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CNN Live Event/Special
The Inauguration Of Joe Biden. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired January 20, 2021 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Pamela Brown has more for us right now on the presence of outgoing vice president and outgoing second lady Pence. Pamela?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Well, we just learned from a source close to Pence, Jake, that Vice President Pence did leave a handwritten note to the incoming vice president, Kamala Harris. He did leave a note. A source would not say what the contents of the note was.
But it is notable for a couple of reasons. One is, it's not necessarily tradition for the vice president to leave a note like this for the incoming vice president. But Pence has clearly taken many steps to smooth things over during this transition. He called Harris a few days ago to congratulate her. As we know, the president has not reached out at all.
And so, he's taken many steps to try to smooth things over and he's become an unlikely defender, essentially, of Biden and Harris victory, by resisting the president's pressure to overturn the election results, something he didn't have the authority to do.
Now, I'm told by a source today, one thing that Pence wants to accomplish is to meet Eugene Goodman - Eugene Goodman and thank him in person. He is the heroic Capitol Hill officer who has been promoted to deputy sergeant of arms. Unclear if they've made contact yet.
TAPPER: All right, Pamela. We should note that Pence's desire to smooth things over is only about two weeks old, during this two-month transition. Before that, he was as much a hindrance as anybody else.
Let's look forward at this inaugural right now. Pretty soon, within the hour, we're expecting President-elect Joe Biden -- Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. to be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. Let's listen in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The honorable Julie E. Adams and chief administrative officer of the House of Representatives, Catherine Szpindor.
TAPPER: These are some of the individuals who help run the Congress. We are expecting, also, some of the individuals who are the chairs of the Inaugural Committee. You saw it earlier, perhaps, Senator Roy Blunt and Senator Amy Klobuchar. They are the chair and ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee which is in charge of this. But these are basically dignitaries who are key to the events going on today and also in the Congress in general.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It takes a lot to pull off an inauguration. And there are lots of protocols, lots of rules. And they are involved in doing that and not just the elected representatives, but the people who work there and have done these many times. We just saw just for a second a flash of the Clintons.
I just - I love watching these moments as an American, as a journalist, as somebody who likes history, to see them all mingling. Let's listen to what's next.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the vice president of the United States, the honorable Michael R. Pence and Mrs. Karen Pence.
TAPPER: Bipartisan applause there for the outgoing Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, the second lady. Obviously, some appreciation that they're abiding by norms and basic protocols and basic decency by attending and being part of this transfer of power. There you see former President George W. Bush who knows Mike Pence from when Mike Pence was in the House of Representatives, before he went back to Indiana to run for governor.
BASH: That's right. He was a member of the leadership. But just looking at Mike Pence there. There you see him greeting the Obamas as well. Looking at him, two weeks ago today he was in there doing his constitutional duty, and a mob inspired by the man who picked him for vice president, was trying to break in right where he is, to get into the Capitol, some of them were screaming "Hang Mike Pence."
TAPPER: And there was literally gallows that one of them or some of them had fashioned outside the Capitol with a noose.
BASH: Exactly. And talk about what you said earlier, Jake, a celebration of democracy. The fact that here we are two weeks later to the day, and there he is, doing his duty, not constitutionally this time, but as an American, as somebody who respects protocol. He is there as opposed to being at the Andrews Air Force Base sendoff this morning.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And for what it's worth, given his role in the last several months, you know he has played a role anywhere we are in terms of what happened two weeks ago.
But for what it's worth, it's important that he decided to make a statement about the transfer of power here and about being a part of this process and being a part of the ceremony which is -- has become sacred in this country, at least in the last century where we've had this kind of marking of the passing of the baton from one administration to the next.
And what's always fun and nice to see in moments like this is you see the former president, and even members of Congress, that they've known throughout their political lives, greeting each other and seeing each other in some cases for the first time in a long time. These are not people who see each other all the time. They're elbow bumping. Maybe they're from different political parties. But that's part of the experience here, even in socially distanced COVID times.
You see -- there's Steve Scalise, and you see, I think that is Donna Brazile in the background there. But there's people who rarely see each other, coming together today and actually enjoying this moment of brief bipartisanship before things start again in Washington tomorrow.
TAPPER: Not to be too cold about it, but often these former presidents only see each other at inaugurations and at funerals.
TAPPER: The pictures I have in my mind of George W. Bush and the Obamas - really, he hangs out more with Michelle than he does with Barack, are from the John McCain funeral and then from the George H.W. Bush funeral.
But that is reassuring for Americans to see, that individuals who battled fiercely in an election, or oppose each other in terms of policies, can come together to celebrate the country together, to be human with one another because of their commitment to the United States and the ideals that this nation aspires to.
PHILLIP: And they can even become friends. George W. Bush and Michelle Obama have actually developed a friendship. And as David Axelrod said earlier, when Barack Obama was running for president, he was not particularly kind to his predecessor. He was basically running against the Bush legacy, but there was kindness in the turnover between administrations. And when Barack Obama turned the White House over to Donald Trump --
TAPPER: Is that A-Rod?
PHILLIP: It's A-Rod.
TAPPER: It's A-Rod.
PHILLIP: J. Lo is going to be performing a little bit later.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By the way, Alex Rodriguez is Jennifer Lopez. It's like they are best friends. We're glad.
PHILLIP: But you know when Barack Obama turned the White House over to Donald Trump, you know he said in his letter that he wanted to be as helpful to the Trumps as possible. And I believe he meant it. And I think Donald Trump believed he meant it because he cherished that letter in a lot of ways.
They never took him up on that offer. But that is the tradition. That we are supposed to be celebrating today. It's a tradition that is represented by what we're seeing on the screen here right now.
TAPPER: You see Barack Obama being friendly, saying hi to a bunch of people.
BASH: I'm wondering if he's going to walk over to Mike Pence. We were noticing that he was - Mike Pence was -
PHILLIP: They were sort of nodding to each other.
BASH: -- sort of standing alone. We'll see what happens. Oh, there he is in the background. Maybe not.
Isn't that an interesting dynamic? There's a lot of chumminess and the current vice president and the current second lady are quietly standing in the background. They're there. They're doing what needs to be done, but there doesn't seem to be the same comradery.
TAPPER: Look, I don't want to look backward too much, but I mean, two days before the terrorist attack on the Capitol, Mike Pence was down in Georgia -- Vice President Pence was down in Georgia continuing the big lie, talking about the election and suggesting there was fraud when there was not. So, he was part of the problem even if he got religion since up. Here is the Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband, the soon-to-be second gentleman, Doug Emhoff.
PHILLIP: As they walk down the stairs here, this is a major, major moment for this country. And it's a major moment in American history, the first African American and South Asian and woman to ever hold this position. The first second gentleman ever, Doug Emhoff.
These two will both be making history in their own ways. In many ways Kamala Harris has been very cognizant of nodding to that in a lot of symbolism that we'll see here later today in what she's wearing, wearing two black designers today.
But also taking the oath of office from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is the first Latina Supreme Court Justice. But like her, was a prosecutor earlier in her career and is someone who Kamala Harris says has inspired her trajectory as she rose in the ranks of American politics.
TAPPER: Yes. There is -- we just saw Pete Buttigieg, the former South Bend, Indiana mayor. Look, there is former President Clinton saying hello to the vice president, Mike Pence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The acting deputy House sergeant at arms, Kevin Grubbs. And the acting deputy Senate sergeant at arms, United States Capitol police officer private first-class Eugene O. Goodman.
TAPPER: Eugene O. Goodman is getting a hero's welcome. He is the Capitol police officer who helped bait the wild mob away from the Senate. That's him right there. A veteran. He is an American hero and has been honored with a promotion and the nation's gratitude. He will be escorting Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as a recognition of his valor and his heroism. BASH: The next time those doors open will be real history.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Kamala Devi Harris and Mr. Douglas Emhoff.
PHILLIP: This is a major moment for American history, for world history, for the country as Kamala Harris walks down the stairs, soon to become the next vice president of the United States. And I want to make a note about the color she's wearing, not to be you know trite about it.
But Kamala Harris is wearing purple, which is something that's pretty significant to her when she ran for president. One of her colors of her campaign was purple and yellow. That is a nod to Shirley Chisholm who ran for president as a black woman decades ago and has inspired her political career.
PHILLIP: And so, you see Kamala Harris nodding to this major moment in American history for so many people, for so many women, people of color, for her sorority sisters in Alpha Kappa Alpha Incorporated. And she's standing there right next to Mike Pence, current vice president of the United States. The two have spoken on the phone in just the last few days, but other than that, have not had a lot of contact since she became vice president-elect.
TAPPER: You can't see her entire face because of the COVID crisis. There she is saying hi to Jim Clyburn. He is the House majority whip, the dean of the South Carolina congressional delegation. This is a historical moment.
PHILLIP: He is wearing his South Carolina State University hat -
TAPPER: The highest-ranking black member of Congress in history, talking, chatting. He just lost his wife not long ago. Chatting with Kamala Harris, this historical figure, the first black woman to ever be a vice president of the United States.
BASH: And not just that. Jim Clyburn is the reason those two people are there today. He helped boost Joe Biden. But look at Kamala Harris' face. You can see she's obviously greeting people. You can see that the vice president-elect is trying to take it in. You saw earlier, and she's doing it now. She kind of looked up. And you almost, can see her thinking to herself, I need to remember this. I need to take this moment in. She'll see the pictures and so forth afterwards. But I can't even imagine what an out-of-body experience it is for her.
PHILLIP: It's a moment of history that she's making yet again as someone who has done this in a lot of her positions, being the first black woman, the first south Asian woman to hold several of the positions she's had in her life, back when she was a prosecutor in California. She was one of just a handful of black United States senators, and now she will be the first black woman -- south Asian woman in the -- to be vice president of the United States.
TAPPER: As the ceremony continues, let's go to Wolf Blitzer right now.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): There you go. You can see the president-elect of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden, they're going to be walking in as well. And then they will be introduced. This is the first time we're actually seeing them inside the Congress. They're introducing the congressional leadership right now, John, the Democrats and Republicans.
And I just want to alert our viewers that we're also going to be having some excellent -- truly excellent musical presentations. Lady Gaga will sing the National Anthem. Jennifer Lopez will do some special musical selections and Garth Brooks will as well. But in the meantime, let's get ready for the president-elect of the United States.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): An American celebration, Wolf, with the world watching, soon-to-be president of the United States, Joe Biden walking out with his wife, Jill Biden. The pictures tell about history. The pictures tell us about resilience.
Two weeks ago, we were watching thugs run through these halls. Now we're watching the military honor guard there as the former vice president, former senator, soon-to-be president of the United States walks through soon-to-be first lady Jill Biden.
Just remarkable history. Election of Joe Biden. Now the inauguration of Joe Biden.
What a moment, the wait on this new president in the middle of a pandemic, with an economy bleeding jobs, a country so divided that supporters of the former president, soon-to-be former president attacked that building two weeks ago today. Just a remarkable moment. The weight of the presidency about to pass on to Joe Biden.
BLITZER: Evan Osnos is with us, the Biden biographer. This must be so, so moving, so, so exceptional for this man, Evan.
EVAN OSNOS, BIDEN BIOGRAPHER (voice-over): It's extraordinary. Here he is, 48 years after he entered this. He is now the oldest president of the United States, facing enormous challenges. And I'm reminded of what he said in 2008 of the Democratic National Convention. He said failure at some point in life is inevitable but giving up is unforgivable. And that has indeed been the text of his life and it's led him right here to the doorstep of history.
BLITZER: The inaugural ceremony is about to get underway. We're about to hear the horns. We're about to hear the President-elect and the future first lady of the United States introduced, and this ceremony will begin. There you see the congressional leadership. It's about to begin right now.
This is one of those moments that a lot of us will remember down the road. It's getting chilly out there a little bit as well. I can actually see a few snow flurries coming in as well. So, I'm sure they're all anxious to get this underway as the weather.
Let's listen in right now as they're introducing more leaders in the Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the President-elect of the United States, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. and Dr. Jill Biden.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please be seated.
Please welcome the honorable Amy Klobuchar.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Vice President Pence, Mr. President-elect, Madam Vice President-elect, members of Congress and the judicial branch, former presidents, and first ladies, vice presidents, leaders from abroad, and a whole bunch of Bidens. America, welcome to the 59th presidential inauguration, where in just a few moments, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will take their solemn oaths.
This ceremony is the culmination of 244 years of a democracy. It is the moment when leaders brought to the stage by the will of the people promise to be faithful to our constitution, to cherish it, and defend it. It is the moment when they become, as we all should be, guardians of our country. Have we become too jaded, too accustomed to the ritual of the passing of the torch of democracy to truly appreciate what a blessing and a privilege it is to witness this moment? I think not.
Two weeks ago, when an angry, violent mob stage and insurrection and desecrated this temple of our democracy, it awakened us to our responsibilities as Americans. This is the day when our democracy picks itself up, brushes off the dust, and does what America always does. Goes forward as a nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
This conveyance of a sacred trust between our leaders and our people takes place in front of this shining Capitol dome for a reason. When Abraham Lincoln gave his first inaugural address in front of this capital, the dome was only partially constructed, braced by ropes of steel. He promised he would finish it. He was criticized for spending funds on it during the Civil War. To those critics he replied, "If the people see the capital going on, it is a sign we intend the union shall go on." And it did. And it will.
Generations of Americans gave their lives to preserve our Republic in this place, great legislation to protect civil rights and economic security, and lead the world was debated and crafted under this dome. Now it falls on all of us, not just the two leaders we are inaugurating today, to take up the torch of our democracy, not as a weapon of political arson, but as an instrument for good.
We pledge today never to take our democracy for granted. As we celebrate its remarkable strength, we celebrate its resilience, its grit. We celebrate the ordinary people doing extraordinary things for our nation, the doctors and nurses on the frontline of this pandemic, the officers in the Capitol, a new generation never giving up hope for justice. We celebrate a new president, Joe Biden, who vows to restore the soul of America and cross the river of our divides to a higher plane.
And we celebrate our first African American, first Asian American, and first woman vice president, Kamala Harris, who stands on the shoulders of so many on this platform who have forged the way to this day. When she takes the oath of office, little girls and boys across the world will know that anything and everything is possible. And in the end, that is America, our democracy, a country of so much good. And today on these Capitol steps and before this glorious field of flags, we rededicate ourselves to its cause. Thank you.
It is now my honor to introduce to you the senator who has worked with me and so many others to make this ceremony possible, my friend and the chair of the Inaugural Committee, Missouri senator, Roy Blunt.
SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): Well, I should have known when Senator Klobuchar got involved, at least there would be a touch of snow up here this morning. Of all the things we considered, I don't think snow was on my agenda until I walked out the door a moment ago. But thank you Senator Klobuchar, and thanks to the other members of the Joint Congressional Committee on the inauguration as we officially begin the 59th inaugural ceremony.
I also want to thank the Joint Committee staff and our partners, particularly our security partners for the way they've dealt with unprecedented circumstances. When I chaired the inauguration four years ago, I shared President Reagan's 1981 description of this event as commonplace and miraculous.
Commonplace because we've done it every four years since 1789. Miraculous because we've done it every four years since 1789.
Americans have celebrated this moment during war, during depression, and now during pandemic. Once again, all three branches of our government come together as the Constitution envisions.
Once again, we renew our commitment to our determined democracy, forging a more perfect union. That theme for this inauguration, our determined democracy, forging a more perfect union, was announced by the Joint Committee before the election with the belief that the United States can only fulfill its promise and set an example for others if we are always working to be better than we have been.
The Constitution established that determined democracy with its first three words, declaring the people as the source of the government. The Articles of Confederation hadn't done that. The Magna Carta hadn't done that. Only the Constitution says the government exists because the people are the source of the reason it exists.
They immediately followed those first three words with the words "to form a more perfect union." The founders did not say to form a perfect union. They did not claim that in our new country nothing would need to be improved.
Fortunately, they understood that always working to be better would be the hallmark of a great democracy. The freedoms we have today, the nation we have today is not here just because it happened, and they aren't complete.
A great democracy, working through the successes and failures of our history, striving to be better than it had been. And we are more than we have been, and we are less than we hope to be.
The assault on our Capitol at this very place two weeks ago, reminds us that a government to balance and check itself, is both fragile and resilient.
During the last year, the pandemic challenged our free and open society and called for extraordinary determination and sacrifice and still challenges us today. Meeting that challenge head on have been and are health care workers, scientists, first responders, essential frontline workers and so many others we depend on in so many ways.
Today, we come to this moment. People all over the world, as we're here, are watching and will watch what we do here. Our government comes together. The Congress and the courts join the transition of executive responsibility. One political party more pleased today, and on every inaugural day, than the other. But this is not a moment of division. It's a moment of unification.
A new administration begins and brings with it a new beginning. And with that our great national debate goes forward and a determined democracy will continue to be more essential in pursuit of a more perfect union and a better future for all Americans.
What a privilege for me to join you today. Thank you.
I'm pleased to call to the podium, a long-time friend to the president-elect and his family, Father Leo O'Donovan to lead us in an invocation. Please stand if you're able and remain standing for the National Anthem and the pledge to our flag.