Return to Transcripts main page
CNN Live Event/Special
Tony Allen is Interviewed about the Inauguration Ceremony; Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ) is Interviewed about the Inauguration; Trump Departs This Morning for Florida. Aired 6:30-7a ET
Aired January 20, 2021 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Today. So vastly different from anything we have ever seen before.
And, up next, we're going to speak with a man in charge of these festivities. So, stay with us. Our special, live coverage continues right after this.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: In five and a half hours, President-elect Joe Biden will become the 46th president of the United States. Unprecedented security and a raging pandemic have forced the organizers of today's inauguration ceremony to reimagine how the entire thing will be done.
Joining us now is Tony Allen. He is the CEO of the Biden/Harris Presidential Inaugural Committee, the guy in charge.
Tony, great to see you this morning.
TONY ALLEN, CEO, BIDEN-HARRIS PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURAL COMMITTEE: Good to see you, Alisyn. Good to see you.
CAMEROTA: OK, how many guests are you expecting today?
ALLEN: Well, you know, the event is closed to the public, but with respect to the swearing (INAUDIBLE), I think of it as a joint session of Congress, a bit of a State of the Union kind of number. We have been consulting with Dr. Kessler and Dr. Fauci all throughout, and so we've taken all the proper precautions and protocols to make sure it's safe and secure.
CAMEROTA: Let's talk about that. How much did the pandemic affect the way you planned this?
ALLEN: Well, you know, the great news was Vice President-elect Harris, the President-elect Biden have been incredibly thoughtful throughout the campaign of listening to the medical professionals.
[06:35:08] So we with -- went in with that spirit in mind. And once you accepted that that's the necessary reality, it allows you to really think more creatively. I think that this inaugural will be an opportunity for us to celebrate more every day Americans than ever before. We're very excited about that.
CAMEROTA: And, Tony, how did your plans change after the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol?
ALLEN: Well, I can tell you, personally, and -- we were more resolute to make sure that we could show the strength and resilience of the country. We know that this is now a national security special event, led by the U.S. Secret Service, and we do have every confidence in our law enforcement professionals at the federal, state, and local level.
But I've said many times, the opportunity to really proclaim to the world the strength and resilience of the country is important. But I want to be able to show my four kids that democracy still matters and is worth fighting for. So being able to see the president-elect and the vice president-elect sworn in on the west front of the Capitol is incredibly important.
CAMEROTA: Oh, democracy wins today. I mean that is one of the resounding messages.
But was it just in the past two weeks since the insurrection that you decided to plant flags in the -- on the mall, standing in for people?
ALLEN: Actually -- actually, that's been the plan right since the holidays. We really were thinking through how to honor the moment given the circumstances and separate in a -- in a thoughtful way, but in a way that uplifts the grand traditions of our great democracy. And we thought there would be no better way than to do that by planting many flags, state flags and, of course, the American flag.
And I can tell you that when the president-elect takes the podium, the first thing he will see will be the great American flag in all its color and splendor for the world to see.
CAMEROTA: I mean we're looking at it now. It's dark, but it's still very dramatic and it's still a stirring image.
But, I mean, just tell me, around the -- around the conference room table, well, via Zoom I suppose, when somebody came up with that, was that you eureka moment? I mean did everybody just agree immediately? Like, yeah, great idea?
ALLEN: They -- there were a lot of unity around it. We got very excited. And I can tell you that the team around the presidential inaugural committee, they've -- they've just been terrific. And, as I said, as you're able to open up more ideas because of the state that we're in, I think you're going to see an unprecedented display of our great American democracy in all its splendor.
CAMEROTA: I want to show the list of inauguration performers for everyone, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Garth Brooks, Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake, John Legend, and The New Radicals. I mean this is an all-star cast.
How were these chosen? Are these Joe Biden's favorite performers?
ALLEN: You know, it's really about our ability to show the diversity and inclusive nature of America. So we really wanted to show a set of performers and everyday Americans who can represent all Americans. You can see yourself, both in the performers and in the everyday Americans that will be highlighted throughout the day.
So that's really how we chose them. And I think it's going to be terrific. I can't say enough about the wide variety of celebrities who have said "yes," but I'm even more excited about the everyday Americans we'll be lifting up throughout the day.
CAMEROTA: I wish I could see myself in J.Lo, OK. So, I mean, I'm just not sure that everybody there is identifiable, but fair enough. I take your point.
Tony Allen, thank you very much for letting us know what to expect. Great to talk to you.
ALLEN: Stay safe, stay connected. It's a new day in America.
CAMEROTA: It absolutely is. Thank you very much.
And it's a new day here on NEW DAY. We really appreciate you joining us for all of the pomp and ceremony. We have much more to bring you, including the governor of New Jersey, who is standing by to talk to John moments from now.
We'll be right back.
BERMAN: All right, welcome back to CNN's special live coverage of the inauguration of Joe Biden, now just five hours and change from now. You're looking at live pictures of the U.S. Capitol, where there will be a restricted audience today because of the pandemic, because of the insurrection there. Not the crowds that we normally see.
But one person who will be in attendance is the governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, who joins us now.
Governor, thanks so much for being with us this morning.
Why was it important to you to go to Washington, to be in attendance for this transfer of power?
GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): It is good to be with you.
Listen, this is a big day. This is a day that demonstrates the democratic institutions of our country have held. There is a peaceful transfer of power. And I'm incredibly honored to be here representing my 9 million brothers and sisters from the great state of New Jersey. BERMAN: Alisyn Camerota just raised her fist in solidarity with you beside me, Governor.
Yesterday, you spent some time with some of the National Guard troops from the state of New Jersey who are there to keep you safe, to keep the president-elect safe, to keep the city safe throughout the ceremonies today. And we do understand that one of the messages in Joe Biden's address today will be unity. It is something that he has preached over the course of this campaign and will continue to do so today.
But when we talk about unity, that idea -- who is that on? Who needs to work at unity?
MURPHY: I think we all do. First of all, I'm incredibly proud of our men and women of the National Guard and of our New Jersey state police who are also in the nation's capital. I think we all have to work on unity.
I'm a former ambassador, and you get used to the phrase, hard power and soft power.
Hard power is your muscle, the soft power is largely your words and your behavior. And I think Joe Biden will bring exactly that to our nation and we desperately need it. Hard power on things like a national strategy against this pandemic and our economic recovery, and soft power, you saw that last night in that incredibly moving ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial, that words matter, that the tone matters, that empathy right now and sympathy matter. And I think you're going to see that exuding from this president and vice president.
BERMAN: Yes, I'm just reading some breaking news here from our Ben Tinker (ph), who runs our medical unit, who says that Joe Biden's first executive order will be a nationwide mask mandate. Obviously, that will serve the purpose of having people wear masks in all federal buildings, where he can do it, but it's also symbolic to stress the importance of fighting this pandemic head-on.
And Joe Biden issued some words last night that I want your take on. He was talking about the pandemic. He was there remembering the 400,000 Americans now who have died to coronavirus. And he said, to heal we must remember. And I'm wondering what those words mean to you.
MURPHY: Yes, those are the words that struck me deeply, particularly given Joe Biden's personal biography, having lost his wife, a daughter, and now a son. This is -- this is not abstract for him. He's lived it.
You know, one of the things -- we've done 150 press conferences on coronavirus since it hit and in each one of them we remember three or four lost lives of our New Jersey family. And so we, you know, try to balance on the one hand making all of your decisions based on science and fact and data, but on the other hand these are precious lives lived and lost and we must remember each and every one of them in their -- all of their glory. And that struck me deeply last night when I heard it from the president-elect.
BERMAN: Governor, you're a young man, but a generation from now, when you explain to your grandkids what happened from 2017 to 2021, the presidency of Donald J. Trump, how will you explain it?
MURPHY: I appreciate the tip of the cap to my youth, by the way.
Listen, we got off -- we got off the trail here. We got to a place where facts didn't matter, where our institutions, whether they be domestic, such as our electoral process, or international, things like NATO and other multi and bilateral institutions, that they didn't matter as much as they did before he got into this office. We can never see that again.
This is a country that is built on the principles of democracy, of peaceful transfer of power. It's built on the back of extraordinary institutions which have served us so well in peace time and war, with Republicans and Democrats in power. I believe we will view it, please, God, as an aberration, and that we will get back on the trail.
And, again, that's not a comment on one political party or the other. It's a comment on what it is to be an American.
BERMAN: But you do know that no one's going to snap his fingers. Joe Biden can't stand on the west front of the Capitol today, snap his fingers and make it all better, and make the last four years go away. And, in fact, symbolic of that, representative of that is the fact that, you know, Joe Biden is waking up in Blair House, Donald Trump waking up in the White House, and this is as close as the two men will ever get today because the Trumps aren't having the Bidens over. Donald Trump is leaving Washington instead of attending the inauguration.
So what will it take to heal this divide?
MURPHY: Well, as I say, the boss matters. So having Joe Biden as president does instantly change the dynamic.
But your point is a good one. We can't be expecting dramatic change overnight. These institutions have been damaged. These norms have been damaged. The truth has been damaged. It takes time to recover from that.
And, by the way, there are tens of millions of people who voted for Donald Trump who are not bigots, who are not racists, who didn't attack the Capitol, who are screaming out for someone to care about them. Kitchen table stuff, jobs, health care, education, the opioid crisis in our country, whatever it might be. And, again, we couldn't have a better -- if you went to central casting and asked for a president who's lived a life that exudes finding middle ground and common ground, we couldn't have a better president than Joe Biden and God knows we need him.
BERMAN: Governor Phil Murphy from New Jersey, thank you for being with us today. We are glad you are there to witness this moment in history, the inauguration of Joe Biden now less than six hours away. [06:5:02]
Thank you, sir.
CAMEROTA: OK, John. Any --
MURPHY: Thank you for having me.
CAMEROTA: And thank you.
In a brilliant bit of synchronicity, it is a new day here, it is a new day in America, it is a new day this morning. And in a few hours, we will have a new president. President Trump will depart the White House approximately one hour from now to head home to Florida. And that means that for the first time in 152 years, the outgoing president will not attend his successor's swearing in.
Joining us now is CNN presidential historian, Tim Naftali. He's the former director of the Nixon Presidential Library and an associate professor at NYU, and CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman, she's a White House reporter for "The New York Times." She is at Joint Base Andrews waiting for President Trump's departure.
Maggie, you win. I start with you. You're outside in the elements.
Tell us about this --
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning. I'm wearing a hood. I hope a win.
CAMEROTA: It's -- yes, oh, you do.
Tell us about this new day that is dawning and what's going to happen there behind you.
HABERMAN: So, Alisyn, right behind us is a stage where President Trump is expected to give remarks, about 15 to 20 minutes long, sometime after 8:00 a.m. when he leaves the White House for the final time. There is a set-up behind me in front of the stage where they have arranged barricades so that crowds of his supporters can come and watch the farewell.
We don't know what size that crowd is going to be. We know the White House was trying fairly hard to build a crowd just based on the invitations that went out. You can hear behind me, there is a marching band drummer who is practicing.
And then the president will leave and he will be alone without other Republican figures, Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, they will not be on hand, and Mike Pence, the vice president, they're going to the inauguration of Joe Biden. So you're going to have, once again in this tumultuous presidency, a split screen between Donald Trump and either the rest of his party and the rest of the country.
BERMAN: You know, it's actually a coincidence of timing that while Trump is speaking there behind you, or not long from that, Joe Biden is going to be in church with a bipartisan group of members of Congress, including Kevin McCarthy, including Mitch McConnell. They are going to be churched (ph) together.
So Donald Trump will be alone, speaking to his fans, a small group, while Joe Biden will be reaching across the aisle to be with others.
And, Tim, I want to ask you, because we've been talking a lot, not since Andrew Johnson has one president left the Capitol instead of being there for a successor. And I want you to explain to people why it's important. It's an important thing. It's not just some random tradition. It is part of America for a reason.
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, there's a very -- very, very deep reason. Today is about the transfer -- the peaceful, open transfer of power from one person selected by the American people to another. And it's about something bigger than the individuals involved. It's about the office of the president of the United States, who is our head of state, commander in chief, and head of government.
It's been a tradition for the incumbent president to be there, to symbolize the passage of power and, of course, the new president is there. When one of the players, when the old president doesn't show up, it's an act of disrespect to the constitutional process that we are all going to watch, the majesty of that process we're going to watch today.
So it's about much more than the personalities involved. It's about respect for the system, for the Constitution and for the tradition that these two gentlemen are carrying on. Donald Trump's lack -- his unwillingness to appear is a petulance we haven't seen since Andrew Johnson. But the fact that Washington is an armed camp today is something that was not evident when Andrew Johnson didn't appear in a transition to Ulysses S. Grant. This is something new and this is completely on Donald Trump himself.
CAMEROTA: Maggie, we, in this country, have all become, I guess, used to expecting surprises from Donald Trump, expecting reveals. Any idea what might happen in the next five hours?
HABERMAN: Well, Alisyn, I think his live address is going to be something that I think candidly he considers to be truer to who he is than the taped version he revealed yesterday afternoon, which was something a number of advisers had pushed him to do because it actually focused on the work of the administration that folks who work there are proud of, all of which has been obscured by the last ten weeks of the president's behavior.
We will hear a speech. He is then going to go down to Palm Beach. You know, he will take his final Air Force One ride with a handful of aides. Some of whom are going with him permanently to Florida, some of whom are not. And then he is going to be greeted by what I'm told is expected to be a fairly large crowd, which is always what he focuses on, once he gets to Palm Beach.
Some kind of a homecoming.
I think that we are going to be watching to see exactly how he leaves, how he gets on that plane the final time. How much anger he, you know, expresses. Does he even mention Joe Biden's name? That's what we're looking at today.
BERMAN: And, Maggie, just very quickly, you had mentioned yesterday the possibility he would pick up the phone, the possibility pick up the phone and call Donald Trump. Any more -- call Joe Biden. Anymore reporting on that?
HABERMAN: I've heard that it is less likely than it was yesterday, but let's see what happens.
BERMAN: And, Tim, as a presidential historian, I'm always struck by these hours, right? Joe Biden is waking up in Blair House and he's got a few hours to kill until he has to address the universe at this critical moment when he takes over the presidency.
What does history tell us about what these president-elects go through in the hours before they take office?
NAFTALI: Well, they used to stay at a hotel, the Willard Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, and this would be the time when they would check over the notes of their inaugural address. In some -- the original tradition was actually for the -- for the incoming president to give the inaugural address before they were sworn in. So they'd be looking at their inaugural address, making little changes. They've all -- they generally make little changes to their inaugural address before they deliver it.
Then they are greeted at -- there was a time where they would be greeted by the outgoing president, actually at the Willard Hotel, and they would go together to the Capitol. In the modern era, what's supposed to happen, what would happen, is they'd go to the White House. The first lady, the president, would go to the White House and they would be greeted by the outgoing president. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen today.
But these last few hours are remarkable because the president, of course, is full of adrenaline, is thinking through what he's about to say and knows that everything they do today will be remembered forever. There will be books written about it. People who share in today are always going to remember it. And those of us watching it are going to remember it. We're going to, in a sense, set our national clock by this moment.
So a president understands the portentousness of what happens today, while at the same time they remain human, no doubt full of a little bit of nervousness, a little bit of excitement, a lot of pride. And then there's that speech to give, which is all-important because, in a sense, that speech sets the tone for what follows.
CAMEROTA: And, Tim, historically, obviously the point has been made, other presidents have had to deal with great depressions, big recessions, had to deal with pandemics, had to deal with civil unrest or a civil war. Somehow Joe Biden is getting all of that in some combination. So, historically, just mark this moment for us.
NAFTALI: This is the first time since the 1930s that a president -- an incoming president or a re-elected president in the case of Franklin Roosevelt, is being hit by two crises simultaneously. One, a domestic crisis, a domestic political crisis, symbolized by the insurrection on January 6th, and the other, of course, is the pandemic, which is global in scale, but we are -- we are focused largely on how it is affecting us as Americans with 400,000 dead already and many sickened by it.
So Joe Biden, therefore, is meeting a challenge that I would argue no president has had to meet since Franklin Roosevelt. It's a very huge task, but it's a task that this man understands having spent more time in Congress than any of his previous presidents.
Tim Naftali, Maggie Haberman, our thanks to both of you.
You could see moments ago, the sun rising over a new Washington and an historic day.
CNN's special coverage of the inauguration of Joe Biden continues right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: It's a new day in Washington with new leadership for a country in need of hope and healing.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT-ELECT FOR THE UNITED STATES: Let us be the nation that we know we can be. A nation united.
ANNOUNCER: The U.S. Capitol, set for a constitutional transfer of power.
BIDEN: So help me God.
ANNOUNCER: Just two weeks after an unthinkable assault. Today, democracy endures as a historic partnership begins.
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT FOR THE UNITED STATES: The road ahead will not be easy, but America is ready.
ANNOUNCER: The challenges are great, divisions run deep, but this day is about the path toward a more perfect union and a celebration reimagined for unprecedented times.
BIDEN: This is the United States of America. There's not a single thing that's beyond our capacity to do, together!
(END VIDEO CLIP)