rip it up in four years?

And so the credibility of the United States as a global actor is an extremely important challenge, I think, for the new Biden foreign policy team.

BERMAN: Susan Glasser, David Gregory, we thank you both for being with us this morning. I know you will be standing by all day long with the rest of us for CNN's all-day historic coverage of this inauguration.

We are just five and a half hours now away from when Joe Biden becomes the 46th president of the United States. I have to tell you, the planning that has gone into this inauguration, the ceremony today, so vastly different from anything we have ever seen before.

And up next, we're going to speak with the man in charge of these festivities. So stay with us. Our special live coverage continues right after this.